Tag Archives: Abbas

Magical thinking

Donald (you know which Donald) wants to make the “deal of the century” in the Middle East and he’s assigned that task to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Here’s what we know about the “deal” thus far.

  • Make the issue of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future State of Palestine disappear by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and declaring Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel. (See here.) No capital for Palestine, no problem.
  • Strip the more than 2 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan of their status as refugees, and pay Jordan to absorb them as new citizens of Jordan. That would solve the ‘right of return’ problem, at least for those 2 million Palestinians. (See here.)  No refugees in Jordan, no problem.
  • Dissolve the U.N. agency (UNRWA) that was created in 1949 to provide relief to the Palestinians displaced by the creation of the State of Israel. (See here.) No UN agency requiring funding to sustain the refugees, no problem.
  • Redefine who qualifies as a refugee to include only those individuals who were displaced 70 years ago, not their descendants. Of course, this would drastically reduce the refugee population which is around 5 million, nearly one-third of whom live in camps across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza. (See here.) No descendants of Palestinian refugees to be concerned about, no problem. JUST WAIT THEM OUT AND THOSE PESKY REFUGEES FROM 70 YEARS AGO WILL DIE.
  • Provide aid to the Palestinians in a way that makes clear that the international community does not recognize the vast majority of Palestinians who are currently registered as refugees are deserving of refugee status. (See here.) Again, no refugees, no problem.

Lest you think this is all magical thinking, H.R. 6451 – UNRWA Reform and Refugee Act of 2018 was introduced in July and would accomplish many of these points pushed by Jared Kushner.

By any objective measure, this is a war between the U.S. Congress and Palestinians with a clear goal to erase the impediments to the “deal of the century”. No refugees, no UNRWA, no capital in Jerusalem, no ‘right of return’ – such a headache for Israelis to contemplate – this deal will certainly fall right into place.

And Congress wants to ensure that the State of Israel maintains a military advantage which translates on the ground to Israeli snipers shooting and killing Palestinian journalists, nurses, doctors, women and children (some in the back, others who were merely standing and observing) — a total of 156 since the weekly protest marches at the Gaza fence began in March this year.

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

America and Israel flags

My delegation from New Mexico (Heinrich, Lujan-Grisham, Lujan and Pearce) have signed on as cosponsors to H.R. 5141 and S.2497 – United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 which states in part:

It is the policy of the United States to ensure that Israel maintains its ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military or emerging threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition states or non-state actors.

(1) The quantity and type of precision guided munitions that are necessary for Israel to combat Hezbollah in the event of a sustained armed confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah.

(2) The quantity and type of precision guided munitions that are necessary for Israel in the event of a sustained armed confrontation with other armed groups and terrorist organizations such as Hamas.

(3) The resources the Government of Israel can plan to dedicate to acquire such precision guided munitions.

(4) United States planning to assist Israel to prepare for the sustained armed confrontations described in paragraphs (1) and (2) as well as the ability of the United States to resupply Israel in the event of such confrontations described in paragraphs (1) and (2), if any.

Read this language carefully and it’s clear that the U.S. Congress wishes to re-write the rules of war, and international humanitarian law, by authorizing the State of Israel to preemptively strike anyone (civilians included) who, in their sole discretion, poses a threat.

I suspect that many members of Congress don’t understand what they’ve signed onto, and they trust AIPAC’s propaganda. But the words speak for themselves, and anyone who values the rule of law must remove their name as a cosponsor.

That’s the message I’m sending to my delegation from New Mexico.

Palestinian President Abbas condemned the ‘deal of the century’ as the ‘slap of the century’.

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Filed under Israel, People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, US Policy, Video

“Greater Jerusalem”

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Ancient olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane

I spent 6 days in Jerusalem, not enough time to get to meet the people and organizations I wanted to network with and certainly not enough time to acquaint myself with “the situation” here, but enough time to leave me feeling very depressed about the future.

Everyone I spoke with in the city, including cab drivers, transit riders, store clerks, clergy and religious leaders, retired Jewish women my age, long-time Israeli-Americans who raised their children in Jerusalem, a tour leader, and a Palestinian resident who is a 3rd generation resident of the Old City, EVERYONE told me in so many words that life is very difficult now and they don’t have hope that “the situation” is going to get any better in the future.

My next question was “Why no hope?” 12783646_10208806070174975_2794744035196101163_o

Some laid the blame squarely on Bibi and his government. Others said the blame was shared by both Bibi and Abbas. A couple mentioned the complicity of the U.S. and the international community for allowing “the situation” to deteriorate to this extreme and not forcing Israel to change course. Greater Jerusalem Eng 2015Although I’ve read and seen photos of “Greater Jerusalem” and the high security wall snaking through the landscape, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw and heard on my last day in Jerusalem. I joined a 4-hour study tour conducted by Ir Amim which focused on planning and development policies in the “Greater Jerusalem” area.

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While the Jewish owner received a permit to construct this large building with a 135% floor area ratio, his Palestinian neighbor was denied a permit to add rooms onto his house because the zoning regulations only allowed him 35% FAR.

As a city planner who entered the profession 35 years ago in the United States with the noble goal of creating safe, just and sustainble communities, I felt personally devastated that the planning profession in Israel has been co-opted in such a brutal and disgusting fashion. The land use and development facts and figures shared on the Ir Amim tour are damning evidence of the politicians using the planning profession as their private whores. Read: Trapped by Planning: Israeli Policy, Planning and Development in the Palestinian Neighborhoods of East Jerusalem (2014) to get a clear picture of “the situation” on the ground from a planning context.

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The “security wall” snaking through “Greater Jerusalem”

Israeli planners are proficient at preparing plans for Jewish settlements but have failed to make any plans to meet the growth and natural expansion of Arab communities within “Greater Jerusalem.” Building permits fly out the window for Israelis (nearly 51,000 since 1967) while it’s nearly impossible for a Palestinian to get a building permit from City Hall (less than 4,000 issued since 1967).
In 2008, the Palestinians in “Greater Jerusalem” finally said “enough is enough” and hired architects, planners and lawyers to prepare community plans for the Arab communities. They submitted 190 town plans but only 125 building permits have been issued in response to these plans.

The YMCA in Jerusalem shares a hopeful message but I wonder how it resonates with the majority of people in Jerusalem, both Jews and Arabs.

One-third of the population of Jerusalem is Palestinian but only 12% of the city budget goes to Palestinian neighborhoods. That’s why I saw playgrounds and parks, sidewalks and recycling, schools and community centers in well-maintained Jewish neighborhoods, while the Palestinian neighborhoods nextdoor have no sidewalks, potholes in the streets, overflowing trash dumps, not enough classrooms so parents are now paying their neighbors to educate their children, and certainly no community centers or clinics. If I was a planner in Jerusalem, I might resort to guerilla tactics to upset the status quo at city hall.  

This Palestinian shopkeeper in the Old City showed me his family tree written in Arabic. His family’s heritage and long history in Jerusalem are under attack and he doesn’t have any hope for the future. I left the city with a very heavy heart, not sure if I’ll ever be able to return but not sure I ever want to. 12419121_10208801757827169_2958263323955961121_o

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Palestinians at the cafe talking about their future

Al-hamdulillah!  A discussion amongst Palestinians in a Cafe in Ramallah in the Occupied West Bank was filmed in August 2012. Their conversation ranged from the divide between Fatah and Hamas, about the “peace process” and Israel’s Occupation, and their future.  British political journalist, Mahdi Hasan, moderates.

Mehdi Hasan, British political journalist

Mehdi Hasan, British political journalist

If you’re a Zionist, you should watch this 47-minute video to hear what these Palestinians think about the future because it’s YOUR future too.

If you’re a member of the U.S. Congress, you need to listen to these Palestinians describe the important issues that obstruct any future peace in the region.

If you’re an “activist” looking for justice for Palestinians, you might pick up some nuances that help your work.

If you think you know the future and what the Palestinians want, think again and watch this video.

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Occupation, People, Politics, Video

Hashtags

The news these days from the Middle East is focused on the three Israeli teenagers who disappeared Thursday night when they were hitchhiking near their yeshiva in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem. This is a part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the West Bank known as Area C. By agreement, Area C is under complete control of the Israel Defense Forces.

I deleted my first blog post about this news because, after reading and re-reading it, I realized it sounded too dry and matter-of-fact.  I was trying to discern the facts (which are few and far between) and wanted to discard the speculation. Almost everything I found online from sources on all sides was filled with speculation and innuendo.

So I’ll stick to my personal observations.

Netanyahu is playing a familiar role, casting blame on everyone – Abbas, Hamas, and even President Obama. Netanyahu has been warning the world of the terrible consequences of the Fatah-Hamas unity government, and lo and behold, the unity government is to blame for the abduction!

In the process, he appears to be inciting fear and hatred. That’s his modus operandi.

Twitter and Facebook are amplifying the fear and hatred. People on both sides (Israelis and Palestinians) are jumping to conclusions based on no facts at all, but everyone trusts the almighty hash tags. Check out #BringOurBoysHome

More than 16,000 Israelis have joined a Facebook page that calls for the murder of a Palestinian every hour until three missing Israeli settler teens are located. The page is titled “Until the boys are back, every hour we shoot a terrorist.”

The page was launched as the Israeli army continued violent raids, curfews and closures across the occupied West Bank and shot dead Ahmad Sabarin, a Palestinian youth.

The Palestinians are (again) paying the price in blood. Palestinian legislators in the West Bank have been rounded up, and there are reports that 120 Palestinians have been “kidnapped” by the IDF.

My friends in Gaza have been posting eyewitness accounts of Israel’s latest bombardment. Netanyahu’s strategy of collective punishment isn’t new and remains just as illegal under international law today as it did in 2008-09 (Operation Cast Lead) and in November 2012 (Operation Pillar of Defense).

I would like to see the following happen:

  • The three Israeli teenagers returned to their families safe and sound.
  • The dead Palestinian youth resurrected and returned to his family.
  • Netanyahu exposed for the hatemonger, fearmonger and warmonger that he is, and shunned by world leaders.
  • A new hashtag adopted by everyone around the world #WeWillHateNoMore or #EveryChildReturnHome or #NoFearNoHate or #TreatOthersAsYouWishToBeTreated
  • The 100+ Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails begin to eat again, and are released along with the other resistance fighters sitting in jail.
  • The Fatah-Hamas unity government go to the International Criminal Court.
  • And above all, THE END OF THE OCCUPATION.

The kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers is merely a symptom of a much more dangerous condition that infects all of Israeli society. End the Occupation now!

 

 

 

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Hunger Strike, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Media, Occupation, People

Abbas wants what?!?

Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian Authority)

Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian Authority)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he wants NATO troops in Palestine. For a very long time. Yes! He really said that. Read it here and here.

Abbas is responding to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s concerns about security. Netanyahu says he only trusts his own military, not a third party like NATO. So this proposal is probably going nowhere, just like Secretary Kerry’s framework.

No Palestinians I’ve talked with in Gaza, the West Bank or the Diaspora believe these current talks between Abbas, Netanyahu and Kerry are going to result in anything good. They are just a smokescreen for continued Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories. Nothing more.

Maybe my Palestinian “contacts” are limited, representing only the fringe element. Perhaps there are thousands of Palestinians somewhere cheering Abbas on and expecting a successful end to these talks.  I haven’t found them, and they haven’t shared their opinions in any publication that I’m aware of, but maybe they’re out there somewhere.

I think Kerry, Abbas and Netanyahu are all blowing smoke. Here’s why.

Although Netanyahu is the duly elected representative of Israelis, Abbas can’t make any such claim to legitimacy on behalf of Palestinians. He was originally elected to a 4 year term in 2005. His term ended in 2009 and there haven’t been any elections in Palestine since. Why?

Maybe because the US likes a compliant leader who does what US leaders instruct him to do.  Just sayin’

Maybe because the discord between Fatah and Hamas prevent elections. Maybe the US and Israel have a vested interest in maintaining that discord. Just sayin’

Maybe because if  elections were held in Palestine, the outcome could not be predicted (aka manipulated) because there are just too many young, new voters. Just sayin’

No one has asked me for my opinion (no one has asked the opinion of Palestinians for whom Abbas says he speaks) but I think this farce is going to blow up in their faces …… in the faces of Kerry, Netanyahu and Abbas …… big time!

They will do everything possible to extend, extend, extend the talks, a strategy which only works in Israel’s favor. Then, after squeezing the last drop of PR value from this effort to negotiate, each side will point fingers at the other and the blame game will commence.

This is all so predictable.

So, what might work?  No one has asked me this question either, but it’s plain to see for anyone looking clearly and dispassionately at the Middle East conflict.

Palestinians must go to the International Criminal Court. John Dugard, Professor of Law, thinks so too.

Abbas says he doesn’t like courts, but the status quo hasn’t worked for Palestinians for decades. He needs to shake things up.

A senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch notes:

Why isn’t Palestine playing ball in The Hague? Those responsible for rocket launches from Gaza targeting Israeli population centers could be held criminally responsible at the ICC, but that should not deter the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah from seeking the court’s jurisdiction, since it has stated that it is against such attacks.

The main reason, current and former Palestinian officials say, is that Israel has threatened unspecified retaliation if it seeks the court’s jurisdiction, and the US has reinforced the threat. As a former Palestinian legal adviser told me, “The US said to us clearly, conveying Israel’s position, ‘Don’t touch it.'” US Secretary of State John Kerry said during his Senate confirmation hearings that the US was “very, very strongly against” any “effort to take Israel for instance … to the ICC.”

Enough is enough! Time for Abbas to head to the ICC. If he won’t, maybe Palestinians need to show him to the door and hold long overdue elections.

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Filed under Elections, Israel, People, Politics, US Policy

Taking Sides

Taking sides in the Middle East is not kosher, especially if the goal is to have a civil conversation with Americans about Israel and Palestine.

What does that admonishment actually mean?

Maybe I should carefully dish out equal measure of criticism and praise on Netanyahu (Israel), Abbas (Palestinian Authority) and Haniyeh (Hamas). If I find fault with one, I should find fault with the others.

Ismail Haniyeh (Hamas)

Ismail Haniyeh (Hamas)

Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian Authority)

Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian Authority)

Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel)

Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel)

Maybe I should carefully present both sides of any debate.  If I write about the 8 days of bombing last November in Gaza, I should share what it felt like sitting in the apartment late at night listening to the drones and bombs falling all around me; and then I should get into the heads of the IDF soldiers who were flying overhead dropping the bombs.  What does it feel like to hit the button and target a house where children are sleeping?

Operation Cast Lead (08-09)

Operation Cast Lead (08-09)

What does it mean “not to take sides”? Really!

Americans have not been objecting to the pro-Israeli media stories they see and read. The mainstream media is heavily biased in favor of one side over the other but I don’t see anyone having much heartburn about it.

Americans don’t seem too perturbed by the standing ovation that Congress gave Netanyahu in May 2011 — in fact, multiple standing ovations. Congress never invited Abbas or Haniyeh to speak, just to be fair and not take sides.

Congress passes legislation written by AIPAC (Israel’s lobbying arm in DC) at the drop of a hat, but I have yet to learn about any lobbyists working for Palestine in our nation’s capitol.  (Don’t forget to register early for the AIPAC policy conference in March 2014.)

President Obama was clearly taking sides when he announced last November that “Israel has a right to defend herself!”   Don’t the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves?

Truth be told, the State of Israel needs friends – not sycophants – who will tell the truth about this occupation and save them from themselves.

The problem, I think, is that the Israeli side of the conflict is so ingrained in the American psyche that most of us don’t even perceive the grotesque imbalance in our media and in the halls of power.

I certainly didn’t understand it, until I looked more carefully.

UN predicts Gaza will be unlivable by 2020.

UN predicts Gaza will be unlivable by 2020.

The time for the kid gloves has long passed, I fear.  There is a side of this story (the occupation) that must be told, and I’m the one to tell it. I lived in Gaza and Cairo for 9 months, under occupation, a deadly siege, and an 8-day war.

Americans who want to hear my story are going to learn about the side of this conflict that doesn’t penetrate most mainstream media.

Rather than being one-sided, my story is only rebalancing the scales of justice.

Scales of Justice

Scales of Justice

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Media, Occupation, People, Politics, US Policy

Saving the peace talks from failure

The current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are doomed to fail.  I say this with great certainty despite some voices who express a measure of optimism. Why?

  • The wrong parties are at the negotiating table.
  • The wrong mediator is sitting at the negotiating table.
  • The negotiating table is located in the wrong room.

Tzipi Livni (Israel), Saeb Erekat (Palestine), and Martin Indyk (mediator) are the wrong people to be negotiating the future of Israel and Palestine.

The mediator that John Kerry appointed, Indyk, is a former AIPAC employee who would be more suited to polishing Netanyahu’s shoes.

Livni served in Israel’s war cabinet during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza (Dec. ’08 – Jan. ’09) killing more than 1,400 Palestinians (a majority of them civilians and more than 300 children). Livni told the press later that year that “Operation Cast Lead was necessary …. there is no need to reach an agreement with Hamas.”

Erekat is likely the best person to represent the Palestinian Authority, but he doesn’t have a mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians in Gaza who support Hamas, or the Palestinians in the diaspora, or the Palestinians who have lost faith in the PA. Check out his impressive resume here. Erekat comes to the table realizing that his Palestinian Authority may not survive if these peace talks fail, a conflicted position to be in as he negotiates the future of the State of Palestine.

The negotiating table is tragically in the wrong place. No less than an act of breathtaking temerity for President Obama to even suggest that the United States host these talks. Check out the US vetoes in the Security Council.

A lasting and just peace will never be found using the same old strategies that have failed in the past and will fail again this time. Something needs to shake up the status quo.

My proposal for peace talks can be found here, maybe a bit of a stretch, I admit.

Both Livni and Erekat have alot at stake in the current process. Failure will hurt both sides, but the media will certainly spin it as the fault of the Palestinians. So the question becomes “how to save the doomed peace talks?”

  • Obama must certainly realize that his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was prematurely bestowed. He might retroactively earn some points by engaging in this peace process personally. He should send Martin Indyk packing immediately.
  • He should place a conference call to Netanyahu and Abbas, and with both men on the line, Obama needs to advise them that US foreign policy has changed vis-à-vis Hamas.  See here. The future of the region cannot be negotiated by ignoring this elephant in the room.
  • Obama should spell out the new agenda for the peace talks — how to bring Hamas into the process, end the siege of Gaza, and make definite plans for the next Palestinian elections to be held post-haste.
  • If either Netanyahu or Abbas object to this new agenda, they can walk away from the table.  Obama will take responsibility for speaking to the press, explaining the change in the agenda, and absolving everyone from fault or responsibility.
  • Obama will invite Abbas and Haniyeh to a meeting at the United Nations in New York. He will request that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon preside over the meeting(s) with the goal that a unity agreement can be reached between Fatah and Hamas.

This sounds fantastical?  No greater fantasy than continuing to pursue the same old “peace talks” that haven’t worked in 20+ years.

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