The week in brief, 17-23 January 2011 – a summary of recent postings

January 23, 2011
Richard Kuper

jfjfpThe week has seen a number of calls for action – always a good thing in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; but also discouraging in that there are so many issues to campaign about!

There has been a call from an array of concerned senior policy commentators and practitioners, academics, and former government officials for Obama to condemn Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territory at the Security Council. The letter, posted by Steve Clemons  in the Washington Note represents a serious attempt to encourage Obama to match his words with action on this subject. But dare Obama rile Congress on this issue? And is it anyway too little too late?

There has been a call to support Rabbi Asherman of Rabbis for Human Rights who is under attack in Israel, stalked by the Israeli settler far-right, as part of its campaign of vitriol and intimidation. Richard Silverstein reported on Tikun Olam; and JfJfP sent a message of support to Asherman.

There has been an approach to British Telecoms by Israeli supporters of “Boycott From Within”, with a letter about BT’s “complicity in severe breaches of international law and the violation of human rights” through its relationship with Bezeq International: “By partnering with Bezeq, BT is supporting the infrastructure which enables illegal Israeli settlements, built in violation of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, to exist.”

There has been a call to support the Israeli call for a boycott of Ariel College, a “university college” in the heart of the West Bank. 155 Israeli academics have taken the brave step of saying that, as Ariel is an illegal settlement whose existence contravenes international law and the Geneva Convention, the university college there should be boycotted. JfJfP has long supported a boycott of the occupation and this call falls squarely within the parameters of boycotts we support. We urge you to email messages of solidarity to the organisers who are being subjected to very hostile pressure.

In South Africa: Archbishop Tutu has been labeled an “anti-Semite” and a “bigot” by vigilantes from the Zionist Federation. A counter-call circualted by activists from Open Shuhada Street, garnered a few thousand signatures in a matter of days. Please read the appeal and sign the petition in his support.

The Turkel Commission has published its interim conclusions about Israel’s attack on the flotilla last May. In an immediate response, Gisha notes that “No commission of inquiry can authorize the collective punishment of a civilian population by restricting its movement and access, as Israel did in its closure of Gaza, of which the maritime closure was an integral part.”

There have been four recent articles or publications which call seriously into question any grounds for optimism about peace or the move towards a Palestinian state”:

1. Aisling Byrne, Projects Coordinator with the Conflicts Forum, writing in Foreign Policy, provides a depressing analysis of the Palestinian state project. It is, she argues, to build nothing short of a police state. “The transition from the lofty aspiration of statehood to a scheme intended to usher West Bank Palestinians into a new alleviated containment — a new form of remotely-managed occupation — is not some unfortunate error” but has arisen directly from both US and European acquiescence to Israel’s self-definition of its own security needs. The developments of a security apparatus and of an oligarchy dominating key political, economic and security positions in Palestine is funded largely by USAID – but the EU and even the UN are also involved…

2. Reknowned and always insightful analysts Robert Malley and Hussein Agha, writing in the New York Review of Books, offer what the Magnes Zionist, Jeremiah Haber, calls “their typically dismal prognosis for an Israel-Palestine just peace. Their bottom line, literally, is ‘It won’t get better anytime soon’. ” Haber agrees with their analysis in many ways, but takes issue with them on what they call “the campaign to delegitimise Israel”. “Neither the human rights organizations inside and outside Israel, or for that matter, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel,” says Haber, “seek to delegitimize it in order to make it more amenable to a just peace deal with the Palestinians.” It is, he argues, neither about peace nor delegitimisation; rather ” it’s about calling attention to the bad behavior of a state and calling that state to conform its behavior to international norms…”

3. A truly shocking report on the use of torture by the Palestinian Authority, has been published by the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK in association with the Middle East Monitor. Sir Jeremy Greenstock Former British ambassador to the United Nations writes: “This report is very significant, first for documenting the awful abuses of human rights continuing on a daily basis in the West Bank, and second for illustrating the depths to which the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli occupation forces and the US and EU funders and supporters of the current approach have allowed the situation to sink. There will be shocking consequences if these issues are not addressed, above all by finding a realistic, determined and honourable way to end the occupation”; and

4. Alistair Crooke, a former MI6 and director of the Conflicts Forum, argues that the Palestinian “statehood” on offer would have been a continuing occupation, and that the breakdown of the peace process and the recognition that a two-state solution is no longer in the cards, opens the way for other paths that don’t depend on Western mediation. It puts to rest, he believes, the fiction that a Palestinian state will emerge from even the best intentions of the West instead of from the political realities of the Middle East.

The IDF has excelled itself this time, offering a fourth explanation for Jawaher Abu Rahmah’s death (see earlier posting A Thinking Person’s Guide to the Abu Rahmeh Story). She died after inhaling CS (tear) gas in Bil’in, but the army first claimed she wasn’t there, then that she had cancer and died; then she died of a different pre-existing condition. Now, according to a new IDF “investigation” published in Israeli media outlets it appears her doctors killed her with atropine… But the official IDF spokesman’s office denies this IDF report! The investigation, it says, is ongoing. The author of the earlier briefings was the commander of the Central Command, Major-General Avi Mizrahi. He seems to operate quite independently of the IDF Spokesman’s office, telling lies and sewing doubts and confusions which the Israeli hasbarista bloggers seize on with relish.

Israeli outlet Ynet has reported a worrying increase in expressions of racism among Israeli schoolchildren. A teacher in central Israel reports: “When issues of equality are discussed, the lesson immediately goes out of control. The pupils attack us, the teachers, and accuse us of being leftists and antisemites, saying that all Arab citizens of Israeli should be transferred out of the country because they want to destroy Israel”…

Amit Ramon tells the story of the demolition of Al Arakib, for the 9th time now, while Yehudit Keshet responds to the smooth-talking propaganda of the Friends of the Arava Institute for the Environment which, in partnership with the JNF/KKL, is “developing” the Negev, “preparing future Arab and Jewish leaders to cooperatively solve the region’s environmental challenges”, while totally ignoring the fate of Al Arakib.

The Jewish Leadership Council in the UK planned to take a delegation to see the checkpoints and go to Ramallah for a couple of days to meet Palestinian leaders in the West Bank. If appears they’ve never seen the checkpoints before… But not so fast! When news of the trip was leaked at a Board of Deputies meeting there was an angry reaction from “community representatives”. The trip has been “postponed”. JNF UK chairman, Samuel Hayek, for instance, doesn’t seem to want Jewish communal leaders seeing at first hand what is going on: “Despite best intentions, the trip would have simply been used by our enemies as further ammunition in their ongoing campaign to delegitimise Israel.” As if the JNF’s activities, amongst others, don’t delegitimise Israel enough…

In a new report, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spells out the human cost of evictions and house demolitions in East Jerusalem

Rabbi Brian Walt is entirely in favour of freeing Gilad Shalid immediately, yet finds the “singular focus in Israel and the American Jewish community on the release of Gilad Shalit… profoundly problematic.” He reproduces Michael Levin’s new poster calling for the release of ALL the prisoners and links to statistics on Palestinian prisoners in Israeli gaols. In the commentary Naomi Paz Greenberg questions whether the language used for this call is appropriate; and Rabbi Brian and others join in the discussion.

Finally, American anti-Palestinian rhetoric sinks to new depths. StandWithUs, on the openly racist end of the mainstream Jewish institutional world in the United States, has produced a new comic book hero Captain Israel to fight the demons of the present, leading among which is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, portrayed in Palestinian colours as the evil serpent so beloved by the antisemites. Cecile Shurasky of Muzzlewatch draws out the parallels with Nazi propaganda. Plus comments by Roi Maor on +972.

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