Wednesday, May 31

MCC Palestine Update #122

MCC Palestine Update #122

31 May 2006

Israeli Unilateralism: Disengagement / Convergence / Realignment…

Despite the direct contravention of the guidelines laid out in the “roadmap for peace” espoused by this U.S. administration (i.e., neither party taking steps that would unilaterally bias final-status negotiations), Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert and his plan to unilaterally draw the borders of the state of Israel—which will effectively seal Palestinians off in isolated enclaves of land on roughly forty to fifty percent of the West Bank—were warmly received both by the U.S. President and Congress in his visit to the U.S. last week (“ANALYSIS / George Bush wants the convergence plan too,”

Yet, whatever name is used to label this effort—disengagement, convergence, realignment—this form of unilateralism, made possible by the enormous imbalance of power that exists between Israel and the Palestinians, is part of the same story of dispossession that Palestinians have experienced for decades. As Israeli journalist Gideon Levy points out:

“Olmert promised to start the convergence in two years. Now he’s talking about evacuating no more than 40,000 settlers and resettling them in the ‘settlement blocs.’ Obviously that is not a peace plan, that’s a plan to perpetuate the occupation, only under conditions more convenient for Israel. Moreover, at the end of the convergence plan, if it is ever executed, even more settlers will live in the occupied territories than live there now, in the ‘settlement blocs’ that are no less dangerous than the handful of settlements that will be evacuated. The fact that America is not enthusiastic about Olmert's plan need not worry anyone. It will, in the end, support it. The two countries, after all, have so many ‘shared values and principles.’” (“A bullies’ alliance,”

While the U.S. White House and Congress laud the “creativity” and “boldness” of this “vision for peace,” that very structure of violence continues to spell dispossession and death for Palestinians in a most discriminatory manner (“‘Intifada Law’ has barred compensation to Palestinian victims almost entirely,” Israeli colonization goes on unabated (“IDF authorizes expansion of four West Bank settlements,” And construction of the “separation barrier” continues, with reports that “by the beginning of 2007, 486 kilometers of the separation fence will be completed…This constitutes 93 percent of the 523-kilometer fence route (which does not include some 300 kilometers that are awaiting legal rulings)” (“Defense officials: 93% of fence to be ready by Jan. '07,”

As the U.S. gets “tough” on terrorism (“U.S. House votes to tighten PA sanctions,”, poverty and unemployment increases as a direct result and will only get worse (“UN report: 40% of Palestinians earn less than $2.10 a day,” Haaretz, 30 May 2006;

Here in Bethlehem in particular, it is reported that over 70% of the population of now lives below the poverty line and unemployment has soared to more than 60%. “Once a prosperous middle class town, Bethlehem has been economically suffocated and the post-election sanctions have brought the local population to the brink of disaster. According to Christian Aid, in two years, almost three in four Palestinians (74 per cent) will be living below the United Nations poverty line of an income of £1.10 a day – worse than Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Angola. Christian Aid has stated that ‘Palestinian society faces collapse’ if this situation continues” (“Open Bethlehem calls for end to EU sanctions as Bethlehem faces disaster,”

For more on “convergence,” visit MCC partner the Stop the Wall Campaign at and or the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions at

Nakba and Independence

For most Israeli Jews, May 3rd this year was celebrated as Independence Day—remembering the 1948 war as a heroic story of freedom, liberty, and success in overcoming great difficulties. But for Palestinians, that same event (remembered on May 15) is known as the Nakba, an Arabic word meaning “catastrophe,” referring to the massive dispossession of the majority of the Palestinian people during the period of 1947 to 1949. Between 750,000 to 900,000 Palestinians became refugees, either having been expelled by the Israeli army or having fled for their lives during the fighting. Meanwhile, Israeli military forces destroyed over 500 Palestinian villages.

On Israeli Independence Day, MCC Israeli partner the Zochrot Association ( organized a visit to the destroyed Palestinian village of Miske in solidarity with its displaced residents. In Miske, signs were posted by both Israeli Jews and Palestinians at the village center, the mosque, and the school (learn more at After this, Zochrot proceeded to take part in the 9th annual Procession of Return organized by ADRID, the Association for the Defense of the Rights of Internally Displaced Palestinians. This year the procession was to the village of Umm a-Zinat. Signs were posted to designate the village school, the cemetery, and the entryway to the village (

In collaboration with another MCC partner, the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights (, Zochrot also helped coordinate a visit to the destroyed Palestinian village of Lifta on May 13th ( And on May 15th, Zochrot participated in a learning day about the Nakba with the Bilingual School in Jerusalem, an elementary school for Jewish and Palestinian children. In the morning, Zochrot prepared a large-scale map of historic Palestine in the schoolyard, using electric tape to mark the longitude and latitude lines of the map. When the grid was ready, the pupils filled the map with cards representing each of the Palestinian villages destroyed during the Nakba (

Visit Palestine!

In a previous update, we shared a couple of the opportunities available here in Palestine / Israel for you all to participate in this summer such as the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) summer work camp of “Rebuilding and Resistance” from July 15th to 30th (learn more at and Holy Land Trust’s summer encounter program for service-learning (learn more at

We would also like to let you know about some other opportunities in the coming months that could give you a reason to “Visit Palestine”:

Holy Land Trust also recently announced their “Second Activists’ Summer Camp” that will take place from 16-26 July. “As part of our commitment to promote and use active forms of nonviolence, we are encouraging young people to join us in a ten-day nonviolence training in a breathtaking campsite. In addition, you will get the chance to tour some of the Palestinian cities. Do not miss the chance of sharing the experience to learn and practice nonviolence in Palestine. Keep in mind folks that we have limited number of spaces!” For detailed information, visit

The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center has announced their first International Young Adult Conference titled “TOGETHER: Facing Challenges … Finding Hope.” Scheduled for 26 July – 6 August 2006, the goals for this conference, geared toward young adults from around the world, are: Palestinian and international young adults meeting to share stories and learn about one another‘s culture and denominations; International young adults learning about the lives of Palestinian young people and becoming more aware of current political realities; Christian young adults empowered to become more active for justice in their home communities. For more information, see:

Sabeel has also announced the 6th International Sabeel Conference titled “The Forgotten Faithful: A Window into the Life and Witness of Christians in the Holy Land.” This conference, scheduled for November 2-9, 2006, through lectures, workshops, worship and excursions in the Holy Land, will provide a unique opportunity to encounter the realities of Christians in Palestine and Israel. This will be a great opportunity to meet your Christian brothers and sisters, learn about their history and present struggle, champion their just cause and advocate for peace and reconciliation for all the people of the land. For more information, see:

Later on this fall, another opportunity to visit will be an Olive Picking Program organized by the Joint Advocacy Initiative of the East Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA of Palestine (JAI; and the Alternative Tourism Group (ATG; and between the 26th of October and 4th of November, 2006. This agricultural event is of special significance to the Palestinian economy where all energies and efforts are mobilized during this period.

“Since the beginning of the Intifada in 2000, the olive harvest has been overshadowed by the Israeli policies of repression, closure, blockage of streets, confiscation of agricultural lands, as well as repeated attacks against Palestinian farmers by Israeli settlers. Now with the construction the Apartheid Wall at the expense of the agricultural lands, many farmers are separated from their lands.

“Building on the experience from the previous years, the Joint Advocacy Initiative of The East Jerusalem YMCA and the YWCA of Palestine and the Alternative Tourism have planned a program for civil international solidarity with Palestinian people and farmers. The objective of this program is to mobilize as many people as possible for olive picking, especially in areas that are situated in proximity of Israeli settlements, and by-pass roads in order to help Palestinian farmers harvest their olive trees that they might be unable to harvest without international support. You are invited to participate.”

For more information, see: And come Visit Palestine!

An Easter Message: “Who will help us roll the stone away?”

In their recent newsletter, MCC partner the Wi’am Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center ( shared an excerpt from an Easter reflection by Lucy Talgieh. Recalling the story in the gospels telling of Mary and Salome and the other women who went to the tomb early that morning of the first day of the week, Lucy reflects on the question, “Who will help us roll the stone away?”

“God had never abandoned us even in the midst of our despair and hopelessness. God empowers us to be a witness of truth to the world. We are empowered to roll away the stones of fear, hopelessness, sadness, injustice, occupation and violence. God calls us to be channels of hope to support one another and to challenge the world. God is here with a message of peace and justice. Stop the War / Stop the Bloodshed / Stop the Hatred. We Palestinian Christians are commissioned to give love and to teach love in the world where it is absent, and spread hope in spite of the hopeless situation.

“We ask God to open all hearts to the grace of Easter that will strengthen and enable all of us to pass from death to life as we make the new history of this Holy Land. We ask God and our Risen Lord to fill our hearts with love and spirituality, so that Easter will be a new beginning for us also, and a passage from death to security and peaceful life and a journey with God.

“Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen, indeed.”

Il-Masiih qaam. Haqqan qaam.

Peace to you all,

Timothy and Christi Seidel
Peace Development Workers
Mennonite Central Committee – Palestine

Attachments and Links:

· Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, “Ehud Olmert’s ‘convergence plan,’” ICAHD, 22 May 2006
· Gideon Levy, “A bullies' alliance,” Haaretz, 28 May 2006
· Aluf Benn and Shmuel Rosner, “A push from Bush,” Haaretz, 26 May 2006
· Jeff Halper, “Countdown to Apartheid,” ICAHD, 25 May 2006
· Robert D. Novak, “A Plea for Palestinian Christians,” The Washington Post, May 25, 2006
· Ronnie Kasrils and Victoria Brittain, “Israel should face sanctions,” The Guardian, 19 May 2006
· Jonathan Cook, “Israel’s marriage ban closes the gates to Palestinians,” The Electronic Intifada, 19 May 2006
· Karma Nabulsi, “The great catastrophe,” The Guardian, 12 May 2006
· Ghada Karmi, “Where is the global outcry at this continuing cruelty?” The Guardian, 15 May 2006
· Jimmy Carter, “Punishing the innocent is a crime,” International Herald Tribune, 7 May 2006
· Chris McGreal, “Prime minister pins his colours to 'new look' Israel,” The Guardian, 5 May 2006
· Tony Judt, “The country that wouldn't grow up,” Haaretz, 2 May 2006
· James M. Wall, “Talk Is Cheap: “Dialogue” vs. Divestment In the Struggle for Justice in Palestine,” Washington Report, March 2006


Ehud Olmert’s "convergence plan"
Angela Godfrey-Goldstein

29 May 2006

Ehud Olmert's "convergence plan," detailed in an interview with Karby Leggett of The Wall Street Journal (April 12, 2006), has major ramifications for Israel-Palestine, regional peace and the international community. Olmert talks of "a large pullout from parts of the occupied West Bank within the next 18 months." He plans "to evacuate as many as 70,000 settlers…which could cost more than $10 billion - while annexing large chunks of disputed Palestinian territory. The goal ... is to establish permanent, internationally recognized borders that will ensure Israel retains its Jewish majority for decades to come. Though he expects to carry out the plan without Palestinian input, he believes it ... could lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state and a negotiated peace settlement someday."

Of the 250,000 Israeli citizens living in over a hundred West Bank settlements, (not counting 200,000 settlers in occupied East Jerusalem), only one-third will face evacuation, says Leggett. "Many may be offered relocation to the large settlement blocs Israel plans to retain. ... Perhaps the most sensitive issue will be the question of Jerusalem. Palestinians claim the city as their future capital and say that must be reflected in any resolution to the Mideast's core conflict. The U.S. has generally supported the Palestinian position during previous peace negotiations."

A glance at Map 1 shows Jerusalem sprawled midway between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank. To its west is Israel. To its east, the Judaean Desert -descends to the Jordanian border, dominated by the Maale Adumim settlement bloc. Contact between the northern and southern cantons - like contact with Gaza - will depend on Israel's good graces. It is unlikely, to say the least, that the result will be the "viable Palestinian state" touted repeatedly by U.S. President George W. Bush since June 2002, when he introduced his "Road Map to Peace" and the Bush Vision.

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A bullies' alliance
Gideon Levy

28 May 2006

Was the prime minister's address on Capitol Hill interrupted by applause 38 times, as Maariv and Haaretz reported, or 41, as Yedioth Ahronoth said? Was it the "speech of his life" or his "victory lap?" Does it matter? Those who read the flood of praise heaped by a uniform chorus in the Israeli press on Ehud Olmert might think this was a historic visit that managed to significantly advance the achievement of peace in the Middle East. It was nothing of the kind.

In Washington, there was a meeting of the leaders of two countries that share, as the prime minister rightly said in his speech, "common principles and values." The United States and Israel are two of the most hated countries in the world these days. Both are responsible for brutal occupations and the bloodshed of innocents; both are fighting terrorism without regard for its reasons and true root causes; both endanger world peace and their leaders scatter slogans about peace that are empty of any content; both are surrounding themselves with walls. The only difference between them is that if there are signs in the U.S. of an awakening from the deception of the criminal war in Iraq, three years after it began; in Israel, people are still sticking to all the lies of the past about the connection between the territories and security, even 39 years after the occupation began.

The renewed alliance forged between the Israeli prime minister and the American president is an alliance of bullies, two bullies who think they are allowed what most of the world is forbidden. America and Israel can use any possible weapon to their hearts' content and at the same time threaten anyone who tries to do the same. Why? Because they are strong…

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A push from Bush
Aluf Benn and Shmuel Rosner

26 May 2006

This week, Bush surprised the pundits, the experts and the officials with his enthusiastic support for the prime minister's convergence plan. The professionals in the administration warned that a unilateral Israeli move in the territories - of the type that will lead to determining a border without asking the Palestinians - will anger the Europeans, enrage the Arabs and humiliate what is left of the Palestinian Authority. But Bush, as stubborn as Truman, as well as a great admirer of his, preferred to embrace his Israeli friends and to absorb possible criticism of his declarations…

Olmert returned to Israel yesterday with a clear sense that Bush is going along with his convergence plan. For the prime minister, the most significant achievement of the visit was forming personal ties with the president. That is particularly important, in his opinion, just because Bush did accept his plan. Had he objected to it, the personal friendship would not have helped Olmert. But when you cooperate on a political move, the direct relationship between the leaders is of decisive importance…

In any case, Olmert's visit did not make the headlines in America. Other issues concern the public and the administration - and the president will not be free at any given moment to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In six months there will be Congressional elections, in which his party may lose, and already now the results of the erosion of his power are evident: This week, the House of Representatives passed a law against Hamas against Bush's wishes, and he is now busy mainly with two issues - Iraq and illegal immigration. Bush wants to solve the second problem by building a fence along the border with Mexico. "I heard that your fence has succeeded in preventing terror," he said to Olmert, "and we are also considering building a fence in Texas." Another proof of the fact that it's a small world.

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Countdown to Apartheid
Jeff Halper

25 May 2006

Olmert’s “convergence plan” (now renamed a “realignment plan” because it sounds better in [Newspeak] English), based on the massive “facts on the ground” Israel continues to impose unilaterally with overt American support, cannot possibly give rise to a viable Palestinian state. The “Separation Barrier,” which will be declared Israel’s permanent “demographic border,” takes 10% of the West Bank. That may not sound like much, but consider this: It incorporates into Israel the major settlement blocs (plus a half-million Israeli settlers) while carving the West Bank into a number of small, disconnected, impoverished “cantons” – hardly the basis for a viable state. It removes from the Palestinians their richest agricultural land and all the water.

The convergence plan also creates a “greater” Israeli Jerusalem over the entire central portion of the West Bank, thereby cutting the economic, cultural, religious and historic heart out of any Palestinian state. It then sandwiches the Palestinians between the Barrier/border and yet another “security” border, the Jordan Valley, giving Israel two eastern borders. Palestinian freedom of movement of both people and goods is thus prevented into both Israel and Jordan but also internally, between the various cantons. Israel will also retain control of Palestinian airspace, the electro-magnetic sphere and even the right of a Palestinian state to conduct its own foreign policy…

And, finally, what was meant? Apartheid. The “A” word was missing from Olmert’s speech, of course, but the bottom line of his convergence plan is clear: the establishment of a permanent, institutionalized regime of Israeli domination over Palestinians based on separation between Jews and Arabs. Within 6-9 months, according to Olmert’s timeline. Olmert may believe that Jews can succeed where Afrikaners failed, but history teaches us that in the end injustice is unsustainable. And convergence/realignment is nothing if not manifest injustice.

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The Washington Post
A Plea for Palestinian Christians
Robert D. Novak

May 25, 2006

Rep. Henry Hyde, showing the courage that has typified a political career now in its final months, is pleading the case of endangered Palestinian Christians to President Bush. A faithful supported of Israel over many years, Hyde said in a letter sent Friday to the White House: "I cannot be blind when Israeli actions seem to go beyond the realm of legitimate security concerns and have negative consequences on communities and lands under their occupation." He urged the president to take up this issue with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during his visit to Washington this week.

Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, sent along with his letter a five-page, single-spaced report prepared by his staff based on visits to Israel and Palestine over the past two years. It contends that "the Christians community is being crushed in the mill of the bitter Israeli- Palestinian conflict." The Israeli security wall and expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the report continues, "are irreversibly damaging the dwindling Christian community."

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The Guardian
Israel should face sanctions
Ronnie Kasrils and Victoria Brittain

19 May 2006

The Palestine crisis is now more dramatic even than apartheid, but it is the victims who are punished

Western leaders are frustrating democratic elections in Palestine by withholding aid, and using collective punishment, an economic siege and starvation as political weapons in their efforts to get the Hamas government to accept their terms of business with Israel.

Never in the long struggle for freedom in apartheid South Africa was there a situation as dramatic as in Palestine today: even though children were killed for resisting a second-class education; the liberation movement's leaders were locked up for decades on Robben Island; new leaders were assassinated; church leaders were poisoned; house demolitions and forced removals were frequent; and western governments told South Africans who their leaders should be, and what their policies should be…

The Palestinians are having sanctions imposed on them for their political choice. But it is Israel, creating new facts on the ground to prevent the emergence of a viable Palestinian state, that should be facing UN sanctions. The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, should use his last months in office to call for sanctions to bring about the implementation of the ICJ ruling on the Israeli wall, the closure of West Bank settlements and the release of Palestinian political prisoners. And those who care for freedom, peace and justice must build a global Palestine solidarity movement to match the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s.

Please read more at,,1778714,00.html


The Electronic Intifada
Israel’s marriage ban closes the gates to Palestinians
Jonathan Cook

19 May 2006

In approving an effective ban on marriages between Israelis and Palestinians this week, Israel’s Supreme Court has shut tighter the gates of the Jewish fortress the state of Israel is rapidly becoming. The judges’ decision, in the words of the country’s normally restrained Haaretz daily, was “shameful”.

By a wafer-thin majority, the highest court in the land ruled that an amendment passed in 2003 to the Nationality Law barring Palestinians from living with an Israeli spouse inside Israel -- what in legal parlance is termed “family unification” -- did not violate rights enshrined in the country’s Basic Laws.

And even if it did, the court added, the harm caused to the separated families was outweighed by the benefits of improved “security”. Israel, concluded the judges, was justified in closing the doors to residency for all Palestinians in order to block the entry of those few who might use marriage as a way to launch terror attacks…

Such changes will make Israel unlike any state we have seen in modern times. In 1980, at the height of apartheid in South Africa, the courts there refused to approve legislation much like Israel’s ban on family unification, arguing that it contravened the right to a family life.

In Israel, on the other hand, faced with a new wave of racist legislation, no one -- not even the country’s “liberal” Supreme Court – is prepared to safeguard the most basic rights of the land’s native people.

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The Guardian
The great catastrophe
Karma Nabulsi

12 May 2006

Monday marks the 58th anniversary of the founding of Israel in 1948 - and the expulsion of Palestinians from their land. With millions still living under occupation or in exile, what Palestinians call their 'nakba' remains at the heart of their national identity, argues Karma Nabulsi

In the last week of April 1948, combined Irgun-Haganah forces launched an offensive to drive the Palestinian people out of the beautiful port city of Jaffa, forcing the remaining inhabitants to flee by sea; many drowned in the process. My aunt Rose, a teenager at that time, survived the trip to begin her life in exile on the Lebanese coast. Each Palestinian refugee family grows up hearing again and again the stories of those final moments in Palestine, the decisions, the panic, as we live in the midst of their terrible consequences. Throughout 1948, Jewish forces expelled many thousands of Palestinians from their villages, towns and cities into Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of others fled in fear. The purpose was to create a pure Jewish state, ethnically cleansed of the original inhabitants who had lived there for centuries. The creation of the state of Israel was the heart of this cataclysmic historical event for the Palestinians - the mass forced expulsion of a people; the more than 50 massacres carried out over the summer of 1948 by various armed Jewish forces; the demolition of villages to ensure the refugees could not return - all this is summed up in a single word for Palestinians: nakba, the catastophe.

"We must do everything to ensure they [the Palestinians] never do return ... The old will die and the young will forget," said David Ben-Gurion, the founder of Israel, in 1949. But the young have not forgotten. The event is remembered every year on May 15, and the youth are at the heart of it: at a rally on the site of the destroyed village of Umm al-Zinnat near Haifa, Salim Fahmawi, now 65, a primary school student when the soldiers entered the village 56 years ago to expel them, told an Israeli reporter: "The presence of so many young people, many of whom are third- and fourth-generation post-1948, gives me a sense of relief - because I know the torch has not been extinguished and is passing from generation to generation."

Nakba day has now become a profoundly political event - unlike other cultural and social manifestations of our national identity - because it is all about resistance to the current Palestinian situation rather than enshrining past memories of victimhood. The project against the Palestinians begun at the start of the past century had two purposes: first, to deny the very concept of Palestine and destroy its political and social institutions, and second, to annihilate the spirit of the Palestinians as a people, so that they would forget their collective identity once scattered far from home. But the relentless and dynamic nature of the catastrophe - it is an ongoing daily Palestinian experience - binds this generation directly to the older one, and binds the exiled to Palestine. Indeed, the past few years have witnessed a violent acceleration in this process of attempted destruction - hence the title of this year's event: The Nakba Continues.

The nakba is being lived again today in the brutal thrust of the current policies of the Israeli state. More than 10,000 Palestinian refugees have been created by the construction of the concrete separation wall that has cordoned off huge new tracts of occupied land. This wall, condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice, has turned West Bank cities such as Qalqilya into ghost towns, and thousands of refugees have been created for the third and fourth time in the refugee camps in Gaza. Yet it is not simply in the building of the walls and checkpoints by Israel's occupying forces, or the different roads created for Jews and Arabs on Palestinian land, or the use of specially constructed bulldozers that rip up Palestinian orchards and olive groves and demolish hundreds of homes, or the imprisonment of thousands of political prisoners, or the daily murder of Palestinian civilians, that demonstrates the continuing nature of the nakba. It is also in the dedication of Israel's military and political machinery to the destruction of Palestinian resistance to their project.

Please read more at,,1773284,00.html


The Guardian
Where is the global outcry at this continuing cruelty?
Ghada Karmi

15 May 2006

Nearly 60 years after most Palestinians were first forced from our homes, the killings and blockades carry on with impunity

Israel is 58 years old today. Israelis have already celebrated with barbecues and parties. And so they should, for they've pulled off an amazing stunt: the creation of a state for one people on the land of another - and at their massive expense - without incurring effective sanction. Some of those not celebrating, the Arab citizens of Israel, were also there, demonstrating to remind the world that Israel displaced 250,000 to take their land without compensation. Millions more Palestinians will demonstrate today in the refugee camps of Gaza, the West Bank and neighbouring Arab states against their expulsion by Israel. The world, however, is not listening, any more than it did in 1948, when most of Palestine's inhabitants were expelled to make way for Jewish immigrants.

My family was among those displaced and, though a child, I vividly remember the panic and misery of that flight from our home in Jerusalem on an April morning in 1948, with the scent of spring in the air. Palestine by then had become a raging battleground as Jews fought to seize our land in the wake of the 1947 UN partition resolution. My parents decided to evacuate us temporarily. "We will return," they insisted, "the world will not let such injustice happen!" They were wrong: the world let it happen and we never returned. Little comfort in knowing that we were among many others, that we did not end up in tents, that conflicts do such things. Our lives, our history and our future had been traduced. In those early days, I would wonder with anguish how the Jewish incomers who took over our house could sleep at night, seeing our belongings, family photos, children's toys. Subsequently, Israelis made much of the danger they faced from five Arab armies in the 1948-49 war, but in reality their forces were greater than all their opponents' combined, and the latter ill equipped and poorly trained.

Please read more at,,1774885,00.html


International Herald Tribune
Punishing the innocent is a crime
Jimmy Carter

7 May 2006

Innocent Palestinian people are being treated like animals, with the presumption that they are guilty of some crime. Because they voted for candidates who are members of Hamas, the United States government has become the driving force behind an apparently effective scheme of depriving the general public of income, access to the outside world and the necessities of life.

Overwhelmingly, these are school teachers, nurses, social workers, police officers, farm families, shopkeepers, and their employees and families who are just hoping for a better life. Public opinion polls conducted after the January parliamentary election show that 80 percent of Palestinians still want a peace agreement with Israel based on the international road map premises. Although Fatah party members refused to join Hamas in a coalition government, nearly 70 percent of Palestinians continue to support Fatah's leader, Mahmoud Abbas, as their president.

It is almost a miracle that the Palestinians have been able to orchestrate three elections during the past 10 years, all of which have been honest, fair, strongly contested, without violence and with the results accepted by winners and losers. Among the 62 elections that have been monitored by us at the Carter Center, these are among the best in portraying the will of the people.

One clear reason for the surprising Hamas victory for legislative seats was that the voters were in despair about prospects for peace. With American acquiescence, the Israelis had avoided any substantive peace talks for more than five years, regardless of who had been chosen to represent the Palestinian side as interlocutor.

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The Guardian
Prime minister pins his colours to 'new look' Israel
Chris McGreal

5 May 2006

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, installed his new government yesterday with praise for the settler movement and a pledge to make the main Jewish colonies in the West Bank permanently part of Israel by redrawing the country's borders.

Mr Olmert told the Israeli parliament, ahead of a confidence vote in the coalition administration led by his Kadima party, which won the election in March, that the future frontier would be "significantly different than the territories under Israel's control today".

That would mean abandoning isolated settlements that put the country's security "in danger", he said. But the government plans to move the affected settlers into the expanding larger colonies that will be formally annexed by the imposition by 2010 of a new Israeli border east of the 1967 frontier and running through the occupied territories.

"The achievements of the settlement movement in its major centres will for ever be an inseparable part of the sovereign state of Israel, with Jerusalem as our united capital. Let us come together around this consensus and turn it into a uniting political and moral fact," the prime minister said…

Under the plan, Mr Olmert intends to remove about 60,000 settlers currently living in Israel's more isolated colonies beyond the concrete and steel West Bank barrier. They would be moved, if they wished, into the larger West Bank settlement blocks of Maale Adumim, Ariel and Gush Etzion, and parts of Jerusalem, where about 340,000 other settlers live.

Please read more at,,1768061,00.html


The country that wouldn't grow up
Tony Judt

2 May 2006

From one perspective Israel's future is bleak. Not for the first time, a Jewish state has found itself on the vulnerable periphery of someone else's empire: overconfident in its own righteousness, willfully blind to the danger that its indulgent excesses might ultimately provoke its imperial mentor to the point of irritation and beyond, and heedless of its own failure to make any other friends. To be sure, the modern Israeli state has big weapons - very big weapons. But can it do with them except make more enemies? However, modern Israel also has options. Precisely because the country is an object of such universal mistrust and resentment - because people expect so little from Israel today - a truly statesmanlike shift in its policies (dismantling of major settlements, opening unconditional negotiations with Palestinians, calling Hamas' bluff by offering the movement's leaders something serious in return for recognition of Israel and a cease-fire) could have disproportionately beneficial effects.

But such a radical realignment of Israeli strategy would entail a difficult reappraisal of every cliche and illusion under which the country and its political elite have nestled for most of their life. It would entail acknowledging that Israel no longer has any special claim upon international sympathy or indulgence; that the United States won't always be there; that weapons and walls can no more preserve Israel forever than they preserved the German Democratic Republic or white South Africa; that colonies are always doomed unless you are willing to expel or exterminate the indigenous population. Other countries and their leaders have understood this and managed comparable realignments: Charles De Gaulle realized that France's settlement in Algeria, which was far older and better established than Israel's West Bank colonies, was a military and moral disaster for his country. In an exercise of outstanding political courage, he acted upon that insight and withdrew. But when De Gaulle came to that realization he was a mature statesman, nearly 70 years old. Israel cannot afford to wait that long. At the age of 58 the time has come for it to grow up.

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Washington Report
Talk Is Cheap: “Dialogue” vs. Divestment In the Struggle for Justice in Palestine
James M. Wall

March 2006

Virtually all of the mainline Protestant denominations in the U.S. are on record in support of the end of violence on both sides in the conflict, and most are specifically opposed to the occupation. Pro-Israel forces have learned to ignore those written and verbal criticisms as just so much God-talk. But divestment is another matter, in part because of the lesson of what divestment accomplished in South Africa…

The demand for dialogue, which began as soon as the ink was dry on the Presbyterian resolution, is an effective tactic to use with Protestants and others who pride themselves on their desire to “get along” with everyone, and who feel a special obligation to maintain positive relations with the Jewish community. Interfaith denominational executives were especially important to this process, since they have spent many years working to create a positive connection between the two religious communities…

Meanwhile, Presbyterians meeting in similar Presbytery gatherings around the country could see that, while the movement to divest from corporations servicing Israel’s occupation has not been derailed, in Chicago, at least, it had been shunted off to a side track. There the two sides will continue to fight for, on the one hand, divestment as a sign of support for Palestinians under occupation, versus continued dialogue to rebuild “fragile” Jewish-Christian relationships in the U.S. through the use of euphemisms like “progressive engagement”—anything to avoid the dreaded “divestment” term.

Of course, everyone involved knows that when the church brought pressure to bear against the white rulers of South Africa, it was the hard economic pressure of “divestment” that led to the demise of apartheid—not “constructive engagement,” as the Reagan administration then called it. Supporters of Israel in the Chicago discussions resent the comparison, but advocates of divestment will not hesitate to evoke the example of South Africa, pointing to the fact that, through laws, walls and other “facts on the ground,” Israel continues to force Palestinians into their own apartheid compounds.

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