Friday, December 03, 2004

 

Shaykh Hassan Yousef says Hamas would accept two-state solution

From Ha'aretz:
"Hamas has announced that it accepts a Palestinian independent state within the 1967 borders with a long-term truce," Sheikh Hassan Yousef, the top Hamas leader in the West Bank, told The Associated Press, referring to lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

[...]

"For us a truce means that two warring parties live side by side in peace and security for a certain period and this period is eligible for renewal," Yousef said. "That means Hamas accepts that the other party will live in security and peace."
Now I can see two main paths that Israel can go with this.

The first would be counterproductive, I believe. That would be to say that you cannot take the word of Hamas seriously, you cannot negotiate with terrorists, and that this fundamnetally proves that Israel's military attacks against Hamas and the Palestinians in general has worked. I think if this is the path taken, there will be no two-state solution. While you can point to the "moderation" of Hamas, I think it is less the result of the military attacks by Israel (though they certainly had an impact) than the involvement of Hamas in the mainstream politics of the Palestinians. I would point more to the PA involving Hamas and other Palestinian factions in talks about Gaza after the disengagement (if it happens) and the involvement of Hamas in talks with other Palestinian factions in the wake of Arafat's death. And while Sharon's aggressive military policy has undoubtedly shaken Hamas (assassinating Yassin and Rantisi having the greatest impact I think), it has also not stopped attacks and I would argue that it has also served to destabilize Palestinian society and increase the militarization of other factions (notably Fateh and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades).

The second path Israel can take is to take this seriously as a sign of progress, to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority even if it has contacts with Hamas, even if at a later date Hamas members enter into local PA elections and hold positions or win seats. And Israel should recognize that it has an opportunity to have the majority of the Palestinian population backing a unified Palestinian leadership that accepts a two-state solution with Israel living in peace and security.

I think this second path is the most effective and useful path. But I do not think that it is going to be the path taken by the Likud. This is important because I think it should be the path taken by the Labor party. And I think that Labor should think about this before they take any steps to join a unity government with Likud. I think this unity does not help Labor to begin with (I think you just have to look a few years back to see that this was a bad path then). I think it exposes Labor as a very passive party, that cannot see itself as doing anything other than propping Sharon up when he is doing something it likes (i.e. disengagement) and grumbling to itself when he is doing things it doesn't. In any case, I think it is interesting that all the action is taking place on the Palestinian side these days, with the Israeli side crippled by in-fighting and factions jockeying for a piece of the pie.

Another thing I thought of today - both Marwan Barghouti and Mustafa Barghouti are running for president of the PA. I know that the US is a lot bigger than the occupied territories, but can you imagine the chaos if there were two presidential candidates with the same last name in the US? And with the same first initial? Oy vavoy, half of us wouldn't know what the hell to do (well, half of us would decide it would be easier to just stay home, but then half of the other half).

 

Yitzhak Laor on checkpoints

Israeli novelist Yitzhak Laor has a very eloquent piece in Ha'aretz titled Al-mahsum, mahsom, checkpoint. Laor does a beautiful job of cutting right to the heart of the checkpoint issue. I want to pull a quote out, but since it is short and well-written, I will simply encourage you to go to the site and read it.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

 

Burnin' up

Remember when you never heard Moqtada al-Sadr's name mentioned without being prefaced by "firebrand cleric"? It got repeated so much that you never really got to know anything about Moqtada al-Sadr except for the fact that he was a "firebrand cleric" and even if you took the time to try to read anything else, that was soon erased and replaced by those two words, seared into your brain in the same little section where Sadr's name was etched.

My conclusion from reading articles in several different newspapers about Marwan Barghouti's candidacy for president of the Palestinian Authority is that Marwan is "fiery." I did a little google search for "Barghouti" and "fiery" and came up with 1,760 hits. Yep, from now on that's the only thing we need to know about Marwan Barghouti.

 

AIPAC in hot water?

As much as I'm sure AIPAC wanted this whole Larry Franklin incident to disappear into the shadows of the past, it looks as though the FBI is actually going to pursue the issue. According to Ha'aretz, the FBI raided AIPAC's Washington office, "request[ed] files related to two employees, Steve Rosen and Keith Weisman, and served four others with subpoenas. The four were identified as Howard Core, Richard Fishman, Rene Rofting and Ravidan Zinger."

Juan Cole wrote quite a bit about this when the Larry Franklin incident first broke. Here are a few of his blog entries from around this time: Franklin met with Naor Gilon, Newsweek: Franklin Confesses; AIPAC under separate FBI investigation, AIPAC Blitz on Capitol Hill, and AIPAC spy case involves intelligence on Iranian WMD.

If the Iranian situation begins to heat up at all (that is, if the rhetoric and posturing in the Congress or from the White House begins to heat up), I think this may keep coming back around for AIPAC.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

 

Three events, loosely related if at all

I. Marwan Barghouti has filed candidacy papers for the upcoming Palestinian elections.
A. With the help of his wife and his brother, Barghouti submitted the fee and the 5,000 signatures of support necessary to register for the January 9 election.

B. Barghouti had previously claimed that he was stepping aside and would not run, and would instead lend his support to Fateh candidate Abu Mazen.

C. Barghouti's brother claimed that the fee and signatures were only a "precautionary measure" so that Barghouti could presumably leave his options open.

D. Abu Mazen cannot be that pleased that this is making news, even if Barghouti does not run and continues to issue statements of support for Abu Mazen. The fact that this is in the headlines tends to undermine Barghouti's support of Abu Mazen, which was already unlikely to sway some Fateh members toward Abu Mazen.
II. A GI in Connecticut tried to commit suicide and was taken to the hospital, apparently after learning that he was scheduled to return to Iraq in January.
A. Apparently, after struggling with the police, the man claimed that he "just wanted to die" rather than go back to Iraq where he would be forced to kill again.

B. I was watching "Dog Day Afternoon" the other day with Amanda (it's a great film with Al Pacino, go watch it) and in it, Sonny and Sal, the characters who attempt to rob a bank, are Vietnam veterans. Amanda said something like, great, this is what we have to look forward to when all the traumatized Iraq veterans get back to the US.

C. I read an article in the New Yorker a while back that pointed out that probably the most traumatic part of being in the military during war is killing another person (as opposed to being injured or seeing a fellow soldier injured or killed). Unfortunately, the military has very little set up (this according to the article) to deal with this kind of trauma. This would make sense seeing as how the military probably wants its soldiers to be ready and able to kill another person.
III. Last week, an Israeli peace activist videotaped a Palestinian at a checkpoint who was forced by the IDF to play his violin at the checkpoint.
A. There was a great outcry because of how the event evoked memories of the holocaust and Jewish musicians being forced to play for Nazis. There is an interesting article in the Guardian, which points to the way the incident invoked outrage "not for abusing Arabs but for disgracing the Holocaust" - to quote Yoram Kaniuk, author of a book about a Jewish violinist forced to play for a concentration camp commander.

B. The IDF, with its proud tradition of investigating incidents, launched an investigation that concluded that the man, Wissam Tayam, had started playing the violin of his own accord. Because, of course, the IDF would never do anything to humiliate a Palestinian. Indeed, the officer had "shown a lack of sensitivity" but not a "lack of respect" for Tayam. My Aunt Deb said she read somewhere that the initial IDF response was that if the soldier acted inappropriately, it was only because the conditions of the checkpoints were such that they would prompt such a reaction. Hmmm...

C. Tayam responded to the allegation that he played of his own accord:

"I did not offer them to play," he told Haaretz on Tuesday. "They asked me to open the case and show them the instrument, which was fine by me. But then they asked me to play; I did not offer to play. That does not sound logical. They asked me to play something sad, to match their mood.

"I felt humiliated," Tayam said Tuesday. "I always identified with the Jews who suffered in Europe [at the time of the Nazis] and after that they come and do the same thing to us."

D. But not only that:

When asked if perhaps the soldiers wanted him to play to ensure that the violin was not booby-trapped or contained explosives, Tayam said, "it doesn't make sense that they thought there were explosives in the violin. If they thought that, they would have made me move some distance from them [before playing], fearing I might blow up. I do not understand why they forced me to play. Most of the soldiers at the checkpoint know me, as I work there twice a week. The problems arise when new soldiers come."

 

Hamas says it will halt attacks

From the Telegraph:
Hamas is to halt attacks on Israelis in the run-up to elections for a successor to the late Yasser Arafat, a senior leader of the militant group said yesterday. Sheikh Hassan Yousef said the group would consider a formal truce with Israel, suspending a trail of suicide bombings and other violence.

The Sheikh, who recently served a 28-month sentence in an Israeli jail, said
yesterday: "Many [Palestinian] political militant groups have halted their attacks. They are waiting and exploring the new era."

But he said a formal truce must involve reciprocity by Israel....

The Israeli army said it was now only taking pre-emptive action to thwart suicide bombings and other attacks.
I've also read here and there about talks of a ten-year hudna (ceasefire) being declared by Hamas. Of course, this would also probably be dependent on reciprocity by Israel. And Israel is not going to stand by and let Hamas settle down and regroup over a ten year period. So I think that's a non-existant scenario with the way things stand right now, with the Israeli Right in control of the government. Anyhow, I'd like to think that this could work leading up to elections, but somehow I doubt that is a possibility either.

 

Born Against, Pro-American Music

They say it's the simple things in life that make it worth living. I certainly received one of those simple pleasures this morning when I was googling seminal punk band Born Against and found their album "Patriotic Battle Hymns" listed on a site for Pro-American Music, along with other classics such as "God Bless America - The Ultimate Patriotic Album" and "Party Tyme Karaoke: Patriotic." I poked around on the rest of the site a little bit and found an amazing picture of Jesus Christ rising from the smoke and ash of ground zero on 9/11 - I would have posted it here but you had to be a member to see the full size image, so if you want to see it, you can go and become a member. Then send the full sized image to me.

In closing, here are the lyrics to my favorite Born Against song, "Half Mast," which, although written years ago back in 1990, seems quite appropriate even today:
When freedom is in hiding from morality, when you've finally scrubbed this great land clean of those values you hold in such high esteem, when you've finally divorced the numbers from the names we can return to your good old days: bound and gagged by sex and race, chained by family, crazed by god. While we raise the flag, shout down the past. The stars and stripes stream by at half mast. Your eyes well up with tears and, yeah, so do mine. I never knew the high price of hypocrisy. So pledge allegiance to the death penalty, believe in your drug war, bow down to the TV set you need to cultivate that apathy that swells inside your throat. Raise the flag, shout down the past. Your stars and stripes stream by at half mast. Your eyes well up with tears and, yeah, so do mine. Half mast -dehumanized. Half mast - divided. Half mast - overloaded. Half mast - who the fuck cares so long as you can sleep well under the iron fist.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

 

Road Rules

Amira Hass has an article in Ha'aretz today about donor countries and road construction in the occupied Palestinian territories. Apparently, because the donor mandate is set up to assist the Palestinians, it is only committed to projects and proposals submitted by the PA.
The representatives of the donor countries, including the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, have officially said they do not intend to finance any project against the will of the PA....

The PA's position, said [Ghassan] al Khatib ahead of the donor conference next week, is that Israel is trading territorial contiguity for a future Palestinian state with "transportation contiguity" for Palestinians and territorial contiguity between the settlements and Israel proper. The alternative, secondary roads, which run parallel to the main highways, are long, winding, more difficult for traffic, and not economically viable.

Moreover, their existence as a separate traffic network, said the PA planning minister, will strengthen the settlements, which the international court has ruled illegal. Al Khatib emphasized that the U.S. consul general told PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia that the U.S. accepts the PA position and will not carry out any road projects in the West Bank against the PA's will.
Well, one cannot help but appreciate the desire of the donor countries not to contribute to one of the major problems in the territories. (Although it's more like a big ball of problems that includes settlements, transportation, freedom of movement, etc.) Unfortunately, this is not going to stop Israel from continuing it's project of building roads for Jewish use only in the occupied territories, and it's not going to help in any immediate way the crisis of movement and transportation in the occupied territories. On the other hand, ostensibly the donor money is Palestinian money, and they shouldn't have to pay for their own occupation (although this has been known to happen when Israel withholds Palestinian tax money).

 

You're about to hear the words "activist judges" approximately one hundred billion times in the next 24 hours

First of all, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the Massachusetts high court ruling that allowed gay marriages to take place in that most liberal of liberal states. The response from presidential spokesman Scott McClellan?
"Activist judges are seeking to redefine marriage for the rest of society, and the people's voice is not being heard in this process," said presidential spokesman Scott McClellan. "That's why the president is committed to moving forward with Congress on a constitutional amendment that would protect the sanctity of marriage."
Okay, only ninety-nine billion, nine hundred and ninety-nine million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine more times. It was going to be tough (that's a pretty big number, eh), but then a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia stepped in, finding that colleges could keep military recruiters off their campuses or restrict their activities without losing federal funding. And, since this one involves homosexuals as well (since the ruling was based on colleges' objections to the military's discriminatory policies based on sexual orientation), you bet your sweet ass you are going to hear some people calling "activist judges" on this. I also think it's pretty ironic that the Justice Department (which is defending the so-called Soloman Amendment, which currently allows the government to withhold federal funding from schools that attempt to restrict, limit, or prohibit military recruiters on their campuses) is trying to couch their defense in terms of discrimination.
"The United States continues to believe that the Solomon Amendment is constitutional," [Justice Department spokesman] Mr. Corallo said. "We believe that Congress may deny federal funds to universities which discriminate and may act to protect the men and women of our armed forces in their ability to recruit Americans who wish to join them in protecting their country."
Yes, the poor military. So much more vulnerable and wronged than gays and lesbians in this country. I also find it highly disturbing that many of the schools that were working to challenge the Soloman Amendment did so anonymously because of fear of repercussions from the federal government.
Billions of dollars are at stake, and no university has been willing to defy the government. Indeed, several law schools that are members of one of the groups that sued to block the law, the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, have not been publicly identified....

Mr. Rosenkranz [the lawyer representing the schools] said the reluctance of several law schools to be publicly identified was driven by fear.

"They don't want retribution that is exacted behind closed doors by faceless bureaucrats and vindictive politicians," he said.
Faceless bureacrats and vindictive politicians can be scary, I admit, but do they strike the kind of fear in your heart that can only be stricken by.... ACTIVIST JUDGES? I rest my case.

Monday, November 29, 2004

 

Abu Mazen's generous offer

Danny Rubinstein has an analysis in today's Ha'aretz of Abu Mazen's stated position on what would constitute a two-state solution, namely creation of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with its capital in Jerusalem, and a just solution of the refugee problem, in accordance with UN Resolution 194. There has been much talk of Abu Mazen being more conciliatory than Arafat, somebody the Israelis and the US can work with, and on and on. There is obviously a good amount of hope that Abu Mazen will sell out the Palestinians in order to secure the involvement and support of the US and Israel (this is what is meant by "opportunity" these days from what I hear). For those willing to believe this, Abu Mazen's comments, especially those regarding the right of return for Palestinian refugees, were said to be simply a ploy to shore up his domestic support in anticipation of upcoming Palestinian elections. To ensure stability in the occupied territories, it was reasoned, Abu Mazen was simply saying what he had to say. "Unforunately," as Rubinstein writes, this is not the case.
On the contrary: Even the assumption that the statements he is now making are meant for domestic consumption is erroneous. The call for a state within the `67 borders, the capital of which would be in Jerusalem, and a just solution to the refugee problem - were and remain the undeviating and official Palestinian positions since the advent of the diplomatic process. This was the belief of Yasser Arafat and without a doubt will be that of Abu Mazen, as well.

From the Palestinian point of view, these are not overly firm positions. On the contrary, they are the most moderate positions that they can present. It was the Arafat-led Fatah movement that spearheaded promotion of them among the Palestinians. Arafat devised the idea of a partition of the land into two states. He faced the strong opposition of the Islamic bloc and the leftist fronts, with the addition of a few groups from within Fatah (Farouk Kaddoumi and others). Before he was sentenced to five life sentences, and before being dubbed "engineer of the intifada," Marwan Barghouti used to proclaim: "We - the Fatah organization - we are the Palestinian Peace Now." This was his usual answer when asked why the Palestinians did not have such an organization.
I always find that those making the argument that "Arafat was offered many peace plans, rejected them all, and never made counterproposals" are seriously misunderstanding or willfully misinterpreting the situation. The counterproposal was a standing offer while Arafat was around. And it is what Abu Mazen is referring to now. The 1967 borders, Jerusalem as a shared capital (or East Jerusalem as capital of Palestine), and addressing the refugee problem. As Rubinstein argues, these are not guidelines that are not unassailable in Palestinian public opinion. But the Israelis are not likely to find too many alternative with which they will be satisfied.
Quite a few political activists believe that Arafat's death may also end the idea of a division of the land into two states: Israel and Palestine. That was the idea at the foundation of the Oslo accords, but the political circumstances of hostility, mistrust between the sides, expansion of the settlement blocs and illegal settlement outposts, greater Jewish entrenchment in East Jerusalem, and the inability to end the violence - have eliminated the opportunity for a settlement on the basis of Oslo. Many people in Israel now think that the Oslo agreements were a catastrophe, but among the Palestinians this is much more the case....

The Palestinian groups opposed to the principle of partitioning the land into two states gained much power during the intifada years. They now include not only Hamas, which has widespread support in Gaza, but also those groups within Fatah, such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, which initiate a high percentage of terrorist attacks. In other words, Arafat's passing could also be the demise of the mutual recognition of the PLO and Israel, and the end of the idea of two states for two peoples.
If Israel refuses to commit seriously to the idea of a two-state solution, it may be Israel that rejected the "generous offer" that Arafat (and now Abu Mazen) were willing to put on the table. There is this perception that this offer will be on the table forever, but that may not be the case. And while Israel is strong enough militarily to enforce practically any decision it makes, I hope that there are enough Israelis that see that it is better served by making "concessions" on the West Bank and Gaza Strip before it is too late.

 

US involvement in foreign elections

I'm still catching up on Thanksgiving reading, including this article that my dear Aunt Deb sent me. It is basically about the US NGOs and quasi-NGOs (such as the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute) as well as the State Department and USAID that have been working to influence elections and their outcomes in places like Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, and other former Soviet states. It seems that for all the ballyhoo about having international observers come for the election in the US (man, were people on talk radio pissed as hell about that or what?) we're pretty OK with setting up an infrastructure to dispute elections overseas. And by overseas, I mean specifically former Soviet nations. Because I think it's interesting to consider where this is happening and where it isn't. Of course, part of it must be that you can't influence an election or dispute an election where there is no election. But the Guardian article also says: "The places to watch are Moldova and the authoritarian countries of central Asia." I think it's interesting to think about central Asia. Because we are certainly okay with propping up Musharav in Pakistan. As well as the oppressive regime in Uzbekistan. It's hardly a bad thing to see fair elections in Ukraine, but I must admit that I get creeped out to know that there is all this US money behind it. And I get creeped out knowing that this is going on in some places and not in others and I want to know where it's happening and why it's happening (and don't tell me it's because we love democracy so goddamn much). Hmmm...

 

Salman al-Awda

This is from Saad al-Ajmi's article Echoes of Fallujah resound in the Gulf:
In Saudi Arabia some 26 Islamic clergymen issued a communiquÈ with a fatwa condemning the attack and calling for jihad (holy war).

Among the signatories was the famous Salman Al Awda who runs the web-site Islam-on-line. Ironically, a week after signing the widely publicised fatwa, the press reported that Al Awda called on the Saudi authorities to keep his son from volunteering to join the jihad.

His son, Ma’ath, had sent an SMS text message to his family telling them to pray for him as he was on his way to Fallujah to fight in what had been declared by his father and others to be a holy war.

It turned out that Ma’ath was only joking - he was in fact just going on a hunting trip. The joke wrought havoc in the family and brought public embarrassment to Al Awda, who had been actively encouraging young men - with the apparent exception of his son, that is - to go to Fallujah to fight in the jihad.
Awww pops, lighten up. I was only joking.

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