Categorized | Middle East




Before the flood, intelligent life dwelled here

Oct 04, 2010

Philip Weiss

Memo to Chris Matthews. These headlines are from a New York Times story, 60 years ago, when it was not verboten to speak openly about a special interest aimed at American foreign lobby:

ISRAELI ‘INFLUENCE’ IN U.S. IS OPPOSED; ‘Lobby’ Presses State Policies, Lessing J. Rosenwald Tells Judaism Council Parley Scores Israeli Bond Campaign Says “Pressure” Continues


April 14, 1951,

, Section , Page 15, Column , words


CHICAGO, April 13–Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, criticized the influence of the Zionist movement on American Jewish institutions today and charged that Zionist influence was aimed at implementing Israeli national policies among American Jews.

Bibi buries Barack’s Pax Americana

Oct 04, 2010

Ira Glunts 

Tony Karon, one of the few journalists in the mainstream media who writes sensibly and intelligently about Palestine/Israel, has an interesting article on the “peace process” over at Time. According to Karon, Abbas believes that one of Netanyahu’s demands will be that the “… ‘framework agreement’ reached in the current process … [be] … implemented over a 20-year period [!]” Not surprisingly, Mahmoud Abbas, who is already reeling from Obama’s el foldo on the settlement freeze, is not amused by this ploy.

Rumors are that Abbas will make a declaration about the negotiations this week at the upcoming Arab Summit in Libya. Since the Palestinian president’s only source of authority derives from U.S. and European political, financial and military support, he rarely, if ever, contradicts American policy. Thus it is assumed that the only relevant independent statement he is able to make is to announce his own resignation, and mean it this time.

Karon uses the term “framework agreement” as synonymous with “peace treaty.” This is a mistake which is common among both journalists and politicians, one that is usually not discouraged by members of the president’s peace team. However, Special Envoy George Mitchell stated explicitly in a news conference at the start of the present round of talks in early September that a framework agreement is not a treaty. Actually, according to Mitchell, it is a long way between a framework agreement and anything meaningful. Answering a question from Major Garrett, Mitchell volunteered this startling definition:

And as I said – and I think this ought to be made clear because there has been a good bit of misunderstanding or not a full meeting of minds publicly regarding a framework agreement – a framework agreement is not an interim agreement. It’s more detailed than a declaration of principles, but is less than a full-fledged treaty. Its purpose is to establish the fundamental compromises necessary to enable the parties to then flesh out and complete a comprehensive agreement that will end the conflict and establish a lasting peace.

Did he say it is more detailed than a declaration of principles? What a meaningful comparison! That is what the Oslo Agreement was called and look how that worked out. Maybe someone should have yelled out at this point, “Shut off the peace processor, please.” Mitchell’s definition of a framework agreement is what is called in diplomacy, “creative ambiguity.” In other words, we can mean anything we say we mean, at any time, with no limits on how often what we say changes – so can the Israelis, so can the Palestinians. But in the end who cares what the Palestinians think?

Karon writes that

Still, it’s unlikely that any U.S. offer to Netanyahu on that issue [supporting an Israeli military presence in the future Palestinian state] was cleared with the Palestinians, who bring no leverage to the table except their ability to walk away [see Abbas’ possible resignation, above] and shatter the illusion of progress in a peace process that Obama has defined as a U.S. national security priority.

I wonder if Karon means that Obama has defined the peace process as a U.S. national security priority; or does he mean the President aspires to the illusion of a peace process. I personally believe that Dennis “Israel’s Lawyer” Ross has convinced the president that a negotiated two-state solution which creates a Bantustan for the Palestinians can be forced upon Abbas and Prime Minister Salam “America’s Man” Fayyad, and the Americans have the muscle to help the Palestinians enforce Obama’s Pax Americana. After all, why build an empire if you can’t use it?

The surprise is that even the idea of a Palestinian mini-state, with limited sovereignty and ability for self-defense, which has been the goal of many “enlightened” Israeli politicians from such divergent camps as Yossi Beilin and Ariel Sharon (in his final years in office), may now be actually off the table.

In other peace processor news coverage: When an Obama supporter like M.J. Rosenberg is critical of the President’s attempt at getting the Israelis and Palestinians into meaningful negotiations, you know that the process has gone seriously awry. M.J.’s calling Netanyahu’s treatment of our president “humiliating” will irritate and surprise the JStreeters who consider M.J. to be in their pro-Israel, peace, Obama corner.

Where is the Gandhi of Israel?

Oct 04, 2010

Philip Weiss 

In the National Interest, Paul Pillar, former CIA analyst, looks at the recent Indian judicial ruling on the Ayodhya site, sharing it between Muslims and Hindus, for both of whom it is holy, as a departure point for a meditation on Why Israel, unlike India, is so intolerant of its minority? Note that the url for this post includes the words, “the-lobby-must-not-be-named.” Part of his very intelligent answer, which only obliquely mentions the lobby:

Hindus… constitute the majority in India just as Jews do in Israel. Hindus were conquered by foreign Muslims beginning in the 13th century and became oppressed subjects in their own homeland. And India is the only place that, notwithstanding substantial Hindu communities in other countries, could ever be considered the homeland of Hindus. Some on the Indian political right have wanted to run with that concept and turn India into something closer to Hindustan, the land of the Hindus. Given the Hindus’ difficult history, it would be very easy to sympathize with that idea. But the dominant political ethos since independence—still voiced by the Congress Party, the principal governing party at present—sees India instead as a multi-confessional and multi-ethnic commonwealth, one in which Muslims become Bollywood film stars or even the president of India. And this is the case even though Hindus are an even larger majority in India (81 percent) than Jews are in Israel (76 percent), with Muslims being proportionately a smaller minority in India than in Israel.

There are several reasons that the Jews of Israel and the Hindus of India have taken such different paths, despite both having their versions of miserable and bloody histories. Leadership surely is one; there has been no Israeli equivalent of Mohandas Gandhi, whose approach to pursuing a cause was the antithesis of might-makes-right.  While Gandhi was shaking off British rule in South Asia through mass marches and other nonviolent tactics, future Israeli prime minister and Likud Party leader Menachem Begin was shaking off British rule in Palestine through terrorist violence such as blowing up the King David Hotel.  Another reason is the talent and resourcefulness of the Israeli people, who have had the skill not only to make the desert bloom but also to develop (with American help) the military power that makes it possible to achieve goals not through compromise but through force. Whatever the combination of reasons, the flicker of hope from the court ruling about Ayodhya and most Indian responses to it suggests that there is a better path.

Settlers attack West Bank mosque, burn prayer rugs and Korans and write “revenge” on a wall in Hebrew

Oct 04, 2010



And more news from Today in Palestine:

Land/Property/Resource Theft and Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing

Settlers blamed for mosque blaze
Prayer rugs and Quran copies burnt in a West Bank mosque, in fire said to have been started by Israeli settlers.

Settlers Torch Mosque, Copies of the Holy Quran, Near Bethlehem
A group of fundamentalist Israeli settlers broke into a mosque, on Sunday at night, in Beit Fajjar, near Bethlehem, and set it ablaze.

Occupation bulldozes lands in the village of Takku
BETHLEHEM, (PIC)– Eyewitnesses said that Israeli occupation bulldozers started on Friday morning to bulldoze Palestinian lands close to a Jewish settlement built on confiscated Palestinian land belonging to the village of Takku to the south east of Bethlehem.Local sources believe that the work of the bulldozers in their land is a prelude to confiscation of the land to build more settlement units to expand the present settlement.  Local sources also said that settlers placed a number of caravans to the east of Masha area east of Bethlehem in preparation for its confiscation.

10 dunums of olive trees in Awarta burned by settlers
Oct 1, 2010– two settlers of Itimar settlement burned, approximately 10 dunums of an olive grove. The fires were North East of Awarta village, in the South Nablus district.

Zionist settlers block Palestinian villagers from harvesting olive crop
Zionist settlers stormed the village of Al-Mughir in northern Ramallah on Sunday and wreaked havoc in olive fields, cutting trees, and stealing the harvest.

Israel to compensate settlers for construction freeze losses
So far the defense establishment’s complaints committee has reached a decision on 45 of 109 compensation claims.

Netanyahu Places News Conditions For Extending Freeze
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that he agrees to extending settlement construction freeze for a number of months, but in return he wants guarantees that it will not be asked for a further extension.

Israeli ministers oppose fresh moratorium: report (AFP)
AFP – Attempts by Washington to entice Israel into extending a settlement moratorium look set to meet fierce opposition from coalition hardliners, a newspaper poll of cabinet ministers showed on Monday.*

Activism/Solidarity/Boycott, Sanctions & Divestment

Occupation Forces supress Al-Masara weekly demonstration, Firing teargas on the children’s circus on the Apartheid Wall
Oct 1, 2010– Tens of activists and children suffered from tear-gas inhalation fired at them by the Occupation Forces during the weekly demonstration against the Apartheid Wall in Al-Masara.

The trial of Ameer Makhoul enters a new phase
The campaign to free Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and political and human rights activist falsely accused of espionage, has achieved significant advances. Makhoul’s attorneys challenged the legality of the circumstances of his arrest and undermined the prosecution’s core allegations against him on September 16th in the Haifa District Court. State Prosecutors admitted that no evidence of espionage had been found in any of the computers and cellular phones seized from Makhoul’s home and office. Nor was any evidence of espionage found, they admitted, in the transcripts of thirty thousand wiretapped telephone conversations.

Supreme Court: Maguire not here on friendly visit
Nobel Peace Prize laureate fails to convince court she was unaware of deportation order issued against her following her participation in May’s Gaza-bound aid flotilla.,7340,L-3963724,00.html

Architects against Israeli occupation | Abe Hayeem
With the settlement freeze over, international architects must take action to end illegal construction in the West Bank.  In deciding to back the boycott of Ariel theatre in the West Bank, Frank Gehry, the Canadian-American architect of Guggenheim fame, joins a growing body of professionals who are making a stand against the illegal settlements. Ariel, a quintessential illegal settlement, is continually expanding to fit the over-generous boundaries staked out over Palestinian land, choking the development of Palestinian villages nearby. Its new state-funded cultural centre, 20 years in the construction, is due to open in November.

#BDS: Methodist Preacher to Sue Church Over Anti-Israel Boycott
A Methodist preacher is planning to sue his own British-based church over its anti-Israel policies. Pastor David Hallam, 62, said he has asked attorney Paul Diamond to fight a resolution passed this summer by the Methodist Church — the fourth-largest Christian denomination in Britain — promoting a boycott against Israeli goods produced in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.  The resolution was heartily supported by Palestinian Authority Christians.  The British Board of Deputies, which represents the country’s Jews, broke off all contact with the leadership of the Methodist Church over the issue.

#BDS: Artists breaking the silence on Palestine
Artists play a galvanizing role in shaping popular opinion on the defining issues of our time.  Historic struggles for justice are often remembered at a grassroots level not by campaign slogans or political speeches but via artistic symbols. Art can capture both the human emotion and political energy of critical moments in history, etching cultural expression into our collective social conscious.
Gaza’s humanitarian crisis is alarming the world and accordingly many artists are standing with Palestine in unprecedented ways, including poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron.

The Siege (Gaza & West Bank)/Humanitarian/Restriction of Movement/Human Rights/Racism

Goods – Needs Vs. Supply – Sep 5 – Oct 2

School By Day, Prison By Night, Palestine Monitor
Most students catch the bus to campus, other come in cars, Mohammed is escorted from his cell to the university gates by soldiers. At the end of a day’s studying, while his peers go off to smoke argeela (water pipe) and shoot pool in the cafes around town, he is escorted back to his cramped cell. His story represents the wider tale of denial and disruption of education enacted by the Israeli occupation.

Strangled By Aid, Palestine Monitor
A two-day conference at Birzeit University last week assembled scholars from around the world to discuss one of Palestine’s most complex problems: aid.  Dr. Sara Roy, the keynote speaker, claimed aid has depoliticised the root causes of Palestinian suffering. By focusing exclusively on the humanitarian aspects of the occupation, donors effectively deprive Palestinians of their voices and right to self-determination. Recognising the detrimental effects of aid, including dependency issues, the participants sought alternatives to a system failing despite large budgets.  The Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are among the largest recipients of aid per capita in the world. In 2008, $1.8 billion of went to the Palestinian Authority (PA), $700 million to specific projects, and $500 million to humanitarian aid, according to statistics from French consulate in Jerusalem.

Gaza power cuts reduced
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Two generators in Gaza’s sole power station are now operational, reducing power cuts in the Strip, an energy official said Sunday.  Spokesman for the Gaza Energy Authority Jamal Ad-Dardasawi said fuel deliveries had facilitated the operation of the second generator increasing the plant’s productivity to 60 mega watts. A new schedule could now be implemented, under which power would be cut for eight hours a day for two days, followed by two days without power cuts, he said.

Israel to allow 30 more cars into Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities will be partially open one Gaza crossing on Monday for the entry of 30 new cars, a Palestinian crossings official said.  Raed Fattouh said six trucks transporting the new cars would be permitted entry through the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Gaza, marking the third time in under a month that vehicles have been allowed into the Strip since 2007.

Violence/Aggression & Provocations

Palestinian Worker Shot Dead By Israeli Policeman Near Jerusalem
A Palestinian laborer was shot and killed, on Monday at dawn, by an Israeli policeman, who reportedly shot him at point blank range in occupied East Jerusalem. The policeman was placed under house arrest for five days.

Worker dies of heart attack during army chase
HEBRON (Ma’an) — A Palestinian worker died of a heart attack on Monday after being chased by Israeli forces as he tried to enter Jerusalem from Hebron, medics told Ma’an.  A source with the Palestine Red Crescent Society said Shahda Muhammad Hussein Karja, 55, from Halhul, likely sustained a stress-induced heart attack during the chase. The source also said Karja had inhaled tear gas deployed by forces during the pursuit.

Palestinian struck by car driven by settler
HEBRON (Ma’an) — A Palestinian was hospitalized Sunday after he was hit by a car driven by an Israeli settler near Hebron, witnesses said.  Samir Abu Merya was struck on the Beit Ummar junction north of the West Bank city and transferred to hospital, onlookers said.

Settlers clash with Jerusalemite family, settler runs over youth
Israeli settlers attacked Al-Qarsh family in Al-Sa’diya neighborhood in occupied Jerusalem and tried to remove their furniture from their house. The settlers claim they own the house.

IOF troops advance into eastern Gaza during funeral of minister’s wife
Israeli occupation forces (IOF) mounting tanks advanced into eastern Gaza city on Sunday during the funeral procession of the wife of Palestinian health minister Basem Naim.


Human rights groups demand release of political detainees in WB
Two Palestinian human rights groups on Sunday demanded the immediate release of Sheikh Khader Adnan, an Islamic Jihad leader, and all political detainees in the West Bank jails.

IDF bars Arab teen’s lawyer from abuse testimony
Military Police refuses to allow a lawyer to attend as 15-year-old Palestinian gives account of alleged attack on him by Israeli soldiers.

Report: Israel arrested 485 Palestinians last month
A report issued by Palestine’s supreme national committee to support prisoners said Israeli occupation forces have ramped up in this last month of September arrest campaigns against Palestinians.

Minister pledges support to boy under Israeli house arrest
HEBRON (Ma’an) — Minister of Prisoners Affairs Issa Qaraqe was received on Friday by the family of a 13-year-old Hebron boy on Friday, days after the child’s release from Israeli prison.  Karem Khaled Da’na, from the Wad Al-Bustan neighborhood in the West Bank city of Hebron, was taken from his family home by Israeli forces on 22 September, who said he had thrown stones at settlers on his way home from school.

Israeli military court releases minor on bail
HEBRON (Ma’an) — An Israeli military court in the Ofer detention center in the central West Bank district of Ramallah released a minor on Monday on bail of 5,000 shekels.  Layers for the Prisoner Society in Hebron the military prosecution originally delayed the release of Sayil Ribhi Abu Qweidary 72 hours to file an appeal against the court’s decision. Abu Qweidar was detained on 27 September, days after 13-year-old Akram Da’an was detained by Israeli forces and tried for throwing stones at troops.

In photos: Palestinians call for prisoner release

War Crimes

Filmmaker Ken Loach, writer Arundhati Roy and Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire Read from the Goldstone Report
Goldstone Facts-Chapter 10, Indiscriminate Attacks by Israeli Armed Forces

“Peace” Talks/Political Developments

Lieberman ‘key’ to cabinet vote on settlement freeze
Netanyahu must win backing from skeptical foreign minister to push through decision to prolong West bank building ban, top officials say.

Lieberman: Obama trying to force agreement on Israel
FM tells fellow Yisrael Beiteinu members US wants two-month settlement freeze to draft peace deal that would mean two states for two people along 1967 borders. On controversial UN speech: I wanted to tell the world the truth as I see it.,7340,L-3963557,00.html

Yesha chair: US’ offer is poisonous pill
Danny Dayan says he hopes Prime Minister Netanyahu will withstand US’ pressure over settlement freeze; adds conceding will put Israel in clear disadvantage for duration of peace talks,7340,L-3962806,00.html

Other News

Palestinians invest $2 billion in Jericho to celebrate its 10,000th birthday
The idea of celebrating the 10,000-year anniversary of the city arose after the millennium celebrations in 2000, which focused primarily on tourist sites connected to Jesus.

Police mishandled probe into Israeli Arab riot deaths, report finds
Three cases against police officers who shot dead Israeli Arabs in riots in October 2000 were improperly closed, Israel Democracy Institute claims.

MK wants Neturei Karta classified as terrorists
After being attacked by sect members in Mea Shearim, National Union chairman Yaakov Katz promotes bill aiming to classify Sikrikim as members of terrorist organization for their activities against state institutions.,7340,L-3960241,00.html

After France, Israel considers ‘banning the burqa’
All clothing that covers the face in a public place would be banned, but the proposed law would affect mainly Muslim women.

Obama uses Weekly Address to lobby for Israeli firm BrightSource, Ali Abunimah
But in light of the fact that BrightSource is effectively based in Israel — and that’s where all the R&D happens — the president’s claim to be supporting ‘American innovation’ is at best disingenuous. Obama is scaring Americans about “handing the competitive edge to China” while quietly giving it to Israel.
Israel mulling enlisting Facebook for the home front in future battles
JERUSALEM, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) — Israeli army officials say they are planning to use the Facebook social networking site in order to alert and inform the Israeli public during future conflicts.  The idea is to immediately alert people of possible threats, including missile strikes.  An Israel Defense Forces’ home front command population department official confirmed the report to the Ha’aretz newspaper, although a final decision has not yet been made over using the widely popular website.

Video: The Palestinian Oktoberfest 2010
Ramallah – PNN – on Saturday the Palestinian Oktoberfest 2010 started in the small village of Taybe in central West Bank.

Analysis/Opinion/Human Interest

Israel’s Arab Citizens Are Not a Negotiating Chip,  Jonathan Cook
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has insisted from the launch of the current peace talks that the Palestinians set no preconditions, while making his own precondition the centerpiece of negotiations. Netanyahu has said talks are futile unless the Palestinians and their leader, Mahmoud Abbas, first recognize Israel as a Jewish state. “I recognized the Palestinians’ right to self-definition, so they must do the same for the Jewish people,” he told American Jewish leaders recently.  Netanyahu, of the right-wing Likud Party, is not the first Israeli leader to make such a requirement of the Palestinians. His predecessor, Tzipi Livni, the leader of the centrist opposition, wanted the same recognition. Barak, the defense minister and head of the supposedly left-wing Labor Party, also supports this position. The consensus on this matter, however, masks a reluctance by Israeli politicians to clarify what exactly is being expected of the Palestinians and why recognition is so important.

‘We were supposed to enter quietly – instead we threw grenades’, Amira Hass
IDF soldiers speak out about the climate of fear during their West Bank service.

Yalla! Let’s build,  Akiva Eldar
Instead of suspending construction for Jews, let’s resume construction for all West Bank residents.

Josh Ruebner: Obama’s Misplaced Missive
As the clock ticks closer toward an ignominious end to the Obama Administration’s ill-conceived gambit to reconvene direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, President Obama appears desperate to keep the talks alive, as revealed on Wednesday in accounts of a letter he purportedly sent to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

speaking of that broken Israeli culture, Max Ajl
6,000 Israeli Arabs marched today amidst a call for a general strike in commemoration of 13 boys who Israeli police officers murdered in October 2000. They marched from a town in the Galilee, Kfar Kanna. MK Ahmed Tibi said that “Failure to put the criminals on trial is like making sure the victims are really dead,” and added that Israeli racism has mounted since October 2000: it has now reached what he calls “frightening levels”–structural and cultural racism has practically suffused Israeli society, while the left is mostly silent, in retreat and disarray. A few weeks ago, I had some unkind words for Bernard Avishai’s polemic against Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. I think extended intellectual disquisitions arguing against BDS should be dissected and countered for the simple reason that there is nothing else for activists to do internally or externally right now. Without something to do, we fall quiescent or fall into ineffectiveness. Maybe more weirdly, we call for Palestinian non-violence and have cat-fights about its efficacy and the appropriate level of nuance to integrate into such a call, as though we have absolutely anything to do with Palestinian society’s ability-or-not to mount a non-violent Third Intifada.

The Extraordinary Rendition of Palestine, Mazin Qumsiyeh
It has been a rather bizarre week in the Middle East.  Let me just cite a few examples:  The International Atomic Agency (IAEA) succumbed to pressure from the US and other western countries and thus failed to make any explicit or even implicit request of Israel to join the nonproliferation treaty.  One of the excuses given is that there is a delicate peace process going and we do not want to upset the situation (i.e. upset Israel).

Israel keeps moving the goalposts
From children playing soccer in the street, to the superstars playing in the Champions League final, everyone accepts that one should not play the game if the other side keeps moving the goalposts.


Syria Seeks Arrests Over Hariri Probe – General
BEIRUT (Reuters) – A Lebanese general held for four years over the killing of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri said Sunday a Syrian judge had issued arrest warrants for 33 people over false testimony to investigators.


Iraqi cameraman killed in bomb attack near Baghdad
BAGHDAD, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) — An Iraqi cameraman working for a U. S.-based television was killed in a bomb attack west of Baghdad on Monday, while a senior police officer was wounded by a separate bomb attack in Baghdad during the day, the police said.  Tahreer Kadhem, a cameraman of the al-Hurra Arabic language American satellite channel, was killed when a sticky bomb attached to his car detonated while he was driving near a bridge in Garma area near the city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of Baghdad, a local police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Bomb hits Iraqi minister’s convoy
Bodyguard killed and seven people injured in bombing apparently targeting deputy minister, who escaped unharmed.

US War Crimes in Fallujah, Steve Lendman
On August 31, declaring an “end to the combat mission in Iraq,” Obama disgracefully said: “Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United Stated and Iraq, we have met our responsibility,” infamously displaying his culpability as a war criminal, matching the worst America ever produced. Daily he proves it in Iraq, Afghanistan, and by reckless global marauding.

Iraq oil reserves overtake Iran’s (AFP)
AFP – Iraq reported on Monday a sharp rise in proven oil reserves that saw it leapfrog Iran into third place worldwide, as the war-battered country seeks to rebuild its crude-dependent economy.*

Water sports popularity rise in Baghdad
The Iraqi capital Baghdad has often been associated with explosions and violence. At one point, the Tigris river that runs through the city was used as a dumping area for dead bodies. But now it’s becoming popular with water-sport enthusiasts. Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh reports from Baghdad.


Israel scrambles to prevent Ahmadinejad’s Lebanon visit
BEIRUT: Israel is urging international diplomats to push Lebanon into canceling next week’s visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, media reports said on Sunday. Ahmadinejad is expected to arrive in Lebanon on Wednesday, October 13 for his first official visit to the country since assuming office in 2005.

The Listening Post – Ahmadinejad’s media blitz
On The Listening Post this week we look at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s media blitz in New York: there were interviews, press conferences and photo-ops but back in Iran the media remain tight lipped and under pressure. We also explore the challenges of reporting in Japan in an interview with Jake Adelstein, an American journalist who has made Tokyo his turf for the past 20 years.

IRAN VERSUS SANCTIONS, Part 1 : A history of failure
Three decades of United States-led sanctions against Iran have failed to bring the country to heel even as they have benefited politicians and others in Tehran who are supposed to be subdued by US policy. Given the history of sanctions, that should be of little surprise to Washington. – Hossein Askari

U.S. and other world news

Afghan civilians killed in NATO raid-police
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Oct 3 (Reuters) – At least three Afghan civilians were killed in a NATO air strike targeting senior Taliban commanders in southern Helmand province at the weekend, the provincial police chief said on Sunday.  The spreading insurgency has made this year the bloodiest in Afghanistan since it began, after the Taliban were overthrown in late 2001. Civilians are increasingly caught up in the violence as victims of both sides.

Thousands of liberals rally in US
Labour unions, civil rights activists and others gather to show support for Democrats and counter Tea Party rallies.

Harry Belafonte: Iraq & Afghanistan Wars Are “Immoral, Unconscionable and Unwinnable”
“The President’s decision to escalate the war in that region alone costs the nation 33 billion dollars,” the legendary musician, actor and activist Harry Belafonte said at Saturday’s “One Nation Working Together” in Washington. “That sum of money could not only create 600,000 jobs here in America but would even leave us a few billion to start rebuilding our schools, our roads, our hospitals and affordable housing. It could also help to rebuild the lives of the thousands of our returning wounded veterans.”

Justice in the US
“In 2005, 15-year-old Ashley was facing trial in Manhattan Family Court for lying to police after she told officers she didn’t know who had assaulted her on the way to school.  As she waited in the court’s holding area for her court appearance, juvenile counselor Tony “Tyson” Simmons came up to the handcuffed girl, took her in an elevator to the building’s basement, and raped her.  Moments later, Ashley — who’s withholding her last name for fear of reprisal — was in the courtroom being sentenced to 12 months in prison for filing a false police report. This week, Simmons was sentenced to 10 years’ probation for the sexual assault on Ashley and two other teens.

Saudi women fight in court for control of their marital fates
RIYADH: Women in Saudi Arabia are fighting back against tribal traditions that make them hostage to the whims of their fathers and male guardians who alone can decide who their future husbands will be.

Early front runners for the Israel Project’s ‘Best Shots of Israel’ contest

Oct 04, 2010

Adam Horowitz 

We’ve received a bunch of entries for the Israel Project’s “Best Shots of Israel” contest. Here are some of our favorites – please keep sending then in!

Eleanor Kilroy sent this one saying, “This was taken of me with an adolescent soldier and local kid by a friend, Benjamin Hovland, January 2010, as a group of soldiers guarded Jewish settlers who were being taken on the weekly Shabbat tour of Hebron/al-Khalil’s old city.”

Hannah Schwarzschild sent the photo on the right to the Israel Project along with the description: “As my entry in The Israel Project’s photo contest, here is my “colorful photo that shows the full variety of daily life in Israel.” The photo dates from February 2008.”

Alisa Solomon sent this: “Here’s my entry: stencil graffiti I noticed in Tel Aviv, January 2009 (caption shows the common expression of refusal, “don’t want, don’t need,” playing on Herzl’s famous Zionist slogan, “If you want it, it is no dream.” )”

Jora Ehrlich sent the photo on the left to the Israel Project with the note, “The most enduring image I have.” Ehrlich took the photo at one of the weekly demos against the wall in the West Bank village of Al-Masara.

The Wall was also a popular theme in the photos we received. Shaina Adams-El Guabli sent the photo below to the Israel Project with the note, “Here is my photo entry for the “Best Shots of Israel” competition. I think it really shows the “full variety of daily life in Israel”; I had so many photos to choose from, but this one really stands out for me. It was taken in May 2005.”

And Nova McGiffert sent this photo on the right with an email saying, “Here is my submission for the photo contest about daily life in Israel!”

Finally here is a submission from Luke Powell with the description “Synagogue in Mea Sharim, Jerusalem, Israel, 1980, ©Leslit Garrett, 2010.

Halper: American Jews (and the Congress) don’t want an Israel at peace

Oct 04, 2010

Philip Weiss 

For anyone who tries to imagine a life of meaning amid inhumane circumstances, Jeff Halper is a hero. The Minnesota-born founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Halper has for decades now dedicated himself to Palestinian human rights, resisting the occupation by helping Palestinians try to defy Israeli power. Above, he drinks tea in a Palestinian friend’s house that has been destroyed by settlers five times– and that he has five times helped rebuild.

In West Jerusalem last week, Halper bought salami and rolls at a corner store and then walked me back to his house, whose crowded bookshelves and humble furnishings are a reminder that he has been both a rabbinical student and an academic and author. Over lunch, I asked him about the politics of the conflict. What is the answer?

“I go with the flow, except there is no flow today.” Halper said that he personally favors the one-state solution but he is respectful of the fact that world consensus has long supported two states. 

“It’s not hard to do actually. But you’d have to put massive pressure on Israel to do it. And that’s where I think we’re stuck. The United States cannot bring pressure because of the Congress, and that is the absolute necessary condition, pressure.

“But I will tell you my formula for peace. You say to Israel three things. Obama and the international community have to say it.

“One, We love you. Israelis love to hear that. That’s where Sadat succeeded. He hugged Golda [Meir] and the Israelis melted. They just melted.” That is why Israel yielded the Sinai so easily in the end after a lot of bluster. “Obama would come and speak at the Knesset, Abu Mazen would go to Yad Vashem.

“Two, we will guarantee your security. Israelis are not committed to the occupation for ideological reasons, most Israelis aren’t, but because they don’t trust Arabs. If you can allay their fears that withdrawal won’t lead to Sderot, then they will do it… There are security arrangements that could be found to satisfy the Israeli public.

“Three, you say the occupation’s over. Period. You’re out of every square inch… Maybe parts of Gush Etzion would be swapped, but we’re back to the 1967 borders. And the Jewish Quarter in a shared Jerusalem, not a divided Jerusalem. The only resource Jerusalem has is its religious symbolism, and you want to give all the stakeholders a feeling of ownership.

“If that scenario were followed, you’d have dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv. This is what Israelis want. They want security. They don’t want to see Palestinians. This is what Ehud Barak ran on in 1999, for Labor. ‘Us here, them there.’ That’s what Israelis want, and that’s what the two state solution would do.”

And the likelihood of this coming to pass?

“Maybe 1-1/2 percent of Israelis are ideological settlers. But in the Knesset, the settlers have two or three parties. So this 1-1/2 percent controls the government.  If you had a referendum on the two state solution the vast majority of Jews would agree. But this is so unlikely, that you go back to the one state solution. Which is equally unlikely.”

Of course Halper would be happy living in a democracy with Palestinians. I asked him why so many Israelis don’t feel that way. 

“There is a principle inculcated in Israelis and Jews from before 1948, by all politicians, newscasters, teachers, journalists, any official, and that is that the Arabs are our permanent enemies. And that’s it! And if you take that as an unchanging premise, then it doesn’t matter what is being done to Palestinians.They brought it on themselves.

“You can’t trust the Arabs. That makes everything else a non-issue… Yitzhak Shamir said, ‘The Jews are still the Jews, the Arabs are still the Arabs, and the sea is still the sea.’ Which means, it’s just the way it is, it’s nature. Arabs are what they are, and we are what we are, and nothing’s going to change that….”

But are Israelis even aware of the tapestry of suffering that is the occupation, and what this does to Palestinian lives? 

“Israelis don’t care. Because they’re living the good life. Polls show that peace is the 8th issue in priority for Israelis. It’s like that cover ot Time magazine, Israel doesn’t  want peace. I’ve been saying that for years…. And the Israeli government thinks it’s sustainable, they think they can keep this going for another 40 years. They have no idea that we’re living on borrowed time.

“And Israel is not going to cooperate and is not going to negotiate in good faith. Because of the Congress. The only way to go to some kind of peace is by exerting pressure on Israel, which the U.S. could do easily, but the president can’t do. And Israel feels completely protected. The U.S. can’t do anything to Israel, and it won’t let anyone else do anything to Israel. We start building settlements, and it’s, ‘So what?’”

I said that the status quo will bring on violence. Halper said he doubts it.

“It’s too sewn up. Israel is too much in control. Israeli soldiers are every ten feet in the West Bank… Israel is knocking off Palestinian leaders all the time.” And the natural source of Palestinian leadership is all in Israeli jails, 12,000 Palestinians– “I use the term warehousing”– and Palestinian society is rife with collaborators, from the Palestinian Authority on down. 

Where’s the hope?

“I don’t use the word hope, I use the word struggle. There’s a struggle going on…”

The good news is that now it’s globalized: the United States is becoming more and more isolated on this issue.

“I don’t think Americans appreciate how isolated they are internationally. This is now a global conflict, and so you have the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. The irresistible force is– the EU can make things hard on Israel economically, and the whole Muslim world can be up in arms, and you have BDS, Turkey, isolating Israel, and the international community saying that this is too costly to accept forever. But then the immovable object is the U.S. Congress.”

What about the Arab dictatorships, aren’t they implicated in the arrangement?

 “Mubarak and Asad have no support from their people on this, but they’re kept going because of the conflict. Syria once had a vibrant constitutional process. It got all messed up because of the occupation and the refugees. Nationalism, the right to return….

“This conflict is the bone in the throat of the world. It’s not the biggest thing, but it’s the most immediate thing, and it could kill you. You can’t deal with the cancer and the other diseases till you deal with the bone in your throat.

 “And rather than [complain about] the repressiveness of the Arab countries, we should get rid of this occupation and I think you will see a whole new dynamic in the Middle East…. My allies, my brothers and sisters, are civil society groups in the Arab world. In Syria, they’re fighting the good fight. In Libya, in Tunisia, it’s not that easy in autocracies, but in all these societies, you have democratic liberal progressive people… It’s not us against them. The clash of civilizations is an essentialist argument, and it’s not true… Within a week of [an end to the conflict] that would all dissipate and there would be plans to develop this whole area.”

Finally I asked Halper about Zionism, the growing battle in the U.S. between non-Zionist and Zionist Jews. He laughed.

“Arguing about Zionism is like the battle in the United States 200 years ago between having a Hamiltonian democracy and a Jeffersonian democracy. Who cares any more? This is a a real country called Israel.”

Then he told American Jews to bug out. He goes back to the States a lot, and talks to American Jews. “They don’t care about Israel. If you actually tell them what is happening here [in rightwing Israeli politics], their eyes glaze over. It’s not a real place to these people, it’s there to meet their needs. They need this idealized Leon Uris Israel to maintain their identity. If they came here, they wouldn’t like it.

“Well this is a real country. It’s not some projection of what you want it to be, and it has a right to evolve and change…. [American Jews] can’t have an Israel at peace because that doesn’t do it for them. They need an Israel at war, so they can galvanize their sense of Jewishness around it…”

Lunch was over. Halper walked me down the hill and pointed me to the walkways leading to the Israel Museum.

Exhibit a: Muhammad cartoons

Oct 04, 2010

Philip Weiss 

Exhibit b: Helen Thomas

Exhibit c: Rick Sanchez

Israel’s Palestinian citizens are not a negotiating chip

Oct 04, 2010

Jonathan Cook 

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has insisted from the launch of the current peace talks that the Palestinians set no preconditions, while making his own precondition the centrepiece of negotiations. Mr Netanyahu has said talks are futile unless the Palestinians and their leader, Mahmoud Abbas, first recognise Israel as a Jewish state. “I recognised the Palestinians’ right to self-definition, so they must do the same for the Jewish people,” he told American Jewish leaders recently.

Mr Netanyahu, of the rightwing Likud party, is not the first Israeli leader to make such a requirement of the Palestinians. His predecessor Tzipi Livni, the leader of the centrist opposition, wanted the same recognition. Mr Barak, the defence minister and head of the supposedly left-wing Labor party, also supports this position. The consensus on this matter, however, masks a reluctance by Israeli politicians to clarify what exactly is being expected of the Palestinians and why recognition is so important.

Mr Netanyahu clearly does not simply want the fact of Israel’s existence acknowledged. That is in no doubt and, anyway, the Israeli state has been recognised by the Palestinian leadership since the late 1980s. It is recognition of the state’s Jewishness, not its existence, that matters.

Debate on this subject focuses on Israel’s desire to stifle the threat of a right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees. Though doubtless a consideration, that explanation hardly suffices. It is clear to everyone that the refugees are one of the main issues to be settled in the negotiations. Should all other obstacles to Palestinian statehood be removed, it is almost certain the United States and international community would work to make that particular mountain a molehill.

More likely, the demand for recognition is directed chiefly at another party: the fifth of Israel’s population who are Palestinian – the remnants of the Palestinian people who stayed on their land during the great dispossession of 1948, the nakba, and eventually gained Israeli citizenship. They are only nominally represented at the talks by their state, Israel. Instead, Mr Netanyahu hopes to use the promise of statehood to induce Mr Abbas to sacrifice the interests of Israel’s Palestinian citizens. The Palestinian minority’s leaders, who have been lobbying Mr Abbas hard in the run-up to the talks, understand what Mr Netanyahu’s demand for recognition entails.

During the early years of the Oslo peace process, when a concession on Palestinian statehood appeared to be drawing nearer, the positions of Israel’s Palestinian and Jewish leaders polarised. The assumption of Israeli politicians was that Palestinian citizens would soon either declare loyalty to a Jewish state – effectively become Zionists – or be “transferred” to the coming Palestinian state.

Faced with this challenge, Israel’s Palestinian leaders encouraged a civil rights movement, demanding equality and an end to Jewish privilege. Their campaign, under the slogan “a state of all its citizens”, implied the end of Israel as a Jewish state and its transformation into a liberal democracy. Over the past decade, during the years of the second intifada, relations between the two communities deteriorated further, with the Palestinian minority now routinely accused of being traitors.

Mr Netanyahu’s latest demand should, therefore, be understood as a cynical move to bypass his own Palestinian constituency and persuade Mr Abbas to negotiate away the rights of Israel’s Palestinian citizens on his behalf.

If the Palestinian president does recognise Israel as a Jewish state, the campaign by Israel’s Palestinian citizens to reform their country into a true democracy will be over. Mr Netanyahu will have Palestinian backing to label the reformers a fifth column and expel them to the slivers of West Bank territory he may intend to call a Palestinian state.

In the meantime, he will also have Palestinian permission to institute a loyalty drive of the kind already being advanced through the Israeli parliament. Loyalty tests for individual Palestinian citizens, and the dismantlement of the Palestinian parties in the parliament unless they sign up as Zionists, would be the first measures. Rounds of expulsions could be expected later.

If all this sounds familiar, it is because much the same programme was laid out by Israel’s foreign minister last week during his controversial speech at the United Nations general assembly. Mr Lieberman’s plan for an “exchange of populations” would initially require border changes to force hundreds of thousands of Palestinian citizens into a Palestinian “interim state” in return for the inclusion of West Bank settlements, some deep in Palestinian territory, in the newly expanded Jewish state.

There is one flaw in Mr Lieberman’s scheme. Many Palestinian citizens, such as those in the Galilee, are not near the West Bank and could not be exchanged through land swaps. His election slogan – “No loyalty, no citizenship” – tells the rest of a plan he has revealed to Israelis but not directly to the international community.

Although American Jewish leaders decried Mr Lieberman’s use of the UN platform to reveal a proposal that officially counters his own government’s policy, Mr Netanyahu baffled observers by remaining demure. His officials publicly distanced him from the scheme, but then privately told the Israeli media that the prime minister did not think the plan illegitimate and that he would not “chastise” Mr Lieberman.

Mr Netanyahu’s silence should not surprise us. His foreign minister may be speaking more bluntly than other Israeli politicians, but he speaks for them nonetheless.

Jonathan Cook is the National’s correspondent in Nazareth. His latest book is Disappearing Palestine.

A Call for Support: The trial of Ameer Makhoul enters a new phase

Oct 04, 2010

Hatim Kanaaneh 

The campaign to free Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and political and human rights activist falsely accused of espionage, has achieved significant advances. Makhoul’s attorneys challenged the legality of the circumstances of his arrest and undermined the prosecution’s core allegations against him on September 16th in the Haifa District Court. State Prosecutors admitted that no evidence of espionage had been found in any of the computers and cellular phones seized from Makhoul’s home and office. Nor was any evidence of espionage found, they admitted, in the transcripts of thirty thousand wiretapped telephone conversations.

Makhoul’s lawyers further secured a ruling from the Nazareth District Court, September 14th, upholding Makhoul’s right to direct and confidential access to counsel. Makhoul’s right to counsel as a citizen of Israel had been routinely violated by prison authorities, who had been officially and conspicuously wire-tapping his conversations, conducted across glass barriers via telephone, with his lawyers.


Sixteen members of Israel Security Agency, commonly known in English as the Shin Bet, abducted Mr. Makhoul from his home at 3:00 am on May 6th, 2010. They searched his home and office, seizing personal items belonging to Makhoul and his family, as well as office equipment, documents and databases. Makhoul was detained incommunicado. A sweeping “gag order” was placed on the case forbidding publication by Israeli media of any information relating to the interrogation and the arrest. For twelve days he was subjected to torturous interrogation techniques including excessively prolonged sleep deprivation—a technique Makhoul’s interrogators have openly stated they used. When Makhoul complained of being in excruciating pain, the Shin Bet interrogators cuffed his legs to a chair with shortened legs and threatened that he would be permanently crippled from the interrogation.

Three weeks after his detention, Makhoul was charged with espionage, assistance to the enemy in a time of war, contact with a foreign agent, and other trumped up security charges. When he finally appeared in open court, Makhoul categorically denied the relevance of all charges against him.

On June 14th, State Prosecutors announced their possessing of ‘Secret Evidence’ against Makhoul. That evidence, they stated, would not be disclosed to his legal defense team for security reasons. Meanwhile, Makhoul’s repeated requests for a medical exam and blood test by an independent doctor from the Association of Physicians for Human Rights were continually postponed. Makhoul was unable to discuss these matters with his lawyers without having his conversations wiretapped.

Public Committee for the Defense of Ameer Makhoul Established

The Committee for the Defense of Ameer Makhoul was established in a public meeting held at the headquarters of the Galilee Society for Health Research and Services in Shafa Amr on September 8th. Participating in the meeting were 47 representatives of grassroots networks and professional associations, as well as concerned Jewish and Arab public figures. At this meeting, the Committee and those it represents assumed collective responsibility for the defense of Ameer Makhoul. It took such a step for the following reasons.

Ameer Makhoul was not arrested as an individual. He was not arrested due to any serious contention that he conducted illegal activities–let alone espionage. Makhoul was arrested to send a message to Palestinian citizens of Israel. That message was formulated by extreme right wing parties in the current Israeli government. They are targeting Makhoul because he is a legal, legitimate, and effective voice of a politically disadvantaged group –Israel’s Palestinian Arab citizens.

Makhoul has been a voice of this disadvantaged group of Israeli citizens in numerous public meetings around the world. He is internationally recognized as a human rights defender and as a member of international coalitions and networks of international and regional organizations. In his capacities as Chairman of the Public Committee for the Protection of Political Freedoms in Israel and as General Director of Ittijah –a network of Arab NGOs in Israel with consultative status in the United Nations Economic and Social Council —Makhoul regularly encounters and talks to citizens of foreign countries—including Arab countries. Simply talking to another Arab does not constitute espionage in the legal framework of Israel or any other country. But contacting an Arab colleague seems to be the core of the espionage charges against Makhoul.

In 2009, the Shin Bet promised Ameer Makhoul that they would “tailor a file for his disappearance and prolonged separation from his family” if he would not tone down his political and human rights activism. They were incensed by his legal, outspoken statements against Israel’s 2009 invasion of Gaza and his repeated reference to Israel’s use of phosphorus bombs against civilian populations in Gaza –including a majority of children. Spurious charges of espionage, the use of illegal interrogation techniques, and fabricated claims of evidence that evaporate in the open air seem to fulfill that threat to disappear Makhoul. Amnesty International has called his arrest and continued detention “pure harassment designed to hinder his human rights work.”

The Tasks at Hand for All of Us

The Committee for the Defense of Ameer Makhoul faces two urgent tasks. But first, we want to note what has already been achieved—despite all of the obstacles. A gag order against discussion of Makhoul’s case crumbled – thanks to appeals by the defense, community protest and solidarity and Israeli and foreign bloggers who ignored the order and opened the way to public pressure. The legal team has won important victories. Illegal practices of prison authorities that violated citizens’ right to counsel have been waylaid.

The obstacle presented by state prosecutors’ invocation of “secret evidence” to silence activists remains to be challenged and ultimately undermined. The incrimination of talking to foreigners must be challenged as well. Already, it has become a tiny bit harder, we hope, for Israel to lock up intellectuals and activists under vague charges of “contact with a foreign agent” in the global village of the internet era.

Now, we have urgent and specific tasks at hand. The Committee for the Defense of Ameer Makhoul is working to mobilize legal and medical international observers for the trial of Ameer Makhoul and to raise funds to cover lawyer fees and related expenses for Makhoul’s defense. We have launched local publicity and fundraising campaigns to achieve those goals. We need your help to make our efforts even more effective.

We reach out to the friends of Ameer and supporters of his work on behalf of Palestinian citizens of Israel and human rights victims everywhere. At this critical moment, we ask for your direct involvement in the campaign for his freedom. Ameer’s trial is scheduled to proceed Tuesday October 5th. The time is now for you to get involved.

All interested individuals and groups are invited to contact the Chairman of the Committee for the Defense of Ameer Makhoul: Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh –

Checks can be made out to The Committee for Defense of Ameer Makhoul

Account details for direct bank transfers are as follows:

Bank: Arab Israel Bank- ltd.
Bank no.: 34.
Branch no.: 001 Haifa.
Beneficiary Name: The Committee for Defense of Ameer Makhoul- Haifa.
Account Humber IBAN= IL 890340010000000818780 (8187/80)
Swift Code: Lumiilittlv- 794 Branch

Online donations can be made through Pay pal.

What Obama hasn’t changed about the peace process

Oct 04, 2010

Maggie Sager

Forgive my cynicism, but you will not see me holding my breath in anticipation of a comprehensive and just conclusion to the Arab-Israeli conflict, not this time around, not even with Mr. Change himself at the helm of negotiations. To illustrate my point, and for the benefit of all of you following along at home, let me recap what hasn’t changed with the most recent incarnation of peace talks:

The Past: Israel has done its best to extort the United States government in exchange for participation in or acceptance of peace initiatives.

For example, in exchange for Israel’s participation at the 1991 Madrid Conference, the United States was forced to instrument the revocation of UN Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism (the ideological foundation of which presumes that Jews as a distinct ethnic group have exclusive and special rights in contrast with other ethnic groups) with racism (the ideological foundation of which presumes that a distinct ethnic group has exclusive and special rights in contrast with other ethnic groups).

In another instance, President Nixon was only able to persuade the Knesset to formally accept UN Resolution 242, which called for withdrawal from the territories Israel captured in 1967 (and to this day still occupies in part, in contravention of international law) by giving “private assurances that Israel would receive additional US aircraft,” according to John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy. Similarly, “[Israel’s] acceptance of the cease-fire that ended the so-called War of Attrition with Egypt…was bought by a US pledge to accelerate aircraft deliveries to Israel, to provide advanced electronic countermeasures against Egypt’s Soviet-supplied anti-aircraft missiles, and, more generally, to maintain the balance of power.”

In fact, as Mearsheimer and Walt point out:

This pattern continued though the 1970’s, with Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter pledging ever-larger sums of aid in the course of the disengagement talks with Egypt and during the negotiations that lead to the 1978 Camp David Accords and the 1979 Egypt-Israeli Peace Treaty…In much the same way, the Clinton administration gave Israel increased assistance as part of the peace treaty with Jordan in 1994, and Clinton’s efforts to advance the Oslo peace process led him to pledge an additional $1.2 billion in military ai to Israel to win Israel’s acceptance of the 1998 Wye Agreement [which Netanyahu promptly suspended].

Before being supplanted by Iraq in 2005, Israel was the number one annual recipient of US foreign aid, followed by Egypt and Jordan respectively. It is common knowledge that Egypt and Jordan receive these US funds with the precondition that they maintain peaceful relations with Israel. In this way, the US essentially picks up the tab for Israeli aggression.

The Present: According to Ynetnews among other sources, Israel’s leading Likud party has demanded concessions and guarantees from the Obama Administration in exchange for extending its settlement “freeze,” despite the fact that the entire international community including the United States regards these settlements as completely illegal. Apparently Obama is taking the bait, though the specifics of his pay-off to the Israeli mob are disputed.  The Guardian reports that Obama sent Netanyahu a letter which requests a “60-day renewal of the freeze. In return, Obama guarantees to demand no further extensions, to ensure that the future of Jewish settlements would become part of final status negotiations, and to veto any United Nations Security Council resolution relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the next year, while talks continue. He pledges to support a continued Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley after the establishment of a Palestinian state. The letter also acknowledges Israel’s security needs and the need to upgrade its defense capabilities, and promises to consult Israel and the Arab states on US policy on Iran.”

The Past: When carrots don’t work, the US has with increasing rarity attempted to use sticks to incentivize Israeli compliance with US policy objectives. In the past 30 years, Israel has come to understand such threats as purely symbolic gestures, as no president has made good on their harsh words.

Case in point: Mearsheimer and Walt point out, “In 1991, the first Bush administration pressured the Shamir government to stop building settlements and to attend  a planned peace conference by withholding the $10 billion loan guarantee, but the suspension lasted only a few months and the guarantees were approved once Yitzhak Rabin replaced Shamir as prime minister.” While Israel agreed to halt construction of new settlements, it continued to expand the existing blocs and the settlements grew at a rate almost 10 times faster than the natural growth of Israel Proper’s population.

The Present: In the first week of January, under the direction of Obama, Middle East Envoy George Mitchell had stern words for the Israeli government, threatening to withhold aid if the country did not make decisive moves toward peace, including making good on its promise to halt settlement construction. However, just as before, Israel called Mitchell’s bluff, holding the moratorium in word more than deed, as new settlement construction only decreased by 50%, existing blocs grew, and Israel continued to seize Palestinian land. Even as the moratorium has expired, directly resulting in the cessation of negotiations, aid to Israel is not in jeopardy.

The Past: In 1975 President Reagan and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were becoming impatient with Israel’s “intransigence to disengage with Egypt” as Mearsheimer put it. Both called for a reassessment of US aid to Israel, but were stymied by an AIPAC-sponsored letter penned by 76 senators concerned with maintaining current levels of military and economic support. Reagan and Kissenger were then forced to pursue other methods of negotiation.

The Present: 87 senators have written a letter to President Obama, whole-heartedly supported by AIPAC, urging him to make sure Abbas does not leave the negotiating table regardless of the resumption of Israeli settlement construction. In response Israel News reports the administration is pressuring Abbas “not to quit the talks regardless of whether Israel extends the moratorium or not.”

The Past: Undermining the US’s stated policy objective of achieving nuclear non-proliferation in the Middle East, Israel is currently the only power in the region known to have nuclear and chemical weapons. President Kennedy eventually relegated on his efforts to have IAEA officials properly appraise Israel’s nuclear ambitions, while President Johnson, confronted with the knowledge that the country had in fact acquired WMD, chose to ignore this reality.

The Present: Last month the IAEA failed to pass a resolution aimed at Israel’s WMD program, with 51 mostly Western countries (spearheaded by the United States) voting against it, citing the possibility that the resolution would undermine peace negotiations. Before the incident, Obama explained his strong opposition to singling out Israel on the issue of non-proliferation. The irony is clearly lost on him.

The Past: In December 1982, during a lame-duck session, Congress attempted to provide a $250 million increase in military aid to Israel in the wake of the invasion of Lebanon, the use of cluster bombs, the illegal use of US weapons for offensive purposes, as well as the IDF’s complicity in the massacres at Sabra and Shatila. Following this move, President Reagan and his new Secretary of State George Shultz reinstituted a 1981 Memorandum of Understanding on strategic cooperation in 1983.

The Present: In the midst of Operation Cast Lead, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and lead to accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Goldstone Report, on January 16th, 2009, Congressed signed a Memorandum of Understanding essentially endorsing the operation  and pledging unconditional support for the State of Israel. While vocal on a number of policy issues before his inauguration, Obama said nothing of this development, and has yet to negatively address the MOU.

For those of us concerned with history, it has become increasingly evident that there is nothing new to discuss. Palestinians are still not represented by a competent, unified or truly legitimate leadership. Israel is still employing the same tired tactics. But what’s most disheartening about the latest spectacle is Obama’s handling of the situation. Far from being the beacon of hope and progress he claimed himself to be in Cairo (does anyone remember, “It’s time for these settlements to stop,” or was I just hearing things?), Obama has shown he is no different from his predecessors.

Maggie Sager is currently a student at Mills College in Oakland, California. You can find her work at

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