Al-Arab Blog - مدونة العرب
All exiled Palestinians should have the right to vote
What Palestinians should do now
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 18 November 2004
The first priority for Palestinian leaders now must be to defend their people against Israel's relentless colonization and violence and not to negotiate with Israeli guns to Palestinian heads. They must formulate a national strategy to regain Palestinian rights enshrined in UN Resolutions, clearly explain this strategy, and organize Palestinians and allies everywhere to struggle for it, starting with full implementation of the ICJ decision on the West Bank wall.
Palestinians should seek to emulate the success of the African National Congress that freed South Africans from apartheid by confronting and defeating injustice, not seeking to accommodate it.If the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA) can transform themselves to take on this role, they deserve the support of every Palestinian. If, however, they plan to continue as they have before, they must dissolve. As constituted by the Oslo accords, the Palestinian Authority harms Palestinian interests, because it obscures Israel's responsibility as the occupying power without providing any minimal protection for the people against Israel's continuous onslaught. Its existence has allowed the spurious agenda of "reform" to trump Israel's obligations under the Geneva Conventions and UN resolutions.
Palestinian leaders should no longer accept the responsibility for governing Palestinians on behalf of the occupying power. Israel should bear the full cost of its choices.Yet the conventional wisdom says that Yasir Arafat's death provides an opportunity to revive the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Realities such as Israel's refusal in word and deed to withdraw and allow the establishment of a genuine Palestinian state in the occupied territories have simply been ignored. Dov Weissglas, the most senior advisor to Israeli premier Ariel Sharon, explained in early October that Israel's Gaza "disengagement" plan, which has been embraced by the bankrupt international peace process industry, is actually a ruse to kill--not advance--any peace process. Weissglas said, "when you freeze that [peace] process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda."Logically, therefore, any "opportunity" for peace through the establishment of a Palestinian state depends either on a clear change of Israeli policy or a clear willingness by the United States and the international community to force Israel to change its policy. So far, the only policy announcement to come from Israel is that it plans a posthumous "anti-Arafat crusade" in the media.
President Bush has has already shattered hopes that in a second term, freed from re-election concerns, he might pressure Israel. At his November 12 press conference with UK prime minister Tony Blair, Bush was asked if Israel should at last implement a freeze on West Bank settlement expansion. He side-stepped the question, placing the entire burden on the Palestinians: "I believe that the responsibility for peace is going to rest with the Palestinian people's desire to build a democracy and Israel's willingness to help them build a democracy." Bush also stated that peace "can be reached by only one path, the path of democracy, reform and the rule of law." There is no sign yet that the EU or Arab states intend to challenge his approach. Yet at the same time, Bush and Blair declared support for elections in the occupied territories -- a position seemingly in tune with Palestinian aspirations. But elections present both dangers and opportunities. At a minimum, fair elections require international intervention to protect the Palestinians from the occupier and ensure all candidates have fair access to PA-controlled media and are free from intimidation whether by Israel or the PA. The danger is that snap elections in the West Bank and Gaza, under Israel's crushing rule, will offer no fair opportunity for new Palestinian leaders with new strategies to emerge. Elections must provide a genuine contest and not be mere plebiscites confirming the post-Arafat appointments of failed old guard figures like PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and their backers who control the PA apparatus with money and guns.
Ominously, The New York Times reports that Israel, under American pressure, has already released $40 million in blocked PA funds to "strengthen the position" of the old guard. In the best case, from Israel's perspective, the old guard confirmed in place by flawed elections would continue to offer disastrous concessions as they did throughout the Oslo period. And at worst, they would simply become new scapegoats to whom Israel and the US will deliver impossible demands and then heap blame when they are inevitably unfulfilled. Palestinian leaders must no longer accept this assigned role.Palestinians should also demand elections in the diaspora as well the occupied territories.
Arguably Arafat's greatest mistake is that after signing the Oslo accords, he abandoned the PLO's base in exile. Millions of Palestinians were disenfranchised and the negotiating position of the Palestinian leadership severely weakened because it could not claim that it had to refer any agreement back to its people. Assistance from the United Nations and host countries would be essential to successful diaspora elections. The recent Afghan election, in which 740,000 refugees in Pakistan voted, proves it can be done. Currently, almost four million Palestine refugees are registered with UNRWA.
All exiled Palestinians should have the right to vote and be elected to a Palestinian national assembly with the sole authority to approve any future peace agreement.
This would be in the best interests of Palestinians because it would strengthen and hold accountable any eventual Palestinian negotiating body by ensuring it accepts no deal which compromises basic rights, particularly the rights of refugees. This is exactly why such elections would be strongly opposed by Israel, the United States, the EU, and the Palestinian old guard.
But now is the time for Palestinians to set their own agenda, to build a new movement, and to see who among their self-declared allies really has their freedom, democracy and rights at heart.
Ali Abunimah is a co-founder of The Electronic Intifada.
Latest articles on EI:
Opinion/Editorial: What Palestinians should do now (18 November 2004)
Diaries: From Hebron to Tel Aviv (17 November 2004)
Diaries: Living their lives as best they can (17 November 2004)
Diaries: Reflections on Arafat from Australia (17 November 2004)
Activism News: Sell-by date of war crimes about to expire in Somerville, MA? (16 November 2004)
Opinion/Editorial: Sharon's Gaza Pullout: Not Gonna Happen! (16 November 2004)
Diaries: After Arafat: refracted reflections (16 November 2004)
Development: UN envoy: "The need to act could not be any clearer" (15 November 2004)
Do they mean by "democracy" elections that give them the result they want?
by BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights; BADIL; November 18, 2004
Palestinians have been demanding democracy for more than 80 years and now the world is demanding democracy from the Palestinians. What do the British, the Americans, the Israelis and others want? Do they mean by "democracy" elections that give them the result they want?
Before and after the death of Yasser Arafat on 11 November 2004, there were many questions about the ability of a new leader to emerge and whether a transition was possible. Palestinians had set up a number of mechanisms many years ago to make such a transition quick and transparent along with its demands for an open, democratic system.
Yasser Arafat was elected in a democratic election declared free and fair by election monitors from all over the world. He might have been re-elected but maybe others didn't want this result. Many in the world did not want the result of the recent U.S. election but they accepted it as the will of the majority of the American people.
Demands for a Democratic State even before 1948
The election for President of the Palestinian Authority on 9 January 2005 will not represent, in the words of British PM Tony Blair (12 November 2004), the "first beginnings of democracy to take hold on the Palestinian side." The Palestinian people have a long-standing demand for an independent and inclusive democratic state based on rule of law:
· February 1922: Palestinian Arab leaders informed the British Secretary of State for Colonies that the people of Palestine could not accept the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the Mandate, which aimed to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, and demanded their independence. They asked that the constitution of Palestine should safeguard the civil, political and economic interests of the people; provide for the creation of a national independent government; safeguard the legal rights of foreigners; guarantee religious equality to all peoples; and, guarantee the rights of minorities.
· March 1930: a delegation selected by the Palestine Arab Executive went to London for discussions with British officials. Among other demands, the Palestinian delegation requested the establishment of a democratic government with representation on a population basis.
· November 1935: Palestinian leaders of five united Arab parties presented a memorandum to the British High Commissioner in Palestine demanding the establishment of a democratic government.
· March 1946: Palestinian Arabs testifying before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry investigating the future of Palestine stated that the future of the country should be decided in accordance with democratic principles by the will of the population. The only way by which the will of the population can be expressed, they said, was through the establishment of a responsible representative government, based on the principle of absolute equality of all citizens irrespective of race and religion.
· September 1946: Arab state delegations attending the Palestine Conference in London put forward constitutional proposals for a democratic state with an elected legislature. The constitution was to provide guarantees for the sanctity of the Holy Places and freedom of religious practice.
· September 1947: the Arab Higher Committee in Palestine called for a democratic state, observance of human rights, fundamental freedoms and equality of all persons before the law, protection of the rights and interests of all minorities, and, freedom of worship.
· October 1948: the Palestine Arab Higher Committee issued the first Palestinian Proclamation of Independence for a free and democratic sovereign state in which citizens would enjoy their liberties and rights.
Continued Demands for a Democratic State
The demand for a democratic state continued after the mass displacement of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948. The 1964 Covenant of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which called for the liberation of historic Palestine, and its 1968 amended version reaffirm the Palestinian commitment to "justice, freedom, sovereignty, self-determination, human dignity and the right of peoples to practice these principles." It also reaffirms that "Holy Places will be safeguarded, and the free worship and visit to all will be guaranteed, without any discrimination of race, color, language or religion."
Between 1969 and 1973 the PLO called for the creation of "free democratic society in Palestine encompassing all Palestinians, including Muslims, Christians, and Jews." "All those who wish to live in peace shall enjoy the same rights and duties." In 1973 the PLO called for the establishment of a state in which all citizens would enjoy the right to work and to a decent life, so that they live in equality, justice and brotherhood, and which will be opposed to all kinds of ethnic, racial and religious fanaticism. It would also ensure freedom of opinion, assembly, demonstration, and the freedom to strike and form political and trade union institutions and to practice all religions.
In 1974, the PLO began to shift policy from a single democratic state in all of Palestine towards the idea of two states. Palestinians thus called for the establishment of a Palestinian authority on part of the historic land of Palestine in pursuit of the establishment of a Palestinian democratic state. The idea of a two-state solution, with two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, in the land of historic Palestine continued to be developed until 1988 when the PLO issued the second Palestinian Declaration of Independence on 15 November in Algiers.
The 1988 Declaration calls for a "parliamentary democratic system of governance, itself based on freedom of expression and the freedom to form parties." It affirms that the rights of minorities will be duly respected by the majority. And it calls for governance "based on principles of social justice, equality and non-discrimination in public rights on grounds of race, religion, color or sex under the aegis of a constitution which ensures the rule of law and on independent judiciary."
The Preamble to the 1988 Declaration begins with language similar to the American Declaration of Independence, "when in the course of modern times, a new order of values was declared with norms and values fair for all..." Unlike Israel's Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, which focuses primarily on the Jewish character of the state, the 1988 Palestinian Declaration, while recognizing that Palestine is part of the Arab word, affirms the diversity of the country. "Palestine is the land of the three monotheistic faiths...The call went out from temple, church, and mosque to praise the Creator, to celebrate compassion, and peace was indeed the message of Palestine."
The 2003 draft Constitution of the State of Palestine states that Palestine is an independent state with full sovereignty, of a republican form of government. The Palestinian political system shall be a parliamentarian representative democracy, based on political pluralism. It shall guarantee the rights and liberties to all citizens, including the right to form political parties and to engage in political activities, in accordance with law. The Constitution guarantees equality in rights and duties to all citizens irrespective of their religious belief.
The draft Constitution also emphasizes that the foundation for the democratic government in Palestine is the principle of the rule of law and justice. All actions of governmental authorities shall be subject to administrative, political, legal and judicial review in normal and exceptional circumstances. The independence of the judiciary and its immunity are basic guarantees for the protection of rights and liberties. The State of Palestine shall abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and shall seek to join other international instruments that safeguard human rights.
Palestinians also have a long history of democratic institutions and a vibrant civil society. After the first mass displacement of Palestinians in 1948, political parties and civil society organizations regrouped under the umbrella of the Palestine National Organization (PLO) as the representative of the Palestinian people. The PLO Constitution called for the creation of a Palestinian parliament in exile elected by direct ballot, known as the Palestine National Council (PNC) to define the PLO's policies and programs, and an Executive Committee elected by the National Council.
The geographic dispersion of Palestinians in many places of exile, and restrictive political conditions in many host countries have made elections by direct ballot for the Palestine National Council impossible, however, the different sectors of Palestinian society elect their own representative for a seat on the Council. This includes political parties, independents, and various mass movements and associations including trade unions, women's, teachers and student associations, professional unions, etc. The Executive Committee elects its own chairman, thus, after the passing of Chairman Yasser Arafat, the Committee elected Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as the new Chairman.
Palestinian demands for democratic institutions continued in the period leading up to the signing of the 1993 Declaration of Principles between Israel and the PLO. In series of proposals between early 1992 and mid-1993, Palestinian negotiators called for the establishment of an interim self-government authority with an elected legislative assembly of 180 members, a 20-member executive council whose chairman would be elected by the legislative assembly, and an independent judiciary.
These proposals state that all Palestinians in the occupied territories, as well as detainees in Israeli prisons, deportees, and 1967 refugees who were displaced from the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip be permitted to participate in the elections. The March 1992 expanded proposal states that "The Palestinians in the OPT, including Jerusalem, have the right and the wish to govern themselves according to democratic principles, through free elections. [The self-government authority] should be the embodiment of the principle of democratic government -- "By the People, of the People, for the People."
Proposals emphasized the need for Israel to guarantee full freedom of political expression, including the end of military censorship; access to, and establishment of, all forms of audio-visual or print media; public assembly; and, freedom of movement through the occupied Palestinian territories. All proposals affirmed the importance of rule of law. The March 1992 proposal, for example, "emphasizes once again that the only way to pursue negotiations and engage them on the path of progress is a commitment, on the part of Israel -- the occupying power -- to abide by the provisions of international law and to implement, de jure, the Fourth Geneva Convention."
The 2003 draft Constitution of the State of Palestine states that "National sovereignty belongs to the People, who is the source of all authorities. The People exercise their powers directly by referenda and general elections or through elected representatives, within its three public authorities: legislative, executive, and judicial, and via its constitutional institutions. No individual or group shall claim for itself the right to exercise such powers." It calls for the establishment of 150-member elected house of representatives, a 150-member advisory council formed through election or appointment based on the ratio of the distribution of the Palestinian population in Palestine and in exile, an elected President who will appoint the Prime Minister based on "the proposal of the party that obtained the greatest number of seats in the House of Representatives, after consultations with leaders of other parties represented in the House," and an independent judiciary.
The Demand for a Democratic Palestine is a Palestinian One
While many pondered over who might 'succeed' Yaser Arafat after his death, Palestinians found a simple answer within their own existing democratic institutions. The fact that the Palestinian people do not have a democratic state of their own after more than 80 years is not for lack of want or effort. When Palestinians demanded a democratic state after the end of WWI, the British told them it was against the Mandate and against the 1917 Balfour Declaration which aimed to establish a new state, an exclusive Jewish state, in Palestine.
Then British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs commented that "in the case of the 'independent nation' of Palestine ... we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country. Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land."
When the United Nations adopted a plan for a two-state solution to the conflict in 1976, after the PLO began to shift away from a single democratic state, the United States used its veto in the UN Security Council to quash the idea. While the Oslo agreements eventually enabled Palestinians to set up a much reduced in size and powers legislative council, the first elections in 1996 did not allow refugees who originate from the occupied territories as well as deportees and prisoners to participate as requested by the PLO. It is unlikely that these Palestinians will be able to participate in the election scheduled for 9 January 2005.
The Oslo agreements also set up an independent judiciary, but with limited powers. The former Clinton administration pressured and then endorsed the establishment of state security courts run by the Palestinian Authority. In March 1995 former Vice President Al Gore hailed the plan to set up the security courts as "an important step forward in helping to build confidence in the peace process." The Courts were closed to the public, lasted only a few hours, and lacked almost all due process rights.
The internationally-supported peace process still excludes Palestinian refugees displaced in 1948 from the political process, including elections. In other words around 50 percent of the Palestinian people are disenfranchised by a process that many western states like to think of as democratic. The Bush administration basically endorsed this approach when it issued a letter of assurance to Israel, drafted by members of Prime Ariel Sharon's office, in April 2004 stating that Palestinian refugees would have to be resettled in a future Palestinian state -- in other words, refugees would not be able to freely participate in determining their own future.
All this makes Palestinians and others wonder exactly what kind of democracy George Bush and Tony Blair speak about when they publicly commit themselves to the realization of democracy, reform, rule of law and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the next four years. International efforts in the neighborhood do not give much confidence. When it comes to democracy in Palestine/Israel, the international community has been decades behind the Palestinian people
BADIL Occasional Bulletin No. 21, November 2004. Reprinted with permission of BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. For more information visit the BADIL website, www.badil.org.
Australia : Don't mention the occupation !
Arafat in Australian Media
Australian Media : Don't mention the occupation !
by Evan Jones
November 17, 2004
Readers of the respectable Australian media would have noted an outpouring of outrage at the life of Yasser Arafat. Middle Eastern experts, most of them Israeli, have charted how Arafat has held back the peace process and impoverished his own people.
Hear Gerald Steinberg, director of the Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation (sic) at Bar Ilan University (Australian Financial Review, 3 November 2004):
"The 1991 Madrid peace conference and the Oslo framework opened a new era of negotiations, but Arafat went the other way, continuing to wage the "armed struggle", and unable or unwilling to make the transition from revolutionary to statesman. In July 2000, his performance at the Camp David summit destroyed chances for an agreement, and led to four years of brutal violence that rolled back all of the gains achieved under the Oslo process. In this period, Arafat's policies were responsible for the murder of more than 1000 Israelis, for even more Palestinian casualties, and for destroying hopes for a peace agreement in this generation."
[We've heard from Conflict Manager Steinberg before. He gloated over the assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin (The Austalian, 23 March 2004). He opposed letting the whistleblower on Israel's nuclear capacity, Mordechai Vanunu, leave Israel because further divulging of his knowledge would undermine Israel's 'democracy' (The Age, 23 April 2004). His wisdom certainly keeps ill-informed Australians on the true path of Middle East understanding.]
Hear Barry Rubin, director of the Israeli Global Research in International Affairs Center [which "strives to produce accurate, groundbreaking research and analysis on contemporary issues using the latest approaches and technologies"] (Sydney Morning Herald, 6 November 2004):
"Arafat is the godfather of this era of global terrorism and radical Middle East movements. ...
Terrorism is an effective tool for mobilising people if they are willing to overlook the moral issues and rejoice in the deaths of other ethnic groups. ...
"He showed how much can be achieved through intransigence, the power of saying no, and the constructive use of weakness. When Arafat refused to make peace or stop terrorism he showed how he could make his adversaries and bystanders give him more concessions. Arafat played a big role in the contemporary renewal of anti-Semitism to its high traditional level. ... Perhaps the single most powerful wider political effect of Arafat was his contribution to maintaining the status quo in the Middle East.
"In short, Arafat has been catastrophic for Israel, which has lost hundreds of lives to terrorism after taking risks and making concessions for peace, and for the Palestinians, who might long have enjoyed peace and an independent state under a more moderate leadership."
Hear Ted Lapkin, general Israeli lobby factotum and associate editor of The Review, published by the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (Australian Financial Review, 15 November 2004):
"The first route is the accustomed path of rejection and violence that will only lead the Palestinians to more self-inflicted misery. The second course is the less familiar trail that requires the moral courage finally to accept Israel's right to exist, and the physical courage to crush Palestinian movements that remain dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state. ...
"The Palestinian narrative of their refugee problem conveniently omits that the displacement of Palestine's Arabs took place during a war the Arabs started. ... These events reflect an enduring Arab proclivity for avoiding unpleasant truths by blaming external conspiracies for their ills.
"Delusion and denial have sown social and economic stagnation throughout the Arab world. ... a recent United Nations human development report found 90 per cent of Arabs suffer severe "deficits of freedom, knowledge and gender".
"For Palestinians, this fundamental unwillingness to admit reality and accept compromise has yielded disaster, defeat and dispossession. ... Arafat worked overtime to sabotage every serious negotiating proposal that ever came to him."
There was more or the same in the Letters pages from the usual suspects. The letters page of Rupert Murdoch's The Australian outdid the others in the purity of its coverage of Arafat's perfidy.
The deaths, the lack of an independent state - it's all Arafat's fault.
But hang on. Didn't Arafat concede to Israel at the 1993 Oslo Accords the 1967 boundaries, 78% of pre-Palestine territory? Apparently not.
And what 'potential agreement' at Camp David was destroyed by the recalcitrant Arafat? A visit to the gush-shalom website (http://www.gush-shalom.org/generous/generous.html) gives a ready insight into the generous offer by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
The Israeli academic Tanya Reinhart (in the 2002 Israel/Palestine) offers a more elaborate version. Here are some 'bytes' from Reinhart:
"But the debates surrounding these issues only mask the real problem: that in concrete matters of land and resources, Barak offered nothing at Camp David, except the preservation of the existing state of affairs.
"The only undisputed fact about Barak's offers at Camp David is that he proposed that the big settlement blocs - in which 150,000 of the settlers are concentrated - be annexed to Israel in the final agreement. ... The annexation proposed at Camp David also includes the areas between the settlements, containing approximately 120,000 Palestinian residents. Barak's solution to the "citizenship problem" was not Israeli citizenship, since "they will vote for the Palestinian state".
This enables annexing of the land without giving any rights to the annexed Palestinian residents.
"East Jerusalem has always been the centre of Palestinian society, not least because of its religious and symbolic status, which is so emphasized, but also because it sits at the juncture connecting the different regions of the West Bank. ... However, it is not East Jerusalem that Israel offered as the Palestinian capital. ...
"It is in fact this neighboring village of Abu-Dis that is designed in the Beilin-Abu Mazen plan [the predecessor to the Barak 'offer'] to serve as the capital of the Palestinian state. The verbal trick was that Abu-Dis would be named Al-Quds - the Arab name of Jerusalem, meaning "the holy city". ... Behind the smoke screen of declarations regarding the liberation of Jerusalem, Arafat had already expressed his agreement with the Israeli position. ... The Palestinians were authorized to build their future parliament house and government offices there, and these buildings were essentially competed long before Camp David. ... On the eve of Camp David, Barak announced that he was willing to transfer Abu-Dis and two neighboring villages "as a gesture before the summit," but still he reneged.
"It is hard to understand how so many have swallowed the story about Barak's willingness to divide Jerusalem. The facts about Israeli proposal were amply available in the Israeli press. ... But they were packaged with huge headlines about Barak's unprecedented new vision, and apparently this is sufficient to shape people's perception of reality.
"The biggest fraud of Barak's plan, which did not receive any attention in the public debate, was the fate of the Gaza Strip and of the rest of the West Bank - the 90% of the "Palestinian state" after Israel annexed the big settlement blocs. The real question here is the fate of the settlements in these areas.
"(Recall that the "generous Camp David offer" were not accompanied by maps or any other documentation.) First, the map [the only map that Barak actually presented to the Palestinians, in May 2000] reflects the fact that the West Bank is already divided into four completely isolated cantons, with no direct links to each other, or to Jordan. ... it is the brown areas that were presumably proposed for immediate Palestinian sovereignty. They consist of approximately 60% of the West Bank, not even close to the 90% claimed by the Israelis. ... But the crucial point is to examine the situation inside the brown areas of supposed Palestinian sovereignty' ... There are still approximately forty isolated Israeli settlements there ...
"The policy since Oslo has been to refuse all requests of settlers to relocate with compensation for the property they leave behind. ... And if the settlements stay, of course the Israeli army will stay as well to protect them, and thus the situation will remain as it is now - namely, the Palestinian "state" will consist of 42% of the West Bank.
"The myth of generous Israeli offers at Camp David, then, is nothing but a fraud perpetuated by propaganda. "
So what is Arafat's crime at Camp David? Yossi Beilin claimed (Forward Online, 10 November) that Arafat told Clinton, "If I accept the proposals that have been made here, then you will have to come to my funeral." Melbourne's Sol Salbe translates this for the Australian vernacular, "If I accept this I would be dead meat." And for good reason.
No one has mentioned the occupation. Does it exist, or are the residents of the West Bank and Gaza imagining it? Those missiles and sniper bullets are mythical. The bulldozer that is presumed to have crushed Rachel Corrie is a fiction.
Let's hear from Mark LeVine at (CommonDreams.org ):
"In the weeks leading up to Palestinian President Yassir Arafat's death American politicians and pundits have repeatedly called on the Palestinian people to use the opportunity of his passing to transform the intifada from a violent uprising into a non-violent, democratic and pragmatic program for achieving independence. This is very good advice, needless to say, except for one small problem: Palestinians have been trying to build such a movement for the last two decades, and the Israeli Government, IDF and American policy-makers have done everything possible to make sure they did not succeed.
"One of the first exponents of Palestinian non-violence, the Palestinian-American doctor Mubarak Awad, founded the Palestinian Centre for the Study of Nonviolence in 1985. His innovative ideas and training of Palestinians in the tactics of non-violent resistance to the occupation was considered dangerous enough by Israel that it expelled him from the land of his birth in 1988. During the same period, the government supported the rise to power of militant religious groups such as Hamas as a counterweight to the PLO (which that year recognized Israel's right to exist).
"By the time the first intifada wound down in the early 1990s Jewish/Israeli-Palestinian "dialog" or "people-to-people" groups had become all the rage, most of whom had as an important goal building relationships of trust and solidarity that could help Palestinians build a viable political future. Unfortunately, while liberal Israelis were busy sharing hummus with their new Palestinian friends successive Likud and Labor governments accelerated the pace of land confiscation, settlement construction and economic closure of the Territories. This ultimately left many Palestinians to wonder if all the conversation wasn't a ruse to keep them occupied while Israel permanently secured its hold on their lands. ...
"The response by the Israeli military has often been brutal. Not just Palestinian activists, but foreign peace activists and even Israelis are routinely beaten, arrested, deported, or even killed by the IDF, with little fear that the Government of Israel would pay a political price for crushing non-violent resistance with violent means.
"In this environment the very act of going about one's daily life without losing all hope and "joining Hamas" (something former Prime Minister Barak admitted he would have done if he were Palestinian) has become perhaps the supreme, if unheralded, act of non-violence against the occupation. ...
"But what of the courageous Palestinians who still believe in non-violence, who are risking their lives working with Israeli peace activists to fulfill the fading Oslo dream of two states living side by side in peace? We could ask this question to Ahmed Awad, one of the leaders of the non-violent Committee for the Popular Struggle against the Separation Fence ... Unfortunately, we'd have to wait at least three months for an answer, as Awad has just been jailed without charge by a military court on the accusation he constituted a "threat to security."...
"As the Bush Administration and America's pundocracy search for a new generation of pragmatic and non-violent Palestinian leaders, they should be heartened to know that they won't have to look very hard to find them. But that's because so many are either in the hospital, jail or exile. And like Arafat shriveling away in his besieged Muqata'a (which will now be his tomb), the Palestinian peace movement will continue to wither as long as Israel is more comfortable confronting Hamas than negotiating with Ahmed Awad."
The penultimate word should go to Uri Avnery (gush-shalom online, 13 November):
"The disgusting filth poured out over Yasser Arafat during the last few days in practically all the Israeli media makes one ashamed to be an Israeli. The demonization of the Palestinian national leader, which has been the center-piece of Israeli propaganda for decades, continues even after his death. It seems that 37 years as occupiers have bestialized our society and left it bereft even of common decency. Ministers and fishmongers, TV icons and university professors, "leftists" and outright fascists tried to outdo each other in utter vulgarity."
The quality Australian media has been, as ever, reproducing the line in the colonies.
The last word should go to local commentator, Phillip Mendes (The Australian, today, 15 November):
"Much commentary has suggested that Yasser Arafat's death will facilitate a revival of the Middle East peace process. However, this analysis arguably underplays the close correlation between Arafat's style and the broader political culture of the Palestinian people.
"To be sure, Arafat's particular political views and strategies - his rejection of the offer for Palestinian statehood at Camp David in July 2000, his launching of the violent intifada in September 2000, and his continued demand for the return of 1948 Palestinian refugees to Green Line Israel rather than to a Palestinian state - directly contributed to the breakdown of peace prospects.
"But equally they symbolised the long-standing Palestinian approach of demanding absolute rather than partial justice, optimal rather than minimum aspirations, and total rejection of opposing narratives. ..."
Now we know the problem with the Palestinians. Parents possess the outrageous view that their children should be able to go to school without being knocked off as target practice. As the universally despised Noam Chomsky exquisitely noted, the Palestinians have negative rights. And that's all they appear to deserve, according to the commentariat in the respectable Australian media.
Evan Jones teaches Political Economy at Sydney University and writes a blog:
Abdulbari Atwan : On The Dream of His Life
by Abdulbari Atwan
I was born 54 years ago in a refugee camp in Gaza. My parents were illiterate and, like thousands of others, were forced to leave their home town in 1948 to create space for the Jewish immigrants pouring into Palestine from Europe.
My parents' abiding dream was to go back to the farm and mud-brick house in Ashoud, their sleepy home town on the Mediterranean. But they spent their lives in transit, waiting for this dream to come true. Their dream lives on in me and in my children, too.
Yasser Arafat worked very hard for 40 years towards the independent Palestinian state he longed for, yet never saw. Despite his mistakes, he brought this dream closer. He brought the Palestinian cause into the global arena and the resolution of this struggle is now of enormous significance in determining the security of the world, not only the Middle East.
I was deeply saddened by Arafat's death, not only because I knew him personally, but also because Arafat, like my parents, spent his life in transit, from Amman to Beirut to Tunisia and thence to Palestine. What an irony it is that, even in death, his coffin is in transit, awaiting his final transfer to Jerusalem.
Last Friday, George W Bush and his closest ally, Tony Blair assured us that we would see such a state within the next four years - but we have heard this story before. Before the invasion of Iraq, Bush assured the world that an independent Palestinian state would be in place before the end of 2005.
The American project in Iraq is a fiasco. The war which was supposed to be over on 9 April 2003 has started all over again.
This is the climate in which Bush and Blair have revived the notion of an independent Palestinian state - without a single indication of how this will be achieved.
Bush asserts that an independent Palestinian state must be a democracy. But what constitutes democracy in this lexicon? Will this concept simply become a useful tool, replacing Arafat as justification for Israeli atrocities, delays to the peace process and the establishment of a Palestinian state? In 1996, Arafat was elected leader in an election supervised by US and Israel, yet how easily he was written off three years ago when those same powers found him insufficiently yielding in the peace process.
The US insists it is enabling democracy in Iraq - a benefit that has cost 100,000 lives. If this is the kind of democracy Bush wishes to impose on the Palestinians, we have every reason to be afraid. Very afraid.
Abdul Bariatwan is editor of al Quds Daily Newspaper
They still pretend to have some humanity!
US Strategy : Slash and Burn
Published Wednesday, November 17th, 2004
She lays dazed in the crowded hospital room, languidly waving her bruised arm at the flies. Her shins, shattered by bullets from US soldiers when they fired through the front door of her house, are both covered by casts. Small plastic drainage backs filled with red fluid sit upon her abdomen, where she took shrapnel from another bullet.
Fatima Harouz, 12 years old, lives in Latifiya, a city just south of Baghdad. Just three days ago soldiers attacked her home. Her mother, standing with us says, “They attacked our home and there weren’t even any resistance fighters in our area.” Her brother was shot and killed, and his wife was wounded as their home was ransacked by soldiers. “Before they left, they killed all of our chickens,” added Fatima’s mother, her eyes a mixture of fear, shock and rage.
A doctor standing with us, after listening to Fatima’s mother tell their story, looks at me and sternly asks, “This is the freedom…in their Disney Land are there kids just like this?”
Just three days ago soldiers attacked the home of 12 year-old Fatima Harouz. Her uncle was killed while the family claims there were no resistance in the area.
Another young woman, Rana Obeidy, was walking home with her brother two nights ago. She assumes the soldiers shot her and her brother because he was carrying a bottle of soda. This happened in Baghdad. She has a chest wound where a bullet grazed her, unlike her little brother who is dead.
Laying in a bed near Rana is Hanna, 14 years old. She has a gash on her right leg from the bullet of a US soldier. Her family was in a taxi in Baghdad this morning which was driving near a US patrol when a soldier opened fire on the car.
Her father’s shirt is spotted with blood from his head which was wounded when the taxi crashed.
In another room a small boy from Fallujah lays on his stomach. Shrapnel from a grenade thrown into their home by a US soldier entered his body through his back, and implanted near his kidney.
An operation successfully removed the shrapnel. His father was killed by what his mother called, “the haphazard shooting of the Americans.” The boy, Amin, lies in his bed vacillating between crying with pain and playing with is toy car.
It’s one case after another of people from Baghdad, Fallujah, Latifiya, Balad, Ramadi, Samarra, Baquba…from all over Iraq, who have been injured by the heavy-handed tactics of American soldiers fighting a no-win guerrilla war spawned from an illegal invasion based on lies. Their barbaric acts of retaliation have become the daily reality for Iraqis, who continue to take the brunt of the frustration and rage of the soldiers.
Out in front of the hospital three Humvees pull up as soldiers alert the hospital staff that some of the wounded from outside of Fallujah will be brought there. One of the staff begins to yell at the soldier who is doing the talking, while a soldier manning a machine gun atop a Humvee with his face completely covered by an olive balaclava and goggles looks on.
“We don’t need you here! Get the fuck out of here! Bring back Saddam! Even he was better than you animals! We don’t want to die by your hands, so get out of here! We can take care of our own people!”
The translator with the soldiers does not translate this. Instead he watches with a face of stone.
The survivors of those killed and wounded by the US military in Iraq, as well as those who care for them, are left with feelings of bitter anguish, grief, rage and vengeance.
This afternoon at a small, but busy supply center set up in Baghdad to distribute goods to refugees from Fallujah, the stories the haggard survivors are telling are nearly unimaginable.
“They kicked all the journalists out of Fallujah so they could do whatever they want,” says Kassem Mohammed Ahmed, who just escaped from Fallujah three days ago, “The first thing they did is they bombed the hospitals because that is where the wounded have to go. Now we see that wounded people are in the street and the soldiers are rolling over them with tanks. This happened so many times. What you see on the TV is nothing-that is just one camera. What you cannot see is so much.”
While Kassem speaks of the television footage, there are also stories of soldiers not discriminating between civilians and resistance fighters.
Another man, Abdul Razaq Ismail arrived from Fallujah last week.
While distributing supplies to other refugees he says, “There are dead bodies on the ground and nobody can bury them. The Americans are dropping some of the bodies into the Euphrates River near Fallujah. They are pulling the bodies with tanks and leaving them at the soccer stadium.”
Nearby is another man in tears as he listens, nodding his head. He can’t stop crying, but after a little while says he wants to talk to us.
“They bombed my neighborhood and we used car jacks to raise the blocks of concrete to get dead children out from under them.”
Another refugee, Abu Sabah, an older man wearing a torn shirt and dusty pants tells of how he escaped with his family while soldiers shot bullets over their heads, but killed his cousin.
“They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud,” he said, having just arrived yesterday, “Then small pieces fell from the air with long tails of smoke behind them. These exploded on the ground with large fires that burnt for half an hour. They used these near the train tracks. You could hear these dropped from a large airplane and the bombs were the size of a tank. When anyone touched those fires, their body burned for hours.”
The comparison of Iraq to Vietnam is becoming more valid by the day here.
One of only a few independent reporters working in Iraq, Dahr Jamail is a long-time contributor to the World Crisis Web.
He is a special correspondent for Flashpoints Radio, and has appeared on nationwide television in both the USA and UK. His dispatches have been translated into Polish, German, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese and Arabic.
This report, and the accompanying image of Fatima Harouz, first appeared on his excellent new web site, Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches.
Let the downfall of sharon be end to Zionism
EU to Jews: Shut Up
In a stunning reversal of the usual scenario, EU Commission head Romano Prodi (pictured) today (Jan. 7, 2004) forcefully told the World Jewish Congress and an allied Zionist organization that they needed a "visible change in attitude" if they hoped to meet with European Union officials for a "seminar" on "anti-Semitism" the WJC has demanded. Liquor King Edgar Bronfman, WJC capo, triggered the response when he accused the EU of stoking "anti-Semitism" in releasing a November poll showing that Europeans see Zionism as the leading danger to world peace.
He also called the Commission "anti-Semitic" for not issuing a highly-suspect Jewish "study" of "anti-Semitism" in Europe.
"All commissioners expressed shock and disbelief at this attack on the Commission by these two organisations," Prodi's aide told reporters.
"This seminar cannot go ahead unless there is a visible change in attitude... In other words the ball is in their court," he said.
"If and when such a seminar were to be organised, President Prodi would like to sit down with people who do not accuse him of anti-Semitism as a starting point, which he finds highly offensive."
The WJC may have pushed the chutzpah too far in a show of hubris in the wake of recent successes against Europe's people. Their breaking of the once-impregnable Swiss banks on 'Holocaust'-related claims is one in a series of a continent-wide looting operation against European social and business interests in the name of WWII guilt.
Wider Jewish efforts have unsettled EU elites. Anger at the WJC shakedown of the Swiss banks has placed racial populists in the Swiss government. Jewish overreaction to the election of Jorg Haider in Austria has fuelled Austrian defiance of a Jewish boycott, forcing Israel to recently reestablish their diplomatic relations with the Alpine nation. Zionist-incited 'Western' aid of Islamic fundamentalists in Serbia has been met with huge electoral gains for nationalists there. In France, Jewish immigration policies have led to gargantuan advances for Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National, while Jews continue to stoke the racial furnace: the daughters of a Communist lawyer named Levy wore the headscarves that led to the recent legal tests of school etiquette in France.
Meanwhile, all across Europe the multicult experiment Zionists have inflicted on the continent for decades is exploding in their faces as Muslim immigrants take their war against Israel to the region.
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Anti War - Anti Racism
Let the downFall of Sharon be end to Zionism
By the Late, great political cartoonist Mahmoud Kahil