Personal accounts of current events in Palestine and Israel; commentary and analysis from the Middle East, the USA and Europe
Commentary & Analysis

Uri Avnery's Column

Gideon Levy articles & opinion

Avraham Burg - Opinion

Commentary by
James Wall

The Two-State Illusion
by Ian S. Lustnick

A Palestinian Pastor's Advice for President Obama
by Rev. Alex Awad

Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi's path to Palestinian Solidarity  by Rabbi Brant Rosen

"Change without Progess in the Middle East"
by Ambassador Chas Freeman

"Justice Requires Action to Stop Subjugation of Palestinians"
by Desmond Tutu

"Why I Refuse"
by Moriel Rothman

Messages from Janet Lahr Lewis, UM Liaison to Israel-Palestine

Personal Accounts: Testimonies of Methodist Ecumenical Accompaniers


"Goldstone's Legacy for Israel" by Naomi Klein

"Mourning the Jewish New Year" by Prof. Marc Ellis

"Palestine Papers Expose US as Dishonest Broker"
  by Alison Weir

"Top 10 Reasons for  
Skepticism on Talks"

  by Josh Ruebner

"Boycotting the boycotters"
by Gideon Levy

"Apartheid in Holy Land"
  by Desmond Tutu

"Nakba Day is a Reminder"
    by Yousef Manayyer

"Israel's racism spreads"
   by Zvi Bar'el

Holy Land Christians' Decline
  Al-Jazeera video report

Two articles on Israel's
Independence Day 2010
  by Burston; Avnery

Presbyterian General Assembly 2010 - News and Commentary

"End US Tax Exemption 
for Settlements"

  by Sama Adnan

"A Call for Livable Futures"
  by Rela Mazali

"Israel 2007: Worse Than

Ronnie Kasrils, SoAfrican

"Israel's Greatest Loss:
Its Moral Imagination"

by Henry Siegman

Can Muslim & Jewish  
Narratives Co-exist?

Jewish Respect for Islam

Muslims & Jews Closer  

Tragedy of Monotheism

Using Qur'anic narratives

Let justice roll down like water and righteousness like a never-ending stream.

Amos 5:24 
Huffington Post 
August 26, 2010

Top 10 Reasons for Skepticism on Israeli-Palestinian Talks
by Josh Ruebner
National Advocacy Director,
US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

On August 20, the Obama Administration announced that it will reconvene under its auspices direct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations beginning on September 2.

While a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace is in everyone's interest, there are profound reasons to be skeptical about the likelihood of success for the following reasons (not necessarily listed in order of importance):

1. No more photo-ops, please. There is a desperate need for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. Negotiations can be a key to that. But the last thing Palestinians and Israelis need are phony negotiations. They only breed disillusionment, resentment, and cynicism about the possibility of Israeli-Palestinian peace based on human rights and justice. So rather than enter into negotiations for the sake of negotiations, the Obama Administration should exert real political pressure on Israel by cutting off military aid to once and for all get it to commit to dismantling its regime of occupation and apartheid against Palestinians, and make clear that the framework for all negotiations will be based on international law, human rights, and UN resolutions. As long as it fails to do so, U.S. civil society must keep up the pressure through campaigns of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) to change these dynamics and by joining up with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

2. The United States is not evenhanded. For decades, the United States has arrogated the role of convening Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. To convince the world that it is suitable to play this role, the United States declares that it is evenhanded, when it in fact arms Israel to the teeth and is aware that Israel will employ these U.S. weapons to conduct its human rights abuses of and apartheid policies toward Palestinians. Under international law, an outside party that provides weapons to a party in an armed conflict violates laws of neutrality. The United States is scheduled to provide Israel with $30 billion in weapons from 2009-2018 (part and parcel of a broader strategy to further militarize the region with an additional $60 billion in weapons sales to Gulf States). The United States cannot credibly broker Israeli-Palestinian peace while bankrolling Israel's military machine and simultaneously ignoring Israel's human rights violations.

3. Israeli colonization of Palestinian land continues. In one of its most abject policy failures, the Obama Administration has contented itself with resuming direct negotiations without securing an Israeli freeze on the colonization of Palestinian land, despite spending an initial nine months trying to do so. Israeli colonization of Palestinian land, including the expansion of settlements, the eviction of Palestinians from their homes, the building of the Apartheid Wall, continues apace. Previous failed rounds of negotiations have demonstrated that Israel utilizes negotiations as a fig leaf to actually increase its pace of colonization of Palestinian land, and there is every reason to believe that it will continue to do so. Meanwhile, Israel's ongoing colonization of Palestinian land creates difficult-to-reverse "facts on the ground" that only make a two-state solution--purportedly the end game of the negotiations--less achievable.

4. Negotiations supersede accountability. The Obama Administration, building on decades of previous U.S. efforts to shield Israel from accountability, has worked actively to scuttle international attempts to hold Israel accountable for its previous violations of international law and human rights, and its commission of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. Both after the Goldstone Report and Israel's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, the United States used its leverage at the United Nations to prevent Israel from being held accountable, arguing that accountability undermines prospects for peace negotiations. On the contrary, for peace negotiations to be successful, Israel must be held accountable for its actions and shown that it will pay a price for its illegal policies. Otherwise, it has no reason to alter its behavior.

5. No terms of reference. In his August 20 press briefing, Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell confirmed that the United States is not insisting on any guiding principles for the negotiations, or "terms of references" in diplomatic parlance, and that these terms will be worked out by the parties themselves. In other words, Israel will be free to marshal its overwhelming power to refuse to negotiate on the basis of human rights, international law, and UN resolutions, the only viable basis for a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace. Instead, Israel--backed by the United States--will negotiate based on its own exclusive terms of reference, namely what is in Israel's "security interests." As in previous failed rounds of negotiations, Palestinian rights will not enter into the conversation.

6. No timeline. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton believes that negotiations "could" be concluded within a year. Of course, successful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations could be wrapped up within in a year. In contrast to "peace process industry" pundits, there is nothing intrinsically complex or complicated about resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if Israel were to negotiate in good faith by declaring an end to its policies of occupation and apartheid against Palestinians. After all, South Africa concluded negotiations to end apartheid within a few months once the decision had been made to transition to democracy. However, Israel has given no indication whatsoever that it is prepared to alter its policies toward Palestinians, setting the stage for prolonged and fruitless negotiations.

7. Can a leopard change its spots? A recently-leaked video from 2001 shows current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrogantly bragging that "I actually stopped the Oslo Accord [shorthand for the failed 1993-2000 Israeli-Palestinian "peace process']." (The Institute for Middle East Understanding has provided a useful translation and transcript of the video here.) His current Foreign Minister, Avigdor Leiberman, lives in an illegal Israeli colony built on stolen Palestinian land and has openly declared his support for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. With this negotiating team in place, how can Palestinians expect even a bare modicum of fairness and justice to emerge from these negotiations?

8. Increased U.S. military aid to and cooperation with Israel make it less likely to negotiate in good faith. In July, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro told the Brookings Institution that "I'm proud to say that as a result of this commitment [to Israel's security], our security relationship with Israel is broader, deeper, and more intense than ever before." Indeed, it is. President Obama has requested record-breaking levels of military aid to Israel, and stepped up joint U.S.-Israeli military projects, such as the missile defense system "Iron Dome." This increased level of military aid only makes Israel more reliant on military might in its attempt to subdue Palestinians into submission, and less likely to negotiate with them fairly as equals.

9. All the parties are not at the negotiating table. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell, who previously brokered a peace agreement in Northern Ireland, when discussing its success often referred to the necessity of having all the parties to the conflict around the negotiating table. What held true though for negotiations in Northern Ireland, apparently doesn't apply to Israel/Palestine since Hamas, which currently governs the Israeli-occupied and -besieged Gaza Strip and legitimately won the 2006 legislative elections held at the behest of the United States, was not invited to participate in the negotiations. If, by some long-shot, an agreement were to emerge from these negotiations, it is difficult to see how it would be implemented without having Hamas as part of the discussions.

10. Negotiations help Israel mitigate its growing international isolation. Last, but certainly not least, images of Israeli and Palestinian political leaders negotiating presents the world with a false sense of normalcy and allows Israel the opportunity to state that it is making a legitimate effort to achieve peace. With Israel as the party pressing for direct negotiations, it is quite transparent that its desire for these talks has more to do with easing its growing international isolation and defusing the energy from the international movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), rather than with genuinely negotiating a just and lasting peace. This point brings the analysis full circle: advocates for changing U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality should not be lulled into complacency by the resumption of negotiations, but need to keep up the pressure with campaigns of BDS to change the dynamics that will eventually lead to the possibility of a just and lasting peace.

Sign a petition to the Obama Administration, which states that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must be based on human rights, international law, and UN resolutions to be successful.   Click here>>


August 13, 2010      

End US Tax Exemption for Jewish Settlements

Obama Administration Should Prosecute American Settler Organizations 

Jewish settlements constitute a grave threat to US national interests and to American policy objectives in the Middle East. Funding of settlement projects in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by domestic organizations harms our security and moral standing. Furthermore, these domestic settler organizations are subsidized by US taxpayer money. However, they are subject to US anti-discrimination laws and the US Criminal Code. Congress, the Obama administration and the Treasury Department should implement existing US laws against these organizations.

Settlements Pose a Threat to US Security

Americans are slowly coming to the realization that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is harming America’s national interests. . General Petraeus’ March 2010 statement to Congress is one shining example of this realization:

The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR [Central Command's "area of responsibility"]… The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world.

The Obama administration, like its predecessors, views the settlements as the biggest obstacle to an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Settlement building challenges the very premise of a two-state solution as endorsed by the Quartet of the United States, Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union. It also flies in the face of the Arab Peace Initiative whose basis is also a two-state solution. Hillary Clinton has called the settlements “an obstacle to peace”, rendering the US-sponsored peace process dead on arrival. Similarly Joe Biden condemned the building of settlements in East Jerusalem, which “threatened to undermine US efforts for peace in the region.” Moreover, the discriminatory policies underlying settlement building, housing and roads for Jews only, flies in the face of American core values of freedom of movement and equality of treatment.

Depth and Breadth of Settlement Enterprise

According to both, B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, and the CIA factbook, 500,000 Israeli Jews, nearly 10% of Israel’s Jewish population lives in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in lands constituting 42% of the occupied territories. This large population transfer of Israeli Jews renders a two-state solution impossible, as the settlers are unlikely to acquiesce to live as Palestinian citizens once a Palestinian state is established. Even proponents of a one-state solution oppose settlements, citing the illegality of their ethnically and religiously segregated nature.

A recent New York Times article presents evidence of American organizations providing large amounts of funds to promote settlements in the West Bank, in effect, increasing  the size and depth of the settlement project.  This runs counter to America’s stated foreign policy as well as America’s national security interests. What’s more the Jewish-American and Evangelical-American organizations are listed as tax-exempt non-profits whose contributions are tax deductible, effectively forcing the United States government to finance initiatives counter to the United States’ policy objectives.

US Laws Prohibit Settlement Funding

While the New York Times contends that US laws do not prohibit the building of schools and synagogues outside the US, there are in fact laws that would amount to prohibiting the use of federal money to promote a project such as that of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  For one, all tax-exempt and tax-deductible organizations are subject to anti-discrimination laws in employment and the provision of services. The financing by such organizations of Jewish-only roads and Jewish-only settlements in a majority Palestinian territory flies in the face of such laws, which should jeopardize their tax-exempt status. If these laws are applied, the IRS should work immediately to withdraw the tax-exempt status of these organizations.

Furthermore, as noted by the Institute for Research in Middle East Policy, existing laws prohibit Americans from engaging in any activity that harms the people or the property of a friendly nation. Title 18, Section 960 of the US Criminal Code states clearly that Americans who fund the occupation of a friendly nation can be fined or imprisoned or both. The Palestinian Authority, which is internationally recognized as the representative of the Palestinian people, is at peace with the United States. The law is expanded to include the killing, maiming or the damage to property of any nation in Section 956 of the same Title in the US Criminal Code.

Finally, as Yousef Munnayer recently pointed out in Foreign Policy magazine, Executive Order 12947 states that acts that "disrupt the Middle East peace process constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States" and funding of these acts is illegal and prohibited. This Clinton era Executive Order provides the Department of Treasury with the impetus and obligation for monitoring funding to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem under the Patriot Act, much as it has drained the funding of terrorist organizations.

It is time for Congress, the Obama administration, and, specifically, the Treasury Department to act where Prime Minister Netanyahu has failed to do so. Nothing less than America’s security, legal legitimacy, and moral authority is dependent on their swift action.

Sama Adnan, Ph.D.

Executive Director


Rela Mazali is an author, independent scholar, and feminist peace activist from Israel. Active since 1980 in opposing Israel’s occupation, Mazali co-founded the New Profile movement to de-militarize Israeli society. Nominated by the 1000 Peacewomen project as a Nobel Peace Prize candidate, she served on the Jury of Conscience at the World Tribunal on Iraq (2005). Mazali's Maps of Women’s Goings & Stayings (2001) was reviewed as one of the best recent "narratives in space and time, by women about women for women."  The Gun on the Kitchen Table (2009) is her groundbreaking study of Israel's "security guard" industry.”

Huffington Post
June 24, 2010

A Call for Livable Futures
By Rela Mazali

What to do when the country I live in totally loses its compass? Totally loses its shame? What to do when the regime that collects my taxes uses them to deploy its high-tech military, armed to the teeth, against activists sailing to oppose a criminal siege? When this country's politicians authorize soldiers to shoot-to-kill into a deck-bound crowd? And then tell me they are protecting me? What to do when the governments of the world are too deeply implicated to hold this regime, this country accountable?

I have watched government after government in Israel present itself as a respectable, normal member of the club of developed countries; open, democratic, cultured and liberal. Israel recently launched a major "re-branding" campaign, emphasizing diversity, richness, creativeness, to divert attention away from its warring belligerence. Israel's leaders are deeply committed to keeping up their positive self-image.

I have noted the special privileges granted time and again on the pretext of this image. The US awards Israel billions every year for "defense" in the form of planes, missiles, guns and ammunition. Just this May, the organization of so-called developed countries (OECD) granted Israel full membership, after years of Israeli lobbying. Israel bases its equal footing in such clubs on its claim to democracy.

It is time for us all to hold it to that claim. Accountable. Not only privilege-able. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to end the occupation, reject, and actively remove, Israel's mask of "business as usual."

Each of us, each of you, can draw the line through BDS and act as a caring, responsible citizen of the world. To end Israel's 43-year-old occupation. To end the unacceptable, criminal siege of Gaza. To end racist laws and policies inside Israel, openly targeting the Palestinian citizens of Israel. To end more than sixty years of ongoing dispossession of the Palestinian people.

Inside Israel, BDS has already started to work. It is working where years of other civil society strategies have achieved far too little. For the first time in a very long while, many Israelis around me are sitting up and taking notice: Notice that there is still an occupation in place 43 years down the line, an occupation "out there" beyond their "normal" lives and beyond the self-perpetuated "existential threat." Notice that millions the world over believe "ordinary" Israelis -- both personally and collectively -- have something to do with this occupation. Notice that it just may turn out to be too costly.

For weeks now, dozens of items in Israeli media have reported on BDS developments, speculating on its chances and consequences. Israel's cabinet recently addressed the boycott of settlement goods by the Palestinian Authority. In May, a Harvard professor warned a Tel Aviv University conference of the grave strategic threat of Israel's crumbling legitimacy. Ignoring the country's record, he chalked up waning legitimacy to BDS, blaming individual activists who, he actually implied, were traitors. BDS activists in Israel regularly receive veiled and less veiled threats, including one recent death threat, in the media, through employers' reprimands, in the form of (so far) threatened legal suits, through university email lists and colleagues' petitions. A new bill making its way through Israel's legislature would criminalize support for BDS, past or present -- turning this op-ed into incriminating evidence against its author. Israel's minister of education has preempted legislation, already pledging punishment for academics who support BDS. All this is clear evidence that BDS has started to make its mark on society here in Israel.

Meanwhile, internationally, civil society organizations are passing resolutions in support of BDS -- trade unions, student bodies, municipalities, football teams, even one government -- in Norway, South Africa, Britain, New Hampshire, California, Sweden, France.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society groups came together to voice a powerful joint call for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. Activist groups all over the world and inside Israel have subscribed to this call and declared their support. BDS is a political tool claimed and operated by international civil society where other tools seem ineffective; When international institutions and governments are failing; When a long overdue need to end severe oppression is not being met. Today BDS may be the only non-violent tool capable of moving Israel beyond its patterns of militarized brutality.

Courageously and creatively, BDS faces violence with a firm commitment to non-violence. It stands in solidarity first and foremost with Palestinians, and then with humanity -- with the thousands of internationals and Israelis who have chosen nonviolent resistance as their means to oppose and end the oppression of Palestine.

A tool, a strategy, not an end in itself, BDS is meant to work. As it did in the past when a 1953 boycott of segregated buses jump-started the crucial years of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States; when the African American community of Baton Rouge boycotted and faced down a Louisiana court ruling; when, two years later, Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of a Montgomery bus and initiated the Montgomery bus boycott; when the massive school boycott in 1965 galvanized the movement again in Cook County, as more than 100,000 African American students stayed home from disgraceful schools despite a court injunction; when the world movement to resist South African apartheid gradually gained ground throughout the sixties to the dismay of successive US and British governments; when this movement kept growing, refusing to go away.

Today, BDS can make it increasingly difficult for Israel's government to keep up the occupation and the internal repression. Hiking up costs, it can make occupying unprofitable and racism disgraceful. Meanwhile, and no less important, it is already allowing Israeli society a clear reality check, reflecting what it looks like to international civil society, and capturing what it has become.

BDS is a means to justice for those to whom it has been denied. Not against, but rather for, both Israel and Palestine, it aims to end the policies destroying the lives of Palestinians and devouring the humanity of Israelis. BDS supports the livable, viable futures of all the people of this land.

Ronald Kasrils is a South African politician. He was Minister for Intelligence Services from April 2004 to September 2008. Kasrils' grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Latvia and Lithuania who fled from Czarist pogroms at the end of the 19th century.

Mail & Guardian online
May 21, 2007

Israel 2007:
Worse Than Apartheid

by Ronnie Kasrils (right)

Travelling into Palestine's West Bank and Gaza Strip, which I visited recently, is like a surreal trip back into an apartheid state of emergency.

It is chilling to pass through the myriad checkpoints -- more than 500 in the West Bank. They are controlled by heavily armed soldiers, youthful but grim, tensely watching every movement, fingers on the trigger. Fortunately for me, travelling in a South African embassy vehicle with official documents and escort, the delays were brief.

Sweeping past the lines of Palestinians on foot or in taxis was like a view of the silent, depressed pass- office queues of South Africa's past. A journey from one West Bank town to another that could take 20 minutes by car now takes seven hours for Palestinians, with manifold indignities at the hands of teenage soldiers.

My friend, peace activist Terry Boullata, has virtually given up her teaching job. The monstrous apartheid wall cuts off her East Jerusalem house from her school, which was once across the road, and now takes an hour's journey. Yet she is better off than the farmers of Qalqilya, whose once prosperous agricultural town is totally surrounded by the wall and economically wasted. There is only one gated entry point. The key is with the occupation soldiers. Often they are not even there to let anyone in or out.

Bethlehem too is totally enclosed by the wall, with two gated entry points. The Israelis have added insult to injury by plastering the entrances with giant scenic posters welcoming tourists to Christ's birthplace.

The "security barrier", as the Israeli's term it, is designed to crush the human spirit as much as to enclose the Palestinians in ghettoes. Like a reptile, it transforms its shape and cuts across agricultural lands as a steel-and-wire barrier, with watchtowers, ditches, patrol roads and alarm systems. It will be 700km long and, at a height of 8m to 9m in places, dwarfs the Berlin Wall.

The purpose of the barrier becomes clearest in open country. Its route cuts huge swathes into the West Bank to incorporate into Israel the illegal Jewish settlements -- some of which are huge towns -- and annexes more and more Palestinian territory.

The Israelis claim the purpose of the wall is purely to keep out terrorists. If that were the case, the Palestinians argue, why has it not been built along the 1967 Green Line border? One can only agree with the observation of Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad, who has stated: "It has become abundantly clear that the wall and checkpoints are principally aimed at advancing the safety, convenience and comfort of settlers."

The West Bank, once 22% of historic Palestine, has shrunk to perhaps 10% to 12% of living space for its inhabitants, and is split into several fragments, including the fertile Jordan Valley, which is a security preserve for Jewish settlers and the Israeli Defence Force. Like the Gaza Strip, the West Bank is effectively a hermetically sealed prison. It is shocking to discover that certain roads are barred to Palestinians and reserved for Jewish settlers. I try in vain to recall anything quite as obscene in apartheid South Africa.

Gaza provides a desolate landscape of poverty, grime and bombed-out structures. Incon- gruously, we are able to host South Africa's Freedom Day reception in a restaurant overlooking the splendid harbour and beach. Gunfire rattles up and down the street, briefly interrupting our proceedings, as some militia or other celebrates news of the recovery from hospital of a wounded comrade. Idle fishing boats bob in long lines in the harbour, for times are bad. They are confined by Israel to 3km of the coast and fishing is consequently unproductive. Yet, somehow, the guests are provided with a good feast in best Palestinian tradition.

We are leaving through Tel Aviv airport and the Israeli official catches my accent. "Are you South African?' he asks in an unmistakable Gauteng accent. The young man left Benoni as a child in 1985. "How's Israel?" I ask. "This is a f**ked-up place," he laughs, "I'm leaving for Australia soon."

"Down under?" I think. I've just been, like Alice, down under into a surreal world that is infinitely worse than apartheid. Within a few hours I am in Northern Ireland, a guest at the swearing in of the Stormont power-sharing government of Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.

Not even PW Botha or Ariel Sharon were once as extreme as Ian Paisley in his most riotous and bigoted days. Ireland was under England's boot for 800 years, South Africa's colonial-apartheid order lasted 350 years. The Zionist colonial-settler project stems from the 1880s. The Israeli ruling class, corrupt and with no vision, can no longer rule in the old way. The Palestinians are not prepared to be suppressed any longer. What is needed is Palestinian unity behind their democratically elected national government, reinforced by popular struggles of Palestinians and progressive Israelis, supported by international solidarity.

South Africa's stated position is clear. The immediate demands are recognition of the government of national unity, the lifting of economic sanctions and blockade of the Palestinian territories, an end to the 40-year-old military occupation and resumption of negotiations for a two-state solution.

On a final note, the invitation to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh as head of a national unity government was welcomed by President Mahmoud Abbas, and will be dealt with by our government. As they say in Arabic: "Insha'Allah [God willing]."  



Following is an extraordinary article as much for who wrote it, as for what it says.  Henry Siegman has been one of the most important mainstream Jewish American voices; he was director of the American Jewish Congress from 1978 to 1994. That means he was at the helm of the Israel lobby in the US for many years and was instrumental in gaining enormous US support for Israel during the Reagan years.  

For Siegman to openly compare Israeli practices to Nazi practices is shocking to say the least. It is an indication of what many have been observing, namely that Israel has become more and more fanatic, and dangerously so.  The war on Lebanon in 2006 followed by the war on Gaza in 2008/2009, the Dubai assassination of Al-Mabhouh, and the massacre on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla...all are indications of a nation beyond control in its use of power, to the point that it is alienating its strongest allies and even its own constituents, such as Siegman.

Israel’s Greatest Loss: Its Moral Imagination
If a people who so recently experienced such unspeakable inhumanities cannot understand the injustice and suffering its territorial ambitions are inflicting, what hope is there for the rest of us?

By Henry Siegman
June 11, 2010

Following Israel’s bloody interdiction of the Gaza Flotilla, I called a life-long friend in Israel to inquire about the mood of the country. My friend, an intellectual and a kind and generous man, has nevertheless long sided with Israeli hardliners. Still, I was entirely unprepared for his response. He told me—in a voice trembling with emotion—that the world’s outpouring of condemnation of Israel is reminiscent of the dark period of the Hitler era.

He told me most everyone in Israel felt that way, with the exception of Meretz, a small Israeli pro-peace party. “But for all practical purposes,” he said, “they are Arabs.”

Like me, my friend personally experienced those dark Hitler years, having lived under Nazi occupation, as did so many of Israel’s Jewish citizens. I was therefore stunned by the analogy. He went on to say that the so-called human rights activists on the Turkish ship were in fact terrorists and thugs paid to assault Israeli authorities to provoke an incident that would discredit the Jewish state. The evidence for this, he said, is that many of these activists were found by Israeli authorities to have on them ten thousand dollars, “exactly the same amount!” he exclaimed.

When I managed to get over the shock of that exchange, it struck me that the invocation of the Hitler era was actually a frighteningly apt and searing analogy, although not the one my friend intended. A million and a half civilians have been forced to live in an open-air prison in inhuman conditions for over three years now, but unlike the Hitler years, they are not Jews but Palestinians. Their jailers, incredibly, are survivors of the Holocaust, or their descendants. Of course, the inmates of Gaza are not destined for gas chambers, as the Jews were, but they have been reduced to a debased and hopeless existence.

Fully 80% of Gaza’s population lives on the edge of malnutrition, depending on international charities for their daily nourishment. According to the UN and World Health authorities, Gaza’s children suffer from dramatically increased morbidity that will affect and shorten the lives of many of them. This obscenity is a consequence of a deliberate and carefully calculated Israeli policy aimed at de-developing Gaza by destroying not only its economy but its physical and social infrastructure while sealing it hermitically from the outside world.

Particularly appalling is that this policy has been the source of amusement for some Israeli leaders, who according to Israeli press reports have jokingly described it as “putting Palestinians on a diet.” That, too, is reminiscent of the Hitler years, when Jewish suffering amused the Nazis.

Another feature of that dark era were absurd conspiracies attributed to the Jews by otherwise intelligent and cultured Germans. Sadly, even smart Jews are not immune to that disease. Is it really conceivable that Turkish activists who were supposedly paid ten thousand dollars each would bring that money with them on board the ship knowing they would be taken into custody by Israeli authorities?

That intelligent and moral people, whether German or Israeli, can convince themselves of such absurdities (a disease that also afflicts much of the Arab world) is the enigma that goes to the heart of the mystery of how even the most civilized societies can so quickly shed their most cherished values and regress to the most primitive impulses toward the Other, without even being aware they have done so. It must surely have something to do with a deliberate repression of the moral imagination that enables people to identify with the Other’s plight. Pirkey Avot, a collection of ethical admonitions that is part of the Talmud, urges: “Do not judge your fellow man until you are able to imagine standing in his place.”

Of course, even the most objectionable Israeli policies do not begin to compare with Hitler’s Germany. But the essential moral issues are the same. How would Jews have reacted to their tormentors had they been consigned to the kind of existence Israel has imposed on Gaza’s population? Would they not have seen human rights activists prepared to risk their lives to call their plight to the world’s attention as heroic, even if they had beaten up commandos trying to prevent their effort? Did Jews admire British commandos who boarded and diverted ships carrying illegal Jewish immigrants to Palestine in the aftermath of World War II, as most Israelis now admire Israel’s naval commandos?

Who would have believed that an Israeli government and its Jewish citizens would seek to demonize and shut down Israeli human rights organizations for their lack of “patriotism,” and dismiss fellow Jews who criticized the assault on the Gaza Flotilla as “Arabs,” pregnant with all the hateful connotations that word has acquired in Israel, not unlike Germans who branded fellow citizens who spoke up for Jews as “Juden”? The German White Rose activists, mostly students from the University of Munich, who dared to condemn the German persecution of the Jews (well before the concentration camp exterminations began) were also considered “traitors” by their fellow Germans, who did not mourn the beheading of these activists by the Gestapo.

So, yes, there is reason for Israelis, and for Jews generally, to think long and hard about the dark Hitler era at this particular time. For the significance of the Gaza Flotilla incident lies not in the questions raised about violations of international law on the high seas, or even about “who assaulted who” first on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, but in the larger questions raised about our common human condition by Israel’s occupation policies and its devastation of Gaza’s civilian population.

If a people who so recently experienced on its own flesh such unspeakable inhumanities cannot muster the moral imagination to understand the injustice and suffering its territorial ambitions—and even its legitimate security concerns—are inflicting on another people, what hope is there for the rest of us?

*Henry Siegman, director of the U.S./Middle East Project, is a visiting research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Program, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is a former Senior Fellow on the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations and, before that, was national director of the American Jewish Congress from 1978 to 1994.


News and Commentary about the 2010 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA):
Two commentaries written before the Assembly was held.
The Associated Press report on what happened at the Assembly.
Three analyses of what happened at the Presbyterian General Assembly


Presbyterian report condemns Israeli policies 
in Palestinian territories
By David Waters

America's largest Presbyterian denomination is preparing for a contentious General Assembly next month as delegates will be asked to consider approving a strongly worded report that calls on the U.S. to stop sending billions of dollars in aid to Israel until it changes its policy toward Palestinians. 

Israeli “Agents” Infiltrate 
Presbyterian General Assembly
by James M. Wall

Four professors–two from Vanderbilt, one from Auburn Theological Seminary, and one from Syracuse University–have burst on the national scene as strong opponents of a Middle East Study Commission resolution which will be presented to the Presbyterian Church, USA, General Assembly in Minneapolis, MN, July 3-10....

....It is possible that one or more of the anti-resolution quartet members has devoted time to academic study of the history, politics and ethics involved in this issue, or conducted on-the-ground research investigation in the area.

This is No Longer Your Daddy's 
Presbyterian Church (USA)
by James M. Wall

When commissioners to the 129th Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly left Minneapolis, they departed from a GA that achieved amazing, surprising, and unexpected results.

Reports on the Assembly in the secular media were formulaic, shaped by the American Jewish-Christian dialogue paradigm, which has been carefully built and sustained over many decades by the Israeli Hasbara (hebrew for "propaganda" or, more politely, "explanation".)

The New York Times reported on the GA actions with a short summary that was one-third about the GA actions, and two-thirds about Jewish response to those actions.

Nothing, of course, about any Muslim reactions, of which more later.

Presbyterian Church shouldn't accept
bullying at the pulpit

by Dr. Hanan Ashrawi

This week probably will not be easy for Presbyterians. False accusations of anti-Semitism impugning the motives and integrity of the Church will hurt. But their work is vitally important and offers a tremendous opportunity to hold Israel to account for 43 years of occupation of Palestinian territory.

For decades, I have faced vicious ad hominem attacks as both a Christian and a Palestinian simply for daring to insist that the Palestinian people should live free and not be subject to Israeli occupation. Yes, notwithstanding the absurdity of the language, it occasionally hurts. But Presbyterians under verbal attack may be surprised at the growing number of Palestinians and Jews they find at their side. The rhetoric of the Israel lobby is ferocious because it seeks to obscure the cruel policies - Gazans put on a "diet" resulting in child stunting and malnutrition, the apartheid wall, white phosphorous used on civilians - enacted by the Israeli government.

Who "Won" the PCUSA Assembly?
The Answer May Surprise You 
by James M. Wall

Who “won” the Minneapolis Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly?

To answer that question, we first need to ask, who did not win?

The religious arm of the Israel Lobby did not win, in spite of what you may have read in Newsweek, in the Los Angeles Times and in the American Jewish media.  When a “What's Good for Israel” spin is set in rapid motion, you know you are witnessing the work of an operation that left Minneapolis surprised and disappointed at the outcome.

Something had to be done, and quickly, before the public-and the folks back in Tel Aviv-heard that the Protestant/Israeli Iron Wall has been breached.  Something, indeed, had to be done, and that something was to launch a ”save the Jewish-Christian dialogue” media blitz.

May 16, 2010
Boycotting the boycotters
By Gideon Levy  

While the international boycott against apartheid South Africa is credited with leading to the regime's downfall, here it is considered irrelevant and unworthy of comparison.  Read it>>

17 May 2010
Nakba Day is a Reminder That George Mitchell
Can't Ignore Palestinian Refugees

Policy Brief from The Palestine Center
By Yousef Munayyer

Proximity talks signaling the restart of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, which have been on hold for years, are beginning amidst an important reminder of the root cause of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Saturday, May 15, marked Nakba Day. The Nakba, Arabic for "catastrophe," was the depopulation of Palestine of its native inhabitants which took place around the emergence of the state of Israel from 1947-1949. Little known to most Americans is the massacre of Palestinians at Deir Yassin, which left dozens of women and children slaughtered. It is marked on April 9, a date which highlights the fact that Palestinians were being ethnically cleansed even before the Arab armies declared war on Israel in May of 1948. The Dahmash mosque massacre, marked on July 12, witnessed the gunning down of Palestinian civilians seeking refuge in a mosque. It was one of the worst massacres of the period. 

Israel demands peace from Palestinians
as its own racism spreads

By Zvi Bar'el
Ha'aretz Newspaper, Tel Aviv
March 14, 2010

The Strategic Affairs Ministry never ceases to bring us peace of mind. How nice to know that someone in Israel is monitoring Palestinian incitement, ensuring they "create an environment of peace" and striving "to push them toward a culture of peace."  After all, what do we care about construction in Jerusalem, Efrat or Ramat Shlomo, or about checkpoints, arrests, home demolitions, the army's "neighbor policy," bone breaking, land appropriation or the blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza?

All of these are minor issues compared with naming a square near Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, a Palestinian woman who took part in a bloody terror attack three decades ago, calling for confronting the occupation or referring to suicide bombers as martyrs. These are the real threats to peace.  
Read it>>

Fatal Embrace: Christian, Jews,
and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land
Mark Braverman, author of Fatal Embrace, describes his experiences in Israel and  Palestine, how he came to write his book, and his perspective on the concerns of Christians in the US regarding the Jewish people and the legacy of The Holocaust.

The Holy Land's Christian decline
Already a small minority, Christians have been steadily leaving the Palestinian territories, fleeing the violence and plummeting living standards.
Pope Benedict XVI hopes he will be able to use his pilgrimage to the Holy Land to encourage Palestinian Christians to stay.
Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros reports.


The 'img' start tag on line 1 position 2 does not match the end tag of 'object'. Line 1, position 196.
The Guardian
Apartheid in the Holy Land
by Bishop Desmond Tutu
April 29, 2002

In our struggle against apartheid, the great supporters were Jewish people. They almost instinctively had to be on the side of the disenfranchised, of the voiceless ones, fighting injustice, oppression and evil. I have continued to feel strongly with the Jews. I am patron of a Holocaust centre in South Africa. I believe Israel has a right to secure borders.

What is not so understandable, not justified, is what it did to another people to guarantee its existence. I've been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.

On one of my visits to the Holy Land I drove to a church with the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem. I could hear tears in his voice as he pointed to Jewish settlements. I thought of the desire of Israelis for security. But what of the Palestinians who have lost their land and homes?

I have experienced Palestinians pointing to what were their homes, now occupied by Jewish Israelis. I was walking with Canon Naim Ateek (the head of the Sabeel Ecumenical Centre) in Jerusalem. He pointed and said: "Our home was over there. We were driven out of our home; it is now occupied by Israeli Jews."

My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?

Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice. We condemn the violence of suicide bombers, and we condemn the corruption of young minds taught hatred; but we also condemn the violence of military incursions in the occupied lands, and the inhumanity that won't let ambulances reach the injured.

The military action of recent days, I predict with certainty, will not provide the security and peace Israelis want; it will only intensify the hatred.

Israel has three options: revert to the previous stalemated situation; exterminate all Palestinians; or - I hope - to strive for peace based on justice, based on withdrawal from all the occupied territories, and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state on those territories side by side with Israel, both with secure borders.

We in South Africa had a relatively peaceful transition. If our madness could end as it did, it must be possible to do the same everywhere else in the world. If peace could come to South Africa, surely it can come to the Holy Land?

My brother Naim Ateek has said what we used to say: "I am not pro- this people or that. I am pro-justice, pro-freedom. I am anti- injustice, anti-oppression."

But you know as well as I do that, somehow, the Israeli government is placed on a pedestal [in the US], and to criticise it is to be immediately dubbed anti-semitic, as if the Palestinians were not semitic. I am not even anti-white, despite the madness of that group. And how did it come about that Israel was collaborating with the apartheid government on security measures?

People are scared in this country [the US], to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful - very powerful. Well, so what? For goodness sake, this is God's world! We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust.

Injustice and oppression will never prevail. Those who are powerful have to remember the litmus test that God gives to the powerful: what is your treatment of the poor, the hungry, the voiceless? And on the basis of that, God passes judgment.

We should put out a clarion call to the government of the people of Israel, to the Palestinian people and say: peace is possible, peace based on justice is possible. We will do all we can to assist you to achieve this peace, because it is God's dream, and you will be able to live amicably together as sisters and brothers.

Desmond Tutu is the former Archbishop of Cape Town and chairman of South Africa's truth and reconciliation commission. This address was given at a conference on Ending the Occupation held in Boston, Massachusetts, in April 2002. A longer version appears in the current edition of Church Times.