Yemen’s Women: Toppling Tradition

Women display their hands which are painted red, symbolizing bloodshed, and blue, symbolizing peace, during a demonstration demanding the ouster of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa 28 September, 2011.

The leading participation of Yemeni women in their country’s revolt is raising hopes that regime change may bring along a mini revolution in the public and political role of women

Taiz — Yemeni women did not merely challenge the taboos surrounding their black chadors, and break away from the isolation of their homes as they marched to the various liberation squares across the country. They may be precipitating a minor revolution against Yemen’s conservative customs and traditions.

The first female icon to emerge from this new Yemen is Tawakkul Karman, a journalist and activist who Friday became the first Arab woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her role in the protests. Karman’s actions, as well as those of other women like her, have restored prestige to a country often associated with the oppression of women. Some Yemenis think the international honor is a result of Yemeni women openly confronting the brutal regime.

Karman and other female activists have left their mark on the revolution. Women stood fast against the regime’s violence and oppression, despite numerous failed attempts to prevent them from joining the demonstrations. Their resolute commitment impressed both Yemeni and international communities.

Several women have risen to prominence during the events of the last seven months. In Sanaa, Huriya Mashhur became the official spokesman for the National Council. Other than Karman, a number of activists have joined Yemen’s ‘liberation squares,’ including Arwa Othman, Amal Al-Basha, Nabila al-Zubayr, Huda al-Attas, Wamid Schakir, Nadia Al-Kawkabani, Balqis Al-Lahabi, Samia Al-Haddad, Samia al-Aghbari, Majda Al-Haddad, Arwa Aoun, and many others.

Customs, traditions, and a lack of education restricted many women’s ambitions, but this group of trailblazing female activists will play a significant role in determining the shape of Yemen’s future. In Taiz’s Freedom Square, new female revolutionaries have emerged, such as Bushra Al-Maqtari, Shafiqa al-Qudsi, Ishraq Al-Maqtari, Maha Al-Shurbaji, Basma Abdel-Fattah, Ulfat al-Dabai, Balqis al-Abdali, Moeen Sultan, and many other women from conservative and Islamic parties. These activists have had a powerful role in calling for a civil state, some forming civil groups calling for freedom from traditional Yemeni political parties. The regime has openly confronted these women in unprecedented attacks against them.

Prior to the revolution, security forces dealt with women differently. Stopping them at checkpoints was ‘shameful’, a violation of tradition. But this ‘privilege’ evaporated once Yemeni women joined protests calling for the regime’s downfall. The state’s oppressive security campaign now does not distinguish between men and women, which has many describing the policy as President Ali Abdallah Saleh’s ‘moral downfall.’ Commentators believe that this represents a loss of providence and that he may be teetering before a final fall.

In Taiz, the regime has instructed its forces and armed civilian groups (known as Balatiga) to attack women and men indiscriminately. This savage repression began on June 31, two days after Freedom Square was burned down. Women had gathered on Wadi al-Qadi street for a demonstration near the town center. A number of security forces attacked the crowd of 70 women, which included several human rights activists. The women were chased down, beaten with bats, and attacked near the city center with tear gas.

At Taiz University’s Faculty of Arts, near the main security compound of Taiz governorate, female students came out to the gates demanding the regime’s downfall. Soldiers surrounded them and brought in women loyal to the regime from adjacent neighborhoods. The soldiers allowed the crowd of supporters to throw stones at the students and call out obscenities.

From the start of the revolution, the regime’s media has vilified women for their participation in public demonstrations, going so far as falsifying video clips that attempt to dishonor these women. Activists also claim that at one demonstration, anti-riot forces sprayed women with hot liquids, aiming for their heads. This tactic left many women in the crowd with burns on their hands and faces. Security forces have also frequently verbally abused the young female protesters in the Taiz, Sanaa, and Aden.

But the Yemeni regime miscalculated their efforts, as these attacks have in fact led to increased participation of women in the uprising. Bushra Al-Maqtari, an activist in Tazi’s Freedom Square, says, “They attacked women during this revolution with through all means. They chased us in the streets and alleyways, snatched the veil off some women’s heads, and abused us verbally…Despite all this oppression, we are now more determined. In Taiz alone, women are participating in mixed demonstrations with men in the mornings and female-only marches in the afternoon.”

( / 09.10.2011)

Big stage for lecturer’s play on Palestine conflict

A PLAY by a University of Chichester English lecturer has been selected to form part of a major event.

Dr Naomi Foyle’s The Strange Wife will take its place alongside works by famous writers including Ann Duffy, Billy Bragg and Jeanette Winterson, for the ‘66 Books’ festival to launch the Bush Theatre’s new building.

The verse drama – which means the speech rhymes like poetry – is set in contemporary Jerusalem and casts the Old Testament prophet Ezra as a 100-year-old Zionist Israeli confronted with the marriage of his grandson Yonatan to Mariam, a Palestinian activist.

Dr Foyle, pictured, said she wanted to write something that would introduce audiences to the narrative of the events of 1948 when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven out of their country.

She said: ‘I don’t think people really know about what happened in 1948, the history gets very obscured.

‘It is mostly viewed as the founding of Israel rather than the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, when 800,000 of them were driven off their land and there were massacres.’

Dr Foyle’s play will run on the evenings of October 10, 14, 19 and 28.

( / 09.10.2011)

Children of Qalandiya: Sharif’s Future Foretold

Sharif doesn’t go to school anymore. (Tamar Fleishman)
By Tamar Fleishman – The West BankSince September has past and with it the trepidation about a ‘political tsunami’, and the horrifying scripts or bleak prophesies about thousands of people from throughout the West Bank marching towards Qalandiya checkpoint had been disproved, the place is once more governed by that same mundane routine and depressing grayness.The blockages on the way leading to and from Ramallah had been diverted to the side of the road and traffic was once again free (if jams that stretch on for hundreds of meters are a depiction of “free traffic”). The white camera balloon that hovered above during the entire month has disappeared. It has probably been stored somewhere.

Once again trash is piling up on the side of the road, children peddlers stock the passersby and the air is once again polluted by dust and gas fumes without the stinging-sweet smell of gas grenades.

Hopelessness, poverty and sorrow are permanent residents of the checkpoint, the refugee camp and the street corners; they are apparent on the faces of the children and adults and afflict us as well.

Qalandiya checkpoint is a magnet attracting all the wretched residents of the West Bank. Over there, at that site to where thousands of people a day are obligated flock towards, these paupers hope to find some sort of a living, a few shekels a day or as they put it: “To bring home bread”. Many among them do not live in Qalandiya, but in cities and remote villages, places so far away that they cannot return there when evening falls. They hire an inadequate room or a bed in some stranger’s house at the refugee camps or at the close by town Ar-Ram. One of these foreigners was Sharif’s father who told us with his soft and sad voice:

“I pulled Sharif out of school… I need an additional person to help me provide for the family, they are ten at home… My eldest daughter is at the university, you know, she was really done for this year because she didn’t have a computer. Today, even in the young ones’ classes they need a computer. But how am I going to get one? Perhaps, Inshallah, next year I’ll send Shraif back to school… but it’s always the same, every year, it gets harder and there’s less money. And everything is so expensive… perhaps in Israel you also have unfortunate people, but over here, for the Palestinians, everything is much harder… Since morning and up until now we’ve (he and his son Sharif) made only twenty Shekels. How can anyone live like this?… ”

Sharif is Fifteen years old, a line of sadness is drawn on his face. His eyes convey earnestness and sensibility. When he smiles only the contours of his face smile.

Sharif knows, as his father knows and as is clear to us as well, that Sharif will not return to school. That pulling a child out of schools is an act that cannot be undone, that the phrase “Inshallah” is used to cover up reality, a mask, that it is said out of habit and cultural reference, wishing that perhaps the impossible would overcome the foretold and reality. For Sharif’s future had been foretold like that of so many other teenagers, for his path presents him with no choice, during the years of his adolescence he will experience on his body and soul the rough laws of survival and their toll, until the yoke of having to provide for the family will have enslaved and consumed his body and soul.

Pain and sorrow were evident in the father’s voice. He is a good man, a good father who has concerns for his children. He used to work in Israel, he was a hard worker and managed to provide for his family. Since the installment of checkpoints his road to breadwinning had been blocked and the slope became more slippery than ever, until the final crash when he was forced to pull his son out of school, a determining act for Sharif’s future.

(Translated by Ruth Fleishman) / ( / 09.10.2011)

At least 19 killed as Copts, police clash in Cairo

CAIRO (Reuters) – Nineteen people were killed in Cairo on Sunday when Christians, some carrying crosses and pictures of Jesus, clashed with military police, medical and security sources said, in the latest sectarian flare-up in a country in political turmoil.

Christians protesting against an attack on a church threw rocks and petrol bombs and set cars on fire, as thick smoke wafted through the streets in some of the most violent scenes since an uprising ousted ex-President Hosni Mubarak in February.

Hundreds from both sides fought with sticks on a Cairo bridge. Protests later spread to the central Tahrir Square, the focal point of the February uprising. Witnesses said the army had moved into the area.

State television and sources said 150 people were injured, without saying how many of them were protesters. It had previously said three of those killed were soldiers.

Medical and security sources have told Reuters that at least 19 people were killed.

Tensions between Christians and Muslims have increased since the February uprising. The latest violence comes just weeks before a parliamentary election on Nov. 28, the first such vote since Mubarak was ousted.

Egypt’s government has appealed for calm. Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said he had contacted security and church authorities to contain the situation.

“The only beneficiary of these events and acts of violence are the enemies of the January revolution and the enemies of the Egyptian people, both Muslim and Christian,” he said on his Facebook page.

Christians, who make up 10 percent of Egypt’s roughly 80 million people, took to the streets after blaming Muslim radicals for partially demolishing a church in Aswan province last week.

They also demanded the sacking of the province’s governor for failing to protect the building.

“Marching peacefully”

More than four vehicles were set ablaze and TV footage showed protesters breaking windows of parked cars and army personnel carriers driving full speed towards crowds of protesters.

Gun shots were heard and witnesses said crowds of protesters carried bodies as tear gas filled the air. It was unclear who was shooting.

“We were marching peacefully,” Talaat Youssef, 23-year old Christian trader told Reuters at the scene.

“When we got to the state television building, the army started firing live ammunition,” he said, adding army vehicles ran over protesters, killing five. His account could not be immediately confirmed.

“The army is supposed to be protecting us,” Youssef said.

Thousands of Christians protested in Cairo and Alexandria on Sunday over the attack, chanting against the ruling military council and its head, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.

After the clashes in front of the state television building, protests in provinces with large Christian populations were reported by local newspapers. Their accounts could not be verified independently.

The protesters want the government to fire the governor of Aswan Province, Mostafa al-Sayed, after the partial demolition of the church on Friday. Egyptian media said Muslims were accused of attacking the church after talk spread in the town that the building did not have legal authorization.

In May, twelve people were killed in a sectarian clashes between Christians and Muslims after rumors that Christians were holding a woman who had converted to Islam.

The incident led the country’s ruling military council to order the drafting of new laws to criminalize sectarian violence and ease restrictions on building churches.

Egyptian officials said they would investigate the causes of Sunday’s violence, calling for calm.

“We need unity more than any other time before,” Information Minister Osama Heikal told state television.

( / 09.10.2011)

Mekka voor de rijken: de heiligste plaats van de islam ‘verandert in Vegas’

Historische en culturele belangrijke bezienswaardigheden worden vernietigd om plaats te maken voor luxehotels en winkelcentra.

Achter gesloten deuren – op plaatsen waar de religieuze politie niet kan luisteren- verwijzen de inwoners van Mekka naar hun stad als Las Vegas, en de bijnaam is niet bedoeld als compliment.

In de afgelopen 10 jaar heeft de heiligste plaats in de islam ingrijpende veranderingen ondergaan, en deze mening verdeelt de moslims over de hele wereld.

Uit de stoffige woestijnstad van weleer die moeite had om het steeds groeiend aantal pelgrims te ontvangen voor de jaarlijkse hadj, rijst nu een stad met een schitterende reeks van wolkenkrabbers, winkelcentra en luxehotels.

De toekomstvisie van de Al-Saoed-monarchie op Mekka is – een van staal en beton – metropool gebouwd met de opbrengst van de enorme olierijkdom die hun nationale trots uitstalt.

Maar een groeiend aantal burgers – vooral degenen die in de twee heilige steden Mekka en Medina wonen – kijken verbijsterd toe hoe hun nationaal archeologisch erfgoed vertrapt wordt door een constructiemanie die ondersteund wordt door de harde lijn van geestelijken die prediken tegen het behoud van hun eigen erfgoed. Mekka, ooit een plaats waar de profeet Mohammed (vrede zij met hem) benadrukte dat alle mensen gelijk zijn, is uitgegroeid tot een speeltuin voor de rijken, aldus de critici, waar het naakte kapitalisme de spiritualiteit heeft toegeëigend als de raison d’être van de stad.

Weinigen zijn bereid om hun zorgen of angsten openlijk te uiten omdat dit verbonden is aan risico’s, immers het bekritiseren van het officiële beleid in het autoritaire koninkrijk kan wel eens nadelige gevolgen hebben. Met uitzondering van Turkije en Iran, houden andere islamitische landen hun tong uit angst voor een diplomatieke fall-out en de visabeperkingen van hun burgers om de pelgrimstocht te ondernemen. Westerse archeologen zijn stil uit angst dat de weinige sites waartoe ze toegang hebben voor hen zal gesloten worden.

Maar een aantal prominente Saoedische archeologen en historici hebben besloten zich hierover uit te spreken in de overtuiging dat er een mogelijkheid bestaat om de resterende historische sites in Saoedi-Arabië te redden.

“Niemand heeft de moed om op te staan en dit cultureel vandalisme te veroordelen,” zegt dr. Irfan Al-Alawi, die als directeur van de Islamic Heritage Research Foundation fungeert. Hij heeft tevergeefs gevochten om de historische plaatsen van zijn land te beschermen. “We hebben een 400 à 500-tal sites verloren. Ik hoop dat het niet te laat is om alles terug te draaien.”

Sami Angawi, een gerenommeerd expert op het gebied van islamitische architectuur in de regio, is evenzeer bezorgd. Eerder dit jaar vertelde hij het persbureau Reuters dat dit volledig tegen de aard van Mekka en de heiligheid van het huis van God ingaat. Zowel Mekka en Medina zijn historische ruïnes. Je zult er niets meer terug vinden, behalve de wolkenkrabbers.

De grootste zorg van dr. Alawi is de geplande uitbreiding van € 800 miljoen van de Grote Moskee, de meest heilige plaats in de islam waar de Ka’ba staat. De bouw begon officieel in augustus (degenen die de bedevaart hebben ondernomen in 2010 konden al zien dat de werken al bezig waren). De minister van justitie Mohammed al-Eissa riep eerder al op dat het uitbreidingsproject “de heiligheid van de plaats” met de grootste zorg en aandacht voor de islam en de moslims moest respecteren.

De uitbreiding, die een 400.000 vierkante meter zal omvatten, wordt gebouwd om een extra 1,2 miljoen pelgrims per jaar tegemoet te komen en zal de Grote Moskee tot het grootste religieuze bouwwerk ter wereld bestempelen. De Islamic Heritage Research Foundation heeft een lijst samengesteld van de belangrijkste historische sites die bedreigd worden door de verdere ontwikkeling van Mekka, met inbegrip van de oude Ottomaanse en Abbasidische delen van de Grote Moskee, het huis waar de profeet Mohammed (vrede zij met hem) werd geboren en het huis waar zijn oom Hamza opgroeide.

Elk jaar bezoeken 12 miljoen pelgrims de steden Mekka en Medina en die getallen zullen naar verwachting tot 17 miljoen stijgen tegen 2025.

Maar critici vrezen dat de wens om de bedevaartplaatsen uit te breiden het mogelijk heeft gemaakt om het cultureel erfgoed met de voeten te treden. De in Washington gevestigde Golf institute schat dat 95 procent van de Mekka’s millennium oude gebouwen de afgelopen twee decennia zijn gesloopt.

De vernietiging van deze historische sites is mede mogelijk gemaakt door de interpretatie die de moslimtheologen daarover hebben. Deze geestelijken menen dat de historische plaatsen en heiligdommen aanmoedigen tot shirk – de zonde van afgoderij en polytheïsme – en dienen daarom vernietigd te worden. Het eerste wat de Al-Saoed-stammen deden nadat ze de macht overnamen in de jaren 20 van de vorige eeuw is de begraafplaatsen die belangrijke islamitische figuren bevatten neerhalen. Sindsdien vernietigden ze het erfgoed van het land. Er zijn drie locaties die de Saoedi’s hebben toegelaten om door de VN erkend te worden als World Heritage Sites, geen van hen hebben betrekking op de islam.

Degene die de tawaaf verrichten – het cirkelen rond de Ka’aba – hoeft alleen maar naar de hemel te kijken om het meest recente voorbeeld van de onverzadigbare honger van de Saoedische monarchie voor de architectonische bling te zien. De 650 meter hoge koninklijke toren Mekka Clock Tower opende eerder dit jaar en steekt ver uit boven de Grote Moskee. Dit project past binnen de enorme ontwikkeling van wolkenkrabbers en vijfsterrenhotels, die alleen bestemd is voor de minderheid van pelgrims die rijk genoeg is om ze te betalen.

Om de nieuwe stad van wolkenkrabbers te voorzien, hebben de autoriteiten een hele berg opgeblazen en zo ook het Ayyad-fort die uit het Ottomaanse tijdperk dateert en die op de top van de berg stond. Aan de andere kant van de Grote Moskee heeft het huis van de eerste vrouw van de Profeet Khadijah plaats moeten maken voor een toiletgebouw! Het lot van het huis waar de Profeet (vrede zij met hem) is geboren is onzeker.

Dr. Alawi hoopt dat de internationale gemeenschap zal wakker worden en zal inzien wat er gebeurt in de bakermat van de islam. “We zouden nooit toestaan dat iemand de piramiden zou vernietigen, waarom zouden wij de geschiedenis van de islam vernietigen?”

( / 09.10.2011)

Local official: Bulldozers destroy land in al-Walaja

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli bulldozers on Sunday destroyed agricultural land belonging to the village of al-Walaja, northwest of Bethlehem, local officials said.

Head of al-Walaja village council Saleh Khalifa said that a number of bulldozers accompanied by Israeli soliders destroyed land in the Ein Jozeh area of the village to expand the separation wall, official news agency Wafa reported.

Soldiers prevented farmers from reaching their land, Khalifa said.

Earlier in September, EU representatives said they were “deeply concerned” by the impact of the Israeli separation wall on the village, saying it “will cut off much of the village’s land,” preventing residents from accessing their property and agricultural land.

Upon completion the wall will completely “encircle” the village, EU representatives said, leaving only a single access road connecting the village to the West Bank.

The separation wall is illegal in all areas built on occupied land, they added.

As well as mounting legal challenges to the route, al-Walaja residents hold regular demonstrations against the impact of the wall.

( / 09.10.2011)

Nieuw bewind rukt op in thuisstad Kaddafi

De nieuwe machthebbers in Libië lijken een belangrijke overwinning te hebben geboekt op de verdreven dictator Muammar Kaddafi. In zijn thuisstad Sirte veroverden strijders van de nieuwe regering vandaag een groot congrescentrum en de nabijgelegen universiteit. Het waren de belangrijke verzetshaarden van Kaddafi’s volgelingen.

Een bevelhebber van het nieuwe bewind, de Nationale Overgangsraad (NTC), claimde de inname vandaag. ‘We controleren het Ouagadougou Congrescentrum voor 100 procent’, zei commandant Mohammed al-Fayad. Volgens hem kunnen de strijders ‘binnen elke uren’ het centrum van Sirte in handen hebben.

Verslaggevers ter plekke bevestigen de verovering van het congrescentrum en de universiteit. In de gebouwen verwijderen strijders van de nieuwe Libische regering portretten van Kaddafi. ‘Dit is gebouwd met het geld van de Libiërs. Het is ons geld, maar geen inwoner van Sirte mocht hier komen’, zei een strijder gezeten op een sofa. Ook een paleis van Kaddafi in Sirte viel in handen van de NTC. Uitgelaten strijders sprongen op een hemelbed waar de dictator ooit sliep.

Kaddafi werd in 1942 geboren in de omgeving van Sirte. Dat was toen een armoedig vissersdorp, maar Kaddafi maakte er een van de belangrijkste plaatsen in het land van. Hij organiseerde er internationale conferenties, die werden gehouden in het vandaag veroverde Ouagadougou Congrescentrum.

Voor zijn hoge gasten liet Kaddafi een vijfsterrenhotel bouwen aan de Middellandse Zee. Het gebouw is nooit gebruikt. De NTC-strijders namen het onlangs in. In kamers met flatscreentelevisies en marmeren vloeren hebben ze hun machinegeweren neergezet. Daarmee schieten ze op de strijders van Kaddafi. Wanneer die terugschieten, schuilen de militairen achter matrassen.

De NTC rukt ook op in een ander bolwerk van Kaddafi, de oasestad Bani Walid. Het nieuwe bewind zegt vandaag het plaatselijke vliegveld te hebben veroverd. Om Bani Walid wordt al ongeveer een maand gevochten.

Ondanks de vele successen van de NTC is Kaddafi nog altijd spoorloos, ongeveer anderhalve maand na zijn val. Het is ook onduidelijk of hij zijn laatste volgelingen zelf nog aanvoert. Mogelijk ligt het bevel van de strijd nu bij Kaddafi’s zoon Seif al-Islam. Die zou zich hebben verschanst in Bani Walid.

( / 09.10.2011)

Report: Israeli officials arrive in Egypt for talks

CAIRO (Ma’an) — Israeli officials arrived in Cairo on Sunday to discuss security arrangements, Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper said.

The delegation, which included a top defense official, came by private jet for talks on cooperation at the Israel-Egypt border and developments in Israeli-Palestinians relations, the report said.

The officials were not identified, as they did not pass through the terminal, the paper quoted Cairo airport officials saying.

( / 09.10.2011)

Relations between Egypt and Israel frayed in recent months, after Israeli forces shot dead five Egyptian forces in the country’s Sinai region while pursuing attackers who killed eight Israelis in the country’s south in August.

Anti-Defamation League Assails Palestinian UN Membership

For nearly a century, ADL falsely called itself “the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency (fighting) anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry….”

In fact, all along it fronted for Jewish supremacy. After Israel’s 1948 creation, it backed Israeli rights over Arabs, including by occupation and belligerently enforced apartheid.

One of the 52 Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CPMAJO), ADL disseminates pro-Israeli propaganda.

It also conducts smear campaigns against its critics, under the guise of fighting anti-semitism and supporting human rights equitably. Overall, its long history is shamelessly loathsome.

Earlier it did political spying for the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Later it did it against the National Lawyers Guild, ACLU, NAACP, the Rainbow Coalition, Greenpeace, the Nation of Islam, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Bay Area anti-Apartheid Network, Asian Law Caucus, CISPES, and 20 Bay area labor unions.

Currently it’s assailing Palestinian UN membership. Its web site calls “Palestinian unilateralism an obstacle to peace.”

It called Abbas’ UN address “strident.” It said “his calls for peace rang hollow amidst the extreme accusations against Israel, including charges of colonialism (and) ethnic cleansing.”

In other words, asking UN member states to grant Palestinians long denied rights is “strident.” Wanting peace is “hollow” rhetoric, and rightfully charging Israel of colonialism and ethnic cleaning amounts to “extreme accusations.”

In contrast, he praised Netanyahu for “focus(ing) on Israel’s desire for peace (and) called on the Palestinians to come back to negotiations.”

In fact, like earlier Israeli leaders, Netanyahu deplores peace. They didn’t negotiate. Neither does he. Israel demands, take it or else.

ADL offered its sanitized version of “(f)acts on the Palestinian campaign to unilaterally declare statehood,” saying:

1. Israel supports “an independent Palestinian state created through bilateral negotiations.”

In fact, Israel, at best supports a cantonized Palestine after all valued land Israel wants is stolen. Moreover, Palestinians got statehood in 1988. At issue now is full UN membership. A simple two-thirds majority is needed. Israel has one vote, not veto power or right to dictate terms.

2. Palestinians going it alone violates Israeli/Palestian agreements, “and effectively marks the end of the peace process.”

False. As explained, Palestine IS a state. Now it wants full status rights like the other 193. Peace is an entirely separate issue. Palestinians have wanted it for decades. Israel categorically refuses.

3. UN membership “will contravene ‘land-for-peace.’ ”

In 1948, Israel stole 78% of historic Palestine, then the rest in 1967. Palestinians want 22% back free from occupation. An overwhelming number of states support them. Israel and Washington remain obstacles to peace and reconciliation throughout the region.

4. Core issues will remain unresolved, “including borders, refugees and Jerusalem.”

Borders must be negotiated. Israel is the only nation without fixed ones. Diaspora Palestinians automatically will be able to return to free Palestine. Jerusalem is an international city under UN trusteeship. Agreement must be reached for Israel and Palestine to share it as their capital. It’s not Israel’s alone, nor should it ever be

5. Palestinians acting unilaterally won’t assure “a viable and sovereign state.”

False. However, it’s no protection from Israeli attacks or assurance its occupation will end easily or quickly.

ADL added that Israel expressed “willingness to make concessions for peace.” In fact, Israel concedes nothing and deplores peace.

ADL calls Palestinians acting unilaterally “a provocative and hostile action.” In other words, after 63 years of futility, pursuing long denied rights is confrontational.

As a result, “Israel has no choice but to oppose UDI by the Palestinians.” In fact, except for its General Assembly vote, Israel has no more say than other GA members.

All have equal voting rights unlike the Security Council where one nation can subvert the will of all others. Washington takes full advantage, especially on issues affecting Israel.

ADL urged the international community to reject Palestinian wishes. It also encouraged PA officials to repudiate reconciling with Hamas and deal only with Israel. ADL, in fact, encourages failure to keep Palestinians permanently occupied with no rights.

ADL Message to Abbas

In an open letter to Abbas, ADL director Abraham Foxman railed against PA officials demonizing Israel, saying:

“You say you will not come to negotiate until Mr. Netanyahu says in advance that Israel will concede all the territories and stop all settlements.”

In fact, Abbas and other PA officials made one demand – stop settlement construction on stolen Palestinian land. Otherwise no talks. Netanyahu flatly refuses.

“Trust is a two-way street. Let’s stop this demonizing. Let’s move forward. If you sit down to talk, you may learn that you have far greater reason to trust (Netanyahu) than you thought.”

Since the 1970s, “trusting” Israeli leaders got Palestinians nothing except to enforce their own occupation. Netanyahu is Israel’s worst ever prime minister. He never gave an inch and won’t now.

Yet Foxman urged Abbas to “come(e) back to the table, by negotiating in food faith and by reaching an agreement that finally ends the conflict and provides for a Palestinian state and a Jewish state living side-by-side in peace and security.”

Palestinians never wanted less. Israel adamantly refuses. Dealing with racist warmonger Netanyahu assures failure and betrayal. Palestinians aren’t trying to isolate and delegitimize Israel.

Under leaders like Netanyahu and extremist Knesset members, Israel is doing it to itself. It’s moved so far out of the mainstream, in fact, it may end up self-destructing.

Why else would growing numbers of fed up Israelis be voting with their feet and leaving. Foxman didn’t comment nor about Israel’s hardline intransigence, refusing ever to negotiate in good faith.

A Final Comment

On October 4, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) granted “Partner for Democracy” status to the Palestine National Council (PNC), the PLO’s legislative body.

It’s only the second time such status was awarded. PNC Speaker Salim Al-Za’noon called the decision “historic,” saying it could contribute to regional peace.

On October 5, UNESCO’s executive committee agreed to vote on admitting Palestine as a member. UNESCO’s end of October general conference will consider it. France called the move “premature.”

Hillary Clinton arrogantly wants UNESCO to reconsider it, saying:

“I would urge the governing body of UNESCO to think again before proceeding with that vote because the decision about status must be made in the United Nations and not in auxiliary groups….”

Israel also opposes it. According to Haaretz, a Foreign Ministry response called it “rejection of the path of negotiations, as well as of the Quartet plan to continue with the political process….A decision like this will not advance the Palestinians in their aspirations to statehood.”

As explained above, Palestinians got statehood in 1988. Now they want full UN membership. Washington and Israel are going all out to subvert it.

In the end, they’ll likely succeed unless Abbas petitions the General Assembly under the 1950 Uniting for Peace Resolution, giving the GA power to override Security Council rejection.

It’s up to him and other PA officials – either go for what’s easily achievable in days, or bow to Washington and Israeli interests. Smart money says the latter.

( / 09.10.2011)

Israel’s Jewishness: Precondition for Palestinian Statehood

Nazareth – Israel’s relentless efforts to foil a Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations are linked to its increasingly intransigent demand that it be recognized as a Jewish state.

By denying the Palestinians the UN route while at the same time insisting as part of peace talks that they acknowledge Israel’s Jewish character, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is driving the final nail into the coffin of the peace process and the pursuit of the two-state solution.

Israel’s insistence on recognition of its Jewishness is a recent addition to its list of final-status issues to be resolved with the Palestinians in a negotiated settlement. But Netanyahu has rapidly forced it to the top of Israel’s agenda, making it all but a precondition for his entering talks.

After months of pressuring Israel to withdraw the requirement, the US administration of Barack Obama finally appears to be relenting. The White House is now reported to be insisting behind the scenes that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s Jewishness. The US has also promised to block the Palestinians if they continue to push for statehood at the UN.

The rest of the international community, represented by the Quartet — a body overseeing the peace process that comprises the US, the European Union, the UN, and Russia — are reported to be following suit.

In a possible sign of the international consensus quickly forming behind Israel’s position, Spain last week recognized for the first time Israel as the “homeland of the Jewish people.” Israel is hoping that the decision by Madrid, traditionally regarded as supportive of the Palestinian cause, might lead other European states to follow suit.

As recently as last Saturday, Netanyahu declared that a speech denouncing Israel by Iranian cleric Ali Khamenei had added to his determination to insist on a Palestinian security guarantee recognising Israel’s Jewishness.

In line with his statement, he formally accepted a peace proposal Monday, put forward by the Quartet, attempting to dissuade Mahmoud Abbas from pursuing statehood through the UN. The US has promised to veto the Palestinian application if it cannot muster enough votes against it in the Security Council.

Despite a declaration that Netanyahu had accepted the Quartet terms “without preconditions,” the Israeli media reported that he had privately appended several demands, including recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and a Palestinian declaration of an end to the conflict. An Israeli minister described Israel’s position as “yes, but.”

In fact, the Quartet’s peace proposal had already been severely watered down because of Israel’s known intransigence on the issue of recognition of its Jewishness. Reuters reported last week that the Quartet had been forced to abandon a much more substantive formula for reviving peace talks because the recognition issue was considered insurmountable.

The final tepid statement released by the Quartet, similar to previous failed peace-making proposals, calls for preparatory talks between Israel and the Palestinians within a month leading to an agreement by the end of 2012.

Martin Indyk, a former US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, observed of the new diplomatic stalemate, “As well as being wrapped around the settlements freeze axle, we now seem to be wrapped around the ‘Jewish state’ axle too.”

In his speech to the UN last month, Netanyahu referred to the “Jewish state” 10 times and concluded, “The core of the conflict has always been and unfortunately remains the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state in any border.”

Although Netanyahu and his officials have indicated that Palestinian recognition is a precondition for talks, Abbas has so far stood his ground. Last year he declared: “Israel can call itself whatever it wants. We don’t have to recognize those definitions.”

Palestinian objections meant that until recently, Washington had worked hard to keep Israel’s demand off the table. But that appears to be changing.

In May, Obama became the first US president to formally endorse Israel’s definition as “a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people.” Two months later, the New York Times revealed that the White House was secretly working “to resume negotiations on the basis of the 1967 lines and – for the first time in Mideast peacemaking – spell out international expectations that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”

Israel’s demand for recognition of its Jewishness has become so entwined with the peace process, it is sometimes forgotten that it was first raised at the diplomatic level only four years ago.

The issue was not mentioned in the Oslo accords, signed in 1993, that effectively initiated the two-state process, or at Camp David, the 2000 summit that failed to reach an agreement on the establishment of a Palestinian state. At that point, the final-status issues were settlements, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem.

Analysts have tended to assume that the demand for recognition is simply a tactical ploy by Netanyahu to block talks with the Palestinians he does not want.

But it was in fact one of his predecessors, Ehud Olmert – widely regarded as committed to creating a Palestinian state, even if a very limited one – who first raised this condition as part of the peace process. Olmert introduced the demand at the Annapolis talks in late 2007, under US President George Bush’s stewardship.

It was a strange stipulation. Nation-states usually want recognition of their borders and territorial sovereignty, not their ethnic or religious character. That is precisely what the Palestinians did back in 1993 by recognizing Israel in the Oslo accords.

So why did Olmert suddenly impose this new requirement? Neither Egypt nor Jordan, which signed earlier peace agreements with Israel, were asked to do the same.

The reason appears to be that, as Olmert believed he was moving closer to an agreement on partial statehood for the Palestinians, his officials advised that recognition would achieve important strategic gains.

First, under the cover of a seemingly modest request, he would force the Palestinians to rule out any right of return to Israel for the millions of Palestinian refugees.

But Olmert was also persuaded that it would offer an important additional advantage related to the 1.5 million so-called “Israeli Arabs” – Palestinians who remained on their land in the 1948 war and have Israeli citizenship.

In recent years, the Arab minority’s future in Israel has moved to the center of Israeli discussions about the peace process. This community, a fifth of Israel’s population, is seen as a strategic threat in two ways.

Avigdor Lieberman, the far-right foreign minister, explained the first danger in a speech in August 2011, shortly after Abbas had again refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Lieberman said Abbas’s rejection revealed that “The real intention of the Palestinians is not to establish a state that will live in peace alongside Israel but rather the establishment of a state free of Jews in [the West Bank] and the hostile takeover of Israel from within.”

His meaning was clarified by the Jerusalem Post newspaper, which explained that Israeli officials were insisting on recognition to prevent the Arab minority making “irredentist” claims after a peace deal or forging political ties with the new Palestinian state next door.

Such moves would be ruled out in advance if the Palestinian leadership had acknowledged that Israel was a Jewish state.

The second threat relates to the problematic idea that Israel is both a Jewish and a democratic state. The Arab minority has contested this claim, becoming far more vocal over the past decade in demanding political reform. They want equality enshrined in law and Israel’s transformation into a what they call “state of all its citizens.”

If the Palestinian leaders in the occupied territories can be made to sign up to recognition of Israel’s Jewishness, they would give a stamp of approval to Israel taking whatever measures were necessary against the Arab minority to preserve the state’s Jewish character.

At a minimum that would require continuing to deny equality legislation and to preserve discriminatory immigration policies. The Law of Return, which allows only Jews automatic rights to immigrate, would remain inviolable, for example.

A bill asserting that Israel is a Jewish state is currently before the Israeli parliament. It would mean the state’s Jewishness would trump democratic principles should the two clash, and Jewish religious law would also become the “inspiration” for lawmakers and the courts. It would also revoke Arabic as an official language and validate the existing practice of almost-strict communal separation between Jews and Arabs.

But ‘defensive’ measures to protect Israel’s Jewishness could also involve far more draconian moves, such as banning the minority’s political parties, downgrading the minority from citizens to guest workers, changing the borders to move densely populated Arab areas into a new Palestinian state, or even implementing full-scale expulsion.

At stake, according to Palestinian commentators, is also a moral issue that affects all Palestinians wherever they live.

Ahmad Samih Khalidi, a former Palestinian negotiator, explained the wider significance of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state: “If these lands rightfully comprise the Jewish homeland, then the Arab presence there becomes historically aberrant and contingent; the Palestinians effectively become historic interlopers and trespassers – a transient presence on someone else’s national soil.”

( / 09.10.2011)