Palestinian delegation prepares for UNESCO vote

CAIRO (Ma’an) — Palestinian officials are preparing for an intense diplomatic battle as UNESCO opens its General Conference on Tuesday.

UNESCO’s board decided on Oct. 5 to let 193 member states vote on a Palestinian application to upgrade from observer status to full membership of the cultural body.

The vote is expected to take place during the two-week general assembly meeting which opens Tuesday in Paris.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged the governing body of UNESCO “to think again before proceeding with that vote” and said the US might cut off funding to the agency if it admitted Palestine. The US pays 22 percent of UNESCO’s dues.

Palestinian sources involved in the bid told Ma’an that UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova flew to Washington shortly after the board issued its decision to allow a vote and returned convinced that the US would see through its threats to withdraw funding.

The sources said it was possible that Palestine would win the two-thirds majority needed to secure membership, but that consultations were underway to find a compromise and avoid a split among members which could paralyze UNESCO’s work.

One possibility discussed was to grant Palestine full membership, but on the condition that it would not come into effect for six to nine months, once Palestine’s bid to join the UN has been decided and to allow time for negotiations with Israel.

The proposal could persuade European nations not to oppose the Palestinian application, officials said.

Palestinian Authority Tourism Minister Khloud Daibes on Monday defended Palestine’s right to join UNESCO, telling Reuters, “The question is not if the Palestinian has the right but why the Palestinians until now are not a member of this international organization?”

She said that after gaining full UNESCO membership, the PA would revive its bid to secure World Heritage status for Bethlehem and its Church of the Nativity, revered as the birthplace of Jesus. The nomination was rejected this year because Palestine was not a full UNESCO member.

Bethlehem resident Hisham Khimaees said he hoped membership of UNESCO would help to increase local income from tourism.

“First thing it means to me as a resident that the importance of Bethlehem city will internationally increase. Also the tourists will come more to Bethlehem and this is good for the city of Bethlehem and its residents and will increase the national income of Bethlehem,” Khimaees said.

UNESCO is the first UN agency to which Palestinians have applied for full membership since President Mahmoud Abbas submitted a request to become a member state of the United Nations on September 23, also in the face of stiff US opposition.

Washington  says negotiations with Israel  are the only way for the Palestinians to achieve statehood.

( / 24.10.2011)

The Atlantic, Israel, and Palestine

A new special report is part of a long history of the magazine’s coverage of Israel-Palestine

krieger oct24 p.jpg

A Palestinian man waits at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah / Reuters

Today The Atlantic launches a special report exploring issues in the Israel-Palestine conflict, “Is Peace Possible?“, in collaboration with the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. For The Atlantic, this project builds on a vast archive of  engagement with the Arab-Israeli conflict. The magazine was a seminal forum for debating these issues long before the establishment of the Jewish state.

As recently chronicled by Atlantic national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg, much of the magazine’s original coverage of Zionism was defined by  “unfriendliness.” A prime example is William Ernest Hocking’s July 1930 piece, in which he describes the forcing of Jewish  sovereignty on the Arab population of Palestine as “an injustice which is inconsistent with the ethical sense of Zionism”:

For thirteen hundred years Moslem Arabs have lived here, tilling the soil, caring for their herds, raising their fruits and olives, practising their trades and crafts. Between them and this habitat there is a genuine adjustment, an almost perfect equilibrium; technique and custom, dress and architecture, they transmit from antiquity with an unconscious faithfulness; they belong. The rights which go with this long occupation and use cannot be brushed aside, even though no letter of a British agreement could be cited to confirm them in their place.

Owen Tweedy, in the October 1930 issue, conveyed a particularly pessimistic assessment of Zionism:

Both tenants had what they considered and claimed to be impeccable title to possession; and for the past twelve years they have lived together in a house of discord, each going his own way regardless of the feelings of the other. Incompatibility of temper has been proved, but the situation cannot be eased by divorce. …Zionist immigration is out to establish itself in Palestine on lines of its own choosing. On the other hand, those lines are foreign, unintelligible,  and antipathetic to the mentalities of the Arab communities that represent the large majority in the country. If no bridge is built, how can these two existing, and mutually repellent, social states grow side by side without endless friction?

… Zionism has lost the idealism which attended the birth of the movement.

But The Atlantic also published quite a few pieces supportive of the Zionist endeavor. A 1919 piece by Henry Sacher, an executive of the World Zionist Organization and a contributor to early drafts of the Balfour Declaration, went to great lengths to justify Jewish nationalism and its inherent connection to the land of Israel:

Rabbinical literature is full of apophthegms that express the positive passion of the teachers of Israel for the soil, the air, the water, the physical  being of the national land. ‘Whosoever walks four cubits in Palestine is assured of the world to come.’ ‘It is better to dwell in a Palestine desert  than to live in a land of plenty abroad.’ ‘To live in the land of Israel outweighs all the commands of the Torah.’ ‘The air of Palestine makes men wise.’ ‘Even the chatter of Palestine is worthy of study.’ ‘Palestine is the microcosm of the world.’ ‘Rabbi Abah used to kiss the rocks of Palestine.  Rabbi Chazah used to roll in the dust of Palestine.’ The whole doctrine of the rabbis in regard to the national home is summed up in the sentence: ‘God said to Moses, “the Land is me and Israel is dear to me. I will bring Israel who is dear to me to Land that is dear to me.’ Here is the triple thread which is Judaism — God, the Jewish people, the Jewish land. What the rabbis taught and felt, the Jewish people believed and felt.

He saw no contradiction of “the establishment there of the Jewish national home” with “the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” who he saw largely as “absentee landowners, who rack-rent a miserable peasantry.” He envisioned “a harmonious cooperation between Jew, Arab, and Armenian.”

In a 1945 piece in the magazine, Milton Steinberg, rabbi of the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City, also justified Zionism by pointing to the religious roots of Jewish nationalism, though focused on the need of a post-Holocaust haven for the Jews:

I advocate Zionism as the most immediate and practicable answer to a vast, terrible and very tangible need. … Has not the Old World House of Israel  been trampled into blood-drenched splinters? And in the grim devastation, does not Jewish Palestine shine as a joy-bringing, hope-dispensing beacon?

Steinberg admits that the Arab residents of Palestine also have a claim to the land, but dismisses them as less compelling than the Jewish claim because “Jewish enterprise has made the land one of promise for them as well as for Jews.” He also dismisses the charge that “Arabs have been driven from the soil,” claiming that Jews primarily occupied “uncultivated” and “uncultivable” land.

He defines the situation as “two legitimate ideals [that] have come into conflict in Palestine.” But to him, the choice is clear: Because of Jewish  suffering the Holocaust (“Jews by the millions to whom entrance to Palestine is truly a matter of survival”), the preponderance of other Arab states  across the region (“Has not the Arab world as a whole vast territories on which to realize political autonomy? Is not Palestine a mere 5 per cent of that world?”), and broader goals of “universal humanity” (“Jewish Palestine is the outpost in the Near East of modernity and democracy.”), “not in anguish, urgency, or import does [the Arab case] begin to equal the Jewish.”

These perspectives — both for and against the Zionist project to establish a Jewish state in Palestine — are relics of their respective time periods. The debate has, thankfully, moved far beyond many of these questions. But the roots of the conflict were apparent even in those early years, and many of the same battles over competing nationalist narratives persist today. Our hope with this special report will follow in The Atlantic‘s long tradition of thoughtful analysis of this decades-old conflict — and advance the sober and substantive discussion on how to finally end it.

( / 24.10.2011)

Israeli foreign minister says Palestinian President Abbas is ‘obstacle’ to peace agreement

JERUSALEM — Israel’s foreign minister charged Monday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is an “obstacle” to peace and that he hopes Abbas will soon resign.

The comments by Avigdor Lieberman drew an angry response from Palestinians, who accused him of calling for an assassination and appealed to the United States and the European Union to intervene.

In a briefing with reporters, Lieberman lashed out at the Palestinian leader, saying Abbas has been leading a campaign to delegitimize Israel internationally and that he has become an “obstacle that needs to be removed.”

Abbas is leading a drive for U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state. On Monday his envoy urged the world body not to delay acting on the Palestinian request. Israel and the United States fiercely oppose the bid, saying independence can be reached only through negotiations.

Peace talks have been largely frozen for more than two years. They broke down the last time over the issue of construction in Israeli settlements.

In the past, Abbas has repeatedly threatened to resign if there is no progress in peace efforts. Lieberman called on him to carry out his threat.

“He has been threatening to return the keys and resign? That would not be a threat but a blessing, and I wish he would finally do it,” Lieberman said. “Whoever comes after him will be better … there is no lack of Palestinians who studied in the West — educated people with Western values with whom we can talk.”

Lieberman said that despite Abbas’ moderate image, he was naming public squares after terrorists, handing out money to killers who were released in last week’s prisoner swap and calling for a future Palestinian state that was free of Jews.

Lieberman added that Abbas was concerned only about his personal survival after the overthrow of his “friends” in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

“That is very understandable, but it doesn’t help in reaching an agreement,” he said.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top aide to Abbas, fired back, calling Lieberman the “most extreme, racist person in Israel.”

“Lieberman is an enemy of peace and he should be condemned by every rational voice in Israel,” he said. “If this position represents or reflects the policy of this government, that means that they intend to wage a political war. The Israeli government should apologize for what the foreign minister said.”

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat added that Lieberman’s comments amounted to incitement and could be interpreted as a call to assassinate Abbas. He said he relayed that message to Americans and Europeans as well.

It wasn’t clear whether Lieberman was expressing his own opinion or government policy. He’s spoken out of step with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before, most notably when he told the United Nations that there was no point in negotiating with Palestinians — just as peace talks were being relaunched in September 2010.

A Netanyahu spokesman refused to comment Monday.

Lieberman is known for his fiery nature and outspoken criticism of Palestinians. He’s also a contentious figure because of his support for redrawing Israel’s borders to push areas with heavy concentrations of Israeli Arabs out of Israel and into Palestinian jurisdiction. He also launched a failed effort in parliament to force Israeli Arabs to take a loyalty oath or lose their citizenship.

Lieberman said he was “100 percent” sure that the establishment of a Palestinian state in the current climate would lead to rocket attacks against major Israeli population centers. Gaza militants have fired thousands of rockets at Israel since Israel’s pullout in 2005.

He also vowed that there would be no settlement construction slowdown. He noted that the settlements made up less than two percent of the West Bank and therefore “have never been an obstacle to peace.”

( / 24.10.2011)

Al-Nahda claims victory in Tunisia poll

Moderate Islamist party says it has won more than 30 per cent of seats as PDP concedes it will be in opposition.
The moderate Islamist party al-Nahda has claimed that it has won more than 30 per cent of seats in Tunisia’s 217-member consitutent assembly, following the country’s historic election.

“The first confirmed results show that al-Nahda has obtained first place nationally and in most districts,” the party’s campaign manager, Abelhamid Jlassi, said at a news conference, citing al-Nahda’s own election observers’ reports.

The party’s claim came ahead of an announcement by the country’s independent election commission, in which it was to offcially declare partial results.

The leaders of two leftist parties, the Congress Party for the Republic (CPR) and Ettakol, said they were fighting for second place, while the leader of the centre-left Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) conceded defeat on Monday evening.

“Al-Nahda is certainly the majority, but there are two other democratic entities, Ettakatol and the CPR, who were weak at the start but now find themselves in the position to contribute to political life and usher a rational modernity in this Arab-Muslim country,” Khalil Zaouia, Ettakatol’s number two, said.

Samir Dilou, a member of al-Nahda’s political bureau, said that his party had won “not far from 40 per cent” of the vote.

“The trend is clear. The PDP is badly placed. It is the decision of the Tunisian people. I bow before their choice,” PDP leader Maya Jribi told the AFP news agency at her party’s headquarters in Tunis.

“We will be there to defend a modern, prosperous and moderate Tunisia,” she said, adding the PDP would “clearly be in opposition”.


Jlassi said that al-Nahda’s priority was to restore stability to Tunisia.

“We would like to reassure our trade and economic partners, and all actors and investors, we hope very soon to have stability and the right conditions for investment in Tunisia,” he said.

“The priorities for Tunisia are clear. They are stability, conditions for a dignified life and the building of democratic institutions in Tunisia. We are  open to anyone who shares these objectives. We are open to all forces without exception,” he said.

The election, held on Sunday, was the country’s first-ever democratic poll to choose an assembly to rewrite the constitution, nine months after former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled from power.

With an unexpectedly large number of ballot papers to count, it remained unclear when election officials planned to announce the results of the vote.

There was a huge turnout as voters exercised their rights to choose the 217-seat assembly, which will also choose a new interim government and set dates for parliamentary and presidential elections.

Boubaker Bethabet, the secretary-general of the independent ISIE polling commission, said 90 per cent of the estimated 4.1 million citizens who registered ahead of the poll cast their votes.

No figures were available for the other 3.1 million voters who did not pre-register but also had the right to vote, as facilities for registration existed at most polling stations.

Al-Nahda, citing its own, unofficial tally from votes cast by the large Tunisian diaspora, said indications were that it had done well. Overseas voting was held days before Sunday’s election.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Zied Mhirsi, a prominent Tunisian blogger, said: “It is clear al-Nahda has a majority, the question is to what extent? Will they be the only ones forming a government?

“Every party is basically trying to see to what extent they can compromise with al-Nahda to organise a government.

“I don’t expect our revolution to become an Islamic Revolution but, at the same time, I expect Islam to be a part of Tunisian life, the way you could see it in Turkey.

“Al-Nahda has already shown a commitment to the declarations on human rights.”

Queues before dawn

Long lines of people had formed at polling stations before dawn on Sunday, growing into winding queues of voters keen to take part in the country’s first electoral contest without a pre-determined result.

More than 11,000 candidates ran in the election, representing 80 political parties. Several thousand candidates ran as independents.

The electoral system was designed to include as many parties as possible in drafting the new constitution, which is expected to take a year, ahead of fresh elections.

Sunday’s vote drew praise internationally, with US President Barack Obama saying that Tunisia’s revolution had “changed the course of history”.

“Just as so many Tunisian citizens protested peacefully in streets and squares to claim their rights, today they stood in lines and cast their votes to determine their own future,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.

The EU also hailed the elections and vowed support for the new authorities.

‘Victory for dignity’

The mother of Mohamed Bouazizi, the young vegetable seller whose self-immolation last December set of the Tunisian revolt, said that the elections were a victory for dignity and freedom.

“Now I am happy that my son’s death has given the chance to get beyond fear and injustice,” Manoubia Bouazizi told the Reuters news agency. I’m an optimist, I wish success for my country.”

In depth coverage of first Arab Spring

Ahmed Néjib Chebbi, the founder of the PDP, a centre-left political party,
came to vote in Tahrir Mhiri, La Marsa.

“This is a celebration of democracy,” he told Al Jazeera. “People are here to
exercise their duties as citizens, and they are showing that they deserve the
rights which they have been deprived of for decades.”

Concerning the heckling of al-Nahda leader Rachid Ghannouchiand his
family after they cast their votes at El Menzah 6 this morning, Nejib Chebbi
said it was “regrettable” that the leader of al-Nahda had been treated in this

“No matter what his political ideas might be, Mr. Ghannouchi is a Tunisian
citizen who deserves respect. Today is not a day for protest,” he said.

( / 24.12.2011)

Israeli Artillery Shells Hit Arafat International Airport in Rafah

RAFAH, October 24, 2011 (WAFA) – Israeli artillery fired on Monday two shells towards Yasser Arafat International Airport, in the southern Gaza Strip, according to witnesses.

Witnesses said that a cloud of smoke rose from the site after the Israeli artillery fired two shells that hit the airport. No injuries were reported.

Yasser Arafat International Airport is considered the honor of Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip.

The airport opened in 1998, and closed in 2001 after being severely damaged by Israeli military forces.

( / 24.12.2011)

Jordan swears in new govt, vows reform

AMMAN (Reuters) — Jordan’s US-backed King Abdullah swore in a reform-minded government on Monday to speed up political liberalization in the country after protests inspired by popular uprisings in the Arab world.

The new prime minister has vowed to review Jordan’s electoral system, which is seen as discriminatory towards Jordan’s large Palestinian population.

Moderates, tribal politicians and technocrats make up the new 30-member cabinet. The powerful Islamist opposition declined an invitation to join but said it would support government reform moves.

Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh, a judge who worked at the Hague-based International Court of Justice, was appointed last week to replace Marouf al-Bakhit, who was widely criticized for inept handling of the crisis.

US-educated former central banker Umayya Toukan was named finance minister in a move officials said aimed to allay investors’ concerns about soaring public spending that has threatened Jordan’s fiscal and monetary stability.

The Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, said it would back Khasawneh’s reformist agenda and said his overtures marked a stark contrast from successive governments that had curbed its activities.

Jordan has seen weeks of street protests led by Islamists, tribal figures and leftist opposition that have demanded wider political freedoms and that the king fight corruption.

Reform agenda

Abdullah told Khasawneh last week that his cabinet’s mission was to accelerate reforms which the outgoing cabinet had been slow in pushing through.

Abdullah told CNN in an interview released on Monday that Khasawneh had the credentials to steer the country towards national elections next year after parliament passes a package of reform laws, including a new electoral law.

“It’s just if we’re sincere about getting Jordan to national elections and a new phase of political life, you’ve got to get the right players, so this prime minister is coming in for a specific reason so that we can achieve those ends,” the monarch told CNN.

Khasawneh told reporters after he was sworn in that his cabinet would open a debate over the current electoral system that favors tribal but scarcely populated regions against the heavily populated cities where most of Jordan’s citizens of Palestinian origin live.

“We will also lead a public debate on the election law,” Khasawneh said.

Political commentators say that as long as the electoral system does not address discrimination against citizens of Palestinian origin, under-represented in parliament and the state, real change was still a long way off.

The choice of Khasawneh was also followed by the appointment of a new intelligence chief seen as a less political figure than predecessors who had been criticized by the opposition for meddling in public life and thwarting reforms.

The monarch has said privately that the powerful security service has disregarded his calls to curb its involvement in politics. He sent its newly appointed chief Faisal al-Shobaki a rare public letter telling him his agency should not thwart reforms.

Commentators said the moves eased political tensions that had grown after recent pro-reform rallies were met with violence by members of conservative tribes and an entrenched security apparatus, raising the specter of wider unrest.

Tribal discontent

Politicians say the monarch, who has ruled since 1999, has been forced to take only cautious steps towards democracy, constrained by the tribal power base which sees reforms as a threat to its political and economic benefits.

There has been unprecedented criticism from tribal areas that have traditionally formed the backbone of support for the Hashemite royal family and provide the bulk of manpower for the army and security forces.

The palace has so far contained tribal discontent by offering patronage, state jobs and perks but critics say this policy of placating constituents was not sustainable in a country dependent on fluctuating levels of foreign aid.

Toukan, the new finance minister, faces the task of cutting the budget deficit, expected to be around seven percent of GDP and well above an original 5.5 percent estimate for this year.

“The economic challenges to reduce poverty and ease unemployment are probably the biggest challenges we face,” Khasawneh said.

( / 24.10.2011)

Fractieleider stapt uit Friese PVV

LEEUWARDEN – Fractievoorzitter Jelle Hiemstra van de PVV in de Provinciale Staten van Friesland stapt uit de partij en gaat verder als onafhankelijk Statenlid. Dat liet Hiemstra maandag weten.

Volgens hem wordt zijn voorbehoud over islamisering niet op prijs gesteld door de PVV in Den Haag. Hiemstra zei vorige maand dat de Friese fractie zich niet alleen bezighoudt met hoofddoekjes, maar ook met puur Friese zaken zoals de veelbesproken afvaloven Omrin in Harlingen en subsidie voor het festival Oerol.

Volgens Hiemstra worden zulke Friese aangelegenheden te weinig ondersteund door de landelijke PVV. “Onze fractie heeft een andere koers. Wij werken hier ook samen met de PvdA en GroenLinks.”

Begin september werd de Hiemstra thuis mishandeld door gemaskerde mannen. „Ik heb toen nihil steun ontvangen vanuit de PVV in Den Haag en de PVV in Friesland na de aanslag.”

( / 24.10.2011)

Rosengarten in Gaza: I was far more afraid of Israel than of Hamas

Lillian Rosengarten is a New York activist and poet, who was on the Jewish boat to Gaza that was stopped by the Israeli navy in Jan. 2010. Last week she returned from a successful trip to Gaza, entering and leaving at the Egyptian border. Rosengarten was born in Germany; her family left after the Nazis came to power. A Q-and-A.

How did you go to Gaza?

I had an invitation from a German group. I went with eight others. Three of them had been passengers  on the Mavi Marmara. And of course I had been on the Jewish boat to Gaza.  I was the only Jew in our delegation.

How long were you in Gaza?

Four and half days.

Were you surprised by what you saw?

No. I know the situation in Gaza. I didn’t go there with any illusions. But what I was surprised about was the beauty of the people and how happy they were to see our delegation, because they see so few people from the international community. It’s difficult to get in. And as miserable as the situation is– the emphasis on construction, on rebuilding, on hope, the feeling that this land belongs to them, and they are staying there, is incredible. The tradition of Islam  is fascinating to me. I was ignorant about so much, but I learned from the people I spoke with directly. Over here we get such myths and lies. It seems through fear, the religion and culture are distorted in terrible ways to demonize Islam.

Did they know you were Jewish?

I always identified myself as Jewish. I never pretended to be someone I am not. The people are just like us.  They want to live in freedom and dignity and they have suffered enormously.

I was always greeted with such love. Such open hearts. Young people congregated around me as we gave peace signs, saying Viva Palestina. No one seemed to care that I was Jewish. They cared that I was among them and wanted their freedom.

The women in Gaza are just phenomenally strong. Many are college graduates but there is a lack of jobs and opportunities. There is also a class system, and many families became prosperous in the nineties when import and export was possible.  The families are close knit and there is  strong male bonding with the male children. Fathers are very much in the picture. Following Islamic values gives the family hope and structure. It is striking the similarities I observed between Islamic families and the religious Jewish tradition.

Where was your hotel?

On the beach. It looked out on to the Mediterranean and every evening at dusk one can see on the horizon rows of fishing boat lights not daring to go beyond the three miles allocated by the Israeli navy who are on the alert constantly. Fishermen run the risk of being shot at, sprayed with water hoses or having their boats taken if they venture out of the 3 mile zone. The water is heavily polluted with sewage as the treatment plants have been bombed. Wealthier families have their own filter system to supply them with usable water.

Once the fishing boats are taken by force to Ashdod, these poor fishermen must buy them back (with help from Palestinian NGO’s). Upon return, I saw the boats were  wrecked, smashed and without engines. It’s horrible.

Some people will read this and say, You were being used by extremists.

I don’t know what that means. This is completely false, completely distorted. The only terrorists I was afraid of were the Israelis. They have their eyes on everyone, and you don’t know when the bombs or missiles are coming, morning, noon and night. You go to the tunnels and you realize, you could be bombed standing there. And everything in Gaza comes from the tunnels. There are hundreds of tunnels, miles and miles. Recently Israelis flooded some them. The danger of death is near and yet the  people are resilient as hell and thank god for the tunnels. Because otherwise there would be starvation.

We went to the border in the north, what is  called the buffer zone. A weathered farmer had his house bombed five times. He has no more citrus plants, they’ve been destroyed. A grandfather and his grandson had been recently blown up by a missile for walking too close to the border.

No!  I an  not being used by anyone. There is so much misinformation. Hamas is protecting and helping its people, it has never been recognized by Israel, and the split between Hamas and Fatah is a way to prevent a much-needed Palestinian unity.  People are misinformed. They are fed lies. The ardent supporters of Israel do not know what is  going on. They want to believe in the good of Israel. They are told Muslims want to take over and destroy Israel. Jews are taught to hate Muslims.

I believe fear and  denial propel  Jews to incorporate the Israeli lies. Tragically, for many people who identify  themselves as Jewish, to witness  the crimes of  the Israeli government would be too unbearable,  too painful to believe. And I have to believe if they really knew, they would rise up.

Do you come away from this trip with a fresh commitment?

It has  morally clarified my position, where I stand as a human being and a Jew.  I am clear that I, as a human being  who comes out of a German Jewish refugee experience, as a person who admires the history of the Jewish people and traditions, must  at the same time stand up and say NO!  Not in my name can the brutal government of Israel do what it’s doing. It is my feeling that  Jews in America who are supportive the Israeli governments’s actions are frightened. Here in the US  and in Israel, Muslims are demonized. Therefore,  people are afraid. They rest their argument on this whole idea that Muslims  want to throw Israel into the sea.

Listen, if someone were taking your land and moving into your house and growing stuff on your land while making you a refugee, you might have negative feelings. But they know that’s not the way to resolve anything. I believe  Israel operates out of fear. The security system operates out of that fear.

Do you have a clearer understanding of the situation?

Yes. Because I have spoken to Hamas, to the NGOs, to Palestinians, I’ve spoken to Fatah, to a Fatah minister who happened to be in Gaza. I’ve spoken to many many people. They are  not demons. The people I feared in Gaza  were the Israelis. They scare me because they are so violent, using collective destruction and with this racist overtones. It’s some kind of genocide. Netanyahu’s government  do not want to acknowledge that Palestinians exist.

Are there good parts of Israeli society?

Of course. When I originally saw the moshavs and the kibbutzes, early on before I really knew anything, I was amazed, I loved what I saw. I loved it and was so proud and happy to say, here’s a place where  Jews will not be discriminated against. Then I learned from my uncle that the kibbutzes were built on Palestinian land. I didn’t know early on. Americans go to Israel and they don’t see anything.

Are you going to speak to Jews about what you saw?

Yes but I do not  want to push what I see and know  down anyone’s throat. I’m not going to give information unless there’s interest and I am asked. I do not want to have to deal with someone screaming anti-Semite. It’s not helpful. But with my writing and poetry, I can convey everything  from my heart, from the core of my being.

I used to think, after the Jewish boat, that I could speak at synagogues and so forth.  People do not want to hear. I don’t think it’s useful to antagonize people who are not open. I want to speak to people in an open way where I’m not pushing any agenda. Wherever there’s a window of opportunity, I’ll take it. I’ve had to learn this.

How does this compare to work you did during the Vietnam war or the feminist movement?

I was part of a university then, it was  collective marches to Washington, teach-ins and and so forth. My intention was there but a did not have a strong voice. I was not a leader. Now I have found my voice for I have no choice.

It feels more lonely?

Yes. I feel I’m taking a very unpopular position in a country where Jews and many other people do not want to hear  and also call me a traitor. I evolved in the Vietnam war and the feminism movement where I admired the strong protest voices of others. But here I can feel the crimes against humanity  and the importance of Palestinian self determination. I am driven in combination  from my own background as well as the struggle to put a voice, yes also a Jewish voice to the suffering of Palestinians through the actions of the  Israeli government.

By your background, you mean that your family escaped the Holocaust in Germany?

Yes. I see this, the Israel Palestinian question as the final chapter of the Holocaust. Either this will be resolved, or there will be a catastrophe. It will hurt Jews, it will hurt Palestinians– both.

What about the peace process?

There can not be a peace process. History has shown  it has failed. From my view,  the Netanyahu government does not want it. They are not willing to give land to the Palestinians. Settlers have become an integral part  of the police force, brutal and vicious. Perhaps one day through the UN– but I don’t see any possibility of brokering again with the US supporting Israel so completely.

Did you believe in the peace process?

I think perhaps I was naïve with Clinton, and with Camp David and after Oslo.  I believed in peace and desperately wanted it. I think the settlement building is meant to disrupt any peace process. There is no give and take. There is no looking at the other side. There is no empathy towards a common humanity. And when the government of Israel announces refugees can not come back, I say this is crazy. What do you mean, no return?

There is so much  fear– the  existential fear of extinction by the Palestinians, by Islam. This fear is something the Israelis  have to examine.  The Palestinians want freedom, they want the right to live in dignity and in peace.

Did you feel any threat to your safety from Palestinians?

Never, never, never. My daughter said, Aren’t you  afraid, I’m afraid when you are there with Hamas, you can be hurt. I told her I am more afraid of the Israelis with their missiles and their bombs. The Palestinians were so welcoming.

Compare this  to the way the Israelis treated our Jewish boat. A navy came to stop us. Nine Israeli warships stopped a little catamaran with harmonicas.

What about your rights as a refugee from Germany?

We lost family property. Everything. We didn’t get our property back. There was some restitution. But I can relate to the Palestinian refugees.

You didn’t get a right of return, though–

That’s completely not understanding the situation. When a foreign agent comes and takes your land and takes your trees and your life, and forces you into a foreign land without anything, and takes away your identity, this is a very traumatic experience. It’s not comparable from my point of view. Here are people living on their land, here are foreign people saying this is my land, get the hell out. Many became homeless, many ended up in refugee camps. There are many in Gaza, 60 years later, and they have no right to return. What’s fair about that? Why should  they resettle? Whose land is this?

I’ve heard American Jews call the right of return Israel’s nightmare.

What is the nightmare? How? Is it one of those fear things about being annihilated? I don’t know what the problem is. I think Palestinians  must  come back and they will then  live in peace, both of them together in separate areas. They have to find some way to live side by side. They used to be friends, collaborators in work.

The dehumanization of the other must stop. I’m really afraid of what will happen if there isn’t a peace initiative. A just peace initiative. I’m scared for both sides.

( / 23.10.2011)

‘Onbegrip over slachtverbod is groot’

Rituele slachting van een schaap»Rituele slachting van een schaap

Het verbod op ritueel slachten zal ertoe leiden dat moslims hun vlees uit België en Duitsland gaan halen en dat het illegaal slachten zal toenemen. Dat horen gemeenteraadsleden met een islamitische achterban van hun kiezers.

De NOS benaderde ruim 200 van deze raadsleden voor een onderzoek naar de opvattingen over het ritueel slachten. Van hen reageerde de helft.

Uit het onderzoek blijkt dat er groot onbegrip is in de achterban over de maatregel. Ze zijn bang dat hun partij bij de volgende verkiezingen afgerekend zal worden op het slachtverbod, omdat islamitische kiezers voor een andere partij zullen kiezen.

Er zijn ook raadsleden die verwachten dat de kwestie de weg vrijmaakt voor een nieuwe islamitische partij. Negen raadsleden laten weten te overwegen hun partij te verlaten als ook in de Eerste Kamer voor het verbod wordt gestemd.


Een ruime meerderheid  van de ondervraagde raadsleden is tegen het verbod op ritueel slachten. Daarmee verschillen ze van mening met hun partijgenoten in de Tweede Kamer.

D66-raadslid Fatima Kalai-El Mousaoui uit Waddinxveen vindt dat het besluit eigenlijk gebaseerd is op emotie. “In de politiek moet men veel stukken lezen en informatie vergaren om tot een goed besluit te komen. Voor het besluit over een verbod op ritueel slachten, krijgt men een eenzijdig verhaal en dat is het verhaal van de dierenpartij.”

Lastige situatie

PvdA-raadslid Mounir Amhaouech uit Roosendaal zegt dat raadsleden door de landelijke politiek in een lastige situatie worden gebracht. “Ik weet dat veel (islamitische) leden hun lidmaatschap bij de politieke partijen die voor hebben gestemd, willen opzeggen.”

“Ik twijfel nog, omdat ik het belang van moslims nog wil behartigen en dat kan alleen als je doorgaat en deelneemt aan het politiek debat. De vraag blijft hoever je moet gaan voordat je jezelf terugtrekt uit een politieke partij, want er komen nog enkele wetsvoorstellen die moslims weer gaan raken. Denk daarbij aan het verbod op het besnijden.”

Een raadslid uit Venlo, Aissa Meziani, heeft vanwege het onderwerp zijn partij inmiddels verlaten. Hij laat weten dat hij juist vanwege het slachtverbod is overgestapt van GroenLinks naar het CDA. De Tweede Kamerfractie van het CDA stemde tegen het verbod op ritueel slachten.

Handhaving verbod

Ook over de handhaving van het verbod op onverdoofd slachten zijn twijfels. Talip Aydemir, raadslid van de PvdA in Arnhem, zegt dat op allerlei manieren geprobeerd zal worden om toch halal te slachten. “Ik zie de inspectiedienst niet tijdens alle slachtingen toekijken. Het zal vergelijkbaar zijn met het verbod op roken in de horeca. Vrijheid van godsdienst belemmeren of een onderdeel ervan verbieden, blijft gevaarlijk voor de samenleving en de toekomst.”

( / 23.10.2011)

Broad trade co-operation with Palestine discussed

MUSCAT — Khalil bin Abdullah al Khonji, Chairman of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), yesterday received Dr Ahmed Mejdalani, Labour Minister and acting Agriculture Minister of Palestine, and his accompanying delegation currently visiting the Sultanate. They discussed developing trade exchange and enhancing relations of investment partnership between the Omani private sector and its Palestinian counterpart.

The two sides praised co-operation in organising the Palestinian products exhibition recently. They also stressed the importance of developing the experience and expanding such exhibitions in future, besides stressing the importance of activating visits exchange between businessmen and women and organising mutual visits for trade delegations.

OCCI intend to organise a visit for an Omani trade delegation to Palestine next year on invitation from the Palestinian side. The Palestinian minister commended the march of development in the Sultanate and stressed the keenness of the Palestinian side to develop all aspects of joint co-operation and enhancing interests with the Sultanate. The meeting also affirmed three key points. First, acceleration of signing the agreement of establishing an Omani-Palestinian Business Council to shoulder the assignments of founding and fostering trade and investment relations between the private sector, businessmen and women, their counterparts in Palestine.
Second, introduce appropriate mechanisms to develop joint trade and investment exchange, which can be achieve through the proposed Business Council. Third point deals with co-operation in the manpower field in the private sector, particularly the Palestinian skilled manpower in fields, such as information technology (IT), services of tourism, banks, exhibitions, management, health and engineering services, in addition to benefiting from high expertise from university professors, besides co-operation in food and agriculture products area.
The meeting was attended by Dr Is’haq bin Ahmed al Ruqaishi, Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry’s Under-Secretary for Agriculture, Dr Lu’ay Issa, Palestinian Ambassador to the Sultanate and OCCI Board members.

( / 23.10.2011)