Trump’s One-State Openness on Israel

The ugly reality in Israel/Palestine is that the Zionist leaders are engaging in a slow-walk ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, a crime that can only be averted now by a secular singular state, says ex-CIA official Graham E. Fuller.

By Graham E. Fuller

Just because Donald Trump said it doesn’t mean it has to be wrong. During the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington, President Trump publicly stated he is not necessarily wedded to a “two-state solution” in Palestine.

He is the first U.S. president to commit the heresy of questioning that sacred article of faith in U.S.-Middle East policy. Indeed, a serious rethink is long overdue in recognizing the bankruptcy — indeed the cruel cynicism — of the defunct two-state scheme.

Many honorable people have dedicated the bulk of their professional lives to the tedious minutiae and sad diplomatic history of the Palestinian-Israeli morass. Sadly, none of those efforts have brought any resolution whatsoever to a gangrenous issue — in many respects the granddaddy of so many of the Middle East’s contemporary ills.

Trouble is, apart from a few dedicated diplomats and scholars who had hopes of one day truly accomplishing something, the two-state solution in practice is by now revealed as essentially a fraud. Yes, a few wiser Israeli leaders in the past just possibly might have believed in that ideal, but for decades now the “two-state scheme” has simply been cynically exploited by newer Israeli leaders, especially by Bibi Netanyahu — the long-serving and most right-wing Prime Minister in Israel’s history.

Netanyahu has been backed by a formidable and wealthy pro-Zionist cheering section in the U.S. The goal is to conceal their true agenda — the ultimate Israeli annexation of all of Palestine. They themselves have been subtly but systematically torpedoing the “two-state solution” behind the scenes to that end.

None of my observations here on the hoax of the two-state solution are new or original. Many liberal Israeli observers have been stating the self-evident for years now. But those voices never get heard in the U.S. where it constitutes an unmentionable. But there should be no doubt: the concept of a “two-state solution” — a Palestinian and an Israeli state sharing historical Palestine and living side by side in sovereignty and dignity — is dead. It is almost inconceivable that it can now ever be resuscitated: nearly all the operative forces within Israel are systematically working to prevent it from ever coming about.

Facts on the Ground

The harsh reality is that Israel, through a relentless process of “creating facts on the ground,” is now decades deep into the process of taking over illegally, step-by-step, the totality of Palestine. Israel has scant regard for any international law in this respect, and never has had.

Washington, apart from a few periodic pathetic bleats, has ended up functionally supporting this cynical scheme all the way, perhaps unwilling to confront the painful reality of what is really taking place, along with its dangerous political repercussions at home.

Israel is extending day-by-day its control — indeed ownership — of Palestinian lands through expansion of illegal Jewish settlements and the dispossession of the rightful owners of these Palestinian lands. Put simply, there is little left of Palestinian land out of which ever to fashion a “two-state solution.” That leaves us with only one alternative: the “one-state solution.” Indeed, Israel’s actions have already created the preconditions that make the “one-state solution” an unacknowledged but virtual fait accompli.

Honest observers know full well that the mantra of preserving “the peace process” for the two-state solution is now little more than a cover for full Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands. The sooner we all acknowledge this ugly reality, the better. That will then require Israel, the Palestinians, and the world to get on with dealing with the complex challenge of crafting the bi-national state — the one-state solution.

The calculations of the hard-line Zionists — who are now largely in control of Israeli state mechanisms — are unyielding.

1) Israel should functionally take over all of Palestinian territory and permit full Jewish settlement therein. 2) Israel should still play the “two-state solution” game with visiting foreign diplomats to reduce pressure on Israel, to play for time while it quietly establishes the irreversible facts on the ground that shut out any possible viable Palestinian state.

3) Make life harsh enough for Palestinians that, bit by bit, they will grow bitter and weary, give up and go elsewhere, leaving all the land for Zionist settlers. 4) If Palestinians “stubbornly” resist, predictable periodic military and security crises in Palestine over the longer run will enable Israel to rid Palestine of all Palestinians — a gradual process of ethnic cleansing that returns all the land promised by God to the Jews.

A Secular State?

Some liberal Israelis actually do accept the idea of a “one-state solution” in their own liberal vision of a future Israel — one in which Israelis and Palestinians live as equal citizens in a secular, democratic, binational, multi-cultural state enjoying equal rights, rather than the increasingly religiously dominated state that it is. And the liberal ideal makes sense: the country is already well on the way to becoming bi-lingual — and Hebrew and Arabic are closely-related languages. Both are Semitic peoples with ancient ties to the same land.

The problem is, ardent Zionists don’t want a binational Palestinian-Jewish state. They want a “Jewish state” and demand that the world accept that term. Yet, in today’s world isn’t the term “Jewish state” strikingly discordant? Who speaks of an “English” or “French” state? The world would freak out if tomorrow Berlin started calling itself “the German State.” Or Spain a “Christian state.”

So what do we make of a state that is dedicated solely to Jews and Judaism? Such concepts are remnants of Nineteenth Century movements that promoted the creation of ethnically and/or religiously pure states. Indeed it was precisely that kind of ugly religious and ethnic nationalism that caused Jews to flee from Eastern Europe in the first place to find their own homeland.

The true historical task of Israel, with the support of the world, is now to begin the challenging work of introducing the range of major reforms that will transform Israel into just such a multi-ethnic and bi-lingual state of equal citizens enjoying equal rights under secular law. It is not a question of “allowing Palestinians” into Israel, they are already there and have been for millennia, in far greater numbers than Jews. Palestinians now seek full legal equality of treatment under secular law in Israel.

So let’s acknowledge the useful truth that Trump has blundered onto. Let’s abandon the naive and cynical rhetoric about the “two-state solution” that will never come about — in any just and acceptable form. Half of Israel never believed in it in the first place. It has served only as a cover for building an apartheid Jewish state — a term used frequently by liberal Israeli commentators.

Netanyahu and the right-wing Zionists clearly want all of Palestine. But they’re not ready yet to admit it. They want all the land, but without any of its people. But despite Zionist hopes, the Palestinians aren’t going to abandon their lands. And so the logical outcome of Israel’s take-over all of Palestine leads by definition to an ultimate single binational state.

The challenge to Israelis and Palestinians is huge. It entails a deep Palestinian rethink of their options and their future destiny in a new order, and the need to fight for those democratic rights in a binational state. It involves Israeli evolution away from “God-given rights” in a state solely for Jews and Judaism that can only be forever oppressive and undemocratic as it now stands. The process will be a slow and difficult one. But it also represents an evolution consonant with emerging contemporary global values.

We expect a democratic multi-cultural state from Germany and France, or from Britain, Canada and the United States — why not from Israel?

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official, author of numerous books on the Muslim World; his latest book is Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan. (Amazon, Kindle) grahamefuller.com




Trump’s ‘One-Night Stand’ Diplomacy

Despite his reputation as a deal-maker, President Trump’s first foray into the thicket of Israel-Palestine peace talks suggests he has no clue what direction to take or the long-term consequences, notes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

Donald Trump had already moved a long way backward since uttering a few remarks last year raising hopes that he would break out of the straitjacket that binds American politicians on all things involving Israel and the Palestinians and that he would try to be an impartial peace-maker.

Trump later made his peace with Sheldon Adelson, adopted AIPAC’s talking points as his own, and appointed to be U.S. ambassador to Israel a bankruptcy lawyer who is directly involved with West Bank settlements, is politically somewhere to the right of Benjamin Netanyahu, and likens American Jews who do not agree with him to Nazi collaborators.

Then this week, in a joint press conference with Netanyahu, Trump appeared to abandon what had been U.S. policy through several administrations, Republican and Democratic, of support for creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as the only feasible and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The President’s exact words were, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.  I can live with either one.”

As has become typical with so much of the policy of this month-old administration, confusion reigns. The next day, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told reporters, “We absolutely support a two-state solution.”

Probably the best interpretation of what was going on at that White House press conference is consistent with insights offered by former U.S. ambassadors to Israel Daniel Kurtzer and Daniel Shapiro, both of whom describe the joint appearance in terms of two leaders dealing with domestic pressures and wanting to look chummy with each other, rather than as an occasion for announcing new diplomatic departures. Specifically, Trump’s comments were a favor to Netanyahu in dealing with the extreme right-wing of his own governing coalition, by pouring some cold water on the two-state concept without Netanyahu having to utter the words “two-state solution” himself.

Not Making Sense

As random and disorganized as Trump’s tweets, blurts to reporters, or other verbal expressions may be, when the president of the United States says something it either is policy, at least declaratory policy, or affects policy. And so it must be noted how utterly unreal, and divorced from the concept of a true peace agreement, was Trump’s responding to a question about backing off from commitment to a two-state solution by talking about what “both parties like,” as if there were anything that both parties like right now that would not be a two-state solution.

The only thing that the vast majority of Palestinians would “like” is getting their own state or, failing that, full and equal rights for Jews and Arabs alike in a single state. But that latter alternative would be disliked by most Israelis (not just the extreme right) insofar as it would imply, for demographic reasons, destruction of the concept of Israel as a Jewish state.

Trump tosses these words around amid apparent thinking within his own administration and Netanyahu’s about an “outside-in” approach in which development of relations between Israel and some Arab states would lead to Arab pressures on the Palestinians to settle their own conflict with Israel. This notion is far removed from any realistic peace, and not only because the key to ending an occupation is not to pressure the occupied party, who does not control the situation on the ground, rather than the occupier, who does control it.

The notion also is merely a derivative of right-wing hopes in Israel, based on finding some common cause with some Gulf Arabs in disliking Iran, that the international opprobrium and isolation of Israel that results from its occupation and apartheid policies can be kept indefinitely at tolerable levels. That is a strategy for indefinitely continuing the occupation and apartheid, not for ending that arrangement and achieving peace.

The Arab states have had their position on the table for 15 years in the form of the Arab peace initiative, which lays out in simple form the basic trade of full recognition of, and peace with, Israel in return for an end to the occupation and just settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem. The Arab peace plan was modified later to make clear that it includes the possibility of land swaps that would not require all of the West Bank to be returned to Arab sovereignty.

There is no reason to expect Saudi Arabia or any of the other Arab governments involved to abandon the concept enshrined in this initiative. And however much one talks about the Arabs’ distractions with their own intramural problems, the sentiments among Arab populations as well as regimes regarding the plight of their co-ethnic brethren in Palestine is not about to be flushed down the toilet by pressuring Palestinian leaders to accept some bantustan-like arrangement and calling it a peace settlement.

Fast Deals/Fast Money

As with other early moves of President Trump, his posture on this set of issues illustrates a more general tendency of his regarding governing. Trump billed himself as a master deal-maker, but supporters who liked him for that reason should have looked more carefully at the sorts of deals he was accustomed to making. Most of his business deals were more like one-night stands than like lasting relationships. Sell naming rights, pocket the cash, and let someone else worry about running the enterprise that bears the Trump name.

Even when Trump’s own organization was more directly involved in a property, there was a tendency toward cutting and running. His business record featured repeated stiffing of suppliers and sub-contractors and, when necessary, repeated bankruptcies — help on which evidently is part of what earned the settlement-loving David Friedman that ambassadorial appointment.

Note how often Trump’s foreign policy is referred to, by himself and now by others, in terms of whether “a deal” will be made with some other country, whether it is Russia, China or some other state. Foreign relations should not be thought of in such a one-shot, pointillist way. Foreign relations, and how they affect U.S. interests, are instead a matter of continuing relationships in which interests are always intermingling, colliding, and evolving. “One and done” may work for aspiring pro basketball players, but not for U.S. foreign policy.

This is as true of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as of other sticky foreign policy problems. Pressuring Palestinians into something that can be labeled a “deal” but does not respond to ordinary human aspirations for a better life and national self-determination does not make a problem go away. It can make it even worse. It can come back in the form of intifadas, terrorism, or something else that damages the interests of Israelis and Americans as well as Palestinians.

Trump may not have to worry about such things any more after either impeachment or re-election defeat, but the rest of us will.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.) 

 




Obama Belatedly Says No to Israel

Exclusive: If President Obama had confronted Israel over its illegal settlements earlier, he might have really achieved something, but his U.N. abstention as he heads out the door is better than nothing, observes Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn

For the first time in his eight-year presidency, Barack Obama said no to Israel. When the Security Council voted to condemn Israel for building illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, the Obama administration abstained, allowing the resolution to pass.

Resolution 2334 says the settlements have “no legal validity,” calls them “a flagrant violation under international law,” and demands Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities.”

Although 2334 is consistent with prior resolutions of the council, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threw a tantrum, calling the US abstention a “declaration of war.” In light of Obama’s unwavering enabling of Israel’s illegal policies, Netanyahu was likely shocked that Obama finally said no.

The United States, a permanent member of the council, vetoed a resolution in 2011 that would have condemned the building of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. And in 2014, the U.S. opposed a draft resolution demanding Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank within three years.

Since 1967, Israel has transferred more than a half million of its own citizens into Palestinian territories, continuing to build settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice affirmed that the Palestinian territories are under Israeli occupation and Israel’s settlement building violates the Fourth Geneva Convention.

A state occupying territory not its own cannot build settlements on that territory and transfer its own citizens into them. Article 8.2(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC) defines “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” as a war crime.

Israel took over the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem by military force in 1967 and has held it under military occupation ever since.

Like Security Council Resolution 242, passed in 1967, Resolution 2334 reiterates “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” Although Resolution 242 called for “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict,” Israel continues to occupy the Palestinian territories it acquired in the “Six-Day War.”

“Over 4.5 million Palestinians live in these occupied territories, but are not citizens of Israel,” Jimmy Carter wrote in the New York Times. “Most live largely under Israeli military rule, and do not vote in Israel’s national elections.”

Complete Control

Israel exercises complete control over every aspect of Palestinian life in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. That includes borders, airspace, ingress and egress of people and goods, and the seashore and waters off the coast of Gaza. The occupation violates fundamental human rights of the Palestinians.

Flavia Pansieri, former U.N. deputy high commissioner for human rights, said last year that human rights violations “fuel and shape the conflict” in the occupied Palestinian territories, adding, “[h]uman rights violations in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are both cause and consequence of the military occupation and ongoing violence, in a bitter cyclical process with wider implications for peace and security in the region.”

Building illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories is not the only war crime Israeli leaders have committed. In 2014, Israel invaded Gaza and killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians. Nearly 10,000 Palestinians were wounded, more than 2,000 of them children. Tens of thousands of Palestinians lost their homes and infrastructure was severely damaged. Numerous schools, U.N. places of refuge, hospitals, ambulances and mosques were intentionally targeted.

Israel used the “Dahiya doctrine” to apply “disproportionate force” and cause “great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilians populations,” as defined in the 2009 U.N. Human Rights Council (Goldstone) report. Those acts constitute evidence of war crimes under Article 8 (2)(a) of the Rome Statute.

The ICC can investigate and prosecute these crimes. Yet, in order to prevent such investigation and prosecution, the United States consistently opposed Palestine becoming a party to the Rome Statute. Palestine, which was recognized as a non-member observer State by the U.N. General Assembly, acceded to the Rome Statute in January 2015 and asked the ICC to investigate Israel for building illegal settlements and committing war crimes in Gaza.

In January 2015, Fatou Bensouda, the ICC prosecutor, opened a preliminary investigation into the illegal settlements and Israel’s 2014 bombing of Gaza. Netanyahu is upset because the new Security Council resolution bolsters the case for ICC war crimes prosecution of Israeli leaders.

Violating U.S. Law

The United States’ unwavering support for Israel violates U.S. law. Under the Leahy Law, military units that commit human rights abuses cannot receive U.S. training or weapons, and individuals who commit human rights abuses are denied U.S. visas. The State Department’s annual report has documented Israeli violations. And the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 prohibits assistance to any country “which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

Yet, throughout his presidency, Obama has unconditionally supported Israel and shielded it from accountability for the war crimes of building settlements and targeting civilians in Gaza.

In September, Obama promised Israel a record $38 billion in military assistance over the next 10 years, becoming the strongest financial supporter of Israel ever to occupy the White House. Obama, whom Israeli journalist Gideon Levy dubbed “the patron of the occupation,” increased the amount of money the U.S. provides Israel each year from $3.1 to $3.8 billion.

Netanyahu called the increase in U.S. aid “unprecedented” and “historic,” characterizing it as “the greatest accomplishment since sliced bread,” according to Aaron David Miller, vice president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable,” Obama declared, as he and Netanyahu shook hands.

The annual $3.8 billion, more money than the U.S. gives to any other country, will fund the continuing Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands, now in its fifth decade. Obama, however, is to be commended for finally standing up to Israel, albeit at the 11th hour. We cannot expect President-elect Donald Trump to follow suit.

Trump intervened unsuccessfully to prevent Resolution 2334 from coming to the council floor. He stated he will move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, even though, as Resolution 2334 states, East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory. David Friedman, Trump’s incoming ambassador to Israel, is notorious for funding the rightwing orthodox Beit El settlement near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

A Voice of Reason

We can hope Trump will listen to Gen. James Mattis, his nominee for Secretary of Defense. “I paid a military security price every day as a commander of CENTCOM because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel,” Mattis said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado in 2013.

Mattis criticized Israel for building settlements in the occupied West Bank, saying they “are going to make it impossible to maintain the two-state option.” He added that the settlements might weaken Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state and could lead to Israel becoming an “apartheid” state.

“If I’m in Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers out here to the east and there’s 10,000 Arab settlers in here, if we draw the border to include them, either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote — apartheid,” Mattis said.

Meanwhile, Resolution 2334 has propelled the illegality of Israel’s settlements into the public discourse. While Israel has pledged to defy the council and continue building illegal settlements, Jewish Voice for Peace and other human rights organizations have called for “increasing grassroots pressure on Israel, through Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] campaigns, until full human rights of Palestinians are realized.”

Indeed, the text of Resolution 2334 implicitly invites countries to engage in BDS by saying they should “distinguish . . . between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace. Her most recent book is ‘Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.’ Visit her website at http://marjoriecohn.com/ and follow her on Twitter @MarjorieCohn.




Trump’s Disappearing ‘Neutral Guy’

President-elect Trump’s attack on the U.S. abstention to a U.N. vote condemning illegal Israeli settlements raises doubts about his vow to be a “neutral guy” on Palestinian issues, writes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

Presidents-elect of the United States generally have hewn to the dictum that the country has only one president at a time, and that this is especially important with foreign policy. The incoming president plans, appoints, announces, and does anything else he wants to indicate what his course will be after noon on January 20th, but until then it is the incumbent president who makes and executes U.S. policy and who negotiates with and makes demarches to foreign governments. Donald Trump has been behaving differently.

But even some of his previous moves during this current transition period, such as breaking with protocol on relations with Taiwan or telling the Chinese to keep the marine drone they stole, did not go as far in interfering with the execution of current policy as he now has gone regarding a United Nations Security Council on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and matters in the occupied territories.

It is not only that Trump issued a statement that constituted an attempt to pressure the current administration into a course of action that would do the bidding of a foreign government. His operation met with a delegation organized by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, so secretly that Israeli press that learned of the visit describes it as “clandestine.” Trump also, following Netanyahu’s lead, pressed President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt to withdraw the U.N. resolution that his country had introduced.

Even just as a matter of procedure, this violation of the one-president-at-a-time principle ought to have provoked outrage. That it did not provoke much may be due to Trump’s mastery of the art of diverting attention from a subject by quickly saying something else that is at least as likely to grab headlines. In this case the attention diverter was Trump’s comment about starting a new nuclear arms race.

As a matter of substance, Trump’s posture toward the U.N. resolution should be occasion for deep dismay. Long forgotten is his promise to be a “neutral guy” in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since he made that pledge he has come to terms with Sheldon Adelson and, through other statements and appointments, has made clear that he will be anything but neutral.

A Provocative Choice

In case there was any remaining doubt about that as of a couple of weeks ago, all such doubt was erased with his appointment as ambassador to Israel of bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman — who, by his own words, including likening liberal U.S. Jews to Nazi stooges, and by his personal connections to the settler movement, is firmly opposed to peace and in favor of indefinite occupation. It would be less incredible for Friedman to become Israeli ambassador to the United States rather than the other way around, although even then he would be representing only an extreme right wing rather than the people and interests of Israel as a whole.

As for the newest U.N. resolution, Trump’s statement, echoing a familiar formulation that the Netanyahu government uses whenever the possibility of Security Council action arises, says that “peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations.”

There is absolutely nothing in the draft resolution that Egypt had introduced that precludes or impedes direct negotiations between the parties or that suggests in any way that such negotiations will not still be necessary to set the terms of any final peace agreement. Far from “imposing” terms, the resolution declares the need to get beyond the obstacles that are preventing effective direct negotiations from taking place and being able to achieve a two-state solution that will be a lasting basis for peace between Israelis and Arabs.

That the resolution specifically mentions Israeli settlements in occupied territory simply reflects how this unilateral altering of facts on the ground has been steadily closing the negotiation space and making it ever more difficult for direct negotiations to set the terms of peace and arrive at a solution with two viable and secure states. That the resolution declares the colonization through settlements to be a “flagrant violation of international law” simply restates long-established principles of international law regarding the responsibilities of an occupying power in territory conquered through military force.

The draft resolution was comprehensive in identifying the obstacles to effective direct negotiations. It’s not just the settlements, and it’s not just what Israel is doing. The resolution “calls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, calls for accountability in this regard, and calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism.” The resolution further “calls upon both parties … to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric.”

In light of all the above, Trump’s statement that the resolution “is extremely unfair to all Israelis” is baseless.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Anyone with a concern for Israel’s security and well-being should be aware that the continued colonization of the West Bank through expansion of settlements does not correlate positively with such security and well-being. To the contrary, it detracts from Israeli security. It involves an added burden on the Israel Defense Forces, and it is the most visible part of an occupation that is by far the biggest stimulus and support for those intending to do Israel harm.

Anyone concerned with U.S. interests should be aware that the United States has no positive interest in the settlements or in the religious or local economic motivations that have stimulated their growth. For the United States, it is all negative, in terms of instability, prospects for violence, the stimulation of extremism, and the United States being resented and targeted because of its role in permitting the settlement enterprise.

The combined pressure from Netanyahu and Trump got al-Sisi to withdraw the resolution. It is appropriate for Egypt to play a leadership role in trying to improve the conditions for negotiation of an Israeli-Palestinian peace, for historical reasons dating back to the Camp David Accords of 1978. The peace treaty with Egypt that Israel sought was only one-half of the bargain struck at Camp David. The other half was supposed to be progress toward a peace covering the Palestinian territories. Anwar Sadat has been revolving in his grave over how, nearly four decades later, what process there has been has failed to yield an end to the occupation.

The case for the current resolution remains strong. Four other members of the Security Council — New Zealand, Malaysia, Senegal, and Venezuela — pressed ahead with the resolution even when a bullied Egypt backed off. The Obama administration deserves commendation for allowing the resolution to pass when it finally came to a vote on Friday. A positive vote in support would have been even better, rather than the United States once again being in a lonely position on U.N. measures involving Israel. In this case the United States was the only one of the 15 Security Council members that did not vote in favor of the resolution.

Knee-jerk GOP Objections 

The Republican members of Congress who now are denouncing the administration even for abstaining should be made to point to words in the resolution itself and explain exactly what they allege is wrong with it. Otherwise they are just blindly following the lead of an Israeli government that will perpetuate the occupation, and the negative consequences that flow from it, forever.

Trump did not have to interfere with the incumbent administration’s diplomacy. It would give him more options to let the incumbents take the domestic political heat for breaking the pattern of repeated occupation-covering U.S. vetoes at the Security Council. Even if Trump is determined to stay in bed with the settlers and the Israeli right-wing, he could still assume such a posture starting on Jan. 20, however mistaken such a posture is.

Perhaps Trump’s abandonment of his “neutral guy” moment is another instance of his gravitating to wherever he hears the loudest applause, with that applause coming in this instance from the lobby that would scream the loudest if he were to move in a different direction. Perhaps it is an instance of his being swayed by whoever in his inner circle has most had Trump’s ear recently and been motivated to use that access to press special interests. That inner-circle member could be the lawyer who helped him through bankruptcies in Atlantic City. Or it could be Trump’s son-in-law, whom Trump has talked about as a Middle East envoy, who, like the lawyer, has personal ties to West Bank settlements, and who reportedly wrote, along with Stephen Bannon, the statement denouncing the resolution. Either way, this is a poor way to make U.S. foreign policy.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.) 




How Trump Kills the ‘Two-State Solution’

President-elect Trump’s choice of a backer of Israeli settlements to be ambassador to Israel may be the final death-blow to the “two-state solution,” which has been on its death bed for years, as Dennis J Bernstein explains.

By Dennis J Bernstein

The possibility of a meaningful peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has taken another dark turn with President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of lawyer David Friedman, who holds hardline views in favor of Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands, to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.

In a statement from the Trump transition team, Friedman also said he “looked forward to moving the U.S. embassy to Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem,” which once was supposed to be divided between Jewish and Palestinian control.

But a different twist to Trump’s ambassadorial choice could be that it will kill off the illusion of a “two-state solution,” a mirage that has receded farther into the distance as over a half million Jewish settlers moved onto what was intended to be the territory of a Palestinian state. That, in turn, would confront Israel with the choice of a “one-state solution” that grants both Jews and Arabs equal rights or an “apartheid state,” which denies rights to Palestinians or treats them as second-class citizens.

I spoke about Trump’s choice for U.S. ambassador to Israel and the risks of Trump’s emerging Israeli policies with Ali Abunimah, the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli/Palestinian Impasse. He is the co-founder and director of the Electronic Intifada, and the winner of many human rights awards. A resident of Chicago, he contributes regularly to the The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times.

Dennis Bernstein: Ali, it’s good to talk to you again, but the news is not so good for you. You want to begin with your understanding of who David Friedman is…?

Ali Abunimah: Well, Friedman is … a bankruptcy lawyer. He’s Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, for the past 15 years, and his campaign adviser on Israel. His views are so hardline that he’s been described as being even to the right of Benjamin Netanyahu, which tells you something. In fact, Friedman is the president of a non-profit that has raised about $10 million over the last five years to directly fund Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

And, in fact, that organization is named as a defendant in a lawsuit that was filed earlier this year in federal court by 20 Palestinians against American organizations and individuals who are raising money for settlements. And not just for building settlements, but for buying weapons….

The lawsuit alleges that these organizations are basically involved in money laundering, arms trafficking, and aiding and abetting murder, maiming, theft of Palestinian private property, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and other acts, which are illegal under U.S. and international law. So that lawsuit is currently underway. And Friedman is the president of one of the defendants. And we reported… on the Electronic Intifada [on Dec. 16], that that fact had not been picked up anywhere else.

Friedman, you know, to some extent it would be a repudiation, if Trump’s policy moves in the direction that Friedman would advocate, which is outright Israeli annexation of the West Bank, of course, even more settlement construction and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, that would be a major rhetorical shift in U.S. policy.

But to tell you the truth, Dennis, that’s really where we already are in practice. If you look at the reality of where we are, the Israelis have been building settlements, effectively annexing the West Bank with total impunity. And not just impunity, with the full support of every U.S. administration, and not least the Obama administration, which in September signed off on an unconditional 10 year, $38 billion minimum, guaranteed, military aid package. I mean $38 billion is the minimum. It’s not the total package, because they can still come back for more. That greatly increases the current U.S. aid to Israel.

So, part of me is saying, well this is simply a more honest labeling of what the U.S. policy already is. There was not going to be a two-state solution, even if Hillary was elected. There was not going to be any real consequences for Israeli settlements. So, I think this is another horrible sign of where our country is on so many issues.

But I think it’s an opportunity, also, for us to say to people, “Well, you can’t pretend there’s a peace process anymore, so why aren’t you signing up to BDS–boycott, divestment and sanctions–and other campaigns and tactics that are independent of what the government does?” The real people power to begin to hold Israel accountable and change its situation. I think that’s both the challenge and opportunity that’s put in front of us.

DB: I guess it does look… that’s about right. That this will simply… under Trump, they will just draw the line deeper, harder and darker, in terms of what the policy is. But the policy, it hasn’t changed in decades. And it doesn’t seem to be changing.

[…] Earlier this year David Friedman referred to a progressive Jewish advocacy group… I guess at J Street… he called them “worse than kapos”… those are the Jewish collaborators with the Nazis, for supporting a two-state solution. They were acting like Nazis.

AA: And he’s called President Obama an anti-Semite, as well, […] who signed the biggest, military aid package in history, to any country in the world, for Israel. Just a few months ago, he called him an anti-Semite. Yeah, so I mean it’s horrific, that sort of language, using the term kapos is disgusting. But I think what that does is it confronts all of us with the reality of where Israel and pro-Israel politics have brought us.

And I think it challenges all decent people to, you know, to take a stand. Where are we? I think that the Obama era provided this kind of safe space for people to do nothing to challenge Israel, but say, “Well, I support the peace process, I support the two-state solution.” When in reality, we weren’t moving towards any kind of peace, and Israel was getting away with what it wants to do.

I think that Friedman is speaking the real position of where Israel is today. And it’s ugly… it’s ugly. And it’s the real face of Israel that Palestinians have always known. So, you know, I mean that’s another way to put it. As a Palestinian, I’d say to people who are shocked by this, I’d say, “Welcome to the club.” Because you’re seeing the face of Israel that we’ve always seen and lived with.

DB: …. I do want you to talk a couple minutes about the significance of Jerusalem. You can say something about what’s been going on in terms of the purging. But why this is such an outrageous policy decision and what it means in real terms, and in spiritual, political terms, for Palestinians.

AA: Well, Jerusalem, for those [who don’t] know, a 30 second history: In 1948 the western part of Jerusalem was ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian population, when Israel was created. And the eastern part of Jerusalem was occupied in 1967 [by Israeli forces]. And the eastern part is part of the West Bank. So the position on West Jerusalem, of the U.S. and all other countries, is that we recognize Israeli de facto control, but we don’t recognize it as Israel’s capital because that has to be decided as part of a final peace settlement. So, that’s why every country in the world has its embassy in Tel-Aviv.

Now, as far as East Jerusalem is concerned, also every country in the world, they don’t recognize Israel’s sovereignty there, and they say this is occupied territory. Israel’s position since 1967 has been that “we own all of Jerusalem, and we’re going to make it so.” And so Palestinians in Jerusalem are gradually being pushed out. Settlements have been built everywhere. Land confiscated, the theft of vast areas of Palestinian land. Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem, cut off from each other by Israel’s apartheid walls, thousands of Palestinian Jerusalemites deprived of their residence.

Now, all Palestinians in Jerusalem, Israel doesn’t even treat them as if they belong there. It treats them as if they are just permanent residents from somewhere else. And their residency can be revoked, at any time. That’s been the policy for many years. Aggressively going after Palestinians to get them out of the city.

And so, Palestinians are really hanging on tooth and nail, to stay in their city. [At] the same time Israel has been aggressively erasing all the culture of the city that… doesn’t support its Jewish Nationalist narrative. So, you know, it’s shut down hundreds of Palestinian cultural institutions. Of course, Jerusalem is a living city, but it’s also a symbolic city in terms of the holy places of Christians and Muslims, and, indeed, Jews. But Israel’s position is that the Jews are the people who have the most rights there.

And so, we see more and more restrictions. Millions of Palestinian Muslims and Christians don’t have access to the city to worship. Christmas time, coming up, just something like a hundred Palestinians from Gaza are going to be granted special permits to visit Jerusalem. It’s outrageous, that Palestinians are shut out of this city that is so important to them culturally, and economically, and spiritually.

So it’s in that context that you have to see the potential move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. It would be sort of a full American endorsement of these aggressive and illegal and violent Israeli policies to reshape the city, as kind of a Jewish theme park, rather than a living city for all its people.

But on the other hand, as I have said, I mean the U.S. policy has allowed all this to happen [for] so many decades that, you know, part of me is just to greet it with a shrug. And say, “Well, after all that’s happened, I’m not more mad about the embassy than I am about all the other things that Israel has been doing, with the support of Democratic and Republican administrations for decades.”

DB: Alright, and just finally, to underscore what might be coming [from]… this appointment. David Friedman has a very close relationship with… the settler movement. As you said, he’s for going all the way. In Jerusalem you have the situation where, you know, the Israelis just show up. People are given a little bit of time and they are ordered out of their house and it’s blown up, because they say they don’t have the proper documentation. That it’s really not the people’s property who have lived there for 40 million generations. Forgive me.

But in the case of the settlers in the West Bank, this is a very, very violent movement that is sustained by the Israeli military to a great expense of the United States government, that arms a lot of these structures and supports it. Could you remind people how violent the settlers are at this point, and what’s that like? …. Having your house blown up, living with settlers who can do anything they want, right?

AA: They can, and with total impunity. I mean there is seldom any… [punishment for the] hundreds of attacks against Palestinians a year. Very violent attacks, against Palestinians and their property. And just about total impunity for the settlers.

But the thing I want to stress also, you know, these settlers are extremists. They are racists, and they are violent. But the thing I want to stress is that it’s really the Israeli army and the Israeli occupation that makes the presence of the settlements possible.

[…]

And that is what is fully supported by the United States, the U.S. government and every U.S. taxpayer. So, the settlers would not be there without the U.S. funding and without the ten year aid package, that President Obama just signed. So I really want to stress that.

It’s not about the few extremist settlers, it’s about the core support. And, really, we should be angry that Trump is doing all these things–or we fear he’ll do all these things–but who set it up this way?

DB: Right.

AA: I mean, who set it up this way? If the Democrats had done something when they had the chance, Trump wouldn’t be able to come in and do all these things, on so many issues, not just Palestine. And that, I think, is the real failure of our political system. ….

I think of Trump as Obama III, the third Obama administration because nothing was done on the wars that Obama has spread around the world, extending executive power to kill people anywhere, on surveillance, Obama hasn’t stopped it. On mass incarceration, he’s pardoned, yeah, more than other presidents, but you know the prisons are still full of people. We can’t complain when Trump comes in and continues what we have been left with.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net




What Trump Means for American Jews

American Jews historically fought for civil rights for all but veered away when Israel began seizing Palestinian land. Now, the Trump presidency presents a challenge and an opportunity to steer back to universal principles, says Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

Before the year 1967, the political and social relationships of the American Jewish community were very different than today. Those relationships were based on simple and accurate logic. Jews in the United States were a minority. The U.S. had other minorities as well, most notably African-Americans, who also had a long history of being discriminated against.

Given these conditions, it made sense for the American Jews to make alliances with other U.S. minorities – a united front, so to speak – with the clear-sighted understanding that if one group’s rights were attacked, all of their rights stood in danger. The alliance proved beneficial, and many American Jews were involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

This era of mutually beneficial cooperation lasted until the year 1967. In that year the State of Israel, which had put forth the hubristic claim of being a “Jewish state” whose government had the right to speak for the world’s Jews, conquered territory from several of its neighboring states and then (1) refused to withdraw from most of that land, (2) began to move their own population into the conquered lands in violation of international law, and finally (3) began ethnically cleansing the conquered area of its non-Jewish population.

This process was so blatantly illegal and racist in nature that almost all American minority groups protested against it (the only notable exception being right-wing Cuban-Americans). Particularly strong protests came from African-Americans.

At that point American Jews had an important decision to make. Should they maintain a principled anti-racist position, which required standing apart from Israeli action and preserve their united front with other U.S. minority groups? Or should they abandon the united front strategy and cast their fortunes with their increasingly racist Israeli cousins?

Though it was predictably a tragic misjudgment, the American Jewish elite and most of the Jews of the time who followed their lead abandoned the anti-racist front, angrily turned away from those critical of Israeli behavior, and began supporting and rationalizing Israel’s war on the indigenous population (the Palestinians) of the lands they had conquered.

This situation has continued to the present day. And, during all this time, it seems never to have occurred to the American Jewish community that its bond with Israel has cost them exactly those domestic allies that they would need if hate groups – those who lump together Jews with other American minorities and detest them all – eventually found influence in Washington.

Enter Trump 

And now that is what appears to be happening. Donald Trump is president-elect. An article in Haaretz describes Trump’s worldview as “reactionary, nativist, chauvinistic, anti-foreigner, anti-immigrant and mainly anti-Muslim.” This  concoction is threatening to American Jews as well. One can see this by paying attention to some of the people Trump is now naming as advisers and cabinet appointees. People such as:

Steve Bannon – Trump’s “chief strategist.” Bannon is a leader in the so-called “white nationalist” movement and “the standard bearer” for racist, anti-immigrant positions. He is also an anti-Semite who, reportedly, does not want his children going to school with Jews.

Frank Gaffney – Trump is consulting with Gaffney on a range of national security appointments. The problem is that Gaffney’s view of the world is crazy. He is the founder of a think tank called the Center for Security Policy, which promotes such ideas as (1) President Obama is a “closet Muslim,” (2) the Muslim Brotherhood is “infiltrating the U.S. government at high levels,” and (3) Islamic religious law is “replacing American democracy.”

Jeff Sessions – Sessions is a senator from Alabama whom Trump wants to make Attorney General because, allegedly, he is “a world class legal mind.” He is also a known racist who, as a prosecuting attorney in Alabama, was denied a federal judgeship because of his racial insensitivity. What else can one expect from someone who thinks that “a white voting rights lawyer was a disgrace to his race.” The American Civil Liberties Union describes Sessions as “the senator with probably the most anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-child record in the Senate.

Gaffney and Sessions might not be as obviously anti-Semitic as Bannon, but one has to understand that there is a threat of their acting so, or condoning such action, by virtue of their overall hostility to minorities.

Two Consequences

Trump’s election and choice of advisers have had two important consequences for Jews:

— The evolving social situation in the United States is now creating pressure on its Jewish community to move back to that pre-1967 position of a united front – the position that says an attack on the civil rights of one U.S. minority group is an attack on all of them. The need for such a position is so obvious that even the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, has responded to it.

In a recent speech he declared, “We must stand with our fellow Americans who may be singled out for how they look, who they love, where they’re from or how they pray. … So I pledge to you … that if one day Muslim-Americans will be forced to register their identities, then that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim.”

Unfortunately, Greenblatt’s position is not a unanimous one among American Jewish leaders. As the Jewish commentator Peter Beinart points out, “American Jewry’s two most influential groups [AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations] no longer take moral responsibility for the country in which their members live.” That is because they have chosen to become promoters of Israeli, and not American, interests. “The result is that America’s most powerful Jewish organizations … judge American politicians by one standard: Do they support the Israeli government no matter what?”

— The Israeli government and its settler supporters have come out in full support of President-elect Trump, thus revealing a willingness to, at the very least, turn a blind eye to the evolving anti-Semitic trends within the new administration. While this might seem crazy, there is in fact a method to this madness.

Israeli journalist Yaron London explained this in a recent op-ed piece on Ynet: “a world view which supports white supremacy matches our [Israel’s] government’s interests.” Why so? Because “all forms of Zionism hold the perception that a certain extent of anti-Semitism benefits the Zionist enterprise. To put it more sharply, anti-Semitism is the generator and ally of Zionism. Masses of Jews leave their place of residence only when their economic situation and physical safety are undermined.”

A Second Chance

American Jews now have a rare opportunity. They can realize where their real interests lie and act accordingly.  And, as they always have, those interests lie in upholding the universal principles of civil and humanitarian rights. To not do so is to affirm their present alliance with a nation self-destructing on tribalism and racism.

The truth is that Zionism has turned out to be a tragic and potentially fatal mistake. Those who led the Jewish community to support Zionism tied the fate of the U.S. Jews to an apartheid political ideology that has isolated them from much that is decent and progressive in the world.

As problematic as it is, the ascendency of Donald Trump gives the American Jews a second chance to make the right choice, to join with their natural allies and fight for the equal rights of all groups. U.S. Jews should think long and hard about this, for it may well be that their second chance will also be their last chance.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.




Death of the ‘Two-State Solution’

Exclusive: For years, proposals for a “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – granting equal rights to all inhabitants – were called anti-Semitic. But Israel’s settlement building has now left no other rational choice, notes Jonathan Marshall.

By Jonathan Marshall

Donald Trump’s election victory raises many unanswered questions, but it also settles a few, starting with the fate of the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” In the words of Israeli Education Minister and Jewish Home Party leader Naftali Bennett, “The era of a Palestinian state is over.”

Lest anyone accuse the Israeli hardliner of wishful thinking, one need only recall candidate Trump’s insistence last spring that Israelis “really have to keep going” with settling the territories that they have occupied since 1967. Two months later, the Republican Party changed its 2012 platform to omit support for a Palestinian state and to condemn the “false notion that Israel is an occupier.”

Last week, a co-chair of the Trump campaign’s Israel Advisory Committee reaffirmed that the President-elect rejects Washington’s traditional view that Israel’s settlements are obstacles to peace and illegal under international law.

The so-called “two-state solution” — creation of a Palestinian national homeland comprising the West Bank and Gaza, and coexisting with Israel — has been a longstanding axiom of official U.S. policy, accepted as well by Israel and its unofficial lobbying arm, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Of late, however, the rise of extreme Jewish nationalists to power in Israel, the relentless expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, and Israel’s evident disinterest in peace negotiations have all but killed hopes for such a solution. In 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “There will be no withdrawals” from the occupied West Bank and “no concessions” to the Palestinians.

As Americans for Peace Now points out, “more than 40% of the West Bank is under the direct control of settlers or settlements and off-limits to Palestinians . . . Israel has taken hundreds of kilometers of the West Bank to build roads that serve the settlements, . . . dividing Palestinian cities and towns from each other, and imposing various barriers to Palestinian movement and access. . . Such settlements, and new settlement construction going on today, have the explicit goal of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem – which, in effect, means preventing the two-state solution.”

Many of Israel’s staunchest allies in the United States now concede this reality. Hillary Clinton, in a private email to one of her advisers, acknowledged in 2015 that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process had become a phony “Potemkin” spectacle. Secretary of State John Kerry warned publicly that Israeli settlement-building was “imperiling the viability of a two-state solution.”

Roger Cohen, the New York Times columnist and an ardent liberal Zionist, reported last month following a trip to Israel that the two-state idea is all but “clinically dead.” He explained: “The incorporation of all the biblical Land of Israel has advanced too far, for too long, to be reversed now.”

Many Israeli supporters of a two-state solution now publicly admit that bitter truth. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak accuses Netanyahu of engaging in a “messianic drive” toward “a single Jewish state, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.” For the current crop of right-wing leaders in Israel, the main question is whether to offer Palestinians citizenship within an expanded Israel or to remove them.

Palestinians also concede privately that their dream of a state is dead. Said noted Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki, “We, Israelis and Palestinians, live in a one-state reality.” Former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, declared bluntly, “there will be no alternative but one state. No alternative.”

What Path Forward?

If a Palestinian state is truly dead, Palestinians will need to give up their decades-old nationalist aspirations, a wrenching blow that many will find hard to accept. Israelis, in turn, will need to find room in a bi-national democratic state for millions of Palestinians — roughly equal in number to Jews — an even more wrenching adjustment that many will fight to the bitter end. Liberal Zionists have warned for years that refusal to accept a Palestinian state would force Israel to choose between remaining a democratic state or a Jewish state.

As former Prime Minister Barak put it, the “overarching ambition” of absorbing the occupied territories “is bound to culminate in either a single, binational state, which, within a generation, may have a Jewish minority and likely a Bosnia-like civil war, or else an apartheid reality if Palestinian residents are deprived of the right to vote. Both spell doom for the Zionist dream.”

An apartheid-like reality already exists for Palestinians, but many Israelis and their supporters publicly rationalize it as an unfortunate but temporary necessity during a transitional period that will end with a peace settlement. By putting off determination of the final status of the occupied territories, Israel can justify subjecting Palestinians to harsh military law, seizing their land, demolishing their homes, controlling their movements, and jailing them at will rather than granting them the rights afforded to Israeli citizens.

Israeli political scientist and former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti has been saying for years that “the whole notion of a Palestinian state . . . is a sham.” Israel has maintained the pretense of peace talks only “because it is self-serving,” he said. While talking about two states as a goal, Israeli governments continue funding the expansion of settlements. Palestinian officials, meanwhile, help enforce order in return for millions of dollars in international aid.

But if Israeli hardliners succeed in ending the fiction of a peace process and annex the territories, “then the Palestinian struggle will inevitably be transformed from one demanding independence into a movement demanding equal rights,” says James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. “If this is to be the case, we may well see the day when the Palestinian citizens of Israel will emerge . . . as the new leadership of a unified Palestinian community fighting for justice and equality.”

Such a fight will face tremendous opposition. In recent years, polls of Israeli adults show that nearly half believe Arabs should be expelled from Israel. Nearly eight in 10 believe Jews should receive preferential treatment compared to non-Jews. The Netanyahu government and Knesset are filled with overt racists. Last year, Netanyahu appointed as deputy defense minister a rabbi who asserted, “[Palestinians] are like animals, they aren’t human.”

The Israeli peace activist and public opinion analyst Dahlia Scheindlin doesn’t minimize the hurdles, but said Palestinians may be ready to fight for their rights within Israel. “Israeli racism [is] better than Israeli occupation,” she wrote, “and they probably feel [they] can live with it as long as there are democratic foundations to demand better. Maybe for them, Israeli rule cannot possibly make their status quo worse, but at least it offers the possibility of something many of them simply lack: citizenship.”

Democratic Rights

Some hope is offered by the fact that several notable right-leaning Israeli politicians favor granting Palestinians full democratic rights within a greater Israel, rather than subordinating them forever under the thumb of military occupation or Jim Crow-type segregation.

As New Yorker editor David Remnick observed a couple of years ago, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin — a member of the rightist Likud party — has “emerged as the most prominent critic of racist rhetoric, jingoism, fundamentalism, and sectarian violence, the highest-ranking advocate among Jewish Israelis for the civil rights of the Palestinians both in Israel and in the occupied territories.”

Rivlin visited an Arab town that had been the scene of an Israeli massacre in 1956 to apologize and “swear, in my name and that of all our descendants, that we will never act against the principle of equal rights, and we will never try and force someone from our land.” He also condemned racist fans of a Jerusalem soccer team who protested its signing of two Muslim players.

For such sentiments, not surprisingly, Rivlin has been called a “traitor,” “rotten filth,” and even “lying little Jew” by his Israeli haters.

But Rivlin is not alone. Moshe Arens, a former Likud leader, minister of defense and foreign affairs, and ambassador to the United States, supports giving Palestinians in the West Bank the right to vote in Israeli elections. The key to preserving Israeli democracy, he wrote in 2010, will be making them feel at home in the state of Israel, “enjoying not only equality of rights but also equality of opportunities.”

It will take a minor miracle to persuade the Israeli public to risk broadening their democracy to incorporate millions of Palestinians, but the longer the unsupportable status quo prevails, the less likely it becomes that any Israelis will enjoy the democratic and civil rights they have long known. Israel’s media is under assault from the government, leading Freedom House to downgrade its assessment of the country’s press from “free” to “partly free.” Israeli peace activists and NGOs face constant harassment and persecution. Rightist demonstrators routinely chant “Death to Arabs.”

Former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, a member of the Likud Party, recently declared, “The leadership of Israel in 2016 is busy with inflaming passions and causing fear between Jews and Arabs, between right and left and between different ethnic groups in order to survive in power.”

And Ilan Baruch, Israel’s former ambassador to South Africa, said, “Netanyahu is pushing Israeli democracy to the brink. . . This is the most right-wing government in the country’s history, which has no qualms about taking tactical and strategic steps in the media, education, and culture in order to ensure Netanyahu’s permanent rule. To do that, the government sows racist divisions . . . slanders and preaches hatred for the Other — be they Arab citizens of Israel, Palestinians, African refugees, or human rights activists.”

Still, with the pretense of a two-state solution shattered by Trump’s victory and Netanyahu’s open intransigence, supporters of Israeli democracy and Palestinian rights can finally begin an unblinkered discussion of how to achieve a genuine accommodation between those two peoples in a common land.

In the words of Sandy Tolan, author of the international bestseller The Lemon Tree, “Now, at least, there is an opportunity to lay the foundations for some newer kind of solution grounded in human rights, freedom of movement, complete cessation of settlement building, and equal access to land, water, and places of worship.  It will have to be based on a new reality, which Israel and the United States have had such a hand in creating. Think of it as the one-state solution.”

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic . Some of his previous articles for Consortiumnews include “Can Obama Lecture Xi on Human Rights?” “How Arms Sales Distort US Foreign Policy,” “Hiding the Indonesia Massacre Files,” and “Pakistan’s Ticking Nuclear Time Bomb.”




Women Call for Israel-Palestine Peace

Though the Israel-Palestine conflict has been mostly off the mainstream media’s radar recently, this long-running crisis drew the attention this month of two women Nobel Peace Prize winners, reports Ann Wright.

By Ann Wright

On Oct. 5, two women Nobel Peace Laureates were at opposite ends of Israel, each working for peace in different ways.  One was walking in Israel with Israeli and Palestinian women with hopes for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the other sailed on the Women’s Boat to Gaza to challenge the Israeli blockade of the 1.8 million Palestinians trapped in the crowded Gaza Strip.

Mairead Maguire, the 1977 Nobel Peace Laureate from Northern Ireland who had sailed 1,000 miles in nine days with 13 women from 13 countries, was stopped in international waters by the Israeli military, taken into custody and brought to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod.

On the same day, Leymah Gbowee, the 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate from Liberia, was to the north, on the Israeli border with Lebanon and spoke at the beginning of a two-week “Walk for Hope” through Israel with approximately 5,000 Israeli and Palestinian women.

Gbowee also spoke at the closing ceremony of the walk on Oct. 19 in Jerusalem at a rally in a square near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence.

“If you cannot see hope, if you cannot see peace, then you are blind,” Gbowee said. “You must reject the narrative that war is the destiny of our children. War is easy, making peace is hard. But sisters, today you’ve made history! No one will be able to ignore your call for peace any more.”

In an interview with the Haaretz newspaper, Gbowee added: “Men try to demean women’s activism as if it isn’t important, as if it isn’t ‘the real stuff.’ But guns and bombs are not aimed only at men. Women suffer real pain — and we have real things to say. And women have the ability to come together and bridge our divides — and that is very real, very political and very powerful.”

Many other women’s voices from Israel and Palestine were heard at the Oct. 19 rally.

Women’s Power

Hind Khoury, an economist who was the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs in the Palestinian Authority and the delegate general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization to France from 2006 until 2010, said, “This is women’s power at it’s best. But will you last? Will you do the hard work? The hard part begins tomorrow — will you keep up the hope in our region that is plagued with violence and despair? The 50 years of rule over the Palestinian people, from cradle to grave, cannot go on. Our people are ready for peace. President Abbas is ready for peace. We women have come together to tell all our leaders to work towards a negotiated agreement.”

Fadwa Shear from Ramallah said, “We cannot count on men to create peace. We will have to do it by ourselves. We are political women calling on our leaders to reach a political agreement. I am very proud to be here.”

The voices of Israeli women were also heard. According to the Haaretz article, “Hadassah Froman, widow of Rabbi Menachem Froman, and her daughter-in-law Michal, who was pregnant when she was wounded in a stabbing attack by a Palestinian in January, 2016, both spoke at the demonstration. The two women, who live in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, were reportedly warmly welcomed by the crowd. ‘There is great energy here, and it can bring us to a new way, to change,’ said Hadassah Froman.

“As she held her infant daughter, Michal Froman added, ‘I believe that peace, as we want it to be, will come from a place where we can see what is possible and what is impossible. The right can be part of peace, too. Life will be better here if we stop seeing ourselves as the victims of terror or the victims of the occupation. We all have to get over this and begin to work hard.’”

Peace Reciprocity

The goal of working across religious and ethnic lines was echoed by Palestinians as well. Huda Abuarqoub, regional director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace and a resident of Hebron, said, “I came as a Palestinian woman from the Occupied Territories to say, enough is enough! It’s time for peace and security for both people. … You saw this morning how many Palestinian women joined you. I am here as Palestinian to say clear and loud — you have a partner!”israel2008map1

Hamutal Gouri, a women’s activist and a Women Wage Peace leader, ended the rally at Qasr al-Yahud, “Motherhood is not only the act of bearing and rearing our own children. Motherhood is a spiritual and ethical position of responsibility for the world and for future generations.”

Gouri told Haaretz, “The world does not need another peace plan. There are already many excellent plans.  What we need is true intent to make peace. And that is what we women are demanding from our leaders: determination and courage to engage in peace negotiations.”

Women Wage Peace, the organizer and sponsor of the “Walk for Hope,”  is a non-partisan women’s group founded in 2014 at the end of Operation Protective Edge, the 51-day Israeli attack on Gaza in which some 2,300 Palestinians and 72 Israelis (66 soldiers and six civilians) were killed.

Women Wage Peace calls for an agreement between Israel and Palestine that will be respectful, non-violent and accepted by both sides. Organizers say the group is funded mainly by small donations from Israel and abroad, as well as by the Women Donors Network in the United States.

The Palestinian Authority provided political and financial support to the walk including chartering buses, and purchasing water and hats with a dove logo that the women wore, many over their hijabs.

More than 2,500 Jewish and Arab Israeli women arrived on buses and were joined by more than 1,000 Palestinian women from the West Bank. Over the next week, Women Wage Peace will set up a “peace tent” at Qasr al-Yahud, the historic baptism site on the Jordan River.

Maguire’s Account

Regarding the 1,000 mile voyage of the Women’s Boat to Gaza, Mairead Maguire described what happened as the boat approached Gaza: “myself and all of the women who sailed on the Women’s Boat to Gaza have been arrested and are in detention in Israel. We were arrested, kidnapped illegally in international waters, and taken against our wish into Israel.

“This has happened to me before. We will be deported and, tragically, not allowed back to see our friends in Palestine and in Israel. This is totally illegal. As men and — as women from many countries, we uphold our freedom of movement in any part of our world. So, … work for the freedom and human rights, the lifting of the blockade against the people of Gaza and for the freedom for the Palestinian people and peace in the Middle East. We can all do this together. It is not a dream. And we are here in person because we care for human rights, for human dignity for the Palestinian people.”

While on the high seas on the voyage to Gaza on the Women’s Boat to Gaza, Maguire wrote: “As in Gaza, so too around our world, millions of children are suffering because of government policies of militarism and war and violence of armed struggles. This cycle of escalating violence must be broken, least it spin out of control. It is not too late, we can turn around from war to peace, from force to friendship, from hate to forgiveness and love, it is a choice. We are powerful each in our own way.  We can, when we believe passionately in love, change to a non-killing nonviolent world.”

As a participant with Mairead Maguire on the Women’s Boat to Gaza, I wish the Israeli government would have allowed the 13 women from 13 countries on our boat to join the “Walk for Hope,” but I guess that was too much to “hope” for!

Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel.  She also served in the US diplomatic corps for 16 years and resigned in 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.  She was the boat leader of the Zaytouna-Olivia, her fourth mission with the Gaza Freedom Flotilla coalition to challenge the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza.




The Open Wounds of Mideast Conflicts

Beyond Hillary Clinton’s insults about Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin — and finger-pointing about ISIS — foreign policy has gotten little attention in Campaign 2016 and that’s especially true about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

 By Dennis J Bernstein

Peace in Palestine and Palestinian statehood have barely surfaced in the 2016 Presidential election, although President Barack Obama has just approved a massive military aid package for Israel and Israel is expanding its settlements in Palestinian territory. In part, the silence is because both major party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have already professed their devotion to Israel.

But the festering wound of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a major source of violence in the Middle East, contributing to hostilities in Iraq and Syria, will not go away by being ignored, as Ali Abunimah, author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli/Palestinian Impasse and co-founder and director of the Electronic Intifada, explained in a Flashpoints interview.

Dennis Bernstein: Ali, welcome back to Flashpoints.

Ali Abunimah: Thank you Dennis. I’m happy to be back in one of my favorite places, and speaking for one of my favorite organizations, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, doing some incredible work. And I hope people are going to come out and support them.

DB: Well, I hope so too. And, again, the work that MECA does is more crucial than ever. Working to bring pure water, to do the significant life-saving work that they continue to do. There’s a lot going on in this world, Ali. And there’s a lot that you know a lot about. […] We hear once again the Iraqi army is poised to take back Mosul. They are armed, they are strong, And we’re already getting reports that they’re winning. You want to give us your initial response to when you hear the Iraqi forces, once again, have massed to take Mosul? How does that sound to you?

AA: Well, it sounds to me like in every one of these situations, the first and foremost victims are going to be defenseless civilians. And that’s what worries me, and concerns me the most. This plan to take Mosul has been in the works for a long time. It’s been announced a long time ago, and people in Mosul as people throughout Iraq and in Syria, are between a rock and a hard place. They have been given no choice about who they are going to get bombed or killed by.

DB: And there are a lot of people who are worried that this is just a part of this expanding war, that we see expanding into Syria. Nobody really knows where this is going to go. Do you want to put this in the context of Syria. And just to mention that Gorbachev just released a statement saying that he’s terrified that the situation is grave in terms of Syria. And relations between the U.S. and Russia are worse than they have ever been.

AA: Well, you have to kind of step back, and look at the big picture, in a way. I mean in the context of this election campaign, if you can call it that, there are revelations that are really quite shocking that are being completely glossed over because Trump is stealing all the headlines. But it’s been revealed that Hillary Clinton in a memo which was only leaked through WikiLeaks said flat out that ISIS was funded by two of the closest U.S. allies in the region, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and ISIS and other groups in Syria.

And on the other side you have Russia, which is supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad which has killed vast numbers of civilians, that is besieging eastern Aleppo and raining hell and fire on people there. And you have a war that only seems to be getting bloodier and more horrific.

And it seems to me any sensible person would say that the priority has got to be to stop the war. And the people who can do that, or the powers that can do that, are the United States and Russia who have the power to stop feeding their proxies with weapons, with money, and to bring an end to the bloodshed. And from that point there’s got to be some kind of political solution to this mess. Because otherwise the effort to fight until victory is simply going to destroy what’s left of Syria, and kill even more people than have already died.

That seems to me a sensible view, but at the same time people’s passions are so raised that if you try to say that the priority has to be to stop the war, and stop the bloodshed, that you are accused with siding with the dictator, or siding against the dictator, or supporting the atrocities that are happening, or opposing them.

What we do know is that the U.S. has been involved in fueling this war. Russia is involved, Iran is involved. And I am among those who are not convinced that more U.S. weapons, or more bombardment by the U.S., by Russia, or by any other country is going to produce better outcomes for people in Syria. So now, when you look at what Gorbachev said, or, indeed, what senior U.S. military officers have said, for the U.S. to take on, to have a more direct involvement in Syria would effectively mean a war with Russia.

And, I think we’re old enough to know how that sounds. A lot of people nowadays, a lot of younger folks that I talk to don’t have a memory of what it meant to live in the shadow of nuclear war, and so, maybe don’t hear that the same way people who lived through that era do.

DB: I think you’ve got a point there. I remember sort of hiding under my desk, and the biggest fear I had when we were doing those air raid drills was, my mom worked and I didn’t know where the hell that was. I didn’t know how I would ever find her, if the bomb fell. And we all grew up with that kind of fear. And here it is, for another generation of our kids. It’s terrifying. Ali, it looked like there was a moment when there was going to be a cease fire, and there was going to be a truce. It lasted for about two seconds and then it exploded into an even worse war. What happened?

AA: Well, I’m not claiming any expertise in this area but what I’m seeing is a cycle where the parties in Syria see this as a battle for… an existential battle. The regime sees a victory as an existential battle, as do many of its supporters. And those who have been under the horrific bombardments of the regime see it as an existential battle. In a situation like that, it’s not going to stop, unless those who are arming and financing and supporting these parties say “Enough.” Civil wars… this is one of the most horrific civil wars in modern times, if not in history.

And it’s not going to end by itself, unless the powers, particularly the United States and Russia, decide they’re going to end it. And so far they haven’t decided to do that. And there is a push to get the U.S. even more involved. And when we look at the results of U.S. involvement in Iraq, in Libya, throughout the world, for the past half century or more, in Southeast Asia, it’s hard to look at that and not just apprehend the prospect of another major U.S. military involvement with real fear and horror.

DB: I want to get deep into Palestine, but just one more question. I have to ask it. My listeners tend to get furious with me when I raise issues this way. But I have to ask you, do you have a preference, do you think Trump or Hillary Clinton is more capable of dealing… I don’t mean it to be a farcical question. It’s an important question, because they are the ones. Do you think either one is better than the other? … Long pause.

AA: Long pause. I will not be voting for either of them is what I can say. And I have been through enough cycles to know that the whole “lesser evil” argument is what has got us to this point. If voting for the lesser evil was a strategy then we would not be facing the horrendous choice right now, of Trump who is supported by some of the most nasty, extreme, fascistic and racist and white supremacist elements. Who is himself, very unpredictable. I don’t think anyone can know what he would do if he was president. I don’t think anything he says can be taken as a reliable indicator of what he’ll say or do tomorrow.

And Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, as these leaks show, is going to be the reliable candidate of the war industry, of the financial industry, of… if you just look at the way she makes policy. I mean, what these e-mails reveal on Palestine, for example, on Israel, is that it was all about… it’s like, we’re going to oppose the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement because that’s going to get us money from our donors.

She’s saying, in writing, in these e-mails, in memos she’s sending her staff, that Saudi Arabia is funding ISIS. And the Clinton Foundation is taking money from Saudi Arabia. And the Obama administration made like the biggest weapons deal in history with Saudi Arabia. They’ve sold $115 billion dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia. Can I say with any conviction that that is the lesser evil? I honestly can’t.

DB: Alright, let’s turn our attention to the situation in occupied Palestine. That word occupied doesn’t often make it into the corporate press. But that’s exactly… it’s not only occupied, but it’s an expanding occupation. Some refer to it as an ethnic cleansing. Take your pick of terms. Apartheid, Israeli-style.

But, Ali, let’s take it in two parts. Why don’t you give us your sense, give us an update, where you see the situation on the ground now — is it worse after the last Israeli slaughter? Is it status quo? How would you evaluate the situation on the ground now?

AA: Well, that’s the big question. First of all, the word occupied, remember, didn’t even make it into the Democratic Party platform. There was a big fight about that, and you had Cornel West, and you had the members who were appointed by Bernie Sanders who were fighting to have the word occupied included in the platform. And Hillary’s appointees fought tooth and nail, successfully, to keep it out.

So, the situation throughout Palestine it is pretty grim. In Gaza, which is only a small part of the territory, but they just marked the population reaching 2 million. You know, it’s now been just over 2 years since the last mass Israeli slaughter in Gaza, and there’s been no accountability. The economic situation is a catastrophe. The siege is tighter than ever. And the construction, reconstruction has been more or less blocked to a… just to a trickle by Israel. And the conditions of life are unsustainable. You have the U.N. that keeps saying by 2020 Gaza will be unlivable. I mean, it’s already unlivable, if you listen to people who are there, in terms of not just the sustenance that people need to live and breathe, but the prospects.

I mean, the population there is overwhelmingly young. More than 51% under the age of 18, and people have no prospects. This is one of the most highly educated populations in the region, and young people go to the university, they do very well, and then there’s nothing for them to do. It has the highest unemployment rate in the world. And this is all created deliberately by Israel, endorsed by Barack Obama, endorsed by the European Union, with the complicity of the United Nations.

[…] And, you know, it’s been forgotten. There’s almost no mention of what’s happening in Gaza. In the West Bank, this month marks a year since a major upsurge in confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli occupation forces and settlers, which really was stoked by Israel’s increasingly aggressive incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque’s compound in Jerusalem. It’s repression of the population in East Jerusalem. That’s really, along with Hebron, being the epicenter of the upsurge in violence.

More than 250 Palestinians have been killed on the West Bank in the last year. Thirty Israelis have been killed. And many of the Palestinians have been killed without any pretext, without any reason, without any accountability. But certainly a significant number, I think over 100, were killed in the context of carrying out attacks mostly on Israeli occupation forces at checkpoints, in what have been described by all the human rights groups that have looked into it, as extrajudicial executions.

But the key point here is that most of those who have carried out such acts have been very young, unaffiliated. This is not directed by any groups. And I think that’s a manifestation of just the sheer hopelessness that many young Palestinians feel. That Israel has decided that they will live under permanent conditions of apartheid, with more and more of their land taken.

Palestinians in the West Bank are also under a kind of siege. It’s a bit different from Gaza but they are also being squeezed into smaller and smaller areas. And what’s the response of the U.S. government? What’s the response of Barack Obama, whom everyone thinks is so cool? You know, he’s leaving office, and look how cool he is, and we wish he could have another 8 years. And you hear this kind of thing from people.

Well, this is the president who signed the biggest military aid package to any country, from any country, in history. Thirty-eight billion dollars over the next 10 years of weapons for Israel, to maintain its occupation, to maintain its apartheid, perhaps to attack Gaza again, in the near future. And that is the reality we’re dealing with.

And then, you know, the irony, just the other day the State Department put out this very strong statement about a new Israeli settlement in the heart of the West Bank. The State Department said “This settlement is closer to Jordan than it is to Israel, and we strongly condemn this.” And people are saying “What do you mean? You just signed this unconditional give-away of 38 billion dollars, what do you expect from Israel? Why should they behave any differently?”

DB: Could you talk a little bit about the arrest and torture of resistors, particularly young people? Are young people continuing to be arrested and tortured, and suffer in this way?

AA: Yeah. You know, what’s also happened is that there has been a huge upsurge in arrests. Over 1,000 Palestinian children have been arrested by Israel in the past year. The number that are in custody currently is at the highest level in a long time. I think it’s over 200 that are currently in custody, including some children as young as 12. And thousands of Palestinians are currently, I think the number is close to 7,000, are in Israeli prisons. And more than 700 are held in what’s called administrative detention. This is detention without charge or trial, which is indefinitely renewable. And this is something that is a holdover from British colonial times.

And we’ve seen [hunger strikes] in the past years, you know, consistently, but this has intensified again in the last year, … Palestinians undertaking lengthy hunger strikes, against this administrative detention.

So, this is happening again, with complete silence from the rest of the world. I mean, you know, Israel is being praised every day as a liberal democracy. It is a liberal democracy that runs a gulag for a population living under this brutal occupation. It’s a liberal democracy, so-called, where Palestinians have no rights.

I mean, we have arrests now […] since we are in the [San Francisco] Bay area let’s call out Facebook […] who are complicit with Israel in censorship. But Israel itself arresting Palestinians, over 140 Palestinians arrested for so-called incitement, for saying things on Facebook. Just the other day a world renowned Palestinian astrophysicist Imad Barghouthi, who’s been in jail since the spring, was sentenced to seven months for incitement.

Now incitement can mean criticizing Israel, criticizing the occupation. And what the Israeli military prosecutors– because these are military courts– did was they introduced as what they called evidence the number of “likes” that his Facebook posts had received, the number of “likes” — the number of “shares”– as evidence against him. […] You know, all these folks who are talking about free speech and “Je suis Charlie” and all of this kind of stuff, when it comes to Israel’s crackdown on Palestinians even being able to express themselves on social media, there’s total silence.

But people are going to prison for it. There is the Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour who is in prison currently for a poem she wrote. The journalist Semite Dway who came out of six months in prison, again for things she wrote on Facebook. And these cases are not being talked about.

DB: I really don’t mean to harken back to the campaign, other than Trump’s main thing is he’s going to build a wall to keep out the dangerous Mexicans. We’ve seen a wall built on Palestinian land, big wall, tall wall. I guess you can see it from space. What has been the impact of that wall?

AA: Well, it’s been devastating. It’s cut through Palestinian lands, communities. It has not been about security. That’s been a lie. It’s been about annexing Palestinian land to Israeli settlements. But you know, here’s a dirty little secret the Israelis don’t boast about – they stopped building it. They never finished it, because it was too astronomically expensive. And Palestinians can get around it anyway. So, they never finished it even though it exists in large areas and has wreaked havoc around Palestinian towns and cities and lands.

But also another thing, the wall that Trump wants to build is not hypothetical. That wall is already there, I have been to different parts of the U.S./Mexico border to San Diego, to Arizona, to Nogales, and I’ve seen the Obama Wall. Let’s call it its real name–it’s the Obama Wall. A great amount of border militarization has been done by Obama, by the Democrats who always want to be in the position of outflanking the Republicans on the right and saying, “Look how good we are at deporting people. Look how good we are.”

And, in fact, the connections there are very strong because the Obama administration awarded a contract to Elbit Systems, the Israeli company that operates the surveillance systems along the Israeli walls. Obama awarded a contract of $140 million to Elbit Systems for what’s called a virtual wall, in Arizona. This is a system of radars and high tech surveillance of people’s movements.

And all of that is tested. Who are the guinea pigs for these technologies that Israel is selling in the United States to control Americans, to control Mexicans, to control others? The guinea pigs are Palestinians under occupation.

DB: They’ve become the model. You want to repress your rebelling population that you’ve been brutalizing for 50 years? Call on Israel, follow their…

AA: Absolutely, I mean the Israeli press has articles from time to time about–proud articles–about how these racists, repressive, right wing regimes in Europe, like Hungary, are really anti-Semitic regime, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant. How they are now turning to Israel to help them build walls to keep out refugees who are fleeing for their lives. So Israel has become, as Naomi Klein called it, “the world’s shopping mall” for these so-called homeland security technologies. And Israel is proud of it. It’s big business for them.

And that’s certainly true in the U.S. where we see this huge industry of U.S. police departments going over to Israel for training. And that’s become a big issue, also, in terms of the struggle against police brutality, and police racisms, police killings in this country. Because their attitude, if not always the exact techniques but certainly the attitude, is not to view citizens in this country, particularly in the big cities, as people who deserve safety and protection, like everyone else, but as a hostile enemy population that has to be controlled.

And that attitude is really being mutually reinforced. I don’t want to blame Israel for it because that would be unfair to the United States which really needs no lessons in racism from anyone else.

DB: You know, another parallel structure, that virtual wall that you’re talking about at the southern border cuts through a number of Indian tribes, and right through Indian land. And we now see a major battle in North Dakota for land rights, and for rights of sacred territory. I want to ask you, Ali, I have often heard a parallel structure between the plight of the Palestinians, and the plight of the Native Americans. What do you think about that struggle? Is that an inspiration for the Palestinian movement?

AA: Sure. I mean the parallel structure has a name and that’s settler colonialism. And this is a settler colonial country, as is Canada, Australia, all of these colonial extensions of Europe, and particularly Britain, of which Israel is one. They operated against the indigenous people in the same way, through treating them as if they were simply a nuisance that is on this land that God had given to the invaders.

I mean, it’s incredibly inspiring, and what has been important for me to learn is that we talk, often Native people, Indigenous people in North America are talked about as if they were wiped out, and their struggle is over. And I think it’s critical to recognize, and this is something I’ve had to learn, that they are here, and they are fighting, and they are struggling. And it’s not too late for there to be restitution to Native people. It’s not too late for their land to be protected, for land to be returned. These should all be live and active demands that we should support. And the struggle in North Dakota is one of many. I mean these struggles are going on all over North America.

I was in New Zealand in April, and friends there took me to visit an important Maori burial ground and sacred site, one of the last major areas of open land near Auckland, near Auckland airport. And, in fact, [it is] a world historic site because it’s the last place that humans arrived for permanent settlement about a thousand years ago. And they want to build track housing on it. So people there are fighting to protect that land. So this is a global struggle.

DB: …For Indigenous rights, for the rights of the people whose land it really is.

AA: Absolutely.

DB: Well, I guess the final question is, and it speaks right to your lecture. Can Israeli apartheid really be defeated? The other side of that question comes out of the right wing, out of Netanyahu, who says, “I don’t have a partner for peace.” But this isn’t about looking for a partner for peace, is it? This is about on the one hand, liberating land, the people’s’ land, and the other part it’s about the infringement, the expanding colonialism.

AA: You know, I’m going to say something and maybe talk about this more tomorrow and I’m going to say something right now that might sound a bit nuts, which is, I think it’s already been defeated. What could I possibly mean when…

DB: What’s been defeated?

AA: Well, the idea, and the legitimacy of it has been defeated.

DB: Of Israel?

AA: Of this system where Israel has a right to perpetually superior rights over the Indigenous people in Palestine. I think that’s already gone. No one can defend it anymore. And nobody is really trying except for the hard-core ultra-Zionists, who are trying to make that case. So now I think the struggle is really about shifting the balance of power. Because Israeli apartheid is a reality. It’s a discredited idea. But it’s a hard reality and so it’s really about fighting to shift the balance, to replace it with something that looks like justice. But I think we’ve already won the war of ideas, in that sense.

DB: So, then what comes next?

AA: Well, what comes next is what I think we’re all struggling for which is a decent life, of justice, equality, protection, economic democracy, which I think is fundamental. Because just having political rights, like we can all go and vote on November 8th, right? Most people can go for it if you’re not disenfranchised. But there’s no economic democracy in this country. So that’s why many of us say “Well, it doesn’t make a difference, who I vote for.” So, economic democracy is something we have to struggle for here, as in Palestine. And, I can’t pretend I have all the answers for that, but that’s why I want to be part of this making mix.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.




Israel’s Abnormal ‘Normal’ with its Neighbors

Israel often acts as if a simmering state of war with its Muslim neighbors is the only possible future, while occasionally playing off one nation against another, a “normal” that is not normal, says ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar

By Paul R. Pillar

It has long been generally regarded, and properly so, to be in everyone’s best interests if Israel had normal relationships with its regional neighbors. Normal relations are a condition for commerce and mutual prosperity. Normal relations are the stuff of peace rather than of the repeated wars that have been fought between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

We rightly applauded Anwar Sadat when he negotiated a peace treaty and established diplomatic relations with Israel, and we rightly criticized other Arab states for ostracizing Egypt itself after Sadat’s initiative. Even small instances of Arab ostracism of Israel get criticized today, as when an Egyptian judo athlete refused to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand after a match at the Olympics.

Israel could have had full and normal relations with its Arab neighbors long ago. Many years have passed since most Arab governments in effect accepted Zionism. A peace initiative by the Arab League, offering full normalization of Arab relations with Israel in return for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee issue, has been on the table since 2002.

The Arab governments later reaffirmed the offer and indicated additional flexibility regarding the acceptability of land swaps when drawing a final boundary between Israel and a Palestinian state. Israeli leaders, despite saying some favorable things about the initiative, have in effect ignored it, preferring to cling to all of the conquered Palestinian territory with a continued occupation.

But although these have been the Israeli priorities, the possibility of full and normal relations with the neighbors has at least been out there as a potential carrot, to add to whatever other incentives there might be for Israel to get off its destructive path of indefinite occupation.

Sunnis vs. Shiites

More recently, as an editorial in the New York Times observes, there has been de facto development of ties, in the absence of full diplomatic relations, between Israel and some Sunni Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. There also has been a warming of relations with Egypt, a relationship that had mostly been a cold peace since Sadat’s time.

As the editorial correctly notes, such developments reflect how the political status of the Palestinians is not a top priority for most Arab governments, and indeed it has long had to compete with more parochial concerns of those governments. But the plight of their Palestinian brethren still is a salient issue for most Arabs, as is the status of holy places that are among the issues that would have to be resolved in any Israeli-Palestinian final agreement.

The principal author of the Arab League peace initiative, the late Saudi King Abdullah, made clear that he was especially interested in the status of the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem and was willing to accept whatever resolution of other issues was acceptable to the Palestinians themselves.

The kind of de facto and semi-secret relationships that have been developing are the wrong kind of Israeli-Arab relations. They are not in the best interests of the United States or of anyone else. Far from being a basis for peace and prosperity, they are themselves based on conflict, regional divisions, authoritarianism, and the threat or use of force.

With regard to Egypt, the warming of ties with the regime of strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has to do with el-Sisi’s harsh internal crackdown and especially his bashing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is related to his willingness to cooperate with Israel in bashing the Brotherhood’s Hamas cousins in the Gaza Strip.

With regard to the Gulf Arab monarchies, the dealings with Israel have to do with the determination of those regimes to expand their regional influence and to pursue their rivalry with Iran. That determination has become so strong in the Saudi case that it has led to the reckless aerial assault and consequent humanitarian disaster in Yemen — a situation that has gotten so bad that a bipartisan group of U.S. congressmen is urging the Obama administration to delay a major sale of arms to the Saudis.

More Conflict

In short, the recently developing Israeli ties with these authoritarian Sunni Arab regimes are a matter of more regional conflict and instability, not more peace and prosperity.

Two comments about current Israeli incentives follow. One is that there is even less interest than before (if that is possible) on the part of the Netanyahu government in taking up the Arab League initiative or taking any other steps toward making peace with the Palestinians. If Israel is at least partially shaking off its regional isolation while still clinging to all the occupied territory and not even making a move toward relinquishing it, then the determination of that government to live forever by the sword is only strengthened.

These developments also underscore the Israeli government’s incentive to stoke conflict with, and fear of, Iran as much as possible. It was the Israeli government’s interest in keeping Iran as a perpetual bugbear that underlay its posture toward the nuclear agreement with Iran — a posture that never made sense as far as the nuclear issue itself was concerned, given that the agreement severely restricts and monitors the very nuclear program about which the Israeli government had been sounding so many cries of alarm.

The scaremongering about Iran serves not only as a distraction from Israeli-relevant issues and a rationale for extraordinary U.S.-Israeli ties, but also as the basis for isolation-breaking relations with the Gulf Arabs.

So the prospects for any progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace are as dim as they have been in a good while. The right-wing Israeli government is not feeling pressure to get off its destructive path. On the Palestinian side, it is not a matter of, as the Times editorial incorrectly suggests, the Palestinians having no more “interest in serious peace talks” than Israel does.

Very few Palestinians want to live under the Israeli occupation, and the great majority of Palestinians recognize that serious peace talks are needed for the occupation to end. But the only tolerated Palestinian interlocutor, the Palestinian Authority, has become a sclerotic auxiliary to the occupation and has long passed its “best if used by” date.

Credible secular alternatives languish in Israeli jails. (Marwan Barghouti, call your office, if you can.) The Hamas alternative, which seems poised to win municipal elections in the West Bank in October], will no doubt be the target of the same Israeli rejection of popular sovereignty that it has been when winning free elections in the past.

The gloomy prognosis is not an excuse to avoid the issue. The plight of the Palestinians is partly a matter of denial of basic human and political rights. It also has been, as the editorial correctly notes, “a source of regional tension for decades.”

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)