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Home arrow Blog arrow April 2008 arrow April 16, 2008

April 16, 2008
WAWA Blog April 16, 2008: Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Lay Wreaths and a Confrontational Conversation: UPDATE 6:30 PM, 11 PM


 


UPDATE 6 PM
Carter's visit with Hamas' Meshal
Hasan Abu Nimah, The Electronic Intifada, 16 April 2008
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9464.shtml



Former US president Jimmny Carter in Ramallah, January 2006. (Charlotte de Bellabre/MaanImages)
"Carter seems more comfortable with terrorists than with friends like Israel." So said a newsflash on the Israeli daily Haaretz's website last Sunday.

The statement was attributed to the American pro-Israel group, the Anti-Defamation League, and was obviously a reaction to news that former US president Jimmy Carter was planning to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal during an upcoming visit to Damascus.

If Carter does meet with Meshal, and that has not been confirmed, I do not think many sensible people would imagine that Carter's intent is to seek the comfortable company of a terrorist as a better alternative to meeting peace-loving Israelis.

Carter may not be counted amongst Israel's most stalwart supporters, at least compared to other US presidents or the current candidates for office. But in reality, he has done more for Israel than any other US president, and perhaps even any other world leader.

Without the determined effort and the intense personal diplomacy of president Carter, Israel would not have achieved the one landmark breakthrough in its troubled history: the peace treaty with Egypt.

By opening this first gate for Israel, under almost impossible circumstances, Carter helped open others later, granting Israel more legitimacy even while it remained an occupier, aggressor and a flagrant and chronic violator of international law.

The peace treaty with Egypt was not Carter's ultimate goal; he sought a resolution for the Arab-Israeli conflict in its entirety. But faced with tenacious obstructionism and intransigence on the Israeli side, and hesitation and uncertainty on the Arab side, Carter settled for what he thought was possible: peace with Egypt and promises of autonomy for the Palestinians.

Had Carter's more ambitious efforts been fully implemented, the region might have avoided decades more of conflict and might have seen security and prosperity already achieved. Israel might have been free from the "terror" it reaps in reaction to its oppression of others and its occupation of their lands. Perhaps many of the tragedies that have, in the last four decades, been causing enormous devastation and harm to all of us would have been avoided.

Of course, no one can say precisely what would have happened, but what Carter tried to do is to bring the conflicting parties to a settlement based on legality and relative justice. This contrasts with other US presidents who have blindly tolerated Israel's expansionist and illegal schemes.

Carter's approach at least offered the prospect of normal, sustainable relations between Israelis and their neighbors, as opposed to offering an open-ended endorsement of continued Israeli aggression and colonization to the extent that the conflict is more intractable, the wounds deeper, and territorial division now practically impossible.

It is for these precise reasons that Carter is often so harshly criticized in Israel and by its US lobby. He was strongly condemned for putting Israel before the choice of "peace or apartheid" in his recent book. What he implied was no more than a warning to Israel -- already publicly recognized by its own leaders -- that its policies were leading it fast towards apartheid and that that was incompatible with Israel's claimed quest for peace and normal relations.

Some of South Africa's own anti-apartheid leaders have gone even further, saying that the system of racial discrimination Israel is implementing is even worse than what they suffered. They, too, urge Israel to change course for the sake of all Palestinians and Israelis.

But Israel has hardly ever been in the mood to receive good advice; all that it wants is unquestioning endorsement and unconditional approval of its deeds and plans. Unfortunately, most foreign leaders are prepared to provide just that, and this has been a major source of harm to both Israeli and American interests in the region.

No one can question Carter's passion for peace, his intellectual and political sincerity, his ethical values or his integrity as a man of principle and profound faith. Since he left office, he never refrained from involving himself in sound causes, as he never slowed down his mission for a safer and better world.

If, therefore, Carter is set to hold a meeting with Meshal, it would be ridiculous to think that he is meeting a "terrorist" or that he is signaling his support for terror, or even for the continuation of any form of violence against Israel or in the region in general.

Israeli and other Carter critics surely know this. Their concern, however, must be twofold. One is that such contacts are slowly breaking the isolation of Hamas when what is desired by Israel is Hamas' delegitimization and destruction. The other is the genuine fear that Meshal's message to Carter may be able to shake the myth that Hamas wants simply to destroy Israel, or continue on a course of war and violence for the sake of it.

Meshal may repeat the same language he used in an op-ed in The Guardian on 31 January 2006, just after Hamas was declared the winner in the Palestinian general elections. There, he extended a message of peace to Israel, based on full rights and reciprocity, starting with a long-term truce. But this was still distant from the Israeli-tailored terms applied by the so-called international community for accepting to deal with Hamas.

It is also unlikely that Carter would come out of a meeting with Meshal fully convinced of the Hamas program, but he may not adopt the notion that Hamas is merely a terrorist organization and an obstacle to peace that no one should ever talk to. Indeed, in an interview with Haaretz, he stressed that to make peace you have to talk to everyone. That possibility alone is frightening enough for an Israel that has no interest in genuine negotiations or an end to conflict that requires it to recognize the rights of the Palestinians.

Hasan Abu Nimah is the former permanent representative of Jordan at the United Nations. This article first appeared in The Jordan Times and is reprinted with the author's permission.





On April 15, 2008, President Shimon Peres commemorated the 65th anniversary of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II by laying a wreath at a memorial in the Polish capital.

The Jewish prayer for the dead echoed across what was once the heart of the Warsaw ghetto as Polish and Israeli leaders marked the 65th anniversary of a doomed battle waged by young Jews against Nazi troops. Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Polish counterpart, Lech Kaczynski, led a crowd of 1,000 gathered beneath the stark granite Monument to the Heroes of the Ghetto in ceremonies honoring the Jews who 'rose up' [Intifada in Arabic] on April 19, 1943 and held off German troops for three weeks.

Survivor Hela Rufeisen, who was part of the fight as an 18-year-old, remembered the goal of the insurgency was simple, "They are killing us, so we have to fight and hurt them, too."


To the beat of a military drum, Peres, Kaczynski and survivors of the ghetto uprising placed wreaths at the foot of the monument, flanked by two large iron menorahs. Peres praised the young fighters, who he said displayed "a heroism that our children will proudly carry with them in their hearts. The majority of the uprising fighters died murdered in cold blood. They lost the fight, but from the point of view of history, there has never been such a victory...A victory of men over human bestiality, of pure souls over fallen ones."

The uprising was the first act of large-scale armed civilian resistance against the Germans in occupied Poland during World War II. The Nazis walled off the ghetto in November 1940, cramming 400,000 Jews from across Poland into a swath of the capital in inhuman conditions. On April 19, 1943, German troops started to liquidate the ghetto by sending tens of thousands of its residents to death camps. Several hundred young Jews took to arms in defense of the civilians. Outnumbered and outgunned, they held off German troops for three weeks with homemade explosives and a cache of smuggled weapons. The Nazis killed most of fighters, and then burned down the ghetto.

In 1994, Peres, Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shared the Nobel Peace Prize for Oslo, but Nobel "committee members later said they regretted that Mr. Peres' prize could not be recalled because, as a member of the Israeli cabinet, he had not acted to prevent Israel's re-occupation of Palestinian territory."

 


Meanwhile, in Ramallah, former President Jimmy Carter, who won the Nobel in 2004 for his efforts to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development, laid a wreath at Yasser Arafat's grave.

Carter has raised the ire of both U.S. and Israeli governments during a visit to the West Bank for ignoring their designation of Hamas as a terror group.

Israel accused Carter, the broker of the first Arab-Israeli peace accord, of 'dignifying extremists' and President Shimon Peres criticized him for his planned meeting with Mashaal, Hamas's exiled leader, in Damascus on Friday.

Shunned by Israel and criticized by the White House, Carter persists to insist that the U.S. and Israel should stop isolating the democratically elected group because, "Syria and Hamas will have to be involved in a final peace agreement, they have to be involved in discussions that lead to final peace."

On Sunday, Carter did get to meet with Peres, who told him that meeting Meshal was "a very big mistake". Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and foreign and defense ministers did not meet with Carter, and he told Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper: "I'm disappointed but not distressed."
 
The Israeli security service Shin Bet declined to meet the head of Carter's US secret service detail or provide assistance. One US source told Reuters the snub was "unprecedented". An Israeli security source told the news agency no request for help had been made, though Carter's delegation insisted it had. The authorities also refused permission for him to meet Marwan Barghouti, a popular Palestinian activist regarded by some as a future leader, who is in an Israeli jail for murder.
 
Carter traveled to Sderot, the southern Israeli town frequently targeted by rockets fired from Gaza, but was refused entry into Gaza, whose borders are controlled by Israel. Carter told reporters earlier he had wanted to visit Gaza, but his request was rejected by Israel. All of the border crossings between Israel and Gaza are controlled by the Jewish state and Egyptian forces are stationed at Gaza's southern border, which is largely closed.

Carter said, "I haven't been able to get permission to go into Gaza. I would like to. I asked for permission. But I was turned down…It's a despicable crime for any deliberate effort to be made to kill innocent civilians, and my hope is there will be a ceasefire soon…I think there's no doubt in anyone's mind that if Israel is ever going to find peace with justice concerning the relationship with its next-door neighbors, the Palestinians, Hamas will have to be included in the process."

Carter has not just angered the Israeli government over plans to meet Hamas' top leader, Khaled Meshaal, in Syria, but also for describing Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories as "a system of apartheid" in his 2006 book.

Carter has stressed he is not acting as a negotiator or a mediator, but hoped to be "a communicator" and to relay to the "leaders of the United States" what Hamas and Syria have to say.

Carter wants to play a role in trying to end the enmity between Hamas and Fatah and said he would use his meeting with Meshaal to "get him to agree to a peaceful resolution of differences, both with the Israelis ... and also with Fatah...Since Syria and Hamas will have to be involved in the final peace agreement, they ought to be involved in the discussions leading up to ... peace."

SOURCES:

1.    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/Flash.aspx/145016
2.    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1912953.stm
3.    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080415/ap_on_re_mi_ea/palestinians_carter
4.     http://www.guardian .co.uk/world/ 2008/apr/ 15/israelandthep alestinians. usa
5.    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080415/pl_nm/israel_carter_dc






I once read an interview Former President Jimmy Carter gave where he remarked that a major obstacle in seeking justice for Palestinians was because of Christians like himself who have been brought up not to criticize the state of Israel for fear of being labeled an anti-Semite.


The following is excerpted from my first book, KEEP HOPE ALIVE and is based on an actual email conversation I had with an Episcopal priest. He gave up talking to me after my third email to him. I have since been informed that he is now in Jerusalem connected with the Holocaust Memorial.



A CONFRONTATIONAL CONVERSATION


“Father Paul, you cannot possibly be telling me that an Episcopal priest has been taken in by fundamentalist theology?” Terese incredulously asked the new assistant to the rector at St. Joan of Arc Episcopal Church in Orlando, who also served at the noon mass every Wednesday.

Father Paul Hendricks was a passionate evangelist on a mission to convert every Jew he encountered to become a Christian. Terese had kept her silence for the first six months she had been listening to his Wednesday noon sermons, but finally broke her silence after the rest of the parishioners had departed.

Paul sighed and shook his head. “Look, Mrs. Hunter, I read your op/ed in the newspaper about Israel and Palestine, and we both agree we want peace; we just go about it differently.”

“Father, let me say that the fastest growing cult in the U.S.A. is the cult of Christian Zionism. Approximately 25 million U.S. Christians believe as you do, and I am most depressed to see that the simple answers of fundamentalism have reached their tentacles into the thinking man’s church. You just preached for thirteen minutes on Genesis 12:3--‘I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse: and in you all the families of the world are blessed’--as if God meant blessings to be political power and military might. Father, surely you understand that the belief of the ancient Israelites, who held that they were chosen, as if they were somehow special from others, as if God esteemed them above others, is just basic primitive nationalism. Come on, Father, looking down on one’s enemies to foster one’s own tribal interest and praying to God to smite one’s enemies is what the ancients did. Isn’t it about time we moved beyond that limited thinking?”

Father Paul clenched his fists and held them behind his back, as he suppressed a simmering rage. He stood nine inches above Terese’s upturned head, and with a slick smile and condescending tone told her, “Mrs. Hunter, you are very misled. The text is understood to mean a blessing to Abraham’s lineage--”

Terese cut in. “Agreed! And Genesis 12:3 was promised even before Ishmael, the father of the Arab nation, and Isaac, the Jew, were born! And what about the very first mention of Israel? Jacob was renamed Israel for having wrestled and struggled with God. That is how I understand Israel; everyone who struggles and wrestles with God is Israel, too. Israel means more than a geographical location, Father Paul.”

“Mrs. Hunter, the modern state of Israel is the fulfillment of the prophetic scriptures, and God’s covenant with Israel is eternal, exclusive, and will not be abrogated. I refer you to Genesis 12:1-7, 15:4-7, 17:1-8; Leviticus 26:44-45; and Deuteronomy 7:7:8.”

 
“And Father, I refer you to Matthew 5:43-45, which does not only critique Genesis 12:3; it blows it apart, for Christ commanded, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, that you maybe children of your Father.’”

The two had reached Paul’s SUV and he silently prayed he could make a swift escape, but Terese had positioned herself at the driver’s door, and if he were to open it swiftly, she could be easily moved aside. Father Paul entertained the thought for more than a moment, but remained mute and still, as the tiny woman exploded with a torrent of words.

"Look, blind allegiance to the Israeli government has allowed them to become a big bully, and isn’t God always on the side of the oppressed? My sense is that you Zionists see the political state of Israel as a replacement for Christ, at the center of the Christian faith, and that certainly is not Christianity!

"How do you take Genesis 12:3 to literally mean that blessings equal land and political power, yet ignore God’s promise in Genesis 21:17-20 to ‘make a great nation out of Ishmael’s descendents’ and that ‘God was with the boy.’ Yet your way of thinking allows the growing apartheid wall to continue, and supports occupation and oppression of people that God also made promises too.”

“Mrs. Hunter, why don’t you make an appointment and we can discuss this further? I really have to go.”

“Okay, I can take a hint, but let me leave you with this: when religion and politics are in bed together, everybody gets screwed! The Israeli government is using you Zionists as apologists in support of their agenda of illegal occupation and settlements in the West bank, Golan, and Gaza, on literal biblical grounds taken out of context. Your blind allegiance to every act of Israel, understood as being orchestrated by God and which should therefore be condoned, supported, and even praised, makes me want to puke! And I wonder about the true motives of Christians who actually relish the idea of Armageddon and love to speculate on who gets ‘left behind.’ Christ was very clear that there will be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth by those who were so sure they were in, but get left out. God has always been on the side of the oppressed, and your uncritical endorsement and justification for Israel’s racist and apartheid policies are an abomination.”

The stunned and silent priest watched in relief as Terese turned, flipped her braid, and walked away.











 
   
 
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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

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.
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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.
Build anyway.

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.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

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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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