Friday, September 1

MCC Palestine Update #127

MCC Palestine Update #127

1 September 2006

“The occupation is still occupation”…

This was the title of a recent editorial found in one of Israel’s leading daily newspapers Haaretz ( and is a telling reminder of what lies at the root of much of the problems persisting in this region. For it is in this context—of a 39-year-old Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territory characterized by a 700-km long Wall cutting though the West Bank, an uninterrupted expanding colonization of Palestinian territory, collective punishment on a massive scale, daily humiliation at checkpoints obstructing free movement and access, an 80% poverty rate for the million and a half Palestinians trapped in what is essentially the world’s largest open-air prison in the Gaza Strip, and a 58-year-old denial of fundamental rights for nearly seven million Palestinian refugees—that a power imbalance is maintained that ensures a status quo of death and despair for millions of Palestinians.

“The Lebanon war has not proved the unilateral withdrawal was a failure,” the editorial reads. “Neither has it made occupation any more reasonable or moral…The occupation of the territories is still a millstone on Israel’s neck, paralyzing any attempt at normalization with the Arab states, even those who share interests with Israel against radical Islam. One cannot demand of the citizens of Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt to identify with Israel as long as it refuses to release its stranglehold on millions of Palestinians under its rule.”

To be sure, Lebanon is devastated. Bombing campaign that amounted to indiscriminate attacks on Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure and population are inexcusable atrocities (“Israel accused over 'war crimes',” And the methods of war employed by Israel will have a serious impact on many future generations in Lebanon (“Inquiry Opened Into Israeli Use of U.S. Bombs,”

But in recent weeks where the world’s attention was fixed on Israel’s offensive into Lebanon, Israel had its way with the people of Gaza and the West Bank and little attention was given.

Little attention has been given to the ongoing disaster in Gaza (“Gaza Strip Situation Report: Palestinian death toll reaches 202 as 'Operation Summer Rains' extends into its tenth week,”
GazaStripOCHA%20sitrep_24August06.pdf; “Israeli Siege Leaves Gaza Isolated and Desperate,”; “A year after the pull-out, Gaza's hopes for peace and prosperity lie in ruins,”

And even less attention has been given to the concretization of Israel’s control over and exploitation of the West Bank. For example, despite the statements coming out of the Israeli government declaring that the “convergence” plan that would unilaterally draw the borders of Palestine and Israel—including the evacuation of a handful of settlements deep inside the West Bank—the Justice Ministry in Israel has planned to “launder” illegal West Bank “outposts,” making them permanent “settlements”—a distinction that hardly matters as they all are Israeli colonies and illegal under international law (“Attorney: Justice Min. plan would 'launder' illegal West Bank outposts,”; “Realignment committee finds major problems with unilateral withdrawal,”; “West Bank pullout may be next casualty,”,,1851065,00.html).

How much attention has been given to the discrimination against Palestinians living both inside Israel, in occupied Jerusalem and in the Occupied Territories has escalated (“Israel's freeze of family unification in the Occupied Territories splits tens of thousands of Palestinian families,”; “Accidental emigrant,”

How much attention has been given to the rising number of cases in which Israeli soldiers and Border Police in the West Bank beat, abuse, and humiliate Palestinians, thanks in part to the cover of the war in Lebanon (“B'Tselem: Beatings and abuse in the shadow of war,”

Global cries of condemnation over the abduction of Israeli soldiers can be heard yet how much attention has been given while the Israeli military continues its campaign of abducting democratically elected, civilian Palestinian leaders (“25% of Palestinian MPs detained by Israel,”,,1855202,00.html) adding to the roughly 10,000 abducted Palestinian men, women, and children sitting in Israeli jails. Only through the lenses of the U.S.- and European-led boycott of the Palestinian people and their democratically elected government can the incredibly hypocritical and double standards of these actions be

“Governments come and go,” the Haaretz editorial stated,” but the need to end the occupation remains.”

To learn more about how MCC is responding in both Palestine and Lebanon, please visit For more resources for learning and advocacy, please visit a Mennonite Church USA website at as well as MCC Washington Office website at Please consider how you and your communities might get involved and engage these important issues.

MCC partners with…

Despite the difficulties experienced by so many in this region, life does go on as does the work of MCC’s partners in Palestine / Israel. And this summer has been a busy one.

MCC has long partnered with the East Jerusalem YMCA ( in their Rehabilitation Program (, MCC’s partnership with the Rehabilitation Program helps individuals like Nuh Mashaikh, a father of 4 children, who lives in Beit Jala. Nuh suffered a gunshot injury to his back from the Israeli military in 1998 when they invaded Aida refugee camp, resulting in partial paralysis. He currently works in an olive wood factory in Bethlehem. The YMCA Rehabilitation Program has worked with Nuh in the past, after he was injured during the first intifada seventeen years ago, and has recently helped him purchase a machine so he can work extra hours at home sanding olive wood handcrafts.

The YMCA’s Rehabilitation Program also helps individuals like Mu’in Al Atrash, a 23 years old young man in a family among 4 boys and 3 girls. Mu’in was shot in the back by Israeli soldiers in 2004, leaving him half paralyzed. Initially, he struggled greatly with accepting the fact that he was disabled, refusing all forms of assistance. He did not like the YMCA nor their social workers nor the disabled people he interacted with. All Mu’in wanted was to be able to walk again. After numerous attempts and persistence on the part of YMCA social workers, Mu’in started to accept his new reality and started to refocus his life on how to adjust and integrate himself into society. The YMCA Rehabilitation Program helped him start a small olive wood workshop in his home. This workshop became his passion and he started working day and night. His workshop is very successful now and Mu’in is doing a great job marketing his products. He is working on making a short video to advertise his work and raise awareness about the abilities of persons suffering from disabilities. Mu’in has already hired another worker, a friend who is also disabled, and hopes to employ more disabled persons in his workshop.

MCC also partners with the East Jerusalem YMCA in their Women’s Training Program ( With six training modules per year, each module is a comprehensive training course that includes training in agriculture, farming, bee keeping, soap making, food processing, management and other topics that meet the needs of women, particularly in rural areas. MCC’s partnership with the Woman’s Training Program helps individuals like Samar Muhammad. After participating in this program in the Bethlehem area, Samar received loans to begin raising goats. She has already been able to sell some of her goats and currently has three with one pregnant. The project has helped her increase her family income, especially now that her husband, who used to be a construction worker in Israel, is unemployed.

In the Nablus area the YMCA’s Woman’s Training Program works with women all over the northern West Bank, from the Jenin district, the Nablus district, and the Ramallah district. Recently, MCC workers met in Nablus with 26 women who received training in this program. Despite the difficulties and restriction on movement due to closures and checkpoints imposed by the Israeli military in the West Bank, women came from across the northern West Bank to meet with us and share their stories. They emphasized the importance of such training and how it has affected their lives economically, socially, and culturally, increasing their financial income, improving work skills, encouraging self sufficiency, and utilizing resources available in their home as well as improving the status of women, challenging social norms, and strengthening the social fabric. In expressing their appreciation for the YMCA’s Woman’s Training Program, they pointed out the value of the training offered with its holistic approach, based on the needs of the community.

MCC partner the Zochrot Association ( has organized several events over the past months. In June, they organized an event “Remembering the Occupation of the Syrian Golan” ( Zochrot toured the occupied Syrian Golan together with the Golan Development Organization and the Emil Touma Institute. Signs were posted at the sites of two villages, al-Rumathniyeh and al-Khashniyeh and brochures were distributed that documented the occupation of the Golan and contained testimonies by Syrian refugees. At the end of the tour they visited the “shouting hill” in Majdal Shams where residents of the Golan speak to their family members in Syria, many of whom they have not seen in years.

In July, Zochrot organized an event remembering the Palestinian refugees from Bir es-Saba / Beersheva ( They gathered in the courtyard of what was once an active mosque for Muslims from Bir es-Seba and the surrounding area. Today the mosque is dormant, and the municipality refuses to permit its use for prayer. In the past the municipality tried to turn the mosque into a museum. Now it just stands neglected. “The struggles against the Muslim residents were carried out with typical Israeli high-handedness,” Zochrot reports. “A statue hinting of the figure of a woman was erected in the courtyard of the mosque, and when the residents intended to protest, the Deputy Mayor scattered garbage around the mosque to deter them. Actions at the mosque revealed the intention of Jewish leaders that Arabs/Muslims disappear from the public eye.”Most recently Zochrot has worked to educate Israelis about the impact of the Israeli offensives into Gaza and Lebanon on the people there. In a protest against the current military campaigns, Zochrot workers scattered flyers from the rooftops of Tel Aviv that contained translated excerpts of the actual leaflets dropped by the IDF in Lebanon that call on citizens to leave their homes. “As we enter another round in the cycle of displacement and refugeehood in our region, Zochrot calls on the Jewish public to question the aims of this war and to acknowledge the roots of the violent conflict that began with the Nakba of 1948” (

Peace to you all,

Timothy Seidel

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

Attachments and Links:

· Amira Hass, “Can you really not see?,” Haaretz, 30 August 2006
· Statement by the Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches In Jerusalem, “The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism,” 22 August 2006
· Amira Hass, “The occupier defines justice,” Haaretz, 23 August 2006
· Seymour Hersh, “Watching Lebanon,” The New Yorker, 21 August 2006
· Yitzhak Laor, “You are terrorists, we are virtuous: Yitzhak Laor on the IDF,” London Review of Books, 17 August 2006
· Rami G Khouri, “Israel and the US are still focused on the wrong issues,” The Guardian, 21 August 2006
· Danny Rubinstein, “This is no way to make a deal,” Haaretz, 21 August 2006
· Gideon Levy, “Meanwhile, in Gaza,” Haaretz, 19 August 2006
· Merav Yudilovitch, “An Interview with Noam Chomsky on Lebanon: Apocalypse Near,”, 16 August 2006
· Daoud Kuttab, “Christian Zionists and False Prophets,”, 14 August 2006
· Meron Benvenisti, “Regressing a full generation,” Haaretz, 10 August 2006
· Andrew Gumbel, “America's one-eyed view of war: Stars, stripes, and the Star of David,” The Independent, 15 August 2006


Can you really not see?
Amira Hass

30 August 2006

Let us leave aside those Israelis whose ideology supports the dispossession of the Palestinian people because "God chose us." Leave aside the judges who whitewash every military policy of killing and destruction. Leave aside the military commanders who knowingly jail an entire nation in pens surrounded by walls, fortified observation towers, machine guns, barbed wire and blinding projectors. Leave aside the ministers. All of these are not counted among the collaborators. These are the architects, the planners, the designers, the executioners.

But there are others. Historians and mathematicians, senior editors, media stars, psychologists and family doctors, lawyers who do not support Gush Emunim and Kadima, teachers and educators, lovers of hiking trails and sing-alongs, high-tech wizards. Where are you? And what about you, researchers of Nazism, the Holocaust and Soviet gulags? Could you all be in favor of systematic discriminating laws? Laws stating that the Arabs of the Galilee will not even be compensated for the damages of the war by the same sums their Jewish neighbors are entitled to (Aryeh Dayan, Haaretz , August 21).

Could it be that you are all in favor of a racist Citizenship Law that forbids an Israeli Arab from living with his family in his own home? That you side with further expropriation of lands and the demolishing of additional orchards, for another settler neighborhood and another exclusively Jewish road? That you all back the shelling and missile fire killing the old and the young in the Gaza Strip?

Could it be that you all agree that a third of the West Bank (the Jordan Valley) should be off limits to Palestinians? That you all side with an Israeli policy that prevents tens of thousands of Palestinians who have obtained foreign citizenship from returning to their families in the occupied territories?

Could your mind really be so washed with the security excuse, used to forbid Gaza students from studying occupational therapy at Bethlehem and medicine at Abu Dis, and preventing sick people from Rafah from receiving medical treatment in Ramallah? Will also you find it easy to hide behind the explanation "we had no idea": we had no idea that the discrimination practiced in the distribution of water - which is solely controlled by Israel - leaves thousands of Palestinian households without water during the hot summer months; we had no idea that when the IDF blocks the entrance to villages, it also blocks their access to springs or water tanks.

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The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism
Statement by the Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches In Jerusalem

22 August 2006

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." (Matthew 5:9)

Christian Zionism is a modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel. The Christian Zionist programme provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it laces an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ's love and justice today. We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.

We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world.

We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ. Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to liberate themselves from the ideologies of militarism and occupation. Instead, let them pursue the healing of the nations!

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The occupier defines justice
Amira Hass

23 August 2006

These three detainees/abducted join about 10,000 other Palestinian prisoners and detainees. As with the prisoners of the Hebrew resistance, who saw themselves as POWs regardless of their actions (killing British soldiers or Arab civilians), some Palestinians request that their prisoners be declared POWs. Others prefer the definition of political prisoners. Let's let the definitions rest. In any case, from the offense to the jailing, Israel, as an occupying force, plays around with the definitions as it sees fit…

The Palestinian detainees are led to a military court: The same military establishment that occupies and destroys and suppresses the civilian population is the one that determines that to resist occupation - even by popular demonstrations and waving flags, not only by killing and bearing arms - is a crime. It is the one to prosecute, and it is the one to judge. Its judges are loyal to the interest of defending the occupier and the settler.

Allegedly every Palestinian is tried, convicted and jailed as a private person who committed a criminal offense. But a sharp discrimination in the conditions of imprisonment proves that the Palestinian security prisoner is punished not as an individual, but as a representative of a group, as part of its overall suppression. Contrary to international law, the majority of Palestinian prisoners and detainees are not held in the occupied territory, but rather inside Israel. Contrary to popular myth, Israel does not respect the right to regular family visits…

It is no wonder that the Palestinians support every action - such as kidnapping soldiers - that tries to break the rules of this discrimination game. Every Palestinian prisoner's personal history is an expression of the freedom Israel allows itself in the implanting of an extreme subculture of double standard, discriminating blood from blood, human being from human being, nation from nation.

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The New Yorker
Watching Lebanon: Washington’s Interest in Israel’s War
Seymour M. Hersh

21 August 2006

In the days after Hezbollah crossed from Lebanon into Israel, on July 12th, to kidnap two soldiers, triggering an Israeli air attack on Lebanon and a full-scale war, the Bush Administration seemed strangely passive. “It’s a moment of clarification,” President George W. Bush said at the G-8 summit, in St. Petersburg, on July 16th. “It’s now become clear why we don’t have peace in the Middle East.” He described the relationship between Hezbollah and its supporters in Iran and Syria as one of the “root causes of instability,” and subsequently said that it was up to those countries to end the crisis. Two days later, despite calls from several governments for the United States to take the lead in negotiations to end the fighting, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that a ceasefire should be put off until “the conditions are conducive.”

The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preëmptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground…

According to a Middle East expert with knowledge of the current thinking of both the Israeli and the U.S. governments, Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah—and shared it with Bush Administration officials—well before the July 12th kidnappings. “It’s not that the Israelis had a trap that Hezbollah walked into,” he said, “but there was a strong feeling in the White House that sooner or later the Israelis were going to do it”…

“The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. “Why oppose it? We’ll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran.”

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London Review of Books
You are terrorists, we are virtuous: Yitzhak Laor on the IDF
Yitzhak Laor

17 August 2006

Mass psychology works best when you can pinpoint an institution or a phenomenon with which large numbers of people identify. Israelis identify with the IDF, and even after the deaths of many Lebanese children in Qana, they think that stopping the war without scoring a definitive victory would amount to defeat. This logic reveals our national psychosis, and it derives from our over-identification with Israeli military thinking.

In the melodramatic barrage fired off by the press, the army is assigned the dual role of hero and victim. And the enemy? In Hebrew broadcasts the formulations are always the same: on the one hand ‘we’, ‘ours’, ‘us’; on the other, Nasrallah and Hizbullah. There aren’t, it seems, any Lebanese in this war. So who is dying under Israeli fire? Hizbullah. And if we ask about the Lebanese? The answer is always that Israel has no quarrel with Lebanon. It’s yet another illustration of our unilateralism, the thundering Israeli battle-cry for years: no matter what happens around us, we have the power and therefore we can enforce the logic. If only Israelis could see the damage that’s been done by all these years of unilateral thinking. But we cannot, because the army – which has always been the core of the state – determines the shape of our lives and the nature of our memories, and wars like this one erase everything we thought we knew, creating a new version of history with which we can only concur. If the army wins, its success becomes part of ‘our heritage’. Israelis have assimilated the logic and the language of the IDF – and in the process, they have lost their memories. Is there a better way to understand why we have never learned from history? We have never been a match for the army, whose memory – the official Israeli memory – is hammered into place at the centre of our culture by an intelligentsia in the service of the IDF and the state.

The IDF is the most powerful institution in Israeli society, and one which we are discouraged from criticising. Few have studied the dominant role it plays in the Israeli economy. Even while they are still serving, our generals become friendly with the US companies that sell arms to Israel; they then retire, loaded with money, and become corporate executives. The IDF is the biggest customer for everything and anything in Israel. In addition, our high-tech industries are staffed by a mixture of military and ex-military who work closely with the Western military complex. The current war is the first to become a branding opportunity for one of our largest mobile phone companies, which is using it to run a huge promotional campaign. Israel’s second biggest bank, Bank Leumi, used inserts in the three largest newspapers to distribute bumper stickers saying: ‘Israel is powerful.’ The military and the universities are intimately linked too, with joint research projects and an array of army scholarships.

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The Guardian
Israel and the US are still focused on the wrong issues
Rami G Khouri

21 August 21, 2006

Every major political issue - Lebanon, Iraq, radicalism - links back to the festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict

We have a very simple choice before us in the Middle East: we can get serious about working together to give the people of this region a chance to live normal lives in peace and security; or we can all act silly in the ways of provincial chieftains, as many public figures in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Israel and the US have done in recent days.

The chances of achieving a region-wide peace in the Middle East are slim to non existent right now, because the key non-Arab players are focusing on the wrong issues. They are trying to manage or eliminate the symptoms of our region's tensions instead of addressing the root causes. Hizbullah and Iran are among the best examples of this.

Israel and the US are obsessed with disarming Hizbullah and confronting Iran. But a quarter of a century ago neither of these issues existed. How Hizbullah and Iran became so problematic is worth recalling. Until 1979 Iran under the Shah was a close ally and friend of the US and Israel, and Hizbullah was not even born. What happened in the three decades from the mid-70s to today? Many things. The most consistent one was that we all allowed the Arab-Israeli conflict to fester unresolved. Its bitterness kept seeping out from its Palestine-Israel core to corrode many other dimensions of the region.

Please read more at,,1854636,00.html


This is no way to make a deal
Danny Rubinstein

21 August 2006

The unilateral concept now seems, after the events in Lebanon and Gaza, to be dying. No more unilateral convergence. Along with it may die its twin sibling: the separation wall. What use is there for a wall when war is fought with Katyushas, Qassams and kidnappings? When the wall's path followed the Green Line, it was one thing, but when it started to penetrate into the West Bank, and particularly into the Jerusalem area - it became a delusional annexation plan that is nearly impossible to carry out, other than with suffering, discrimination and exploitation that cannot last in the long run.

The only alternative to unilateralism has been and remains striving for an agreement. The Palestinians are requesting it and in recent days have been working toward it. Last week Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was in Gaza for three days during which he had long conversations with senior Hamas figures. For the first time Abbas convened the PA's National Security Council in Gaza, for a meeting which included Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Interior Minister Saeed Seyam, who is in charge of the PA's internal security apparatus…

The Israeli government acts as if the Palestinian political running around does not concern it. Business proceeds as usual with the uprooting of olive trees, lately in the village of Zbuba in the Jenin district, and the expropriation of lands for use of the wall and the settlements (last week complaints came from the areas of Susiya, Halhoul, Beit Omar and Al-Arub in Mount Hebron, and from Tul Karm and Paron in Samaria). Raids, assassinations and arrests continue, the last of which was of Deputy Prime Minister Nasser al-Shaer of Hamas, who was taken from his Ramallah home and joined the dozens of Hamas politicians, including ministers and Parliament members, who are imprisoned in Israel. Related to this or not, various organizations' cells in the West Bank are preparing for attacks, and as usual there is no end to the abuses at the checkpoints, which, apart from the women of Machsom Watch, no longer bother anyone in Israel.

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Meanwhile, in Gaza
Gideon Levy

19 August 2006

We did, however, see quite a lot of rubble, some inexplicable, such as the ruins of a once-flourishing sewing factory owned by Ahmed Abed al-Jawad, who makes garments for the Israeli fashion industry and has a "Jewish mentality," by his own definition. He employed 70 workers in the Muazi refugee camp, in the heart of the Gaza Strip. The bulldozers cruelly buried his life's work, and half a million shekels, he says, went down the drain.

Gaza looks even dirtier and more neglected than usual. Signs of the Israeli and international boycott can be seen in the piles of garbage that fill the streets: No salaries means no street cleaners. Cooking gas is difficult to come by, electricity is available only a few hours a day - after all, Israel, in its kindhearted wisdom, bombed the transformers. Generators for the rich and oil lanterns for the poor are highly sought-after commodities.

Fisherman like fish and the Israeli Air Force likes bridges: Not only did the IAF destroy the largest bridge in the Strip, in order to split the territory in half, but it also bombed a railway bridge, one over which no train has traveled for dozens of years.

Gaza does not appear to be interested in the war in Lebanon; it's not their war. Here, they are more concerned with when and where the army of tanks and bulldozers will invade tomorrow, how to find the money to buy school uniforms and bags for the school year that begins in two weeks' time, and how they'll make it through the upcoming month of Ramadan.

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An Interview with Noam Chomsky on Lebanon: Apocalypse Near
Merav Yudilovitch

16 August 2006

MY: You say the provocation and counter-provocation all serve as a distraction from the real issue. does the war in Lebanon is also a distraction the aims to draw the world's attention to the north of Israel while Gaza is been destroyed?

NC: I assume you are referring to John Berger's letter (which I signed, among others).

The "real issue" that is being ignored is the systematic destruction of any prospects for a viable Palestinian existence as Israel annexes valuable land and major resources (water particularly), leaving the shrinking territories assigned to Palestinians as unviable cantons, largely separated from one another and from whatever little bit of Jerusalem is to be left to Palestinians, and completely imprisoned as Israel takes over the Jordan valley (and of course controls air space, etc.). This program of "hitkansut," cynically disguised as "withdrawal," is of course completely illegal, in violation of Security Council resolutions and the unanimous decision of the World Court (including the dissenting statement of US Justice Buergenthal). If it is implemented as planned, it spells the end of the very broad international consensus on a two-state settlement that the US and Israel have unilaterally blocked for 30 years ­ matters that are so well documented that I do not have to review them here.

The US and Israel do not tolerate any resistance to these plans, preferring to pretend ­ falsely of course ­ that "there is no partner," as they proceed with programs that go back a long way. We may recall that Gaza and the West Bank are recognized to be a unit, so that if resistance to Israel's destructive and illegal progams is considered to be legitimate within the West Bank, then it is legitimate in Gaza as well, in reaction to Israeli actions in the West Bank.

To turn to your specific question, even a casual look at the Western press reveals that the crucial developments in the occupied territories are marginalized even more by the war in Lebanon. The ongoing destruction in Gaza ­ which was rarely seriously reported in the first place -- has largely faded into the background, and the systematic takeover of the West Bank has virtually disappeared. The severe punishment of the population for "voting the wrong way" was never considered problematic, consistent with the long-standing principle that democracy is fine if and only if it accords with strategic and economic interests, documented to the heavens. However, I would not go as far as the implication in your question that this was a purpose of the war, though it clearly is the effect.

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Christian Zionists and False Prophets
Daoud Kuttab

14 August 2006

As if we don’t have enough problems with Muslim and Jewish fundamentalists, we are now confronted with yet another -ist. Christian Zionists, mostly from the United States, are trying to throw their weight behind one of the parties, in effect calling for the continuation of the war and carnage in Lebanon.

A small minority of evangelical Christians have entered the Middle East political arena with some of the most un-Christian statements I have ever heard. The latest gems come from people like Pat Robertson, the founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, and Rev. John Hagee of Christians United for Israel. Hagee, a popular televangelist who leads the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, ratcheted up his rhetoric this year with the publication of his book, “Jerusalem Countdown,” in which he argues that a confrontation with Iran is a necessary precondition for Armageddon (which will mean the death of most Jews, in his eyes) and the Second Coming of Christ.

In the best-selling book, Hagee insists that the United States must join Israel in a preemptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West. Shortly after the book’s publication, he launched Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which, as the Christian version of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, he said would cause “a political earthquake.” With the outbreak of the war on Lebanon, he and others have called to their followers to pray for Israel, and for the continuation of the war on Lebanon. They have demanded that Israel not relent in what they call the need to destroy Hezbollah and Hamas. They seem to have completely forgotten the very core of the Christian faith…

Christian Zionists who use religious rhetoric to justify political and military actions are no better than Jewish or Islamic fundamentalists who make similar outlandish claims. Peace in the Middle East should be about the liberty, independence and freedoms of all the people of the region, and not about whose promised land the Holy Land is.

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Regressing a full generation
Meron Benvenisti

10 August 2006

With tragic consistency, every time the public discourse has been open to discussions of a new Israeli agenda, security issues have restored the concept of "the existential threat" that has suffocated these efforts. That is what happened on the eve of the 1967 war, before the 1973 war, during the Lebanon War and during the Gulf War. Now, after a commitment to social welfare was central to the election campaign, and the present coalition was taking its first steps on the path of repairing the damage caused by the neo-liberal policy of former finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the war has come along and reinstated the security agenda for many years to come.

How will Israeli society bear the additional economic burden that will be placed on it as a result of the war? The slow and rickety process of improving relations between Israel and the moderate Arab states has been interrupted, and is being replaced by a process of radicalization, which first and foremost frightens the leaders of the countries who signed peace treaties with Israel. One need only listen to the despair of Jordan's King Abdullah II in order to understand what the destructive operations in Beirut have wrought. And under the aegis of the diversion in Lebanon, the IDF has killed almost 200 Palestinians in Gaza and imprisoned dozens of Palestinian Authority parliament members and ministers. In this situation, can we talk about evacuating outposts, convergence or the other subjects that were on the national agenda?

The war and the atmosphere that has prevailed in its wake have caused Israel to regress by a generation. It is no wonder that people see history as a cyclical process, and that this war (like its predecessors) is also seen as the "last lap of Israel's War of Independence." And with what fury we are stoning those who do not rush to fill the heroic role being forced on them, and instead counter it with a desire for normalcy. Those who began this unrestrained war want to inflate its importance, in order to justify the terrible - and steadily increasing - price that is being paid solely in order to achieve a victory for the gambler. But perhaps the fact that they are conducting a 1950s strategy with a 21st-century society and culture is cause for optimism: It will not work.

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The Independent
America's one-eyed view of war: Stars, stripes, and the Star of David
Andrew Gumbel

15 August 2006

There are two sides to every conflict - unless you rely on the US media for information about the battle in Lebanon. Viewers have been fed a diet of partisan coverage which treats Israel as the good guys and their Hizbollah enemy as the incarnation of evil. Andrew Gumbel reports from Los Angeles

It is not just the US media which tilts in a pro-Israeli direction. Congress, too, is remarkably unified in its support for the Israeli government, and politicians more generally understand that to criticise Israel is to risk jeopardising their future careers. When Antonio Villaraigosa, the up-and-coming Democratic Mayor of Los Angeles, was first invited to comment on the Middle East crisis, he sounded a note so pro-Israeli that he was forced to apologise to local Muslim and Arab community leaders. There is far less public debate of Israeli policy in the US, in fact, than there is in Israel itself.

This is less a reflection of American Jewish opinion - which is more diverse than is suggested in the media - than it is a commentary on the power of pro-Israeli lobby groups like Aipac, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which bankrolls pro-Israeli congressional candidates. That, in turn, is frustrating to liberal Jews like Michael Lerner, a San Francisco rabbi who heads an anti-war community called Tikkun. Rabbi Lerner has tried to argue for years that it is in Israel's best interests to reach a peaceful settlement, and that demonising Arabs as terrorists is counter-productive and against Judaism.

Lerner is probably right to assert that he speaks for a large number of American Jews, only half of whom are affiliated with pro-Israeli lobbying organisations. Certainly, dinner party conversation in heavily Jewish cities like New York suggest misgivings about Israel's strategic aims, even if there is some consensus that Hizbollah cannot be allowed to strike with impunity.

Few, if any, of those misgivings have entered the US media. "There is no major figure in American political life who has been willing to raise the issue of the legitimate needs of the Palestinian people, or even talk about them as human beings," Lerner said. "The organised Jewish community has transformed the image of Judaism into a cheering squad for the Israeli government, whatever its policies are. That is just idolatry, and goes against all the warnings in the Bible about giving too much power to the king or the state."

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