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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Settlements- what's the deal?

Israeli settler runs over a three-year-old Palestinian girl 5/2/09

This caught my eye on the (less traveled) headlines recently. Maybe because I have a 3 year old. Maybe because settlers under international law, UN resolutions, and previous agreements (not to mention US “pressure”) aren’t supposed to be there in the first place, let alone injuring, harassing, and vandalizing their new neighbors.

They aren’t supposed to be there in the first place, they aren’t exactly there with the intention of living peacefully with their neighbors, and yet we still pour money and praise into this entity. And we wonder about the source of Arab anger toward us and our policies?

Here are some other accounts:

March/April 2009 settler violence summary

Stonings and vandalism are becoming routine, beatings

Random shootings and beatings

A list

Blog mentioning settler violence and hitting the nail on the head→ settlement enterprise=violence

Dec 2008 Hebron settler violence makes headlines

And now let's look at the recent talk about settlements and outposts and such. What is going on? I've got 3 articles to try and explain it.

"We will dismantle the illegal outposts," Barak said. "If it won't be through understanding, it will be done quickly and by force."

Sounds great, but don’t get too excited. We’ve got to understand what exactly he’s agreeing to do and still not agreeing to do. Once you do that, it’s not nearly the inspiring statement that it seems, but rather the opposite. He’s agreeing to dismantle little pre-settlements without proper permits. He’s not recognizing the Palestinian right to exist or govern themselves or return to their homeland (as Jews have the right to do), not recognizing a two state solution, not agreeing to dismantle ALL settlements (since ALL are illegal).

And let's also address the settlement freeze Obama is actually talking about. While this is encouraging, since Bush would never dare say anything of this nature, it also needs explanation. A settlement freeze is only a good sign if the intent is to force Israel to comply with international law and get rid of ALL settlements in East Jerusalem, Gaza and West Bank. But if the settlement freeze is seen as an end rather than a step toward compliance, then this is nothing more than American acceptance of a large scale Israeli land grab (click for illustration). Speaking of land grabs, the Wall should be addressed as well... I've always said - if you want a wall, build it on your own land. That goes for the US and Israel.

This dismantling of outposts even Israel considers illegal, as they don’t have a proper permit or whatever, is presented as a price, compromise, gesture of peace, painful concession, or some grand gift to the US and Palestinians (as if this is going to make a bit of difference for their national interest given the number and scope of the settlements Israel doesn’t consider illegal!). It is in fact far from a gesture of peace; it is absurd. ALL settlements are ILLEGAL and need to be razed to the ground.

I like how Netanyahu and Barak make clear that the outpost dismantling is not in response to US pressure, it is what “states of law” do. Yet it is considered part of the “price” Netanyahu paid to get Obama to make more concrete statements about Iran and nukes. Sounds like pressure to me, but what do I know?

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Tearing down Maoz Esther, a scattered collection of two concrete structures and several cabins fashioned from metal shipping containers, is "just a public relations stunt," he said.

And here’s someone telling it like it is. Moaz Esther is an outpost without Israeli authorization, as opposed to a settlement, which is still illegal under international law, but which Israel recognizes (and encourages settlement in) as its own “cities”. The problem is that they are built on Palestinian land complete with Jewish only roads and whose yards and pools are watered by depriving Palestinians of their share of the resource.,0,1538559.story?track=rss

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Netanyahu wants Arab states to begin to normalize relations and begin to cooperate on economic and agricultural projects…why?? He agreed to get rid of what Israel calls illegal outposts. Sounds good, right? Sounds like a concession, progress, a compromise. Wait a minute…didn’t he say (see the Haaretz article above) he was cashing in this outpost dismantling for tougher language on Iran? I guess this outpost thing is such a big gesture he figures he can get a little more mileage out of it than that. Has anyone else caught that two for one deal?

Anyway, that’s what Israel wants it to look like. A grand compromise on the scale of Barak’s “generous offer,” that in truth, wasn’t so generous after all. Illegal settlements, according to international and reasonable standards, are ALL settlements on the Occupied Territories, not just puny outposts consisting of a few trailers that aren’t recognized under Israeli law anyway. Bulldoze the outposts (no-brainer), but allow for “natural growth” in established, but still illegal, settlements? This outpost dismantling deal is more of a gain for Israel after all (if we give them "natural growth") - it essentially makes land grabs acceptable. And the US and Israel can still claim they are dismantling settlements (?!), it’s a win-win, right? Oops. Palestinians lose, though. I guess that doesn’t count. On top of this, Netanyahu doesn’t talk about two states, nor does he recognize the natural right of Palestinians to live and rule themselves. What a concession indeed!! This is no compromise, no breakthrough, no change. One could argue that it is an effort to appropriate more Palestinian land for themselves.

In the article, Senator Casey thinks we can meet in the middle on the settlement freeze. Ridiculous. Remove these pea shooter outposts, but allow for “natural growth” on the larger settlements which of course will be able to stand (against the law, btw)? And whose land, may I ask, will they expand upon? Hmmm. Sounds more like a land grab (albeit a well-disguised one to the uninitiated) than compromise.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Amira Hass arrested and an interesting podcast on Israel and apartheid

Besides this momentous meeting between Obama and Netanyahu, I came across 2 other interesting items:

Haaretz Reporter Amira Hass Arrested Upon Leaving Gaza

When responsibility for the Strip is spoken about, the response is always- oh, Israel disengaged from there several years ago and has nothing to do with it. Their humanitarian disaster is their problem. If that is the case, I wonder why Israel continues to interfere and control who comes and goes, whether it be journalists or whoever. The disengagement is being seen for what it is: a continued occupation minus the burden of those pesky human rights and other laws.

Hass is Israeli. I thought they were allowed to go wherever they wanted? Maybe she's on the blacklist of peace-loving, self-hating Jews. And a journalist on top of that, so she may report what she sees. They can't have that if they are to construct a myth on which to build and keep American support and love! Down with the facts! To welcome Bibi to power, let's all stick our heads in the sand, forget about peace and justice and declare Israel the perpetual victim. In America, we pretty much do that anyway, so that's a head start for us. Yay.

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This is Apartheid!: Hazam Jujum Speaks on Israeli Practices in Palestine

On a less sarcastic note...

This is an excellent discussion of the apartheid-like conditions in the Occupied Territories. There has been some controversy over whether or not the term applies, especially with the publication of Carter's book, Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid. I think after the headlines, most of the hour is about the apartheid situation, so it is fairly comprehensive. Some common arguments against using the term are addressed. Israel is very creative in its use and application of law. I can say that for them.

It's really interesting. Anyone who still doesn't get why Palestinians and Arabs in general are mad at Israel should really have a listen.

Netanyahu ready to resume Mideast peace talks

That is the (rather overly optimistic) headline, but I would add--
Netanyahu ready to resume Mideast peace talks...sort of... if you bomb and invade Iran for us and if the Palestinians give up all rights and claims to 'Greater Israel'.

Netanyahu said he was ready to resume peace talks with the Palestinians immediately but said any agreement depended on their acceptance of Israel's right to exist.

Netanyahu did not respond publicly to Obama's comment that Israel must stop expanding Jewish settlements in West Bank. He also refused again to say he was ready to negotiate a so-called two-state solution to the nearly 60-year dispute with the Palestinians. The plan, endorsed by the United States and other parties pushing for peace between the historic foes, calls for establishment of a Palestinian state side by side with Israel.

This Obama-Netanyahu meeting is portrayed as tough love and a big contrast to the past administration. Even-handedness (???) was also mentioned in the CNN piece. Blunt was the buzzword in the NPR story. I would call the changes subtle at best. There is no
real change here. The phrase “no breakthroughs were expected” repeated throughout the coverage should give you the real idea here.

Mentioning settlements is hardly tough or blunt, as CNN and others want you to believe. Settlements are a no-brainer. They are often mistakenly called a "painful concession" or final status issue when in fact, there can be no contiguous Palestinian entity without the total removal of ALL Jewish settlements. Besides this basic fact, they are ALL against the law. That alone should be cause for us to discuss cutting off “aid” to Israel if they don’t comply with the law. That
would be just and could perhaps even be called more even-handed.

No, I take that back- evenhanded would be to say- you want Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state ? Great, but before you expect that, deal with two points: (1) you don’t recognize a Palestinian state or two state solution and (2) Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is ludicrous because they would be giving up their right of return, right to equal protection and treatment under the law, among other things.

That would be just. That would be evenhanded. That will never happen. We for some odd reason are attached to the hip of this apartheid regime and constantly seek it's approval though we don't need it in the least. And neither do they need ours- though they tend to do more slapping us in the face (settlement expansion announcements ahead of visits to the US) than seeking our approval.

Netanyahu has long insisted that any Palestinian state forgo the common trappings of statehood, including its own military, control over its borders and authority over electronic communications.
From: Israel's prime minister tells Obama he wants to restart peace talks,0,3662125.story

All the coverage I read seems to imply that Netanyahu didn't say two state solution, but he wants to- or is on the cusp. This little snippet from LA Times is perhaps more truthful or at least insightful than all I've heard in the past 24 hours.

So, not only won't he say two state solution, he does want indefinite occupation. He has said he doesn't want Israel to govern, so who, I wonder does he propose to "be in charge" ? The basic human belief that all have a God-given right to a state, life, freedom, happiness, yadda, yadda, yadda applies to Israelis (and hence all Jews everywhere forever) and Americans, but definitely not Palestinians. Now that makes sense. Oh. What makes even more sense is how the US and Israel don't think they should be able to be tried in the ICC or be charged with human rights violations, but Palestinians aren't being called out enough.

Obama presses two-state solution in U.S.-Israel talks
Netanyahu said that it was clear to Obama "that Israel retains the right to defend itself".

In his briefing to reporters, Netanyahu gave no indication he would do so, citing the need for Palestinians to carry out their road map commitments.
*This quote is referring to stopping settlement expansion and is rather funny, especially in light of the first link from LA Times. I mean, really? This is me in a really bad Israeli accent--> 'Uhhhhh...No, we're going to continue to defy international law, but you make those Palestinians follow the Roadmap (which of course we won't follow)!!'

These next two links demonstrate the primary goals of each side. It was kind of funny to see this unfold. Both are coming with two different agendas. At one point it seemed like they were giving independent talks or news conferences rather than interacting with each other. I am happy to see that Obama didn't back down and leave out the parts about peace, two states and settlements. If I'm not mistaken, Netanyahu tried to get the agenda set to Iran only, but Obama stuck to his guns and said they could talk about both. He's not wrong to say that they are linked.

"It is in the interests not only of the Palestinians but also the Israelis, the United States and the international community to achieve a two-state solution," Obama told reporters with Netanyahu sitting beside him.

*This is being cast by the media as Obama’s main priority.

Obama presses Netanyahu over two-state plan

Our correspondent says Mr Netanyahu came to Washington with his own list of priorities, topped by Iran's nuclear programme.

*Striking Iran, not making peace, is Israel’s priority. Will it become ours? If so, one really has to wonder whose influence is greater. Who is the superpower? I get all mixed up when Israel and the US get to talking.

Here's the piece I saw "tough love" in. With tough love like this, parents wouldn't have to worry about disciplining their kids! Just let 'em do whatever. And they'll turn into little monsters. Much like Israel.

Analysis: Obama's tough-love approach to Israel

Monday, May 18, 2009

Netanyahu and Obama begin key talks in US

With regard to Iran, Israel is saying:
"The prime minister will emphatically emphasize the element of urgency,"

Uhhh, does this translate to- you’d better make up a reason to go in there and get ‘em or we’ll nuke ‘em for ya. It doesn’t have to be a good reason, as we’ve seen in Iraq. Just mention national security and maybe 9/11 and mushroom clouds and BAM! You have a population more than ready to sign their sons’ and daughters’ lives away to “fight terror” or “fight for freedom”. Wow. That sounds familiar. It sounds like how people are recruited for extremist groups.

When are we going to learn that doing Israel’s dirty work is not in the interests of us, them or the Middle East as a whole?? I guess the danger is that Israel would go it alone and we’d be blamed for not being able to “persuade” them from starting nuclear war.

So, maybe we have to be involved, but must we simply be yes men?

“Tenders have been issued to build 20 housing units in Maskiot, a former Israeli military base that has been designated for housing settlers removed from Gaza in 2005.”

I wonder if this will come up at all in the meeting. Hmm. It should go something like if you don’t stop building settlements (which are against our policy and international law) then our “aid” to you stops today. If they continue to build, they should have to pay the Palestinians (like a hefty fine) and risk home demolishing (or bombing) by Palestinians. Just a thought. We already know Israel thinks this is fair and acceptable.

We may not have ALL of the issues in the conflict figured out, but this one is a no-brainer. It’s against the law. We should apply pressure, cut off aid, boycott. Do something, at least! All we do is make lame little statements that must get lost on the way over to Israel. They always come back and slap us in the face with plans to expand and build more settlements. We cower and back down every time so that our “stand” becomes more like a “run and hide”. Is that hole we pulled Saddam Hussein out of still open? It’s as though we make a bold statement about dismantling settlements in public, but in private meetings, we must say- settlements? We love settlements. Settlements are great. Keep up the good work. Otherwise, why would Israel keep building these things with absolutely no consequences??

Another interesting tidbit- the American public isn’t holding our elected officials back from holding Israel accountable:

On Israeli Settlement Freeze, Public Has Obama's Back

Mr Netanyahu has so far been unwilling to endorse a two-state solution, saying only he wants a "fresh approach".

Interesting. We are still meeting with these guys even though they don’t endorse the two-state solution that Hamas, other Palestinians, the US, Europe, etc endorse.

The only other solution is one secular state with equal rights for all--- and we know full well that no good Israeli Jew could ever live with such a thing. Equal rights? Whoever heard of such a silly notion?

I guess there is another solution. Genocide. Is that the “fresh approach” Netanyahu talking about? Maybe not killing everyone, but at least transfer them somewhere out of Israel’s way.

Another interesting article I found:

Obama's Middle East moment of truth
His diplomatic moves are a good start. But does he have the will to challenge Israel?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Britain bans Savage and a look at Israel

Maybe some think I'm reaching, here, to compare this thing in Britain with Israel, but really I'm not. It's about freedom of speech and the government's place. What happened in Britain may be surprising, but in Israel, it's chronic-- and there's the whole issue of controlling the West Bank and denying residents entry (this should get at least as much attention as the Savage ban--it's more absurd and wrong!)...

CNN made the point that Savage was getting more publicity from this than going over there quietly, so he should be glad. Kinda funny. They kind of implied that he really couldn't complain like he was and I'd have to say yes and no...

Now on to the post I wrote earlier...

OK, people are up in arms about Britain banning loudmouth Michael Savage. Maybe they aren’t up in arms, but they are talking about it with a hint of surprise or shock in their voices.

Look at Israel’s list of banned individuals. They are supposed to be democratic, Western, open, etc as well. Are we as shocked at Israel’s antics as we are at Britain’s? Do we expect such repressive behavior form Israel that it’s not worth talking about? Or do we prefer to sweep such things under the rug given that we are committed to giving them billions of dollars a year for all eternity and this is really embarrassing?

Some of Israel's banned:
(a comprehensive list of some 3000 or more is beyond my ability, but this is quite lengthy)

Israel deports former pop star Cat Stevens

Israel bars Arab parties from election

Christian deported from Israel for mission work

deported for human rights work

deported from Israel

many witnesses denied entry

Richard Falk denied entry and deported

Norman Finkelstein denied entry
10 year ban

The Beatles were banned for some time-- and they may yet deny the Pope, apparently.

Denied entry to Christian clergy

Israel denies entry to Muslim wife of Jewish Iranian immigrant

Here's the West Bank issue and Israel's denial of entry that could be considered ethnic cleansing, as residents aren't allowed back in, Muslim or Arab spouses of Jews are routinely denied in order to force families to move or be torn apart, these are just some examples.

And then there’s the issue of Israel not allowing “foreigners” and foreigners in and out of the Occupied Territories..

Number of people denied entry into Israel up 61 percent since 2005

Palestinian non-violent resistance

I posted these 2 questions on a forum- I think in response to hearing this week about the protests at Bil'in where Israel killed several people.

I can see why Israel wants to silence these people. They've got valid points that they're trying to get across peacefully and they are organized with their own conference and village website. Now that's more dangerous that suicide bombers! It should inspire fear in the hearts of those who thrive on oppression and hatred.

Bil’in’s conference on non-violent resistance

The village's website:


How much do you know about the history of Palestinian non-violent resistance?

Do you think there is only suicide bombing and rocket launching?

Were you aware of any non-violent protests currently or in the past?

Do you think these non-violent protests have made a difference?

Should they continue?
(scroll down on this one- it is very detailed when you get there)


Do you know as much about peaceful Palestinian protest as you do about suicide bombers?
My guess is more Palestinians have peacefully protested than suicide bombed, but that's not the impression you get from the media.

What do you think?

Which do you think are actually more prevalent?

If more people indeed have peacefully protested than suicide bombed, why the opposite impression? Maybe violence sells? What does that say about us? Does it put us on the opposite side of peace?

Non-violent protests against West Bank barrier turn increasingly dangerous

AIPAC- imminent implosion? Dare to dream.

Read a rather encouraging article recently on AIPAC. Surprising, I know.

I already firmly believe we should get AIPAC listed as an agent of a foreign government. There is no question that's what it is. It seems this organization's members are caught time after time passing classified info to Israel. I wonder how many times they've done it and not been caught? Probably far more than they've been caught. Just a guess.

Justice Department Aborts Attempt to Hold AIPAC to U.S. Law

Hopefully, the organization will self destruct. That's really the best hope we have. Lawmakers are too concerned about being labeled anti-Semitic and not getting elected to go after these folks.

Why Steve Rosen is Suing AIPAC

Undisputably stolen land in Palestine

The last post with the mention of Avigdor Lieberman and all his racist remarks, as well as Obama's seemingly tougher stance toward Israel made me think of something else that is a no-brainer:

Should Israel be allowed to annex Palestinian land, but not give the residents citizenship?

"Nor is there mention of the neighboring village of Nuaman, whose lands were annexed to Jerusalem but whose residents hold Palestinian identity cards, and are therefore classified as illegal residents in their own homes."
*this quote from :

This is unbelievable! People debate about whether refugees for 1948 and the various wars should be allowed back to their homes in Israel (even though this right is as valid as the creation of the state of Israel). You can debate whether the land is Palestine or Israel, which border from which war to recognize, but there can be no defense for this position in the case above. Annex their land, but don't accept them as citizens?? That's theft! No question. No way around it. But what are we going to do about that?? What do we do with governments that violate law like this? From the look of it, pay them, praise them, and continue calling the night day, of course!

Change is great, but not in this case, obviously.

Obama's tougher line on Israel? Are we kidding ourselves?

I will say that I'm glad Obama and Biden are paying lip service to the issue of illegal settlements, unlike some officials. It's a precursor to a good start. I doubt we'll make "aid" dependent on anything Israel must do. Obligations and prerequisites are for Palestinians. Everyone knows that.

Barack Obama hints at tougher line on Israel

Lieberman: U.S. will accept any Israeli policy decision

This is a pretty bold statement by Lieberman, but it does ring true, unfortunately and embarassingly. It renders the leader of the free world rather impotent.
In other news, it seems the positions of the some parties have flip-flopped. I was going to say side, but Hamas doesn't represent all Palestinians, but it is interesting that they support and two-state solution and the "democratic" "Western" Israeli government doesn't. Interesting. So here we see that aid and support aren't based on support of the peace process after all! It should be crystal clear to all that our support of Israel has nothing to do with the fact that they are willing to sit down and talk peace and Palestinians aren't (as some will still tell you).

Meshal: Hamas seeks Palestinian state based on 1967 borders
I heard this as a headline the other day, but found articles announcing this from 2006- at first glance. And there are still people who say Palestinians in general deserve the human rights abuses they get because Hamas wants to push Israel into the sea.

Netanyahu won’t back two state solution,7340,L-3693269,00.html

And then there’s Avigdor Lieberman, the FM - doesn’t talk about two states, rejects all agreements but Roadmap* (?), loyalty oath, “transfer”, drowning prisoners, etc…

I think I mentioned this before, but the (?) is explained here:
*Roadmap Israel said they’d sign but had 14 reservations (Palestinians not allowed violence or incitement/criticism, but Israel is, no discussion of settlements, etc) so wouldn’t observe
Here are the 14 – totally guts the agreement; they should just say no, we won’t do it.
Several of these are their obligations under international law and should occur independently and not be conditional upon any Palestinian actions.