Mairead Maguire to appeal deportation in Israel's Supreme Court

The Jerusalem Post has reported that Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire has decided to appeal her imminent deportation from Israel to the country’s Supreme Court. This is reported here.

UPDATE: Maguire has also challenged her continuing detention, which began last Tuesday. She is asking to be admitted or given entry into Israel.

Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz earlier today, here, that a Nobel Peace Prize winner had been locked up in Israel and nobody cared.

Continue reading Mairead Maguire to appeal deportation in Israel's Supreme Court

Great article, great man

I’ve kept this link open so I wouldn’t forget to write about it: Johann Hari’s profile in The Independent of Israeli journalist for Haaretz Gideon Levy. The title, catchy: “Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?”

Levy was interviewed in Scotland as he was visiting to promote his new book, The Punishment of Gaza.

Here are some excerpts of what he told Hari: “ ‘My biggest struggle’, he says, ‘is to rehumanize the Palestinians. There’s a whole machinery of brainwashing in Israel which really accompanies each of us from early childhood, and I’m a product of this machinery as much as anyone else. [We are taught] a few narratives that it’s very hard to break. That we Israelis are the ultimate and only victims. That the Palestinians are born to kill, and their hatred is irrational. That the Palestinians are not human beings like us, So you get a society without any moral doubts, without any questions marks, with hardly public debate. To raise your voice against all this is very hard’.”

Continue reading Great article, great man

Netanyahu tape

The man who is now, for a second time, Israel’s Prime Minister — Benyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu — went to visit an Israeli settler family in 2001, some two years after his defeat to Ehud Barak [the man who is now Defense Minister, and who is therefore the ruler of the West Bank, making him co-regent, with Netanyahu, of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean].

Last Friday night, for the first time, Israel’s Channel 10 television broadcast a homemade video made of this visit — it shows the man who is now Prime Minister, again, discussing the Oslo Accords, and how he’s arranged everything according to his vision of the way things should be. In the videotaped visit, Netanyahu bragged that he had stopped the Oslo agreement.

Continue reading Netanyahu tape

Gideon Levy: self-censorship is worse than censorship

Haaretz author Gideon Levy was interviewed by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa on free expression for journalists in Israel. The interview is published in Haaretz,

In it, Levy tells Vargas Llosa that “The media in Israel, most of them, are the biggest collaborators to the occupation”.

Here are some excerpts:

Question (Mario Vargas Llosa): Would you say then that in Israel there is total freedom of expression and that the media reflect daily exactly what is going on, without any kind of censorship?

Answer (Gideon Levy of Haaretz): “Absolutely not.  The media are the biggest collaborators.  The media in Israel, most of them, are the biggest collaborators to the occupation.  There is no censorship in Israel, almost none.  There is something that is much worse than censorship —  self-censorship, because in self-censorship there is never resistance…

Continue reading Gideon Levy: self-censorship is worse than censorship

For a change of pace: "If you love someone, you need to live with her"

From Gideon Levy on his visit to the Palestinian village of Batir (near Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank), at the invitation of Haaretz reader Nidal Zeghayer, 22, who says that “He does not envision himself marrying in accordance with Arab tradition. ‘I’m against marriage. With us it’s not marriage – it’s an agreement among groups, among families. It’s slavery. The idea of a traditional wedding is unacceptable to me. I’ll marry in the future, but not this way. If you love someone, you need to live with her. I don’t need a show of power with a wedding with the whole village. There is no equality between men and women with us, but nor is there in the West”… This observation is posted here.

Saying one thing, doing another

The AP’s Karin Laub, who normally works from Ramallah, is in New York to cover the Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy going on at the sidelines of the high-level segment of the annual UN General Assembly debate. Today, she wrote a report (based on an interview published in the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat — which she did not of course need to be in New York to read) that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has said that “The Palestinians cannot return to peace talks at this time because of ‘fundamental disagreements’ with Israel on what should be on the agenda … Abbas rebuffed an appeal by President Barack Obama that both sides get back to the table promptly”.

Meanwhile, Palestinian and Israeli teams are supposed to meet today (in NY, each separately with U.S. officials, but not all together) to work out how to re-start negotiations. Palestinian negotiator Sa’eb Erekat reportedly said “we agreed to continue dealing with the Americans until we reach the agreement that will enable us to relaunch the negotiations”.

Haaretz’s Avi Issacharoff also wrote about Mahmoud Abbas’ interview with Al-Hayat: “Abbas called the Netanyahu government ‘a real problem’ … ‘The Netanyahu government is a real problem and there is no common ground for negotiations with it. Construction in the settlement is continuing, Netanyahu is declaring Jerusalem and [Palestinian] refugees topics not up for negotiations, so what is there to talk about?’ The Palestinian leader added that he could not agree to Israel’s compromise for a partial settlement freeze, which he said inherently implied continued construction. Abbas reiterated his stance that peace negotiations must resume from where former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government left off and insisted they include the core issues. Some stride was made during talks with the Olmert government, said Abbas, adding: ‘There were maps drafted by both sides and proposals for territorial exchanges, and thus we cannot return to point zero.”

However, Israeli officials have said on several occasions in recent months that Abbas did not respond to Olmert’s offer, and that the Palestinian side did not present any maps of its own …

Issacharoff also reported that “Abbas and members of the Palestinian delegation to the UN were pleased with Obama’s statement that Washington is pursuing a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, as Abbas has that diplomatic talks with Israel with Israel cannot begin unless it is clear that the 1967 lines are the goal.
But the officials expressed displeasure with Obama’s declaration that negotiations with Israel should begin without preconditions. Yasser Abed Rabbo, who heads both the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee and the PA negotiating team [?], said the PA was pleased with Obama’s decision to hold another round of
preliminary talks in the interest of bridging the gaps between the parties. ‘Still, our message is clear – we have not retreated from our demands, and relinquishing them will lead to a diplomatic disaster’, he said”. Issacharoff’s article can be read in full here.

Meanwhile, Karin Laub’s story for AP continues: “The Palestinian leader said he wants to avoid a crisis with the Obama administration at any cost, but stressed that ‘there is no common ground for discussion’ with Israel’s hardline leader, Benjamin Netanyahu … Abbas, who is in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, said that even at the risk of alienating Obama, he cannot return to talks without a clear agenda. ‘In all honesty, we want to protect our relations with President Obama under any conditions … We don’t want to come out with a crisis with the Americans, or create a crisis. But in the meantime, we can’t go on unless there is a clear path. The road must be defined so we can know where we are going’ … Abbas said in the interview that only a complete freeze [on Israeli settlement activities] will do. ‘We can’t accept the status quo because a partial halt means a continuation of settlements … Even if it is halted by 95 percent, it is still a continuation of settlement activities.” Abbas said that despite ‘fundamental disagreements’ with Netanyahu over the terms of negotiations, he will keep talking to Israel about day-to-day issues that concern the Palestinians, including security and the economy. ‘We don’t reject the principle of talks and dialogue’, he said. In Jerusalem, Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon suggested the Palestinians are wasting time by insisting on a settlement freeze. He noted that when required to do so in the past — as part of a peace deal with Egypt and the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza — Israel has uprooted settlements”. Karin Laub’s report can be read in full here .

What is Danny Ayalon doing here? If Israel is prepared to uproot settlements, as Ayalon suggests, why doesn’t it say so clearly, now? To the contrary, Prime Minister Netanyahu is publicly saying the opposite.

Haaretz reported today that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Haaretz on Wednesday that he would not agree to the Palestinian demand to accept the 1967 borders as a condition for renewing peace negotiations. Netan Barayahu also said that U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday was ‘positive’ because ‘he also said something we had been seeking for six months, that we have to meet and begin the diplomatic process without preconditions’. Obama had spoken clearly about Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people’, said Netanyahu. ‘I believe that disagreement about this is the root of the conflict’ … Netanyahu also told Israel Radio on Thursday that he would never drop his demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. ‘I told Abu Mazen [Abbas] I believe peace hinges first on his readiness to stand before his people and say, “We … are committed to recognising Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people”,’ Netanyahu said … ‘I will not drop this subject and other important issues under any final peace agreement’, Netanyahu added … [He suggested there can be peace] if the Palestinian leadership says we want peace, we recognize Israel as the Jewish state, the nation state of the Jewish people, just as we’re asked to recognize the Palestinian state as the nation state of the Palestinian people’. The prime minister concluded by saying that Israel wanted ‘a real peace … Israel wants both recognition and security from its neighbors, and this will be the task of the negotiations in the coming months’.”

As noted in our blog post yesterday, Israelis have not yet done a convincing job of explaining to Palestinians what, exactly, the demand for recognition of Israel as the “state of the Jewish people” means. Nor have Israelis made any effort to address or allay Palestinian fears that this phrase is just code for prohibiting the return of Palestinian refugees, and also the possible expulsion of Israel’s Palestinian-Arab citizens. This Israeli position was first made public in Ariel Sharon’s 13 or 14 reservations on the Road Map. Then, it was raised by the previous Israeli government, headed by then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, at the launch of the Annapolis process of negotiations in November 2007. Now, Netanyahu is saying that this a demand he will never drop, that peace hinges on this issue, that this is the root of the conflict.

The Haaretz report stated that Netanyahu, in his interviews in New York, also stated concerning Obama’s speech to the UN General Assembly that: “The things he said about the occupation are not new. He also said them in Cairo, and in fact that is the formula adopted by the road map — and it does not say we have to go back to the 1967 borders. This is the formula adopted by governments before the one I head, which did not agree to go back to the 1967 borders. We certainly would [also] not agree to that. In the matter of the settlements he also said nothing new. These disagreements should not prevent the beginning of the process which, among other things if it is successful, will also decide this issue”.

This Haaretz article also duly noted that on the specifics of Israeli settlements, Netanyahu told American TV interviewers that “Israel was unwilling to freeze ‘life’ in West Bank settlements. NBC interview Matt Lauer that he was ‘willing to make gestures to help the peace process’. When asked how big a gesture Israel intends to make, the premier said ‘we’ll get there very soon, I suppose’. ‘But I’ll tell you one thing I’m not willing to do. I can’t freeze life’, Netanyahu added, referring to a possible West Bank settlement freeze, insisted on by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. ‘There are a quarter of a million people there, in these communities which are called “settlements”, although really most of them are bedroom suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem’ … ‘There are a quarter of a million people living in these communities. You know, they need kindergartens. They need schools. They need health clinics … They’re living. I’m committed not to build new settlements. I am committed not to expropriate additional land for existing settlements. But people have to live. You can’t freeze life’.” This Haaretz article can be read in full here .

Continue reading Saying one thing, doing another

Are they crazy!!?? – Part Two

Here are several items that are right on the mark about the present situation here:

(1) Thanks to a link on Dion Nissenbaum’s blog, Checkpoint Jerusalem, one can find a gem of a paragraph posted on 30 March on Richard Silverstein’s blog, taking serious issue with what he calls a “fantasy” of Gershom Gorenberg, who tried in an article entitled “The Missing Mahatma” to conjure up the image of a Palestinian Ghandi who could solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by stopping the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory through non-violent resistence.

But first, a bit from Gorenberg, who is co-author of the South Jerusalem blog here, and who wrote about a non-violent march of Palestinians from Ramallah who were intent on passing The Wall to be able to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of East Jerusalem [ I don’t think this is a new story by Gorenberg. I remember reading it (or something quite like it) a while ago]: “They filled the road to Jerusalem, a long procession of men, women, and children wearing white robes to show they were on a pilgrimage and that they had no pockets in which to hide weapons … The river of marchers streamed forward. From the troops came the voice of another megaphone, proclaiming ‘Halt!’ in Arabic and Hebrew. Al-Masri answered, ‘We come in peace to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque, as is our sacred right’. Soldiers lifted their guns. The sound of the first volley was dull thuds. Tear gas canisters fell on the asphalt. The wind scattered the white plumes. Gasping, the marchers kept advancing. Again came thuds, and rubber bullets showered the marchers … Lying on the road, the sheikh whispered to a follower, who spoke through the megaphone. ‘We will fast here’, he said, ‘until we are allowed to go on. We will testify to our faith’ … The number of journalists grew almost as quickly as the number of soldiers. Provided a laptop from the Palestinian neighborhood next to the road, a young marcher began a blog whose address showed up in agency reports … Al-Masri, whispering on the air in Hebrew he’d learned in prison, demanded free access to Al-Aqsa as the first step toward Palestinian independence alongside Israel … [After international intervention at the highest levels] Early on the third morning, a Friday, the Israeli cabinet met. Afterward, the brigade commander got orders to let the march proceed. Trucks arrived with food. Al-Masri’s followers lifted him onto a stretcher. At Qalandiya checkpoint, where the road passed through the Israeli security wall around Jerusalem, soldiers stood aside, watching the procession pour into the city. It reached Al-Aqsa in time for the sheikh to speak at noon prayers. News websites reported that the Israeli prime minister would address his nation before Sabbath began at sundown, amid rumors he would offer to meet the wounded sheikh to begin negotiations”. Gorenberg then goes on to discuss Mubarak Awad, and his disciple Nafez Assaily, and his nephew Sami Awad, and more. Mubarak Awad advocated non-violence, then became an activist: “he agreed to lead the villagers in taking down the fence, if they agreed not to bring guns or throw stones and not to run away even if shot at or arrested … By one account, 300 people showed up, confronting armed settlers. ‘We refused to run. We turned numb. We were hugging each other’, Awad says, recalling the strange ecstasy of the moment. The military governor arrived–and allowed the Palestinians to remove the fence”. In 1988, Awad was deported. The Gorenberg “fantasy” then turns into an interesting analysis of the first and second Palestinian intifadas and the Iranian revolution and the early Fatah and the more. He concludes by writing that “The first Israeli reaction to his [the future Palestinian Ghandi’s] acts of defiance could well be massive force. Yet if he stuck absolutely to nonviolent means, he could awaken a political storm in Israel. Today’s radical Islamicists would attack him, but Islam itself could provide the language to move people. His greatest challenge would be to redefine what it means to be a Palestinian. In a time of despair, like the current time, that might be possible”. This story can be read in full here.

Silverstein in his post, wrote that Gorenberg’s “fantasy” doesn’t have “half a chance in Hell of coming anywhere close” to being true. He says that “There is unfortunately no longer (if there ever was) an Israeli conscience regarding Palestinian rights or ending the Occupation. The Israeli left is either dead or in suspended animation. The values it used to represent are no longer ones embraced (at least consciously) by most Israelis. In short, it is simply impossible to rouse Israel’s conscience to the justice of the Palestinian struggle. As hard as it is for me as a progressive Zionist to write this, such a non-violent march as the one described by Gorenberg would be met with massive and lethal force. Scores, if not hundreds would die. Demonstrators would be scattered to the winds. The Israeli government would call them rabble-rousing Arab scum who entered a closed military zone in order to deliberately provoke the IDF to act. They’ll say they got what they deserved. And hardly anyone but the usual suspects within Israel will raise a peep in dissent”. This rebuttal can be read in full here

In today’s Haaretz, Gideon Levy wrote that “Our own Barak, Defense Minister Ehud, who used to be considered at least as brilliant as Obama, told Etgar Keret in an interview with Haaretz yesterday: ‘Where does the [Palestinian nation] live? In a cage? A jail? A swimming pool?’ And Barak’s own answer to this question: ‘It lives in its country’. After the prime minister’s top diplomatic adviser determined that two states is a childish solution, along comes another statesman and determines that we’re all children. Stupid children, it must be said, to whom you can sell any bit of nonsense, including all the nonsense in that interview. The Palestinians, who cannot travel from one village to another without permission from Israel, who have no basic human rights and who have been trampled underfoot, humiliated and imprisoned without any sign of sovereignty, are already living as a free people in their country. If the defense minister really thinks so, then there is grave cause for concern: Mr. Security is deranged and has lost touch with reality. If he doesn’t think so, then he’s messing with us. Which is worse? … An attempted attack by Palestinians on horseback, or maybe muleback, is depicted in the media as a prevented mega-terror attack, a consequence of the smuggling of sophisticated and advanced Iranian weaponry through the tunnels, which we are being told about in horror day and night. El Al is apologizing for having called the fence a ‘separation wall’, as though it were a department of the Foreign Ministry; the prime minister is saying that the demand to freeze natural growth in the settlements is ‘not fair’, as though it were possible to talk about fairness when discussing the settlements … [And] Minister without Portfolio Yossi Peled (yes, he too is a minister) is proposing that Israel impose sanctions on the United States …” This piece can be read in full here.

Continue reading Are they crazy!!?? – Part Two

At least, Livni did not lose

It is a tremendous relief that Tzipi Livni was not trounced in this vote.

By the narrowest of leads — the Israeli election commission now gives Livni’s Kadima Party 28 seats while the next highest party has 27, and some votes are still not counted — she seems to have “won” the most votes in yesterday’s election.

Or, at least she did not lose — as had been widely predicted.

Yet, there is still a chance she may not get to form the next government. If the apparent runner-up in the election, Benjamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu’s Likud Party, is able to demonstrate to Israel’s State President Shimon Peres that he can put together a coalition government of parties from the right, that would pose a real dilemma.

Would Peres give Livni a first shot, anyway?

But, then again, why should much of the world be so absorbed by these elections — and all the attendant exotic minutiae of the Israeli political scene?

The only reason is the real concern to know if there is any reasonable chance to see a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Livni’s placement in the polls suggest that Israel’s voters have not rejected continuing peace negotiations with the Palestinians, despite the heady anti-Arab/anti-Palestinian atmosphere that has only thickened with the national feelings of justification for the recent military attacks in Gaza, angrily oblivious of strong international criticism.

Her enormously unattractive behavior during Israel’s recent 22-day military invasion of Gaza — threatening more and worse — turned many potential supporters from Israel’s “left” against her, even as most pre-election predictions indicated a victorious Israeli “right”.

Continue reading At least, Livni did not lose