Monthly Archives: May 2003

Protesting Israel, Again and Again

I am sick and tired of this constant focus of the left on Israel, and their inability to allow Zionists to just support the idea of Israel without involving politics. Below are two emails going out at the same time. The first, called Peace Begins with Justice, calls for people to “Come tell Israel’s supporter that peace begins where oppression, racism, theft and discrimination end. Come tell the U.S. government to stop funding Israel’s state violence. Come tell the U.S. government to support real peace with justice in the Middle East.” What, exactly would be real peace in their eyes? Could it be the absence of Israel? Read it for yourself:

Peace Begins With Justice: Protest the “Salute to Israel” Parade
When: Sunday, June 1st – 11am
Where: 59th Street and 5th Avenue (arrive from West Side)
Join us on Sunday, June 1st as thousands of people from diverse communities gather at the “Salute to Israel” Parade on 5th Avenue to voice our outrage at Israel’s massive violations of human rights in Occupied Palestine.
Come tell Israel’s supporters in the U.S. that “peace is not the absence of war: peace is the presence of justice” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) Come tell Israel’s supporter that peace begins where oppression, racism, theft and discrimination end. Come tell the U.S. government to stop funding Israel’s state violence. Come tell the U.S. government to support real peace with justice in the Middle East.
Download the flyer and press release, and see current list of endorsers at: http://www.pafny.org/
This action is called by the Palestine Activist Forum of New York (PAFNY), an independent network of organizations and individuals in the New York City area committed to justice for the people of Palestine.
For endorsements and inquiries, email info@pafny.org

Please, do contact them and tell them how you feel.
This second one is even more infuriating, if and only because many of the groups are Jewish. As a left wing Jew, I do believe that Israel should eventually leave the West Bank and the Gaza Strip if and only if it cannot continue to hold 3.5 million Palestinians under its command. But, I would hope these people would also recognize the responsibility of the Palestinians for being stuck in their refugee camps. I’m too mad to be eloquent, so here it is:

The Network of Arab-American Professionals of NY; SUSTAIN; Direct Action Palestine; Al-Awda, the Palestinian Right of Return Coalition; Jews Against the Occupation; and United for Peace and Justice invite you to:
Dear United for Peace and Justice supporters,
On June 5, 2003, the thirty-sixth anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, we at United for Peace and Justice call for linked actions by Palestinian, international, and Israeli peace groups to protest the escalating violence against the Palestinian community and international human rights workers in the occupied territories. We demand protection for Palestinian civilians and for internationals, a moratorium on construction of the apartheid wall and its associated land confiscations and home demolitions, and an end to the occupation.
Below is the schedule for the New York events we have endorsed for this day. Please come if you can.
Justice in Palestine-Events in NYC, Thursday, June 5th 2003 9:00AM – 9:00PM
9:00AM-1:00PM Forum at the United Nations, 777 UN Plaza, 2nd Floor conference room. Justice in Palestine: The Responsibility of the UN and the International Community Keynote address by professor Edward Said, Columbia University. Presentations by Cindy Corrie, Rabab Abdulhadi, Starhawk, Nadia Hijab and Simona Sharoni. RSVP: pjsa@evergreen.edu
2:00–4:00PM Vigil in Solidarity with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in front of the United Nations. Contact: Simona Sharoni, SharoniS@evergreen.edu
5:30PM Women in Black Vigil & Rally, Union Square, Corner of 14th Street & Broadway
7:00PM Rhymes for Palestine: A Concert Benefitting Palestine Solidarity in NYC
I. Who is Initiating this Call?
United for Peace and Justice is initiating this call together with Palestinian based, Israeli, and other international peace groups. Committed convening groups include the Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA), the International Women’s Peace Service, and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which attempts to protect civilians and supports the nonviolent resistance within Palestine, and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. We seek and welcome endorsements by all groups and individuals that support our points of unity. For more information contact: Website: http://www.peacejusticestudies.org/palestine.php, or: Starhawk at stella@mcn.org, http://www.starhawk.org. Also Simona Sharoni at sharonis@evergreen.edu; 360-867-6196, ISM press office (Beit Sahour, Palestine): info@palsolidarity.org 972-2-277-4602

Please, contact them too and tell them how you feel.

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Full Frontal: The NYTimes on Attack

Far from humbling itself, or apoligizing for the amazing string of events that have ripped apart it’s credibility, the New York Times has gone on the attack today. It’s target: the lack of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Both Krugman and Kristoff fire serious vollies at the administration, accusing it with everything from concocting the war to protect itself from Domestic criticism to destroying the credibility of the intelligence agencies by souping up false intel on Iraq’s WMD.
This is what I don’t understand: what about the mobile weapons labs that we found? On May 7th the NYTimes itself reported on a truck we found, and, subsequently published an article on May 10 that another such mobile lab was found. As far as my searches go, there have not been any articles since debunking the findings–only an article entitled Trailer is a Mobile Lab Capable of Turning Out Bioweapons, a Team Says.
I am no fan of the Bush administration, but I am a big fan of the truth. As far as I’m concerned, the fact that these two columns were published means one of two things: one, Krugman and Kristof do not read the New York Times. Two, they have a vested interest in charging that the Bush administration undertook dubious methods to convince the American people to fight in Iraq. One would like to think that the first assumption is right, but, as it is, taking into account their records and what they have admitted themselves, it looks like the NYTimes is once again shamed by dubious reporters with political goals.

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Obscuring Our Vision

[The following article was published by the Columbia Spectator today. Note: I made a mistake in the article–Benny Elon is from the National Union, not the NRP, which recieved 5.5% of the electoral vote in 2003, and not 4.2% as did the NRP. I fully apologize for the simple fact-checking error, and find it especially ironic and even karmic that I would make a mistake in an article about journalistic integrity.]

Obscuring Our Vision

Recent events have made it blatantly clear that some of the most prominent members of the media repeatedly omit essential details in regards to the Middle East.
Reporters paint the world in easy-to-understand moral colors. Instead of challenging and uncovering the truth, the press has been seeking out and publicizing stories that fit a simplified worldview.
The most glaring example of this poor reporting, which, if intentional, could be construed as bias, is that of America’s supposed newspaper of record, The New York Times. Take reporter James Bennet’s articles from the past week. In the May 18 Week In Review, in an article entitled “Crossing Jordan; The Exit That Isn’t On Bush’s ‘Road Map,'” Bennet tells the international community about a proposition being floated by members of the Israeli government–the minister of tourism, no less: that “the new Palestinian state must be Jordan.” Bennet writes that this proposition “makes explicit” what many perceive as the “real subtext of the war on terrorism: that it is a battle between Judeo-Christian and Islamic values, beliefs and territorial ambitions.” The article continues to describe this plan of Minister Benyamin Elon without once addressing the amount of support such a proposition has within Israeli society.
How much support does Elon’s National Religious Party (NRP) have among Israeli voters? One would think that, for The New York Times to run a 1,500-word article on the proposition and to run it on the front page of the Week in Review, it must be widespread. Right? Nope. The NRP boasts no more than 4.2 percent of the Israeli electorate this year–three times less than the percentage of Palestinians who support the terrorist group Hamas. So, while the reader was led to believe that Israel has begun seriously contemplating forcibly transferring Palestinians into Jordan, the truth is anything but.
Now that the “road map” has become the central issue, Bennet’s articles tend to focus on Israel’s “delaying” and the Palestinians’ “acceptance” of the peace plan. But were the articles to focus on the actions taken, and not on the rhetoric espoused, by both sides, the American people would learn that a totally different story is unfolding.
The truth is that, while the Palestinian Authority has claimed to accept the road map without reservations, it has not taken any actions to comply with any of the road map’s statutes. While we read exaltations about the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas, the truth is that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat holds the reins of power closer than ever. He directly controls five of the eight Palestinian security forces, blatantly disregarding the tenet of the road map that states, “All Palestinian security organizations are [to be] consolidated into three services reporting to an empowered Interior Minister.” Moreover, the Fatah Executive–the body that could be called the “board of directors” of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which runs the Palestinian Authority–announced last Friday that it had stripped the Palestinian Interior Minister Muhammad Dahlan of his authority over the remaining security services, and transferred control to Nasser Yusef–an Arafat loyalist.
Sadly, although the Palestinian Authority has professed to accept the road map, it has not taken any of the steps the road map requires, and The New York Times has not reported that which would muddy the waters of its simplistic portrait of the Middle East. In this week’s New York Times Magazine, Bennet profiles Palestinian finance minister Salam Fayyad. In the article, every mention of the Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is modified with the word “political.” These terrorist leaders take honor and pride in targeting innocent women and children in coffee shops and pizzerias. Bennet, never once mentioning their cold-blooded terrorist actions, instead writes that “Hamas has gained strength not only through violence, but also through its schools, health clinics and reputation for incorruptibility.” So the mass murderers volunteer at children’s’ hospitals–does that make their actions any less evil?
While The New York Times is not alone in its quest for moral clarity, it is certainly the most alarming example of the media’s oversimplification of the complex geopolitical reality, and of the subsequent manipulation of public opinion due to the incomplete information. Other examples abound and are caught and followed by such organizations as Media Watch International, also known as HonestReporting.com, but catching them is not enough. If these are deliberate efforts to sway public opinion through false or biased information, they must end in order for democracy to thrive. If they are not deliberate efforts, The New York Times should pay more attention to providing “all the news that’s fit to print” when editing. We should expect no less from America’s newspaper of record.

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Some Things Are Right Even if Kristof Says Them

One of the problems with the prominence of the Palestinian question is that it draws the eyes of the world away from the truly gruesome conflicts. That is not to say that the Palestinians do not have a right to protest–it’s just that while they continue and deepen their misery through acts of terrorism and violence against innocents, millions of human beings all over the world are being treated much worse, given substantially less rights, and systematically murdered.
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times finally addresses that last point today, writing What did you do during the African holocaust? . Here’s a great quote:

“…Much of Africa has been caught in a tailspin. While our attention is diverted by Iraq, famine is looming over 40 million people on the continent, West Africa seems caught in an expanding series of civil wars, and much of Central Africa has been a catastrophe for up to a decade.
In Congo, in which I’ve had a special interest ever since Tutsi rebels chased me through the jungle there for several days in 1997, 3.3 million people have died because of warfare there in the last five years, according to a study by the International Rescue Committee. That’s half a Holocaust in a single country.”

Substitute Palestine for Iraq in the first sentence, and Kristof could really be onto something. Maybe the left will break out of its hypnotic spell and start fighting for just causes, and not for the rights of terrorists such as Yassir Arafat.

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Some Things Are Right Even if Rumsfeld Says Them

Hate to say it, but I harbor some respect for our Secretary of Defense. Not for his track-record before office, not for his person, but for his ability to cut through the crap and bring people–and the military–up to speed.
His op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on the topic of Iraq is especially commendable. Check it out for yourself, and here is a quote to whet your apetite:

There are still difficulties in Iraq, to be sure–crime, inflation, gas lines, unemployment. But the fact that such difficulties exist should come as no surprise: No nation that has made the transition from tyranny to a free society has been immune to the difficulties and challenges of taking that path–not even our own.
The years after our war of independence involved a good deal of chaos and confusion. There were uprisings such as Shays’ Rebellion, with mobs attacking courthouses and government buildings. There was rampant inflation caused by the lack of a stable currency and the issue of competing paper monies by the various states. There were regional tensions between mercantile New England and the agrarian south. There was looting and crime and a lack of an organized police force. There were supporters of the former regime whose fate had to be determined. Our first effort at a governing charter–the Articles of Confederation–failed miserably, and it took eight years of contentious debate before we finally adopted our Constitution and inaugurated our first president. And, unlike the people of Iraq, we did not face the added challenge of recovering from the trauma of decades of brutal rule by a dictator like Saddam Hussein.
The point is this: It is now just seven weeks since Iraq’s liberation–and the challenges are there. As Thomas Jefferson put it, “we are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed.” It took time and patience, but eventually our Founders got it right–and we hope so will the people of Iraq–over time.

It is important to keep exactly that point in mind: just because we live in relative order does not mean that order is the default state of nature. The creation of order takes time, and I hope the US and UK forces will take the necessary steps to establish order in Iraq while protecting Iraqi’s individual rights.

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Want Refugee Rights? Give Them to the Jews Too

I recieved this in the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East digest, I guess quoted from the Israel Info Center, and I fully support it.

ACTION ALERT: The Jewish Refugee Problem
Situation: Even though last week in Israel was one of bloodiest in recent memory, the Road Map push is still chugging along. To that end, I suggest that rather than arguing with President Bush’s vision, we (the Jewish community) must rally behind tangible issues that the “Map” doesn’t address. For example, the Refugee problem. “Right of Return” is a real issue for Palestinian Arabs. The incitement started five and half decades ago when the world decided to keep these refugees in a perpetual state of flux as a political tool against the Jewish state. However, the “Refugee Problem” is not exclusively Arab. Following 1948, there were, in fact, more Jewish refugees from Arab countries than displaced Palestinian Arabs. The reason why few people (including leading international diplomats) know about the Jewish refugee problem is because Israel absorbed most of the 900,000 as citizens. UN Resolution 242 (which is the foundation for the Road Map) clearly states that “a just settlement of the refugee problem” must be resolved in negotiations between the two sides. According to most calculations (see article below) a fair settlement to the Jewish refugee problem just for lost (and confiscated) property is in the neighborhood over $100 billion.
Action: Go the Israel Info Center (http://www.israelinfocenter.com) to e-mail the United Nations’ Commission on Human Rights and demand they officially recognize the billion dollar Jewish Refugee problem. E-mail addresses can also be found below the sample letter.
Sample Letter
Dear Distinguished Human Rights Officials:
With the liberation of Iraq, it is time for the United Nations to recognize the refugees displaced by the likes of Saddam Hussein and other totalitarian regimes in the Middle East. Following the Arab war of 1948, more than 800,000 people, mostly Jews, were displaced from the brutal dictatorships and monarchies of Syria, Trans-Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Tunis and Morocco. However, their story of forced exile has been completely ignored by the world community.
As you know, at the end of World War II there were more than 870,000 Jews living in the Middle-East and North Africa. What is not well known is that by 1958 97% of all Jews living in Arab countries emigrated to Israel due to local hostilities. In fact, many Arab countries after 1948 officially legislated racial discriminatory laws against Jews, denying them most basic human and civil rights, including: expropriating their property; removing them from civil service and other forms of employment; subjecting them to countless arrests, physical attacks, torture, and even public executions. All of these sinister acts were part of a larger pan-Arab plan to force a mass Jewish expulsion from Arab territory.
While no sum of money can replace the lives lost to tragic persecution of Arab nationalism, the families of the nearly one million refugees today deserve the respect of the UN’s acknowledgement. These families have spent the past 55 years being humiliated by the world community as their pleas have fallen on deaf ears, while the UN has championed other refugee causes in the area. UN Resolution 242 clearly states that “a just settlement of the refugee problem” must be found, this resolution does not discriminate between Arab and Jew. In order to achieve a just settlement, the UN must take the first step to investigate these claims and restore the dignity of all refugees regardless of their race, creed, or religious preference.
Sincerely,
Your Name

It is about time Jews make it clear that the Palestinians were not the only ones uprooted following the War of 1948.

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Israel Verbally Accepts the Road Map

One of the major problems in this conflict is in discerning between the fact and the fiction. Mostly, what is said is fiction, and what is done is fact. Therefore, while Israel has finally accepted the road map by word, it means nothing as far as I am concerned just as the Palestinian acceptance has not changed anything on the ground. We will have to wait a few days or weeks before we can claim to be the wiser about the direction of Palestinian-Israeli relations. As things stand now, with Arafat regaining total control through Friday’s decision of the Fatah Executive to strip Muhammad Dahlan of his control of the Palestinian security forces, and transfer their control of Naser Yusef, it does not look promising.
In saying so, I must admit that I stand by the 14 points published by Israel regarding the road map. They are suprisingly fair, and I do think they are the only hope for the process to go right. Here they are, in full, thanks to IMRA:

The Roadmap: Primary Themes of Israel’s Remarks
1. Both at the commencement of and during the process, and as a condition to its continuance. calm will be maintained. The Palestinians will dismantle the existing security organizations and implement security reforms during the course of which new organizations will be formed and act to combat terror, violence and incitement (incitement must cease immediately and the Palestinian Authority must educate for peace). These organizations will engage in genuine prevention of terror and violence through arrests, interrogations, prevention and the enforcement of the legal groundwork for investigations, prosecution and punishment. In the first phase of the plan
and as a condition for progress to the second phase, the Palestinians will complete the dismantling of terrorist organizations (Hamas. Islamic Jihad. the Popular Front, the Democratic Front Al-Aqsa Brigades and other apparatuses) and their infrastructure, collection of all illegal weapons and their transfer to a third party for the sake of being removed from the area and destroyed., cessation of weapons smuggling and weapons production inside the Palestinian Authority, activation of the full prevention apparatus and cessation of incitement. There will be no progress to the second phase without the fulfillment of all above-mentioned conditions relating to the war against terror. The security plans to be implemented are the Tenet and Zinni plans. [As in the other mutual frameworks. the Roadmap will not state that Israel must cease violence and incitement against the Palestinians].
2. Full performance will be a condition for progress between phases and for progress within phases. The first condition for progress will be the complete cessation of terror, violence and incitement. Progress between phases will come only following the full implementation of the preceding phase. Attention will be paid not to timelines, but to performance benchmarks (timelines will serve only as reference points).
3. The emergence of a new and different leadership in the Palestinian Authority within the framework of governmental reform. The formation of a new leadership constitutes a condition for progress to the second phase of the plan. In this framework, elections will be conducted for the Palestinian Legislative Council following coordination with Israel.
4. The Monitoring mechanism will be under American management. The chief verification activity will concentrate upon the creation of another Palestinian entity and progress in the civil reform process within the Palestinian Authority. Verification will be performed exclusively on a professional basis and per issue (economic, legal, financial) without the existence of a combined or unified mechanism. Substantive decisions will remain in the hands of both parties.
5. The character of the provisional Palestinian state will be determined through negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The provisional state will have provisional borders and certain aspects of sovereignty, be fully demilitarized with no military forces, but only with police and internal security forces of limited scope and armaments, be without the authority to undertake defense alliances or military cooperation, and Israeli control over the entry and exit of all persons and
cargo, as well as of its air space and electromagnetic spectrum.
6. In connection to both the introductory statements and the final settlement, declared references must be made to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and to the waiver of any right of return for Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel.
7. End of the process will lead to the end of all claims and not only the end of the conflict.
8. The future settlement will be reached through agreement and direct negotiations between the two parties, in accordance with the vision outlined by President Bush in his 24 June address.
9. There will be no involvement with issues pertaining to the final settlement. Among issues not to be discussed: settlement in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (excluding a settlement freeze and illegal outposts), the status of the Palestinian Authority and its institutions in Jerusalem, and all other matters whose substance relates to the final settlement.
10. The removal of references other than 242 and 338 (1397, the Saudi Initiative and the Arab Initiative adopted in Beirut). A settlement based upon the Roadmap will be an autonomous settlement that derives its validity therefrom. The only possible reference should be to Resolutions 242 and 338, and then only as an outline for the conduct of future negotiations on a permanent settlement.
11. Promotion of the reform process in the Palestinian Authority: a transitional Palestinian constitution will be composed, a Palestinian legal infrastructure will be constructed and cooperation with Israel in this field will be renewed. In the economic sphere: international efforts to rehabilitate the Palestinian economy will continue. In the financial sphere: the American-Israeli-Palestinian agreement will be implemented in full as a condition for the continued transfer of tax revenues.
12. The deployment of IDF forces along the September 2000 lines will be subject to the stipulation of Article 4 (absolute quiet) and will be carried out in keeping with changes to be required by the nature of the new circumstances and needs created thereby. Emphasis will be placed on the division of responsibilities and civilian authority as in September 2000, and not on the position of forces on the ground at that time.
13. Subject to security conditions, Israel will work to restore Palestinian life to normal: promote the economic situation, cultivation of commercial connections, encouragement and assistance for the activities of recognized humanitarian agencies. No reference will be made to the Bertini Report as a binding source document within the framework of the humanitarian issue.
14. Arab states will assist the process through the condemnation of terrorist activity. No link will be established between the Palestinian track and other tracks (Syrian-Lebanese).

These points are certainly in the Palestinian’s own self-interest, and it would be a shame for the peace process to once again fail just because the world does not realize that terror is bad and terrorism supporting dictators–such as Yassir Arafat and the other leaders in the Arab world–are worse.

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