A Palestinian Bantustan won’t end the conflict

Daniel Levy, writing in Haaretz:

The logic of the current U.S.-led effort is apparently predicated on the assumption that by offering Israel unprecedented security deliverables within a two-state deal (under a package put together by U.S. General John Allen), together with front-loading recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, that Netanyahu would then be unable to dodge a serious negotiation on territory. That logic, combined with the ever-present American unwillingness to deploy any leverage viz its Israeli ally. Predictably enough, the Israeli leadership has pocketed the American concessions, demanded that the Palestinians follow suit, and asked for more.

Read the whole thing for details and insights on the negotiations.

The Life and Death of Juliano Mer-Khamis: A Death in Jenin

Juliano was the founder of the Freedom Theatre. He was an Israeli citizen, the son of a Jewish mother and therefore a Jew in the eyes of the Jewish state. But his father was a Palestinian from Nazareth, and Juliano was a passionate believer in the Palestinian cause. He would often say he was ‘100 per cent Palestinian and 100 per cent Jewish’, but in Israel he was seldom allowed to forget he was the son of an Arab, and in Jenin he was seen as an Israeli, a Jew, no matter how much he did for the camp. Among the artists and intellectuals of Ramallah, however, he was admired for having left Israel to work in one of the toughest parts of the West Bank, and was accepted as an ally. Since its founding in 2006, the Freedom Theatre had been under constant fire: local conservatives saw it as a corrupting influence, even a Zionist conspiracy; the Palestinian Authority resented what Juliano said about its ‘co-operation’ with Israel; and Israel saw him as a troublemaker, if not a traitor. 

In a must-read piece in the London Review of Books, Adam Shatz portrays a complicated, compelling man and artist, and delves into the mystery of his murder. 

Our No-Man-But-His-Own-Man in Ramallah

Youth organizer turned leg -breaker, charity worker turned embezzler, and nationalist propagandist turned bargaining chip for foreign aid donors.

All three of these descriptions fit just one person: Mohammad Dahlan

As we enter another round of "did they resign or didn't they?" for the Palestinian negotiating team led by Saeb Erekat, for sheer chutzpah, this has to take the cake: Daoud Kattab reports that Dahlan, formerly Fatah's enforcer-in-chief in Gaza (emphasis on "former" - more on that below) may yet return to the fold of the party that he was expelled from in 2010

Reportedly, his reintegration into Fatah is being accomplished by the promise of Emirati foreign assistance to the PNA: Dahlan's exile saw him take up an advisory position to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, and this is his vehicle for returning to political life in the Territories, not unlike how American aid was his vehicle for the abortive 2007 operation to disarm Hamas before it could consolidate military control over the strip. 

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Still desecrating the memory of Mohammed al-Dura

This NYT report by Isabel Kershner is titled "Israeli Report Casts New Doubts on Shooting in Gaza", but if it were another country one suspects it might be titled "Government report spins  boy's death as trial verdict looms". The Israeli government has made hasbara about the al-Dura shooting one of its signature image campaign, regularly seeding doubt about the version recorded and witnessed by France 2 cameramen which became an iconic image of the occupation of Palestine. It has had little difficulty in recruiting the help of online pro-Israel activists who launched this site (linked to by the NYT without identifying its ideological, propagandistic character — e.g. "Europeans, who repeatedly ran this footage, unwittingly waved the flag Jihad (sic) in front of their Muslim populations.") and mainstream media journalists like James Fallows of The Atlantic who ran a repulsive long piece in 2002 that tackled the al-Dura affair entirely from an Israeli perspective.

The new findings published on Sunday were the work of an Israeli government review committee, which said its task was to re-examine the event “in light of the continued damage it has caused to Israel.” They come after years of debate over the veracity of the France 2 report, which was filmed by a Gaza correspondent, Talal Abu Rahma, and narrated by the station’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Charles Enderlin, who was not at the present at the scene.
The Israeli government review suggested, as other critics have, that the France 2 footage might have been staged. It noted anomalies like the apparent lack of blood in appropriate places at the scene, and said that raw footage from the seconds after the boy’s apparent death seem to show him raising his arm.
“Contrary to the report’s claim that the boy is killed, the committee’s review of the raw footage showed that in the final scenes, which were not broadcast by France 2, the boy is seen to be alive,” the review said. “Based on the available evidence, it appears significantly more likely that Palestinian gunmen were the source of the shots which appear to have impacted in the vicinity” of the boy and his father.

Except there is not much debate about the "veracity" of the report anywhere else, and France 2 and the national union of journalists has stood behind Enderlin. This is not an investigation, this is a government propaganda operation timed ahead of a court verdict that may further damage Israel's image and an ongoing attempt at damage control by attempting to muddy the waters of a case that is iconic of the Israeli occupation of Palestine precisely because children are so often its victims.

Kissinger on "just outcomes"

In this interview, Kissinger says:

“I’m not optimistic” about reviving peace talks, in large part because of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties in the region that aren’t inclined to support a “just outcome” with Israel, Kissinger said in an interview airing this weekend on Bloomberg TV’s “Conversations with Judy Woodruff.”

 Because of course Israel is all about supporting a "just outcome."

There is no future

Israeli news broadcasters don't cry - Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper

From an interview with Israeli broadcaster Shlomi Eldar:

A few days after the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, I gave a talk at a Herzliya high school. The children, who said they came from good homes, told me we have to kill all the Arabs, including the Israeli Arabs, because where do they get off thinking they will get control of the country. Their ideal is to go into the army and kill as many Arabs as possible. That’s one side of the picture, Israeli youth, the new generation, living in an atmosphere of demonizing the Palestinians − which is something the Israeli media are responsible for in no small measure. The other side of the picture is the young generation in Gaza, a child of five or nine. Let’s say he is not wounded, but a four-ton bomb landed next to his house. Do you know that in Operation Pillar of Defense, not one pane of glass remained intact in the whole of Gaza? It’s a tactic of creating sonic booms to frighten people without hurting them. A child who has a bomb like that land next to him can’t hear anything for the next three days. What does he think about the Jews afterward? And where will we end up, if this is how Jewish youngsters think about Arabs?

Nowhere good.

We are on a nothing-to-lose track. Which is why I say there is no future. When I told the high school class that we have to look at them as human beings, one boy jumped up and said, “Who do you vote for? You’re extreme left, no?” I replied, “It would surprise you to know who I vote for.” But that’s not the point. The point is that we in Israel have reached a situation in which if someone says we have to talk peace, he’s considered extreme left.

You are very reserved.

I maintain reserve all the time.

As a defense mechanism?

Yes.

What does it defend you against?

I safeguard myself, and I need to safeguard myself against a host of things. I will tell you something I have never told anyone, and I hope I will not regret telling you. During Operation Cast Lead I came into possession of material about very grim events relating to the idea that Israel was deliberately “going crazy.” Testimonies, images and much more. So many people were killed there. I took it all and put it in an envelope. I told Reudar Benziman, who was CEO of Channel 10 News at the time, what I had. He told me, “Work on it.” I told him I couldn’t. Because that’s the truth − I couldn’t. If I had verified what I heard, I would not be able to live with it. I couldn’t have evoked the “rotten apples” metaphor. I still have the material in a closed room. I didn’t give it to anyone. When there was talk about a commission of inquiry, I said I would be ready to give them the material − let them check it out, not me. I’m not touching it. I’m not capable. I can’t. I, too, understand my limits.

Shatz on Bab al-Shams

Opening the Gate of the Sun « LRB blog

Adam Shatz writes on the latest repression of peaceful protests, on their own land, by Palestinians in the face of Israeli encroachment that is subsidized by American taxpayers:

At 2.30 on Sunday morning, the Israeli army removed 250 Palestinians from Bab al-Shams, a village in the so-called E1 corridor: 13 square kilometres of undeveloped Palestinian land between East Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank with a population of 40,000. Israel has had designs on E1 for more than a decade: colonising it would realise the vision of a ‘Greater Jerusalem’, and eliminate the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. After the UN vote to recognise Palestine as a non-member observer state, Binyamin Netanyahu declared that Israel would build 4000 new settler homes in E1. The high court issued a six-day injunction against his order to ‘evacuate’ Bab al-Shams, but Netanyahu was in no mood to wait. Once the Palestinians had been driven out, the land was declared a closed ‘military zone’.

It was another bleak day in the story of Palestinians trying to hold onto their land in the face of Israeli expansionism. But it was also something else. Bab al-Shams was no ordinary village, but a tent encampment set up by Palestinian activists, a number of them veterans of the Popular Resistance Committees who have been organising weekly demonstrations against the ‘separation fence’ in the villages of Bil’in and Nil’in. Several journalists noted that the residents of Bab al-Shams used the same tactics as Israeli settlers: pitching their tents, laying claim to the land, establishing ‘facts on the ground’. But the differences were more significant than the resemblances. The pioneers of Bab al-Shams were Palestinians, not foreigners. When settlers establish wildcat outposts, they know that the authorities may chastise them for it but will nonetheless soon supply them with electricity and water, and even build roads and access routes on their behalf. The people of Bab al-Shams knew that an IDF demolition crew would appear in due course: less than three days, as it turned out. 

Though I know the river is dry

An independent Egyptian-Palestinian production needs help to finish post-production ahead of its festival release later this month:

Starring Kais Nashif (Paradise Now) and directed by Omar Robert Hamilton (founding member of the Mosireen Collective in Cairo), the film tells the story of a man's return to Palestine, years after a fateful choice sends him to America.  

WATCH THE TRAILER

As well as being selected to world premiere at the prestigious Rotterdam Film Festival, the project was awarded a post-production grant from the Doha Tribeca Film Festival and will have it's MENA premiere there in November 2013.  

The production costs of the shoot were raised through a successful crowdfunding campaign that attracted $14,000 of support from 100 individuals. Now, because there are so few funding sources for independent films from the Arab world, the race is on to raise $7,500 in 9 days to give Though I Know the River is Dry  the post-production it deserves. 

VIEW THE CAMPAIGN

I helped these guys out, pitch in if you can.

Gaza blockade eased - not lifted

Israel eases Gaza blockade following truce deal | Egypt Independent

This is good news to be sure, but an interesting detail: construction material and other critical types of goods for Gaza's reconstruction must still go through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, and not Egypt:

Israel is easing its blockade of Gaza to allow construction materials and other goods into the enclave under the terms of a truce deal mediated by Egypt.

The decision allows private companies and individuals to import construction materials that were previously restricted exclusively to international aid groups under the terms of Israel's blockade, AFP reported.

The truce between Israel and Gaza's leaders Hamas ended more than a week of Israeli air strikes and Palestinian rocket fire last month.

This is the first time Israel has allowed such goods into Gaza since 2007, said Palestinian customs official Raed Fattouh.

Starting on Sunday up to 20 trucks carrying gravel will be allowed into the strip daily Sunday through Thursday via the Karem Abu Salem border crossing in southeast Gaza, Fattouh said. Karam Abu Salem is the only commercial crossing open to the transport of goods and fuel and is closed on Fridays and Saturdays.

In other words, these Egypt-brokered talks are still steering away from lifting the blockade as Palestinians have called for along with Egypt-based activists. Whether this amounts to the ruling Muslim Brotherhood's recognition of the complexity of the border issue (including the fear that if the Rafah crossing is fully opened to commercial traffic Israel will simply dump the Gaza problem onto Egypt) or that General Intelligence, which is running the talks, has a veto power on this issue over the Morsi administration is not clear. 

If Not Two States, Then One

If Not Two States, Then One - NYTimes.com

A very good op-ed by Saree Makdisi :

Once the fiction of a separate Palestinian state is revealed to have no more substance than the Wizard of Oz — which the E1 plan will all but guarantee — those Palestinians who have not already done so will commit themselves to the only viable alternative: a one-state solution, in which the idea of an exclusively Jewish state and an exclusively Palestinian one will yield to what was really all along the preferable alternative, a single democratic and secular state in all of historical Palestine that both peoples will have to share as equal citizens.

A campaign for rights and equality in a single state is a project toward which the Palestinians will now be able to turn with the formidable international support they have already developed at both the diplomatic and the grassroots levels, including a global boycott and sanctions movement whose bite Israel has already felt.

For Palestinians, in any case, one state is infinitely preferable to two, for the simple reason that no version of the two-state solution that has ever been proposed has meaningfully sought to address the rights of more than the minority of Palestinians who actually live in the territory on which that state is supposed to exist.

Britain and the Palestinian vote at the UN

Britain ready to back Palestinian statehood at UN | World news | guardian.co.uk

Don't welcome this move by Britain — a source of so much of the modern Middle East's woes — they will only back the Palestinians if they jettison the rights other nations have to pursue war criminals:

On Monday night, the government signalled it would change tack and vote yes if the Palestinians modified their application, which is to be debated by the UN general assembly in New York later this week. As a "non-member state", Palestine would have the same status as the Vatican.

Whitehall officials said the Palestinians were now being asked to refrain from applying for membership of the international criminal court or the international court of justice, which could both be used to pursue war crimes charges or other legal claims against Israel.

Abbas is also being asked to commit to an immediate resumption of peace talks "without preconditions" with Israel. The third condition is that the general assembly's resolution does not require the UN security council to follow suit.

Update: France looks like it will recognize Palestine, apparently without condition.

Hamas normalized, Israel marginalized

Adam Shatz · Why Israel Didn’t Win · LRB 24 November 2012

I have the same read — as distasteful as it is to call winners and losers, Hamas (not Gazans) came out a winner in this war, Israel a loser:

Israeli leaders lamented for years that theirs was the only democracy in the region. What this season of revolts has revealed is that Israel had a very deep investment in Arab authoritarianism. The unravelling of the old Arab order, when Israel could count on the quiet complicity of Arab big men who satisfied their subjects with flamboyant denunciations of Israeli misdeeds but did little to block them, has been painful for Israel, leaving it feeling lonelier than ever. It is this acute sense of vulnerability, even more than Netanyahu’s desire to bolster his martial credentials before the January elections, that led Israel into war.

Hamas, meanwhile, has been buoyed by the same regional shifts, particularly the triumph of Islamist movements in Tunisia and Egypt: Hamas, not Israel, has been ‘normalised’ by the Arab uprisings.

. . .

The Arab world is changing, but Israel is not. Instead, it has retreated further behind Jabotinsky’s ‘iron wall’, deepening its hold on the Occupied Territories, thumbing its nose at a region that is at last acquiring a taste of its own power, exploding in spasms of high-tech violence that fail to conceal its lack of a political strategy to end the conflict. Iron Dome may shield Israel from Qassam rockets, but it won’t shield it from the future.

Worth adding that in my opinion Morsi came  a short-term winner and Egypt a probable long-term loser.

When Will the Economic Blockade of Gaza End?

↪ When Will the Economic Blockade of Gaza End? - Robert Wright - The Atlantic

President Obama and Bibi Netanyahu are on the same page when it comes to the justification for Israel's bombardment of Gaza. Netanyahu : "No country in the world would agree to a situation in which its population lives under a constant missile threat." Obama: "There's no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders."

It's true that if, say, Canada were lobbing missiles into the US, the US wouldn't tolerate it. But here's another thing the US wouldn't tolerate: If Canada imposed a crippling economic blockade, denying America the import of essential goods and hugely restricting American exports. That would be taken as an act of war, and America would if necessary respond with force--by, perhaps, lobbing missiles into Canada.

Gazan Youth Manifesto for Change

Via Mondoweiss, where you can read the full thing — Update: this is from January 2011, but it certainly feels relevant to the moment and their Facebook page is very much alive. 

GAZAN YOUTH’S MANIFESTO FOR CHANGE

Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community! We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16’s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in; we are like lice between two nails living a nightmare inside a nightmare, no room for hope, no space for freedom. We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, homemade fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.

In defense of Egypt's Gaza spin

This interesting NYT report by David Kirkpatrick tries to spin the story here as Egypt defending Hamas while brokering. 

CAIRO — While holding itself out as an honest broker for truce talks between Israel and Hamas over the Gaza conflict, Egypt’s new government sought on Monday to plunge into the battle over international public opinion on behalf of the Palestinian cause — an arena where the Israelis, more experienced in the world of the free press and democratic politics, have historically dominated.

In Egypt’s most concerted effort to win more global public support for the Palestinians, advisers to Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who has been an outspoken supporter of Hamas, invited foreign correspondents in Cairo to a background briefing at which a senior Egyptian official sought to blame Israel for the conflict while at the same time maintaining Egypt’s role as an intermediary pressing both sides for peace. “We are against any bloodshed,” the official said repeatedly, arguing that Egypt sought stability and individual freedom for all in the region.

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Obama eggs Israel on

Just like 2006 and 2009, when George W. Bush was encouraging Israel to prolong attacks that were resulting in vast numbers of civilian deaths and destroyed civilian infrastructure, Barak Obama is openly encouraging the Israelis to do whatever they want:

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE–The White House said Saturday that it would leave it to Israel to decide whether it is appropriate to invade Gaza to try to stop rocket attacks into the country but that it remains focused on working behind the scenes to deescalate tensions.

“The Israelis are going to make decisions about their own military tactics and operations,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters traveling on Air Force One to Asia. “There’s a broad preference for deescalation if it can be achieved in a way that ends that threat to Israeli citizens.”

Mr. Rhodes said President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have spoken by phone nearly every day since the situation with Gaza erupted, including discussing ways to deescalate the situation. In addition, Mr. Obama has spoken twice with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and once with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to urge them to use their influence with Hamas.

“They have ability to play a constructive role in engaging Hamas and encouraging a process of deescalation,” Mr. Rhodes said.

Pressed as to whether a ground invasion would escalate tensions, Mr. Rhodes said, “We believe Israel has a right to defend itself, and they’ll make their own decisions about the tactics that they use in that regard.”

The Obama administration is asking regional powers to help restrain Hamas but they won't restrain Israel. It claims to be for de-escalation but will not urge it. De-escalation might work if on one side the Arabs and Turkey use their influence on Hamas to end the rocket fire, and on the other the Europeans and Americans use their influence in Israel to end its missile, bomb and aircraft attacks and urge them not to carry out ground operations that would make this even more deadly. 

It's not even a question of changing their position towards Hamas. It's a question of making it clear that a ground invasion will lead to the same catastrophic results as during Cast Lead and will further sour the regional scene the interests of all concerned. 

But this ever-more-disappointing president can't even bring himself or his advisors to say they would oppose such a development or urge Israel to forego ground operations. 

Pathetic — and a signal to the Egyptians, Turks and others that there is no business to be done with this administration.

(h/t Paul Mutter at Mondoweiss.)

At Ramallah protest, Hamas’ green overcomes Fatah's yellow

 At Ramallah protest, Hamas’ green overcomes Fatah's yellow

Amira Hass, reporting for Haaretz on a protest in Ramallah: 

This wasn't just a show of strength by Hamas, it was a show of weakness by the groups making up the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Fatah. The few PLO members who took part in the rally were outnumbered by Hamas people, and when Fatah supporters – probably members of the security forces in civilian clothes – tried to shout out slogans advocating Palestinian unity, they were drowned out by the Hamas protesters, yelling the name of their organization.