Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: Adam Shatz [in LRB] + Daniel Levy [The Daily Beast]

Adam Shatz has just written an article entitled “Why Israel didn’t win” in the current issue of the London Review of Books, in which he says:
“The ceasefire agreed by Israel and Hamas in Cairo after eight days of fighting is merely a pause in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It promises to ease movement at all border crossings with the Gaza Strip, but will not lift the blockade. It requires Israel to end its assault on the Strip, and Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets at southern Israel, but it leaves Gaza as miserable as ever … The fighting will erupt again, because Hamas will come under continued pressure from its members and from other militant factions, and because Israel has never needed much pretext to go to war” … This is posted here.

Daniel Levy [Senior Fellow and the Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation — and the real drafter for Yossi Beilin + the Israeli team of the Geneva Initiative] wrote in an article titled “Seven Takeaways from the Gaza Ceasefire”, published in The Daily Beast:
“At times, operation Pillar of Defence and the lessons being taken from its conclusion sounded like déjà-vu all over again: featuring an Israel that addresses political problems with military solutions and that wastes whatever quiet is achieved by refusing to take diplomatic initiatives…the Netanyahu-Lieberman axis does have its own thinking on the Palestinian question, and…Israeli politics has significantly shifted. [Netanyahu + Lieberman] have no interest in pursuing a solution that would seem decent or realistic to any neutral observer. They are not two-staters in any recognizable way”. Daniel Levy’s analysis is posted here and here.

Continue reading Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: Adam Shatz [in LRB] + Daniel Levy [The Daily Beast]

September (or November) State

Because it is so amusing, we are cross-posting from our sister blog (Palestine-Mandate.com) here the “September State (Dawlat Aylul)” by Jerusalem-born artist Ahmad Dari, a long-term resident of France, which is on Youtube here:

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Earlier, Ahmad Dari compiled his impressions on the mission of former U.S. Special Envoy, George Mitchell, posted on Youtube here:
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Yesterday, after weeks of practically begging for the restart of negotiations with Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly decided to put internal Palestinian negotiations — between Fatah and Hamas, on the formation of a new “technocratic government” pending new Palestinian elections — on hold. One reason, of course, is that Israel would refuse to enter into new negotiations with any Hamas-approved government.

Abbas, who had apparently not informed Hamas of his intentions to go-slow on the formation of a new Palestinian government, told journalists that “negotiations are continuing, but he hinted at difficulties. ‘I hope that we will succeed, but it needs a little bit of effort’, he told reporters during a visit to the Netherlands”.

According to a report in Haaretz on Thursday, an unnamed Palestinian official, apparently in Ramallah, “said Abbas does not want to form a unity government only to have it boycotted by the West, and that he wants to avoid new complications while he is pursuing the UN option … The PLO official said Abbas’ priority is to obtain UN recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem when the UN General Assembly meets in September. It would be a largely symbolic step that the Palestinians hope will nonetheless improve their leverage against Israel”. This Haaretz analysis is published here.

The Jerusalem Post, meanwhile, has published an article which shows some of the ambivalence about the “September State”, expressed by an architect heading RIWAQ [Center for Architectural Conservation], an organization committed to saving some Palestinian buildings. The JPost wrote that: “Today, under [Khaldun] Bshara’s leadership, RIWAQ’s role in highlighting Palestinian physical history has taken on an added significance as the leadership prepares to make a controversial bid for statehood this coming September. ‘I don’t like this idea of declaring statehood’, states Bshara boldly, as we sit down together in what was likely a kitchen or storage room in this former family home. ‘We have declared statehood twice before and it’s like we just want to declare something so that people will listen to us and not really anything more than that. I believe that certain practices are much more worthy than declarations and that such declarations need to be enforced by these practices’. Bshara is referring to the practices that RIWAQ has committed itself to: preserving and restoring the Palestinian physical heritage while at the same time addressing some deeply-rooted socioeconomic issues and, more importantly, strengthening national identity and pride. ‘At Riwaq we are not innocent’, he admits. ‘We are not necessarily doing this work for architecturally aesthetic values, but more to create and retain our identity. We believe that these buildings and cultural sites are the only physical [artifacts] that are left for us to use as an identity symbol and we see our work as a central element to creating a national identity of Palestine’.”

Bshara told the JPost that: “We were born into Israeli occupation and we still function under this occupation, but we were also born into a thriving civil society before our state became a fact, and that has unfortunately been undermined by the emergence of the PA … They see NGOs as competitors to what they want to do and say we cannot work without their blessing, but they cannot do what we do either, so they need us”.

The JPost story added that “Bshara further explains that because Palestinian law is based on a mix of laws from the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate period, Jordan and Israel, only buildings from before 1700 are officially protected by the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. Also, the complicated political map constituting areas A (under full Palestinian control), B (under Israeli military control) and C (under complete Israeli control) means that roughly 10,000 sites that RIWAQ considers part of the Palestinian heritage – built, designed or decorated by Palestinian architects or craftsmen – fall under Israeli jurisdiction and cannot be touched by the NGO. Instead, the organization focuses on renovation and restoration projects in 16 districts spread across the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, where it works as a consultant for international groups”. This JPost article is published here.

A very good reportage — after a three-week visit to the West Bank — has just been published on the website of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. It has the unfortunate title, on the JVP website of “Where are the Palestinian leaders?” And it’s postedhere. But, it’s actually from the London Review of Books, with another uninspired title: “Is Palestine Next”? And, it’s posted here.

Shatz wrote: “Abbas can hardly go to the UN in September and request formal recognition of the Palestinian state – as he has announced he will – if there are two Palestinian leaderships pursuing opposed agendas. The declaration of statehood is the culmination of Fayyad’s project to build state institutions and promote neoliberal ‘reform’ while still under occupation. ‘The mission has been accomplished,’ he recently told Haaretz: the PA has done everything the world has asked of it, having restored law and order and established the infrastructure of statehood. Many Palestinians ridicule Fayyad’s claim – ‘instead of a state, we got a ministry in charge of garbage disposal’ – but the ball is now in the world’s court to recognise Palestine as a state. Abbas’s plan to make his declaration in September is a gamble. Fayyad has long questioned the tactical wisdom of declaring statehood unilaterally while the occupation remains deeply entrenched. Palestinians, he warns, could find themselves in a ‘Mickey Mouse’ state, recognised by the world but without the sovereignty a state requires, if the US uses its power in the General Assembly to prevent Palestine from getting the votes it needs to attain full UN membership. In his speech on the Middle East in May, Obama echoed the Israeli view that declaring statehood is an unacceptable form of unilateralism. If Palestine isn’t recognised, some Palestinian officials have hinted, there could be unrest, even a third intifada. The statehood declaration matters to the leadership, which wants the fruits of diplomatic recognition, and hopes to sell that recognition as a victory for the national cause. But it doesn’t stir much enthusiasm in the West Bank. One reason is that it’s a toothless strategy: ‘Who cares if we get recognised as a state if the Israelis can still block the roads?’ Another is that the declaration sticks to the modest, 1967 parameters at the very moment the Netanyahu government is building a Greater Israel. If Israel continues to act as if 1948 never ended, and shows no sign of wanting to reach a compromise on the 1967 borders, many Palestinians say, why shouldn’t we call for more too? And there’s yet another reason for the lack of interest in the declaration: as the prospect of a genuine – a sovereign and independent – Palestinian state has receded, another discourse has returned, one with much deeper roots in the Palestinian political imagination than talk of statehood, and much closer to the ideas that inspired the Arab uprisings. It’s often forgotten that until the mid-1970s, Palestinians were looking not to establish a state but to achieve ‘national liberation’, to restore their rights in the land from which they had been driven – beginning with the right of return. Palestinians rarely talk about statehood, but they often talk about their rights; statehood is viewed, at best, as a means to achieve them. And because they don’t often talk about statehood, it seems unlikely that the failure to win recognition at the UN would be enough to spark an uprising. Any sign of serious unrest, moreover, would not be viewed kindly by the PA, which would do everything in its power to prevent a third intifada that might sweep it away. Indeed, the PA already uses the American-trained National Security Force to undermine efforts by Palestinians to challenge the occupation. (Hamas, in Gaza, has cracked down on protest even more harshly.) ‘They are the police of the occupation,’ Myassar Atyani, a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told me. ‘Their leadership is not Palestinian, it is Israeli.’ On 15 May – the day Palestinians commemorate their Nakba – more than a thousand Palestinians, mainly young men, marched to the Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem and clashed with Israeli soldiers; but when Atyani tried to lead a group of demonstrators to the Hawara checkpoint outside Nablus, PA security forces stopped them. The road from Ramallah to Qalandia is in Area C, which is not controlled by the PA; the road from Nablus to Hawara is in Area A, which is. And protesters who have attempted to march to settlements along PA-controlled roads have also found themselves turned back. It is an extraordinary arrangement: the security forces of a country under occupation are being subcontracted by third parties outside the region to prevent resistance to the occupying power, even as that power continues to grab more land. This is, not surprisingly, a source of considerable anger and shame in the West Bank. The question is whether Palestinians will grow exasperated enough to confront the Sulta”.