The week in brief, 7-13 February 2011 – a summary of recent postings


February 13, 2011
Richard Kuper

jfjfpEgypt once again has dominated the world’s headlines and we’ve watched, with bated breath, as the Mubarak regime has crumbling in the face of the steadfastness of the Egyptian people on the streets. JfJfP issued a brief statement welcoming the fall of the pharaoh and hoping for better times ahead.

Where to from here? We carry a selection of articles that look at recent developments in a wider and deeper historical context and assess future possibilities. These include Issandr El Amrani, Why Tunis, Why Cairo?; Adam Shatz, After Mubarak; Uri Avnery, Tsunami in Egypt; the Middle East Monitor, Egypt opens a new chapter for Palestine and  In their own words – the position of the Muslim Brotherhood; and Ali Abunimah, The revolution continues after Mubarak’s fall.

Daniel Levy, one of those who worked to establish J Street in the US a few years ago, is director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation and an editor of the Middle East Channel at foreignpolicy.com. In The onus is on Israel to build a democratic peace with Egypt he evaluates the options facing Israel today. He rejects either ‘digging-in’ or simply returning to the peace process and offers a more radical approach instead; a withdrawal to the pre-1967 armistice lines almost without preconditions or exceptions; an act of genuine acknowledgement of the dispossession and displacement visited on the Palestinian people; and a clear Israeli commitment to full equality for all of its citizens…

But there is not much sign of such developments within Israel yet. Peace Now’s Settlement Watch has produced updated maps of settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. It is well-worth taking a closer look at the high-resolution PDF available for download. The only signs are of a digging-in, in the most physical sense of the term.

Louis Theroux’s BBC2 television programme on the Ultra-Zionists was broadcast on 2nd February. You can watch it here. Theroux spent some time with a small and very committed subculture of ultra-nationalist Jewish settlers, and much of what they say, with light shining in their eyes and their voices quivering with sincerity, is truly spine-chilling stuff. Many commentators dismiss them as a marginal phenomenon – but no Israeli government has shown itself willing to confront them. It would be foolish to underestimate their role as a major factor in Israeli politics today.

In a new article Ran Greenstein, an Israeli academic based in Johannesburg, provides a nuanced analysis of the Israel/Palestine reality which he characterises as apartheid of a special type – a unique system that combines democratic norms, military occupation, and exclusion/inclusion of extra-territorial populations. He argues further that one approach to challenging this system would be to foster a bi-nationalism that would accommodate members of both national groups as equals, and facilitate negotiation underpinned by the discourse and values of democracy, justice, equality and human rights, rather than those of diplomacy and statehood.

The Israeli NGO Monitor has been the scourge of human-rights NGOs in Israel, accusing them indiscriminately of being anti-Israel, antisemitic, in the forefront of the campaign to delegitimise Israel and much else beside. Its role in encouraging the Knesset to go on the assault against these NGOs is also clear. But who or what is NGO Monitor? The New Israel Fund poses some pertinent questions. Its posting is undated, and Yossi Alpher’s article, which we also reproduce, was published in December 2009. But nothing has changed since; and the pernicious interventions of NGO Monitor need to be seen for what they are – an attempt to delegitimise criticism of Israel as such.

Last week Turkey published its inquiry into the attack on the Gaza flotilla that resulted in the deaths of eight Turks and one American of Turkish origin. Here is a tiny extract from the executive summary of the report: “The bodies of the deceased were completely washed and repatriated to Turkey without any accompanying medical and autopsy reports. The Mavi Marmara itself, when returned after being held for 66 days in Ashdod, had been scrubbed down thoroughly, blood stains completely washed off, bullet holes painted over; ship records, Captain’s log, computer hardware, ship documents seized, CCTV cameras smashed, all photographic footage seized and presumably destroyed or withheld.” Richard Silverstein comments on the report.

Early reports suggested that Israel had come out well from the Wikileaks. It’s not proved to be so simple. In a blog for JNews, Shir Hever argues that more recent cables have provided unflattering revelations about Israel’s policies in the Gaza Strip and its desire to keep people there on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe…

Finally, Gisha looks at the ongoing blockade of Gaza. Its press release The revolution is coming… one truckload at a time doesn’t make it sound like the blockade will end any time soon…

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