Israel and Palestine
Arabs Must Recognize Israel’s Right to Exist
By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace Originally published 9/24/2010
New York – President Obama delivered his speech to the United Nations General Assembly Thursday in New York and it focused largely on his desire to see the Middle East peace process proceed ahead despite all the difficulties.
Mr. Obama stated that he wanted it to succeed in accomplishing the peace that has eluded the Arabs and the Israelis for over 60 years. Realizing that there are many obstacles and hurdles ahead during tough negotiations for diplomats from both sides, he stated his concerns and his hopes for the road ahead.
“I hear those voices of skepticism, but I ask you to consider
the alternative,” Obama said. If no peace agreement is reached, he added, “then the hard realities of demography will take hold. More blood will be shed. This Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity.”
“I refuse to accept that future,” he added. “And we all have a choice to make. Each of us must choose the path of peace. …We can say that this time will be different – that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way.”
“If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations – an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel,” Obama said to a loud applause by the delegates of all the countries at the United Nations.
In order for this to happen, the Arabs must first recognize Israel’s right to exist and the right of the Jewish people to claim specifically a part of the Holy Land as theirs. I know, it sounds so basic and a no- brainer. But surprisingly a large portion of the Arab world does not believe in Israel’s right to exist and specifically their right to exist in the southern Levant area which makes up the majority of the area for present day Israel. They want to ignore history and all the Biblical and historical evidence of Jewish settlement and claims to the land. They point to the migration of many Jews all over the world the last few hundred years as reason enough as to why they no longer can call Israel home. Some Arabs demand that the Jewish homeland should be in Germany. After all, they claim, it is where so many of them were killed by Hitler and the main reason that precipitated the need to allow the Zionists of Europe and America, post World War II, to demand a home for the Jews. Why should the Palestinians pay for the crimes of the Europeans they argue?
Others have blamed the British and the Balfour Declaration when in 1917 the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, declared in a letter to Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community for a need for a home for the Jews when he stated: “His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
Quite simply, no other place makes any sense whatsoever. First of all, there is extensive mentioning of the land of Israel that is promised to the Jews in the Bible as well as the Hebrew texts, not to mention the Qur’an. All three identify geographic areas in present day Israel that has historically been identified as the homeland of the Jews. Jewish people do not even make up more than 1% of any country’s overall population other than in United States (2.2% of overall population), Canada (1.2% of population), France (1% of population) and Israel (75% of population). That means that for the rest of the world, each country’s Jewish population is not even one half of one percent of the overall population of that nation! Where else would the Arabs have them go? Certainly not Germany where many claim that they should be settled since that is where over 6 million of them were killed in the holocaust. The United States actually has more Jews in its boundaries than are currently residing in all of Israel. So they cannot very well say that they should go there as over half the population already lives here.
Most people do not realize that the Jewish population of the world is very small compared to Christianity or Islam. There are an estimated 15 million Jews around the world including in Israel. By comparison, there are over 2.1 billion Christians and nearly 1.5 billion Muslims. Nearly 105 countries of the world are majority Christian nations while there are perhaps at best 55 majority Muslim countries on the planet. Did you ever wonder how many majority Jewish countries of the world are there? There is just one. Israel.
This is one of the great religions of the world and also one of the oldest monotheistic beliefs aside from Zoroastrianism, and came at a time when polytheistic beliefs were more prevalent as a human concept of divinity. No doubt, both Christianity and Islam owe a great deal of their religious thoughts and laws to the early Hebrew laws and traditions. In fact, large parts of both the Bible and the Qur’an constitute the Old Testament, also known as the Torah, the Jewish holy book and the scriptures revealed to Moses.
Jewish contributions to humanity have been disproportionate and staggering when one realizes that as less than one half of one percent of the world’s populations, the Jews have made immense advances in nearly every field that has benefitted the whole world. We can go from Albert Einstein’s advances in physics to Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine, discuss Galileo’s contributions in astronomy to Freud’s understanding of the mind. We could illustrate how Baruch Spinoza’s rationalist ideas and philosophies laid the groundwork for The Enlightenment of the 18 century or marvel at the brilliant filmmaking of 21st century Jews like Steven Spielberg and Oliver Stone. The list of Jewish contributions and the value of their culture to man’s history cannot be ignored.
What also cannot be ignored is that historically these are a persecuted people. The troubles that they faced in ancient Egypt as illustrated in the Bible as well as the deaths and expulsions during the Spanish Inquisition are part of their sad history. They faced persecution at the hands of both Christians and Muslims during the Crusades and at the time of the Papal States as well as during Muslim rule when they were subjected to the jizya (a per capita tax imposed on free adult non-Muslim males). The worst crimes nonetheless happened in the 20th century leading up to World War II when millions were killed in the Holocaust in Germany by Hitler’s Nazism and by Stalinist Russia.
So as the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the other Arab countries, sit down over the next couple of weeks to resolve once and for all the Middle East conflict, the Arab street and indeed the entire Muslim world, must come to a realization and acceptance of the fact that the state of Israel has a right to exist; and has a right to exist in this ancient land as much as the Palestinians, who also have the rights to parts of this holy soil that is so important to all three religions. No doubt, historically and Biblically, the Palestinians can make similar claims also. Except, in Israel’s case, there is no other nation for the Jews, whereas, there are 55 others for Muslims. It is only with this undeniable understanding that true and lasting peace will ever be achieved and it can clear the way for a two state solution that President Obama envisions and one that will allow the normalization of relations between Israel, the Arab and the entire Muslim world.
As perhaps the most famous Jew of all time, Jesus, once said, “Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity and may peace be with you.” Indeed, Shalom and Salaam equal peace and that can finally be achieved once there is mutual respect and acceptance of the right of the other to exist.
–Manzer Munir, a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, looks forward to a day when there will be peace between Israel and all the Muslim countries of the world, including Pakistan. He is the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a free lance journalist and writer.
Netanyahu May Be a Latter-Day Gorbachev
By Aluf Benn for Haaretz.com 8/27/2010
The opening of the direct talks with the Palestinians again raises the question: Who is Benjamin Netanyahu? Is he our Gorbachev, a great reformer who will end Israeli rule in the territories? A “Nixon who went to China” – a right-winger who disavowed his former approach and changed the balance of power with a brilliant diplomatic stroke? Or is he the “old Bibi” depicted by his rivals, the illusionist who is afraid of daddy Benzion and wife Sara, the uptight leader who flinches from making decisions and passes time by dribbling the ball?
An examination of Netanyahu’s declarations and actions in the 17 months that have passed since his return to power lends support to the first option. The current Netanyahu government is the most dovish Israel has seen since Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. The right-wing leader is displaying far more restraint than his predecessors in using the army and in expanding the settlements. He supports the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel and is now returning to negotiations on a final-status agreement.
Mikhail Gorbachev was elected head of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union in order to salvage an atrophied system. Netanyahu returned to power at the head of a right-wing coalition in order “to preserve the Land of Israel,” after Ariel Sharon had “disengaged” from the Gaza Strip and Ehud Olmert planned a further withdrawal from the territories. The first decision he made was to stop the Annapolis process (he called the move a “policy review” ). Gorbachev reexamined the Soviet method and tried to fix it, until it collapsed. Likewise, Netanyahu has found himself at a point he wanted to avoid: negotiations on the “core issues” of Jerusalem, borders and refugees, under the auspices of an American administration striving to end the Israeli occupation in the territories.
But Netanyahu is not being evasive. On the contrary, he is entering the negotiations enthusiastically, after having shaken off the proximity talks the Palestinians forced on him and mustering the support of U.S. President Barack Obama and the Arab League to force direct talks on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Everywhere he goes Netanyahu promises that he is committed to getting an agreement, which implies dividing the country into two states: Israel and Palestine.
Of course, this moderation was effected under pressure, not out of a sudden revelation. Gorbachev and Nixon each also fomented a sea change for lack of choice, after recognizing their own weakness, not because they suddenly adopted their rivals’ ideologies. Underlying their shift was an assessment of strategic inferiority.
Domestically, in the absence of competitors, Netanyahu enjoys greater political power than any prime minister in the past generation. But looking outward he fears Israel’s growing international isolation and Iran’s increasing strength as it draws closer to nuclear capability. The line Netanyahu is pursuing is clear: Israel needs international support, and its relations with the United States take top priority, far more so than right-wing ideology. Whenever Netanyahu encounters a forceful demand by Obama, he obeys.
Understanding the balance
Successful statesmanship involves understanding the balance of power and a readiness to adjust ideology to reality. This was shown by prime ministers from David Ben-Gurion, who withdrew from Sinai immediately after declaring the “third Jewish commonwealth,” to Yitzhak Shamir in the Gulf War and the Madrid Conference, and Ariel Sharon, who evacuated the Gaza settlements and disavowed his pronouncement that what goes for Netzarim goes for Tel Aviv, too.
The world media calls Netanyahu’s government hard-line, but its right-wing approach is directed toward internal politics. It is reflected in its battle against the political ambitions of Israel’s Arab community and left-wing university lecturers. Beyond the separation fence, Netanyahu is behaving like a leftist. In accordance with his character, and as he did in his first term in office, he is using military force sparingly. His responses to cross-border shootings are precise and measured. His entanglement in the Gaza flotilla episode was due to a faulty understanding of the situation, not from an attempt to use excessive force. His testimony before the Turkel Committee, which is investigating that episode, in which he described how the decision to stop the Turkish flotilla was made, showed he gets bored with operational details and does not listen to them. He feels a lot more at home browbeating the United Nations than in divisional exercises or war rooms, and he pays few visits to the Israel Defense Forces. His military curiosity, to the degree that it exists, focuses on strategic air and sea deployment.
His attitude toward the Palestinians is instrumental. Netanyahu is not enchanted by Arab history and culture; the neighbors do not interest him. Nor, contrary to Ariel Sharon, does he hate Arabs. He likes to cross swords with the Palestinians over the historical narrative, to fight for recognition of the Jewish people’s deep right to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem. No trust exists between him and Abbas; Netanyahu is entering the negotiations under a cautionary note that there might not be a Palestinian partner.
But practically speaking, the security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority is closer than ever, and the prime minister is working harder than his predecessors did to strengthen the Palestinian economy and to remove checkpoints and roadblocks. As he sees it, the busier the West Bank crossing points are, the less the motivation for terrorist attacks.
Netanyahu built his career on opposing withdrawals and concessions. Even during the last election campaign, he would say in closed meetings that he objected in principle to a Palestinian state. But in his first meeting with Obama as president, in May 2009, he was presented him with a firm demand to stop all construction on the other side of the Green Line, first of all in East Jerusalem. That was the president’s “shock and awe” tactic, as recommended by his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
Obama was roundly criticized for taking this approach, on the grounds that it gave the Palestinians high hopes for a coerced agreement and encouraged Abbas to avoid direct talks. But Obama’s aggressiveness worked wonders with Netanyahu, who gradually accepted the idea of “two states for two peoples.” He froze construction in the settlements for 10 months, quietly stopped the building in East Jerusalem, partially lifted the blockade of Gaza and agreed to an international examination of the flotilla episode (via the presence of foreign observers at the Turkel committee and Israeli participation in the team appointed by the UN secretary general ).
Netanyahu also toned down his pronouncements against Iran and forced his cabinet ministers to be quiet and refrain from making counter-threats against Tehran or responding to foreign reports about the looming Iranian bomb. He has not created an emergency atmosphere in Israel and is keeping the military preparations for a confrontation with Iran low profile (there have been unplanned exceptions, such as the helicopter crash in Romania ). Israel’s threats to attack Iran are being made indirectly, through foreign media briefings, such as the recent article by Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic magazine. Senior ministers say the coordination and understanding between Israel and the United States over Iran have grown much tighter in the past year, as is evident from the many meetings between the countries’ defense heads.
Netanyahu rose to the country’s leadership via the United Nations and television. His role model is Theodor Herzl, the father of political Zionism, who fought for the support of the great powers. As a diplomat, Netanyahu understands and appreciates power, as reflected in the slogan he repeated during the Oslo era: “If they give, they will get.” This is also the key to understanding his complex relations with Obama.
When Nixon undertook his historic trip to Beijing, he wrote himself a note listing the interests of the United States and China under three headings: “What they want,” “What we want” and “What both sides want.” (Even by 1972 Nixon had assessed that China, then barely beyond the Cultural Revolution, would become a superpower. )
It would be interesting to know if Netanyahu writes similar notes before visiting the White House. If so, they might say something like, “The president wants Jewish support in the Congressional elections and then in the presidential elections, to show he advanced a Palestinian state, and to avert a regional war. I want to stay in power, thwart the Iranian nuclear project and extract Israel from its international isolation. Both of us want to strengthen the moderate regimes in the Arab states, block Iran’s growing power and preserve Israel as America’s ward.”
In his last encounter with Obama, on July 7, Netanyahu reached an agreement with the president, who publicly called the meeting “excellent.” The result was a transition to direct talks with the Palestinians, which are set to begin Thursday in Washington.
American officials said afterward that the prime minister expressed himself in a new way on the Palestinian question. In diplomacy it’s always claimed that the other side made the concessions. (China’s prime minister, Zhou En-Lai, told the Politburo that Nixon asked to visit China “like a whore all dressed up and knocking at our back door.” )
Maybe Netanya hu showed Obama the map of the agreement that he will present to Abbas and the list of settlements to be evacuated. Or maybe – and this is more likely – he made do with vague comments such as “I was not elected just to sit in my chair – I want to foment change,” and gave the Nobel Peace Prize laureate a challenge to move to direct talks.
The opening positions that Netanyahu is presenting in the negotiations on “two states for two nations” focus on three demands: security, meaning the demilitarization of the Palestinian state and the deployment of the Israel Defense Forces in the Jordan Valley, in order to prevent heavy weapons and rockets from entering the West Bank; recognition of Israel as “the state of the Jewish people,” which the Palestinians are vehemently refusing to do, and allowing the return of Palestinian refugees only to Palestine, not to Israel; and a declaration of “the end of the conflict,” to avert future claims by Arabs in the Negev and Galilee for autonomy or independence.
The Palestinians had hoped Obama would force a final-status settlement on Israel. Netanyahu wants Obama to force an interim settlement on the Palestinians that sets borders and security arrangements, wherein the “clauses of the narrative” – the mutual claims for recognition of the state of the Jewish people and the refugees’ right of return – neutralize each other and are cleared from the road. The result would be a Palestinian state within temporary borders.
Also interesting is what Netanyahu is not saying. He does not attach security importance to the settlements and does not visit settlements outside the large blocs. His statements on Jerusalem are ambiguous (he recently declared that the city would not be divided, but did not say it would remain entirely under Israeli sovereignty ). All this is before he has sat down even once for a serious talk with Abbas.
Once Nixon arrived in China, he wrote himself a new note, slightly longer, in which he summed up the purpose of his visit: “A tradeoff between Taiwan and Vietnam.” America wanted to leave Vietnam with as little humiliation as possible, and China wanted America to remove its troops from the neighboring island.
In the case of Obama and Netanyahu, the deal can be summed up as “Iran in exchange for the settlements.” The tougher the line that Washington takes on the Iranian nuclear project, or the more freedom of action it gives Israel, the more Israel will cede in the West Bank. That is the basis for Netanyahu’s policy. He views his supreme goal as the prevention of the “second Holocaust” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is plotting.
Netanyahu needs the talks with the Palestinians in order to breach Israel’s international isolation and to strengthen his stance against Iran, and possibly also the legitimacy of a potential future attack. The timetable set for the negotiations – until August 2011 – buys him time and political quiet, after he resolves the crisis that can be expected when the freeze on settlement construction ends.
His abilities as a politician and a diplomat will be put to the test – and he has pretty good cards to play – both with the Palestinians, who want more territory and power in the West Bank, and with his own coalition, which so far has backed his moves. Upon declaring the settlement freeze, Netanyahu promised that when it ends “we will return to the construction policy of previous governments.” The two last governments, Sharon’s and Olmert’s, built only in the settlement blocs – in places where Netanyahu has promised Israel will remain for all time – and blocked development outside the separation fence.
The prime ministers who have entered political processes, from Rabin to Olmert, all went a great deal farther in the talks with the Palestinians than they originally intended. The same pattern will probably repeat itself in Netanyahu’s case if the talks continue, as happened to Gorbachev and Nixon. The prime minister understands this and has requested that he be given a chance.
“When you get to be my advanced age, you don’t come back to spend time in office. It’s not that pleasant anyway,” he said last month in New York. “You come back to do something. I’m prepared to do something, and I’m prepared to take risks. I won’t take risks with our security, but I’m willing to take political risks.”
We’ll be watching.
Arab Guilty of Rape After Consensual Sex with Jew
By Jo Adetunji and Harriet Sherwood for The Guardian
A Palestinian man has been convicted of rape after having consensual sex with a woman who had believed him to be a fellow Jew.
Sabbar Kashur, 30, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Monday after the court ruled that he was guilty of rape by deception. According to the complaint filed by the woman with the Jerusalem district court, the two met in downtown Jerusalem in September 2008 where Kashur, an Arab from East Jerusalem, introduced himself as a Jewish bachelor seeking a serious relationship. The two then had consensual sex in a nearby building before Kashur left.
When she later found out that he was not Jewish but an Arab, she filed a criminal complaint for rape and indecent assault.
Although Kashur was initially charged with rape and indecent assault, this was changed to a charge of rape by deception as part of a plea bargain arrangement.
Handing down the verdict, Tzvi Segal, one of three judges on the case, acknowledged that sex had been consensual but said that although not “a classical rape by force,” the woman would not have consented if she had not believed Kashur was Jewish.
The sex therefore was obtained under false pretences, the judges said. “If she hadn’t thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated,” they added.
The court ruled that Kashur should receive a jail term and rejected the option of a six-month community service order. He was said to be seeking to appeal.
Segal said: “The court is obliged to protect the public interest from sophisticated, smooth-tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price – the sanctity of their bodies and souls. When the very basis of trust between human beings drops, especially when the matters at hand are so intimate, sensitive and fateful, the court is required to stand firmly at the side of the victims – actual and potential – to protect their wellbeing. Otherwise, they will be used, manipulated and misled, while paying only a tolerable and symbolic price.”
Gideon Levy, a liberal Israeli commentator, was quoted as saying: “I would like to raise only one question with the judge. What if this guy had been a Jew who pretended to be a Muslim and had sex with a Muslim woman?
“Would he have been convicted of rape? The answer is: of course not.”
Arabs constitute about 20% of Israel’s population, but relationships between Jews and Arabs are rare. There are few mixed neighbourhoods or towns, and Arabs suffer routine discrimination.
Israeli MPs are considering a law requiring prospective Israeli citizens to declare loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish, democratic state”. Many Arabs would balk at swearing allegiance to a state which they see as explicitly excluding or marginalising them.
Dan Meridor, a deputy prime minister in Binyamin Netanyahu’s government, is opposed to the proposal. “Why does every bill need the word ‘Jewish’ in it – to show the Arab citizens that it doesn’t belong to them? Then we’re all shocked when they radicalise their stance.
“The majority doesn’t need to remind the minority that it is in fact a minority all the time,” he added.
By JerusalemPost.com Staff 4/4/10
According to Turkish reports, Celikkol’s replacement will be Kerim Uras, a local diplomat who is an expert on Middle Eastern affairs. The reason for the move was not disclosed.
In January, reports surfaced that Celikkol asked to be recalled after a humiliating public debacle in which he was seated on a lower chair than that of Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and another Israeli diplomat when he the ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry. The Jerusalem Post reported in February that Celikkol had never not requested reassignment, but had said that there was “no way back” from the disrespectful insult.
During the controversial meeting, Ayalon had chastised Celikkol over a Turkish prime-time TV show in which Mossad agents were depicted as child-killers and kidnappers. Celikkol was seated on a low stool, with no food and only an Israeli flag on the table.
Ayalon later issued a formal apology, following Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s threat to recall the ambassador unless tensions between the two countries were resolved, but the damage was apparently done: Celikkol will not be completing his first year as ambassador.
Since the incident on January 11, Celikkol met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak during his visit to Ankara, but did not hold any high level meetings in Jerusalem.
Relations between Israel and Turkey have been on a constant downward slope since mediated talks between Jerusalem and Damascus were cut off due to Arab and Turkish outrage over last winter’s IDF Operation Cast Lead.
Israel and Palestine Update
January 3, 2009
We, the Pakistanis for Peace support Peace through out the world. We want Israel and Palestine to stop destruction. We want them to come to the table and develop a plan for peace.
With that said, lets try to understand why this is so difficult. Rewind to 1993, when Yasser Arafat representing the PLO, and representing the state of Israel, signed The Oslo Accords. This granted Palestine the administration of the plus most of the West Bank towns which resulted in the creation of The Palestinian Authority.
Forward to 2006, when Hamas won the elections in Palestine. Hamas is a Palestinian Political faction labeled as a terrorist organization by the United States. And in 2007, they took by force and overthrew the Palestinian Authority. Fatah a part of the Palestinian Authority was in control at the time. Needless to say, Fatah and Hamas are rivals.
Last summer, an agreement of an informal truce between Hamas and Israel was announced by Egypt. This agreement stated that Israel would limit its commercial shipping across its Gaza border and Palestine would be willing to discuss the release of, an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas. When Israeli officials denied any such agreement, Hamas announced that “it is Hamas’s right to respond to any Israeli aggression before its implementation.”
Hamas stayed true its word, was caught digging infiltration tunnels into Israel which resulted in retalliation by the Israeli Defense Forces. Hamas answered back with rockets and this lead to Operation Cast Lead – the airstrikes on Gaza. The Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has indicated that the Operation will continue as long as there are rockets being fired from Gaza.
The UN has condemned both sides and asked for a ceasefire. Andblames Hamas. At this time, it is pointless to point fingers at either party.
A solution needs to be discussed. Egypt needs to be involved, yet again and negotiations need to begin immediately. Also, The Obama Administration needs to step in and help to provide aid to the