The week in brief, 24-30 January 2011 – a summary of recent postings

January 30, 2011
Richard Kuper

jfjfpWe wouldn’t normally carried reports on developments in Tunisia or Egypt but  we can’t possibly ignore upheavals that have the potential to change the politics of the entire Middle East. We’re not attempting to follow the story as it unfolds, have posted links to two papers produced by the Middle East Research and Information Project, a progressive, independent organization based in Washington, DC:  Tunisia’s Post-Ben Ali Challenge: A Primer and the Merip editors’ assessment of the Obama administration’s reactions to developments, particularly those in Egypt which they find extremely disappointing: “With one US-backed Arab despot dislodged and dodging Interpol, and another facing an intifada of historic proportions, many eyes looked to Washington, hopeful that President Barack Obama might reprise his ballyhooed Cairo speech of June 2009, showing the restive Arab masses that he felt and, perhaps, really understood their pain. Instead, Arab populations have heard a variation on Washington’s long-standing theme: ‘The Obama administration seeks to encourage political reforms without destabilizing the region.’”

Watch this space…

What was previously the major event of the week has been pushed aside by these developments, but cannot be ignored for long. This is the publication of the Palestine Papers, the over 1,600 PLO Negotiation Support Unit’s documents from 1999-2010 which were leaked and published online by Al-Jazeera, and in print in a Guardian exclusive on 24 January. We’ve consolidated links to a variety of responses to these documents in one posting and here are brief summaries of the articles posted there:

The Chair of the British-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group issued an immediate statement saying, among other things, “even the most sceptical reader must conclude that the papers blow a huge hole in Israel’s claims that, in the Palestinians, they don’t have a partner for peace. Nor can they continue to say that the Palestinians have been unwilling to compromise on key issues in order to achieve peace. The papers also reveal persistent intransigence and arrogance on the Israeli side and an unwillingness by the international community to do anything about it.”

Nadia Hijab writing in the Institute for Palestine Studies, and co-published in the Financial Times, Leaks will cripple Palestinian authority: “The 16,076-document leak bombshell that cable television station al-Jazeera dropped on Sunday on an unsuspecting Middle East will have major repercussions for weeks to come. It is likely to deal a death blow to an American-led peace process already on life support, and hasten the end of the Palestinian Authority created by the 1993 Oslo accords.”

Karma Nabulsi writes in Comment is Free that “With any luck the sheer horror of this account of how the US and Britain covertly facilitated and even implemented Israeli military expansion – while creating an oligarchy to manage it – might overcome the entrenched interests and venality that have kept the peace process going.”

Alastair Crooke argues in Misunderstanding Israeli motives, Al Jazeeera 24 January, that the answer to the question “Why is there no Palestinian state?” is made clear by the release of these papers. It is simple: “Because the Israeli government’s objective is not a Jewish state, but a Zionist one.”

According to Akiva Eldar, writing in Ha’aretz,  Lieberman’s plan, pushed to the mainstream NY Times via the Washington Institute (WIMEP), was published last week in order to pre-empt the publication of the Palestine Papers. And here is the Lieberman/Netanyahu map: annexation of main settlements, transfer of Arab population to Palestinian ’state’ and relinquishing of control over about 42 percent of the OPT as a ‘temporary arrangement’ (i.e indefinite arrangement).

See the Guardian reports Papers reveal how Palestinian leaders gave up fight over refugees on 24 January and subsequent links from there.

Richard Silverstein, Palestine Papers: Herzl Suggested Jews Resettle in Uganda, Condi Suggested Palestinians to Argentina: “Where do they get the unmitigated gall to think that this would be acceptable to the Palestinians?  How did they ever think they could sell this?  Did they think that the U.S. showering Palestinians with billions would assuage the sting of giving up virtually their entire national dream?”

Jeremiah Haber writes about the tone of condescension in the Israeli negotiators, up to and including Tsipi Livni and ‘the complete absence of Israeli give-and-take at all’. See his Abu Ala’s Generous Offer – and Tzipi Livni’s Refusal to Make a Counter-Offer

OneDemocracy in an article entitled The Palestine Papers have driven a stake through the heart of the Undead Peace Process “looks at some of the immediate effects of the Palestine Papers and proposes a 5-Step Plan to reconstitute a Palestinian leadership and decide on its direction.”

Palestinian academic Saree Makdisi writes angrily in the Los Angeles Times, 27 January 2011 under the heading  The Palestinian people betrayed that “The leaked papers published by Al Jazeera show how craven Palestinian leaders are and how willing they were to sell out their people’s rights…”

Ali Abunimah writing in Al Jazeera, in A dangerous shift on 1967 lines, 24 January,  analyses the way the US position in regards to the 1967 border has shifted in an ominous way under Obama, which” is not only catastrophic for Palestinian rights and the prospects for justice, but represents a return to nineteenth century notions, banished in the wake of two world wars, that population groups can be traded between states without their consent as if they were mere pieces on a chess board.”

Uri Avnery provides his usual insightful analysis in The Aljazeera Scandal, 29 January 2011. He makes two points: first, to point out that the reaction in Israel has been to ask who is in the shadows behind the whistle-blowers rather than about the strategy of Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues; and second, on the latter, to argue, controversially, that “the Palestinian negotiators are adhering strictly to the guidelines laid down by Yasser Arafat”. This will not endear him to those (see many above) who’ve argued forcefully that the Palestinian leadership has almost totally sold out to Israel in these secret negotiations.

Amira Hass, in a related posting The real Palestinian concession, argues that the real failure of both the PLO/PA and of Hamas has been their inability to translate the personal and collective stamina of the Palestinian people into a strategy of unarmed popular struggle. For both of them, maintaining their governments in existence has become a goal in itself.

“A new book, The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict has been published by Nation Books in the States. In her introduction, Naomi Klein writes that it: “will allow many more people to read the text of the report, along with contextualizing analysis. And they will be free to make their own judgments about whether Israel has been unfairly “singled out”—or whether, on the contrary, it is finally being held to account.” She says, further: “The Goldstone Report is a serious, fair-minded and extremely disturbing document—which is precisely why the Israeli strategy since its publication has been to talk about pretty much everything except the substance of the report. Distractions have ranged from further posturing about the UN’s bias, to smear campaigns about Justice Goldstone’s personal history, to claims that the report is an integral part of a grand conspiracy to deny Israel’s right to exist…”

In a separate posting Adam Horowitz discusses a recently released documentary shot by Israeli filmmaker Nurit Kedar. In it soldiers’ testimonies, like those collected by Breaking the Silence, confirm many of the findings of the Goldstone Report, including the intentional targeting of wide swaths of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure.

There have been more reactions to the Turkel Commission’s interim report on the Mavi Marmara/Gaza flotilla fiasco: a BBC announcement of the publication; a stinging criticism by Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam; a press release by Adalah stating what is for most of us the blindingly obvious, viz. “the conclusions reached by the Turkel Committee completely contradict international law and the findings released in September 2010 by the International Fact-Finding Mission to Investigate the Israeli attacks on the Flotilla, which was established by the UN Human Rights Council…”. Amnesty International, in a hard-hitting statement, makes similar criticisms. The Turkel Report, apparently, does not even refer to the Goldstone Report!

Finally , news in brief:
* The attempt by prominent Zionists in South Africa to denounce Archbishop Tutu as antisemitic and force the South African Holocaust Foundation to dismiss him as a patron has been seen off;
* JNews has launched a bloggers’ corner, starting with Israeli Eyal Clyne’s bemused account of listening to British Jews “debating politely, arguing, asking questions, and applauding – about what (they think) is happening in my country. And I insist: MY COUNTRY, not theirs…”; Brian Klug, one of the speakers in the original debate, responds.
* the Board of Deputies of British Jews voted down a resolution declaring support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A petition urges them to think again; and finally,
* the protest against Veolia’s involvement with the occupation is intensifying, with five demonstrations in London in February as the North London Waste Authority’s contract comes up for consideration.

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