Category Archives: Israel/Palestine

Will the Palestinian Authority collide with popular resistance in September?

The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) bid for United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state remains on track, despite heavy pressure from the U.S. and Israel.  But what has received scant attention is the possibility that the September bid may also result in a collision between popular, grassroots Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation and the PA’s preferred avenues to statehood.

Following imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti’s call for mass marches ahead of the September UN gambit for a state, the Palestinian Authority echoed Barghouti’s call.

“All of us are talking about resistance and it must be every day,” PA President Mahmoud Abbas said in late July.   Al Jazeera English reported August 1 on the PA’s planned mass rallies:

Palestinian officials have said they will begin mass marches against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank on September 20, the eve of a largely symbolic UN vote expected to recognise their independence.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a Palestinian official, said leaders hope to attract millions of people, and the protest will be the first of a prolonged effort.

He said the campaign would be called “Palestine 194” because the Palestinians hope to become the 194th member of the UN.

“The appeal to the UN is a battle for all Palestinians, and in order to succeed, it needs millions to pour into streets,” Abed Rabbo said.

But this week, the form of the PA’s planned “resistance” became clear, and it will certainly not mark the end of coordination between PA security forces and the Israeli military, one of the most important–and disliked among Palestinians–results of the Oslo era.

Haaretz reported last Friday that:

The Palestinian Authority has ordered its security forces to prevent demonstrations planned for September from escalating into violent confrontations with Israel, especially in potential friction points like the roadblocks and settlements.

Senior Palestinian Authority figures issued the orders to the Palestinian security forces in recent weeks out of concern that there may be violent clashes between thousands of Palestinian demonstrators and Israel Defense Forces at the end of September, following a vote at the United Nations General Assembly for recognition of a Palestinian state

In similar messages relayed to the IDF, the PA made clear that it intended to prevent largescale violent protests which would heighten tensions and undermine security cooperation between the two sides.

Last week PA President Mahmoud Abbas called on all Palestinians to participate in non-violent marches which are part of a series of events planned by the Authority for late September. Earlier this week, the General Secretary of the PLO Executive Committee, Yasser Abed Rabbo, announced that plans to hold a mass rally on September 20 when UN deliberations in New York begin.

The Palestinian demonstrations are scheduled to take place in the centers of Palestinian cities – and not in locations where they may lead to friction with Israelis. Moreover, the PLO is sponsoring the events and the security forces are charged with overseeing order.

The PA, it seems, intends to coopt Palestinian resistance against the occupation. But it is highly unlikely that will fly with grassroots activists involved in the popular committees that demonstrate against the illegal separation barrier and settlements in the West Bank every week.  A confrontation between the PA and Palestinians seems likely, and is not without precedent.  As Adam Shatz pointed out in a recent piece n the London Review of Books, the PA turned back protesters who attempted to march to the Hawara checkpoint outside Nablus during the May 15 protests marking the Nakba.

In a statement sent to me by activists in the West Bank, a coalition of popular committees in the West Bank said July 29:

The popular committees against the wall and settlements confirms that next September is the immense popular battle for the recognition of the State of Palestine, number 194 at the UN.

The popular committees against the wall and settlements, in addition to the national committee for popular struggle and the popular struggle coordination committee,  have discussed the issue regarding the intention of the Palestinian Authority to go the UN for the recognition of the Palestinian State.

All confirmed the right of the Palestinian people to have their state fully recognized with its capital Jerusalem through going to the UN, guaranteeing holding to the Palestinian fixed rights.

The committees consider the coming September a very important phase of struggle in the history of the Palestinian cause and calls upon the Palestinian people in its all categories wherever they are to actively engage and participate in such a phase. They also calls upon the Palestinian leadership not to tie going to the UN against going back to negotiations.

The committees commit themselves to initiate  to work in order to develop intensive action and mobilize people to expand the struggle for recognition of a Palestinian State in the Palestinian and the international arenas using an immense popular struggle program.

Therefore, the committees call upon our Palestinian people in all their locations in Palestine and Diaspora,  the fellow Arab countries and the International arena of supporters, solidarity movements and friends  around the world to stand with us and act in their communities for the recognition of the Palestinian state to become the state number 194 in the United Nations.

Call on the International movements to mobilize with us on the 21 of September, to make the day a world wide day in support of the right of Palestian people to their own state in freedom, democracy and self determination.

While the popular committee statement expressed support for the UN bid, it is clear that popular struggle leaders are not going to simply gather in Palestinian cities and stay put, especially considering the fact that the popular struggle confronts the Israeli military head on every week.  Come September, the PA’s statehood bid could lead to a confrontation with its own people.

The social order shakes: Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf on the Israeli social justice movement

This interview originally appeared in Waging Nonviolence.

If there was one country thought not to be in danger of catching the contagion of uprisings in the Middle East, it was Israel. Nobody thought much of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement on March 30 that, at a time when “everything is shaking and rocking…the only stable place, the only stable country, is this democracy Israel.”

But a month and a half later, Netanyahu’s statement is laughable. A mass movement has now erupted in Israel, shaking the status quo. What first started as a tent-city protest in Tel Aviv over the high cost of housing has mushroomed into tent cities all over Israel, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators pouring into the streets and disruptions of business-as-usual in the Israeli Knesset. Angry over the high cost of living and the yawning gap between the rich and the poor in Israel, the protestors have called for “social justice” in the form of public housing, rent control and a raise in the minimum wage, among other demands. Stanford University professor Joel Beinin recently wrote that the Israeli protests were a revolt against neoliberalism.

The movement is said to represent the strongest challenge yet to Netanyahu’s government.

Criticism of the movement, though, has been voiced by Palestinians and activists involved in the Palestine solidarity movement. They have pointed to the fact that the social justice movement has stayed silent over the occupation of Palestine and has not connected the dots between Israel’s massive and illegal settlement project in the West Bank and the housing crisis within Israel proper.

To go beyond the headlines, I recently caught up with Noam Sheizaf, an independent Israeli journalist based in Tel Aviv. Sheizaf, whose work has appeared in the Nation, Haaretz, Yedioth Ahronoth and more, is an editor and founder of +972 Magazine, a blog-based web magazine. Sheizaf recently authored a piece titled, “It’s all about real-estate: Understanding the tent protests.”

Alex Kane: What is your general take on the tent cities and mass protests currently making headlines in Israel?

Noam Sheizaf: I think it’s one of the most significant events I have seen in Israeli politics, certainly in the 20 years I have been following it closely. In the events I can remember that I witnessed in my own lifetime, this is one of the most important ones, most unexpected, and most promising one, perhaps.

AK: What do you think the political significance of the protests are?

NS: If you’re talking the narrow political games of the Knesset and the government, I don’t think we’ll see a lot happening right away. I don’t think this protest right now is a serious threat to the government. It’s more a challenge than a threat.

I think the protest is challenging something very important in the Israeli social order. There’s an unwritten agreement between various groups in Israeli society—I’m talking about the Jewish society. This is something that enables the entire system that we see here. So by declaring that the current social order is not suitable for us anymore, I think that the middle-class, the upper-middle class, the people who are protesting, are making a serious challenge against the structure of Israeli society. It’s more of something that represents an undercurrent in society than what you see on the surface. Because, ultimately, this protest doesn’t touch the significant political questions that we always hear about from Israel: the occupation, the future of the West Bank, the relations between Arab and Jewish citizens. But it touches on the layer beneath it that holds everything together. So, I think this is a major, major thing.

Read the whole interview here.

Breivik manifesto outlines virulent right-wing ideology that fueled Norway massacre

A detailed manifesto reportedly written by the alleged perpetrator behind the Norway massacre was posted on the web yesterday by an American blogger.
Titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence,” it sheds significant light on the virulent and extreme right-wing, anti-Islam and anti-immigrant ideology which appears to have fueled Anders Behring Breivik’s murder of over 90 people on Friday.

As the Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah notes:

Anders Behring Breivik saw himself as a holy warrior and crusader engaged in a war against a “Marxist-Islamist alliance” that he feared would take over Europe if not stopped. He hoped by his actions to inspire “thousands” to follow in his path. He described himself as a “martyr” and “resistance fighter.”

He described members of Norway’s Labour Party as “traitors” because of their alleged support of “multiculturalism and Islamisation.” Behring advocated “terror” attacks on mosques, especially during Muslim relgious holidays.

This is according to a 1,500 page manuscript Breivik himself wrote. Norway’s public broadcaster NRK reported on the manuscript and that Breivik had admitted to writing and disseminating it (Google translation of NRK report).

In addition, the manuscript provides a more detailed look at how Breivik’s strong support for extremist Israeli policies fits into his worldview.  Professed throughout the manifesto is a motif of unwavering support for Israel–a key component of Breivik and his ilk’s ideology–in addition to  support for the mass deportations of Arabs and Muslims from Israel/Palestine.  Here are some examples taken from an English translation of the manuscript written by Breivik:

Let’s end the stupid support for the Palestinians that the Eurabians have encouraged, and start supporting our cultural cousin, Israel…(page 338)

I believe Europe should strive for:

A cultural conservative approach where monoculturalism, moral, the nuclear family, a free market, support for Israel and our Christian cousins of the east, law and order and Christendom itself must be central aspects (unlike now). Islam must be re-classified as a political ideology and the Quran and the Hadith banned as the genocidal political tools they are…(page 661)

As part of a “draft” for a so-called “European Declaration of Independence,” Breivik also writes:

A public statement in support of Israel against Muslim aggression should be issued, and the money that has previously been awarded to Palestinians should be allocated partly to Israel’s defence, partly to establish a Global Infidel Defence Fund with the stated goal of disseminating information about Muslim persecution of non-Muslims worldwide

Max Blumenthal succintly explains here why Israel occupies such a central role in the Islamophobic far-right’s imagination:

While in many ways Breivik shares core similarities with other right-wing anti-government terrorists, he is the product of a movement that is relatively new, increasingly dangerous, and poorly understood. I described the movement in detail in my “Axis of Islamophobia” piece, noting its simultaneous projection of anti-Semitic themes on Muslim immigrants and the appeal of Israel as a Fort Apache on the front lines of the war on terror, holding the line against the Eastern barbarian hordes. Breivik’s writings embody this seemingly novel fusion, particularly in his obsession with “Cultural Marxism,” an increasingly popular far-right concept that positions the (mostly Jewish) Frankfurt School as the originators of multiculturalism, combined with his call to “influence other cultural conservatives to come to our…pro-Israel line.”

Breivik and other members of Europe’s new extreme right are fixated on the fear of the “demographic Jihad,” or being out-populated by overly fertile Muslim immigrants. They see themselves as Crusader warriors fighting a racial/religious holy war to preserve Western Civilization. Thus they turn for inspiration to Israel, the only ethnocracy in the world, a country that substantially bases its policies towards the Palestinians on what its leaders call “demographic considerations.” This is why Israeli flags invariably fly above black-masked English Defense League mobs, and why Geert Wilders, the most prominent Islamophobic politician in the world, routinely travels to Israel to demand the forced transfer of Palestinians.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency also picks up the story in an article today, “Norway killer espoused new right-wing, pro-Israel philosophy”:

The confessed perpetrator in the terror attack in Norway espoused a new right-wing philosophy allied with Israel against Islam – a trend in European populist and far-right movements that has Israel worried…

European right-populist parties increasingly have been waving the flag of friendship with Israel. Last month, after it emerged that German-Swedish far-right politician Patrik Brinkmann had met in Berlin with Israeli Likud lawmaker Ayoub Kara, deputy minister for Development of the Negev and Galilee, Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanding that Kara be prevented from making further trips abroad.

According to Ynet, Lieberman accused Kara of meeting with neo-Nazis and causing damage to Israel’s image. Brinkman said he had reached out to Israeli rightists hoping to build a coalition against Islam

There are supporters of Israel who refuse to acknowledge the central role right-wing Zionism plays in the current attempt to gin up anti-Muslim sentiment.  But the actions and words of Breivik, and those from whom he drew inspiration, make clear that it is imperative to acknowledge, understand and combat what Blumenthal aptly calls the “axis of Islamophobia.”


The Norway massacre and the nexus of Islamophobia and right-wing Zionism

This article originally appeared in Mondoweiss, and was also picked up by AlterNet.

Details on the culprit behind yesterday’s massacre in Norway, which saw car bombings in Oslo and a mass shooting attack on the island of Utoya that caused the deaths of at least 91 people, have begun to emerge.  While it is still too early for a complete portrait of the killer, Anders Behring Breivik, there are enough details to begin to piece together what’s behind the attack.

Although initial media reports, spurred on by the tweets of former State Department adviser on violent extremism Will McCants, linked the attacks to Islamist extremists, it was in fact an anti-Muslim zealot who committed the murders.  An examination of Breivik’s views, and his support for far-right European political movements, makes it clear that only by interrogating the nexus of Islamophobia and right-wing Zionism can one understand the political beliefs behind the terrorist attack.

Breivik is apparently an avid fan of U.S.-based anti-Muslim activists such as Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes, and has repeatedly professed his ardent support for Israel.  Breivik’s political ideology is illuminated by looking at comments he posted to the right-wing site, which author and journalist Doug Sanders put up.

Here’s a sampling of some of Breivik’s comments:

Continue reading

LGBT Center bars Palestine solidarity group

This article originally appeared in the latest issue of the Indypendent. 

When the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, located on West 13th Street in Greenwich Village, imposed an “indefinite moratorium” early last month on pro-Palestinian groups using their meeting spaces, the center’s leadership hoped to put the controversy over Palestine solidarity organizing there to rest.

Instead, the center has stirred up a hornet’s nest of radical queer activists and their allies who are calling attention to the moratorium and demanding that it be reversed.

Two newly formed groups, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) and Queers for an Open LGBT Center (QFOLC), are turning up the heat on the Chelsea-area center, making New York the latest battleground over Israel within LGBT communities.

Demonstrations, sit-ins and pickets have greeted the LGBT Center in recent weeks.

Queer Palestine solidarity activists are angry at what they call “censorship” at a community center that has caved to Zionist donor pressure. Activists also say that the center’s response to their protests has disappointed them. For example, activists say the LGBT Center hired private guards in response to a March protest.

“The center [leadership has] betrayed the mission of the center. They have turned their backs on the community that they claim to serve, and they are excluding, expelling and banning people from the center based purely on their political perspective,” said Pauline Park, a founding member of QFOLC and a prominent transgender rights activist.

Read the whole thing here.

IDF, House Republican share goal: kill chance for Palestinian state

An important report in today’s Haaretz by Akiva Eldar further confirms the Israeli government’s intention to illegally annex strategic parts of the West Bank.  Combined with the push by a top House Republican to codify into law President George W. Bush’s 2004 letter to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, these latest news reports mean that current efforts for the creation of a Palestinian state are futile.

Eldar reports:

The IDF Civil Administration is taking steps to increase state-ownership of West Bank lands, an internal military document reveals. The policy enables increased construction not only around settlement blocs like Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion, but also in strategic areas like the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea…

The inclusion of the Jordan Valley, northern Dead Sea and area surrounding Ariel in the “settlement blocs” whose takeover the administration is advancing, would prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state with territorial contiguity. In addition, the scope of land in question thwarts the possibility of exchanging areas in a peace settlement, according to the formula presented by U.S. President Barack Obama on May 19.

This is because on the western side of the Green Line there is not enough open land to compensate the Palestinians for such an extensive annexation, according to examinations carried out during previous talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The settlements of Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel are widely acknowledged as core obstacles to a viable Palestinian state. If Ma’ale Adumim completes its long-planned E1 extension, and was then incorporated into Israel proper, the West Bank would be cut off from East Jerusalem, the presumed future capital of a Palestinian state.  Even now, though, Ma’ale Adumim constitutes an obstacle to a viable state.

And if Israel annexed the settlement of Ariel, one of the largest in the West Bank, it would permanently cut off Palestinian villages from each other, making a contiguous and viable state impossible.  Ariel severely impedes Palestinian movement, and it sits on top of one of the largest water aquifiers in the West Bank.  A 2005 “settlements in focus” issue published by Americans for Peace Now noted that Ariel “blocks Palestinian contiguity between the large Palestinian town of Salfit to the south and a group of Palestinian villages to the north, including Marda, Zaita, Jammai’n, and Hares – a strategy of ‘divide and rule’ which has played a part in the location of settlements across the West Bank.”

The IDF’s plans for the Jordan Valley, an area that current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to hold onto forever, would also kill off any chance for an independent and sovereign Palestinian state.  The area is Palestine’s only link to the outside world that does not run through Israel, and contains some of the West Bank’s most fertile agricultural lands.  Israeli policy toward the Jordan Valley was highlighted in Human Rights Watch’s landmark “Separate and Unequal” report last December, which documented the “two-tier system of laws, rules, and services that Israel operates” in areas under its control.

Reports that Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is pushing to enshrine Bush’s 2004 letter is just one more indication that no matter what happens in September at the United Nations, there will be push back from right-wing American politicians.  Ros-Lehtinen’s intention is to effectively make any viable Palestinian state an impossibility.  Bush’s letter to Sharon reads:

In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949

The reference to “major Israeli population centers” is a nod to Israel’s insistence that it annex settlements such as Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim.  Documents leaked as part of Al Jazeera‘s publication of the “Palestine Papers” further confirms that the Bush administration pushed Israeli demands regarding these settlements onto Palestinian negotiators.

While the Obama administration has not backed Ros-Lehtinen’s demand that Bush’s letter become official U.S. policy, it has little appetite to fight for a viable state of Palestine.  The Israel lobby, along with Ros-Lehtinen and most of the U.S. Congress, have curtailed any chance that Obama would pressure Israel on issues such as Ariel, Ma’ale Adumim and the Jordan Valley.

The only question remaining is why anyone still believes that a Palestinian state is possible.

Boycott law causes big shift in Israel’s image

Israel’s image in the United States has long been that of the lonely democracy in an Arab sea of tyranny.  But the anti-boycott bill recently passed in the Israeli Knesset–which comes right after the Arab democratic uprisings exploded conventional myths about the Middle East–is radically changing that image.

Omar Barghouti, a leading activist in the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, aptly predicted this change in a May 2011 interview. He said that “If this anti-BDS measure passes into law, Israel will have dropped one of its last veneers or masks of ‘democracy,’ fully exposing itself as an irreparable system of colonial and racist oppression that requires much of the same treatment used against South African apartheid.”

This recent New York Times editorial, which gives a nod to the BDS movement, is the best example of this process:

Israel’s reputation as a vibrant democracy has been seriously tarnished by a new law intended to stifle outspoken critics of its occupation of the West Bank.

They are relatively tame words, but it is a significant editorial coming from the New York Times.

The Jewish-American establishment has also taken notice.  Jeffrey Goldberg has blasted the lawThe Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman released a statement criticizing the law:

We are…concerned that this law may unduly impinge on the basic democratic rights of Israelis to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

And then there’s the U.S. State Department, which, although mildly, criticized the bill by saying that “Freedom of expression, including freedom to peacefully organize and protest, is a basic right under democracy.”

With the Knesset considering bills to curtail the power of the Israeli Supreme Court and to establish committees to investigate Israeli human rights organizations, expect the further ripping apart of Israel’s image as a democracy.