PALESTINIANS ARE NOT CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD

The Jewish Daily Forward ran this interesting piece today on its ‘Opinion’ page. It is written by the head of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation Mission to the United States.
Kudos to The Forward for publishing this….. it’s definitely worth reading….. It gets the ‘siren alert’ to make sure you dont miss it.

We Palestinians Will Honor Our Word
Opinion

Afif Safieh | Fri. Feb 16, 2007
I know of no way to measure suffering, no mechanism to quantify pain. All I know is that we Palestinians are not children of a lesser God.

Had I been a Jew or a Gypsy, I would consider the Holocaust to be the most atrocious event in history. Had I been a Native American, it would be the arrival of the European settlers and the subsequent near-total extermination of the indigenous population. Had I been an African American, it would be slavery in previous centuries and apartheid in the last. Had I been an Armenian, it would be the Turkish massacre.

I happen to be a Palestinian, and for Palestinians the most atrocious event in history is what we call the Nakba, the catastrophe. Humanity should consider all the above as morally unacceptable, all as politically inadmissible. Lest I be misunderstood, I am not comparing the Nakba to the Holocaust. Each catastrophe stands on its own, and I do not like to indulge in comparative martyrology or a hierarchy of tragedies. I only mention our respective traumas in order to illustrate that we each bring to the table our own particular history.

The fact that the accords reached last week in Mecca between Hamas and Fatah were met with a variety of reactions, ranging from warm to cautious to skeptical, makes it imperative to revisit and learn the lessons of the diplomatic history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Time and again the three “no’s” of the Khartoum summit in 1967 — no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel — are invoked as proof conclusive of Arab intransigence toward Israel. Such a claim, however, conveniently forgets that Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt and Jordan accepted United Nations Security Council resolution 242 just months after the Khartoum meeting.

Also forgotten is that Syria, after the October War in 1973 — the purpose of which, it should be remembered, was to reactivate a dormant diplomatic process and to capture the attention of American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — accepted U.N. resolution 338, which incorporated resolution 242. Ignored, too, is that the entire Arab world endorsed a peace plan put forth by the then-Saudi crown prince Fahd at a 1982 summit in Fez, Morocco, as well as unanimously backed the initiative put forth by then-Saudi crown prince Abdallah in Beirut in 2002.

For the Palestinian national movement, the October War in 1973 was a demarcation line in strategic thinking. It is then that we concluded that there was no military solution to the conflict. Until then we had advocated a unitary, democratic, bicultural, multiethnic and pluri-confessional state in Mandatory Palestine.

After 1973, a pragmatic coalition within the Palestine Liberation Organization emerged. Composed of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah, Nayef Hawatmeh’s Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and As Sa’iqa, the Palestinian branch of the Syrian Ba’ath Party, the coalition demanded not absolute justice but rather possible justice within the framework of a two-state solution. The fact that As Sa’iqa belonged to that school of thought, it is worth noting, is proof that Damascus can be a constructive player in the region if properly engaged and its concerns addressed. Syria is not necessarily the eternal spoiler that needs to use the Lebanese theater or the Palestinian scene in order to remind everyone of its presence.

Led by this pragmatic coalition, the PLO was ready for a historical compromise as far back as 1974. It was not the rejectionist player, as many have labeled it, but rather the rejected party until the Oslo peace talks in 1993. Throughout its presence in Lebanon, the PLO aimed to remain a military factor so as to be accepted as a diplomatic actor.

I have told my many Israeli interlocutors that I believe that the Israeli posture in peace negotiations was to expect a diplomatic outcome that would reflect Israeli power and intransigence, American alignment toward Israeli preferences, declining Russian influence, European abdication, Arab impotence and what they hoped to be Palestinian resignation.

It is this attitude that has resulted in having a durable peace process instead of a lasting and permanent peace. Peace and security will stem not from territorial aggrandizement but from regional acceptance — and make no mistake about it, we Palestinians are the key to regional acceptance of Israel. For years now, the Arab world from Morocco to Muscat has been ready to recognize the existence of Israel if it withdraws back from its expanded 1967 borders. The perpetuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is due not to the Arab rejection of Israeli existence, but to the Israeli rejection of Arab acceptance.

The absence of a credible diplomatic avenue has allowed for the emergence and the strengthening of radical movements. The electoral defeat of Fatah in January 2006 was caused by a plurality of factors, not least of them the fact that Fatah became identified with negotiations and a peace process that was non-existent for the last six years and totally unconvincing during the years preceding. To the Palestinians, the last 15 years of “peacemaking” were years during which we witnessed the expansion of the occupation — with the number of settlers doubling — not a withdrawal from the occupation.

Now, however, there is a chance to move beyond this history. As a result of the agreement reached last week in Mecca, the Palestinian government will be more representative than at any period before. The new foreign minister, Ziad Abu Amr, both enjoys the confidence of Hamas and is a political friend of Mahmoud Abbas — who as PLO chairman is charged with negotiating on behalf of the Palestinian people and as P.A. president has prerogative over the conduct of foreign affairs.

Both Fatah and Hamas are in favor of a cease-fire, for which they can now ensure disciplined Palestinian adherence — especially if it is reciprocated by the Israeli side and extended to the West Bank, where alas we have recently witnessed an escalation in assassinations and arrests. And in Mecca, Hamas and Fatah agreed that the Palestinian government will honor all agreements signed by the PLO, will abide by all the resolutions of previous Arab summits and will base its activity on international law.

The term “honor,” rest assured, has as much a ring of nobility to it in Arabic — if not more — as it does in any other language.

A territory that was occupied in 1967 in less than six days can also be evacuated in six days — so that Israelis can rest on the seventh, and we can all finally engage in the fascinating journey of nation-building and economic recovery.

Afif Safieh is head of the Palestine Liberation Organization Mission to the United States.

A MORNING LAFF……

As the Bush family starts preparing to leave the White House, preparations are under way to immortalise his name and accomplishments. One of the proposed projects is a Library named after the Commander in Chief.
Scroll down to see what it looks like so far…..

David Baldinger

JOURNEY OF A ‘SELF HATING’ JEW


THIS
article is absolutely brilliant. It is written by David Rovics. He calls it ‘Journey of a (“Self-Hating”) Jew’. I found it on Dissident Voice… it’s a must read for anyone who wants to understand how and why one can be a Jew and still be an anti zionist…. without being an anti Semite.

ILLEGAL ISRAELI OCCUPIERS DEMOLISH MORE ‘ILLEGAL HOMES’

Border Police officers scuffling with a Bedouin man while his house is being destroyed south of the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday. (AP)
A family of 10 Palestinians will be sleeping outside in the cold tonight thanks to the tireless efforts of the Israeli Security Forces. Twelve other families will be joining them. This operation was part of an ongoing one to rid Palestine of Palestinians…. there can be no other valid reason.
These actions must be protested throughout the world…. to every government body and to the every Israeli Embassy . It would be criminal not to.
Details can be read here in this article, just posted, on HaAretz….

Security forces demolish seven houses in Mt. Hebron villages By Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service
Security forces destroyed seven illegally constructed Palestinian houses and 13 other structures Wednesday on the southern slope of Mount Hebron in the West Bank.

The demolitions took place in the villages of Manzal, Umm al-Khir and Gawawis.

Abdullah Harizat, a resident of Manzal, said that police forces, Border Police and Israel Defense Forces troops arrived in the village Wednesday morning, accompanied by the Engineering Corps.

Harizat said the forces demolished a house belonging to a family with eight children. “During the demolition, the wall of a house of another family was also destroyed,” he said.

The area is located in Area C, subject to Civil Administration control.

Harizat said the structures were built illegally because the residents of the village are not allowed to receive construction permits. “We ask, but they never give them to us. They say, ‘this is state land.'”

Harizat said the forces that destroyed the houses did not attend to the needs of residents left without a roof during the night. Relatives brought the family a tent in which to sleep, he said.

One woman was admitted for medical treatment after losing consciousness during the demolitions.

Israeli leftist activists also arrived at the scene, one of whom was detained.

The Committee Against House Demolitions said a petition filed by a residents of one of the villages was rejected.

The committee added that the residents’ legal situation remains untenable. “A building permit is unavailable there,” it said.

The Civil Administration said, “Twenty illegal structures were destroyed after demolition orders were issued, and offers were made to the owners to pursue the available options before the planning organizations. The supervisory unit of the civil administration will continue to operate against illegal building activity in the area, and to implement the steps mandated by law against this illegal activity.”

GEORGE DUBYA EXPLAINS GLOBAL WARMING

David Baldinger

Click HERE to see a video of the Commander in Chief explaining global warming to his nation…

APARTHEID BEYOND THE GRAVE

Despite the denials by Israel’s main airline company, El Al, the fact remains that they allegedly refused to fly the body of a recently deceased Muslim woman on one of their flights to Israel.
Why is it assumed that Muslims have no feelings? Why is it assumed that Muslims are bad parents? Why is it assumed that Muslims are terrorists? And now the newest question, why is it assumed that Muslims do not mourn deceased loved ones?
For too long the Arab population in Israel has been treated with disrespect and has received the status of Second Class status in regard to citizenship. Now that status allegedly continues even after death according to this article from HaAretz….

MK asks El Al why it refused to fly body of Israeli Arab woman

By Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondent

Balad Chairman Azmi Bishara on Tuesday asked El AL General Manager Haim Romano to clarify why his company allegedly refused to fly the corpse of an Israeli Muslim woman on one of its flights.

The woman’s family asked Bisahra to intervene after their request to transport her body from the U.S., where she died last weekend, was allegedly turned down by company representatives.

The deceased, Acre-born Lamis Jerrar, worked as a lecturer at Howard University in Washington D.C. and held dual Israeli and American citizenship. After she passed away, her family tried to bring her to burial in her hometown.

Jarrar’s friends and family hired an undertaker company in Silver Springs with experience in transporting bodies of Jews to Israel. The company claims it purchased a ticket with El Al who asked an Israeli embassy official be present when Jarrar’s body would be handed over to the airliner.

According to Bishara, despite the preparations El Al said it would not transport the body, forcing Jarrar’s family to make alternative arrangements.

“Needless to say that apart from the issue of racism and lack of irrespect of the dead this incident has caused great distress to family and acquaintances,” Bishara wrote.

An El Al spokesperson rejected Bishara’s claims and said “a thorough inquiry has revealed that El Al was not approached by the family or anyone on its behalf asking it to fly the body to Israel. El Al completely rejects any hint of discrimination between Jews and non-Jews.”

El Al officials said they were “amazed” MK Bishara did not wait to receive their reply on the matter before turning to the press.

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF OUR FATHER

Carlos Latuff
If we (Jews and Muslims) would only realise that we are family, the madness we are witnessing every day just might come to an end. I’ve heard of ‘family feuds’, but this one has been going on way too long.
Time for both sides to study their history and their roots and find enough common ground to start acting like a funcional family, not a disfunctional one.
A group is doing just that and their plan can be read about HERE

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR. PRESIDENT (LINCOLN)

Lincoln Mural by Hugo Gellert

We all had heroes when we were younger…. mine was Abraham Lincoln. His name, the image of him were very much a part of my childhood. It started with my grandmother, a woman who spoke no English but thought of herself as updated in world affairs. When she referred to the President of the United States, she referred to President Lincoln. He was alive and well in her mind.
There was a savings bank in my neighbourhood, the Lincoln Savings Bank. On the ceiling there was a mural of Lincoln leading the slaves to freedom, very much in the style of Moses doing the same thing. (She also spoke of Moses as if he were a kid that grew up next door to her).
The local High School, which I attended, was Abraham Lincoln High School.
The Brigade of brave American volunteers that went off to fight Franco and his fascists in Spain was called the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the bravest men I ever met.
So, wherever I went, whatever I did, the image of Abraham Lincoln was forever present.
198 years after his birth, he is still a man I admire, a man whose visions of justice would be welcome in America today.
Happy Birthday Dear Mr. President!

His famous speech in Gettysburg is still an inspiration for all who strive for Statehood and Freedom….

The Gettysburg Address
——————————————————————————–

– Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – Nov. 19, 1863

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

WHEN PEACE BECOMES A CHALLENGE

Both Israel and the United States seem to be having a hard time accepting the reality that the factions making up the Palestinian Authority have finally agreed to cooperate. Their prayers for prolonged violence, possibly leading even to a civil war have gone unanswered.
Perhaps Dubya should reavaluate his belief that ‘God speaks to him’…
Yesterday Condi was in a frenzie trying to explain the newest developements to a group of American Jewish leaders… even before she read the text of the agreement made in Mecca.
I have seen the ‘panic button’ pushed many times when there was a war on the horizon…. but this has got to be a first….FEAR OF PEACE.
Hopefully it will be a lasting peace and both sides will adhere to the agreement… only then will there finally be prospects of a lasting peace in the entire region.
Following is an analysis from today’s New York Times on America’s attitudes….

In Palestinian Peace Deal, Hope and a Political Snare

By STEVEN ERLANGER
Published: February 10, 2007
JERUSALEM, Feb. 9 — The agreement in Mecca between Fatah and Hamas on how to form a unity government was greeted with relief by many Palestinians on Friday as their best hope for an end to the fighting among them that has killed nearly 100 Palestinians since December.

But it poses a challenge for the Bush administration, which, along with Israel and several European countries, wants the new government to meet three benchmarks for normal relations: recognize the right of Israel to exist, forswear violence and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Without the three — and the Mecca accord does not accept them — an international boycott on the Palestinians would continue.

The administration will have to work hard to keep unity among its partners in the quartet — the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations — on the three conditions.

Russia has already demurred, welcoming the accord and saying that once the new government is formed it “should be combined with lifting a blockade of the Palestinian territories which has inflicted suffering and hardship to the people.”

The French also welcomed the deal, but the European Union spokeswoman, Emma Udwin, was cautious, saying that all parties agreed “to take the time to consider, to see what the agreement is and how it is going to be implemented” before deciding whether to lift the embargo.

The United States will also be reluctant to dismiss the Saudis’ accomplishments as brokers of the accord, given Washington’s interest in creating a broader moderate Arab coalition, including Egypt, Jordan and the Persian Gulf countries, to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions and regional reach.

Already, Hamas has appealed for talks with the Europeans. Western nations “cannot ignore this agreement and impose their own conditions,” said Ghazi Hamad, the Hamas government spokesman. “The European Union should open a dialogue with this new government, and this is the only way to have stability in the region.”

The accord for the new government does not promise to stop attacks on Israel and Israelis, though one of the documents it referred to urges Palestinians to “focus” attacks on Israeli-occupied areas outside the 1967 boundary lines.

As for recognizing Israel, Nizar Rayyan, a Hamas spokesman, was explicit. “We will never recognize Israel,” he told Reuters in Gaza. “There is nothing called Israel, neither in reality nor in the imagination.”

The Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, pressed by Washington, wanted a new government to accept previous agreements on the basis of which the Palestinian Authority itself exists. But Hamas, which will still dominate the new government, agreed only to “respect” previous agreements, not to accept them.

For Mr. Abbas, aides said, the most important accomplishment of the Mecca meeting was to try to stop the bloodletting, which was humiliating to Palestinians and to the Arab and other governments that support them. Sufian Abu Zaida, a former Fatah minister of prisoners and an aide to Mr. Abbas, said: “The main goal of this agreement is to save Palestinian blood. If they succeed in this, it’s a successful meeting. But in the long run, if they can’t end the economic and political siege, there is no guarantee that the government will last very long.”

But Mr. Abbas also looked weak, put by the Saudis in a position of symbolic equality with the exiled Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal and unable to produce an agreement on the international benchmarks. A new government would also mean that Mr. Abbas’s threat to call early legislative and presidential elections would be hollow.

Fatah will take six positions in the new government, most of them relatively minor except that of deputy prime minister, which is likely to be filled by Muhammad Dahlan. Hamas will also continue to control the critical Interior Ministry through a so-called independent figure nominated by Hamas.

Many difficult issues are unresolved, including Hamas’s demands for reform of the Palestine Liberation Organization, as well as who might fill particular cabinet posts.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity before a full official government response, suggested that if Washington considered Mr. Abbas to have been compromised by the agreement — brought closer to Hamas, rather than Hamas brought closer to him — “it could have repercussions” for the planned summit meeting on Feb. 19 between the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and Mr. Abbas, to be led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

No one expects serious peace negotiations with Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas so weakened politically, but the talks may become more of a conflict management exercise than before. The United States warned Mr. Abbas about the dangers of a unity government headed by Hamas. Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of Parliament’s foreign and defense committee, said that Mr. Abbas “failed completely and awarded a significant victory to Hamas.” As a result, he told Israel Radio, “the chance of advancing an effective initiative and an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has receded.”

Saudi Arabia, for its part, emerges as a winner for playing host to the meeting, taking responsibility for the Palestinian cause and lessening the influence of Shiite Iran on Hamas.

Hamas emerges as a winner for sticking to its refusal to bow to Western demands and recognize Israel, renounce “resistance” or accept previous agreements like the 1993 Oslo accords, while co-opting Fatah into the “unity” government Hamas wanted and short-circuiting any threat of early elections.

Ordinary Palestinians will feel they are winners if the killing stops. In Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday, Abbas Abu Helem, 36, who sells clothes in a stall, said he hoped that the Mecca talks would be a success.

“I hope it will stop the fighting,” he said. “We now have a deal, and I hope the factions can work together, because our life keeps getting harder and harder.”

Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Washington, and Khaled Abu Aker and Taghreed El-Khodary from Ramallah, West Bank.

SHOULD ISRAEL SHED ITS JEWISH IDENTITY?

There has been much talk over the past few days over a document signed by a number of prominent Israeli Arabs, a document which basically calls for the state of Israel to shed it’s Jewish identity. From the document itself, written by the most part by the Committee of Arab Mayors in Israel… ‘They call on the state to recognize Israeli Arab citizens as an indigenous group with collective rights, saying Israel inherently discriminates against non-Jewish citizens in its symbols of state, some core laws, and budget and land allocations.’
This is quite different than the call of our resident Judeonazi, Herr Lieberman, which is to strip all of the Israeli Arabs of their citizenship and send them to the other side of the wall.
Looking at both sides, needless to say the Lieberman proposals are totally unrealistic and must be rejected by all people, Jews and non Jews alike. However, missing from the document is one basic argument…. that being the establishment of a Palestinian state. Needless to say, this state MUST have a Right of Return for all Palestinians living outside the area, without restrictions. It seems what they are calling for is a ‘one state solution’, which we can see cannot work. This is not to say that I disagree with the fact that Palestinians living in Israel proper should not have the full rights of a citizen, thus ending their second class status. This is not to say that certain areas must be under joint conrol to avoid conflicts, such as the one we are seeing today at the Temple Mount area. This is not to say that all Arab villages must be given the same services as Jewish ones, without any difference.
But, as I see it the key to peace in this region is to establish an independant state of Palestine. A state which would not be cut off from the state of Israel by a wall of apartheid, but a state that will exist side by side with Israel .
Getting back to the document itself, I must say that it is a good move to see it published and to see the beginnings of discussions and debates on the issues raised, issues that for way too long were ignored by the media and the majority of Israel’s Jewish citizens. Hopefully these discussions will lead to some changes which will bring the status of ‘second class’ to an end. But the establishment of a state of Palestine must remain the key struggle for all peoples seeking true justice. The occupation of the West Bank must end and the wall of apartheid must come down. Until that happens, Israeli Arabs will never truly be free either. The creation of a Palestinian state would also see the creation of a LOBBY for the full rights of Arabs living in Israel.
Below is a report from the New York Times dealing with the document in question….

February 8, 2007
Noted Arab Citizens Call on Israel to Shed Jewish Identity
By ISABEL KERSHNER

JERUSALEM, Feb. 7 — A group of prominent Israeli Arabs has called on Israel to stop defining itself as a Jewish state and become a “consensual democracy for both Arabs and Jews,” prompting consternation and debate across the country.

Their contention is part of “The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel,” a report published in December under the auspices of the Committee of Arab Mayors in Israel, which represents the country’s 1.3 million Arab citizens, about a fifth of the population. Some 40 well-known academics and activists took part.

The authors propose a form of government, “consensual democracy,” akin to the Belgian model for Flemish- and French-speakers, involving proportional representation and power-sharing in a central government and autonomy for the Arab community in areas like education, culture and religious affairs.

The document does not deal with the question of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where an additional three million Palestinians live under Israeli occupation without Israeli citizenship. The aim of the declaration is to reshape the future of Israel itself.

The reaction of Jewish Israelis has ranged from some understanding to a more widespread response, indignation. Even among the center-left, where concern for civil rights is common, some have condemned the document as disturbing and harmful. On the right, Israeli Arabs have been accused of constituting a “fifth column,” a demographic and strategic threat to the survival of the state.

Rassem Khamaisi, one of the Future Vision participants and an urban planner, said: “The document reflects the Arab public’s feelings of discrimination. We should be looking for ways of partnership.”

Many Israeli Arabs say they are second-class citizens who do not get the same services and considerations as Jews and face discrimination in employment, education and state institutions.

Last month, a Muslim Arab legislator from the Labor Party, Ghaleb Majadele, was named a government minister, the first in Israel’s history. That development has been criticized as unhelpful by other Israeli Arab politicians, who mostly boycott the mainstream Zionist parties, running for Parliament on separate Arab lists and sitting in opposition.

In an interview, Mr. Majadele distanced himself from the new document, saying that pragmatic political action would help the Arab sector more than any ideological program. “The fact is that Israel is a Jewish state, a state with a Jewish majority,” he said. “Can we change that reality with words?”

Yet Mr. Majadele said that he, too, felt uncomfortable with national symbols like the flag, with a Star of David, and the anthem, which speaks of the “Jewish soul” yearning for Zion.

“These were made and meant for the Jews, and did not take the Arab minority into account,” he said. “If Israel wants to integrate us fully, then we need an anthem and flag that can do that. We and the state must think deeply if we want to take a step in that direction. But it must be by agreement, with the involvement of both sides.”

Many of the Future Vision participants are affiliated with elite Israeli academic institutions. For example, Asad Ghanem, one of the document’s principal authors, is head of the Government and Political Theory Department at Haifa University’s School of Political Science.

As such, both Jewish conservatives and liberals have been taken aback by some propositions in the document. Many are angered by its description of Israel as the outcome of a “settlement process initiated by the Zionist Jewish elite” in the West and realized by “colonial countries” in the wake of the Holocaust.

Jewish critics argue that the Future Vision report negates Israel’s legitimacy and raison d’être as the realization of Jewish self-determination; further, they say it undermines the idea of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, since that implies the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish one.

In January, the senior fellows and board of the Israel Democracy Institute, a generally liberal independent research group that has worked on projects with some of the same Arab intellectuals, wrote a response expressing “severe anguish” over the document’s contents.

Prof. Shimon Shamir, a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan and Egypt, published a letter in Al Sinara, an Arabic weekly in Israel, stating that even among Jews who are generally sympathetic to Arab concerns, the Future Vision document “evokes a sense of threat.”

The document has exposed some raw nerves. Israel’s Declaration of Independence promises full equality in social and political rights to all inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race or sex, and Israel’s Arab citizens participate in the country’s democratic process.

Over the decades, however, Jewish-Arab relations in Israel have been marked by mutual suspicion and resentment. From 1948 until 1966 Arabs here lived under military rule. A 2003 government report acknowledged discrimination by state institutions, and a recent report on poverty published last year by Israel’s National Insurance Institute indicated that 53 percent of the impoverished families in Israel are Arabs.

And it is clear that the vast majority of Israel’s Jews consider the very essence of their state to be its Jewish identity.

Traditionally, Arab parties in the Parliament have focused on peace and equality, but the Arab public has become frustrated with the lack of results, leading to a lower voter turnout. Most Arab Israeli politicians have rejected the Future Vision document as unrealistic, exposing divisions within the Arab community.

Arab parties hold 10 seats in the 120-seat Parliament and are sometimes accused by the Jewish establishment of provocations. During last summer’s Lebanon war, some Arab legislators were perceived as sympathizing with Hezbollah.

Now there are signs of growing assertiveness and extremism on both sides. Avigdor Lieberman, head of the hard-line Yisrael Beiteinu Party, which has 11 seats in the Parliament, wants to reduce the number of Arab Muslim citizens in Israel by eventually transferring some populous Arab towns and their inhabitants to a future Palestinian state.

A few Jewish Israeli liberals have welcomed the Future Vision document. Shalom (Shuli) Dichter, co-director of Sikkuy, a Jewish-Arab organization that monitors civic equality in Israel, has hailed the effort as opening a serious dialogue about the terms for genuine Jewish-Arab co-existence though he, too, took issue with the historical narrative adopted by the authors.

In January, 30,000 copies of the document were distributed to Arab homes with weekend newspapers.

According to a poll of Arab Israelis by the Yafa Institute, commissioned by the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation, only 14 percent of respondents said they thought Israel should remain a Jewish and democratic state in its current format; 25 percent wanted a Jewish and democratic state that guarantees full equality to its Arab citizens. But some 57 percent said they wanted a change in the character and definition of the state, whether to become a “state for all its citizens,” a binational state, or a consensual democracy.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/08/world/middleeast/08israel.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&ref=middleeast&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

A NEW GLOBAL MOVEMENT AMONG PROGRESSIVE JEWS

The Jewish people have been divided over issues for centuries, divided by language, by style of prayer, more recently by attitudes towards Israel.
The same is true of the progressive Jews, they represent many opinions, among them ‘progressive zionist’, anti zionist, non zionist, the list goes on and on…. BUT… one thing they always had in common was their common enemy, the Lobby and its supporters.
Perhaps this is one reason there seems to be a coming together of the various factions uniting in a new movement… a movement not afraid to criticise Israel and its policies.
This has become a global phenomenon, most recently demonstrated in Britain with the break away of prominent left Jewish leaders from a mainstream organisation. Details can be seen by clicking on the link at the end of this post…. it is the original article that I am posting and has many interesting links in it.
This piece was published on the site of the Jewish Voice for Peace…. it is definitely worth reading.

It’s Official: Jewish Progressive Criticism of Israel Is Now a Movement
Posted by Phil Weiss

The New York Times’ stunning piece last week about the American Jewish Committee’s effort to smear leftwing Jewish critics of Israel as antisemites did what 1000 blogs, 100 human rights reports, even 10 pieces by Tony Judt, could never do: It embarrassed the Jewish leadership, by exposing the retrograde methods it has resorted to to try and stop debate. More than that, the Times report took a scattered opposition and solidified it, by telling us what we didn’t understand: We’re having an impact.

Let’s declare what’s afoot right now: it’s a movement. Progressive Jews all over are denouncing the mainstream leadership’s staunch support of the hateful occupation, and some of them are linking it to the U.S.’s bloody occupation of Iraq. In England, Independent Jewish Voices, a group of anti-occupation Jews (including Harold Pinter and Eric Hobsbawm) is breaking away from the mainstream organizations to show how bankrupt their lobbying position is. In Australia, Antony Loewenstein sees “dissent growing.” His book My Israel Question, which I gather is even more off-the-hook than stuff I write, is to be published in the States this spring. And speaking of the States, Jewish Voice for Peace, an Oakland-based group with chapters nationwide, has lately launched a fabulous website, Muzzlewatch, dedicated to fighting the smears and threats that the lobby has always used against Jews who want to treat Palestinian Arabs with dignity. Meantime, the Union of Progressive Zionists, which brought Breaking the Silence to the U.S. last fall to describe real conditions in the West Bank to young Jews, is fighting to keep its membership on the Israel on Campus Coalition, and winning—a battle with the ZOA whose onset I reported on this blog two months back. Some Hillel groups have welcomed Breaking the Silence.

The one comment I’d add is that I give credit to progressive gentiles for helping to break open this discussion. Yes, Meretz-USA has been tireless. Norman Finkelstein has given hundreds of speeches. But Mearsheimer, Walt, and Jimmy Carter released this movement last year by embarrassing Jews with statements about the immorality of the treatment of Palestinians that were mainstreamed. They gave license to the media to write about this stuff, and have spurred progressive Jews to play their part and recover progressive voices going back to Hannah Arendt and Elmer Berger. 60 years before Walt and Mearsheimer, Rabbi Berger warned in The Jewish Dilemma about the Zionist “machine” and the ways it would transform Jewish identity and politics in the name of nationalism.

Hark! I hear the sound of the tumbrils, rumbling through the streets of northwest Washington, collecting neoconservatives.

To see the original article with it’s links, click HERE

ARE TWO BUSHES BETTER THAN ONE?

In this era of new technologies and modern miracles, we see one that is totally unique and scarey… the actual cloning of two world leaders. George Bush and Ehud Olmert are actually the same person. Their misconceptions of reality have destroyed thousands of human lives, almost as if satan himself had a hand in the cloning process…
In both cases, their reigns of terror will soon be ending and hopefully the sun will once again shine on our parade…..
Until then, read the following piece from HaAretz… it’s worth it.

When did Olmert turn into George Bush? By Bradley Burston
What if there were two George Bushes?

What if there were one who one sent troops to fight and die on foreign soil, in a war lacking clear goals. What if that one led the war effort proclaiming unattainable objectives, proclaiming victory prematurely.

What if that one lost the support of the opposition party, and then his own – and continued to rule despite the loss of all popular trust, backing and credibility.

What if that one went into the war with a military force of immense deterrent capability, and lost it all.

And what if there was another George Bush, except that this one invaded Lebanon, and he looks just like Ehud Olmert?

No one could have seen it coming. Olmert came to power preaching a daring withdrawal in the West Bank, and the setting of permanent borders with an independent Palestinian state.

Where Bush seemed clueless, tongue-tied, Church-bound, a poorly tied marionette of shadowy higher-ups, unsuited to the majesty and the intellectual demands of high office, Olmert entered office as the very model of the manipulator, a consummate string-puller himself, unencumbered by ideology, ready to embark on a fresh future.

With blinding speed, however, Olmert put his future, like Bush’s, firmly behind him.

In the depth of their incompetence, their inability to learn from experience, their jittery insecurity over lack of military background, Olmert and Bush have merged into a force of dangerous impotence.

Together, they have given new meaning to the concept of non-partisanship: no one wants them. In either party. With critical decisions to be made, with the lives of large numbers of soldiers and civilians weighing in the balance, they do as little as possible, change as little as possible, lead as little as possible.

Small wonder, then, that the same anti-Iraq war umbrella group that staged a massive protest against the Iraq war last month in Washington, has agreed to co-sponsor what it calls a two-day mobilization in June under the heading “The World Says No to Israeli Occupation.”

The event will mark the 40th anniversary of the capture of the territories in the Six Day War. “The purpose of the event is to hopefully call greater attention both to the ongoing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, but also to call attention to the role that the U.S. plays in supporting that, and specifically the financial role, of course,” Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, told the Forward.

We should have known. We shouldn’t have been at all surprised last November, when Olmert took a seat beside Bush in the Oval Office and declared, “We are very much impressed and encouraged by the stability which the great operation of America in Iraq brought to the Middle East.”

Olmert could have fostered peace talks by releasing large numbers of Palestinian prisoners. The 10,000 Israel holds have stayed right where they were.

Olmert could have taken advantage of transitional period in the Middle East to unleash a diplomatic offensive of creativity and courage.

Olmert could have signaled his willingness to keep lines of communication open with the Palestinians, by taking decisive action against illegal outposts in the West Bank. Instead, he shelved evacuation plans offered him by Defense Minister Amir Peretz, saying the timing wasn’t right.

Olmert clearly has a different sense of time than the rest of us. Just like George Bush.

OLMERT TO PRESS FOR CONTINUED DISUNITY AMONG PALESTINIANS

Olmert has a knack of saying what he thinks the audience wants to hear. Speaking to a group of zionist leaders and activists from the United States he announced that he would be meeting with Abbas later in the month. Condi will also be present to add to the ‘importance’ of the meeting. BUT, there will not be a representative of Hamas present, the Party that was elected to represent the Palestinian people a year ago.
At the meeting he and Condi will stress that a unity government with Hamas would not be in the best interests of the Palestinian people. Of course not, as far as they are concerned continued fighting and eventual civil war is the best thing FOR ISRAEL…. and Abbas can’t see what is happening? Is he blind or just plain stupid??
Reuters just published the following report a few hours ago…

Olmert says will meet Abbas, Rice on Feb 19

Prime minister tells Jewish American leaders that Israel is ready to negotiate with any Palestinian government that recognizes Jewish State, including one with Hamas; says Israel would ‘remain on the sidelines’ of PA infighting

Reuters Published: 02.06.07, 22:27

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday he would meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Feb. 19 in a renewed bid to revive stalled peace talks.

Olmert told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem that he was ready to negotiate with any Palestinian government, including one with Hamas, as long as it met Western demands of recognizing the Jewish state.
He did not say where the meeting would take place.

The prime minister said he hoped Abbas, who met with Hamas leaders in Mecca, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, would not forge a unity government with Hamas that stopped short of meeting the demands to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

‘Hope Abbas resists unity with Hamas’

“I hope that Abu Mazen (Abbas) will resist all the temptations and all the pressures to cooperate with Hamas and to establish a government that does not recognize these basic principles,” Olmert said, referring to guidelines set by the Quartet of the US, United Nations, Europe and Russia.

“If the Palestinian government, no matter who is part of it, will accept the basic principles of the Quartet … then of course it would pave the way for further negotiations with Israel,” he said, and pose a “chance for major progress.”

Abbas’ Fatah movement and the Islamic group Hamas have been locked in a battle for power that has spiraled into violence that has killed 90 people in the Gaza Strip since December.

The fighting erupted after Abbas angered Hamas by calling for early elections when talks to form a unity government failed.

Olmert, commenting for the first time on the Palestinian infighting, said Israel would remain on “the sidelines” for now.

“But we will not be able to stretch our patience beyond a certain limit,” Olmert added, suggesting Israel would take steps to ensure the Gaza violence doesn’t spill over into renewed attacks on the Jewish state.

ADL FINALLY FINDS A ‘REAL’ ENEMY

Northland Poster Collective
The Anti Defamation League is finally doing what it is supposed to be doing. Instead of fabricating enemies or declaring one to be one, they are invesigating real hate groups in the United States. The KKK is usually thought of as an anti Black organisation… their hatred extends equally to Jews, gays and immigrants.
A full report of their investgative findings can be seen HERE as well as a slide show of the hooded beasts in action.
If the ADL continues along this line of true anti hate work, they might find true friends along the way, including many whom then once thought of as the enemy.
The report about this from Ynet follows…..

KKK growing in strength, ADL reports

Ku Klux Klan experiences ‘surprising and troubling resurgence’ in US during the past year due to exploitation of hot issues such as immigration, gay marriage, urban crime, according to report

Ynetnews Published: 02.06.07, 12:37

The Ku Klux Klan has experienced “a surprising and troubling resurgence” in the United States during the past year, an Anti-Defamation League report revealed Tuesday.

According to the report, the white supremacy group has successfully exploited issues such as immigration, gay marriage and urban crime to draw in new members and accelerate activity.

The ADL monitors the activities of hate groups and reports developments to policy makers and law enforcement agencies. ADL Civil Rights Director Deborah M. Lauter pointed to immigration as the key issue stirring up racist sentiments in the United States.

“If any one single issue or trend can be credited with re-energizing the Klan, it is the debate over immigration in America,” said Lauter.

“Klan groups have witnessed a surprising and troubling resurgence by exploiting fears of an immigration explosion, and the debate over immigration has, in turn, helped to fuel an increase in Klan activity, with new groups sprouting in parts of the country that have not seen much activity,” she added.

A surge in clan activity was identified especially in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee Texas, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The increase in activity was characterized by growing membership, establishment of new groups, increased cooperation with neo-Nazi groups, and new publicity tactics including dispatching flyers, publication over the internet and the launch of an internet-base radio station.

Lauter also noted the changing nature of klan members.

“Although some Klansmen may still hold cross-burnings dressed in robes and hoods, today’s young Klansmen are more likely to look virtually indistinguishable from racist skinheads or neo-Nazis,” said Lauter.

“Today’s Klansmen may be as likely to gather at white power music concerts or socialize at so-called ‘unity rallies’ with other white supremacists, as to participate in ritualistic cross burnings in the rural wilderness,” she added.

I just received the following from a friend, it’s a good moral lesson related to the above…


Mouse Story …
A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package.

“What food might this contain?” The mouse wondered – he was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning.

“There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, “Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you but it is of no consequence to me.
I cannot be bothered by it.”

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”

The pig sympathized, but said, “I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers.”

The mouse turned to the cow and said, “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”

The cow said, “Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose.”

So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer’s mousetrap– alone

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house — like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.

The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.
The snake bit the farmer’s wife.
The farmer rushed her to the hospital and she returned home with a fever.
Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup’s main ingredient.

But his wife’s sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock.
To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmer’s wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.

So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn’t concern you, remember — when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.

We are all involved in this journey called life.
We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another.

PEACE AND JUSTICE IS ANTI SEMITIC

Carlos Latuff
Says who??? Says the Lobby!

It is becomming increasingly difficult for the Lobby and their friends to continue soliciting support for a land which is led by alleged rapists and embezzlers, a land who’s crimes are finally getting international press coverage; the murder of children, the demolition of homes, the destruction of villages, the use of illegal cluster bombs against neighbouring nations. Israel no longer enjoys the image of a happy hora dancing nation, hard working and striving for peace. A new picture has finally been presented to the world both in press reports and in books written by prominent westerners.
So what is the Lobby to do faced with these new developements? Their newest tactic seems to be ‘silencing from within’. Any Jew that dares criticise Israel or its policies is either labeled an anti Semite or a Self Hating Jew.
One such Jew is Joel Beinin, a professor of Middle Eastern History at Stanford University. He wrote the following article for the San Francisco Chronicle….it’s worth reading….

Silencing critics not way to Middle East peace
Joel Beinin
Last Sunday in San Francisco, the Anti-Defamation League sponsored “Finding Our Voice,” a conference designed to help Jews recognize and confront the “new anti-Semitism.” For me, it was ironic. Ten days before, my own voice was silenced by fellow Jews.

I was to give a talk about our Middle East policy to high school students at the Harker School in San Jose. With one day to go, my contact there called to say my appearance had been canceled. He was apologetic and upset. He expected the talk would be intellectually stimulating and intriguing for students. But, he said, “a certain community of parents” complained to the headmaster. He added, without divulging details, that the Jewish Community Relations Council of Silicon Valley had played a role.

[San Francisco Chronicle: Diane Fisher, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Silicon Valley, says that although she left a message for the school principal, she never actually spoke to him, and any suggestion that the council was responsible for the cancellation of Beinin’s appearance at the school is inaccurate and an “unlikely inflation of JCRC’s influence.”]

I was raised a Zionist. I went to Israel after high school for six months to live on a kibbutz. I met my wife there. We returned four years later thinking we’d spend our lives on a kibbutz, working the land and living the Zionist dream. Why did the council feel the need to silence me?

In fact, this was not our first run-in. I have long advocated equal rights for the Palestinians, as I do for all people. I criticize Israeli policies. I seem to have crossed the council’s line of acceptable discourse. Because I am a Jew, it is not so easy to smear me as guilty of this “new anti-Semitism.” Instead, hosts like the Harker School, and others, are intimidated, and open dialogue on Israel is censored.

In 2005, Marin’s Rodef Sholom synagogue caved to the council and revoked my invitation, unless my talk could be accompanied by a rebuttal. Roy Mash, a board member, resigned in protest. He asked in his resignation letter whether “given Judaism’s long and deep tradition of concern for justice and ethics, a Jewish venue is (not) precisely the setting most appropriate for a speaker like Dr. Beinin?”

I was indeed raised to believe that being Jewish meant being actively committed to social justice. I moved to Israel expecting to pursue that ideal. Yet much of what I saw there called this into question.

I tended livestock on Kibbutz Lahav, which was established on the ruins of three Palestinian villages. The Palestinian inhabitants had been expelled and, because they are not Jewish, were unable to return. One day, we needed extra workers to help clean manure from the turkey cages. The head of the turkey branch said we should not ask for kibbutz members to do the work because, “This isn’t work for Jews. This is work for Arabushim.” “Arabushim” is an extremely derogatory racial term.

I had participated in the civil rights movement in America, picketing Woolworth’s stores that wouldn’t serve African Americans. Yet in Israel I discovered the same, stark racism. How could this bring peace between Palestinians and Israelis? While still living in Israel, I began to speak out for equal rights for Palestinians, as I had done for blacks in America.

Organizations claiming to represent American Jews engage in a systematic campaign of defamation, censorship and hate-mongering to silence criticism of Israeli policies. They hollow the ethical core out of the Jewish tradition, acting instead as if the highest purpose of being Jewish is to defend Israel, right or wrong.

No one is spared. New York University Professor Tony Judt also moved to Israel with notions of justice. Judt learned, as I did, that most Israelis were “remarkably unconscious of the people who had been kicked out of the country and were suffering in refugee camps to make this fantasy possible.” In October, the Polish Consulate in New York canceled a talk by Judt after pressure from the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.

Even former U.S. presidents are not immune. Jimmy Carter has been the target of a smear campaign since the release of his latest book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” Carter’s most vociferous critics have not challenged him on the issues. Rather, they discredit him with personal attacks, even insinuating that the man who has achieved more than any other American president in Arab/Israeli peacemaking is anti-Semitic.

Why discredit, defame and silence those with opposing viewpoints? I believe it is because the Zionist lobby knows it cannot win based on facts. An honest discussion can only lead to one conclusion: The status quo in which Israel declares it alone has rights and intends to impose its will on the weaker Palestinians, stripping them permanently of their land, resources and rights, cannot lead to a lasting peace. We need an open debate and the freedom to discuss uncomfortable facts and explore the full range of policy options. Only then can we adopt a foreign policy that serves American interests and one that could actually bring a just peace to Palestinians and Israelis.

BUSH WANTS TRILLIONS FOR WAR

Image by Bendib.. from Muslim Observer
Edged on by Israel to expand military operations to Iran…. Bush is now proposing a military budget of almost three TRILLION dollars…. This after the nation obviously rejected his policies by electing Democrats to Congress, this just one week after hundreds of thousands marched in front of his home demanding an end to the war.. If this budget is approved by Congress then it will become a known fact that there is no difference between the two major parties.
Hopefully I will be proven wrong. This AP report was just issued…..

Bush submits $2.9 trillion budget to Congress
Story Highlights
• Bush plan forecasts eliminating deficit in five years
• Plan would make president’s first-term tax cuts permanent
• Democrats highly critical of Bush’s budget proposals

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush sent a $2.9 trillion spending plan to a Democratic-controlled Congress on Monday, proposing a big increase in military spending.

While the budget includes billions more to fight the war in Iraq, the rest of government would be squeezed to meet Bush’s goal of eliminating the deficit in five years.

Bush’s spending plan would make his first-term tax cuts permanent, at a cost of $1.6 trillion over 10 years.He is seeking $78 billion in savings in the government’s big health care programs — Medicare and Medicaid — over the next five years.

Release of the budget in four massive volumes kicks off months of debate in which Democrats, now in control of both the House and Senate for the first time in Bush’s presidency, made clear that they have significantly different views on spending and taxes.

“The president’s budget is filled with debt and deception, disconnected from reality and continues to move America in the wrong direction,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota.

House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt, D-South Carolina, said, “I doubt that Democrats will support this budget, and frankly, I will be surprised if Republicans rally around it either.”

Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, agreed with the bleak assessment of Bush’s prospects of getting Congress to approve his budget as proposed.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think it has got a whole lot of legs,” Gregg said, contending there is a wide gulf between the two parties. “The White House is afraid of taxes and the Democrats are afraid of controlling spending,” Gregg said.

The president insisted that he had made the right choices to keep the nation secure from terrorist threats and the economy growing.

“I strongly believe Congress needs to listen to a budget which says no tax increase and a budget, because of fiscal discipline, that can be balanced in five years,” Bush told reporters after meeting with his Cabinet.

Just as Iraq has come to dominate Bush’s presidency, military spending was a major element in the president’s new spending request.

Bush was seeking a Pentagon budget of $624.6 billion for 2008, more than one-fifth of the total budget, up from $600.3 billion in 2007.

For the first time, the Pentagon included details for the upcoming budget year on how much the Iraq war would cost — an estimated $141.7 billion for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the cost of repairing and replacing equipment lost in combat. But White House spokesman Tony Fratto cautioned that the 2008 projection was likely to change. “We’re not saying the number for ’08 is the final number,” Fratto said. “We don’t know that right now.”

Bush projected a deficit in the current year of $244 billion, just slightly lower than last year’s $248 billion imbalance. For 2008, the budget year that begins next October 1, Bush sees another slight decline in the deficit to $239 billion with further steady improvement over the next three years until the budget records a surplus of $61 billion in 2012, three years after Bush has left office.

Democrats, however, challenged those projections, contending that Bush only achieves a surplus by leaving out the billions of dollars Congress is expected to spend to keep the alternative minimum tax from ensnaring millions of middle-class taxpayers. His budget includes an AMT fix only for 2008.

Bush projects government spending in 2008 of $2.90 trillion, a 4.9 percent increase from the $2.78 trillion in outlays the administration is projecting for this year. However, the administration notes that the 2007 total is only an estimate, given that Congress is still working to complete a massive omnibus spending bill to cover most agencies for the rest of this fiscal year.

HILLARY~~ THE ‘GREAT WHITE HOPE’ THAT WAS

There was hope that a post Bush administration would see a turnaround in US foreign policy. That hope is being crushed daily as the Democratic frontrunner displays her willingness to continue major policies existing today.
Instead of seeking ways to strengthen the Peace Process in the Middle East, she seeks ways to do just the opposite… all this to appease the Lobby and their support for her.
I am not in favour of any nation having nuclear weapons, I am in favour of the safe destruction of all that presently exist. But this is not the issue at hand, the issue is, is Hillary running for President of the United States or President of Israel (an office that is presently open for grabs)?
It’s time for AIPAC to realise that the President of the United States has to answer to the American people, not only to them. It’s also time for the office of President to realise that there are millions of voters out there, not all of whom are supporters of AIPAC’s policies.
Again, reading from right to left is a report from The Forward on Hillary’s speech to an AIPAC gathering last week…

Hillary to Aipac: Talk to Tehran, But Keep All Options Open
‘We Must Not Permit’ Iran to Get Nukes, Senator Says

Jennifer Siegel
In a speech before a packed pro-Israel crowd in New York, Senator Hillary Clinton made a forceful, if measured, case for the need to engage with Iran and Syria, while reaffirming her commitment to denying Tehran nuclear weapons.

“If we are having to pursue potential action against Iran, then I want to know more about the adversary that we face,” Clinton told the 1,700 people gathered for the February 1 Northeast regional dinner of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “I want to understand better what the leverage we can bring to bear on them will actually produce. I want to get a better sense of what the real power centers and influentials are, and I also want to send a message, if we ever do have to take more drastic actions, to the rest of the world that we exhausted all possibilities.”

Clinton, a Democratic frontrunner for the 2008 presidential nomination known for her methodical, lawyerly approach to complex problems, built her case for engagement carefully. Acknowledging that “there are no easy answers to the complex situation we face today,” she called President Bush’s steadfast rejection of talks with Iran and Syria a “good-faith position to take” that was, nevertheless, perhaps not the “smartest strategy.” She had “no expectations whatsoever,” she admitted at the outset, that “anything positive would come” from talks.

Still, Clinton argued, engagement is a way to gain more information about a formidable adversary, as it was with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In addition, she said, opening a diplomatic track could make it easier to build support among allies should America decide that military action is needed.

Democratic hopefuls have been in agreement about the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. In a January 22 speech to American and Israeli security officials and experts, another 2008 contender, former North Carolina senator and vice-presidential nominee John Edwards, said, “Let me be clear: Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons.”

His address, in contrast with Clinton’s speech, made no mention of engaging with Iran. But when an audience member asked afterward, “Would you be prepared, if diplomacy failed, to take further action against Iran?” the former senator said he supported talking with Tehran.

“As to what to do, we should not take anything off the table,” Edwards said. “More serious sanctions need to be undertaken, which cannot happen unless Russia and China are seriously on board, which has not happened up until now. I would not want to say in advance what we would do, and what I would do as president, but there are other steps that need to be taken. For example, we need to support direct engagement with the Iranians, we need to be tough. But I think it is a strategic mistake to avoid engagement with Iran.”

At Clinton’s speech, while a faint smattering applause could be heard as the senator referenced Bush’s policy of shunning all talks with Tehran, hearty clapping greeted her own call for diplomatic engagement. The night’s strongest, most sustained response came earlier in Clinton’s speech, when the senator echoed the pro-Israel community’s longstanding position that a nuclear Iran would be a grave and impermissible threat.

“U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal,” Clinton told the crowd. “We cannot, we should not, we must not, permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons, and in dealing with this threat, as I have said for a very long time, no option can be taken off the table.”

HOW CAN A WAR BE CIVIL?

Carlos Latuff
The term ‘Civil War‘ has got to be the biggest oxymoron in existence. How can a war, especially one between brothers be civil?
What we are seeing in Gaza today is the shameful beginning of just that, a civil war. Edged on by the zionists, the west and everyone else who wants to see an end to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict by violent means is in support of the self destruction of Palestine.
I ask you my brothers in Hamas….. Is this what you really want?
I ask you by brothers in Fatah….. Is this what you really want?
I didn’t think so! Now STOP THE MADNESS BEFORE IT STOPS YOU!
SIT DOWN AND NEGOTIATE…. This madness is no longer getting out of hand… it’s there already! You are an answer to your enimies’ prayers.
You called for a truce yesterday. You broke that truce today.
ENOUGH ALREADY!
From AlJazeera
From CNN
From Ynet
From Maan News Agency

A ROSE IS A ROSE~~~ APARTHEID IS APARTHEID

Intellectuals, politicians, Lobbyists… lock them in a room together and they can go on for hours about the definition of a word. Jimmy Carter’s recent book opened a Pandora’s Box exposing one particular word; APARTHEID. One word, one question, Is Israel an apartheid state?
Much has been written about the ongoing discussions and arguments and CounterPunch has been keeping up with the best of it all. This recent entry has got to be the best yet, from yesterday’s edition….


Of Walls and Bantustans
Apartheid By Any Other Name

By RONALD BRUCE ST. JOHN

Former President Jimmy Carter’s latest book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, has generated considerable comment, most of it negative. Articles and reviews run a narrow gamut from circumspect criticism to personal attacks on the author. Virtually no one has addressed the core argument of the book: that Israeli policy toward the Palestinian population in the West Bank is akin to South African policy toward the non-White majority during the apartheid era. A reasoned discussion of this question has serious implications for any attempt to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

The Practice of Apartheid

The term “apartheid” is of Dutch-Afrikaans origin and translates literally as “apartness.” Apartheid was a system of racial segregation enforced in South Africa from 1948 to 1994 to provide a legal framework for perpetual economic, political, and social dominance by people of European descent. The creation of bantustans, tribal reserves for the indigenous Black inhabitants of South Africa and South-West Africa, was an integral part of the apartheid’s racial segregation policies. The White minority in South Africa considered the 10 bantustans as “homelands” — nominally sovereign nations — for the Black majority. Actually, they operated more like the Indian reservations in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

To the casual visitor, apartheid could appear to be a relatively benign system. In practice, however, it was a brutal regime in which a minority employed the full resources of the state to control, dominate, and oppress the majority.

Resident in South Africa in 1983-85, I experienced apartheid first hand. It was a system in which White people lived in large houses with swimming pools, and Black people lived in shacks, often made from flattened tin cans. White people drove fancy cars, like a Mercedes Benz or BMW. Black people walked long distances to work or to return to their “homeland.” In a restaurant, no Black server would dare to look a White customer in the eye. If a Black server spilled a dish or broke a plate, he was often cashiered on the spot. “After all,” one White restaurant owner once told me, “there are plenty more where he came from.”

Israeli Policy in the Occupied Territories

In Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, Jimmy Carter portrays the dramatic growth in Israeli settlements over the last three decades, together with the road system and utilities built to support them. Outside East Jerusalem, there were some 7,000 settlers in the Occupied Territory in 1977. Today, 260,000 settlers live in the West Bank along with 2.5 million Palestinians. Exact figures are difficult to obtain, but it would appear that the more than 200 Israeli settlements on the West Bank occupy less than 10% of the land. But because their footprint does not reflect land set aside for security barriers, roads, and utilities, the settlements control more than 40% of the land.

This settlement process has regularly deprived Palestinians of basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to life and liberty of person, the right to work, and the right to freedom of movement. Palestinians are prohibited from using or even crossing many of the key roads connecting the settlements with each other and with Israel itself. And dozens of Israeli checkpoints are in place on roads the Palestinians can use, inhibiting vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The impact on Palestinians of this spider web of barriers, restrictions, and controls became clear when I worked in early 2002 with the Adam Smith Institute in London to develop parameters for a future land corridor, linking the Gaza Strip and West Bank in an independent Palestinian state.

In mid-November 2006, Peace Now, an Israeli group advocating Palestinian self-determination in the West Bank, leaked official information that documented widespread land theft by Israel. The data showed that Palestinians privately owned 39% of the land held by Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including large blocs Israel planned to keep in any future peace agreement. Nevertheless, settlement construction has continued in the West Bank. In early September 2006, the Housing Ministry issued tenders for the construction of 690 new housing units in the West Bank. In late December 2006, Israel announced plans to construct a Jewish settlement at Maskiot, the first new settlement in the West Bank in 10 years. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was visiting Israel in mid-January 2007, the Ministry of Construction and Housing, issued a tender for the construction of 44 new housing units in the settlement city of Ma’aleh Adumim.

Construction of the so-called security fence, what Carter terms the “imprisonment wall,” accentuates the impact of new and expanded settlements in the West Bank. The fence weaves in and out, sometimes following the pre-1967 boundary, more often not. Largely built on Palestinian land, it separates Palestinians from Palestinians, dividing and compartmentalizing them. Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, said he was “shocked” when he visited Israel in late January 2007 and saw the extent to which the combination of Jewish settlement and security fence construction was cutting into land Palestinians wanted ­ and needed ­ for a two-state solution. He urged the Israelis to freeze West Bank settlements and stop construction of the security fence.

Critics Abound

Jimmy Carter is many things — an ex-president, Nobel laureate, humanist, and author — but he is not an academician or scholar, something he readily admits. His book includes numerous quotes, with no footnotes, and it contains errors of fact that greater documentation would likely have corrected. It also includes controversial interpretations, based on his intimate knowledge of the region and its leaders, that a more disciplined approach could have strengthened. Unapologetic, Carter has defended his work with the exception of a single sentence on page 213 that implies Palestinians would not have to end their suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism until Israel accepts international law and the goals of the 2003 roadmap for peace. Carter has admitted his phraseology here was faulty and told his publishers to remove the sentence from subsequent editions.

The controversy Carter’s book has raised, primarily among American Jews and a few Middle East experts, is surprising. An early critic, Emory University professor Kenneth W. Stein, resigned in protest from the Carter Center, charging Carter with factual errors, omissions, and plagiarism in the book. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which describes itself as “one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations,” issued a press release claiming that Carter had abandoned all objectivity, unabashedly acting as a “virtual spokesman for the Palestinian cause.” Dennis Ross, long-time Middle East envoy, claimed Carter used maps in the book that Ross had created, mislabeling them in the process. Carter denied the charge.

Other commentators have traveled a lower road. Alan M. Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor, first described Carter’s use of the word apartheid as “outrageous.” In a more recent article, “Ex-President for Sale,” he charged that Carter had “been bought and paid for by Arab money.” In an article in the English language edition of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, journalist Shmuel Rosner asked rhetorically if Carter was anti-Semitic, suggesting in a circumspect conclusion that he was not as anti-Semitic as some people but any trace of anti-Semitism in a former president “is much more important.” An unidentified guest on a recent Fox News talk show spent over five minutes criticizing the book because its timeline did not mention the holocaust, suggesting that was sufficient reason to consign it to the trash bin. Finally, an anonymous columnist for Asia Times, writing under the nom de plume Spengler, described Carter as “the most egregious dork in US politics” and the Palestinians as “the exemplar of a self-exterminating people in the modern world.”

These attacks and many others demonstrate that the commentary to date has centered on almost every aspect of the book and its author except the important issue it raises. Have successive Israeli governments pursued a settlement policy in the West Bank intentionally designed to thwart the creation of an economically and politically viable Palestinian state with secure, contiguous borders? Does Israeli policy in this regard constitute apartheid?

Is Israeli Policy Apartheid?

In 1973, the UN General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. In Article III, it defined the “crime of apartheid” as applying to “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial groupover another racial groupand systematically oppressing them.” Based on this definition, Israeli policy in the West Bank cannot technically be defined as apartheid because it lacks the racial component.

This is not to say racism is not an issue in Israel. Consider the public statements of Avigdor Lieberman, the most recent member of Ehud Olmert’s governing coalition. Lieberman’s most provocative plan calls for dividing Arabs and Jews into two homogenous states, a policy Arab Israeli critics describe as racist. When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hastened to meet with Lieberman during her mid-January 2007 visit to Israel, a Haaretz editorial entitled “Down with Racism” commented: “Rice’s meeting with Lieberman was like giving a stamp of approval to the racist policies he and his party have adopted.”

About the same time, a clandestine videotape appearing on Israeli television showed a Jewish settler in Hebron confronting, cursing, and spitting on an Arab neighbor. In a mid-January 2007 op-ed in the Jerusalem Post, Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, a former deputy prime minister and justice minister under Ariel Sharon, expressed the thinking of many Israelis: “there is no reason or justification for the thuggery of the kind demonstrated time after time by the residents of the Jewish settlement in Hebron toward their Arab neighbors.” While the video was news, the behavior it captured was not new. I witnessed something similar 30 years ago during my first visit to Hebron.

Article 7 of the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court lists apartheid as one of several “crimes against humanity.” In so doing, it sheds new light on the Israeli case. The crime of apartheid is defined as inhumane acts such as torture, imprisonment, or the persecution of an identifiable group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, or other grounds “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” When the emphasis shifts to an identifiable national, ethnic or cultural group, as opposed to a racial group, Israeli policy in the West Bank clearly constitutes a form of apartheid with an effect on the Palestinian people much the same as apartheid had on the non-White population in South Africa.

In any case, the media storm in the United States over Carter’s use of the word apartheid remains difficult to understand since Israelis themselves have long used the word to describe Israeli policy in the Occupied Territory. This helps explains why the book has drawn so little attention in Israel. As one example, Shulamit Aloni, a former education minister under Yitzhak Rabin, in early January 2007 published an article, “Yes, There is Apartheid in Israel,” in which she candidly acknowledged “the government of Israel practices a brutal form of Apartheid in the territory it occupies. Its army has turned every Palestinian village and town into a fenced-in, or blocked-in, detention camp.”

Some critics go further in applying the term apartheid beyond the occupied territories. UCLA professor Saree Makdisi, in a mid-December op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, criticized Carter’s book because the author limited his discussion of apartheid to the West Bank. Makdisi argued the concept of apartheid was equally applicable to Jewish and non-Jewish citizens within Israel itself. On that score, the Arab Center for Alternative Planning in mid-January 2007 revealed the results of a recent poll that showed that per capita Gross Domestic Product in the Israeli Jewish sector was three times that of the Israeli Arab sector.

What Next?

That which we call apartheid, to echo Shakespeare, by any other name would smell as rotten. Israeli policy in the West Bank is a form of apartheid in intent and implementation. Ethnic-based, as opposed to race-based, it shares an important characteristic with the South African model. Both have their genesis in the desire by the minority to control land occupied by the majority. To achieve this result, the Israelis have imposed a legal framework on the Palestinians in the West Bank that ensures perpetual economic, political, and social dominance.

Guarded optimism surrounds the proposed resurrection of stalled Mideast peace talks with members of the international quartet, the European Union, UN, United States, and Russia. Negotiators propose to leapfrog the moribund road map and move the parties toward direct negotiations aimed at a final resolution of the conflict. In so doing, the Bush administration talks of increasing Palestinian confidence in a two-state solution, thereby elevating those Palestinians who advocate such a solution and undermining those who reject a permanent peace. To progress toward this result, the first step must be to separate myth from reality. The West Bank has become a place of bantustans, isolated cantons, that divide and constrict, often illegally, historic Arab lands. If not dismantled, Jewish settlements and the security fence under construction collectively will doom any chance for a durable peace based on a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Ronald Bruce St John, an analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus has published extensively on Middle East issues for almost three decades. His recent publications include the Historical Dictionary of Libya (1991, 1998, 2006) and Libya and the United States: Two Centuries of Strife (2002

SEND YOUR CONDOLENCES TO BASSAM ARAMIN

Condolences to Bassam Aramin and his family can be sent via THIS PETITION ON LINE. Bassam is the father of the Palestinian child, Abir, murdered last week by Israeli Border Police.May her memory be a blessing for all of us.
Image by David Baldinger

Newer entries »