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

Two articles from April 2010, reflections on Israel's celebration of its birth as a state, the beginning of the Nakba for the Palestinians. The bios of the writers is an interesting as their writing.

The first article is by
Bradley Burston, a columnist for Israel's Haaretz Newspaper, and
Senior Editor of, which publishes his blog "A Special Place in Hell." During the first Palestinian uprising, he served as Gaza correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, and was the paper's military correspondent in the 1991 Gulf War. In the mid-1990s he covered Israeli-Arab peace talks for Reuters. He is a recipient of the Eliav-Sartawi Award for Mideast Journalism, presented at the United Nations in 2006.

Burston was born and raised in Los Angeles. After graduating from UC Berkeley, he moved to Israel, where he was part of a group which established Kibbutz Gezer, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Burston served in the IDF as a combat medic, later studying medicine in Be'er Sheva for two years before turning to journalism.

The second piece is by
Uri Avnery, a former member of Israel's legislature, the Knesset, and a well-known, very articulate political commentator, who also writes for the newspaper Haaretz. However, this article comes from the website of Gush Shalom, an Israeli peace organization.



April 19, 2010

Declare Independence.  Free Israel. 
End the Occupation

by Bradley Burston

Shimon the Tzadik, the righteous, the just, the saintly, was one of the last of the Great Knesset. He used to say: The world continues to exist because of three things: Torah, Worship, and Acts of Lovingkindness.
Talmud, Pirkeh Avot

SHEIKH JARRAH, East Jerusalem - It's taken us years and years, but we've finally realized the dream of every Israeli.

It was my wife who noticed. "I really like this," she said one Friday as we left the house, "getting out and going to a foreign country every weekend."

Our fellow Israeli Jews, inveterate world travelers that they are, literally go out of their way to avoid this place, which is called East Jerusalem. Some steer clear because it scares them, others simply because it feels so, well, foreign.

In the end, what they miss out on, is the view from here. If just once they'd make the trip. On a clear day, they could see their own future.

This is not just any neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Just as the settlers here, with their Baruch Goldstein celebrants, are not just any settlers, nor the anti-settlement protest held here each Friday, a demonstration like any other.

More than any other area of the Holy Land, this is the place where Israelis gather regularly to declare their independence from Occupation.

Here, because Sheikh Jarrah is where the settlement movement has come to die. The settlement named for Shimon The Just, is where the Occupation has begun to write its own ending.

Even the pro-settlement right has begun to realize that there is something different and dangerous here. That the circumstances of the creation of this settlement not only have the effect of turning all of Jerusalem into the status of a settlement, but of turning all of Israel into the status of Occupied Territory.

"The entrance of Jews to Sheikh Jarrah is a crazy and irresponsible act," rightist Jerusalem City Councilman Yakir Segev was quoted as telling a Hebrew University panel discussion last week.

"It's a terrible and crazy idea to open the question of ownership of properties from before 1948. It may open up a Pandora's box," Segev told Ynet, referring to the fact that Palestinians - even the families expelled to make way for the Sheikh Jarrah settlers - could reasonably ask courts to return them to land they owned until 1948 and had to flee, to homes which are now the homes of Jews in places like Jaffa and West Jerusalem.

"There are very wide-reaching repercussions and a reverse precedent may be set."

Occupation is an ugly word. That is why people who support the idea of a Jewish state should use the term, and use it often. Because, on this, Israel's 62nd independence day, the Occupation has to be identified for what it has become: Israel's worst enemy.

Not Iran. Not Hamas or Hezbollah. All three would like to see Israel cease to exist. But our government has tools to fight them. Against the Occupation, though, the government is powerless.

For much of the last decade, this city was engulfed in fire. The pro-settlement right - let us, for once, call it what it is: the Movement for a Permanent Occupation - taught anyone who would listen, that it is peace moves that provoke terrorism; that it is the peace process that has led us, time and again, to war; that to question the act of settlement is to be anti-Israeli.

No more. This is where it has to stop. There is a name for the systematic burning of our bridges with the world, with our friends, with the majority of world Jewry, all for the sake of the settlements, all for the sake of permanent Occupation: Suicide.

Years past on Independence Day, I used to wonder if my generation would survive the Occupation.

Now I wonder if Israel will.

This is perhaps Israel's most dismal Independence Day in memory. Not because of war. Nor terrorism, nor economic crisis.

In a country where polls show that nearly two-thirds of the population would cede the West Bank under a future peace deal, Israelis are hostages to the nightmare scenario of permanent Occupation.

Today, after 62 years of furious effort, Israelis and Palestinians are in many respects farther from true independence than ever before. The reason becomes clearer by the year. Both peoples are prisoners of the Occupation.

These people, my friends, the Israelis, now face the most difficult challenge in the history of their country. Their country is still young as nations go, but is aging dangerously with every passing year that the Occupation terrorizes us, invades us, roots itself, spreads, poisons the spirit and the soul.

Most of all, the Occupation has blinded smart people to its own dangers. The Occupation exploits our fears even as it magnifies the real threats against us. The Occupation feeds and fosters those who hate us. It is their secret weapon. It is our Achilles heel.

We know now that our government, our prime minister and defense minister, are prisoners of the Occupation as well, unable or unwilling to do what they know they must to safeguard Israel's future.

That is why individual Israelis are going to have to do what they do best: Take action on their own.

It is not a large group that demonstrates here. But it is persistent, and growing. There are no speeches, and no hurled rocks. Only something which, thanks to the Occupation, is all but gone everywhere else in Israel: hope.

Will a serious battle against Occupation cause a deep rift in the Jewish People? Will it drive a wedge between all those who believe that the Jews, like other peoples, deserve a state of their own?

Too late. The Occupation has already been there, and done precisely that.

The Occupation has become the greatest single threat to the social fabric of the Jewish state. The Occupation causes division, strife, tension and alienation in Jewish families and Jewish communities the world over.

Nothing causes Israel more diplomatic damage than the Occupation, and its outrider, the siege of Gaza.

Nothing delegitimizes Israel more in the eyes of the world - and in the eyes of many Jews - than the nation's unwillingness or inability to dismantle and end the Occupation.

You don't have to take the short jaunt to Sheikh Jarrah to understand that Israelis must put an end to the Occupation before the Occupation puts an end to Israel.

What will permanent occupation mean for Israel? Not only that the nation will cease to be a democratic state, disenfranchising millions of Palestinians. In the end, permanent Occupation will see to it that Israel will cease to be a Jewish state as well. Israel will have delegitimized itself out of existence.

It will have knowingly opted for and adopted apartheid, and, in the end, either through democracy or through fire, and, thanks to the Occupation, the world community will see to it that an Arab-ruled Palestine from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River will finally come into existence.

That, in the end, may explain why the demonstrations here in Sheikh Jarrah, which are not massive in scale, have managed to set in motion a chain of events which has not only affected Washington's view of settlement in the Holy City, but ? in the manner of the settlers' disproportionate leverage over the rest of us ? has managed to paralyze, at least for now, the inroads of militant settlers into several points across East Jerusalem.

After our most recent visit to the foreign country that may one day be called Palestine, I've refined my goals as far as the future is concerned. This, then, is my mission statement for this Independence Day:

Let the Occupation end with me.

May it end here. Let it end soon.

May Jews and Arabs become again what they once were: Neighbors. True cousins.

May this be the generation that outlives the Occupation.

May we find ways to cripple it, take it apart. End it.

This is Independence Day. Free Israel. End the Occupation.

Addendum. As I was writing this, the Im Tirtzu organization, which promotes the Occupation through division, libel, and graphic and verbal obscenity, distributed pamphlets in synagogues aimed at changing the Yizkor memorial prayer for fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, to include an attack on leftist Israelis. I will respond at length to this next week, but suffice it to say that the corrupting effect of the Occupation on the concepts of Torah, Worship, and Lovingkindness, has never been more evident.

Bradley Burston, Sgt., res., IDF Serial # 3369089.

A Birthday Present
Uri Avnery
Gush Shalom, April 17, 2010

YESTERDAY I went to the health clinic to get a vaccination. It was a pleasant day, sunny but not too hot. The trip to the clinic and back, including the waiting, took just over an hour. During this time, I had the following experiences:

The taxi driver told me that years ago he was living next to Asher Yadlin, the man at the center of a major corruption affair in the 70s, which was uncovered by my magazine, Haolam Hazeh. "How we were shocked then!" he exclaimed, "we did not believe that such a thing was possible! And look what’s happening now!" He meant the scandal around the huge Holyland housing project in West Jerusalem, involving a former prime minister, two former mayors and an assortment of business tycoons and senior officials – a bribery affair a hundred times bigger than the Yadlin business.

While waiting at the clinic, I was accosted by an old man (who turned out to be a year younger than I), a thin person who wore a golf cap and started to tell me his life story. "I fought in the Warsaw ghetto uprising," he started. I searched for an escape route, but before I could spot one I was captured by his story.

When the Ghetto revolt started in 1943, he was living opposite the home of the legendary leader, Antek Zuckerman, in the famous Milla street. He was then hardly 18 years old. Somehow he survived and landed (I didn’t get how) into the central Warsaw prison, where the Germans were executing people every day. Since there were no Jews left by that stage, the victims were Poles – priests and members of the intelligentsia.

In August, 1944, when the great Warsaw Uprising broke out, the rebels freed him from prison. They were of two kinds: the rightist faction - the Homeland Army - which was anti-Semitic, and the leftist one, which was composed of socialists and communists. Yachek (as he was called then) was freed by the rightists, but they treated him well, gave him a gun and a white-and-red armlet.

The Polish insurgents did not cooperate with the Russians, who were already nearby ("They hated the Russians more than the Germans," Yachek commented). Stalin stopped his forces, and the rebels were compelled to capitulate to the Germans after 63 days of fighting. Yachek and another Jewish boy found a bunker in the destroyed ghetto where they hid below ground for 10 months, until the arrival of the Red Army.

All this he told me while we were standing, his face a few inches from mine, his light blue eyes betraying his frustration at having to tell his story in this manner, when dozens of hours would not have sufficed. I was glad to hear that somebody was writing a book about him.

In the middle of it, a man of about 60 approached us and told me that he had twice voted for me. "Not that I agreed with your views," he confided, "but I wanted to have intelligent people in the Knesset." I must admit that this motive was new to me.

Before going home I entered a nearby store. There I met a woman I had known some 40 years ago, when her husband had been the manager of the "Chamber Quartet", perhaps the most outstanding satire group in the annals of Israel. Her brother-in-law, Yehiel Kadishai, had been the loyal secretary of Menachem Begin. He was famous for his total devotion to his leader, for no personal gain whatsoever. We briefly compared Israel as it was then to the Israel of today.

The cab driver who brought me home told me that he had recently moved back from Las Vegas. He had come to the US in the wake of his wife, who had worked for Binyamin Netanyahu when he served as Israel’s envoy to the UN. After he had lived a few happy years in the gambling capital, the company he worked for dismissed 17 thousand employees at one stroke. He was left without a job for seven months. When he went back to Israel for a family wedding, he saw that the Israeli economy was booming and decided to stay for the time being. An Israeli flag was waving over his taxi, and he sounded eminently satisfied.

THIS IS a random sample of Israelis on the eve of the 2010 Independence Day. Memories from the Holocaust, nostalgia for a more innocent Israel, anger about corruption, satisfaction with the Israeli economy which is flourishing at a time when the entire world is still stuck in an economic crisis. Not a single word about peace. Not a single word about the occupation.

If I had asked these people what they think about it, I would probably have received one and the same answer from all of them: Peace is a good thing. We want peace. For peace we are ready to give up occupied territories, even East Jerusalem, and to hell with the settlements. But what? We have no partner. The Arabs don’t want peace. Therefore there will be no peace – not tomorrow, not in ten years, not in fifty years. Nothing to be done. That’s how it is.

If I had spent the same hour in similar company in Ramallah, the answers I received would probably not have been very different. Bitter memories from the Naqba, anger about the corruption in high circles, perhaps even some satisfaction about the improvement of the economic situation in the West Bank. And a total lack of belief in peace. They would certainly have said: "The Israelis don’t want peace. Nothing to be done. That’s how it is."

If Barack Obama and his assistants intend to start a serious peace effort, as it now seems, that is the main thing they have to take into consideration: before addressing the hard problems of peacemaking, the profound lack of belief on both sides has to be overcome. Either side is completely convinced that the other side does not want peace and will bring a dozen proofs from real life.

This lack of belief is the product of 120 years of the conflict, an endless chain of violence, wars and crises, for which each side blames the other. The Palestinians see the Israelis as land-grabbing robbers, the Israelis see the Arabs as cannibals with knives between their teeth.

This lack of belief is also somehow comfortable. When there is no chance, there is no need to do anything. No need to rise up, to act, to demonstrate, to change. Nothing can be done anyhow. That’s how it is.

SOME DAYS ago, two American personalities published an important document.

Zbigniew Brzezinski was the national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter. He was considered a hawk, but first of all a realist. He played an important role in bringing China closer to the US, armed the Mujahidin in Afghanistan against the Soviet invaders, was one of the hosts at the 1978 Camp David conference which laid the foundation to the Israeli-Egyptian peace. There he played chess with Begin. (I don’t know if they spoke Polish together.) Some years ago he called upon President George W. Bush to change American policy in the Middle East, including dropping the negative attitude towards Hamas.

Stephen Solarz was a congressman. A Jewish New-Yorker, he specialized in foreign affairs and played a role in American relations with North Korea and the Philippines. I had a talk with him many years ago and was impressed by his emotional involvement with Israeli-Palestinian peace.

When two such persons publish a manifesto together, they are bound to attract attention in the US. But the contents of the document are no less important than the identity of the authors.

The two put on the table a practical and detailed proposal, which includes the following steps:

President Obama will come to Jerusalem and address the Israeli public directly from the Knesset rostrum.

He will do the same in Ramallah and address the Palestinian public.

He will make a speech in the Old City of Jerusalem and address all the peoples of the Middle East.

To all these audiences, Obama will submit an American peace plan.

I BELIEVE that this is an excellent idea (and not only because President Anwar Sadat of Egypt took the first step with considerable success, and not only because I suggested some months ago that Obama make a speech in the Knesset.) It is reasonable, practical and realizable.

For many years I believed that there is no substitute for a direct face-to-face dialogue, without a third party. Peace is a framework for life for the two peoples, and the very mechanism of peacemaking can contribute much to their reconciliation. Moreover, when there is a third party, each side addresses it and not the adversary, at the same time radicalizing its position so as to have something to compromise on.

The Oslo experience proved this point. Agreement was reached behind the back of the Americans and the whole world in direct talks, without intermediaries. The Norwegians acted only as discreet hosts. History brought together two brave leaders – Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin - who might have been able to proceed from there to real peace.

But it failed. When one side is immensely stronger than the other, the stronger one is tempted to dictate its will. Rabin was publicly murdered, and Arafat died in circumstances that leave little room for doubt that he, too, was murdered. The grand experiment foundered and left behind a situation worse than the one before. In such a situation, the involvement of a third party – the US – is necessary.

People speak of an "imposed peace". But that is not the right expression. It is impossible to impose peace on peoples which do not want it. In the best case, that would lead to a signature on a piece of paper that had no chance of being implemented.

The task of the US is not to "impose" but to "convince" – and I don’t use the word cynically.

To convince means: to lead Israeli and Palestinian public opinion to the conviction that peace is possible, that the other side also needs it, that somebody will see to it that the terms are fully kept, that somebody will guarantee their security in the short and long term. And the main point: that each party has got to gain from it.

In Israel, Obama will have to take into consideration the real fears of a Holocaust-troubled people, to plant again the seeds of hope, to create the faith that there is a place for Israel in the family of Middle Eastern nations, to reinforce the conviction that the US will not abandon Israel in any future crisis, but also to warn of the severe dangers facing Israel if the two-state solution is not realized very soon.

In Palestine he will have to take into consideration the fears of a Naqba-injured and occupation-damaged people; to promise the realization of the Palestinians’ hope for independence within two years, to guarantee that the US will not allow ethnic cleansing, but also to point out the existential danger that threatens them if the State of Palestine does not soon come into being next to Israel. He must also lift the veto the US has imposed on Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.

To both peoples Obama must submit a fair, balanced and realistic peace plan, going into the smallest details and with a reasonable yet fixed time-table, a plan that allows each side to claim victory.

OBAMA IS a man of many talents, but most of all he has the ability to convince. He is capable of touching the profoundest emotions of people and peoples. I hope he uses this talent for the good of the two long-suffering peoples of this tortured country.

On the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, I cannot conceive of a more beautiful present.