palestine

Close Presbyterian Vote on Selective Divestment Shows Likudniks Losing Middle America

Thursday night, by what the Christian Science Monitor called the "thinnest of margins" the General Assembly of the 1.9 million member Presbyterian Church USA failed to approve a resolution requiring the church to divest its $20 million investments in Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard over the ties of these companies to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

The vote at the PCUSA's General Assembly in Pittsburgh was 333-to-331. In percentage terms, 49.85% were in favor of selective divestment from the Israeli occupation and 50.15% were opposed.

No doubt many among what Peter Beinart calls "the American Jewish establishment" celebrated the result. They had pulled out the stops to block the Presbyterians' selective divestment move. 1300 rabbis and 22,000 other Jews wrote to the Presbyterians, falsely seeking to characterize the proposed move as "the use of economic leverages against the Jewish state."

Welcome to Palestine: "Even Prisoners Are Allowed Visits"

What difference will it make to the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank when the world meets their demands for freedom and self-determination?

One difference it will make: like other peoples of the world, the Palestinians will get to decide who they can invite to visit them.

Right now, if you, as a citizen of the United States, Canada, or Europe, decide that you want to visit Bethlehem, a Palestinian city in the West Bank - the same Bethlehem that Christians believe to be the birthplace of Jesus - you have two ways to begin your journey. You can fly to Israel, and cross the 1967 border to the West Bank. Or you can fly to Jordan, and cross to the West Bank over one of the bridges. But whichever way you go, you cannot pass to Bethlehem without the permission of the Netanyahu government, which controls all the paths you can take to Bethlehem.

If you are a Likud supporter, flying into the Israeli airport should present no problem. But if you are a supporter of Palestinian rights, the Netanyahu government could stop you from going to Bethlehem on purely political grounds, even if you have never committed any crime and have no intention of ever committing one, even if you have never attended a Palestinian protest in the West Bank and have no intention of attending one. You could be barred by the Netanyahu government from going to Bethlehem simply for the thought crime of supporting Palestinian human rights.

Indeed, even American Jews can be barred by the Netanyahu government from traveling to Bethlehem for the thought crime of supporting Palestinian rights.

Given the economic, political, and diplomatic support given to the Netanyahu government by North America and Europe, this is a spectacular state of affairs. You might think that governments and media in North American and Europe would express forceful concern if their citizens' right to travel were obstructed by a government they were doing so much to support.

In Defiance of Threats from US, Palestine Admitted as Full Member to UNESCO

Earlier today, in defiance of the United States and Israel, Palestine was admitted as a full member of the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by a vote of 107 to 14, with 52 abstentions. Those who voted in favor of admission included France and Belgium, along with China, Russia, Brazil, India, and most African and Arab states.

This overwhelming support for the Palestinians was manifested despite the fact that US law mandates a complete cutoff of US funding to any UN agency that admits Palestine as a full member. The US provides about $70 million in funding to UNESCO annually, accounting for roughly 22% of its yearly budget. Israel also plans to cut off its contribution, which is 3% of the agency's budget. That means that, with Palestinian admission to UNESCO, the agency will lose a quarter of its funding.

The UNESCO vote makes clear yet again that the United States is on the wrong side of world opinion on the issue of Israel and Palestine. And while it may be but a symbolic victory, it is a mighty one: it is a signal that threats and strong arming cannot forever stand in the way of justice.

Palestine, Farming, U.S. Aid, and the Arab Spring: A Conversation with Rami Zurayk

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then "#occupy" protesters around the world this weekend just gave the Arab Spring an Academy Award. Of course the chain of inspiration of freedom and justice seekers is unending in history, but there's no question that the Arab Spring opened a new chapter which is inspiring people to protest for justice worldwide.

No doubt at this historical moment many people in the U.S. will be preoccupied, as they should be, more with how #occupywallstreet is going than with how the Arab Spring is going. But we still have reason to pay some attention to the Arab Spring.

Drawing inspiration from outside our immediate environment sometimes allows us to leapfrog over the crusty preconceptions of our historical surroundings. One thing #occupywallstreet, like the Wisconsin uprising, has had in common with Cairo has been an explicit appeal for solidarity to the "security forces." In Cairo, they chanted: "The army and the people are one hand!" In Madison, the conduct of the mobilization for public employee rights defeated efforts of the Walker administration to split the police politically from other public employees. Today #occupy protesters are telling police, "You are the 99%!" You could look at the police as armed employees of the state who have to follow orders to "maintain public order," or you could look at them as public employees who are largely unionized members of the working class and who often have a lot of discretion in how they interpret their mandate to "maintain public order." Not arresting protesters is a perfectly legitimate tool for keeping the peace, and most police officers and officials know that well. As mom told us when we were little, honey usually beats vinegar.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Jackie Robinson of Palestine

On Friday, Mahmoud Abbas - backed by more than 80% of Palestinian public opinion in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem - formally requested full United Nations membership for Palestine.

The logic of turning to the UN is straightforward: the U.S.-sponsored "peace process" - bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians under U.S. auspices - has failed, because a key premise of that process was that the U.S. government could bring the Israeli government to the table for a serious negotiation that would produce real Israeli compromise necessary for a solution. That premise has turned out to be spectacularly false.

The U.S. hasn't been able to bring the Israeli government to the table for a serious negotiation, not because it would be theoretically impossible to do so, but because "domestic political constraints" - the "Israel lobby" - have prevented the U.S. from exerting effective pressure on the Israeli government to move. Therefore, if the world wants to see resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict anytime soon, it has to wrest control of the issue from Washington. And that's why moving the arena to the United Nations makes perfect sense.

Former Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy summed it up in the New York Times: "The U.S. cannot lead on an issue that it is so boxed in on by its domestic politics," Levy said. "And therefore, with the region in such rapid upheaval and the two-state solution dying, as long as the U.S. is paralyzed, others are going to have to step up."

Press Release: JFP Policy Director to Board Gaza Flotilla, Available by Satellite Phone

Just Foreign Policy issued a press release earlier this morning regarding the impending journey of its Policy Director, Robert Naiman, aboard the U.S. Boat to Gaza and his availability for media work prior to and during this journey. Read the full press release here:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/pressreleases/gazaflotilla

Egypt Opens Rafah Crossing: This Is What Democracy Looks Like

There was a slogan on the streets of Seattle: "This is what democracy looks like." You can't love democracy and denigrate protest, because protest is part of democracy. It's a package deal.

Likewise, you can't claim solidarity with Egyptian protesters when they take down a dictator, but act horrified that the resulting government in Egypt, more accountable to Egyptian public opinion, is more engaged in supporting Palestinian rights. It's a package deal.

On Saturday, at long last, the Egyptian government "permanently opened" the Egypt-Gaza passenger crossing at Rafah. A big part of the credit for this long-awaited development belongs to Tahrir. It was the Tahrir uprising that brought about an Egyptian government more accountable to public opinion, and it was inevitable that an Egyptian government more accountable to public opinion would open Rafah, because public opinion in Egypt bitterly opposed Egyptian participation in the blockade on Gaza.

In addition, opening Rafah was a provision of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation accord brokered by the Egyptian government - an achievement facilitated by the fact that the post-Tahrir Egyptian government was more flexible in the negotiations with Hamas that led to the accord.

Mubarak had a deal with the U.S. government: I obey all your commands on the Israel-Palestine issue, and in exchange, you shut your mouth about human rights and democracy. Tahrir destroyed this bargain, because it forced the U.S. to open its mouth about human rights and democracy in Egypt, regardless of Egypt's stance on Israel-Palestine. When it became clear to Egypt's rulers that subservience to the U.S. on Israel-Palestine would no longer purchase carte blanche on human rights and democracy, there was no reason to slavishly toe the U.S. line on Israel-Palestine anymore.

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:

 

Iran Sends Aid Boat to Gaza, Risking Exposure of Hyped Israel-Iran Conflict

With all the ballyhoo about the alleged "existential" conflict between Israel and Iran, you might think that the news that Iran is trying to send an aid boat to Gaza, in the wake of the Israeli military attack on the Turkish aid boat that killed eight Turks and an American, would occasion a great wailing and gnashing of teeth in the American media. But the American reaction so far seems rather muted, and Iranian government officials, who in the past have at times seemed followers of the Saddam Hussein school of propaganda ("you will be buried in the sand while your wives sleep with rich Arabs,") now seem more loyal to the Maz Jobrani school ("I am Persian, like the cat. Meow!")

CNN reports:

 

Iran's Fars news agency also reported that top Iranian officials will allow two other ships to leave, but its navy will not escort them.

"Maj. Gen. Salami, deputy commander IRGC (Islamic Revolution Guard Corps), discussing the humanitarian aid ships to Gaza, said that protecting these ships is not on the agenda of the IRGC," Fars said.

You may have heard that the IRGC has a force called the "Qods Brigade." It's a provocative name - Qods is the Arabic name of Jerusalem. Imagine if, during the struggle against apartheid, the government of Angola had an elite fighting force called the "Johannesburg Brigade." Presumably some white South Africans might have regarded that as provocative.

Brave words. And yet: now that the Iranian aid ship could clearly use a bit of protection - if it truly intends to sail to Gaza, as opposed to just claiming that it will do so - the bravely-named "Qods Brigade" apparently has other business to attend to.