Friday, January 26, 2007

[ePalestine] NewStatesman: Terror and starvation in Gaza (by John Pilger)

New Statesman

Terror and starvation in Gaza 

John Pilger 
Published 22 January 2007 

Pilger on the genocide that is engulfing Palestine as bystanders silently look on 

A genocide is engulfing the people of Gaza while a silence engulfs its bystanders. "Some 1.4 million people, mostly children, are piled up in one of the most densely populated regions of the world, with no freedom of movement, no place to run and no space to hide," wrote the former senior UN relief official Jan Egeland and Jan Eliasson, then foreign minister of Sweden, in Le Figaro. They described a people "living in a cage", cut off by land, sea and air, with no reliable power and little water, and tortured by hunger and disease and incessant attacks by Israeli troops and planes. 

Egeland and Eliasson wrote this four months ago in an attempt to break the silence in Europe, whose obedient alliance with the United States and Israel has sought to reverse the democratic result that brought Hamas to power in last year's Palestinian elections. The horror in Gaza has since been compounded: a family of 18 has died beneath a 500lb US/Israeli bomb; unarmed women have been mown down at point-blank range. Dr David Halpin, one of the few Britons to break what he calls "this medieval siege", reported the killing of 57 children by artillery, rockets and small arms and was shown evidence that civilians are Israel's true targets, as in Leba non last summer. A friend in Gaza, Dr Mona el-Farra, emailed: "I see the effects of the relentless sonic booms [a collective punishment by the Israeli air force] and artillery on my 13-year-old daughter. At night, she shivers with fear. Then both of us end up crouching on the floor. I try to make her feel safe, but when the bombs sound I flinch and scream . . ." 

When I was last in Gaza, Dr Khalid Dahlan, a psychiatrist, showed me the results of a remarkable survey. "The statistic I personally find unbearable," he said, "is that 99.4 per cent of the children we studied suffer trauma. Once you look at the rates of exposure to trauma you see why: 99.2 per cent of their homes were bombarded; 97.5 per cent were exposed to tear gas; 96.6 per cent witnessed shootings; 95.8 per cent witnessed bombardment and funerals; almost a quarter saw family members injured or killed." Dahlan invited me to sit in on one of his clinics. There were 30 children, all of them traumatised. He gave each a pencil and paper and asked them to draw. They drew pictures of grotesque acts of terror and of women streaming tears. 

The excuse for the latest Israeli terror was the capture last June of an Israeli soldier, a member of an illegal occupation, by the Palestinian resistance. This was news. The kidnapping by Israel a few days earlier of two Palestinians - two of thousands taken over the years - was not news. A historian and two foreign journalists have reported the truth about Gaza. All three are Israeli. They are frequently called traitors. The historian Ilan Pappe has documented that "the genocidal policy [in Gaza] is not formulated in a vacuum" but part of Zionism's deliberate, historic ethnic cleansing. Gideon Levy and Amira Hass are reporters on the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. In November, Levy described how the people of Gaza were beginning to starve to death: "There are thousands of wounded, disabled and shell-shocked people, unable to receive any treatment . . . The shadows of human beings roam the ruins . . . They only know the [Israeli army] will return and they know what this will mean for them: more imprisonment in their homes for weeks, more death and destruction in monstrous proportions." Hass, who has lived in Gaza, describes it as a prison that shames her people. She recalls how her mother, Hannah, was marched from a cattle-train to the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen on a summer's day in 1944. "[She] saw these German women looking at the pris oners, just looking," she wrote. "This image became very formative in my upbringing, this despicable 'looking from the side'." 

"Looking from the side" is what those of us do who are cowed into silence by the threat of being called anti-Semitic. Looking from the side is what too many western Jews do, while those Jews who honour the humane traditions of Judaism and say, "Not in our name!" are abused as "self-despising". Looking from the side is what almost the entire US Congress does, in thrall to or intimidated by a vicious Zionist "lobby". Looking from the side is what "even-handed" journalists do as they excuse the lawlessness that is the source of Israeli atrocities and suppress the historic shifts in the Palestinian resistance, such as the implicit recognition of Israel by Hamas. The people of Gaza cry out for better. 


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[ePalestine] The hidden cost of free congressional trips to Israel

The Christian Science Monitor
from the January 26, 2007 edition

The hidden cost of free congressional trips to Israel 

Branded as 'educational,' these trips offer Israeli propagandists an opportunity to expose members of Congress to only their side of the story. 

By Jim Abourezk

SIOUX FALL, S.D.  - Democrats in Congress have moved quickly – and commendably – to strengthen ethics rules. But truly groundbreaking reform was prevented, in part, because of the efforts of the pro-Israel lobby to preserve one of its most critical functions: taking members of Congress on free "educational" trips to Israel. 

The pro-Israel lobby does most of its work without publicity. But every member of Congress and every would-be candidate for Congress comes to quickly understand a basic lesson. Money needed to run for office can come with great ease from supporters of Israel, provided that the candidate makes certain promises, in writing, to vote favorably on issues considered important to Israel. What drives much of congressional support for Israel is fear – fear that the pro-Israel lobby will either withhold campaign contributions or give money to one's opponent. 

In my own experience as a US senator in the 1970s, I saw how the lobby tries to humiliate or embarrass members who do not toe the line. 

Pro-Israel groups worked vigorously to ensure that the new reforms would allow them to keep hosting members of Congress on trips to Israel. According to the Jewish Daily Forward newspaper, congressional filings show Israel as the top foreign destination for privately sponsored trips. Nearly 10 percent of overseas congressional trips taken between 2000 and 2005 were to Israel. Most are paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation, a sister organization of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the major pro-Israel lobby group. 

New rules require all trips to be pre-approved by the House Ethics Committee, but Rep. Barney Frank (D) of Massachusetts says this setup will guarantee that tours of Israel continue. Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported consensus among Jewish groups that "the new legislation would be an inconvenience, but wouldn't seriously hamper the trips to Israel that are considered a critical component of congressional support for Israel." 

These trips are defended as "educational." In reality, as I know from my many colleagues in the House and Senate who participated in them, they offer Israeli propagandists an opportunity to expose members of Congress to only their side of the story. The Israeli narrative of how the nation was created, and Israeli justifications for its brutal policies omit important truths about the Israeli takeover and occupation of the Palestinian territories. 

What the pro-Israel lobby reaps for its investment in these tours is congressional support for Israeli desires. For years, Israel has relied on billions of dollars in US taxpayer money. Shutting off this government funding would seriously impair Israel's harsh occupation. 

One wonders what policies Congress might support toward Israel and the Palestinians absent the distorting influence of these Israel trips – or if more members toured Palestinian lands. America sent troops to Europe to prevent the killing of civilians in the former Yugoslavia. But when it comes to flagrant human rights violations committed by Israel, the US sends more money and shields Israel from criticism. 

Congress regularly passes resolutions lauding Israel, even when its actions are deplorable, providing it political cover. Meanwhile, polls suggest most Americans want the Bush administration to steer a middle course in working for peace between Israelis and the Palestinians. 

Consider, too, how the Israel lobby twists US foreign policy into a dangerous double standard regarding nuclear issues. The US rattles its sabers at Iran for its nuclear energy ambitions – and alleged pursuit of nuclear arms – while remaining silent about Israel's nuclear-weapons arsenal. 

Members of Congress may not be aware just how damaging their automatic support for Israel is to America's interest. At a minimum, US policies toward Israel have cost it valuable allies in the Middle East and other parts of the Muslim world. 

If Congress is serious about ethics reform, it should not protect the Israel lobby from the consequences. A totally taxpayer-funded travel budget for members to take foreign fact-finding trips, with authorization to be made by committee heads, would be an important first step toward a foreign policy that genuinely serves America. 

• Jim Abourezk is a former Democratic senator from South Dakota. 


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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

[ePalestine] JPOST: New proposal: Transfer-for-cash plan (Apartheid in broad daylight!)

New proposal: Transfer-for-cash plan 


Jan. 21, 2007

A new proposal designed to solve Israel's Arab demographic concerns suggests offering a million Palestinian residents of refugee camps in Judea and Samaria incentives totaling as much as $50 billion to convince them to leave the area. 

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Kohanim Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party) have joined forces to promote the proposed program, which they said would be funded by the state. The two men, who are next door neighbors in Beit El, propose paying the refugee camp residents $50,000 to $100,000 each if they agree to emigrate. 

"Those poor people have been suffering for six decades," said Elon. "I believe that if we give them the option of leaving they will grab it." 

Elon said that he was astounded to discover that Palestinians who want to leave had difficulty getting to Ben-Gurion Airport, for security reasons. 

Elon said many western countries, including Canada as well as some in South America, were open to immigrants, especially if they brought cash with them. He said he hoped to gain the cooperation of western countries for the program by emphasizing its humanitarian dimension. 

Aviner, a respected halachic authority, has written an article advocating the transfer-for-payment idea, which appeared this weekend in Be'ahava U'Be'emuna, a pamphlet that is distributed in thousands of synagogues across the nation every Shabbat. 

"Arabs are busy killing Jews or providing aid, cover and legitimacy to terrorists," Aviner said in a telephone interview. 

"There is no end in sight. I do not want to keep killing them to protect myself. So the best solution is to encourage them to leave," he said. "As soon as the word gets around that Israel is paying compensation to anyone who leaves, it will have a snowball effect." 

Aviner quoted the Koran as well as the Bible to demonstrate that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people. 

Arabs who agreed to stop all terrorism against Israel and to accept second class citizenship, without voting rights, would be allowed to stay, Aviner said. 

MK Ibrahim Sarsour (United Arab List-Ta'al) called the proposal "satanic," "fascist," and "nearly Nazi." 

"Palestine is an integral part of Waqf-administered sacred Islamic land," said Sarsour, who is also the head of the Islamic Movement in Israel. "It belongs to the Muslim people. Benny Elon and others like him will have to trample over our dead bodies to remove us from this place." 

Sarsour said "Islam" was willing to normalize relations with a sovereign Israel within the Green Line. He said all Jews living in the West Bank or eastern Jerusalem must leave their homes or renounce Zionism and agree to second-class citizenship, without voting rights. 

"But Elon is trying to push for the option of conflict and extinction of both peoples," he said. 

Sarsour said "zealots" like Elon and Aviner had caused the destruction of the Second Temple, and that history could repeat itself. 

"The weak do not stay weak forever, nor do the strong," Sarsour said. 


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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

[ePalestine] IDF source admits: 44 'removed' barriers didn't exist / Why Carter is "good for the Jews"

Ha'aretz (Israeli Daily Newspaper)

Last update - 02:12 22/01/2007 
IDF source admits: 44 'removed' barriers didn't exist 
By Avi Issacharoff 

The Israel Defense Forces admitted yesterday that the 44 dirt obstacles it said had been removed from around West Bank villages did not actually exist. 

Last Tuesday, the IDF announced that it had removed 44 dirt obstacles that blocked access roads to West Bank villages, to fulfill promises made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting a month ago. Olmert had pledged measures to ease the lives of Palestinian civilians. 

However, a military source admitted yesterday that these obstacles "had either been removed before the political level decided on the alleviations or had been bypassed by Palestinians earlier, and a decision had been made not to rebuild them." 

This statement confirms a claim made recently by United Nations organizations operating in the territories: that most of these barriers were not removed, because they had not existed for months. 

In response, the IDF Spokesman's Office said: "The IDF recently removed 44 barriers in an effort to ease the movement of the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria. These actions are being carried out in line with assessments of the situation." 

The IDF has erected close to 400 such dirt obstacles in recent years. 


Why Carter is "good for the Jews"   
(a letter from activist Deb Reich to her brother, who asked what she thought) 

by Deb Reich 

January 2007     

Hi Jon, 

Any possible inaccuracies in Carter's  book (I haven't read it) pale immediately beside the huge service he has done to Jews everywhere, in spite of the abuse heaped on him by mainstream Jewish organizations etc. -- by opening up the debate in the USA and making it somewhat respectable (finally) to look honestly at what is going on in Israel/Palestine. This is not the movie "Exodus" anymore, folks - if it ever was! I think not! – Any more than the "taming" of the American West was really like a John Wayne movie. (Ask a Native American. Listen to some Buffy Ste. Marie songs!) 

In years to come, we as Jews will be terribly ashamed, we will be humbled and dishonored and ashamed and full of an unbearable regret -- that we remained in denial so long of the reality on the ground in Palestine - both today, and in history. It's not about motives and intentions, past or present; it's about the dire consequences in real time, today. We are willfully refusing to see what is being perpetrated in our name. Come and visit the Wall, a few checkpoints, etc., and see for yourselves, people. I can get you a guided reality check tour here. Don't talk to me about "Palestinians are..." until you have met some actual Palestinians personally. They will shatter your stereotypes forever. They are people just like us. No different. Even their stupid leaders are no stupider than our stupid leaders! 

The paramount priority right now is not what the motives were in creating Israel, nor how the Holocaust figures in, nor any policies Israel has pursued in the past. All of that debate is beside the point right now. The paramount priority right now is to put a stop to the phased genocide taking place at this moment in the West Bank and Gaza. The eventual "cleansed" (of Palestinians) state that the Israeli army and successive governments of Israel are in the process of achieving for us will be an abomination to any morally normal person, but by then it will be too late. One thing for sure: a "Jewish" state it will not be. "You killed and then you inherited" is forbidden in Judaism. Go ask the ghost of Rabin. 

People ask me why I don't talk about the evil stuff that (some) Palestinians do. I answer that my job is not to fix what the other party is doing wrong, but what my group is doing wrong in my name, and with my tax dollars. The folks like me on the other side are struggling heroically to pursue their own agenda of civic repair in their own society and they deserve full international support (but don't get much). 

There is no argument over here anymore, among reasonable people, that abominations are being perpetrated every hour of every day by Israeli armed forces on ordinary innocent Palestinian civilians. Everyone in Israel knows this although they have no clue what to do about it. People admit it -- even cab drivers and other street pundits who are usually right- wing. The Cheneys and Rumsfelds and Wolfowitzes of Israel are running the army and the "civil administration" in the West Bank, etc. Their regime is out of control. The hard-core "settlers" (read: vicious thugs) are out of control. The Border Police are out of control. Units of Border Police hunt down and shoot Palestinian kids for fun; how sick is that? I am not making this up; it's in the papers. Anyone can read it. 

Carter is my hero for speaking out and we should listen to him. I truly hope (for his own sake) that deep-down he is not anti-Jewish or anti-Israel; but even if he were, it wouldn't invalidate what he is trying to make us do: to open our eyes, look past the sacred fairy tale of what Israel is and see what Israel is doing. Love us or not, he seems to be trying to save us from ourselves. Maybe we should give him a hand? 

- Hope this answers your question! PS, my new slogan: I am not a self-hating Jew. I'm a self- loving human. 



Deb Reich, author, editor, and translator for Ha'aretz- International   Herald Tribune and for NGOs in civil rights and related fields, was born in Manhattan and educated at Barnard College. She lives and works in Karkur,   Israel. 


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Friday, January 19, 2007

[ePalestine] Global Journalist Radio

The online magazine for the international news business

United States Policy in Iraq, Cont.

Air Time:
6:30-7 p.m., January 18, 2007

Listen Online:

This Week's Guests:

Sam Bahour
Freelance journalist
Ramallah, Palestine

Stephen Farrell
The Times of London
Baghdad, Iraq

Faris Sanabani
Editor and publisher
Yemen Observer
Aden, Yemen

Mark Silva
White House correspondent
Chicago Tribune
Washington D.C.

Glenys Sugarman
Executive Secretary
Foreign Press Association
Tel Aviv, Israel

Contact us:
Telephone: 001-573-8829641
Fax: 001-573-8841699

The program airs Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. (Central Time) on KBIA, the public radio station of the University of Missouri, Columbia, and is available on the Internet at Listeners may ask questions or make comments by going to or by leaving a voice mail message at 573-884-9641. 


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[ePalestine] Democracy Now: Entry Denied: Palestinian-Americans Among Thousands Blocked

Thursday, January 18th, 2007 

Entry Denied: Palestinian-Americans Among Thousands Blocked by Israel from Occupied Territories 

Listen, Watch or Read interview at (about 10 min into broadcast):

Counting days left in visa, AGAIN!,


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Friday, January 12, 2007

[ePalestine] Crossing The Line: Life in Occupied Palestine...Sam Bahour on Denied Entry +

Crossing The Line: Life in Occupied Palestine

A weekly podcast giving voice to the voiceless in occupied Palestine and The Gaza Strip.

Fri, 12 January 2007

Click here to hear the interview:


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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

[ePalestine] Sam Bahour on Toronto, Canada's CBC Radio One's The Sunday Edition

January 7, 2007

Toronto, Canada

CBC Radio One
The Sunday Edition
Host: Michael Enright
Guest: Sam Bahour

Click here  to listen (23:44 min):


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Sunday, January 07, 2007

[ePalestine] Ha'aretz: The greatest settler (by Gideon Levy) - A MUST READ, TO THE LAST SENTENCE

Dear friends,

This article, by one of the many brave Israeli journalists, speaks volumes.  Don't miss the last few sentences.  Too bad such discussion will never make it into the US press.

Tomorrow, I will be going on a tour of this divided and troubled city with an expert guide from one of the leading Israeli human rights organizations, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) .  I will try to take pictures and report back as soon as possible.

Jerusalem is hemorrhaging, as is Bethlehem!  The Cities of Peace are now the Cities of Cement,


w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m 
Last update - 09:40 07/01/2007 
The greatest settler
By Gideon Levy 

Among the many obituary notices published by various groups after the death of Teddy Kollek, one group's notice was conspicuous in its absence: the Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements. It is a bit difficult to comprehend this ingratitude by the settlers toward the person who brought approximately 200,000 Jews to the occupied territories - perhaps more than any other person. The settlement enterprise owes a great historic debt to Kollek. Neither Rabbi Moshe Levinger nor Hanan Porat nor Aharon Domb nor Ze'ev "Zambish" Hever are responsible for settling so many Israelis beyond the Green Line as Kollek, the enlightened Viennese liberal. 

The fact that most of the eulogies for the former Jerusalem mayor left out this detail and that Yesha did not embrace the mega-settler Kollek is no coincidence. Israeli society has adopted sundry and strange codes to whitewash the settlement enterprise. The settlement of the occupied territories in Jerusalem has never been considered hitnahalut (the term used for Jewish settlement in the territories). And the gargantuan neighborhoods of the capital, which were built during Teddy's term and span extensive Palestinian territory, have never been considered a controversial issue. 

The fact that almost no one in the world recognizes this enterprise and the new borders it charts does not change a thing: In our eyes, but only in our eyes, not every settlement is the same and each settlement has its own moral code. But this is a game we play with ourselves. Every home built beyond the Green Line - in Yitzhar or Itamar in the West Bank, in Nov in the Golan, or in French Hill in Jerusalem - is built on occupied land and all construction on occupied land is in violation of international law. Occupation is occupation. Not everything is legal, even if it is anchored in Israeli law, as in the case of the Golan Heights and Jerusalem. 

The Israelis invent patents for themselves, but this sophisticated semantic laundering will not meet the legal and ethical test. The Ramot neighborhood is a settlement. There is no difference between the "neighborhood" of Pisgat Ze'ev and the "settlement" of Givat Ze'ev. This artificial distinction does not end with the Jerusalem region. In the West Bank, distinctions are also made between settlements and "illegal outposts," another virtuoso but groundless exercise in semantics with regard to an enterprise that is entirely illegal. There are also no settlements (hitnahaluyot) in the occupied Jordan Valley, but rather yishuvim, a generic word for settlements, unrelated to the 1967 borders. An ethical blemish has never been attached to the residents of these Jordan Valley settlements. Why? Because this is the way it was determined by Labor governments at the time, when they established moshavim and kibbutzim in the Jordan Valley - not "settlements." 

Does this make any difference from the perspective of international law? Certainly not. Were the moshavim in the Jordan Valley not built on the land of residents who were disinherited? Have they not crushed the surrounding residents? 

With regard to the Golan Heights, we went up another level in the word game we play with ourselves. There are no hitnahaluyot there at all. Why? Because we decided so. There are towns, kibbutzim and moshavim, just like in the Jezreel Valley. But no word game or Knesset legislation can alter the unequivocal fact that the Golan Heights is occupied Syrian land and all of its residents are settlers and that international law regards them as criminals. 

This phenomenon reached its peak in Jerusalem, which will celebrate 40 years of its "unification" this year. This act of unification was an act of occupation and the fact that a charming and charismatic figure like Kollek presided over it does not change a thing. Kollek demolished a neighborhood in the Old City and built the new neighborhoods on Palestinian land for Jews only - apartheid at its worst - and this should also be remembered in the balance of his considerable achievements. 

The Jerusalem mayor Kollek left behind is a divided and wounded city, despite and because of its enormous development, replete with explosives that will yet explode in our faces. In fact, it was never unified. Like any colonialist city, there is a dark backyard for the natives. To this day, most Israelis do not set foot in Palestinian neighborhoods and the Palestinians avoid Jewish neighborhoods. The city remains divided, despite all of the lofty words about its unification for eternity. Regarding equality, there is nothing to say of course. It is sufficient to travel to the Shuafat camp or even to Sheikh Jarrah to note the outrageous disparity between the services in the eastern and western parts of the city. 

Societal neglect, piles of garbage, no playgrounds or community centers, no sidewalk and no streetlights. Gaza in Jerusalem, all on the basis of abominable ethnic discrimination. This did not begin with Ehud Olmert nor with Uri Lupolianski. This began with the wily Kollek. A city whose rule in the Palestinian section is conducted through the strength of arms, with surprise checkpoints and hundreds of violent Border Policemen routinely patrolling the streets, and whose residents are subject to prohibitions that violate their fundamental liberties, is not a "unified" city. Teddy is responsible for this. 

The history of the occupation, which has already lasted more than twice the amount of time than the years the state existed without it, is full of "men of peace" from the "left" who are responsible for this injustice. What would the settlement enterprise be without Yigal Allon and Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir and Yisrael Galili and, of course, Shimon Peres? Kollek must now be added to them, belatedly. He brought the wide world to Jerusalem but only to its Jewish part. He loved his city very much, and built and developed it in an impressive way, but on the downtrodden back of half of its residents. Moshe Amirav wrote in his article on Thursday ("Division, where unification failed") that Kollek said to him in his waning years: "We failed to unify the city. Tell Ehud Barak that I support dividing it." Better late than never, but why did we not hear a word about this in the lofty eulogies? 


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Saturday, January 06, 2007

[ePalestine] The Nation: Hurricane Carter (by Henry Siegman)

The Nation

[from the January 22, 2007 issue] 

Former President Jimmy Carter's new book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, provoked an uproar even before its publication. The reason for the controversy was the book's title more than its content, for it seemed to suggest that the avatar of democracy in the Middle East may be on its way to creating a political order that resembles South Africa's apartheid model of discrimination and repression, albeit on ethnic-religious rather than racial grounds. 

Since the appearance of the book coincided with the recent Congressional elections, leaders of the Democratic Party went into near panic and fell over one another disassociating themselves from Carter's book and his criticisms of certain Israeli policies. Indeed, the panic was so intense that so independent-minded a man as Howard Dean, chair of the party, who in the past has had the courage to challenge the conventional wisdom of the party's establishment on a whole range of issues, joined the herd as well. 

None of this, of course, is in the least surprising. In the face of overwhelming international criticism of President Bush for his failure to engage in the Middle East peace process and for his unbalanced support of Israel, the Democratic Party's Congressional leadership has managed to criticize Bush for being too soft on the Palestinians and not sufficiently supportive of Israel. So the criticism of President Carter is noteworthy only for what it reveals about the ignorance of the American political establishment, both Democrat and Republican, on the subject of the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

I would challenge the incoming Democratic chair of the House International Relations Committee, Tom Lantos (not to mention the outgoing chair, Henry Hyde), to identify the author of the following comment, made at the time when Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was about to bring Rehavam Ze'evi, head of Israel's Moledet Party, into his Cabinet. Ze'evi and his party were advocates of "transfer," a euphemism for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the West Bank and in other parts of "Greater Israel": 

The transfer party's joining the government is a profound political, moral and social stain, a dangerous infection penetrating [Israel's] government. Anyone who includes the transfer [party] among the Zionist parties of the coalition is in effect confirming the UN Resolution that says Zionism is racism. 

Had an American made such a statement, he would unquestionably have been accused of hostility to the State of Israel, if not anti-Semitism. If the person had been Jewish, he would have been branded a self-hating Jew. 

In fact, the author of this statement was Benny Begin, the right-wing son of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, a Likud "prince" who relentlessly attacked the Labor Party for recognizing the PLO, which he insisted, even after Oslo, was nothing more than a terrorist organization. And the man who was described at the time in the Jerusalem Post as "the most vociferous among the cabinet ministers opposing the appointment, saying it was inconceivable that a man with Ze'evi's ideology should serve as a minister," was none other than Ehud Olmert, another Likud prince. 

When Olmert, as deputy prime minister in Ariel Sharon's government, proposed that Israel withdraw unilaterally from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, his justification was that given Palestinian demographics, a continuation of the occupation would sooner or later turn Israeli Jews into a minority. He warned that the Jewish State would then find itself under attack from American Jewish organizations that boycotted South Africa's apartheid regime. 

Several months ago, the same Olmert who worried publicly about the stigma of apartheid appointed Avigdor Lieberman, a man of racist and antidemocratic convictions, as his deputy prime minister. Lieberman, who heads a right-wing party of mostly Russian immigrants, Yisrael Beiteinu, holds political views that would have made Rehavam Ze'evi sound like a charter member of the ACLU. Neither Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of France's anti-immigrant National Front, nor Austria's neofascist Jörg Haider (whose role in forming an Austrian government provoked international outrage that led to a diplomatic boycott), has called for measures as outrageous as Lieberman. Lieberman advocates not only the ethnic cleansing of all Palestinians from the occupied territories but getting rid of Arabs who are Israeli citizens. He has urged that Arab members of Israel's Knesset be executed for having contacts with Hamas or for failing to celebrate Israel's Independence Day. 

Lieberman was also appointed by Olmert as the minister in charge of responding to "strategic threats" to Israel. If Israel does indeed face an existential threat from Iran--and listening to Iran's Ahmadinejad's rantings at an obscene event he orchestrated in Tehran for Holocaust deniers, it is difficult not to take the threat seriously--it is hard to imagine a more effective way of trivializing that threat than with the appointment of Lieberman. Indeed, the decision is so reckless as to suggest it is Olmert and his government--including his Labor Party partners, who overwhelmingly approved Lieberman's appointment--who pose the existential threat to their country. 

The appointment also raises the question of how a government whose deputy prime minister is a man who does not recognize the right of Palestinians to even one square inch of territory in Palestine can impose draconian sanctions on a Hamas government that will not recognize Israel's legitimacy. Talk about double standards! 

Not the least of the ironies of the controversy generated by Carter's book, or by its title, is that on any day of the week, there appear in virtually all major Israeli newspapers and in its other media far more extreme criticisms of the policies of various Israeli governments than one finds anywhere in the United States. Most of Israel's adversarial editorializing would not be accepted in the op-ed pages of America's leading newspapers. 

It is also worth noting how uninformed Democratic and Republican mavens are even about the voting patterns of American Jews. The panic aroused by Carter's book title was based on the belief of these mavens that American Jews share the hard-line right-wing views of organizations like the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and AIPAC, organizations that would go out of business if Israelis elected a government committed to a political solution rather than a military one. Indeed, when former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin came into office in 1992 and concluded that Israel's security would be far better served by a peace agreement that recognizes Palestinian rights than by beating the Palestinians into submission, both the Conference of Presidents and AIPAC went into institutional eclipse, from which they did not emerge until Benjamin Netanyahu came to power in 1996. 

The uncritical pro-Israel advocacy of these organizations has never been an accurate barometer of the political thinking or behavior of American Jews. Surely there is something Republican and Democratic leaders can learn from the fact that after six years of the presidency of the man believed by Israelis and by the pro-Israel lobby in the United States to be "the best American president Israel ever had," 87 percent of American Jews voted for the Democratic Party, whose chair is seen by the pro-Israel lobby as untrustworthy at best. 

To be sure, the overwhelming majority of American Jews care deeply about Israel's security and well-being. But that concern does not translate for most of them into mindless support for the policies of Israeli governments that seem to undermine Israel's security. Most American Jews understand how recklessly both Democratic and Republican politicians manipulate the Israel-Palestine issue to their own advantage, just as most Israelis understand the same about many of their own politicians. 

Carter's book recapitulates the crucial role he played as convener of the Camp David summit meeting in 1978, which resulted in the landmark peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. His description of the two fascinating protagonists, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, makes for compelling reading no matter how familiar the story's general outline. 

When President Sadat met Carter at the White House not long after Carter assumed the presidency in 1977, Carter was surprised by how "well developed" Sadat's determination to work with him on peace negotiations with Israel already was. Even more surprising was a letter Carter received from Sadat following this meeting, in which he urged that the President not do anything that would interfere with Sadat's determination to negotiate directly with the Israelis--in dramatic contrast to Sadat's fellow Arab leaders, for whom any contact with Israel, however indirect, was anathema. 

Equally surprising was Carter's impression of Begin when the two first met in Washington. He found Begin to be a man of far less rigid views than widely believed to be the case, and open to the ideas Carter had discussed with Sadat. 

The optimism sparked by these initial encounters, which were dramatically reinforced by Sadat's precedent-shattering visit to Jerusalem--a display of extraordinary political courage for which Sadat was soon to pay with his life--was seriously undermined by his deep disillusionment with Begin's return visit to Egypt, at which time Begin insisted that Israeli settlements remain in the Sinai. Sadat saw his conversations with Begin as a fatal setback to his peace initiative and planned to publicly condemn Begin as a betrayer of the peace process in a speech he had scheduled to deliver in the United States. He was persuaded to drop that idea only after intense efforts by Carter. The Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty was intended to bring about not only an end to the conflict between Israel and Egypt but a process that would grant autonomy--or "full autonomy," a term Begin oddly insisted on--to Palestinians, something the treaty did not deliver. 

Under the terms of the Camp David agreement, Israel and the Egyptians established a joint committee to implement the treaty's provisions that dealt with Palestinian national rights and the creation of a self-governing Palestinian authority. Both Moshe Dayan and Ezer Weizman represented Israel on this committee, and both resigned when they realized that Begin was not serious about implementing those provisions. Begin replaced them with a more trustworthy member of his Cabinet, Dr. Joseph Burg, a venerable leader of the Mizrahi, the religious Zionist organization (and father of Abraham Burg, a former head of the Jewish Agency and Speaker of the Knesset). 

The older Burg was a close friend of my family, and I often visited him when I was in Israel. I once saw him while he served on this joint Egyptian-Israeli committee and asked him what progress was being made. Burg, who was a marvelous raconteur, answered with a story. There is an old Jewish tale about a prince who asked a poor and simple Jew in the Pale of Settlement to teach his dog to speak and threatened to expel the Jews who lived within his princely domain if this Jew failed to do so within a year. When the Jew came home with the prince's dog and explained to his startled wife what had happened, she became hysterical. Her husband calmed her by saying that he had an entire year before the prince returned, and that by then "either the prince will die or the dog will die." 

I told Burg I knew the story. "Then let me tell you the sequel," Burg said, which he had obviously made up himself. The prince returned a year later and summoned the Jew, who showed up without the dog. The prince angrily demanded that the Jew produce the dog immediately, but the Jew pleaded with the prince to allow him to explain the situation. He assured the prince that the dog had indeed learned to speak, but that once he did, the dog began telling embarrassing stories. "What kind of stories?" asked the alarmed prince. "Stories about where you regularly took him at night when you told your wife you were taking the dog for a long walk." The prince went into a panic and ordered the Jew to produce the dog immediately so that he could shoot him. "Don't worry," said the Jew. "I already did it for you, dear prince." 

That, said Burg, is what has happened with the Israeli-Egyptian talks on Palestinian autonomy. We shot the dog. 

Carter places the blame for Israel's failure to implement the provisions of the Camp David agreement for "full Palestinian autonomy" squarely on Begin because of his violation of a promise to freeze further settlement activity. Carter blames himself for not having obtained Begin's promise in writing, and sees that as "the most serious omission of the Camp David talks." In Carter's view, Begin saw the peace treaty with Egypt as providing him "renewed freedom to pursue the goals of a fervent and dedicated minority of [Israel's] citizens to confiscate, settle and fortify the occupied territories." 

The destructive impact of Israel's continued confiscation of Palestinian land for its ever- expanding settlements on all subsequent efforts to end this conflict, and of the draconian regime imposed by Israel's army on the occupied territories--which today include well over 500 Israeli military checkpoints and hundreds of other physical obstacles that have utterly shattered Palestinian life--is the thread that runs through the various chapters in Carter's book, in which he reviews the Oslo agreement, the Camp David summit in 2000 and Clinton's peace proposals, the road map, the Geneva Accord of 2003 and Sharon's unilateral disengagement from Gaza, as well as the legislative elections won by Hamas, the war in Lebanon and the deteriorating situation in Gaza. 

The recent cease-fire announced by Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert, and the conciliatory tone--if not the unremarkable content--of Olmert's latest speech in Sde Boker, led some to believe that a breakthrough in the long-stalled peace process was imminent. But these hopes were quickly dashed by Olmert's rejection of the Iraq Study Group's recommendation that President Bush re-engage vigorously in the Israel-Palestine peace process, not only to put an end to one of the world's longest-lasting conflicts but also because an Israeli-Palestinian agreement could significantly improve America's standing in the region and the ability of friendly Arab states to assist it in extricating itself from the Iraqi quagmire. 

That a serious engagement in peacemaking by an American President who has been embarrassingly one-sided in his support of Israel's government would so frighten Olmert and his Cabinet tells us all we need to know about the sincerity of his search for a Palestinian peace partner. The avoidance of a bilateral process in order to set Israel's boundaries unilaterally has been the strategic objective of both Sharon's Likud government and now of Olmert's Kadima-Labor coalition government. It is a strategic goal that apparently remains unchanged despite Olmert's repeated promises to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, a meeting for which he had not been able to clear his calendar for almost a year. That meeting has finally taken place. Not surprisingly, Olmert used it to announce some limited humanitarian gestures and financial assistance to help strengthen Abbas's security forces in their confrontation with Hamas's forces. Olmert's own foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, noted dryly that these gestures (none of which have been implemented as of this writing) did nothing to bring a peace process any closer. 

Indeed, whatever little good Olmert's gestures might have done was undone within forty-eight hours of the meeting, when Israel's government announced it had authorized the establishment of a new settlement in the Jordan Valley, well outside the so-called security fence it is building. And if that were not enough to discredit Abbas and vindicate Hamas, it was also revealed that various Israeli governmental ministries secretly collaborated in the construction of permanent new housing in illegal outposts that Olmert (and previously Sharon) had promised the United States would be dismantled. 

Carter's harsh condemnation of Israeli policies in the occupied territories is not the consequence of ideology or of an anti-Israel bias. He expresses deep admiration for the Israeli people and their remarkable achievements and empathy for the suffering they have endured as a result of Palestinian suicide bombings, and warns Palestinians that terrorism is discrediting their national cause. Carter repeatedly cites three conditions that he believes are necessary for a resumption of the peace process and a resolution of the conflict, of which the first is guarantees for Israel's security, the second a complete end to Palestinian violence and terrorism, and the third recognition by Israel of the Palestinian right to statehood within pre- 1967 borders. 

But Carter is equally empathetic to the suffering of the Palestinian people under occupation, which he has seen firsthand during his many visits there. For most Westerners, including most Israelis, the Palestinian ordeal is invisible and might as well be taking place on the far side of the moon for all they know or seem to care about it. 

Accusations by Alan Dershowitz and others that Carter is indifferent to Israel's security only prove that no good deed goes unpunished. Arguably, the single most important contribution to Israel's security by far was the removal of Egypt--possessing the most powerful of the military forces in the Arab world--from the Arab axis that was intent on the destruction of the State of Israel in its early years. Egypt's peace agreement with Israel permanently removed the possibility of such a combined Arab assault against the Jewish State, something for which the late Syrian president Hafez Assad could not get himself to forgive Sadat, even after he was assassinated. 

Assad's bitterness over Sadat's "betrayal" was a major theme of a four-hour meeting I had with him in 1994. He cited it as the reason he would not meet with Rabin or engage in other confidence-building measures that would help dispose Israelis to support the return of the Golan Heights, something I had urged him to do. He insisted that any concessions before an agreement is fully signed would be seen by the Syrian people as a repeat of Sadat's betrayal. 

Carter's book provides an important reminder that the Camp David agreement not only created a durable peace between Egypt and Israel but served as a model for all of the major Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives that were to follow. Oslo's concepts of a self-governing Palestinian Authority, of a five-year process that concludes with agreements on permanent- status issues, of negotiations on such issues that begin no later than in the third year of the agreement and of an armed Palestinian police force to maintain order are all spelled out in the Camp David agreement. And the outline of what an Israeli-Palestinian settlement would have to look like if an agreement is to be reached is also adumbrated in the Camp David accords of 1978, which included Begin's acceptance of Egypt's insistence on the return of all Egyptian territory held by Israel. The magnitude of that accomplishment places the pettiness of the critics of President Carter and his latest book in proper perspective. 


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