Thursday, October 14, 2010

Link to KGNU show on Israel and Palestine

Go to http://kgnu.org/ht/listings.html?show=Hemispheres. Once you get to the link, look for Tuesday, October 12th (it says Nikki Kayser under it). Now you can either click on the little speaker symbol surrounded by the yellow circle and listen to it streaming, or you can download it by right-clicking on the little green arrow and choosing 'save link as'. The film includes two minutes of the preceding Free Speech Radio News program on Haiti and then the entire 1 hour show.

During the program, Ambassador Phillip Wilcox makes many fine points which Americans would be wise to attend to. He stresses that Israel needs the United States to call it to account, to stop further settlements. At the end, he speaks – I think mistakenly – of the racist Loyalty Oath to be imposed on Israeli citizens by the Netanyahu government as but a “coalition tactic.” While it is this, of course, it is, more importantly, intrinsically fascist in the words of Yaron Ezrahi, Ury Avnery and the 100 intellectuals who signed a "Declaration of Independence from Fascism" in Tel Aviv here. Wilcox then rightly points out that Netanyahu does not want a two state agreement, but rather a “greater Israel.” Such a policy seeks a genocidal second “transfer” of the Palestinians. Not only in killing "heathen children" but in the destruction of olive groves by bands of settlers collaborating with the Israeli "Defense" Forces (see below), this racist impulse is clearly at work. But it struck me how much Wilcox and I agree (and many others do, too), that Israel can only survive as a democracy and as a decent power in the Middle East by stopping the settlements and negotiating a two state solution.

As a nuclear power, the danger of a “greater Israel” is that it will launch unending war (or augment or spur on the imperial American wars in the Middle East), culminating in the use of nuclear weapons. That is both unpredicable and a threat to humanity. Alternately, as an apartheid state, such a regime may be resisted by nonviolence from below and internationally. Eventually, it would fail and become a democracy based on equal rights. Here the example of Mandela and South Africa is a hope. Nonetheless, it would be unwise to dismiss the former path, the path of self-destruction. Thus, even as leaders of the great imperial power, Obama (and the militarist David Petraeus) need to push Israel to settle. Netanyahu is oddly used to being a bully (the wealthy and reactionary AIPAC threatens Congresspeople and, except for Cynthia Mckinney, treats Democrats as acquiescent yoyos). Yet, in fact, Israel is completely dependent on US military aid - $3 and 1/2 billion per year as Nikki Kayser emphasized twice – and financially. This is a huge dog being wagged by a tiny tail. What the Democrats and others have failed to notice is that most American jews want a sane settlement in the Middle East. The era of Israeli belligerence, in the shrill fascist voice of Michael Freund in the Jerusalem Post about “punishing Obama” and others, is losing supporters daily among American jews. See here. “War and more war” is opposed by roughly 80% of Jews not only in Iraq but in the projected bombing of supposed Iranian nuclear sites campaigned for by Netanyahu and Cheney. The ground is shifting under the Netanyahu government and the “tough guy,” wobbling around, is too foolish to take it in.

In addition, General Petraeus and his neocon entourage (the authoritarian imperialist Fred Kagan, and in the wings, Bob Kagan and William Kristol) want ever more war and ever larger military expenditures. But most Americans opposed the war in Iraq – it was never a “popular” war except for “talking heads” - and now the war in Afghanistan. American wars - an incredible and ballooning expense, $708 billion this year, 2 and 1/2 times the Cold War level of $250 billion, see here – can go on because about 1% of the population actually serves in the military or has relatives who fight and die. The 1% is concentrated among urban blacks and Chicanoes and impoverished rural whites. But now imperial militarism (and a financial casino) has crashed the economy. In jobs, in foreclosures, in denial of medical care or the bankrupting of the elderly, the cost of militarism is all too clear. Americans as well as Jews and Palestinians have a common interest in a decent settlement.

One might add the importance of freedom of conscience as a shining American principle, and invoke Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York standing up against anti-Arab bigotry and blocking a nightmare authoritarianism - what the Republican party now is - in the United States. Those who declared independence against the fascism of the Israeli government – see here - also celebrated this principle. It is not up to "leaders," they said, to shove down the throats of citizens their bigotry. A state in which Jews and all others can live in peace and prosperity is not a racist state.

Since I lived in Pakistan with my father who advised the Planning Commission in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I have had contact with State Department people who seem unusually committed to democracy and decency. Mr. Linebaugh (I believe his name was David), father of my friend Nick at the Karachi American School, would often talk about the harms of the Ayub Khan dictatorship, the need for a rights-based democracy in Pakistan. He did so more than my father who emphasized Keynsian public works programs to help the poor, particularly in East Pakistan (now Bangla Desh). The works program employed members of a cooperative movement led by Akhtar Hameed Khan here – and also represented a deeper form of democracy. It prefigures Mohammed Yunus and contemporary microcredits to poor women's cooperatives.

Mr. Linebaugh embodied a strand of honorable professional State Department public servants who are genuinely interested in furthering democracy and decency (the opposite of imperial imposing of “democracy” at gunpoint a la Bush). So does Phillip Wilcox. His words about funding State Department people who know something about local cultures as opposed to militarists who know nothing – I will post on Petraeus’s aggression in Pakistan and an abrupt setback for the United States by the Pakistan government closing one of the two supply routes for American occupiers in Afghanistan shortly – are extremely well-taken. Currently, the Pentagon budget is $708 trillion and dwarfs the State Department (somewhere around $60 trillion). It is easy only to notice the role of Embassies in CIA coups against democracy or in weapons sale (6,500 State Department employees hawk American weapons to every power in the world except the Palestinians – see Chalmers Johnson, Blowback). The State Department is an arm of American imperialism. Still it is sometimes a comparatively sane and even decent arm, contrasted with militarist Generals, now the tottering head of an increasingly privatized, mercenary, incompetent, and losing force.

There is a broad spectrum of democratic opinion among such diplomats. For instance, Ann Wright and John Brown resigned at the outset of American aggression against Iraq, saying rightly that this violated everything that they had worked for. Wright now participates in protests against imperialism, for instance, with Cindy Sheehan who lost her son in Iraq. The decent and democratic side of America, even in the government, continues to stand up against militarism, madness and self-destruction.


In West Bank, Peace Symbol Now Signifies Struggle
On Monday, Hussein Said Hussein Abu Aliya found olive trees poisoned, he said, by settlers.

By ISABEL KERSHNER
New York Times, October 12, 2010

TURMUS AYA, West Bank — Palestinians from villages like this one in the West Bank governorate of Ramallah still remember when the olive harvest was a joyous occasion, with whole families out for days in the fall sunshine, gathering the year’s crop and picnicking under the trees.

Olives were also stolen from hundreds of trees in villages.

“We considered it like a wedding,” said Hussein Said Hussein Abu Aliya, 68.

But when Mr. Abu Aliya and his family from the neighboring village of Al-Mughayer — 36 of them in all, including grandchildren — drove out to their land this week in a snaking convoy of cars and pickup trucks with others from Turmus Aya, they found scores of their trees on the rocky slopes in various stages of decay, recently poisoned, they said, by Jewish settlers from an illegal Israeli outpost on top of the hill.

Branches drooped, the once lush, silver-green leaves were turning brown and the few olives still clinging on, which should have been plump and green or purple by harvest time, were shriveled and black. Dozens of trees nearby that Mr. Abu Aliya contended were similarly poisoned with chemicals last year stood like spindly skeletons, gray and completely bare.

Religious Jewish settlers consider the West Bank, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war, as their biblical birthright. For the 2.5 million Palestinians of the West Bank, it constitutes the heartland of a future independent state. While the Americans and Palestinians wrangle with the Israeli government over continued Israeli construction in the West Bank settlements — an issue that has stalled the embryonic peace talks — the competition for control of each acre of land here is being played out day by day.

And the olive tree, an ancient symbol of peace and plenty that has also long been a Palestinian emblem of steadfastness and commitment to the land, has increasingly become a symbol of local, almost intimate, struggle and strife.

Husniya al-Araj, 60, said she was born in a cave nearby, in an orchard of olive and almond trees. But when she reached her family lands this week, she cried out in shock. She pointed to a newly plowed field in front of her that she said was part of her family property, but that seemed to have been taken over by the settlers. It was now surrounded by a shiny new barbed-wire fence and planted with young vines.

Mahmud Ahmad Hazama, a relative who takes care of the Araj family property, said the barbed-wire fence went up in July. Folded in his wallet was a handwritten record of every change and every complaint Mr. Hazama had made to the Israeli Army and police since 1995.

“They ask me for documents,” he said. “We have all of them. The last thing they asked for was a topographic map.” He said he had received no answers so far.

Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said the police were aware of the problems. Every complaint is investigated, he says, but sometimes the culprits turn out not to be settlers, and sometimes there is not enough evidence to know. In some cases, the complaints do lead to arrests of settlers, he says.

Tamar Asraf, spokeswoman for the Binyamin Council, which represents the settlers in this region, said that for the most part the olive harvest passes peacefully, but that there were Palestinians and settlers who cause damage to one another. “We condemn them both,” she said.

Mr. Hazama’s relatives, like many other families, found their olive trees intact but empty of fruit. They argued that the olives must have been stolen by settlers, though they had no proof.

In other villages to the north, like Yanoun, Jit and Imatin, olives were stolen from hundreds of trees in the past few days, according to Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli organization that helps Palestinians farm lands in trouble spots year-round.

This was the first time the villagers of Turmus Aya and Al-Mughayer had been able to have access to their lands in six months. To do so, they need permission and protection from the Israeli Army, for a few days for plowing in springtime and a few days for picking in the fall. In the past, unprotected visits to the land ended with many stories of attacks by extremist settlers and burned cars.

This time, soldiers were guarding the villagers from the hilltop where the outpost, Adei Ad, sits. Three soldiers in khaki uniforms were sitting under one of Mr. Abu Aliya’s trees, almost camouflaged among its iridescent leaves while mountain gazelles sprang across the hills.

Adei Ad was established in the late 1990s on state and private Palestinian land, according to Israeli records. Though it was established without any official authorization, the Israeli Ministry of Housing and Construction provided financing for some of the infrastructure.

About 30 families live in trailers at Adei Ad, which has been scheduled for removal for seven years. The settlers have now put up an “eruv,” an elevated string on poles that encircles a community and allows observant Jews to carry objects within the proscribed area on the Sabbath. Mr. Abu Aliya has no idea what the string is for, but he says it runs right through his land.

This year, the harvest was less of a celebration, and more a show of perseverance. The Palestinian Authority governor of the Ramallah district, Laila Ghannam, joined the olive pickers and ate breakfast with the mayor of Turmus Aya under a tree.

“Our presence here is proof that this is our land and we will never give it up,” she said.

Members of a new unit from the authority’s Ministry of Agriculture were also out in the fields with notebooks, documenting the villagers’ complaints and counting the poisoned trees. They took samples of wilting branches to send to an Israeli laboratory for testing in the hope that the results could be used as future evidence in an Israeli court.

Mr. Abu Aliya, who has lost about half of his 300 olive trees, made a promise. “The moment the settlers leave,” he said, “I’ll make a big celebration. I’ll slaughter a buffalo.”


Settlers learn how to circumvent IDF to strike at Palestinian olive harvest

Settlers are believed to be entering Palestinian olive groves before IDF can send troops to protect the harvesters.
By Avi Issacharoff and Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Settlers from the northern West Bank have reportedly been circumventing attempts by the Israel Defense Forces to protect Palestinian farmers as they harvest their olives. The settlers are believed to be entering Palestinian olive groves before the army can send troops to protect the harvesters - and taking the olives or destroying the trees.

The residents of the village of Burin near the settlement of Yitzhar in the northern West bank said a group of settlers had tried to keep them away from their land and had thrown stones at them. Afterward, the security forces intervened, and there were no injuries.

However, there are apparently far fewer violent clashes between settlers and Palestinian farmers than in years past.

As of last year's harvest, the Civil Administration contacted Palestinian farmers with lands near settlements with which there had been friction to offer them protection during the harvest. Companies of Border Police and IDF officers are moving gradually from north to south and providing protection to farmers so they can harvest their crops unhindered by settlers.

The number of clashes between settlers and Palestinians dropped off sharply as a result.

This year, the harvest began about 10 days ago, and according to IDF officers, there have been cases where settlers knew ahead of time which days the army was going to be guarding which orchards. It is believed that the settlers arrived before guards could be posted, and under cover of darkness harvested most of the olives themselves.

In the orchards near the outpost of Havat Gilad in the central northern West Bank, an officer said an IDF patrol had seen two settlers coming with two sacks of olives to one of the houses in the outpost.

In two cases, Civil Administration personnel found the thieves, confiscated the stolen olives and returned them to their rightful owners.

However, security sources say it is very difficult to prevent theft and the district police do not treat thieves harshly when they are caught.

According to Sarit Michaeli, spokeswoman for B'Tselem, which is monitoring the olive harvest, said the settlers are believed to have a "new strategy" and that rather than resorting to physical violence, they were taking advantage of the fact that everyone knows the times when the guards are to be posted.

"In a number of places where the Palestinians are not allowed for the rest of the year, when they come on the days allocated to them, they find the olives have disappeared," Michaeli said. About 100 trees had been bored into and ruined near the village of Turmus Aya north of Ramallah, Michaeli said. "In the village of Deir al-Hatab, south of Eilon Moreh, a B'Tselem field worker found a group of young Jewish men with their teacher, harvesting olives on privately owned Palestinian land" she said.

Also near Turmus Aya, Palestinian farmers found that some 400 trees had been harvested before they could get there.

Itai Zer, the leader of Havat Gilad, denies that anyone at the outpost had been involved in the theft of olives. "One of our guys was harvesting olives on our land," he said. "Then the Civil Administration came and said it was not sure that was our land. But its a disputed area now before the court," he said.

The Civil Administration has distributed written instructions to soldiers involved in guarding the orchards, ordering them to act decisively against harassment of Palestinians harvesting their olives. "Soldiers are not permitted to stand idly by and must act within the framework of their function to prevent the offense and to restore order. Soldiers on the scene must also prevent offenders from fleeing and preserve the evidence, if possible," the instructions say.

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