Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Israeli Conscientious Objectors

Over 1000 Israelis have declared themselves conscientious objectors, unwilling to fight in the Occupied Territories (or at all). Israel does not recognize international agreements that uphold the right of people to refuse military service for reasons of conscience. Maayan Padan is one of the remarkable young people who have chosen to go to prison repeatedly for the "offence" of peace.

This message comes from New Profile, an Israeli organization dedicated to the demilitarization (or, as they say, "civil-ization") of Israeli society.


CO Maayan Padan has returned to prison for a second term. She was first sentenced to 7 days in prison for her refusal to enlist on 16 May, and then on 21 May she was given 21 more days in prison for staying AWOL between prison terms. Maayan has begun serving her prison term of 28 days in total on 21 May in Military Prison No. 400, and is due to be released on 15 June.

Before returning to prion, Maayan made the following statement:
Today, after my first prison term, I am stronger in my stand, that we should struggle to dismantle military organisations as such and to stop entrenching militarism in society. Children looking up to 'soldier heroes' interpret violent acts in a positive light and shape their characters and worldviews around them. Parents dress their babies as soldiers. Our sould are sacrifised in the name of land, but this sacrifise is a fiction, used as excuse to continue the systematic occupation, oppressing the spirit of the Palestinian people and creating deep grievances eventually leading to the desperate protest of terrorism. It is our duty to pose an alternative and to struggle for its right to exist.
Maayan's prison address is:
Maayan Padan
Military ID 6151802
Military Prison No. 400
Military Postal Code 02447, IDF
Fax: ++972-3-9579348

Recommended Action

First of all, please circulate this message and the information contained in it as widely as possible, not only through e-mail, but also on websites, conventional media, by word of mouth, etc.

Other recommendations for action:

1. Sending Letters of Support

Please send the imprisoned objectors letters of support (preferably postcards or by fax) to the prison addresses above.

2. Letters to Authorities

It is recommended to send letters of protest on behalf of the imprisoned objectors, preferably by fax, to:
Mr. Amir Peretz,
Minister of Defence,
Ministry of Defence,
37 Kaplan St.,
Tel-Aviv 61909,
E-mail: sar@mod.gov.il or pniot@mod.gov.il
Fax: ++972-3-6976711

Copies can be sent to the commanders of the military prisons (note the updated fax number for prison No. 6) at:

Commander of Military Prison No. 6,
Military Prison No. 6,
Military postal number 01860, IDF
Fax: ++972-4-954-05-80 Commander of Military Prison No. 400,
Military Prison No. 400,
Military postal number 02447, IDF
Fax: ++972-3-9579389

Another useful address for sending copies would be the Military Attorney General:
Avichai Mandelblit,
Chief Military Attorney
Military postal code 9605, IDF
Fax: ++972-3-569-43-70

It would be especially useful to send your appeals to the Commander of the Induction Base in Tel-HaShomer. It is this officer that ultimately decides whether an objector is to be exempted from military service or sent to another round in prison:
Amir Rogowski,
Commander of Induction Base,
Baqum, Tel-HaShomer
Military Postal Code 02718, IDF
Fax: ++972-3-737-60-52

Copies of appeals can also be sent to:
Head of Incompatibles Unit
Induction Base (Baqum)
Military Postal Code 02718, IDF
Fax: ++972-3-737-67-05.

For those of you who live outside Israel, it would be very effective to send protests to your local Israeli embassy. You can find the address of your local embassy on the web.

Here is a sample letter, which you can use, or better adapt, in sending appeals to authorities on the prisoners' behalf:

Dear Sir/Madam,

It has come to my attention that [name & military ID], a conscientious objector, has been imprisoned [his/her] refusal to perform military service for the [n-th] time in a row, and is held in Military Prison No. [400/4/6].

The imprisonment of conscientious objectors such as [name] is a violation of international law, of basic human rights and of plain morals. The repeated imprisonment of conscientious objectors is an especially grave offence, as it means sentencing a person more than once for the same offence, and has been judged by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to constitute a clear case arbitrary detention.

I therefore call for the immediate and unconditional release from prison of [name], without threat of further imprisonment in the future.

Sincerely, Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Just Doing My Job

  Posted by Picasa

Appeal from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel

Call for Donations to Aid Palestinian Hospitals

The financial crisis affecting the Palestinian Authority (PA) due to the stoppage of international aid and the freezing of the tax revenue by the state of Israel, has had a grave impact on the Palestinian population in the occupied territories and has led to an acute shortage of basic needs, such as medicines and food.

A number of Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have asked us at Physicians for Human Rights-Israel to assist them in acquiring a number of medicines and medical equipment needed for the daily functions of the hospitals. During visits we have conducted to several hospitals we witnessed the harsh reality of a scarcity of life saving medicines and medical equipment to be used in the operating rooms.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, together with several Israeli peace and human rights groups, began a campaign to raise funds in order to aid the Palestinian areas that were hardest hit as a result of the financial crisis, and to provide, as best we can, some of the urgent medical needs of the Palestinian hospitals, with whom we have been in contact for many years.

Additionally, we are handling individual cases of patients from the occupied territories who have not received permits needed to enter Israel for urgent treatment, or patients that the PA is not paying for their treatment, due to the financial crisis. This activity also involves legal costs.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel feels obligated to support our colleagues working in the Palestinian health system, who in this difficult time are doing all they can in order to grant the best medical service to the Palestinian population, and to aid patients and medical teams who are carrying the burden of this difficult crisis.

We turn to you with this urgent appeal asking that you donate to this activity according to your ability. In light of the urgency of the matter, we ask that those who are able to donate contact us as soon as possible, so that we can begin to transfer the aid immediately. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel plans on organizing shipments within the upcoming days.

We kindly request that you pass this message on to others, with the hope that they will answer our request and join us in this aid mission.

For more information regarding the crisis in the occupied territories:

Ibrahim Habib, Fieldwork Director, +972-54-7577696

Shabtai Gold, Public Outreach, +972-54-4860630

More information about the crisis is available on Physicians for Human Rights website: www.phr.org.il

How to donate:

All of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel’s activities are supported by donations from individuals and organizations. Inside Israel, donations to the organization are recognized as tax deductible. From outside Israel, tax deductible donations can be made through the New Israel Fund.

For more information regarding donations please contact: Daniel Hasson, +972-3-687-3718



Sunday, May 21, 2006

A (mostly) nonviolent demonstration

Uri Avnery
Who's guilty? The victim of course

THOSE WHO listened to the radio news last Saturday heard a stunning report: that Muhammad Abu-Ter and Uri Avnery had barricaded themselves together in a private home in a-Ram.

The very fact that these two - the No. 2 man of Hamas and the notorious Israeli leftist - were together was already shocking enough. But the fact that they had invaded the home of an innocent Palestinian family and barricaded themselves there, like criminals fleeing from the police, was even more staggering.

This false news item would, perhaps, deserve no special mention, if it were not typical of the whole media coverage, not only of this specific demonstration, but of all joint demonstrations of Israeli peace activists and Palestinians. More than that, it throws light on the close connection between the Israeli media and the occupation regime. Without this connection, it is doubtful if the occupation could have lasted for the 39 years it has so far.

Therefore it is worthwhile to analyse the events in detail.

FIRST OF all, the background. A-Ram (that's how the name is spoken, though its written form is al-Ram) was a small Palestinian village north of Jerusalem, on the highway to Ramallah. Since the "unification" of Jerusalem in 1967, the village has become much bigger. The reason: while the Palestinian population doubles every 18 years or so, it is well-nigh impossible to obtain a building permit in East Jerusalem. For lack of an alternative, many Arab East Jerusalemites build homes for their enlarged families in the surrounding villages. A-Ram has in fact become a town, but most of its 50 thousand inhabitants have Jerusalem (i.e. Israeli) identity cards, and their life revolves around Jerusalem. Their work, health services and universities are there. Officially, however, the town belongs to the occupied territories.

When it was decided to build the Separation Wall around Jerusalem, the plan was to cut a-Ram off from the city. Worse: the path of the Wall passes right down the middle of the main street - so that it does not separate between Palestinians and Israelis, but mostly between Palestinians and Palestinians.

To get an idea: it is as if a wall had been built in the middle of Broadway, from 42nd Street to Harlem. Or in the middle of the Champs-Elysees, from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. Or in Berlin, in the middle of the Kurfuerstendamm, from the Memorial Church to the Messegelaende. The two parts of the city and its neighborhoods would be separated by a nine meter high wall.

When this was only in the planning stage, the inhabitants held a number of non-violent demonstrations. To all of them, Israeli peace activists were invited and came. But in the meantime, the monstrous Wall has become reality. It cuts off the holders of Israeli identity cards from the city where their businesses and places of employment are located. It cuts off the pupils from their schools, which are only 100 meters away on the other side of the wall. Not to mention the students who are separated from their universities; the sick, separated from their hospitals; even the dead, separated from their cemeteries.

Now the wall is nearing completion. It is still under discussion in the Supreme Court, but experience shows that that is pretty hopeless. One can still reach the town through an army checkpoint, but even this hole is about to be plugged: the Wall will close off this place, too. In the meantime, in some places there is still a high fence instead of the concrete structure, pending the conclusion of the court proceedings.

In order to protest this, a large Palestinian-Israeli event was planned. It was to be a march in the main street, along the Wall (on the Palestinian side, of course), from the town center to an improvised tribune, where speeches were to be made.

The details were worked out in three planning sessions. In order to underline the non-violent character of the event, it was decided that the schoolchildren, whose schools have been cut off, would march at the head in their school uniforms, their satchels on their backs, accompanied by their teachers. Also, an alternative route was planned for them in case there would be a danger of a clash with the army.

WHEN WE - about 300 Israeli activists of several peace movements - were approaching a-Ram, we were informed that large forces were waiting to block our passage at the checkpoint. Going around them, we reached the wall on the "Israeli" side. At this point there stands a high fence, instead of the concrete structure. We breached it and many demonstrators succeeded in crossing to the "Palestinian" side, into a-Ram, before the army, which was surprised by this move, succeeded in rushing up reinforcements.

In the meantime, the Palestinian demonstration had already started on its way, exactly as planned - at the head a group of boy-scout drummers with their flags, after them the small children of the first class, behind them the other schoolchildren, from small to big, then the main demonstration with posters and flags, led by a row of leaders of all Palestinian parties. The Israeli activists mingled with the Palestinians in order to demonstrate solidarity, and I was invited to join the front row.

That way I found myself walking between Abu-Ter, the Hamas leader who has become famous in Israel not least because of his brightly shining red beard, and the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem affairs, Abu Arafeh, also a Hamas member. Next to them there were the leaders of Fatah, the Popular Front, the Democratic Front and the People's (ex-Communist) Party. We marched arm in arm, and it seemed that the demonstration would pass off peacefully. And then, suddenly, we saw that the road ahead of us was blocked by a large contingent of soldiers and policemen who were waiting for us - rows of soldiers heavily armed from head to foot, in front of them mounted police on their horses and behind them army Humvees.

The first concern was the safety of the children. Their teachers led them into a side street, and we marched slowly on, on our way to the tribune. There could not have been a less threatening sight than the row of notables, arm in arm, walking in front.

ABOUT WHAT happened then I can testify as an eye-witness, and I am prepared to undergo any lie-detector test:

When we were about 50 meters from the concentration of soldiers and horses in the main street of a-Ram, a voice from a megaphone announced that the area had been declared a "Closed Military Zone" and that our demonstration was illegal. While we were standing, facing the soldiers, a huge salvo of tear gas canisters suddenly rained down on us. It was not preceded by any provocation.

Clouds of gas rose up between us, in front and behind. More salvos of stun grenades raised hell, and so we escaped to the nearby houses. I entered the nearest one and found myself in the company of Abu Ter, who received me with great friendliness. Our eyes were burning and tearful, and we could not talk much, but we decided to have a more meaningful conversation soon.

When the gas dispersed, we emerged to join the continuing demonstration. The activists formed again and again on the road, the policemen and soldiers attacked us again and again with tear gas and stun grenades, storming forward in waves - armed and well-protected soldiers, Humvees and police riders (wearing spurs, which are forbidden by Israeli laws for animal protection.)

Only at this stage - and that's the main thing! - did some local children and youngsters start to throw stones at the policemen - stones that could do no damage, since they fell short of the policemen, whose gas launchers have a far longer range. The demo organizers did their best to restrain them, but the anger of the youngsters against the soldiers who had invaded their town was too strong. After two hours, through a dialog with the senior police officer, contact was broken off and the Israeli activists returned home.

In the course of the event, 12 people - seven Palestinians and five Israelis - were detained. The Israelis were released a few hours later, the Palestinians remained in custody, with our lawyers dealing with their cases.

THAT WAS what happened in a-Ram. From then on, it was a story of the media.

The demonstration was widely covered, for two main reasons - the violence used and the meeting between me and Abu-Ter, which provided a piquant angle, since until now there has been no dialog between Hamas and Israelis. The news on all the three Israeli TV networks reported on the event extensively. That by itself was unusual - generally, most TV stations ignore our demonstrations, or devote a few seconds to them (except for a few reports by brave reporters.)

This time, too, no Israeli medium - TV, radio or newspaper - troubled to send reporters or photographers to the event, so there was no eyewitness Israeli media report from the scene. The TV stations showed clips taken by foreign networks. The reporters just made the most of what they heard from the police and us.

And lo and behold: all the media reported the same: the demonstrators had started the violence by throwing stones, two policemen "had been wounded and treated on the spot". (This lie repeats itself at all our demonstrations. One could begin to suspect that there are two policemen whose sole duties are to be "wounded and treated on the spot" each time we demonstrate.)

The police and army statements were outright lies. They knew in advance that our demonstration would be non-violent. I rely on them to have their agents at all our meetings, and we spoke about our preparations openly over the phone and in our e-mails. Two paid ads were published before the events in Haaretz. It is absolutely clear that the army and police had prepared in advance to suppress the demonstration by force. Otherwise they would not have brought horses and Humvees.

For many years we have witnessed the mendacity of official spokespersons, and I have no doubt that the reporters covering the occupied territories are aware of it. In some media, a sentence saying that "the demonstrators argue that it was the policemen who started the violence" appeared, but in all the media it was stressed that the violence started with us, so the police had no alternative but to react.

This is an Israeli tradition, which has unfortunately also been accepted by the international media: the Israeli security forces always "react" to the violence of the other side. But, curiously enough, the killed and wounded are mostly on the other side.

The small example of a-Ram illustrates what happens on a larger scale throughout the country: in matters concerning the army and police, the news in all the media, without exception, from Maariv to Haaretz, from Channel 1 to Channel 10, is indistinguishable from government propaganda. (with honorable exceptions in opinion columns and the op-ed pages.)

The chances of the victims getting fair coverage are close to nil. After all, the victims are always to blame.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Summer Reading

Middle East expert Juan Cole (www.juancole.com) suggests this "very basic" reading list for those of us who want to understand the social and political dynamics in the Middle East from a progressive point of view.

Dodge, Toby. Inventing Iraq: The failure of nation-building and a history denied. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

Gelvin, James. The modern Middle East: A history. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Gerges, Fawaz. The far enemy: Why Jihad went global. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Hourani, Albert. A history of the Arab peoples. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1991. General history of the Arab world from the time of the Prophet Muhammad to the present.

Keddie, Nikki. Modern Iran: Roots and Results of revolution. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2003. History of modern Iran with some early modern and nineteenth-century background, but good treatment of the twentieth century and the Islamic Republic.

Khalidi, Rashid. Palestinian identity: The construction of modern national consciousness. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

Khalidi, Rashid. Resurrecting Empire: Western footprints and America's perilous path in the Middle East. Boston : Beacon Press, 2004.

Kennedy, Hugh. When Baghdad Ruled the World. New York: Perseus Books, 2006. Explores the medieval history of Muslim-ruled Iraq and its civilizational glories.

Kepel, Gilles. Jihad: The trail of political Islam. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Marr, Phebe. The modern history of Iraq. 2nd ed. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2004.

McAlister, Melani. Epic encounters: Culture, media, and U.S. interests in the Middle East, 1945-2000 Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

Mottahedeh, Roy. The mantle of the Prophet: Religion and politics in Iran. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985.

Packer, George. The assassinsin's gate: America in Iraq. 1st ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.

Quataert, Donald. The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922. 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambrige University Press, 2005. Best recent social history of the greatest Middle Eastern empire and its early twentieth-century demise

Rosen, Nir. In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq. New York: Free Press, 2006.

Shadid, Anthony. Night draws near: Iraq's people in the shadow of America's war. New York: Henry Holt, 2005.

Shlaim, Avi. The iron wall: Israel and the Arab world. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000.

Smith, Charles. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict. 5th ed. Boston:Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Links for Palestinian and other Peace Organizations

Holy Land Trust sponsors a Peace and Reconciliation project as well as the Palestine Summer Encounter.

Rapprochement is very active in non violent resistance in the Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, and Bethlehem areas.

Forusa leads delegations and does women's nonviolent resistance work.

Christian Peacemaker Teams http://cpt.org/ sends trained internationals to listen, and talk with people on both sides of the conflict. Art Gish's wonderful book, Hebron Journal: Stories of Nonviolent Peacemaking(2001, Herald Press) came out of his experiences as a member of CPT.

International Solidarity Movement
ISM is a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles. They do training and welcome participation of internationals in active resistance in the Occupied Territories.

The Michigan Peace Team does nonviolent training and sends teams to serve as a peaceful presence in domestic and international conflicts.

The Palestine Right to Return Coalition is a broad-based, non-partisan, democratic, and charitable organization of grassroots activists and students committed to comprehensive public education on the rights of all Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands of origin, and to be granted full restitution of all their confiscated and destroyed property in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International law and the numerous United Nations Resolutions upholding such rights.

Wi'am: Palestine Conflict Resolution Center does non-violent resistance and reconciliation work in the Bethlehem area.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Jimmy Carter: Punishing the Innocent is a Crime

International Herald Tribune
May 7, 2006

Innocent Palestinian people are being treated like animals, with the presumption that they are guilty of some crime. Because they voted for candidates who are members of Hamas, the United States government has become the driving force behind an apparently effective scheme of depriving the general public of income, access to the outside world and the necessities of life.

Overwhelmingly, these are school teachers, nurses, social workers, police officers, farm families, shopkeepers, and their employees and families who are just hoping for a better life. Public opinion polls conducted after the January parliamentary election show that 80 percent of Palestinians still want a peace agreement with Israel based on the international road map premises. Although Fatah party members refused to join Hamas in a coalition government, nearly 70 percent of Palestinians continue to support Fatah's leader, Mahmoud Abbas, as their president.

It is almost a miracle that the Palestinians have been able to orchestrate three elections during the past 10 years, all of which have been honest, fair, strongly contested, without violence and with the results accepted by winners and losers. Among the 62 elections that have been monitored by us at the Carter Center, these are among the best in portraying the will of the people.

One clear reason for the surprising Hamas victory for legislative seats was that the voters were in despair about prospects for peace. With American acquiescence, the Israelis had avoided any substantive peace talks for more than five years, regardless of who had been chosen to represent the Palestinian side as interlocutor.

The day after his party lost the election, Abbas told me that his own struggling government could not sustain itself financially with their daily lives and economy so severely disrupted, and access from Palestine to Israel and the outside world almost totally restricted. They were already $900 million in debt and had no way to meet the payroll for the following month. The additional restraints imposed on the new government are a planned and deliberate catastrophe for the citizens of the occupied territories, in hopes that Hamas will yield to the economic pressure.

With all their faults, Hamas leaders have continued to honor a temporary cease-fire, or hudna, during the past 18 months, and their spokesman told me that this "can be extended for two, 10 or even 50 years if the Israelis will reciprocate." Although Hamas leaders have refused to recognize the state of Israel while their territory is being occupied, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has expressed approval for peace talks between Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel. He added that if these negotiations result in an agreement that can be accepted by Palestinians, then the Hamas position regarding Israel would be changed.

Regardless of these intricate and long-term political interrelationships, it is unconscionable for Israel, the United States and others under their influence to continue punishing the innocent and already persecuted people of Palestine. The Israelis are withholding approximately $55 million a month in taxes and customs duties that, without dispute, belong to the Palestinians. Although some Arab nations have allocated funds for humanitarian purposes to alleviate human suffering, the U.S. government is threatening the financial existence of any Jordanian or other bank that dares to transfer this assistance into Palestine.

There is no way to predict what will happen in Palestine, but it would be a tragedy for the international community to abandon the hope that a peaceful coexistence of two states in the Holy Land is possible. Like Egypt and all other Arab nations before the Camp David Accords of 1978, and the Palestine Liberation Organization before the Oslo peace agreement of 1993, Hamas has so far refused to recognize the sovereign state of Israel as legitimate, with a right to live in peace. This is a matter of great concern to all of us, and the international community needs to probe for an acceptable way out of this quagmire. There is no doubt that Israelis and Palestinians both want a durable two-state solution, but depriving the people of Palestine of their basic human rights just to punish their elected leaders is not a path to peace.

Former President Jimmy Carter is founder of the Carter Center, a nonprofit organization working for peace and health worldwide.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Letter from Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire

From: Mrs. Mairead Corrigan Maguire
Nobel Peace Laureate
Subject: Free M. Mordechai Vanunu,
Proposals to end the war between Israel and Palestine

May, 2006


On leaving Israel/Palestine today, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, who has spent the last 10 days in Israel-Palestine campaigning for an end to the detention of Mordechai Vanunu, said:

"I believe it is sad and shameful that the Israeli Government continues to detain Mordechai Vanunu for this the 20 year of his internal exile within Israel. He has no secrets. He is no threat to Israeli security. I therefore call upon the Israel Government to uphold Mordechai Vanunu's human rights to freedom of speech and freedom of movement and let him go.

I also support his call for a Nuclear Free Israel, Middle East and world and call upon the Israeli Government to open Dimona for inspection, and to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty.

During my visit I have travelled to Jenin Refugee Camp, Hebron, and Bethlehem in the Israeli Occupied Territories. I have witnessed the daily suffering of the Palestinian people living under an increasing and worsening oppressive Israeli occupation.

I believe there is a great desire for peace amongst all the people, but in order to move into serious dialogue and negotiations urgent steps, and the political will; particularly from the Israeli Government, need to be taken. I therefore make the following Appeal:

l) I call upon the International Community, European Community, the United States of America, to intervene to end the 40 year occupation by Israel and to end the Palestinian suffering in Palestinian camps for 60 years. The International Community must not be intimidated and silenced by threats of being anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli, but must be bold in demanding Israel upholds it obligations under International Law.

2) The way for peace must be for Israel to end the occupation and recognize and respect all the national and international human rights of the Palestinian people.

3) I call upon the Palestinian people to use the methods of Jesus Christ, Badshan Khan, Gandhi, Martin Luther King of nonviolent resistance to the occupation and apartheid system, which continues to cause so much suffering to their people. And for the International Community to support such a nonviolent resistance by the Palestinian people.

4) I call upon the Israeli Government to uphold International Court of Justice and dismantle the Apartheid wall, and the Apartheid system of injustice. To recognize the democratically elected Government of the Palestinian people and enter into serious dialogue with their new 'partner for peace.

5) I call upon Israeli Government, European Union, United State, to restore Foreign Aid as the withdrawing of this, is in effect. a collective punishment of the Palestinian people, many of whom already live under great poverty and hardship, due to the continuing illegal occupation and colonization of the Palestinian Territories.

6) I call upon all Israeli and Palestinian people to continue to hope and believe and act for peace, and to do everything in their power to begin to build trust and friendship amongst each other. Nuclear Weapons, militarism, and emergency laws will not build trust, but overcome the fear of each other, and continuing the great work already being done by both Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, and many others, will bring peace. The Israeli Government can help this process by making it possible for people to actually meet each other, and build a grassroots peace movement together.

I have great hopes for both Israeli-Palestinian and leave strengthened and upheld by the love and affection I have received from my many Israeli and Palestinian Friends.


Mrs Mairead Corrigan Maguire
Nobel Peace Laureate,
Peace People,
224 Lisburn Road,
Belfast. BT9
Northern Ireland UK.
Tel: (44) (0)2890 663465
Fax: (44) (0)2890 381987
Email Info@peacepeople.com

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Letter from Churches for Middle East Peace

May 2, 2006
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States

The Honorable Mahmoud Abbas
President of the Palestinian Authority

The Honorable Ehud Olmert
Prime Minister-Elect of Israel

Dear President Bush, President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert,

We write to you as leaders of churches and church- related organizations from the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant traditions that work together in Churches for Middle East Peace.

With a sense of great urgency, we appeal to you to take immediate actions that can restore hope for peace between the state of Israel and the future state of Palestine. With anguish, we recognize the tremendous grief, anger, suffering and fear felt by both the Israeli and Palestinian people. With alarm, we observe the growing danger that this unresolved conflict brings to the people of the United States as anti-American sentiment is fueled by the continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. With hope, we ask for your intervention in four areas of deep concern: the pending humanitarian crisis, the cessation of violence, the establishment of a mutually negotiated border between Israel and the future Palestine, and the status of Jerusalem.

The looming humanitarian crisis among the Palestinian people is our most immediate concern. We have heard reports from a recent Churches for Middle East Peace delegation to Jerusalem and the West Bank and from staff of humanitarian and development agencies that the cut-off of aid to the Palestinian Authority and the strict limitations on aid going through NGOs poses a threat of massive dimensions. We ask each of you to adopt policies and take actions that provide both space and opportunity for the newly elected Hamas government to make positive changes, while finding mechanisms that allow financial assistance to reach the Palestinian people immediately.

President Abbas, we encourage you to maintain your persistent commitment to peacemaking and nonviolence. We were deeply grieved by the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on April 17 and alarmed by Hamas officials’ statements condoning this terrible act of violence. We urge you and the Palestinian people to remain steadfast in pursuit of peace and to press the officials of Hamas to accept previous agreements regarding Israel and to renounce violence.

Prime Minister Olmert, we commend you for declaring that under your leadership Israel will withdraw from additional occupied land and dismantle some settlements in the West Bank. Such actions, undertaken in consultation with the Palestinians, could be important moves forward in Israel’s compliance with UNSC Res. 242, which continues to be the internationally accepted legal basis for resolution of the conflict. We also urge you to end the practice of targeted assassinations and incursions into Palestinian areas.

President Bush, your vision of a two-state solution that provides for a viable state of Palestine living in peace alongside a secure and internationally recognized state of Israel remains our goal – a goal that is shared by the majority of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, according to polling data. Yet, steps are being taken by both governments that make this solution increasingly difficult. As you continue to press Hamas to change, we ask you to remain diligent about changes being made by Israel on the ground. We applaud your statements, and those of Secretary of State Rice, that no one should try to unilaterally predetermine the outcome of final status agreement and encourage Prime Minister Olmert to heed your words.

It is extremely important that decisions on the final status issues of borders, Jewish settlements, refugees, water and the sovereignty of Jerusalem be agreed upon in the context of negotiations and with the strong leadership of the United States in cooperation with the Quartet and the Arab League. We believe that in you, President Abbas, the Israelis do have a partner with whom to negotiate. That is the only means by which the outcomes will be viewed as legitimate and conducive to a durable peace between Israel and its neighbors. Prime Minister Olmert, if you choose to unilaterally disengage from portions of the West Bank and the environs of East Jerusalem, we urge you to publicly declare that the withdrawal lines are not permanent borders and that those will be determined in negotiations with the Palestinians.

Similarly, we ask for Prime Minister Olmert’s assurance that the separation barrier is only temporary, and that its route, where it extends beyond the Green Line, is not a permanent border. The separation barrier is having a tremendously negative impact, both psychologically and economically, on the Palestinians and on the potential of a viable Palestinian state. While the separation barrier may prevent some terrorist attacks, we believe Israel’s security lies ultimately in a negotiated end of the occupation that is accepted by the United Nations as the fulfillment of Security Council resolutions and is consistent with the requirements of the Geneva Conventions.

Churches for Middle East Peace has long advocated the sharing of Jerusalem by the two peoples and the three faiths. The severing of Bethlehem and other parts of the West Bank from East Jerusalem by means of the separation barrier and restrictive residency and other laws is extremely troubling. It is no longer possible for the vast majority of Palestinian Muslims and Christians in the West Bank and Gaza to worship at their holy sites and to have access to Jerusalem-based institutions. We believe that a negotiated solution for Jerusalem, that takes into account the profound dimensions of the Holy City for Jews, Christians, and Muslims globally, is the key to Middle East peace and the eventual reconciliation of the Abrahamic family.

President Bush, President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert, you alone are capable of reawakening your peoples to the promise of peace. Our urgent appeal to you is witness to the great numbers of people of the Christian tradition, in the United States and globally, who pray for peace and for your strength and courage to be peacemakers.


Signed by 20 church leaders in the CMEP coalition

Thursday, May 04, 2006

This Is What Real Dialogue Looks Like

This interesting piece, published in Haaretz, one of Israel's foremost newspapers, received over 175 "talkback" replies on the day it came out. This is the kind of dialogue we want to promote!

Haaretz Friday, May 5, 2006
The country that wouldn't grow up

By Tony Judt

By the age of 58 a country - like a man - should have achieved a certain maturity. After nearly six decades of existence we know, for good and for bad, who we are, what we have done and how we appear to others, warts and all. We acknowledge, however reluctantly and privately, our mistakes and our shortcomings. And though we still harbor the occasional illusion about ourselves and our prospects, we are wise enough to recognize that these are indeed for the most part just that: illusions. In short, we are adults.

But the State of Israel remains curiously (and among Western-style democracies, uniquely) immature. The social transformations of the country - and its many economic achievements - have not brought the political wisdom that usually accompanies age. Seen from the outside, Israel still comports itself like an adolescent: consumed by a brittle confidence in its own uniqueness; certain that no one "understands" it and everyone is "against" it; full of wounded self-esteem, quick to take offense and quick to give it. Like many adolescents Israel is convinced - and makes a point of aggressively and repeatedly asserting - that it can do as it wishes, that its actions carry no consequences and that it is immortal. Appropriately enough, this country that has somehow failed to grow up was until very recently still in the hands of a generation of men who were prominent in its public affairs 40 years ago: an Israeli Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep in, say, 1967 would be surprised indeed to awake in 2006 and find Shimon Peres and General Ariel Sharon still hovering over the affairs of the country - the latter albeit only in spirit.

But that, Israeli readers will tell me, is the prejudiced view of the outsider. What looks from abroad like a self-indulgent, wayward country - delinquent in its international obligations and resentfully indifferent to world opinion - is simply an independent little state doing what it has always done: looking after its own interests in an inhospitable part of the globe. Why should embattled Israel even acknowledge such foreign criticism, much less act upon it? They - gentiles, Muslims, leftists - have reasons of their own for disliking Israel. They - Europeans, Arabs, fascists - have always singled out Israel for special criticism. Their motives are timeless. They haven't changed. Why should Israel change?

But they have changed. And it is this change, which has passed largely unrecognized within Israel, to which I want to draw attention here. Before 1967 the State of Israel may have been tiny and embattled, but it was not typically hated: certainly not in the West. Official Soviet-bloc communism was anti-Zionist of course, but for just that reason Israel was rather well regarded by everyone else, including the non-communist left. The romantic image of the kibbutz and the kibbutznik had a broad foreign appeal in the first two decades of Israel's existence. Most admirers of Israel (Jews and non-Jews) knew little about the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948. They preferred to see in the Jewish state the last surviving incarnation of the 19th century idyll of agrarian socialism - or else a paragon of modernizing energy "making the desert bloom."

I remember well, in the spring of 1967, how the balance of student opinion at Cambridge University was overwhelmingly pro-Israel in the weeks leading up to the Six-Day War - and how little attention anyone paid either to the condition of the Palestinians or to Israel's earlier collusion with France and Britain in the disastrous Suez adventure of 1956. In politics and in policy-making circles only old-fashioned conservative Arabists expressed any criticism of the Jewish state; even neo-Fascists rather favored Zionism, on traditional anti-Semitic grounds.

For a while after the 1967 war these sentiments continued unaltered. The pro-Palestinian enthusiasms of post-1960s radical groups and nationalist movements, reflected in joint training camps and shared projects for terrorist attacks, were offset by the growing international acknowledgment of the Holocaust in education and the media: What Israel lost by its continuing occupation of Arab lands it gained through its close identification with the recovered memory of Europe's dead Jews. Even the inauguration of the illegal settlements and the disastrous invasion of Lebanon, while they strengthened the arguments of Israel's critics, did not yet shift the international balance of opinion. As recently as the early 1990s, most people in the world were only vaguely aware of the "West Bank" and what was happening there. Even those who pressed the Palestinians' case in international forums conceded that almost no one was listening. Israel could still do as it wished.

The Israeli nakba

But today everything is different. We can see, in retrospect, that the victory of Israel in June 1967 and its continuing occupation of the territories it conquered then have been the Jewish state's very own nakba: a moral and political catastrophe. Israel's actions in the West Bank and Gaza have magnified and publicized the country's shortcomings and displayed them to a watching world. Curfews, checkpoints, bulldozers, public humiliations, home destructions, land seizures, shootings, "targeted assassinations," the separation fence: All of these routines of occupation and repression were once familiar only to an informed minority of specialists and activists. Today they can be watched, in real time, by anyone with a computer or a satellite dish - which means that Israel's behavior is under daily scrutiny by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The result has been a complete transformation in the international view of Israel. Until very recently the carefully burnished image of an ultra-modern society - built by survivors and pioneers and peopled by peace-loving democrats - still held sway over international opinion. But today? What is the universal shorthand symbol for Israel, reproduced worldwide in thousands of newspaper editorials and political cartoons? The Star of David emblazoned upon a tank.

Today only a tiny minority of outsiders see Israelis as victims. The true victims, it is now widely accepted, are the Palestinians. Indeed, Palestinians have now displaced Jews as the emblematic persecuted minority: vulnerable, humiliated and stateless. This unsought distinction does little to advance the Palestinian case any more than it ever helped Jews, but it has redefined Israel forever. It has become commonplace to compare Israel at best to an occupying colonizer, at worst to the South Africa of race laws and Bantustans. In this capacity Israel elicits scant sympathy even when its own citizens suffer: Dead Israelis - like the occasional assassinated white South African in the apartheid era, or British colonists hacked to death by native insurgents - are typically perceived abroad not as the victims of terrorism but as the collateral damage of their own government's mistaken policies.

Such comparisons are lethal to Israel's moral credibility. They strike at what was once its strongest suit: the claim of being a vulnerable island of democracy and decency in a sea of authoritarianism and cruelty; an oasis of rights and freedoms surrounded by a desert of repression. But democrats don't fence into Bantustans helpless people whose land they have conquered, and free men don't ignore international law and steal other men's homes. The contradictions of Israeli self-presentation - "we are very strong/we are very vulnerable"; "we are in control of our fate/we are the victims"; "we are a normal state/we demand special treatment" - are not new: they have been part of the country's peculiar identity almost from the outset. And Israel's insistent emphasis upon its isolation and uniqueness, its claim to be both victim and hero, were once part of its David versus Goliath appeal.

Collective cognitive dysfunction

But today the country's national narrative of macho victimhood appears to the rest of the world as simply bizarre: evidence of a sort of collective cognitive dysfunction that has gripped Israel's political culture. And the long cultivated persecution mania - "everyone's out to get us" - no longer elicits sympathy. Instead it attracts some very unappetizing comparisons: At a recent international meeting I heard one speaker, by analogy with Helmut Schmidt's famous dismissal of the Soviet Union as "Upper Volta with Missiles," describe Israel as "Serbia with nukes."

Israel has stayed the same, but the world - as I noted above - has changed. Whatever purchase Israel's self-description still has upon the imagination of Israelis themselves, it no longer operates beyond the country's frontiers. Even the Holocaust can no longer be instrumentalized to excuse Israel's behavior. Thanks to the passage of time, most Western European states have now come to terms with their part in the Holocaust, something that was not true a quarter century ago. From Israel's point of view, this has had paradoxical consequences: Until the end of the Cold War Israeli governments could still play upon the guilt of Germans and other Europeans, exploiting their failure to acknowledge fully what was done to Jews on their territory. Today, now that the history of World War II is retreating from the public square into the classroom and from the classroom into the history books, a growing majority of voters in Europe and elsewhere (young voters above all) simply cannot understand how the horrors of the last European war can be invoked to license or condone unacceptable behavior in another time and place. In the eyes of a watching world, the fact that the great-grandmother of an Israeli soldier died in Treblinka is no excuse for his own abusive treatment of a Palestinian woman waiting to cross a checkpoint. "Remember Auschwitz" is not an acceptable response.

In short: Israel, in the world's eyes, is a normal state, but one behaving in abnormal ways. It is in control of its fate, but the victims are someone else. It is strong, very strong, but its behavior is making everyone else vulnerable. And so, shorn of all other justifications for its behavior, Israel and its supporters today fall back with increasing shrillness upon the oldest claim of all: Israel is a Jewish state and that is why people criticize it. This - the charge that criticism of Israel is implicitly anti-Semitic - is regarded in Israel and the United States as Israel's trump card. If it has been played more insistently and aggressively in recent years, that is because it is now the only card left.

The habit of tarring any foreign criticism with the brush of anti-Semitism is deeply engrained in Israeli political instincts: Ariel Sharon used it with characteristic excess but he was only the latest in a long line of Israeli leaders to exploit the claim. David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir did no different. But Jews outside of Israel pay a high price for this tactic. Not only does it inhibit their own criticisms of Israel for fear of appearing to associate with bad company, but it encourages others to look upon Jews everywhere as de facto collaborators in Israel's misbehavior. When Israel breaks international law in the occupied territories, when Israel publicly humiliates the subject populations whose land it has seized - but then responds to its critics with loud cries of "anti-Semitism" - it is in effect saying that these acts are not Israeli acts, they are Jewish acts: The occupation is not an Israeli occupation, it is a Jewish occupation, and if you don't like these things it is because you don't like Jews.

In many parts of the world this is in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling assertion: Israel's reckless behavior and insistent identification of all criticism with anti-Semitism is now the leading source of anti-Jewish sentiment in Western Europe and much of Asia. But the traditional corollary - if anti-Jewish feeling is linked to dislike of Israel then right-thinking people should rush to Israel's defense - no longer applies. Instead, the ironies of the Zionist dream have come full circle: For tens of millions of people in the world today, Israel is indeed the state of all the Jews. And thus, reasonably enough, many observers believe that one way to take the sting out of rising anti-Semitism in the suburbs of Paris or the streets of Jakarta would be for Israel to give the Palestinians back their land.

Israel's undoing

If Israel's leaders have been able to ignore such developments it is in large measure because they have hitherto counted upon the unquestioning support of the United States - the one country in the world where the claim that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism is still echoed not only in the opinions of many Jews but also in the public pronouncements of mainstream politicians and the mass media. But this lazy, ingrained confidence in unconditional American approval - and the moral, military and financial support that accompanies it - may prove to be Israel's undoing.

Something is changing in the United States. To be sure, it was only a few short years ago that prime minister Sharon's advisers could gleefully celebrate their success in dictating to U.S. President George W. Bush the terms of a public statement approving Israel's illegal settlements. No U.S. Congressman has yet proposed reducing or rescinding the $3 billion in aid Israel receives annually - 20 percent of the total U.S. foreign aid budget - which has helped sustain the Israeli defense budget and the cost of settlement construction in the West Bank. And Israel and the United States appear increasingly bound together in a symbiotic embrace whereby the actions of each party exacerbate their common unpopularity abroad - and thus their ever-closer association in the eyes of critics.

But whereas Israel has no choice but to look to America - it has no other friends, at best only the conditional affection of the enemies of its enemies, such as India - the United States is a great power; and great powers have interests that sooner or later transcend the local obsessions of even the closest of their client states and satellites. It seems to me of no small significance that the recent essay on "The Israel Lobby" by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt has aroused so much public interest and debate. Mearsheimer and Walt are prominent senior academics of impeccable conservative credentials. It is true that - by their own account - they could still not have published their damning indictment of the influence of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy in a major U.S.-based journal (it appeared in the London Review of Books), but the point is that 10 years ago they would not - and probably could not - have published it at all. And while the debate that has ensued may generate more heat than light, it is of great significance: As Dr. Johnson said of female preachers, it is not well done but one is amazed to see it done at all.

The fact is that the disastrous Iraq invasion and its aftermath are beginning to engineer a sea-change in foreign policy debate here in the U.S. It is becoming clear to prominent thinkers across the political spectrum - from erstwhile neo-conservative interventionists like Francis Fukuyama to hard-nosed realists like Mearsheimer - that in recent years the United States has suffered a catastrophic loss of international political influence and an unprecedented degradation of its moral image. The country's foreign undertakings have been self-defeating and even irrational. There is going to be a long job of repair ahead, above all in Washington's dealings with economically and strategically vital communities and regions from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. And this reconstruction of the country's foreign image and influence cannot hope to succeed while U.S. foreign policy is tied by an umbilical cord to the needs and interests (if that is what they are) of one small Middle Eastern country of very little relevance to America's long-term concerns - a country that is, in the words of the Mearsheimer/Walt essay, a strategic burden: "A liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states."

That essay is thus a straw in the wind - an indication of the likely direction of future domestic debate here in the U.S. about the country's peculiar ties to Israel. Of course it has been met by a firestorm of criticism from the usual suspects - and, just as they anticipated, the authors have been charged with anti-Semitism (or with advancing the interests of anti-Semitism: "objective anti-Semitism," as it might be). But it is striking to me how few people with whom I have spoken take that accusation seriously, so predictable has it become. This is bad for Jews - since it means that genuine anti-Semitism may also in time cease to be taken seriously, thanks to the Israel lobby's abuse of the term. But it is worse for Israel.

This new willingness to take one's distance from Israel is not confined to foreign policy specialists. As a teacher I have also been struck in recent years by a sea-change in the attitude of students. One example among many: Here at New York University I was teaching this past month a class on post-war Europe. I was trying to explain to young Americans the importance of the Spanish Civil War in the political memory of Europeans and why Franco's Spain has such a special place in our moral imagination: as a reminder of lost struggles, a symbol of oppression in an age of liberalism and freedom, and a land of shame that people boycotted for its crimes and repression. I cannot think, I told the students, of any country that occupies such a pejorative space in democratic public consciousness today. You are wrong, one young woman replied: What about Israel? To my great surprise most of the class - including many of the sizable Jewish contingent - nodded approval. The times they are indeed a-changing.

That Israel can now stand in comparison with the Spain of General Franco in the eyes of young Americans ought to come as a shock and an eleventh-hour wake-up call to Israelis. Nothing lasts forever, and it seems likely to me that we shall look back upon the years 1973-2003 as an era of tragic illusion for Israel: years that the locust ate, consumed by the bizarre notion that, whatever it chose to do or demand, Israel could count indefinitely upon the unquestioning support of the United States and would never risk encountering a backlash. This blinkered arrogance is tragically summed up in an assertion by Shimon Peres on the very eve of the calamitous war that will in retrospect be seen, I believe, to have precipitated the onset of America's alienation from its Israeli ally: "The campaign against Saddam Hussein is a must."

The future of Israel

From one perspective Israel's future is bleak. Not for the first time, a Jewish state has found itself on the vulnerable periphery of someone else's empire: overconfident in its own righteousness, willfully blind to the danger that its indulgent excesses might ultimately provoke its imperial mentor to the point of irritation and beyond, and heedless of its own failure to make any other friends. To be sure, the modern Israeli state has big weapons - very big weapons. But can it do with them except make more enemies? However, modern Israel also has options. Precisely because the country is an object of such universal mistrust and resentment - because people expect so little from Israel today - a truly statesmanlike shift in its policies (dismantling of major settlements, opening unconditional negotiations with Palestinians, calling Hamas' bluff by offering the movement's leaders something serious in return for recognition of Israel and a cease-fire) could have disproportionately beneficial effects.

But such a radical realignment of Israeli strategy would entail a difficult reappraisal of every cliche and illusion under which the country and its political elite have nestled for most of their life. It would entail acknowledging that Israel no longer has any special claim upon international sympathy or indulgence; that the United States won't always be there; that weapons and walls can no more preserve Israel forever than they preserved the German Democratic Republic or white South Africa; that colonies are always doomed unless you are willing to expel or exterminate the indigenous population. Other countries and their leaders have understood this and managed comparable realignments: Charles De Gaulle realized that France's settlement in Algeria, which was far older and better established than Israel's West Bank colonies, was a military and moral disaster for his country. In an exercise of outstanding political courage, he acted upon that insight and withdrew. But when De Gaulle came to that realization he was a mature statesman, nearly 70 years old. Israel cannot afford to wait that long. At the age of 58 the time has come for it to grow up.

Tony Judt is a professor and the director of the Remarque Institute at New York University, and his book "Postwar: The History of Europe Since 1945" was published in 2005.