Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Open Peace Road; Don’t Block Kids from Getting to School in Al Aqaba!

I just got back from meeting with my friends at the Rebuilding Alliance who are walking the halls of Congress this week on behalf of a kindergarten in the West Bank village of Al Aqaba. They are asking members of Congress to press Israel to open and repave the now demolished Peace Road so that 200 children can reach their school in Al Aqaba without delay.

You can help open congressional doors by signing this petition, urging your elected officials to contact the Israeli embassy and ask them to open the road and fix what the Israeli army destroyed.

On April 7th, kindergartners looked out from their school bus to see Israeli soldiers destroying Peace Road, the main road in and out of the West Bank village of Al Aqaba. Al Aqaba’s kindergarten and school hosts children from throughout the area, and the demolition of this road threatens their access to education and the village’s connection to the Jordan Valley.

Last year, I stayed in Al Aqaba and fondly remember strolling down Peace Road with Al Aqaba’s mayor Haj Sami Sadiq and his family. As we would make our way down the road that afternoon, dozens of villagers would run towards us to greet Haj Sami. Haj Sami has been confined to a wheelchair since he was shot during an Israeli military live training exercise at age sixteen. But because the road was well-paved, he could still travel to meet with these villagers living far from his house.

Congress Rewrites Goldstone's Op-ed

Leading Israeli politicians have claimed that Israel's conduct has been vindicated, distorting Justice Goldstone's op-ed so comprehensively that Amnesty International excoriated the Israeli spin as being "based on a deliberate misinterpretation of Justice Goldstone's comments". Meanwhile in Congress, every bill, letter, and press statement on the subject has parroted the very same narrative that Israel has been absolved of all allegations of wrong-doing in the wake of Justice Goldstone's op-ed.

ICG Calls for Ceasefire, End to "Assault on Normal, Dignified Life" in Gaza, and Hamas Engagement

The following post also appeared on the Mondoweiss blog here.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a warning that the recent escalation of air strikes on Gaza and rocket attacks into Israel has created “the conditions for a rapid deterioration toward the kind of clash to which neither side aspires, for which both [Israel and Hamas] have carefully prepared, and from which they will not retreat quickly.”

In June of last year, I had a glimpse of the destruction wrought during Israel's 'Cast Lead' military offensive on the Gaza Strip and Palestinian militants' barrages of rocket fire into Israel.  Even back then I met Israelis and Palestinians who were gravely concerned about a renewal of hostilities with catastrophic consequences. As the ICG report illustrates, the "combustible context" of the present circumstances necessitates 1) an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire between Israel and Hamas 2) an end to the closure regime on Gaza which constitutes an "assault on normal, dignified life" and 3) Palestinian reconciliation efforts should be supported, which will "require a different approach by international actors, Western countries in particular" to Hamas. 

Can the US Support UN Resolution on Israeli Settlements? Yes We Can!

Can the US Support UN Resolution on Israeli Settlements? Yes We Can! by Robert Naiman

A key resolution on the Israel-Palestine conflict is now before the UN Security Council. Largely echoing stated US policy, the resolution embraces negotiations, endorses the creation of a Palestinian state, and demands an immediate halt to Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But even though the resolution echoes US policy, President Obama is under pressure to veto the UN resolution from forces in Washington who want to protect the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Can President Obama say no to this pressure? Yes, he can! Urge him to do so.

Prominent former US government officials, including Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Ambassador James Dobbins, have written to President Obama, urging him to instruct our Ambassador to the United Nations to vote yes on this initiative, noting that it echoes US policy.

It's not an immutable law of the universe that the U.S. has to veto U.N. resolutions critical of Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Indeed, last year, the U.S. promised the Palestinians to "consider allowing UN Security Council condemnation of any significant new Israeli settlement activity," the Guardian reported.

Some DC conventional wisdom suggests that there is no way politically that President Obama can fail to comply with any demand from the "Israel lobby" to veto the UN resolution.

But there are reasons in this case to doubt whether this conventional wisdom must necessarily be right.

"Palestinian Gandhi" Convicted for Protesting; U.S. Silent

This week, an Israeli military court convicted Abdallah Abu Rahmah, whom progressive Zionists have called a "Palestinian Gandhi," of "incitement" and "organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations" for organizing protests against the confiscation of Palestinian land by the "Apartheid Wall" in the village of Bilin in the West Bank, following an eight month trial, during which he was kept in prison.

The European Union issued a protest. But as far as I am aware, no U.S. official has said anything and no U.S. newspaper columnist has denounced this act of repression; indeed, the U.S. press hasn't even reported the news. To find out what happened, someone could search the wires where they'll find this AFP story, or go to the British or Israeli press.

AFP reported:

 

Rachel Corrie Continues Towards Gaza: Will Obama Let Israel Attack?

How do you know when someone is serious about pursuing a strategy of nonviolent resistance until victory for justice is achieved?

When they refuse to turn back in the face of state violence. Damn the commandos. Full speed ahead.

The Irish Times reports:

The MV Rachel Corrie is ploughing ahead with its attempt to deliver aid to Gaza despite yesterday's attack by the Israeli navy on Gaza-bound ship the Mavi Marmara.

The cargo ship, which has four Irish nationals and five Malaysians aboard, is due to arrive in Gazan waters tomorrow, a spokeswoman for the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign said.

The vessel became separated from the main aid flotilla after being delayed for 48 hours in Cyprus due to logistical reasons.

Nobel laureate Maireád Corrigan-Maguire, former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday, and husband and wife Derek and Jenny Graham are the Irish nationals on board.

Speaking from the ship today, Mr Graham said the vessel was carrying educational materials, construction materials and some toys. "Everything aboard has been inspected in Ireland," he said. "We would hope to have safe passage through."

Might the Israeli military attack the Rachel Corrie, as the Israeli military attacked the Mavi Marmara? Would the Obama Administration permit such an Israeli attack on the Rachel Corrie, as the Obama Administration permitted the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara?

Note that in particular, under international law, an Israeli military attack on the Rachel Corrie in international waters would be an attack on the government and people of Ireland, because the Rachel Corrie is an Irish-flagged vessel. As former British Ambassador Craig Murray recently wrote:

 

Gaza Freedom Flotilla Shows Awesome Power of Nonviolent Resistance

Sometimes the Israeli occupation authorities and their allies try to project a "mad dog" image to their opponents: don't bother trying to resist our power, because we are ready to crush you by any means necessary, and no-one who matters to us will care what means we use.

But as the Israeli government reaction to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla shows, it ain't necessarily so.

Al Jazeera reports:

Some Israeli officials see the situation as potentially disastrous in terms of public relations.

"We can't win on this one in terms of PR," Yigal Palmor, a foreign ministry spokesman, said.

"If we let them throw egg at us, we appear stupid with egg on our face. If we try to prevent them by force, we appear as brutes."

You can read every word ever penned or spoken by Gandhi, King, or Thoreau, and you will never find such an eloquent expression of the power of nonviolence as the statement of the spokesman of the Israeli foreign ministry.

In the face of an effective act of nonviolent resistance, the oppressor faces two unappetizing choices: concede ground, thereby undermining the image of absolute power the oppressor wants to project, and therefore encouraging further resistance; or resist with force, thereby projecting the image of "brutes," and therefore encouraging further resistance.

You can see why the Israeli government spokesman would be irritated.

Another great power of an effective mass nonviolent resistance action is when it gives "bystanders" a choice of taking sides - whether they want the opportunity provided by that choice or not.

The government of Cyprus had the opportunity to take a side, and it decided to try to obstruct the flotilla.

Can President Obama Mobilize His Inner Rachel Corrie?

Today is the seventh anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie in Gaza by Israeli government bulldozer, and the anniversary this year comes at an unusually bad time in US-Israel relations - by which I mean, of course, that it comes at an unusually wonderful time in US-Israel relations, one of those rare times in which the US appears to put some real effort into establishing narrower boundaries for Israel's behavior towards the Palestinians.

It's easy for long-time observers to be cynical. We've seen it all before: strong words from the US to Israel followed by abject retreats. And there's something in our collective consciousness that counts false hope a greater danger than false pessimism. The pessimist will be right more often; but the optimist will contribute more to positive social change. Each person has to ask herself which is more important: to be right more often, or to contribute more to positive social change?

It's not every day that the press carries reports that the top U.S. military commander in the Middle East, the top military commander of all our armed forces, and the Vice-President of the United States are telling Israel that its treatment of the Palestinians is endangering US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. As Mark Perry notes in the cover story at Foreign Policy, "There are important and powerful lobbies in America.... But no lobby is as important, or as powerful, as the U.S. military."

Support Our Troops: Boycott the Israeli Occupation

I don't know about all you commiepinkos, but I believe we should Support Our Troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. General Petraeus, Admiral Mullen, and Vice-President Biden say that Israel's actions toward the Palestinians are putting our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq in danger. That's why, to Support Our Troops, the U.S. government must effectively pressure Israel to end its military occupation of the West Bank. And one thing every American can do to Support Our Troops is to shun products from companies linked to the Israeli occupation.

In January, Foreign Policy reports, CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus sent senior military officers to brief Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen on the perception of the U.S.' Arab allies that the U.S. was failing to pressure Israel to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

 

AWOL from the SOTU: Peace, Reconciliation, and Debt

On foreign policy, while the President said some good things, he missed key opportunities to say better things. In particular, he missed opportunities to promote reconciliation as an essential way of ending our wars and promoting peace. In speaking about U.S. domestic politics, the President is eloquent in his efforts to promote reconciliation, but he seems to have lost his voice in applying these ideas to our foreign policy.

The President renewed his promise to end the war in Iraq, including his promise to have all U.S. combat troops out by August, and to bring all of our troops home from Iraq. He also said we will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and partner with Iraqis to promote peace and prosperity. But there was a key omission here: the word "reconciliation." Hundreds of candidates have been disqualified from running in the March parliamentary election; Sunni and secular candidates have been particularly targeted. If this move is allowed to stand, reconciliation in Iraq will be imperiled, the civil war could be reignited, and Iraq's relationship with its predominantly Sunni Arab neighbors would be further strained. The U.S. is working to overturn the exclusion; by refering more explicitly to those efforts, the President could have promoted Iraqi reconciliation.