Palestinians: is "keeping the lid on" a strategy?

All this talk about a possible Third Intifada…

One of the most irritating things about this discussion is the assumption that violence is the strategy of choice for Palestinians.

Palestinians are not ready for violence, and there are absolutely no indications either that they have in any way prepared for it. Moreover, the sentiment most often heard is a refusal to be the one to go out on the street to protest and get arrested, with all the consequences, while their families will be left alone without support and the others will stay in their offices and continue to be comfortable, making money…

But, the situation is getting worse and worse.

Nevertheless, this speculation about another Intifada is a classic example of “the boogeyman” approach: the suggestion is made that if x or y does not happen, then one’s worst fears will come true…

UPDATE: On Thursday 28 February, Dalia Hatuqa wrote about the Third Intifada speculation in The National here, saying that “Of late, Palestinians have become an afterthought for the Israeli public. This was evident in the latest Israeli elections … There is a too-little discussed acceptance in Israel that the denial of rights and the self-determination of millions of Palestinians is a normal status quo”. She added that ‘Neither Israel nor the PA has an interest in another intifada and, as long as security cooperation between the two continues, Israel can rest easy. But the ongoing policies of Israel’s occupation are unsustainable and it is clear that Palestinians will not tolerate them in perpetuity. As long as Israel continues to rely on carrots and sticks to temporarily quash popular outrage, the PA will be walking a fine line between an angry constituency and a demanding occupying force’. Meanwhile, she reported, “A senior Fatah official, Jibril Rajoub, went on Israel Radio to echo Mr Abbas’s statement, declaring ‘on behalf of the entire Palestinian leadership that there is no plan to lead to bloodshed’.”

Continue reading Palestinians: is "keeping the lid on" a strategy?

They long, they yearn, to pray in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque – on the last Friday in Ramadan

This is a great photo by ActiveStills, posted on this, the last Friday in Ramadan 2012, here.

Activestills in Ar Ram on 17 August 2012

Unusually, this year, because of the way the calendar fell, Ramadan has five Fridays this year — and today is the most important.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense has adopted more lenient rules this year for passage for prayer during Ramadan —  because, the IDF said,  of “the calm” — than in any year since the construction of The Wall [that the Israeli Ministry of Defense constructed for “security” reasons, meaning to separate Palestinians in the West Bank from Jerusalem and from Israel]…

But, these improved rules still say that only Palestinians under 16 years of age, or over 40 years of age, will be permitted to enter Jerusalem on the Fridays in Ramadan to worship.

Everybody else will have to try to apply for a permit — and that is almost impossible to obtain.

So, for the young men shown in this photo, they have no real prospect of entering Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa for anything up to 22 or 23 years from now!

Continue reading They long, they yearn, to pray in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque – on the last Friday in Ramadan

Unmistakably, Qalandia Checkpoint

On Fridays in Ramadan, the month of fasting and spiritual activities, the Israeli military makes special arrangements for Palestinians living on the “other” side of The Wall, who seek and who long to go for prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the major holy sites for Muslims worldwide, which has special significance during the month of Ramadan.

In recent years, because of the pushing and shoving that the arrangements always entail, there have been special entrances created separating women from men before even getting into the checkpoint zone.

Every year the arrangements are slightly different. There are no longer Israeli soldiers on horseback riding into the crowds of Palestinians desperate to get through to Jerusalem. The last use of tear gas fired into the fasting worshippers was two years ago. But they arrangements haven’t come near the point of removing altogether the difficulties, stress, uncertainties and humiliation of having to go through the ordeal of struggling to deal with the crowd and conditions to pass through this military checkpoint into an unknown [the Jerusalem area, cut off by The Wall and Israeli military checkpoints for more than a decade] — all while fasting [including not drinking even water] in the high sun and heat of summer.

Here are some photos published here by the privately-owned Maan News Agency in Bethlehem.  The photos are in a group of shots taken  by Mohamad Torokman /Ammar Awad of Reuters:
Qalandia Checkpoint - special entrance for women on 2nd Friday in Ramadan - Maan images photos by Reuters

Anxiety on women's faces as they reach the point where they must pass through the first row of soldiers at Qalandia Checkpoint on the second Friday in Ramadan 2012 - Maan images photos by Reuters

This second Friday of Ramadan, the Israeli women [veteran observers of the checkpoint scene, and Jewish] from Machsom Watch were there, as were observers from the World Council of Churches’ Eccumenical Accompaniement Program in Palestine + Israel, EAPPI.

But, for the first time, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was absent from the scene — following the Israeli Government’s recent decision to question their activities, and their staff, as we have previously reported here.

The Israeli campaign is working.

    UPDATE: Meanwhile, Phil Weiss, founder of the Mondoweiss blog, wrote yesterday: “I flew into Ben Guiron from Newark and my flight was mostly Jewish… The shuttle I rode into Jerusalem had ten passengers, mostly American Jews, two binational Israeli American girls, a Christian tourist and an international aid type. This last passenger was dropped at Qalandiya checkpoint to go on to Ramallah. ‘Is this a hospital?’ the orthodox girl in the front row asked. A reminder that the Palestinian reality is sealed off from Israelis, and also that Qalandiya is a vast bureaucratic complex in benign disguise, a border crossing that keeps the subject population Over There. ‘A lot of the Arabs throw rocks, that is why they put this up’, an older Jew who fought in the 48 war explained to his wife as we passed along the wall … I have been through Qalandiya twice in the last day and cannot convey what a dreary oppressive experience this is. Long lines of people made to walk in a wide muddy circle past the neverending re-arranged concrete walls, one of which has Fuck You as an eloquent graffiti. The soldiers stand at huge concrete cubes that the bulldozers have placed just so, a couple-hips’-width apart, and stop us at three points on our way in. Women and men are separated, in a fashion that has ghoulish echoes of the worst moments of Jewish history … While in the Old City, in the Ramadan crowds that inch packed and dangerous toward the mosque, there are always men at the side spraying water on as you walk by. Tossing it from bottles, spraying it with sprayers, to cool you down. A lovely gesture of community, in which I am included…” Phil posted this here


Popular Protests – Year Two

March 30 protests [in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, as well as inside Israel and just outside its northern and eastern perimeters] marked the start of Year Two of Popular Protests against … continued Israeli occupation.

It was, this year, a combination of the Global March to Jerusalem + Land Day.

The day started out slowly — but with prior Israeli preparation that had some of the trappings of the pre-Mavi Marmara “naval incident” during which an Israeli naval boarding on the high seas in the eastern Mediterranean resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish men, including a Turkish-American high school students.

There were. also reminiscent of the pre-Mavi Marmara build-up, even prior alerts about Iranian involvement in sending and training “terrorists” to “infiltrate” the Israeli “borders” from neighboring countries…

As the day went on, it became clear that (1) the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority in the West Bank was ineptly and covertly trying to keep a lid on things there while allowing a low-level flame to burn; that (2) Hamas was making attempts at preventing protesters from actually succeeding in entering the Erez Terminal between Israel and northern Gaza [DEBKAfile reported, sensationally as always, that Hamas took on Islamic Jihad “snipers” to do so]; that (3) Lebanese authorities kept their rumored word not to allow protests south of the Litani River; that (4) the current Syrian Government had no interest in seeing a repeat of last year’s Nakba + Naksa Day fatalities across the UN-monitored demilitarized zone on the Golan Heights; and that government was able to allow some 15,000 Palestinian refugees and their supporters to meet and gather within a few kilometers of the border with Israel without any cross-border clashes. UN Blue Helmet truce monitors kept watch with binoculars all day where last year over 20 people died as they defined warning shots and ran through minefields — this year, the UN observers saw, maybe, a couple of butterflies.

Map showing main Land Day protests via @fadiquran on Twitter

Image of Land Day demos via <b>@fadiquran</b>

Israel’s YNet website confidently reported here that “the security forces in the Palestinian cities did not allow the demonstrations to spread”…

A report from CNN’s Ben Wedeman on a rally at Beaufort Castle in Lebanon can be viewed here.

Photos of part of the gathering not far from the Jordanian border were Tweeted by @tighebarry
Land Day + Global March to Jlem in Jordan - 30 March 2012 - via @tighebarry on Twitter

In preparation for the demonstrations, the IDF ordered a complete closure of the West Bank until midnight.

Around Jerusalem itself, the activities [and clashes] were in the Old City of East Jerusalem [Damascus Gate in particular], at Qalandia Checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah, and at the main Israeli checkpoint into Bethlehem.

The New York Times story by Ethan Bronner, published here, used this photo of horse-mounted policemen ploughing through demonstrators in front of Damascus Gate to the Old City of East Jerusalem:

Israeli police on horseback scattering demonstrators opposite Damascus Gate - AP photo in the NYTimes

Bronner noted in his NYTimes piece that “While the events on Friday were less violent and smaller than many anticipated, the tenor of the discourse offered Israel little comfort”.

Another photo from the East Jerusalem protests shows a visibly-outnumbered protester apparently being subjected to close-range pepper spraying to his temple, quite near his eye:

Photo Tweeted by @DidiRemez and also published by Ma’an News Agency, in an album posted here.

There were many injuries – including a young man hit in the head by a tear gas cannister at the Bethlehem checkpoint; an 8-year-old boy hit in the face by a tear gas cannister at the weekly protest in Nabi Saleh; one young man, 20-year-old Mahmoud Zaqout, was shot in the chest and killed on the Gaza side of Erez checkpoint —  his death reportedly brings to 5o the number of Palestinians who have died during Land Day protests since the original event it commemorates, in which six died, in 1976…

At Qalandiya, where there are thousands of civilians living in homes in close proximity to the checkpoint and to the action, tires were burned, the IDF moved 100 meters or so out of the checkpoint fanning north, west, and east, and there were enormous quantities of tear gas used [which fills the rooms of the neighboring houses and shops], as well as rubber bullets, skunk spray, and something used during the boarding of the Mavi Marmara [a projectile which emits smoke when fired and which causes painful welts on the skin].

There was also a problem at Qalandiya during which Mubadara Leader Mustafa Barghouthi was injured — apparently in the midst of a tear gas volley — by fighting about tactics and timing, involving his supporters and those of other Palestinian factions.  Barghouthi, an elected representative to the dormant Palestinian Legislative Council who has run as an independent candidate for President of the PA, also runs the Palestinian Medical Relief Committee whose ambulances were in constant service during the day.

On Friday, @jstthtgood sent these Tweets: “Mustafa Barghouti Attacked in #Qalandia while in an Ambulance because he started the ‘March to Jerusalem’ without other factions present” … and “They were suppose to wait till after prayers, and also for other ‘leaders’ to arrive” as well as “Barghouti started early and alone”.

UPDATE: Ma’an News Agency is reporting on Saturday here that “Palestinian Authority investigators have visited the lawmaker in a Ramallah hospital to check up on the circumstances surrounding the injury, a police report said”. This report also notes that “The police investigation is centered on reports that Barghouti was attacked by political adversaries following a dispute about how to carry out the demonstration, which was attended by several factions”.

The NYTimes piece by Bronner reported earlier that “At the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank and Jerusalem, masked youths threw stones at Israeli troops and set tires on fire. The troops responded with rubber bullets and tear gas. Mustafa Barghouti, a doctor and Palestinian politician, said one of the tear-gas canisters hit him, sending him to the hospital. ‘I was hit with a tear-gas bomb on the side of my head and my back’, Dr. Barghouti said in a telephone interview from his hospital bed. ‘My scalp is injured, my right ear has problems, and they are checking to see if I have any spinal injury’.  The Israeli military spokesman’s office, in a set of Twitter messages and later over the telephone, said Dr. Barghouti had not been hit by an Israeli canister but had been attacked by other Palestinians.  A few Palestinian witnesses offered a similar account.  The Palestinian minister of social welfare, Majida al-Masri, was treated after collapsing from tear-gas inhalation“.

Photo of the action at the Bethlehem 300 checkpoint via @GazaYBO [Gaza Youth Breaks Out] on Twitter:

Photo on 30 March 2012 via Twitter <b>@GazaYBO</b>

UPDATE: A collection of wonderfully graphic photos of the day’s activities was posted later by the Denver Post here.

Bethlehem activist Mazin Qumsiyeh, who has an email list of some 50,000 names, sent out an email summary at the end of the day which concluded with the words: “Action is the best antidote to despair”.

Recommended Reading – Amira Hass: Palestinians are heroes

Amira Hass has written this, or things like this, in Haaretz before.

But, it’s like Picasso’s Blue period — she keeps trying to explain what she sees, over and over again, until she finally captures its essence. [I have sometimes explained what I’m doing in the same way…]

It isn’t that this time she finally got it right — no, there’s still so many things to write, so many more ways to try to describe this reality so that it’s understandable, and comprehended by those not physically here [or, by those who are here, but don’t see it, or who ignore it].

But, this time [as many times], the words resonate in a special way.

Amira writes: Palestinians are heroes, braving Israeli dictatorship – “To live this way and remain sane – that’s heroism. ‘And who says we’re sane?’ Palestinians answer me. Well, here’s the proof: self-irony. The thugs of the hills are only the icing on the cake. Most of the work is being done by thugs wearing kid gloves… Latest update 01:41 21.12.11, here.

AFP: UN report mentions unmarked minefield, denial of access to UN observer teams, in Golan

AFP has written a story from UNHQ/NY, based on an as-yet-unpublished UN report, that apparently says that Palestinian and Syrian demonstrators coming from Syria crossed an “unmarked minefield” in the Golan Heights on May 15 — the day that Israeli forces were surprised by the breach.

From the AFP story, published here, it is not clear if this referred to a field of Israeli, or Syrian, mines.

The unpublished UN report that AFP obtained is apparently linked to forthcoming UN Security Council consideration of periodic renewal, later this month, of the UN peacekeeping mandate on the Golan Heights, known as UNDOF [UN Disengagement Observer Forces]. This UNDOF report, published as a report of the UNSG, was due to be published on 10 June…

The AFP story, published yesterday [Wednesday June 15] says that “On May 15, about 4,000 mainly Palestinian demonstrators gathered on the Golan Heights on the anniversary of Israel’s 1948 creation. The UN report said about 300 moved toward the Israeli side ‘and despite the presence of the Syrian police, crossed the ceasefire line, through an unmarked minefield‘ and broke through an Israeli security fence. Israeli forces at first fired tear gas, then warning shots and then used ‘direct fire’, according to the UN, which said four dead and 41 wounded were reported. On June 5, Palestinians again gathered at two places on the Golan Heights ceasefire line. ‘Despite the presence of Syrian security forces, protesters attempted to breach the ceasefire line in both locations’, the UN said. Israeli forces again used tear gas and then live fire to deter the demonstrators. The UN said up to 23 people were reported killed and many more wounded … The UN report said ‘anti-government demonstrations in Syria spread to several villages’ on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line. UN observer teams have been denied access to six villages ‘ostensibly for reasons of safety and security of the military observers’, the report said”. This AFP story is published here.

This confirms the serious — and still unanswered — questions that have been raised in the past month:
(1) There is a question of proper notification, both to Syrian authorities and to UN peacekeeping missions working in the Golan.
(2) There is also an unanswered question about whether or not the minefields were properly marked [particularly any newly-laid minefields], in order to provide adequate warning to the demonstrators themselves.
(3) The breach of the Syrian and Israeli lines by Palestinian and Syrian protesters in demonstrations both on June 5 and also on May 15 has raised questions about how the UN peacekeeping forces who operate there are working.

The AFP story did seem to show UN confirmation that Syrian authorities didn’t do much but stand by and watch during May15 +June5 protests — though there was no real dispute on that point. The UN report apparently does not say that Syrian authorities actually sponsored, or even encouraged, the demonstrations. [It would be interesting to see anybody argue that the Syrian Army should actually have stopped the protesters from protesting — though the Lebanese Army did shoot at demonstrators on May 15.]

On Monday 6 June, a day after the latest demonstrations, the Israeli media published reports that newly-laid IDF minefields were among the preparations undertaken since the Nakba Day protests on May15 (when Palestinians + Syrians surprised the IDF by crossing the Golan on foot and entering Majdal Shams etc.) These newly-laid IDF minefields were reportedly planted expressly to prevent a second breach of the lines, in anticipation of the June 5 demonstrations marking the start of the June 1967 war (and the start of the Israeli occupation). An unclear number of people, said to be unarmed, were killed by unclear causes, apparently including minefield explosions.

UNDOF’s Croatian Battalion is located in the middle of the UN Zone that separates Israeli and Syrian lines near Majdal Shams.
The current UNDOF deployment map is published here.

The Israeli and Syrian lines are situated where agreed by a 1974 Agreement on the Disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces. It can’t be found on the UN website, but it is on the website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, here. It shows the UN zone in the middle of the demarcated area:

Map of Israeli-Syrian Disengagement Agreement - 1974
Israeli-Syrian Disengagement Agreement Map - 1974

The story has not yet been developed.

It is not clear where the old minefields are, or whether they are all clearly marked. And it’s absolutely not clear where any newly-laid minefields are. But, all indications are that the newly-laid minefields were unmarked. (Except by two rows of barbed wire, according to an Israeli friend.)

One report, whose link I’ve unfortunately misplaced, did mention in passing that the IDF lines were overrun on May15 when Israeli troops stopped in their tracks, stunned to see the Palestinian demonstrators crossing minefields [marked, or unmarked?]

The first indications of injuries and deaths from mine explosions came from accounts given to the Israeli media by the IDF Northern Command on June 5, and then by IDF spokespersons themselves. The IDF aid that some protesters supposedly threw Molotov cocktails onto one minefield, apparently near Quneitra, thereby setting off one or more explosions. At least one IDF spokeswoman insisted, in an interview with one of my colleagues, that this peculiar tragedy involved minefields left over from the 1967 war.

UPDATE: However, the as-yet-unpublished UN report blame the fire not on Molotov cocktails supposedly thrown by demonstrators, but rather on the tear gas (or smoke?) canisters fired at the demonstrators by Israeli forces. Thanks to a tip from NYC-based journalist Alex B. Kane, who published his own account on Mondoweiss, there, we discovered a DPA [German Press Agency] story published by Haaretz on Tuesday evening, here reports that “A UN report on the Naksa day events said the IDF used tear gas, smoke grenades and live fire to prevent the demonstrators from crossing the ceasefire line. It stated: ‘Several anti-tank mines exploded due to a brush fire apparently started by tear gas or smoke grenade canisters near UNDOF facilities at Charlie Gate [near Quneitra?], resulting in casualties among protesters’. The brush fire was put out by Syrian and Israeli fire squads, and UNDOF, the report read”.

Another link in Alex Kane’s report for Mondoweiss, a Haaretz report published on June 6, here, “[IDF] Soldiers fired ‘with precision’ at the bottom half of the bodies of the protesters, the army said”. Then, an IDF spokeswoman said that this was further proof that the death toll figures had been exaggerated: We shot them in the feet, she said, and then the wounded were carried away on stretchers, pretending that they were dead…

So, to satisfy the IDF standards of proof that they were only “shot in the feet”, those injured should have walked back across the lines…?

Postscript – on Israeli jurisdiction: Palestinian challenges his arrest by Israel in West Bank

Perhaps because this did NOT involve “security” matters, an Israeli lawyer representing a Palestinian arrested in the West Bank and taken to Israel to be charged with a minor crime is challenging this as a violation of international law.

Haaretz is reporting here that Mohamed Beni Gama, a Palestinian resident of the West Bank, was arrested at his home in the village of Arkaba, near Nablus on Friday morning “accused the Israel Police of illegally abducting him beyond Israel’s borders, thus violating international law and overstepping the Israel Police’s authority.  The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court instructed police to verify whether the suspect had been arrested ‘outside the country’ and whether it was legal to bring him into Israel for questioning over a two-year-old property offense”.

Haaretz added that “Judge Yael Klugman, formerly president of the military court in Tel Aviv, accepted the attorney’s arguments, ruling it must first be ascertained where Gama was arrested.  ‘If it transpires he was arrested outside Israel, and the police ask to extend his remand despite that … they must prepare to argue the case for their authority to arrest someone outside the country and bring him into Israel for investigation over a two-year-old breaking and entering offense’, she wrote”.

When I passed through the Hizma checkpoint yesterday from Jerusalem on my way to Ramallah, I noticed a new red sign on a stand, with white lettering only in Hebrew. When I returned to Jerusalem later in the evening, I saw the sign deployed, for the first time, just before the checkpoint, facing those coming to Jerusalem.

I asked the soldiers what it said, and a young woman with an olive green jumpsuit, jacket, hat — and a sleek black weapon — said that it simply indicated that “The area ahead is Israel, and in the other direction, behind you, it is Palestinian”.

Continue reading Postscript – on Israeli jurisdiction: Palestinian challenges his arrest by Israel in West Bank

Dangerous murders of Israeli settler family in Itamar near Nablus, dangerous reprisals against Palestinians. But where is proof of Palestinian guilt?

Five members of an Israeli family — including both parents and an infant — living in the northern West Bank settlement of Itamar, not far from Nablus, were brutally murdered in their home on Friday night.

The bodies were discovered when their 12-year-old daughter returned home. Two boys (ages 2 and 6) may have survived, according to unclear Israeli media reports in English.

The northern West Bank was put under lock-down.

All top Israeli officials have called for condemnation of this heinous crime, and said it must be punished and revenged.

Revenge has been and is being carried out against Palestinians.

But, so far, little to no proof of any Palestinian involvement has emerged.

There are footprints, reportedly, leading from a point where the Itamar security system was apparently breached … to the Palestinian village of Awarta.

UPDATE: By March 16, no one — not even a Palestinian — had been charged with the murder, despite intensive Israeli investigations. Awarta is still under lock-down. Thai workers who live in Itamar were reportedly rounded up for interrogation, and there were strong rumors that one of them, who had worked for the family and who was owed 10,000 or 20,000 shekels, was suspected, but there are still no charges against anyone…. At least one Israeli report indicated that the house was still locked from the inside when the murders were discovered. Everybody who was asked and even those who were not asked had dutifully and also sincerely denounced the murders. But those who believe that it was an act of terror committed by Palestinians, well, they still believe it. (See comment below). And, reprisals by settlers against Palestinians are continuing…

UPDATE TWO: The IDF lifted the lock-down on Awarta on Wednesday, more than five days after it began. Reports now indicate that some 40 residents are still being detained.

UPDATE THREE: The Board of the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel has issued a statement saying that it “is deeply disturbed that Israeli officials are once again accusing the international media of being biased against Israel. In the latest instance, officials attending a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday dredged up ancient and unfounded conspiracy theories about an 11-year-old case [the death of Muhammad al-Durra, killed while crouching beside his father beside a concrete block in a hail of gunfire in Gaza] and without providing any evidence, tried to equate it to coverage of the weekend knife attack in Itamar. We strongly urge Israeli officials to refrain from making unsubstantiated blanket statements against the international media — a diverse group of hundreds of journalists from around the world — and encourage parliament to seek out more credible witnesses in the future”…

The FPA statement is apparently a reference to remarks made at a Knesset committee on (Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs) this week by Danny Seaman, who served for ten years as head of the Israeli Government Press Office and who is now the Deputy Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Information. The Knesset Committee Chairperson, Danny Danon of Likud, reportedly said — according to an account apparently compiled by the Committee spokesperson — that a court battle concerning the film footage of the Gaza gunbattle between the IDF and Palestinian policemen, pursued by French Jewish businessman Philippe Karsenty (now running for the French Parliament, who was present and who was one of those addressing the Knesset hearing this week) “succeeded in proving provocation and conspiracy by foreign journalists. ‘Our enemies have no problem using unacceptable and dishonest means to attack us, so that cases like this where it is possible to reveal the truth are very important for the battle over the legitimacy of the State of Israel’. Danny Seaman, who said he became convinced after his own lengthy investigation that the video footage of the shoot-out in Gaza had been at least in part staged, and who has previously spoken publicly about this in various fora for several years, told the Knesset Committee that he now also believes “there is a direct link between the position taken by the French media on the Muhammad al-Durrah incident that seeks to represent Israel as murderers of children, and their failure to cover the terrible massacre in Itamar”.

From here, it is hard to see that there was any lack of coverage of the murders of five members of the Fogel family in Itamar (much less that this is due to French television’s report on the death of Muhammad al-Durra — though Karsenty has even questioned whether or not the Palestinian child’s death was faked as well). However, it is true that the top news worldwide in the past week has been the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, followed by continuing events in Libya and Bahrain.

Meanwhile, no Israeli government official has yet said explicitly that Palestinians committed the murders in Itamar, either, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded that the Palestinian Authority leadership must explicitly condemn the killings — and must also end what he said was a “campaign of incitement” against Israel…

Continue reading Dangerous murders of Israeli settler family in Itamar near Nablus, dangerous reprisals against Palestinians. But where is proof of Palestinian guilt?

Israeli responses to Arab protests

Uri Avnery has written, in his weekly article, that [sarcasm alert here] “JERUSALEM IS abuzz with brilliant new ideas. The brightest minds of our political establishment are grappling with the problems created by the ongoing Arab revolution that is reshaping the landscape around us”.

The Avnery article continues: “Minister of Defense Ehud Barak has announced that he is going to ask the US for a grant of another 20 billion dollars for more state-of-the-art fighter planes, missile boats, a submarine, troop carriers and so on. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had his picture taken surrounded by female soldiers – like Muammar Qaddafi in the good old days – looking beyond the Jordan River and announcing that the Israeli army would never ever leave the Jordan valley. According to him, this occupied strip of land is Israel’s vital ‘security border’. This slogan is as old as the occupation itself. It was part of the celebrated Allon Plan, which was designed to surround the West Bank with Israeli territory. Incidentally, the father of the plan, Yigal Allon, was also a leader of the Kibbutz movement, and the Jordan valley looked to him like an ideal area for new Kibbutzim – it is flat, well watered and was sparsely populated. However, times have changed. When Allon was a legendary commander in the 1948 war, he did not even dream of missiles. Today, missiles launched from beyond the Jordan can easily reach my home in Tel Aviv. When Netanyahu declares that we need the Jordan valley in order to stop the Arabs from smuggling missiles into the West Bank, he is, well, a little bit behind the times. When the politicians bravely face the new world, the army dares not lag behind. This week, several division commanders announced that they were preparing for Tahrir-style ‘non-violent mass uprisings’ in the West Bank. Troops are trained, riot control means are stocked. Our glorious army is being prepared for yet another colonial police job … In the meantime, a dozen top politicians, from Avigdor Lieberman down, have been dusting off moribund plans for ‘interim agreements’ – old merchandise sitting sadly on the shelves, with no buyers in sight”.

Can Israel build bridges to possible new “progressive, multi-party” Arab societies?, Avnery asks … and answers: “I believe we can. But the absolute, unalterable precondition is that we make peace with the Palestinian people. [Yet] It is the unshakable – and self-fulfilling – conviction of the entire Israeli establishment that this is impossible. They are quite right – as long as they are in charge, it is indeed impossible. But with another leadership, will things be different? … A peace agreement – signed by the PLO, ratified in a popular referendum, accepted by Hamas – will radically change the attitude of the Arab peoples in general towards Israel. This is not simply a matter of form – it goes deep into the bedrock of national consciousness. Not one of the ongoing uprisings in the various Arab countries is anti-Israeli by nature. Nowhere do the Arab masses cry out for war. Indeed, the idea of war contradicts their basic aspirations: social progress, freedom, a standard of living which allows a life in dignity. However, as long as the occupation of Palestinian territory goes on, the Arab masses will reject conciliation with Israel … Therefore, Israel will crop up in every free election campaign in the Arab countries, and every party will feel obliged to condemn Israel. ONE ARGUMENT against peace, endlessly repeated by our official propaganda, is that Hamas will never accept it. The specter of Islamist movements in other countries winning democratic elections – as Hamas did in Palestine – is painted on the wall as a mortal danger. It may be worthwhile remembering that Hamas was effectively created by Israel in the first place. During the first decades of the occupation, the military governors forbade any kind of Palestinian political activity, even by those who were advocating peace with Israel. Activists were sent to prison. There was only one exception: Islamists. Not only was it impossible to prevent them from assembling in the mosques – the only public space left open – but the military governors were told to encourage Islamist organizations, as a counterforce to the PLO, which was considered the main enemy … On the outbreak of the first intifada, the Islamist movement constituted itself as Hamas (“Islamic Resistance Movement”) and took up the fight”.

Now, Avnery asks, “Will Hamas accept peace? It has declared as much in a roundabout way: if the Palestinian Authority makes peace, they have declared, and if the peace agreement is ratified by a Palestinian referendum, Hamas will accept it as an expression of the people’s will”.

This Avnery article is an interesting compliment to remarks made by former Mossad Director [he served three terms] Efraim (Ephraim) Halevy to members of the Foreign Press Association at a briefing at the Foreign Press Association last Thursday.

Halevy was presenting the results of a study — entitled “Future Borders between Israel and the Palestinian Authority” — done by the Shasha Center for Strategic Studies, which he heads, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Federmann School for Public Policy and Government.

Halevy — who told the journalists: “I was an intelligence officer for 48 years — noted that the study is an academic effort which will be sent to “both addresses” (Israeli and Palestinian?), and which was conducted entirely independently of any developments within the current Israeli government (which he said at another point was “weak”), although Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has announced that he plans to present, soon, some kind of “long-term” but “interim” solution.

Halevy said that the study concluded that the most viable solution would be “no solution” to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. Paradoxically, he said, the participants agreed that an “agreed-upon international border”, meaning a peace treaty (or a part of one) was not possible, though it was desirable, because “We believe that the penalty or price that would be paid for keeping a no-solution situation is so high and so prohibitive … that both sides would prefer any other solution”.

For the Palestinians, he said, “saying that after all these efforts there is no solution, might well mean the end of existence of the Palestinian Authority (PA)”. And, he added, “even if a Palestinian State is declared, but it’s not operative, this would be political bankruptcy”.

“Israel can live longer with no solution”, Halevy said, “but the penalty the Palestinians will pay is much greater … They can’t live with no solution … and for us [Israel], the existence of the PA is a major interest”.

What is needed is not an “end of conflict” (a term used by previous Israeli governments from Ehud Barak to Ehud Olmert), Halevy noted, but rather an “agreement on co-existence”. While the initial reaction might be, “Oh no, we don’t want this”, Halevy said, “at the end of the day, if you have to choose between bad and worse”, this might be the better option.

This would be better, he said, because [a] the time frame would be less, therefore the chances for implementation would be greater (“you cannot make a commitment for somebody else in the future to implement”); and also because [b] the opposition is much less on both sides, because “we wouldn’t be signing off in the end of the conflict, and in Israel we’ll continue to live the kind of live we have today — in terms of economy, education, and style of life”. For the Palestinians, he said, such an agreement on co-existence would also have a virtue: “maybe we really don’t want a referendum because we can’t guarantee the results”, while for Hamas in particular, he said, “they have been asking for a while for a temporary solution, and they, as spoilers, would give the Palestinians the necessary consensus” to support this “agreement on co-existence”.

Halevy said, in answer to a journalist’s question, that yes, he did see such an agreement as a step along the way to a permanent solution and not an end in itself, as the Palestinians fear it would be. He added that ultimately borders would not have the same significance that they have today – but, he said “it will take generations, and much education”.

In any ase, he said there is now “growing unrest in the West Bank — in terms of conflict between Jewish and Arab populations — and a whole list of possible developments that could be negative for Palestinians in the West Bank that would make the whole solution fall apart, and would cause the loss of the benefits if sitting around in cafés in Ramallah and Nablus”. However, he said, he saw “no great appetite to go back to [Intifada-style] violence in the West Bank”.

He noted that he had recently written in Yediot Ahronot that “Israel is a threat-prone society … but fear is not a policy”.

And, he said, “we’ll know in a couple of weeks what the consequences will be in the West Bank and Gaza” of the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere. “I do not feel there will be a copy-cat phenomenon”, but “I do feel there are pressures on the PA to do something, and to do it quick”.

The result of the uprisings, he said, is that “the timetable is much shorter now, and if by September nothing happens, it’s too late”. He indicated later that he was referring to the end-date of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s two year program for the establishment of institutions of a Palestinian State (not, he said, to the possible, or probable, moves in the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly to secure full UN membership for such a Palestinian State).

He said, however, that he didn’t think it’s going to happen, but he did say that by the end of the year we’ll be in a new situation”.

“We don’t have time to mess around”, Halevy added, because the net result is that the uprisings in North Africa have “accelerated the pace of events”.

It was earlier predicted that 2011 would be critical, Halevy said, and “I think yes, 2011 is a critical year”.