Mr. Abbas Goes to Washington

May 28, 2009 (click on link for article hyperlinks)

If the Oval Office guest list is an indicator, President Obama is making good on his commitment to try to revive the long-dead Arab-Israeli peace process. On May 18 President Obama received Israel's new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu; today he met with Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

As this process gets under way, the United States--Israel's main arms supplier, financier and international apologist--faces huge hurdles. It is deeply mistrusted by Palestinians and Arabs generally, and the new administration has not done much to rebuild trust. Obama has, like President Bush, expressed support for Palestinian statehood, but he has made no criticisms of Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip--which killed more than 1,400 people last winter, mostly civilians--despite evidence from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and UN investigators of egregious Israeli war crimes. Nor has he pressured Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza, where 1.5 million Palestinians, the vast majority of whom are refugees, are effectively imprisoned and deprived of basic necessities.

Obama has told Netanyahu firmly that Israel must stop building settlements on expropriated Palestinian land in the West Bank, but such words have been uttered by the president's predecessors. Unless these statements are followed by decisive action--perhaps to limit American subsidies to Israel--there's no reason to believe the lip service that failed in the past will suddenly be more effective.

On the Palestinian side, Obama is talking to the wrong man: more than half of residents in the occupied territories do not consider Abbas the "legitimate" president of the Palestinians, according to a March survey by Fafo, a Norwegian research organization. Eighty-seven percent want the Fatah faction, which Abbas heads, to have new leaders.
Hamas, by contrast, emerged from Israel's attack on Gaza with enhanced legitimacy and popularity. That attack was only the latest of numerous efforts to topple the movement following its decisive victory in the 2006 legislative elections. In addition to the Israeli siege, these efforts have included a failed insurgency by Contra-style anti-Hamas militias nominally loyal to Abbas and funded and trained by the United States under the supervision of Lieut. Gen. Keith Dayton. If Obama were serious about making real progress, one of the first things he would do is ditch the Bush-era policy of backing Palestinian puppets and lift the American veto on reconciliation efforts aimed at creating a unified, representative and credible Palestinian leadership.

None of these problems is entirely new, though the challenges, having festered for years, may be tougher to deal with now. Netanyahu did add one obstacle, however, when he came to Washington. In accord with his anticipated strategy of delay, he insisted that Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist as a "Jewish state" as a condition of any peace agreement. Obama seemingly endorsed this demand when he said, "It is in US national security interests to assure that Israel's security as an independent Jewish state is maintained."

Israel has pressed this demand with increasing fervor because Palestinians are on the verge of becoming the majority population in the territory it controls. Israel wants to ensure that any two-state solution--something that looks increasingly doubtful even to proponents--retains a Jewish majority. This explains the state's longstanding opposition, in defiance of international humanitarian law, to the return of Palestinian refugees who were expelled or fled from homes in what is now Israel.

But can Israel's demand be justified? A useful lens to examine its claim is the fundamental legal principle that there is no right without a remedy. If Israel has a "right to exist as a Jewish state," then what can it legitimately do if Palestinians living under its control "violate" this right by having "too many" non-Jewish babies? Can Israel expel non-Jews, fine them, strip them of citizenship or limit the number of children they can have? It is impossible to think of a "remedy" that does not do outrageous violence to universal human rights principles.

What if we apply Israel's claim to the United States? Because of the rapid growth of the Latino population in the past decade, Texas and California no longer have white majorities. Could either state declare that it has "a right to exist as a white-majority state" and take steps to limit the rights of non-whites? Could the United States declare itself officially a Christian nation and force Jews, Muslims or Hindus to pledge allegiance to a flag that bears a cross? While such measures may appeal to a tiny number of extremists, they would be unthinkable to anyone upholding twenty-first-century constitutional principles.

But Israeli leaders propose precisely such odious measures.

Already, Israel bans its citizens who marry non-citizen Palestinians from living in the country--a measure human rights activists have compared with the anti-miscegenation laws that once existed in Virginia and other states. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has long advocated that the nearly 1.5 million Palestinians who are citizens of Israel be "transferred" from the country in order to maintain its Jewish majority.

Recently, Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party has sponsored or supported several bills aimed at further curtailing the rights of non-Jews. One requires all citizens, including Palestinian Muslims and Christians, to swear allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state. Another proposes to punish anyone who commemorates the Nakba (the name Palestinians give to their forced dispossession in the months before and after the state of Israel was established) with up to three years in prison. Ironically, Lieberman is an immigrant who moved to Israel from Moldova three decades ago, while the people he seeks to expel and silence have lived on the land since long before May 1948.

And as Obama continues to remind us of America's "shared values" with Israel, another proposed bill passed its first reading in the Knesset this week. According to the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, the law would prescribe "one year in prison for anyone speaking against Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state"--making it a thought crime to advocate that Israel should be a democratic, nonracial state of all its citizens.

It would be sad indeed if the first African-American president of the United States were to defend in Israel exactly the kind of institutionalized bigotry the civil rights movement defeated in this country, a victory that made his election possible.

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Dear Rebecca: I know very, very few people who just love to kill people. Even SS guards in Concentration Camps did not wake up everymorning saying : God I love this job! My humble opinion is that humans are not "blood thirsty". They just get swept up in the system. A system that exagerrates fears, promotes flag waving, promotes an "us or them" attitude. This happens in any system of oppression. The futile "resistance" via rockets is used simply as an excuse to mete out more punishment on the native and impoverished people. The resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto "accomplished" the same result.
I am surprised at your remarks. I thought you had more objective opinions.
There was one image (only one) shown in the U.S. of some Palestinians dancing and laughing with a caption Celebrating 9/11.
From the nature of the dancing persons, I doubt their dance was real and I sense the caption was added. I know editors do that all the time; they receive an image and add their own caption.The happening seemed fabricated (hey, can you pose for a picture?). I imagine it was the same wth other "images." Besides , a few extremists don't voice a population. I have been in Israel for almost three weeks and do find the Israelis don't object to the destruction wrought in Gaza. I am shocked at the racist and militaristic attitudes expressed. i had hoped to find otherwise.
My dear Mr Lieberman. I am just shocked at the cavalier attitude that you take towards facts about the psyche of the Palestinians after and during the Gulf War, after each suicide bombing and particularly of interest to me is the cavalier attitude of Palestinians after they danced and distributed candy post 9/11. These are recorded and undisputed facts as recorded on film and on paper.

Fabricated you say, well!!!!

Are you in Israel to correct the attitudes of the wild savages that are both racist and militaristic as you say?

Being a non Jewish Zionist, I am glad to hear that Israeli Jews have not given up on the will to live and that Masada will not be repeated.

You claim to be Jewish so that attitude that you exhibit, in whitewashing the misdeed of the Palestinians while at the same time condemning the victim of these misdeed, is very disconcerting.

A Few extremists you say?

Looks like Sophie A. below has picked up on your remarks and just embellished it.

My solidarity with Israel is still intact.

and why is that?

I read your posts and frankly I would have banned you ages ago. You claim to be from New Zealand and not an Arab and yet you seem to exhibit all the classic age old hatreds for both the Israelis and Jews in general. You do not even try to mask it with the Zionist label as others here do.

I see a "Smadar" popping in and out and than her posts disappearing.

What is it about her than threatens this site while you and Sophie and that Mazin guy get carte blanche. Shocking, really shocking, I must say.

Forgive me if I do not believe those crocodile tears that you profess .

Your posts speak for themselves.

Maybe, just maybe, our host appreciates posters who relay facts rather than myths. Frankly I can not understand for the life of me why you are still a member here as you certainly do not desire peace unless that peace culminates in the destruction of Israel

You may try to sweet coat all you are saying but the fact is that by strict definitions you would be considered an Israel and Jew hater or in language that is not PC (an antisemite). You have no objections to Judaism as long it is in line with the Masada complex.
It's perturbing to write a comment and then read a rebuttal to which I didn't write any of the thoughts that Mr. Golding attributes to me.

"My dear Mr Lieberman. I am just shocked at the cavalier attitude that you take towards facts about the psyche of the Palestinians after and during the Gulf War, after each suicide bombing and particularly of interest to me is the cavalier attitude of Palestinians after they danced and distributed candy post 9/11. These are recorded and undisputed facts as recorded on film and on paper."

I didn’t write any words about any Palestinian psyche. after and during the Gulf War, or after each suicide bombing. What are you talkingabout?

"Fabricated you say, well!!!!"

I said “they seemed fabricated.” Do you know the images to which I am referring?
Are you telling me how I must think?

"Are you in Israel to correct the attitudes of the wild savages that are both racist and militaristic as you say?"

Where did I use the expression “the wild savages?” No, I’ don't claim to have the power to correct anyone. I am only trying to find the facts and opinions of the situation. I only stated what I have heard without judgement. Do you want me to lie?

"You claim to be Jewish so that attitude that you exhibit, in whitewashing the misdeed of the Palestinians while at the same time condemning the victim of these misdeed, is very disconcerting."

Strange! Where did I claim to be Jewish? Where did I whitewash any misdeeds? Where did I condemn any victims? And if I am Jewish, why is this disconcerting?

"A Few extremists you say"

A photo and reports showed Israelis on a Jersey City balcony laughing and cheering when the 2nd plane hit the Twin Tower. An investigation showed these Israelis were part of a ring that used a warehouse and a moving van industry as a front for some illicit activities. The warehouse was vacated and the Israelis left before the FBI uncovered the evidence. I am sure that some Icelanders, Eskimos, French, Germans, Russians and many other extremists who despise the United States cheered the awful event. However, these extremists are only a miniscule of the total assemblies of which they are a part. It is shameful and of the greatest prejudice to mar an entire group based upon the efforts of a small minority. After all, there are 7 million Palestinians worldwide. How many were labeled as dancing over the dead – twenty? I certainly wouldn’t accuse the Israeli people of supporting the catastrophe based upon the accusatory video. Definitely not.

Miswriting other person's words is dishonest . Writing in an angry, aggressive and highly charged manner as a response is a "turn off." Can't you write in a more friendly and cordial manner?
Dan Lieberman

these extremists are only a miniscule You said that and that do find the Israelis don't object to the destruction wrought in Gaza. I am shocked at the racist and militaristic attitudes expressedand that I doubt their dance was real

Born in Bronx, NY to Polish Jewish immigrants. You may consider yourself not Jewish and that I don't know. But why would you advertise your lineage or bother going to Israel other than ulterior motives?

Whitewashing the Arabs with no knowledge or minimizing it and strident about racist militaristic Israel.

You fill in the blanks.

As to the warehouse story that is just plain silly and a large Red herring.

Yes I am angry that someone would twist the truth to fit into their neat little agenda.
Yes Sophie. I also remember the FBI arrest of several Israelis who were filming the collapse of the towers on 9/11 and dancing and singing. A deal was struck and they were deported. See also my longer notes below. Even Netanyahu was interviewed after and he said 9/11 was good for Israel.
Breaking the Silence is an amazing group of brave ex-soldiers
For those of you interested in facts not fiction:

After the horrific tragedy of 9/11, there were repeated claim that Palestinian were rejoicing (ofcourse those were peddled by the same folks who always want to paint Israelis as good and Palestinians as bad; this justifies the ethnic cleansing). There was hardly any discussion or even reporting in the news of the following issues.

- The terrorist act was strongly condemned by every single Palestinian organization and entity: Fatah, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Hamas, unions, Human Right Organizations (AlHaq, Law, Palestine Center for Human Rights), workers committees, student associations, municipalities, mosques and churches, etc.

- It was also condemned by every single Arab American, Muslim American, and other countless human rights organizations supporting Palestinian human rights

- Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi told a news conference the celebrations were "misguided" and "aberrations" motivated by a feeling among Palestinians that they have been victims of U.S. backing for Israel. Palestinian analyst Ghassan al-Khatib said the ``human tragedy'' in the United States should not be exploited for political gains by making Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims look like the "bad guys.'' The majority of Palestinians condemned and were horrified and shocked by the terrorist attacks and identified with the victims (as victims themselves).

- Hundreds of Muslim and Arab Americans were killed in these despicable terrorist attacks.

- The US Consul in Jerusalem reported that he has received a huge stack of faxes from Palestinians and Palestinian organizations expressing condolences, grief and solidarity. He himself was pained to see that the media chose to focus on the sensational images of a few Palestinians rejoicing.

- The Christian Peacemaker Team (Americans, Palestinians and others working in Hebron and other areas working non-violently to stop the Israeli aggression against Palestinian civilians) held prayer vigils for the community.

- The Palestine Legislative Council condemned the terrorist attack on the United States and sent an urgent letter of condolences to Mr. J Dennis Hasterd, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

- Dozens of Palestinian men, women and children gathered spontaneously upon hearing the news in front of the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem, lighting candles and placing flowers along its walls. Some of the placards they carried read: "Terror is our common enemy" and "We are victims too."

- Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem held a candle vigil on 12 September to express their grief and solidarity with the American families struck by this tragedy. Mr. Abdel Qader Al-Husseini, son of the late Palestinian leader Faisal Al-Husseini led the candle vigil.

- Palestinian Americans living in Palestine issued a statement in which they reported that all messages they received from other Palestinians were of sorrow and concern.

- The Jerusalem University students, along with the President of the University and the Deans of the various Faculties, began a blood donation drive in Occupied East Jerusalem. Students and professors went to hospitals in the Occupied City, in order to donate blood for the American victims who need it.

- The 1 million Palestinian students in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Occupied East Jerusalem, stood five minutes in silence to express their solidarity with the hundreds of American children who have been struck by this strategy, which resembles in its shocking effects their daily sufferings.

- Throughout the US, Arab and Muslim Americans joined other American in vigils and prayers even when some of those members were attacked and/or frightened by irresponsible rhetoric and threats

- President Bush speaking to Gov. Pattaki and Mayor Guiliani stated "...And as we do so, I urge -- I know I don't need to tell you all this -- but our nation must be mindful that there are thousands of Arab-Americans who live in New York City, who love their flag just as much as the three of us do, and we must be mindful that as we seek to win the war that we treat Arab-Americans and Muslims with the respect they deserve. I know that is your attitude as well -- certainly the attitude of this government: that we should not hold one who is a Muslim responsible for an act of terror."

- Georgia Senator Zell Miller's stated "I say bomb the hell out of them. If there's collateral damage, so be it. They certainly found our civilians to be expendable." NY Times 9/13/01.

- "Asked tonight what the attack meant for relations between the United States and Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister, replied: 'It's very good.' Then he edited himself: 'Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.' New York Times, 12 September 2001, p. A22:

- Israeli forces took advantage of the post tragedy confusion and stormed the Palestinian cities of Jenin and later Jericho killing scores of people, injuring over 120, and demolishing many homes and other buildings (Associated Press, AFP).

For other information on this issue, see
PS: I also agree with Luc on the stupidity of those who try to link unlinkable events. Thus the "logic" of 9/11 --->Attack Iraq and kill half a million people none of them had anything to do with 9/11) and use it to justify continued ethnic cleansing and colonial settlements.
Germany was certainly far better off after the defeat of Nazism and South Africa was far better off after the defeat of Apartheid. What we are looking forward to is the day that the holdouts who support racism would finally join hands with millions of us (Jews, Christians, Muslims, others) as fellow human beings. That evolution of Israel to a democratic state of all its people instead of an apartheid state would be the best thing to happen to all its residents. Let us just hope and pray the transition will happen quickly and peacefully and will not occur after another devastating war.



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