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Home arrow Blog arrow November 2009 arrow November 19, 2009

November 19, 2009
November 19, 2009: Damn Right I've Got The Blues 


But they are nothing compared to what those enduring under military occupation feel because of our American
inability to perceive ourselves in relation to others [which] is our principal weakness and Freedom can't wait.







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November 17, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist, New York Times
A Mideast Truce
By ROGER COHEN

I’ve grown so pessimistic about Israel-Palestine that I find myself agreeing with Israel’s hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman: “Anyone who says that within the next few years an agreement can be reached ending the conflict simply doesn’t understand the situation and spreads delusions.”

That’s the lesson of early Obama. The president tried to rekindle peace talks by confronting Israel on settlements, coaxing Palestinians to resume negotiations, and reaching out to the Muslim world. The effort has failed.

It has alienated Israel, where Obama is unpopular, and brought the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, close to resignation. It’s time to think again.

What’s gone wrong? There have been tactical mistakes, including a clumsy U.S. wobble toward accepting Israeli “restraint” on settlements rather than cessation. But the deeper error was strategic: Obama’s assumption that he could resume where Clinton left off in 2000 and pursue the land-for-peace idea at the heart of the two-state solution.

This approach ignored the deep scars inflicted in the past decade: the killing of 992 Israelis and 3,399 Palestinians between the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000 and 2006; the Israeli Army’s harsh reoccupation of most of the West Bank; Hamas’ violent rise to power in Gaza and the accompanying resurgence of annihilationist ideology; the spectacular spread of Jewish settlements in the West Bank; and the Israeli construction of over 250 miles of a separation barrier that has protected Israel from suicide bombers even as it has shattered Palestinian lives, grabbed land and become, in the words of Michael Sfard, an Israeli lawyer, “an integral part of the West Bank settlement plan.”

These are not small developments. They have changed the physical appearance of the Middle East. More important, they have transformed the psychologies of the protagonists. Israelis have walled themselves off from Palestinians. They are less interested than ever in a deal with people they hardly see.

As Ron Nachman, the founder of the sprawling Ariel settlement, comments in René Backmann’s superb new book, “A Wall in Palestine,” the wave of Palestinian suicide attacks before work on the barrier began in mid-2002 meant that: “Israelis wanted separation. They did not want to be mixed with the Arabs. They didn’t even want to see them. This may be seen as racist, but that’s how it is.”

And that’s about where we are.

With Palestinians saying, “Not one inch further will we cede.” The myriad humiliations of the looping barrier, which divides Palestinians from one another as well as from Israel, have cemented this “Nyet.”

On the surface, Obama’s decision to tackle settlements first was logical enough. Nothing has riled Palestinians as much as the continued flow of Israeli settlers into East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Both Oslo (1993) and the Road Map (2003) called for settlements to stop, but the number of settlers has risen steadily to over 450,000.

The president was categorical in his Cairo speech: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.”

Nor do I. But facts are hard — and Obama has tried to ignore them. The history briefly outlined above makes clear that the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won’t deviate from the pattern of settlement growth established since 1967.

Indeed, Backmann’s book (from which the Sfard quote is also taken), demonstrates a relentless continuity of Israeli purpose, now cemented by a fence whose aim was in fact double: to stop terrorists but also “to protect the settlements, to give them room to develop.”

That is why, even at 250 miles, the barrier (projected to stretch over 400 miles) is already much longer than the pre-1967 border or Green Line: It burrows into the West Bank to place major settlements on the Israeli side, effectively annexing over 12 percent of the land.

The United States condoned the construction of this settlement-reinforcing barrier. It cannot be unmade — not for the foreseeable future. Peace and walls do not go together. But a truce and walls just may. And that, I must reluctantly conclude, is the best that can be hoped for.

Obama, who has his Nobel already, should ratchet expectations downward. Stop talking about peace. Banish the word. Start talking about détente. That’s what Lieberman wants; that’s what Hamas says it wants; that’s the end point of Netanyahu’s evasions.

It’s not what Abbas wants but he’s powerless. Shlomo Avineri, a political scientist, told me, “A nonviolent status quo is far from satisfactory but it’s not bad. Cyprus is not bad.”

I recall my friend Shlomo dreaming of peace. That’s over. The last decade destroyed the last illusions: hence the fence. The courageous have departed the Middle East. A peace of the brave must yield to a truce of the mediocre — at best.

At least until Intifada-traumatized Israeli psychology shifts. I agree with the Israeli author David Grossman when he writes: “We have dozens of atomic bombs, tanks and planes. We confront people possessing none of these arms. And yet, in our minds, we remain victims. This inability to perceive ourselves in relation to others is our principal weakness.”







U.S. should stand against apartheid in Israel
By Sam Jadallah
Special to the Mercury News 11/17/2009

November 3 marked, in the words of political blogger Philip Weiss, a "historically dark day" in the U.S. Congress. House Republicans and Democrats lined up to vote against the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission carried out by Justice Richard Goldstone and to bash Goldstone, a committed Zionist, because he had the temerity to detail Israel's war crimes in Gaza this past winter. Expressing not a word of concern regarding the over 300 Palestinian children killed in Israel's attacks, the disappointing resolution places our Congress on the front lines of denying documented war crimes.

Congressional rhetoric continues to place blame on Palestinians, insisting to a large extent that they are responsible for their own misery. But it is absurd to think that Palestinians will simply surrender to life under permanent discrimination and iron-fisted military rule.

Freedom and equality must be centerpieces of American efforts to secure peace in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects this with misleading words and ongoing colonization of Palestinian territory. He offers caveats, limitations and conditions to ensure Palestinians will not realize fundamental aspirations and dreams.

His newest condition demands that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state, despite 20 percent of Israel's population being Palestinian. This demand is akin to George Wallace insisting Martin Luther King Jr. recognize the U.S. as a white state. Yet, American leaders, who would never support the United States as a white state, uphold this in Israel despite such language implicitly relegating Palestinian citizens to inferior status.

Already, over 20 Israeli laws favor Jewish citizens and discriminate against Palestinians. And in the Israeli-controlled West Bank, Palestinians face segregated roads, unequal distribution of water and a dual system of law.

The question is how to break the impasse. I look to guidance Nelson Mandela offered from his prison cell. He asked, "What freedom am I being offered when I must ask permission to live in an urban area? What freedom am I being offered when I need a stamp in my pass to seek work?"

I have profound doubts as to Netanyahu's intentions when days ago a university student in Bethlehem was transferred back to Gaza because she was in the occupied West Bank "illegally." Israel's pass stamps for this young woman, Berlanty Azzam, are just as noxious as in apartheid South Africa.

Palestinian lives are increasingly shaped by stunting discrimination and despair. The time is long past for "economic progress," "easing travel restrictions" and other baby steps for Palestinians that avoid a just and legally based solution. Only a focus on the prize — freedom and equality, neither of which can be concessions — will prevent the situation from dramatically worsening, and rapidly.

Americans who fought Jim Crow or apartheid must reject today's version in the occupied Palestinian territories. America's leadership is based on promoting freedom and equality around the world, and we must start with our allies.

South Africa achieved freedom only when President F.W. de Klerk released Mandela and legalized his "terrorist" ANC organization under external boycotts and political pressure. Clearly, Israel's leaders are incapable of providing freedom and equality without a clear and strong message from the U.S. And the longer we support military rule and discrimination, the more we erode our leadership.

It's time for our leadership to step up for our values and call on Israeli leaders to follow the South African path to peace. Any solution starts with a clear and immediate commitment to delivering freedom and equality.

American and Israeli leaders need to replace rhetoric with tangible freedom and equality for all people in a land so overdue these blessings.

Freedom can't wait.


SAM JADALLAH is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, former Microsoft executive and co-founder and chairman of the board of the Institute for Middle East Understanding. He wrote this article for the Mercury News.

http://www.mercurynews.com/search/ci_13802009?IADID=Search-www.mercurynews.com-www.mercurynews.com


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The Paradoxical Commandments
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People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
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People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

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The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright



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