Jordanians protest Kerry peace plan


Jordanians protest Kerry peace plan

The rally was staged outside Amman’s Al-Husseini Mosque at the invitation of the “Popular Forum for Protecting Jordan and Palestine,” a campaign launched last month by Jordanian dignitaries who accuse Kerry of trying to “liquidate the Palestinian cause and threatening the interests of the Jordanian and Palestinian people.”


Hundreds of Jordanians on Friday staged a rally in central Amman to protest a “framework” agreement between the Palestinians and Israel proposed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The rally was staged outside Amman’s Al-Husseini Mosque at the invitation of the “Popular Forum for Protecting Jordan and Palestine,” a campaign launched last month by Jordanian dignitaries who accuse Kerry of trying to “liquidate the Palestinian cause and threatening the interests of the Jordanian and Palestinian people.”

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Salem Falahat, former leader of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, called on Jordanians and Palestinians to reject Kerry’s peace plan – or any deal that threatened Palestinian interests.

Direct US-brokered peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed last summer after a nearly three-year hiatus.

The current round of talks is focused on Kerry’s “framework” for an eventual deal that would address so-called “final-status” issues – namely, borders, security, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem).

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said his Palestinian Authority would neither compromise on unalienable Palestinian rights nor recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.”

Palestinian negotiators insist that the issue of Jewish settlements must be addressed before a comprehensive final-status agreement can be agreed upon.

Palestinians want the West Bank and Gaza Strip for their future state, with Al-Quds as its capital.

Tension has also simmered between Amman and Tel Aviv since an Israeli lawmaker proposed legislation that would revoke Jordanian oversight of Palestinian holy sites in violation of a 1994 peace treaty between the two countries.

Jordanians were further angered by the recent killing of a Jordanian judge by Israeli border guards.

Earlier this month, Judge Raed Zeiter was shot dead by Israeli soldiers near the King Hussein Bridge (also known as the Allenby Bridge) linking Jordan to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

According to the Israeli media, Zeiter, 38, had attempted to grab the gun of an Israeli border guard, forcing the latter to shoot him dead.

Israeli President Shimon Peres later apologized to Jordan’s King Abdullah II and agreed to a Jordanian request for a joint investigation into the incident, Jordan’s state-run Petra news agency reported.

(Source / 28.03.2014)

Hamas launches media campaign to support Palestinian initiative in Lebanon


BEIRUT, (PIC)– The information office of the Hamas Movement has launched a media campaign to support the Palestinian initiative for the neutralization of the refugee camps in Lebanon, which are slated to kick off on Friday in Ein Al-Hilweh camp.

Hamas stated in a press release that its campaign is intended to back the initiative and provide a supportive popular and media cover for the initiative in order to ensure the success of its goals, which mainly focus on neutralizing the Palestinian presence in Lebanon and distance it from any local or regional conflicts.

The official facebook page of the media campaign can be found at this link,

(Source / 28.03.2014)

Palestinians gear up for Land Day

On Saturday, thousands of Palestinians plan to protest on anniversary of Israeli land confiscation in Galilee region.

More than 100 people were injured during Land Day protests last year at the Qalandia checkpoint
Ramallah, West Bank – Palestinians in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and abroad are gearing up to commemorate Land Day on Saturday.

Land Day is held on the anniversary of March 30, 1976, when Palestinian villages and cities across the country witnessed mass demonstrations against the state’s plans to expropriate 2,000 hectares of land in Israel’s Galilee region. In coordination with the military, some 4,000 police officers were dispatched to quell the unrest. At the end of the day, six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by state security forces.

On Saturday, buses will shuttle activists from around the country to two central rallies, one in southern Israel’s Negev region and the other in Sakhnin in the northern Galilee.

Raja Zaatry of the Hirak Center for Higher Education in Arab Society said local activities are scheduled to take place in Arab villages and towns across Israel, in coordination with similar protests in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Protests are also expected in the Gaza Strip.

Groups across the country have been engaged in Land Day preparations for weeks. “Last week in Arab schools, we staged lessons about Land Day and Palestinian history because they’re not part of the official curriculum from the Israeli Ministry of Education,” Zaatry said.

On Land Day 2012, Al Jazeera reported that at least 121 people were injured at the Qalandia checkpoint near Jerusalem when Israeli forces used water cannons, tear gas, and rubber-coated bullets to push protesters back to nearby Ramallah, in the West Bank.”In Haifa, for instance, there are cultural activities scheduled in the Wadi al-Nisnas neighborhood. There will be a movie screening about Land Day. Last week in schools, we held events for the children to learn about Land Day and the history because it is not part of the official curriculum from the Israeli ministry.”

All eyes on Jerusalem

This year, civil society groups and political factions have coordinated to orchestrate a two-pronged march to Qalandia checkpoint, one beginning in Ramallah and the other in Jerusalem. Other protests will take place across the city, notably in frequently raided neighborhoods like Silwan and at the Red Cross offices. In Jerusalem alone, the number of Palestinian and international participants is expected to be in the hundreds, estimated Rima Awad of the Jerusalem Coalition.

In 2012, activists staged a “Global March” on Jerusalem, which grabbed the attention of the international community. Although there is no such march planned for this year, activists and organisers expect to draw attention about the increasingly difficult situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“Land Day 2012 was successful in generating international awareness about Palestinian land confiscation and Israel’s human rights violations,” Awad said. “[T]he march to Jerusalem was a global effort revolving around Land Day and drew global attention. We hope and expect that this pattern of growth will continue.”

Although Israel maintains that Jerusalem in its entirety will remain part of the Jewish state in any potential peace deal, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution last November that recognised East Jerusalem as the capital of a sovereign Palestinian state.

A uniting event

The annual commemorations of Land Day have become part of a Palestinian collective consciousness, touching those in Israel and the diaspora as well as in the occupied territories.

“Historically, Land Day was a very important turning point in the lives of Palestinians after the Nakba, especially those who remained in the Israeli state,” said Abir Kopty of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.

Marking Land Day has brought Palestinians “from a phase [in which] they had lost their country, two-thirds of the population, about 500 villages, and all their political and cultural leaders [who] were driven out to a phase where they raised up their heads and clashed with the state that committed their catastrophe”, Kopty said.

As a tragedy that originally affected only Palestinian citizens of Israel, Land Day is a form of assertion, Kopty added, “by all Palestinians in [the 1967 Territories], refugee camps, and the diaspora… so it’s a national uniting event to all Palestinians”.

Kopty’s comments were echoed by Zaatry, who said that Palestinians, despite geographical divides, “face the same struggle in the end – it’s the same conflict over land”.

Land Day holds a particular significance for Israel’s Palestinian minority, where activists charge the government with trying to pressure them to abandon their Palestinian identity. “We see our citizenship in Israel as one of our rights as the native people. We don’t accept Israel’s forcing us to choose between being Israeli or Palestinian,” Zaatry said.

A global day of action

“Israel’s response to non-violent demonstrations has grown increasingly aggressive.”

– Rima Awad, Jerusalem Coalition

In 2012, Land Day protests were staged in 23 countries across the world, said Zaid Shuaibi, spokesperson for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, the broad coalition of Palestinian organisations that leads and supports the BDS movement.

“Each year, BDS campaigners mark Land Day with a global day of action,” Shuaibi said. “This year there will be a series of actions and events to protest international support for Israel’s theft of Palestinian land, particularly the role of the Jewish National Fund and international trade with Israeli agricultural export companies, both of which directly participate in the appropriation of Palestinian land and resources. Land Day will also be marked with a demonstration and a day of solidarity activities at the World Social Forum, currently taking place in Tunis.”

In recent months, the increasing frequency of protests in the occupied West Bank have led many to speculate about the prospect of a third “intifada”, or uprising. Many activists said they expect Israel to respond with force.

“Israel’s response to non-violent demonstrations has grown increasingly aggressive,” said Awad. “February 2013 was one of the most violent in recent history in terms of injuries…we expect Israel to respond with the same disproportionate use of force as it has been.”

The Israeli military spokeswoman said the armed forces refused to comment, though noted that the police will deploy several hundred officers in Israel’s northern region to patrol protests.

Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said security measures are the same for Land Day each year.

(Source / 28.03.2014)

Afghan Women Lawmakers Fight For Rights

In this Wednesday, March 26, 2014 photo, Afghan lawmaker Habiba Sadat from Helmand poses under pictures of former Presidents of Afghanistan's lower house in the parliament in Kabul, Afghanistan. When the Taliban ruled, women rarely left their home. When they did venture beyond their four walls, they wafted through crowded markets covered from head to toe in the all-encompassing burqa. While most women in conservative Afghanistan may still wear the burqa, today’s Afghan woman has choices she never had before, like running for parliament. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

In this Wednesday, March 26, 2014 photo, Afghan lawmaker Habiba Sadat from Helmand poses under pictures of former Presidents of Afghanistan’s lower house in the parliament in Kabul, Afghanistan.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, women rarely left their home.

When they did venture beyond their four walls, they wafted through crowded markets covered from head to toe in the all-encompassing burqa. While most women in conservative Afghanistan may still wear the burqa, today’s Afghan woman has choices she didn’t have during the Taliban rule that lasted from the mid-1990s to 2001 — like running for parliament.

In the last elections in 2010, 69 women won seats in Afghanistan’s 249-seat parliament. The next parliamentary vote will be held in 2015, but first are the April 5 presidential and provincial council elections.

Under Afghan law, 20 percent of council member seats are reserved for women, who are also figuring prominently in presidential campaigns. Three presidential hopefuls have taken the bold step of choosing a woman as a running mate, including one of the front-runners.

Habiba Danish, a legislator from northern Takhar province, said she was the top vote getter in her province in the last parliamentary polls. Throughout the country, including in the south and the east where the hard-line Taliban are waging a stubborn insurgency, women have been elected to parliament.

“In our Parliament we have 69 women, that is a large number, bigger even than European parliaments,” said Hamida Ahmadzai, who represents Afghanistan’s nomadic Kuchi tribes.

Saima Khogyani, a lawmaker from eastern Nangarhar province, where Taliban routinely stage violent attacks to warn voters away from the polls, says she is not afraid.

“We have our rights and we have our free speech now,” she said. “The men in Parliament might not always listen to us, but we can say whatever we want.”

(Source / 28.03.2014)

Illegal demolition order for the family home, Abu Dis

Please demand that the government of Israel  immediately and unconditionally rescinds the demolition order of the family home of Fatmeh Adeeleh in Abu Dis, Palestine. On Wednesday, the 26th, the family had received the decision of the Israeli court, to whom they had been appealing: Demolition within 48 hours.

Please press the TAKE ACTION BOX to send letter of appeal to H.E. NAVENETHEM PILLAY,  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, H.E.RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Ambassador,  Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine and H.E. RON PROSOR, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, JEFF HALPER, ICAHD, The Israel Committee Against House Demolitions. 

and please request your mailing lists click Current Urgent Appeal on

For further information:




UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Your Excellency

I call on you to urgently intervene and demand that the government of Israel  immediately and unconditionally rescinds the demolition order of the family home of Fatmeh Adeeleh in Abu Dis, Palestine. On Wednesday, the 26th, the family had received the decision of the Israeli court, to whom they had been appealing: Demolition within 48 hours.

The Israeli courts work hand in hand with the military, and very few stays, if any, are granted. Apparently there was room for one more appeal; the family had to pay 30,000 shekels to activate it. They were told that a court session to look into the matter would be specified on April 1st 2014.

It’s a four storey structure, adjacent to the Apartheid/Annexation Wall which was condemned illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. The family rent the basement and live on the first floor. The rest is unfinished. They have been slowly building up for years. Next to them is the old Cliff Hotel in Abu Dis. The Israelis confiscated it and turned it into a military post after 1967. Now they are annexing it by routing the apartheid wall to include it on the Jerusalem side.

The home is off the main street in Abu Dis. As you turn into the neighbourhood, you see scrawled on a wall under the image of a skull and bones the words: “Neighborhood of Nightmares,” the nightmare is the Israeli forces stationed up the street on “the mountain”, as Abu Dis children call it.

At the same time, of course, the Israeli government has announced the construction of thousands of new homes and infrastructural projects in the settlements of the West Bank and East Jerusalem on Palestinian land. Thus, while recently approving another 1,500 housing units in the illegal East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo, 558 in other East Jerusalem settlements and 3,500 more in the West Bank, it issued demolition orders for 2,000 housing units in the nearby area of Ras al-Khamis and the Shuafat refugee camp.

“Since 1967 Israel has demolished more than 28,000 Palestinian homes, businesses, livestock facilities and other structures vital to Palestinian life and livelihood in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The motivation for demolishing these homes is purely political, and racially informed: to either drive the Palestinians out of the country altogether (the “quiet transfer”) or to confine the four million residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza to small, crowded, impoverished and disconnected enclaves. By such practices Israel effectively forecloses any viable Palestinian entity or the realization of Palestinian self-determination; it also solidifies permanent Israeli domination and illegal settlement expansion, de facto annexing the OPT.

Taken against the background of Israel’s systematic destruction of more than 500 Palestinian villages, towns and urban neighborhoods in 1948 and after, the legal steps taken to alienate the Palestinian property from its lands, homes and properties subsequent to the 1948 war and its ongoing policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinian citizens of Israel – some 150,000 in number – residing in so-called “unrecognized villages and neighborhoods,” the picture that emerges is one of institutional racial discrimination and promulgated ethnic displacement” – Adv. Emily Schaeffer (Michael Sfard Law Office), Jeff Halper (ICAHD) and Itay Epshtain, March 2012


(Source / 28.03.2014)

Jihadist threat against sacred Turkish tomb threatens to widen Syria’s war


  • militants.jpg

    This undated file image posted on a militant website shows fighters from the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) marching in Raqqa, Syria.

  • shahtomb.jpg

    The tomb of Suleyman Shah is in Syria, but considered part of Turkey.

A man who has been dead for nearly 800 years could be the catalyst that draws Turkey into Syria’s bloody civil war.

Jihadists who poured into Syria to help the Free Syrian Army only to turn on them, have threatened to attack the sacred tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire. The tomb is located inside Syria, in the border city of Aleppo, but the site is considered Turkish territory under a near century-old treaty.

“There is now a threat to that shrine; there are 25 Turkish soldiers currently there and the Turkish government takes this threat seriously because it is Turkish territory,” Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar for the Carnegie Europe institute, told Voice of America.

The tomb is guarded by 25 Turkish soldiers, and a Turkish flag flies above it. But with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan increasingly critical of the radical fighters who have joined the war in Syria, tensions have flared.

“They would be nuts to attack the hand that feeds them even if indirectly.”

– LeHigh University Prof. Henri Barkey, expert on Turkey

After the threat, from the radical group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS, Erdogan said in a television interview that any attack on the tomb would be considered an attack on Turkey. But Erdogan is under fire in Turkey, after a leaked recording appeared to show him and his son engaged in corruption, and his rivals, who oppose support of the Syrian rebels, have accused the prime minister of trying to provoke a conflict with Syria in order to change the political agenda.

Lehigh University Prof. Henri Barkey, a recognized expert on the region, said the Al Qaeda-linked fighters would be foolish to carry out their threat and bring down the wrath of Ankara. Absent an attack on the site, Turkey is unlikely to take action, he said.

“At this stage, any Turkish move would be seen as illegitimate [within Turkey] except after an attack on the site,” Barkey said.

Provoking Turkey could not only bring military action inside Syria, it could also prompt Ankara to clamp down more tightly on its borders, over which many of the munitions destined for the ISIS pass, Barkey said.

“They would be nuts to attack the hand that feeds them even if indirectly,” he said.

Suleyman Shah, also known as Suleyman bin Kaya Alp, died in 1236. His grandson was Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire. Legend says he drowned in the Euphrates River in Syria, and an Ottoman tomb for him is written into the 1921 Treaty of Ankara signed between France and Turkey.

The tomb was moved to its present, two-acre location 60 miles south of the Turkish border in 1974 when the older site was flooded to make way for a reservoir. It is considered Turkish territory.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war three years ago, Ankara has backed the Syrian rebels’ bid to oust President Bashar al-Assad. But the Islamic fighters who initially came to fight alongside the Free Syrian Army have turned on them, as well as their allies such as Turkey.

(Source / 28.03.2014)

Real change for labor rights in Saudi Arabia?

Dr. Christian Koch

Recent news stories about workers’ rights in the Gulf region have been replete with stories of horrendous human rights abuses and exploitation. Indeed the planning for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has itself been overshadowed by media reports of labor rights abuses in the run-up to the competition.

Saudi Arabia has not been free from criticism, particularly for a country with 10 million foreign workers and a total population of 27 million. But there may be signs that we are beginning to see real change in Saudi labor laws and regulations.

Last week, at the 25th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Saudi Arabia agreed to 181 out of 225 recommendations on human rights reforms made to it by U.N. member states. These recommendations not only included commitments to improve protection for labor rights, but a number of measures enacted before the approvals were formally announced.

For example, Saudi Arabia recently ratified ILO (International Labor Organization Convention) article 138 requiring a minimum working age of 15. And in the past year alone, agreements protecting migrant workers have been signed with the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, and Indonesia. These agreements address key concerns over worker pay, holidays, health insurance, possession of passports and the right to change employers.

Comprehensive policy

Such agreements could form the basis of a comprehensive policy for all migrant workers. The beginnings of such a policy are already appearing. Migrant workers can now also change their employment at will with no fees and no permission required from their employer, a big step in their ability to act with greater independence.

The feminization of certain industries like women’s retail, recruitment, and even plans for a “woman friendly” city in the eastern province of Hofuf have had a positive effect on women’s participation in the private sector

Dr. Christian Koch

Of course, a significant degree of media attention was given to the drive to deport illegal foreign workers in 2013. According to the kingdom’s Deputy Labor Minister, Dr. Ahmed al-Fahaidy, the “corrections period,” as this episode was known as, was about “addressing the huge numbers of illegal workers in Saudi Arabia, something no country would be expected to leave unaddressed.” Al-Fahaidy felt that Saudi Arabia “needed to do this in the most reasonable and humane way possible. As such all workers status corrections were permitted to be amended with the usual financial penalties waived, leading to millions of corrective processes.”

It was also part of a wider process that enabled the Ministry of Labor of streamline employment data and information in the kingdom in order to better protect workers’ rights. For example, the ministry has created a new wage protection system – an electronic system designed to precisely monitor private sector’s monthly wages to ensure timely and complete payments as per agreements and contracts.

And in making information about laws and regulations accessible in a participative and contributory way, all changes to legislation are now accessible through a crowd sourced website where recommendations, for or against, can be gathered. Neighboring countries are looking to adopt this system as well.

Not just for migrant workers

But efforts by the ministry appear to be improving things not just for migrant workers, but another demographic of Saudi society – women. The feminization of certain industries like women’s retail, recruitment, and even plans for a “woman friendly” city in the eastern province of Hofuf have had a positive effect on women’s participation in the private sector. This sector has grown tenfold since 2009, from 40,000 to over 400,000. It’s a pace of change unmatched anywhere in the world.

However, there is still a long way to go and much room for improvement. Saudi Arabia still rejected ratifying key covenants on labor (ILO 87 and 98), women (OP-CEDAW), and migrant worker rights (ICRMW) at the recent 25th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council meeting. And there is clearly opposition within the country to the expanded role women are able to play in the economy within Saudi Arabia.

As Christian Amanpour pointed out in a recent interview with Dr. al-Fahaidy, the Labor Ministry has come under significant pressure from Saudi voices vehemently opposed to any form of role for women in the Saudi workforce, making each step towards integrating women into the workforce a challenging one.

But significant steps have been taken over the previous year that appear to be far more visionary and forward looking then many in the international sphere may have come to expect of Saudi Arabia. It is, on balance, an encouraging trend and an important trajectory, one that needs to be maintained if Saudi Arabia’s record on worker and labor rights is to be radically overhauled.

(Source / 28.03.2014)

Israeli bulldozers destroy mosque, medical center in East Jerusalem – 27\3\2014


Israeli bulldozers demolished a Palestinian-owned building that housed a mosque, a medical center, and apartments in East Jerusalem early Wednesday, witnesses told Ma’an.

Locals said Israeli police and special forces stormed Khallat al-Ein square in the al-Tur neighborhood east of the Old City of Jerusalem and surrounded a building owned by Ghadir Abu Ajram Abu Ghaliya.
Officers then evacuated the two-story building and neutralized gas and water networks before bulldozers began the demolition.
Abu Ghaliya told Ma’an that his building was demolished “without prior notice” from Israeli authorities.
The first floor of the building held a mosque and a medical center, while the second floor consisted of two apartments housing 11 family members, Abu Ghaliya said.
He said that he and his family had tried for 18 years to obtain a construction permits from the Jerusalem municipality. Though the mayor of Jerusalem “approved construction in the area, … the Israeli ministry of interior opposed construction.”
After the Israeli Supreme Court ruled to delay the demolition, a hearing on the issue was scheduled for May, Abu Ghaliya told Ma’an.
The Jerusalem municipality demolished another home belonging to Abu Ghaliya in 2007, he added.
Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It has demolished at least 27,000 Palestinian homes and structures since occupying the West Bank in 1967, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

(Source / 28.03.2014)

Palestinian official: Israel says it won’t release last batch of prisoners

Jibril Rajoub tells AFP Israel has reneged on its commitment to release a fourth batch of prisoners as part of peace talks, which was scheduled for Saturday

Palestinian prisoners at the Megiddo Prison.

Palestinian prisoners at the Megiddo Prison. Photo by Itzik Ben-Malki
Nir Keidar

Jibril Rajoub

Israel has told the Palestinians it is delaying the release of a final batch of prisoners, which was scheduled for Saturday within the framework of U.S.-brokered peace talks, a senior Palestinian official told AFP on Friday.

Israel said it would release 104 prisoners, imprisoned since before the 1993 Oslo Accords, under the agreement which restarted peace talks in July last year. The deal was made in exchange for the Palestinians not pursuing claims to statehood at the United Nations. To date, Israel has released three batches of prisoners, some 78 in total.

However, members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet have said that if the Palestinians do not agree to extend the April 29 deadline of talks, they would stop the release of the fourth batch of prisoners.

“The Israeli government has informed us through the American mediator that it will not abide with its commitment to release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday 29,” AFP cited Fatah official Jibril Rajoub as saying. “Israel has refused to commit to the names that were agreed upon of prisoners held by Israel since before the 1993 Oslo agreements.”

There were no comments on the issue from Israeli officials, AFP said.

On Thursday, the Palestinian ministry for prisoners sent families of those awaiting release messages sayingthe release will not take place on Saturday night as originally scheduled, but that they will not agree to a lengthy delay and think the fourth stage will take place within two weeks.

If Israel blocks the release of the prisoner, Rajoub said, this would be a “slap in the face of the U.S. administration and its efforts.” He added that the Palestinians would resume their efforts in the international arena as a result.

“Not releasing the prisoners will mark the beginning of the efforts in the international community to challenge the legality of the occupation,” AFP cited him as saying.

Senior American officials held marathon meetings this past week with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in order to resolve the crisis over the release of Palestinian prisoners and to formulate an agreement allowing for the extension of negotiations between the two sides past April 29.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Abbas for a long time in Amman on Wednesday, trying to convince him to agree to extend the negotiations. As he met with Abbas, Kerry also spoke on the phone with Netanyahu. On Thursday, while he was in Rome accompanying U.S. President Barack Obama on his visit, Kerry continued his phone conversations with both Netanyahu and Abbas.

(Source / 28.03.2014)

Liberal Zionists are the new front line against BDS

One aspect of the shifting battle over the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) is that liberal Zionists have become the front line against BDS inside the American pro-Israel community. They are taking on BDS as avowed progressives, arguing that BDS rejects an idealistic project, the self-determination of the Jewish people.

This was the thrust of the pro-Israel side at the University of Michigan student government debate on divestment the other night. Yael Aronoff, an Israel studies associate professor at Michigan State, was the lead opponent of divestment (above). Aronoff identified herself as a liberal who had long opposed the occupation and worked for Human Rights Watch, then argued that in a “tragic” conflict of “right” against “right”, what BDS “is really about” is opposing the Jewish right to self-determination in Israel.

If Israel has flaws, she said (sounding more the hard-boiled realist than a progressive), they are the flaws of all nation-states, from ethnic cleansing at their establishment to the removal of nomadic peoples so as to foster modernity. And looking through rose-colored lenses, she said that Israel is “in the midst of negotiating withdrawal” from the occupied territories.

Her argument is aimed directly at the leftwing, pro-Palestinian view of the conflict as one between a settler state and an indigenous people. We must honor the “dreams and rights” of both peoples, Aronoff said. That view was later echoed bySara Berlin, a Zionist student, who said she was a human rights activist and the Palestinian narrative denies her narrative:

“Your equality does not include self-determination of my people.”

This view of the conflict as a tragic one in which two victimized peoples are each struggling to determine their political destiny is now the liberal Zionist talking point against BDS. Liberal Zionists have adopted the Roger Cohen position that BDS means the end of the Jewish state, and that this would be a great tragedy.

Here are some other examples of this trend.

Two days ago, MJ Rosenberg wrote a head-on attack on the BDS movement, calling it a campaign to dismantle the state of Israel. The piece was promptly endorsed by Tom Friedman.

Rosenberg writes:

The reason why BDS keeps failing despite the almost universal recognition that the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the blockade of Gaza, are illegal and immoral is that the BDS movement is not targeting the occupation per se. Its goal is the end of the State of Israel itself. . . .

In other words, millions of the descendants of the original Palestinian refugees could return not just to the West Bank or Gaza but to Israel itself, essentially reversing the independence Israel achieved in 1948. As far as Israeli towns and villages, they would be “property” returned to the Palestinians. Hence, no more Israel. . . .

Of course, this will not happen in the real world, even if there is some justice in the demands…. Israel is not going to dismantle itself and Jews will not be the first people in the world to relinquish the right to self-determination.

MJ used to tell me not to refer to Jews as “my people.” I wonder if he’s changed his view on that.

Meantime, the Third Narrative, a project of the liberal Zionist group Ameinu,launched last week as an anti-occupation, anti-BDS campaign. Yael Aronoff, the lead Michigan speaker, is one of the signatories. The group seeks to validate a narrative of Jews as a persecuted people who need a state of their own. Its view of Israel is glass half-full — “a Jewish Athens, not Sparta,” as one writer on the site puts it.

Third Narrative’s mission statement claims progressive ground:

A new progressive initiative was launched today to combat academic boycotts and defend freedom of expression, while challenging the false choice presented to the academic community that it must either undermine the legitimacy of Israel or accept violations of the rights and dignity of Palestinians. More than 50 leading academics, spread across a wide range of disciplines and from throughout North America, announced today the formation of The Third Narrative’s Academic Advisory Council. The founding statement declares that:

“We are progressive scholars and academics who reject the notion that one has to be either pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. We believe that empathy for the suffering and aspirations of both peoples, and respect for their national narratives, is essential if there is to be a peaceful solution…

“We hope to engage people on the left who suspect that it is wrong to lay all blame for the Arab-Israeli conflict at the feet of Israeli Jews…but aren’t sure how to respond to Israel’s most vitriolic critics. Some of what these critics say is true, some of their accusations are justified. Some of what Israel’s traditional defenders say is also accurate. …

The group has a frankly-Jewish character:

We feel a deep connection to the Jewish state and the Jewish people. We are also committed to social justice and human rights for everyone. Some say those commitments are contradictory, that particularist attachments to a state or a people can’t be reconciled with universal values. Our response is that belonging to a people, a community larger than ourselves, is a basic human need –indeed, it is our right. And balancing our communal attachments with a commitment to humanity as a whole is our responsibility.

Evidently it is speaking for the Jewish people, which transcends borders, and not the Israeli people, who are nearly 25 percent non-Jewish.

Its announcement includes a statement from Todd Gitlin sounding Aronoff’s “right” versus “right” theme: “Wrongs committed by a state, like Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, are not legitimate reasons to dismantle the state or to impose collective punishment. In the Middle East, riddled with conflict between right and right, justice requires reconciliation, not hatred.”

And Michael Walzer:

“Rejectionists on both sides who advocate a single state, who want the whole thing, are not only wrongheaded; they are radically unrealistic. This Council will provide a forum for an exchange of ideas about what is really possible and about what is best for the two peoples.”

Though the group seeks to advocate for what is best for two peoples, I don’t see any Palestinians on its statement. (Ziad Asali has a piece on the site.) There are many well-known (and mostly Jewish) names among the signatories, including Derek Penslar, Mira Sucharov, Steven Zipperstein, Eric Alterman, Peter Beinart, Cary Nelson, David Greenberg, Steven Cohen and Ari Kelman.

Also at the Third Narrative site, Brooklyn Rabbi Andy Bachman brags that he bought Ahava products, which are made in a West Bank settlement, in arguing that BDS “is insidious and stupid” and “wildly ineffective.”

That would seem to be one flaw in the liberal Zionist attack. MJ Rosenberg says it’s “irrelevant,” but that’s wishful: BDS is obviously gaining traction, especially in Europe, and the Third Narrative is spurred by the American Studies Association vote for boycott last year.

At the Michigan debate the other night (livestream at 1:28:00 or so), Victor Lieberman, a professor at the university, said there was an “emotional chasm” between one side and the other, and he sided with the Israeli narrative. But when asked about BDS, he likened it to Gandhi’s nonviolent movement:

“This is the most impressive Palestinian movement of its kind… For sure, it is very impressive what it’s achieved so far.”

If the latest round of talks fail, Lieberman predicted that Palestinians will initiate a new intifada of legal actions at international fora, combined with non-violent actions like BDS. “That would probably be fairly effective.”

This seems to be what the opponents of BDS are afraid of, that it will be effective in the discourse, delegitimizing the idea of a Jewish democracy. And in their effort to preserve Jewish status in Israel, some of these liberal Zionists would seem to be… conservative.

(Source / 28.03.2014)