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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Where is that millions of us Where is the changes that you would like to see in your world , the Arab world of clans and racism and terror and Human Rights violations.

That evolution of Israel to a democratic state of all its people instead of an apartheid state What about Jordan that is actually over 70% Palestinian and a good portion in refugee camps?

I do enjoy your nazi propaganda as well as your apartheid allusions. You do not miss a chance to remind us about the Germany of the 1930 and the nazis and this last comment is important as it shows that you are not into peace but rather Let us just hope and pray the transition will happen quickly and peacefully and will not occur after another devastating war.


Better disappear peacefully or we will go to war and destroy you not unlike the nazis.

Mazin. We have been at war since 1948 so you do not scare us. If there is another Arab initiated war than the Arabs will be devastated . You never learn do you?
Don't get too upset and defensive "Smitty". I am not "The Arabs" that you keep harping on. There are 300 million Arabs and if in your simple mind, we are the hords of barbarians, then there is nothing I can help you with. And ofcourse you will read in my simple and clear sentences what you want to read for you have set-up chains arouund your mind that makes "the other" a uniform homogenous Goyim that makes it easy for you to justify your hate. But please do know that this hate only harms you. You do have a choice tos tay were you are, generalizing etc or go out on a limb and explore the real heterogeneity and beauty of the human family.

BTW, we had many wars here and I lived through most of them. All but one (1973) were initiated by Israel/Zionist forces. That 1973 IMHO wil be looked at as pivotal because the wars after it that were initiated by Israel (1982, 1990s, 2006, 2008) and the non-war actions of aggression against occupied people (the intifada conflicts of 1987-1991 and 2000-2008) have all shown that Israel cannot use military might to achieve its objectives. They have all been failures since then in that sense and more so with passage of time. The war on Lebanon in 2006 and on Gaza on 2008 fought to destroy resistance actually strengthened Hizballah and Hamas and cost Israel significantly in International public opinion. The history is clearly pointing out what I have been saying for 40 years: that military power only generates a reaction and grows resistance. It never solves anything. This will become even more pronounced as military technologies become mobile and easy to acquire by non-state actors (including resistance forces). Peace comes when the oppressors abandon these self-destructive idiocies and work for it based on justice.

PS: Maybe you don't live here and know nothing of Jordan. Jordan is a Western and Israeli Backed "moderate" monarchy that agreed to absorb millions of Palestinain refugees (who are full citizens) in exchange for US/British support. It has done very well economicallty in the past 60 years through sheer luck, western support, and profiting from other people's disasters (e.g. Iraq war). In any case, you can start a new discussion on Jordan if you like (or Sri Lanka for that matter) and I may hjoin you because I have a few thinsg to say ;-)
Mazin I find your narrative here not accurate -

1948 war initiate by the Arabs.

The British Mandate over Palestine was due to expire on 15 May, but Jewish Leadership led by Ben-Gurion declared independence on 14 May. The State of Israel declared itself as an independent nation, and was quickly recognized by the United States, Iran, the Soviet Union, and many other countries.

Over the next few days, approximately 1,000 Lebanese, 5,000 Syrian, 5,000 Iraqi, and 10,000 Egyptian troops invaded the newly-established state. Four thousand Jordanian troops invaded the Corpus separatum region encompassing Jerusalem and its environs, as well as areas designated as part of the Arab state by the UN partition plan. They were aided by corps of volunteers from Saudi Arabia, Libya and Yemen.

1967 war started after Nazer close Tyran crossing.

Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser expelled the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) from the Sinai Peninsula in May 1967.[7] The peacekeeping force had been stationed there since 1957, following a British-French-Israeli invasion which was launched during the Suez Crisis.[8] Egypt amassed 1,000 tanks and nearly 100,000 soldiers on the Israeli border[9] and closed the Straits of Tiran to all ships flying Israeli flags or carrying strategic materials, receiving strong support from other Arab countries.[10] Israel responded with a similar mobilization that included the call up of 70,000 reservists to augment the regular IDF forces.[11] On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive attack[12] against Egypt's airforce. Jordan, which had signed a mutual defence treaty with Egypt on May 30, then attacked western Jerusalem and Netanya.[13][14][15] At the war's end, Israel had gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. The results of the war affect the geopolitics of the region to this day.

Neri: Even Zionist historians like Benny Morris dissagree with you. The war did not start in 1948 when Israel was established. Nearly six months berfore May 1948 (in Dec 1947), Zionsit forces started offensive operations and ethnic cleansing operations. Actually over 250 Palestinian villages and towns were ethnically cleansed before May 14, 1948. There are plenty of declassified documents on that and ther sources (Israeli not even independent).

As for 1967, there are lots of myths about that. Even Dayan admitted later that Israel new Nasser was blustering and could not launch an attack (and even if he did Israel could easily repel the attack). I have plenty of quotes from Israeli sources to demonstrate that. But even if one excepts the mythology that it was a "preemptive" attack. Such attacks are still initiating a war and is rejected in Intternational law. The US attack on Iraq was in that vein illegal (as later demonstrated by International law experts). In any case, no one disputes taht Israel sstarted the 1967 war (even Israeli leaders themselves; they just use the Tiran and other excuses in teh same way that the US used the Gulf of Tonkin to justify the illegal war on Vietnam).
I am sure we all welcome well formed rebuttals to opinions and clarifications or corrections to any spurious facts. But I can’t believe anyone welcomes made up stories or fictionalized versions of history.

Mazin is entirely correct. Early in the morning of April 9, 1948, one month before Israel declared itself a state, to which President Truman only gave de facto and not de jure recognition, Irgun commandos attacked Deir Yassin and according to verified reports and confirmation by persons I have personally met, massacred many Palestinians The village lay outside of the area to be assigned by the United Nations to the Jewish State.

Although there are some contradictions, Truman on March 15 asked for a trusteeship because of the bloodshed already being spilled, which shows the extent of the fighting.

And as far as I know, and if I am wrong I will graciously accept correction, the Egyptian forces never entered of the area to be assigned by the United Nations to the Jewish State, but fought only to secure the area to be assigned by the United Nations to the Palestinian State and which Israeli forces had seized. In other words, Egypt’s entry into the war was principally due to Israel’s attacks on Palestinian villages.
Dan Lieberman
I should clarify that after December 1947, attacks proceeded from both sides and massacres occurred from both sides. The point is that the war was in full gear before the Arab armies entered, and many Palestinians (100,000?/) had for several reasons been forced to leave, especially in Haifa. Egyptian troops did attack some Jewish settlements, but these, I believe were in the territory awarded to the Palestinians. Egyptian troops concentrated on Beersheba, which Israel seized and on the coastal towns. There are many versions of why Egyptian troops did not try to proceed to Tel Aviv, but whatever the reason, I don't believe they advanced across the partition line. The events are cloudy and if someone has other verified information, I'd be gratified to learn about it.
Dan Lieberman

As far as I know Egyptian planes did bomb Tel Aviv on May 15, 1948.

There are a lot of fact that Mazin can be correct, but entirely correct is far from it.

While Mazin state "Even Zionist historians like Benny Morris dissagree with you. The war did not start in 1948 when Israel was established. Nearly six months berfore May 1948 (in Dec 1947), Zionsit forces started offensive operations and ethnic cleansing operations. Actually over 250 Palestinian villages and towns were ethnically cleansed before May 14, 1948. "

compare it with the source: The Israel/Palestine Question edited by Ilan Peppe

Looking at Dier Yasin is another problem as Mazin do not differentiate between the different fraction of the Zionists: Irgun ("National Military Organization in the Land of Israel") was a militant Zionist group that operated in Palestine between 1931 and 1948. while Hagana was much major element Mazin try to incline that Irgun action were part of a Zionist plan to make the Arab flee their villages.

UNSCOP's conclusion was a unanimous decision to end the British mandate and majority opinion to divide the area west of the Jordan River between a Jewish state and an Arab state. During the UN's deliberations regarding the committee's recommendations the Irgun avoided initiating any attacks, so as not to influence the UN negatively on the idea of a Jewish state. On November 29 the UN General Assembly voted in favor of ending the mandate and establishing two states on the land. That very same day the Irgun and the Lehi renewed their attacks on British targets. Then next day the local Arabs began attacking the Jewish community, thus beginning the first stage of the Israeli War of Independence. The first attacks on Jews were in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, in and around Jaffa, Bat Yam, Holon, and Ha'Tikvah neighborhood in Tel Aviv.

and check also Cablegram from the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States to the Secretary-General of the United Nations 15 May 1948

9. When the General Assembly made its recommendations on 29 November 1947 for the solution of the Palestine problem on the basis of partition providing for the establishment of two States, one Arab and one Jewish, with an international regime of trusteeship for the City of Jerusalem, the Arab States expressed the warning that such a solution was prejudicial to the rights of the Arab inhabitants of Palestine to independence and was contradictory to democratic principles and to the League of Nations as well as the United Nations Charter. The Arabs then rejected such a scheme declaring that it was not susceptible of execution by peaceful means and that its imposition by force constituted a threat to peace and security in this area.
Neri: I did not go into the details but I can back everything I said and if you ask me I would be happy to supply you with data. Some of what you posted actually proves the issues I posted. But there is one thing you mentioned (as if in rebuttal even though I did not bring it up) was that Deir Yassin was done by one part of the Zionist underground forces. That is actually not true. It was a colalborative effort and even teh Hagannah was implicated. For example, see this testimony:
THere are many more like that.
But in any cases, I never portray history as simplistic as you seem to always insist that I do (ie. that Israel is bad, Palestinians good). I am actually very careful in what I write. Clearly Palestinians were overall the native victims of a colonial venture. Clearly the result is obvious for anyone to see (e.g. 530 destroyed Palestinian villages and towns). Clealy there were stupid Arab leaders but that does not mean the Palestinians were not victimized or taht they lose their rights because they had bad (nonelected) leaders. International law is rather clear on that.
You cannot back what you say, as you can see the details I brought here.

What you mean is that you wish not to be confused with details, and what ever you believe in is the only accepted truth.

saying that you are careful does not show.

Mazin, The Arabs of Palestine never elected their leaders, (mainly due tribal and feudal system they live in) This is why Azmi Beshara claim there is no Palestinian nation. Do you recognize that? DO you have any record of elected Arab-Palestinian leadership?
Dear Neri:

I love details. I am a scientist if you remember. Again please do not be presumptous or paternalistic in writing about me. I challenge you to find any detail in anything I wrote that is not factual. Also if you ever want to deal with specific details (like origins of Deir Yassin Massacre and who perpetrated it and who are other responsible people), we would be happy to start a thread on that discussion.

May I suggest humbly taht you not make sweeping generalizations like this: "The Arabs of Palestine never elected their leaders, (mainly due tribal and feudal system they live in)". Such racist generalizations are not becoming of someone with your intelligence especially when you know they are simply not true (any simple or even simplistic knowledge of Palestinian history can give you dozens of examples including elections of the Arab higher committee in the 1930s, the women unions, of factional leaders in all Palestinian factions in the 1960s and in the committees of the 1980s uprising and in the elections of 1995 and 2000 and 2006 etc).
What I say is that the Palestinian perior of 1948 did not elect any governing Palestinian body.

Cann you show me how Haj Amin al-Husseini (al-Husayni), Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, elected to lead the Palestine Arab uprising of 1936-1939? Cann you show me by who Yasser Arafat was elected to start the PLO?

The Arab Higher Committee was the central political organ of the Arab community of Palestine, established in 1936.
On September 26, 1937, the British district commissioner of Galilee, Lewis Yelland Andrews, was assassinated in Nazareth. This caused Britain to take action the following day including the outlawing of the Arab Higher Committee and the arrest of several of its members. Amin al-Husayni managed to escape arrest and went into exile.

Jordanian politician Anwar Nusseibeh criticized the Arab Higher Committee's performance during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War as being unaware and ineffective at best and ambivalent at worst to the needs of the Palestinian Arab population. In a personal note, Nusseibeh wrote, "Obviously they thought of the Palestine adventure in terms of an easy walkover for the Arabs, and the only point that seemed to worry them was credit for the expected victory. ... [They] were determined that the Palestine Arabs should at all costs be excluded.[2]

The making of the Arab-Israeli conflict, 1947-1951 by Ilan Pappé


Born in Jerusalem in 1895; studied Islamic Law at Al-Azhar University in Cairo; also studied at the School of Administration in Istanbul prior to WWI; went to Mecca on a pilgrimage in 1913, gaining the title of haj; joined the Ottoman Turkish army in WWI and returned to Jerusalem in 1916; participated in the 1916 Arab Revolt; was employed as a clerk in the Public Safety Dept. of the British military administration; attended the Pan-Syrian Congress in Damascus in 1919 and supported Prince Faisal for King of Syria; later the year became a member and Pres. of nationalist Nadi Al-Arabi The Arab Club) in Jerusalem; also wrote for Suriyya Al-Janubiyya (Southern Syria), which was published in Jerusalem from Sept. 1919 by Mohammed Hassan Al-Budeiri and edited by ‘Aref Al-’Aref; was among the organizers of the 1920 anti-Jewish riots in Palestine, in which five Jews were killed, and was sentenced in absentia to ten years imprisonment by a British military court for his role and for inciting the masses; fled to Syria to escape the sentence but was soon after pardoned by High Commissioner Herbert Samuel and returned to Jerusalem, calling for the incorporation of Palestine into Syria; was appointed by High Commissioner Samuel as Grand Mufti of Jerusalem on 8 May 1921 until the 1950s; was head of the first Palestinian delegation to London in 1921; also appointed by High Commissioner Samuel as Pres. of the first (newly established) Supreme Muslim Council (SMC) in Jerusalem in March 1922 (until 1937); led a campaign during 1928-29 rousing the Arabs of Palestine to stand against the threat to the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem; was head of the Palestinian delegation to London in 1930; founded the World Islamic Congress in 1931 and served as its Pres.; became elected Pres. of the Arab Higher Committee on 25 April 1936; as such, was the chief organizer of the 1936 general strike (calling for the nonpayment of taxes, shutting down of municipal councils, an end to Jewish immigration, a ban on land sales to Jews, and national independence which resulted Great Revolt against British authority that lasted from 1936-39; was consequently removed by the British from the post of SMC Pres.; escaped a British attempt to arrest him in July 1937, taking refuge at the Haram Ash-Sharif until mid-Oct., then he – disguised as a woman – escaped to Lebanon; reconstituted the Arab Higher Committee (which the British had declared illegal) and ran the national leadership from exile; also raised funds to improve and restore the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem; established contacts with the Nazis in Germany, where he was welcomed as a leader of anti-British nationalism and met Adolf Hitler in Berlin in 1941; was named a local leader of the Muslim Brotherhood after its establishment in Jerusalem in the mid-1940s by followers of Hassan Al-Banna, who founded the Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928; after the war tried to regain control of Palestine from his Egyptian exile from March 1946 and fought against the 1947 Partition Plan; was elected Pres. in absentia of the Arab Higher Executive (Fourth Higher Committee of the Arab League); was declared Pres. of the All-Palestine Government, which was set up by the first Palestinian National Council on 1 Oct. 1948 in Gaza and which declared an independent Palestinian state in all of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital (the government was annulled by Egypt in 1959); headed the World Islamic Congress in Karachi in Feb. 1951; participated in the NAM conference in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955; retired from public life after serving as Pres. of the 1962 World Islamic Congress and relocated to Lebanon; attempted a reconciliation with the PLO in the aftermath of the 1973 October War (Yom Kippur War); died in Beirut on 5 July 1974; had wished to be buried in Jerusalem, but the request was refused by the Israeli government.



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