What’s Next for Palestine/Israel? – by Noam Chomsky

On July 13, former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin issued a dire warning to the government of Israel: either it will reach some kind of two-state settlement or there will be a “shift to a nearly inevitable outcome of the one remaining reality — a state `from the sea to the river’.” The near inevitable outcome, “one state for two nations,” will pose “an immediate existential threat of the erasure of the identity of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” soon with a Palestinian-Arab majority.

On similar grounds, in the latest issue of Britain’s leading journal of international affairs, two prominent Middle East specialists, Clive Jones and Beverly Milton-Edwards, write that “if Israel wishes to be both Jewish and democratic,” it must embrace “the two-state solution.”

It is easy to cite many other examples, but unnecessary, because it is assumed almost universally that there are two options for cis-Jordan: either two states – Palestinian and Jewish-democratic — or one state “from the sea to the river.” Israeli commentators express concern about the “demographic problem”: too many Palestinians in a Jewish state.  Many Palestinians and their advocates support the “one state solution,” anticipating a civil rights, anti-Apartheid struggle that will lead to secular democracy.  Other analysts also consistently pose the options in similar terms.

The analysis is almost universal, but crucially flawed.  There is a third option, namely, the option that Israel is pursuing with constant US support.  And this third option is the only realistic alternative to the two-state settlement that is backed by an overwhelming international consensus.

It makes sense, in my opinion, to contemplate a future binational secular democracy in the former Palestine, from the sea to the river.  For what it’s worth, that is what I have advocated for 70 years.  But I stress: advocated.  Advocacy, as distinct from mere proposal, requires sketching a path from here to there.  The forms of true advocacy have changed with shifting circumstances.  Since the mid-1970s, when Palestinian national rights became a salient issue, the only form of advocacy has been in stages, the first being the two-state settlement.  No other path has been suggested that has even a remote chance of success.  Proposing a binational (“one state”) settlement without moving on to advocacy in effect provides support for the third option, the realistic one.

The third option, taking shape before our eyes, is not obscure.  Israel is systematically extending plans that were sketched and initiated shortly after the 1967 war, and institutionalized more fully with the access to power of Menahem Begin’s Likud a decade later.

The first step is to create what Yonatan Mendel calls “a disturbing new city” called “Jerusalem” but extending far beyond historic Jerusalem, incorporating dozens of Palestinian villages and surrounding lands, and furthermore, designated as a Jewish City and the capital of Israel.  All of this is in direct violation of explicit Security Council orders.  A corridor to the East of this new Greater Jerusalem incorporates the town of Ma’aleh Adumim, established in the 1970s but built primarily after the 1993 Oslo Accords, with lands reaching virtually to Jericho, thus effectively bisecting the West Bank.  Corridors to the north incorporating the settler towns of Ariel and Kedumim further divide what is to remain under some degree of Palestinian control.

Meanwhile Israel is incorporating the territory on the Israeli side of the illegal “separation wall,” in reality an annexation wall, taking arable land and water resources and many villages, strangling the town of Qalqilya, and separating Palestinian villagers from their fields.  In what Israel calls “the seam” between the wall and the border, close to 10 percent of the West Bank, anyone is permitted to enter, except Palestinians.  Those who live in the region have to go through a highly intricate bureaucratic procedure to gain temporary entry.  Exit, for example for medical care, is hampered in the same way.  The result, predictably, has been severe disruption of Palestinian lives, and according to UN reports, a decrease of more than 80% in number of farmers who routinely cultivate their lands and a decline of 60% in yield of olive trees, among other harmful effects.  The pretext for the wall was security, but that means security for illegal Jewish settlers; about 85 per cent of the wall runs through the occupied West Bank.

Israel is also taking over the Jordan Valley, thus fully imprisoning the cantons that remain. Huge infrastructure projects link settlers to Israel’s urban centers, ensuring that they will see no Palestinians.  Following a traditional neocolonial model, a modern center remains for Palestinian elites, in Ramallah, while the remainder mostly languishes.

To complete the separation of Greater Jerusalem from remaining Palestinian cantons, Israel would have to take over the E1 region.  So far that has been barred by Washington, and Israel has been compelled to resort to subterfuges, like building a police station.  Obama is the first US president to have imposed no limits on Israeli actions.  It remains to be seen whether he will permit Israel to take over E1, perhaps with expressions of discontent and a wink of the eye to make it clear that they are not seriously intended.

There are regular expulsions of Palestinians.  In the Jordan Valley alone the Palestinian population has been reduced from 300,000 in 1967 to 60,000 today, and similar processes are underway elsewhere.  Following the “dunam after dunam” policies that go back a century, each action is limited in scope so as not to arouse too much international attention, but with a cumulative effect and intent that are quite clear.

Furthermore, ever since the Oslo Accord declared that Gaza and the West Bank are an indivisible territorial unity, the US-Israel duo have been committed to separating the two regions.  One significant effect is to ensure that any limited Palestinian entity will have no access to the outside world.

In the areas that Israel is taking over, the Palestinian population is small and scattered, and is being reduced further by regular expulsions.  The result will be a Greater Israel with a substantial Jewish majority.  Under the third option, there will be no “demographic problem” and no civil rights or anti-Apartheid struggle, nothing more than what already exists within Israel’s recognized borders, where the mantra “Jewish and democratic” is regularly intoned for the benefit of those who choose to believe, oblivious to the inherent contradiction, which is far more than merely symbolic.

Except in stages, the one-state option is an illusion.  It has no international support, and there is no reason why Israel and its US sponsor would accept it, since they have a far preferable option, the one they are now implementing; with impunity, thanks to US power.

The US and Israel call for negotiations without preconditions.  Commentary there and elsewhere in the West typically claims that the Palestinians are imposing such preconditions, hampering the “peace process.” In reality, the US-Israel insist upon crucial preconditions.  The first is that negotiations must be mediated by the United States, which is not a neutral party but rather a participant in the conflict.  It is as if one were to propose that Sunni-Shiite conflicts in Iraq be mediated by Iran.  Authentic negotiations would be in the hands of some neutral state with a degree of international respect.  The second precondition is that illegal settlement expansion must be allowed to continue, as it has done without a break during the 20 years of the Oslo Accord; predictably, given the terms of the Accord.

In the early years of the occupation the US joined the world in regarding the settlements as illegal, as confirmed by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice.  Since Reagan, their status has been downgraded to “a barrier to peace.” Obama weakened the designation further, to “not helpful to peace,” with gentle admonitions that are easily dismissed.  Obama’s extreme rejectionism did arouse some attention in February 2011, when he vetoed a Security Council resolution supporting official US policy, ending of settlement expansion.

As long as these preconditions remain in force, diplomacy is likely to remain at a standstill.  With brief and rare exceptions, that has been true since January 1976, when the US vetoed a Security Council resolution, brought by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, calling for a two-state settlement on the internationally recognized border, the Green Line, with guarantees for the security of all states within secure and recognized borders.  That is essentially the international consensus that is by now universal, with the two usual exceptions – not just on Middle East issues, incidentally.  The consensus has been modified to include “minor and mutual adjustments” on the Green Line, to borrow official US wording before it had broken with the rest of the world.

The same is true of the negotiations that may take place soon in Washington.  Given the preconditions, they are unlikely to achieve anything more than to serve as a framework in which Israel can carry forward its project of taking over whatever it finds valuable in the West Bank and Syrian Golan Heights, annexed in violation of Security Council orders, while maintaining the siege of Gaza.  And doing so throughout with the critical economic, military, diplomatic and ideological support of the state running the negotiations.  One can of course hope for better, but it is hard to be optimistic.

Europe could play a role in advancing the hopes for a peaceful diplomatic settlement, if it were willing to pursue an independent path.  The recent EU decision to exclude West Bank settlements from any future deals with Israel might be a step in this direction.  US policies are also not graven in stone, though they have deep strategic, economic, and cultural roots.  In the absence of such changes, there is every reason to expect that the picture from the river to the sea will conform to the third option.  Palestinian rights and aspirations will be shelved, temporarily at least.

If the Israel-Palestine conflict is not resolved, a regional peace settlement is highly unlikely.  That failure has far broader implications – in particular, for what US media call “the gravest threat to world peace,” echoing the pronouncements of President Obama and most of the political class: namely, Iran’s nuclear programs.  The implications become clear when we consider the most obvious ways to deal with the alleged threat, and their fate.  It is useful, first, to consider a few preliminary questions: Who regards the threat as of such cosmic significance?  And what is the perceived threat?

Answers are straightforward.  The threat is overwhelmingly a western obsession: the US and its allies.  The non-aligned countries, most of the world, have vigorously supported Iran’s right, as a signer of the Non-proliferation Treaty, to enrich Uranium.  In the Arab world, Iran is generally disliked, but not perceived as a threat; rather, it is the US and Israel that the population regards as a threat, by very large margins, as consistently shown by polls.

In western discourse, it is commonly claimed that the Arabs support the US position regarding Iran, but the reference is to the dictators, not the general population, who are considered an irrelevant annoyance under prevailing democratic doctrine.  Also standard is reference to “the standoff between the international community and Iran,” to quote from the current scholarly literature.  Here the phrase “international community” refers to the US and whoever happens to go along with it; in this case, a small minority of the international community, but many more if political stands are weighted by power.

What then is the perceived threat?  An authoritative answer is given by US intelligence and the Pentagon in their regular reviews of global security.  They conclude that Iran is not a military threat.  It has low military expenditures even by the standards of the region, and limited capacity to deploy force.  Its strategic doctrine is defensive, designed to resist attack.  The intelligence community reports no evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but if it is, they conclude, that would be part of Iran’s deterrence strategy.

It is hard to think of a country in the world that needs a deterrent more than Iran.  It has been tormented by the West without respite ever since its parliamentary regime was overthrown by a US-British military coup in 1953, first under the harsh and brutal regime of the Shah, then under murderous attack by Saddam Hussein, with western support.  It was largely US intervention that induced Iran to capitulate; and shortly after, President George Bush I invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the US for training in advanced weapons production, an extraordinary threat to Iran.  Iraq soon became an enemy, but meanwhile Iran was subjected to harsh sanctions, intensifying under US initiative to the present.  It constantly subjected to the threat of military attack by the US and Israel – in violation of the UN Charter, if anyone cares.

It is, however, understandable that the US-Israel would regard an Iranian deterrent as an intolerable threat.  It would limit their ability to control the region, by violence if they choose, as they often have.  That is the essence of the perceived Iranian threat.

That the clerical regime is a threat to its own people is hardly in doubt, though regrettably it is hardly alone in that regard.  But it goes well beyond naiveté to believe that its internal repression is much of a concern to the great powers.

Whatever one thinks of the threat, are there ways to mitigate it?  Quite a few, in fact.  One of the most reasonable would be to move towards establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the region, as strongly advocated by the Non-aligned movement and particularly by the Arab states, and indeed most of the world.  The US and its allies voice formal support, but have hardly been cooperative.  That is once again clear right now.  Under NPT authority, an international conference was to have been held in Finland last December to advance such plans.  Israel refused to attend, but to the surprise of many, in early November Iran announced that it would take part, without conditions.  The US then announced that the conference was cancelled, repeating Israel’s objections: that a conference is premature before regional security is established.  The Arab states, Russia, and the European Parliament called for immediate renewal of the initiative, but of course little is possible without the US.

Details are murky.  Little documentary evidence is available, and all of this has passed without inquiry. In particular, the US press has not inquired, or in fact even published a single word on the most reasonable and practical efforts to address what it reports as “the gravest threat to world peace.”

It is quite clear, however, that Arab states and others call for moves to eliminate weapons of mass destruction immediately, as a step towards regional security; while the US and Israel, in contrast, reverse the order, and demand regional security – meaning security for Israel — as a prerequisite to eliminating such weapons.  In the not-very-remote background is the understanding that Israel has an advanced nuclear weapons system, alone in the region; and is alone in refusing to join the NPT, along with India and Pakistan, both of whom also benefit from US support for their nuclear arsenals.

The connection of Israel-Palestine conflict to the alleged Iranian threat is therefore clear.  As long as the US and Israel persist in their rejectionist stance, blocking the international consensus on a two-state settlement, there will be no regional security arrangements, hence no moves towards a establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone and mitigating, perhaps ending, what the US and Israel claim to be the gravest threat to peace, at least to do so in the most obvious and far-reaching way.

It should be noted that along with Britain, the US has a special responsibility to devote its efforts to establishing a Middle East NWFZ.  When attempting to provide a thin legal cover for their invasion of Iraq, the two aggressors appealed to UNSCR 687 of 1991, claiming that Saddam violated the demand to end his nuclear weapons programs.  The Resolution also has another paragraph, calling for “steps towards the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction…”, obligating the US and UK even more than others to undertake this initiative seriously.

These comments naturally only scratch the surface, and leave out many urgent topics, among them the horrifying descent of Syria into suicide and ominous developments in Egypt, which are sure to have a regional impact.  And indeed a lot more.  This is how some of the core issues appear, to me at least.

So it’s OK that Israel has Chemical Weapons but not Syria or Iran…Why?

By  Pierre Klochendler

JERUSALEM, Sep 23 2013 (IPS) – “Does Israel have chemical weapons too?” is the question posed by the U.S. publication Foreign Policy, citing a newly uncovered CIA document from 1983 which alleged that Israel is likely to have developed such weapons. Written ten years after the 1973 war in which Egypt and Syria attacked Israel, the CIA document revealed in Foreign Policy alleged that “Israel undertook a programme of chemical warfare preparations in both offensive and protective areas.” True or not, the report underpins Israel’s doctrine to deter frontline Arab states from attacking it by tilting the balance of power in its favour, Prof. Shlomo Aronson, Israeli weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) scholar at the Hebrew University Jlem tells IPS. “Since the Arab states started to produce chemical weapons, it would be quite natural that Israel has something similar. They have chemical weapons. We must have them as well.” “Syria produced chemical weapons to balance the threat of Israeli nuclear weapons,” Ziad Abu Zayyad, former head of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace talks on Arms Control and Regional Security (1991-1996) tells IPS.

“Since the Arab states started to produce chemical weapons, it would be quite natural that Israel has something similar.”

“While we cannot confirm whether the Israelis possess lethal chemical agents,” the CIA report said, “several indicators lead us to believe that they have available to them at least persistent and non-persistent nerve agents, a mustard agent, and several riot-control agents, marched with suitable delivery systems.” It’s been known since the early 1970s that chemical tests are conducted at the secretive Israel Institute for Biological Research located in the town of Ness Ziona, 20 km south of Tel Aviv. The secret Intel file identified “a probable chemical weapons nerve agent production facility and a storage facility at the Dimona Sensitive Storage area in the Negev desert,” – that is, in the vicinity of the nuclear research centre where it’s widely assumed that nuclear warheads have been manufactured. Whether Israel retains the alleged chemical stockpile is unknown. Officially, it neither confirms nor denies the existence of a chemical weapons programme – let alone of a nuclear weapons programme – and intentionally shrouds in ambiguity its suspected weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme, only exhibiting chemical warfare protection drills and gas mask kits distribution centres. Aronson deciphers the Israeli WMD doctrine – “not to admit the existence of WMDs before peace prevails; not taking the Arab people hostage to the behaviour of their leaders; not committing publicly to any red line in the realm of unconventional weapons.” Israel signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (September 1993) which prohibits the production, stockpiling and use of such arms, but never ratified it. If implemented, the convention would endow chemical weapons inspectors with intrusive powers, notes Aronson. “The treaty could allow inspectors in Israel’s facilities, including the nuclear facility.” Abu Zayyad believes that after Syria, Israel should disarm from its chemical weapons. “There should be a linkage,” he tells IPS. “We’re aiming at a WMDs-free Middle East.” Israel rejects any demand to link Syria’s chemical disarmament with a ratification of the Convention that would lead to the dismantlement of the arsenal it reportedly has. “The big difference is Syria, not Israel, uses chemical weapons,” Aronson points out. “Conventional Israel was never accepted. Unconventional Israel was, and is, accepted. Our very survival rests on unconventional weapons.” “Peace is the sole solution to Israel’s security predicament,” counters Abu Zayyad. Israel declines to answer queries by foreign journalists, opting instead for more discreet reactions in the local media. “Some of the countries in the region don’t recognise Israel’s right to exist and blatantly call to annihilate it,” a Foreign Ministry spokesperson was quoted in the liberal newspaper Haaretz.” “In this context, the chemical weapons threat against Israel and its civilian population is neither theoretical nor distant,” the official said by way of rationale for not ratifying the Convention. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Jerusalem to brief Netanyahu about the U.S.-Russian framework agreement on terminating Syria’s chemical weapons the day after it was a done deal. “If we achieve that,” Kerry declared, “We’ll have set a marker for the standard of behaviour with respect to Iran and North Korea.” “The determination the international community shows regarding Syria will have a direct impact on the Syrian regime’s patron Iran,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to Kerry. “If diplomacy has any chance to work, it must be coupled with a credible military threat.” Netanyahu knows that the U.S., after having precisely adopted such a two-pronged approach on Syria, cannot afford not to back Israel publicly on Iran, even as Tehran is signalling readiness to compromise on its nuclear programme. And for the time being, demands for Israel to disarm from its alleged poison gas arsenal are bound to evaporate into thin air.

 

 

It is the job of the thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners – Albert Camus

We must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been. The history of the country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes explosive, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated by race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of the thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.

Take a tour of West Jerusalem’s Palestinian history

By Mary Pelletier

A new documentary brings the hidden urban Palestinian history of West Jerusalem on to screens everywhere.

The full documentary is available at www.jerusalemwearehere.com, with plans to present it in Jerusalem this summer.

It will be streamed live at: http://www.thejerusalemfund.org/events/upcoming/jerusalem-interactive-documentary

Based on a series of tours through Katamon and Baka, former Palestinian neighbourhoods where Arab identity was swiftly erased after the 1948 Nakba, the project “Jerusalem, We Are Here” is a web-based interactive documentary that takes viewers on a journey in Jerusalem.

 

The documentary revives the culturally rich landscape of Palestinian West Jerusalem, based around an interactive map embedded with original film footage, photographs, interviews and audio, directed and produced by Dorit Naaman.

“I realised that if we wanted to make it accessible to Palestinians, we needed to do something that is virtual,” Naaman told Al Jazeera. She began sourcing information about Katamon from Palestine and the diaspora by word of mouth more than five years ago. “1948 is almost 70 years ago, and we need to collect the memories and documents from the people who are still around, who remember. There’s a sense of urgency to this.”

Naaman, who is based in Canada, teamed up with Mona Halaby, a Palestinian whose family was expelled from Baka in 1948. Halaby’s extensive knowledge of the neighbourhoods provided the basis for the interactive map. “It was a very vibrant area with a lot of educated Palestinians, urban Palestinians, professionals, lawyers, educators, doctors, people in the media – people who were interested in the history, the politics, the culture, the literary world,” Halaby told Al Jazeera.

“I’ve always been interested in social history, and culture, lineage and genealogy, and I grew up fortunate to have a mother who enjoyed sharing that sort of story and history with me.”

Throughout the tours of Katamon and Baka, viewers meet individuals returning to their family homes for the first time since 1948, hear stories of notable residents such as educator Khalil Sakakini, and see the neighbourhood’s originally Arab homes, now occupied by Jewish Israelis.

The documentary will keep expanding as more homes are mapped, and Naaman hopes they can “extend it to the rest of Jerusalem … It’s a place that we can start collecting all that information for generations to come,” Halaby said. “It’s going to be a living, breathing document.”

Below, four contributors to Jerusalem, We Are Here share their experiences.

 

Teddy Theodorie and his sister Nadia grew up between homes in Talbiyeh and Katamon before their family was expelled from West Jerusalem in 1948. Now, both in their 80s, the siblings live in Bethlehem and contributed stories from their youth to Jerusalem, We Are Here.

Teddy: I was born in Jerusalem, and I grew up in Jerusalem. I was a teenager in 1948, and we lived through many things, but as kids, we never felt it. We were engaged in schools and activities, and we had the YMCA. All my knowledge of Palestine, from north to south, goes back to the YMCA.

People used to mingle a lot in Katamon and Talbiyeh – wherever you went, you would see people you knew. There were no divisions, and the people were very sociable. But people started to leave after the Semiramis hotel was blown up in Katamon by the Israelis in January 1948.

Our family stayed in Katamon until May 12, 1948.

Nadia: It was a full, fun childhood in Talbiyeh and Katamon, but in 1948 it became very tense. When we left, we were told it was just for two weeks, and our family chose to come to Bethlehem because it is very near to Jerusalem and everyone was trying to move to the Old City.

Still, we are not allowed to go back to our home. But it’s necessary to preserve the heritage. People should know that there were Palestinians there.

 

Michel Moushabeck is a Palestinian writer, publisher and musician who lives in the United States. He was born in Beirut shortly after his mother and father’s families were expelled from Katamon in 1948, and he was never able to visit his family’s home in West Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem, We Are Here, Moushabeck visits Jerusalem virtually, on a Skype tour through the old city, where his grandfather was the Mukhtar of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

As I virtually walked through the streets of the old city and revisited the places I frequented as a child nearly 50 years ago, I really experienced an emotional journey like no other. And it was a special treat for me to be escorted to our family’s home. I did not live in Katamon at all. I only ever saw our house in Katamon in old photographs from my parents.

The way my father used to talk about Katamon, I got the sense that it was a very special community, and a community of intellectuals. I knew that the neighbourhood was a special place in Palestinian history because it had all of these really highly educated people in one spot.

I could imagine the literary salons that would take place, the political discussions, the storytellers and historians and poets gathering together. Projects like Dorit’s are trying to recreate this history.

The most important part is really showing the people who live there now that those houses they are occupying had been lived in by Palestinians, had been built by Palestinians, and had an amazing history before them.

 

Anwar Ben Badis is a linguist, translator and Arabic teacher who lives in Jerusalem. His mother’s family was expelled from Baka in 1948, and today Ben Badis is one of the few Palestinians who has returned to live in the neighbourhood.

Inspired by his mother’s stories and extensive research into the area’s Palestinian history, Ben Badis leads tours through Baka and Katamon, and acted as a guide for Jerusalem, We Are Here.

“In 1994, I came back to Jerusalem as a student and now I live in Baka – not in my mother’s house, but it was important for me to be very close to her house, to keep her stories and memories alive.”

“Before 1948, we didn’t have borders between neighbourhoods, and it was a place where people felt they were a part of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem was part of them. Many of the Jerusalemite families from here now live in East Jerusalem, and for years they didn’t want to share anything – it’s not easy for them.”

“So for me, this project takes me back to renew my memory. It’s very difficult, but I don’t feel like a stranger in Baka. I am probably the only Palestinian who will put my flag on my balcony. I feel it is important – this is my country, this is my neighbourhood, this is my land.”

 

How Israel Uses Gas to Enforce Palestinian Dependency and Promote Normalization by Tareq Baconi

Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory does not only exist above ground. Since 1967, Israel has systematically colonized Palestinian natural resources and, in the field of hydrocarbons, has prevented Palestinians from accessing their own oil and gas reserves. Such restrictions have ensured the continued dependence of Palestinians on Israel for their energy needs. The Palestinians’ own efforts to develop their energy sector fail to challenge Israel’s overarching hegemony over Palestinian resources. Rather, they pursue growth and state building within the reality of the occupation, further reinforcing — even if inadvertently — the asymmetric balance between occupied and occupier.

The Energy Crisis Israel Imposes on Gaza and Palestine

Within the space of a few years, Israel has moved from being a regional gas importer to acquiring the potential to become an exporter. As Israel became awash with gas, the Gaza Strip’s pitiful reality became starker than ever.

The Gaza Strip has been under blockade since 2007. The Gaza Power Generation Company (GPGC), the sole company of its kind in the Palestinian territory, currently runs on liquid fuel that is purchased and transported into the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank.

To supplement power from GPGC, Gaza purchases electricity from the Israeli Electricity Company as well as from the Egyptian electric grid — in line with the Paris Protocol, enshrined between Israel and the PLO as part of the Oslo Accords. Even so, fuel purchased for power generation in Gaza is insufficient to meet local demand, and the Strip has suffered from chronic electricity shortages since Israel imposed the blockade.

In early 2017, protests swept throughout Gaza as inhabitants of this coastal enclave protested having electricity for only three to four hours daily. Aside from the tremendous restrictions these shortages put on mundane facets of life, electricity outages have a crippling impact on the economic activity of the private sector, healthcare, education, and life-sustaining facilities such as water sanitation plants. Stunted operations in these areas have consequences that are both immediate and lasting, impacting rising generations.

Blame for Gaza’s energy crisis is fired in all directions. Protesters flooding the winter streets blamed Hamas’s government, the PA, and Israel. Anger was directed at Hamas’s government for allegedly diverting funds from the purchase of fuel necessary to run Gaza’s only power plant toward other activities, including the building of tunnels.

Frustrated demonstrators accused the PA of supporting the blockade by controlling fuel purchases and transfers into Gaza. The power company itself, a privately owned operation, is repeatedly criticized for supposedly making profit off the backs of ordinary Gazans who suffer from these shortages.

To mitigate the particularly painful winter months of late 2016 and early 2017, interventions into Gaza’s energy sector were forthcoming from Turkey and Qatar in the form of fuel supplies that allowed the resumption of power generation from GPGC. These measures are at best short-term palliatives that will carry Gazans through another chapter of a chronic crisis.

In this wave of popular anger and recrimination, the impact of the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip and Israel’s broader colonization and control of Palestinian resources is diluted, if not pushed to the background.

Yet Palestinians discovered gas reserves almost a decade before Israel’s gas bonanza. In 1999, the Gaza Marine field was discovered off the coast of Gaza, and the license for exploration and production was awarded to BG Group, the major British oil and gas company since acquired by Shell.

In the early days of the discovery, this national treasure was hailed as a breakthrough that could offer Palestinians a windfall. At a time when the Oslo Accords that had been signed in 1993 still seemed plausible, the resource discovery was viewed as something that could provide Palestinians with a much-needed boost toward self-determination.

With an estimated 1 tcf of gas, Gaza Marine is not sufficiently large to act as an exporter. But the gas volumes it holds are sufficient to make the Palestinian energy sector entirely self-sufficient. Not only would Palestinians not have to import Israeli or Egyptian gas or electricity, but the Gaza Strip would not suffer from any electricity shortages. Moreover, the Palestinian economy would enjoy a significant source of revenue.

That move to sovereign rule was not to be. Despite persistent attempts by owners of the field and investors to develop Gaza Marine, Israel placed unyielding restrictions that have prevented any measures from taking place. This is despite the fact that exploration and production from Gaza Marine would be relatively straightforward given the shallow depth of the reserve and its location close to Palestinian shores.

According to documents uncovered by Al-Shabaka, Israel initially prevented the development of this field as it sought commercially favorable terms for the gas produced. After Israel discovered its own resources, it began citing “security concerns” that were heightened with Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip.

Although Netanyahu allegedly considered allowing Palestinians to develop Gaza Marine in 2012 as part of a broader strategy to stabilize the Gaza Strip, these efforts have yet to materialize. Given the recent acquisition of BG Group by Shell, and the latter’s global asset divestment program, it is likely that Gaza Marine will be sold off.

Until Israel ends its stranglehold on the Palestinian economy, this Palestinian asset is likely to remain stranded. Indeed, the manner in which the Israeli and Palestinian gas discoveries have shaped economic development in Israel and the Palestinian territory elucidates the power disparity between the two parties. Unlike Israel, which rapidly secured energy independence after the discovery of its gas fields, Palestinians are unable to access a resource they discovered close to two decades earlier.

Rather than addressing the root cause of the blockade and the occupation regime that has prevented their control of resources such as Gaza Marine, Palestinians are instead forced to seek immediate measures that mitigate the pressing misery they face. Although this is understandable in the context of a brutal occupation, efforts to enhance quality of life under occupation overlook the longer-term strategic goal of securing energy independence within the broader goal of freedom from occupation and realization of Palestinian rights.

Economic Peace and Normalization

Israel’s gas discoveries are often heralded as potential catalysts for a regional transformation. The positioning of the Israeli state as an energy supplier to resource-poor neighbors is considered a sure way to facilitate economic integration between countries such as Jordan and Egypt as well as the Palestinians.

The economic benefit that cheap pipeline gas could offer these countries is seen to offset any social and political concerns among their citizens regarding dealings with Israel. This line of thinking assumes that through economic integration, the pursuant stability would diminish prospects of volatility in an explosive region as Israel and its neighbors become integrated in mutual dependency.

The notion of “economic peace” has a long history in the region and has manifested itself in various forms, including recently in Secretary of State John Kerry’s economic development proposal. This view also appears favored by the Trump administration’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.

Rather than directly addressing the political impasse caused by Israel’s prolonged occupation and other violations, such proposals address issues related to quality of life, trade, or economic growth, presumably as a stepping stone to peace. With similar thinking, once the Israeli gas discoveries were made, the Obama administration began to explore ways to position Israel as a regional energy hub.

Proponents of this approach of separating national and political rights from economic incentives would argue that there is an obvious commercial advantage for Israeli gas to be used within the Palestinian territory and Jordan. Israel now has an excess of gas, and these regions are still dependent on energy imports.

In the case of the Palestinian territory, dependence on Israel already exists, and not only in Gaza: close to 88 percent of Palestinian consumption is supplied by Israel, with the West Bank importing almost the entirety of its electricity from Israel. Advocates for economic peace believe that prospects for instability diminish when such mutual dependency is reinforced.

The Dangers of Truncated Sovereignty

There are several national and regional dangers to the push for closer integration through gas deals in the absence of a concurrent effort on the political front.

The first danger is that Palestinian energy security is pinned to Israel’s goodwill. Israel can and has in the past used its power to effectively turn the taps off for Palestinian consumers. The most evident (and violent) manifestation of Israel’s willingness to withhold power to Palestinians is its decision to destroy without hesitation the sole power generation company in the Gaza Strip during its bombardment of the coastal enclave in 2006 and again in 2014.

Secondly, this approach legitimizes the Israeli occupation, soon entering its fiftieth year. Not only is there no cost to Israel’s prevention of Palestinian state building, there is rather a direct reward in the form of revenue from the sales of gas to territories maintained indefinitely under Israel’s territorial control.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, such energy exchange and trade in the pursuit of economic peace in the absence of any political prospects merely entrenches the power imbalance between the two parties — the occupier and the occupied. Such integration propagates a fiction of normative sovereign relations between an occupying power and a captive economy in the West Bank and Gaza.

One might think back to similar quality of life initiatives that were put forward in the 1980s, with the direct encouragement of the Reagan White House, as a failed alternative to political engagement with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The constant efforts to circumvent Palestinian political demands through such measures has allowed Israel to manage, rather than resolve, the conflict.

The case of gas demonstrates most starkly how Palestinian state building efforts through the development of national resources have been elided in favor of alleviating energy crises within the framework of truncated sovereignty. Instead of addressing Palestinians’ inability to explore their own natural resources, American diplomats are actively working with Israel to facilitate negotiations that enhance Palestinian “quality of life” that ultimately leaves them bound to Israel in perpetuity.

This approach carries regional dangers as well. Jordan is currently dependent on Israel for around 40 percent of its energy imports. Jordan’s willingness to enter into this kind of commitment, despite several geostrategic disadvantages, advances Israel’s normalization in the region even as it maintains its occupation of Palestinian territory.

This disposition heralds several threats at a time when the Trump administration is proposing the pursuit of “outside in” diplomatic measures that might entirely circumvent the Palestinians.

Strategies for Pushback

In normal conditions, mutual dependency and economic development are indeed anchors against instability and hold the benefit of advancing the quality of life of the inhabitants of the region. However, they must not be viewed as an end in their own right, and certainly not as a substitute for the realization of Palestinian rights. Such a depoliticized view can only go so far. Focusing solely on economic peace has detrimental consequences precisely because it overlooks the broader historical context that has led to Palestinian, and possibly regional, dependency.

Economic growth will never remove Palestinian calls for sovereignty and rights or the demand for self-determination. That was a lesson that was fully articulated with the eruption of the first intifada close to 30 years ago, after decades of normalized economic relations between Israel and the territories under its military occupation. While “economic peace” could offer short-term relief, it will only pave the way toward greater stability if it is built on a foundation of equality and justice.

Palestinians’ right to their own resources is subject to final status negotiations with the Israelis. The current gas agreements being pursued will create an infrastructure of dependency that will be difficult to untangle in the case of a negotiated settlement. More importantly, given the vanishing hopes of a negotiated two-state solution, these agreements merely concretize the status quo.

Therefore, while economic relations may have to be pursued to avert humanitarian suffering, as the case might be with increasing fuel and electricity supply to Gaza, the PLO and PA as well as Palestinian civil society and the Palestine solidarity movement must continue to use all the tools at their disposal to push for justice and rights for Palestinians.

At the same time, the PLO/PA must use such economic negotiations as a means of securing accountability from Israel rather than as a way of acquiescing to enforced dependency. In particular, the non-observer member state status that Palestine has secured at the UN must be used to lobby at international legal forums such as the International Criminal Court to push Israel to meet its responsibility as an occupying power under international law. This means it is tasked with the responsibility of safeguarding the livelihood of inhabitants under its control, including the provision of electricity and fuel, and it is accountable for decisions it might make to “turn the taps off.”

Certain elements of economic peace may serve the Palestinians in the short term by underpinning economic growth and development. But these cannot come at the expense of an indefinite state of dependency and truncated sovereignty. Palestinians must work on two fronts: They must push to hold Israel’s occupation accountable in international forums. And they must ensure that prospects of forced economic integration and any attempt by Israel to impose a one-state apartheid reality is met by a call for rights and equality. Whichever political vision is pursued for Israel and the Palestinians, the Palestinian leadership must formulate a strategy around these gas deals and contextualize notions of economic development within the wider struggle for Palestinian liberation.

Inshallah, God Willing

By Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

English speakers all know: To sound smart (or insufferable), use French. That movie has a certain je ne sais quoi; my grandmother exhibited a true joie de vivre. French has been fancy since 1066 when the conquering Normans ate boef while the lowly English peasants cared for the cū.

Or to sound open-minded (or stoned), use Sanskrit. No one will be surprised to learn that the first recorded use of the word “karma” in a popular U.S. publication was in 1969 — in the California-based Surfer magazine.

These days, another word is making inroads into the American English lexicon. It’s “inshallah” — an Arabic Islamic expression that means “God willing.” Inshallah first made its English debut in the 19th century, but it’s only since 9/11 that the word has become fashionable among non-Muslim, non-Arabic-speaking Americans. You’ve probably heard it already in passing, which is my point. The Atlantic’s James Fallows has tweeted it. Even actor Lindsay Lohan has made a faltering attempt. I’ve heard it in meetings, on the metro, and at a casual Sunday brunch in Brooklyn.

For all these inshallah-invokers, the phrase seems to combine the prestige of French and the multiculturalism of Sanskrit — with an added thrill of risk.

President-elect Donald Trump is stacking his administration with supporters who believe that Islam is inherently violent, dangerous, and threatening. Some who evince this view believe that anything associated with Islam has a diabolical power, an insidious evil that has to be guarded against at every turn as the Puritans guarded against witchcraft.

Michael Flynn, a retired intelligence officer whom President-elect Donald Trump has tapped for national security advisor, has called Islam a “malignant cancer” and believes that sharia, or Islamic law, is creeping into U.S. laws and institutions. Conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney, who advised Trump during the campaign and is “good friends” with Steve Bannon, the president-elect’s senior strategist, has previously written that the U.S. Missile Defense Agency logo contains a hidden star and crescent, the symbol of Islam, and that it thus suggests “official U.S. submission to Islam.” It’s an argument that comes out of the world of Christian fundamentalism, which has long sought out occult symbols in the most innocuous of sources.

This fear extends to the Arabic language. In 2013, Gaffney criticized John Brennan as President Barack Obama’s pick to head the CIA, deeming him the “single most important enabler of the Islamic supremacists’ agenda in government today.” One piece of evidence Gaffney gave for this assertion? Brennan speaks fluent Arabic. After listing the names of several terrorist organizations at a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in May 2015, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham reportedly quipped that “everything that starts with ‘al’ in the Middle East is bad news.” Al, of course, is simply Arabic’s definite article, equivalent to “the” in English.

It should come as no surprise, then, that inshallah has found itself in the crosshairs of these rising Islamophobes. In June, when BBC presenter Nicky Campbell ended his usual segment with crossed fingers and a poorly inflected “inshallah” — “We’re in Uxbridge next Sunday for a special, asking, ‘Are we facing the end of the world?’ So we’ll see you then, inshallah” — it set off a right-wing media firestorm.

Breitbart wrote that the “incident comes just days after the BBC’s Head of Religion admitted that Islamic State is rooted in Islam.” Jihad Watch, a popular anti-Islam website, commented: “A conquered, colonized people adopts the language and practices of its conquerors.” In April, a University of California, Berkeley, student of Iraqi origin was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight after another passenger heard him speaking Arabic on his cell phone; he had ended his conversation with “inshallah.”

The latent Islamophobia the word can conjure seems to be part of the its growing appeal among progressive urbanites in the United States. As the Islamophobia industrial complex has expanded, so has a cultural push against it. Garnishing your conversation with an inshallah or two is a small act of resistance, a direct jab at the belief that Islam — and by association, Arabic — is sinister.Garnishing your conversation with an inshallah or two is a small act of resistance, a direct jab at the belief that Islam — and by association, Arabic — is sinister. It’s the linguistic equivalent of donning a headscarf in solidarity for World Hijab Day. Or the spoken version of the anti-Trump ad near Dearborn, Michigan, a city with a large population of Arab-Americans, which was written in Arabic and read: “Donald Trump can’t read this, but he is scared of it.” It’s a subtle political statement, a critique of Republicans who believe certain sounds, like incantations, must cross the lips in order to defeat evil (“radical Islamic terrorism”) whereas other sounds (“inshallah,” “Allahu akbar”) must remain taboo.

But why inshallah and not some other Arabic word? There are dozens of other common Islamic expressions, including bismillah (in the name of God), barakallah (blessings of God), and alhamdulillah (praise be to God), that haven’t crossed into English (though bismillah makes a cameo in Queen’s 1975 classic “Bohemian Rhapsody”).

The reason is that inshallah is a charming, maddening, and undeniably useful expression. On paper, the word is very similar to “God willing,” its Christian, English equivalent. It’s an acknowledgment of the human inability to foresee or control the future while harking to the belief that a Greater Being holds humanity’s fragile plans in its omnipotent hands.

But unlike the English “God willing,” inshallah also serves as a convenient preordained excuse for what may go wrong. If your toilet is broken and your plumber says he’ll come “tomorrow, inshallah,” you may be in for quite a wait. In countries such as Egypt, inshallah has expanded into a society-wide verbal tic invoked by Muslims, Christians, and even the nonreligious for occasions as mundane as ordering a hamburger or riding an elevator — a phenomenon that a 2008 article in the New York Times dubbed “inshallah creep.”

That’s what has made it so easy for visitors to pick up. Inshallah conveys an uncertainty that “hopefully” lacks. “The project will be done by 9 p.m., hopefully” implies that a sense of control still resides in your hands and thus a lingering amount of responsibility if the deadline isn’t met. “The project will be done by 9 p.m., inshallah,” by contrast, indicates that some outside force — an indolent contract worker, slow trains, spotty internet, even fate itself — is now in the driver’s seat and that if things go wrong, it’s not your fault.

It’s also exotic in a way that the down home “God willing” can never be. That phrase conjures images of church pews and pro-life protests outside Planned Parenthood — nothing that progressive Americans typically want to associate with. Throwing inshallah into a sentence here or there — “Tom will be filing that report tonight, inshallah!” — signals membership in a well-educated, well-traveled, and tolerant urban elite.

Arabic-speaking Americans don’t seem to mind this bit of friendly borrowing. Marya Hannun, a Palestinian-American doctoral student based in Washington, D.C., called the trend “charming,” explaining that when speaking Arabic, non-Muslims as well as Muslims use inshallah. She described its use among Americans as “solidarity and finding meaning in a language other than your own.”

“I say it every now and then,” said Thorstan Fries, a New York-based consultant who told me that he picked it up from a college friend studying Arabic. “I started saying it much more frequently after a trip to Morocco a couple years ago. They say it all the time, and I think it’s cool.”

Of course, to view a Middle Eastern import as exotic is also to risk condescension. The very first recorded use of inshallah in the English language was not just atrociously Orientalist — it was also incorrect. In his 1857 work The Kingdom and People of Siam, John Bowring, a British politician and the fourth governor of Hong Kong, wrote, “Inshallah! Such promptitude was, I believe, never before exhibited in an Asiatic Court.” But inshallah is used exclusively for events that have not yet occurred. What Bowring likely meant was mashallah, an Islamic phrase expressing amazement at an existing set of circumstances.

The first to use it in natural speech, not in a grandiose reference to foreign peoples, was T. E. Lawrence, otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence viewed Arabs with respect, lived among them, and adopted some of their customs — including, apparently, the habit of checking plans against the divine’s schedule. “I have been photographing this last week—and will more next. Developing too inshallah,” he wrote in a letter dated 1911.

Britain’s entanglements in the Middle East, North Africa, and India put it in intimate contact with Muslim peoples decades before the United States became similarly involved. Inshallah followed on the heels of colonialism. For the British upper classes, Arabic was a sign of distinction; the Arabists dominated Britain’s Foreign Office for decades, and Prime Minister Anthony Eden — who sent Britain’s reputation in the Middle East plummeting with the Suez crisis — prided himself on his fluency.

At the time, American English was far more preoccupied with the apparatchiks and cosmonauts of the Cold War. It wasn’t until the expansion of U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, particularly after 9/11, that the region became a national preoccupation. (Though the growing number of Muslim and Middle Eastern immigrants in the United States has also helped popularize the word. One person I spoke to learned it from Arabic-speaking students she encountered at her university; another googled it after he saw Muslim friends posting the word on Facebook.) The study of Arabic has blossomed across the United States, and a legion of American military officials, diplomats, journalists, government contractors, NGO workers, academics, and students flowed in. Upon their return home, many brought with them the ubiquitous, malleable, and easily pronounceable inshallah.

It’s now common currency among the younger generations at the State Department, journalists who’ve spent time in the region, and soldiers who deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan — and, increasingly, among the people who travel in the same elite circles as these folk. As one colleague, who uses the word but has no background in the Middle East, told me, “I learned it because everyone at every damn development NGO uses it.” Others I know say they picked it up from artifacts of contemporary popular culture, like Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner, which was adapted into a movie in 2007, and Rabia Chaudry’s book, Adnan’s Story, published this year.

There’s now a good chance inshallah may find a permanent home in English. But those afraid of creeping inshallah should take heart. This wouldn’t be the first time that the word has imbedded itself in a Western language. Ojalá is a common Spanish word often translated as “hopefully.” In fact, ojalá is merely the Hispanicized pronunciation of inshallah, which made its way into the language during the centuries of Muslim rule in Spain that ended in 1492. Yet as far as I can tell, despite this obvious case of linguistic jihad, neither Spain nor the 20 other countries where Spanish is the official national language has yet fallen to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Nor has asking a waitress for more pancake syrup — from the Arabic sharab, a versatile word that the West acquired during a previous episode of war-induced cultural cross-pollination, the Crusades — ever proved to spontaneously convert anyone to Islam. Nor has spending hours studying algebra — another one of those menacing “al” words — ever made anyone more inclined to funnel one’s life savings to al Qaeda.

It turns out short vowels, sibilants, and fricatives might not be as magical as some have been urging us to believe. Donald Trump and his national security team would be wise to take note. God willing.

Trump and Israel

By Joshua Schreier & Mira Sucharov

The Israeli government has expressed elation in reaction to Donald Trump’s electoral victory. Likud MK Yehuda Glick invited Trump to visit the territories to “see with his own eyes that settlements are the way to peace.” Ayelet Shaked, Israel’s justice minister, expressed hope that the president-elect would fulfill his promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

And Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, who has called for annexing parts of the West Bank, insisted that Trump’s victory signals that “the era of a Palestinian state is over.”

There are at least two lessons to be learned here.

First, while it may be disturbing to those who had pinned their hopes on a two-state solution, Bennett’s declaration makes clear what has already been obvious for some time: Israel already is governing a single entity from the river to the sea. Linking equality for Palestinians to an ever-distant two-state solution has become not only unrealistic, but also dangerous. Waiting for an imaginary state to materialize means that the struggle to bring democracy to the one state that does exist is being denied. Instead, we must push for all the area’s residents — some of whom are citizens and some of whom are stateless — to be granted equal rights, justice and protection of life and limb.

 Second, the fact that Israel’s leaders have so warmly embraced Trump, a figure whose victory was fueled by racism and xenophobia, underlines how this brand of divisiveness has long been a mainstay of Israeli politics. We suggest that the struggle to oppose Trump’s racism and xenophobia should proceed in parallel with the fight for justice in Israel-Palestine.

The parallels between Trump’s America and Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel are many. In the lead-up to 1948, the forerunners to the Israeli army forced the majority of certain ethnic groups to leave, and after independence, Israel prevented those fleeing from returning. Israel has fashioned an immigration policy around religion and ethnicity, and since 2003 has been building and maintaining a wall to keep out undesirables. Mind you, Trump’s proposed wall between the United States and Mexico would follow a legitimate international border, whereas Israel’s West Bank barrier snakes through areas that Israel currently governs, in many cases separating Palestinian residents from access to land and livelihood.

Trump’s proposal to force all Muslims in the United States to register with a federal agency is especially chilling. But this, too, bears striking similarity to Israel. Until 2005, Israeli identity cards classified citizens according to ethnic origin; now the ethnicity/religion distinctions are contained in the records of Israel’s national population registry. The sticker system used by Israeli airport authorities signaling whether the traveler is Jewish or Arab, among other things, is by now well known. These parallels between Trump’s vision for America and contemporary Israel are important.

 Yet despite the parallels between the U.S. and its closest ally, millions of Americans, including the vast majority of American Jews, are rightfully angered and frightened by the U.S. election results. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports over 200 incidents of “hateful harassment and intimidation” since the election. These have included attacks on Muslims, Latinos, LGBTQ individuals and Jews. Meanwhile, Trump has been embraced by neo-Nazi groups and the Ku Klux Klan. Just as the U.S. starts mimicking Israel, most Jews have become deeply uncomfortable.

Let us be perfectly clear: We don’t advocate a turning away from America; Americans and those close to them must continue to fight for democratic values of equality and inclusion while actively standing in solidarity with those most vulnerable. Neither do we suggest a turning away from Israel. But being pro-Israel in an inclusive sense will mean a different form of engagement. It will mean direct pressure — in various non-violent forms — to demand justice and human rights. This won’t be easy for the many American Jews who are accustomed to expressing their identity in terms of automatic support for Israel. But when it comes to dignity and human rights, the time has passed for exceptionalism. Racism and exclusion are unacceptable everywhere, be it in friendly states or hostile ones, and we need to be consistent.

Coalition-building has become central among progressive groups in North America. Groups like Black Lives Matter, Students for Justice in Palestine and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights have linked the struggle for tolerance and inclusion in the U.S. and abroad. These groups already count many Jewish members or supporters. And those involved in specifically Jewish groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, If Not Now, Center for Jewish Nonviolence and T’ruah have placed human rights in Israel-Palestine at the core of their Jewish identity. Obviously, we may disagree with each other on certain issues. But taking a unified stand against all forms of intolerance and hatred is far more urgent than the particular issues that may divide us.

Given the deep ties between the two countries, the fate of America and Israel — including the Palestinians under Israeli rule — are intertwined. To this end, American Jews have a crucial role to play.

Israeli Government Video Erases Palestinians from History

A new public relations video by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs erases Palestinians from the narrative of the Holy Land, promoting an ahistorical version of the past that endorses claims to exclusive Jewish ownership of the land.

The state-sponsored PR clip , or hasbara, is designed for an English-speaking audience and presents a crude discourse about competing claims over historic Palestine, one in which modernity, in the form of the Israeli state, triumphs in a clash of civilizations.

The clip, entitled “Welcome to the Home of the Jewish People,” shows a secular Jewish couple, Jacob and Rachel, living in a comfortable, modern home called the “Land of Israel,” which is invaded by Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, the British, and other would-be usurpers.

The Jewish couple, who are white and enjoy modern technology, are helpless as hoards of foreign invaders – likely played by Mizrahi Jewish actors – try to take over their home. Oscillating between lazy and violent, the stereotypes of each “visitor” are crude.  The Assyrians, for example, speak an indecipherable language and are quick to anger.

After the Greeks and Romans, the Arabs arrive. As the groups fight among each other, Jacob and Rachel move to another part of the house. Baffled by modern technology, Jacob pleads with a crudely dressed Arab to stop playing with his stereo, in one scene. “In the early Arabic era, they were really into music,” Jacob says, before Hava Nagila, a Jewish folk song, starts playing and the Arabs begin dancing.

After the Crusaders and the Ottomans, who are depicted as providing relative calm, the British arrive. After realizing that he is “not in Europe”, the British officer gives the couple a state of their own. The final knock is from a Palestinian couple, hitherto absent from the history of the “Land of Israel.” They look expectantly inside the house, before a speechless Jacob shakes his head in bewilderment.

The political propaganda is less than subtle. History is an arc, the video implies, which begins with the ancient Jewish kingdom and ends with the State of Israel. Jews, who are indigenous to the “Land of Israel,” have been subject to foreign invasions for 3,000 years. Only the State of Israel has provided them with a safe haven, one that must be protected at all costs.

This is a distorted narrative that combines historical revisionism with racism. Over 2,000 years of non-Jewish history and civilizational achievements in historic Palestine are reduced to a series of fleeting encounters with violent foreign invaders. The Jewish Diaspora, political Zionism, and the Holocaust go unmentioned. It is presented as indisputable that Jews are indigenous to the land and have never left – while the Nakba and Palestinian society are erased all together.

Produced by the Israeli government, such propaganda is far from benign. It legitimizes an expansionist policy over internationally recognized Palestinian land, explicitly denies the existence, and rights, of Palestinian refugees, and rejects all Palestinian claims to any part of historic Palestine – undermining any possible peace process.

While the Babylonians, Romans, and other empires have long disappeared — together with their claims to the land — Palestinians remain stateless, displaced, and dispossessed, the living memory of a history, and right to self-determination, consciously denied by the Israeli state.

The Arab world will pay a heavy price – Saudi Gazette

The Arab world is going through the bloodiest period of its history. Every day the body count grows higher. Pictures of dead bodies, maimed children and burned out villages and neighborhoods flash on TV channels. Images of floating dead bodies splatter screens. This has been going on now from some time and we all wonder when it will stop. A region that once prided itself on being almost crime free has now turned into a battlefield. And although it is painful to see that transformation, there is no use in finger pointing. The blame essentially lies with us. Years of societal neglect and deprivation along with the absence of structures that could have created a civil society that respects the rights and dignity of the people planted the seeds for what is happening today. While the 1960s, 70s and 80s saw a world on the move and people turning toward technology, civil rights and better awareness, the Arab world and its media were extolling the “virtues” of the “strong leader”. Dictators thrived and on the other side, religious fervor instead of instilling spirituality in people and a quest for good deeds created extremism and a hate psychosis. The youth, who gathered around self-appointed religious leaders in the absence of role models, began to be drawn to perpetrators of hatred and violence. A failed Arab Spring, which led to a political and social vacuum, further created unrest. Many Arab leaders could not understand that the reason for this was that people wanted a life of dignity and economic equality and to have a say in their lives. But that is all history now. Today, wars are going on and Arabs are killing Arabs directly or through proxies. I see armies, militias and foreign troops traverse the land and destroy cities hunting for murderous thugs like Daesh. And I wonder why they have not been able to take out these mercenaries! Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and other areas are going through hell due to the intransigence of those in power. All these super powers are killing their own “enemies” in Syria and Iraq. The Arabs have no choice but to observe. They moan about foreign conspiracies, which to me as a political realist are as clear as the sun. But we have allowed this to happen. A failed Arab League and a total collapse of communication between leaders and Arab institutions, along with a subservient media that parrots the calls of its masters have thrown us into this bloody mess. Netanyahu has used this period of time to kill more Palestinians and start a pogrom of the inhabitants of the land. Hordes of Jewish terrorists roam the occupied lands shooting Palestinian women and children at point-blank range. And there is glee and a surge of happiness in Israel. In the words of one Israeli writer about the conflict in Syria and even the Arab world: “May it never end.” That message has not been recognized by the Arabs. For that, they will pay a heavy price! The writer is Editor-at-Large.

Why Is the Truth on Syria Difficult To Decipher? by Ramzy Baroud

 

by Ramzy Baroud, October 20, 2016

“The United States has the power to decree the death of nations,” wrote Stephen Kinzer in the Boston Globe.

Kinzer’s article was entitled: “The media are misleading the public on Syria.” In his piece, the scholar at a Brown University Institute contested that his country’s media misinformation on Syria is leading to the kind of ignorance which is enabling the American government to pursue any policy, however imprudent, in the war-torn Arab country.

The US government can “decree the death of nations” with “popular support because many Americans – and many journalists – are content with the official story,” he wrote.

Kinzer, in principle makes a strong point. His article, however, was particularly popular among those who sees the Syrian government entirely innocent of any culpability in the ongoing war, and that Iran and Russia are at no fault whatsoever; better yet, their intervention in Syria is entirely morally-guided and altruistic.

That said, Kinzer’s assertion regarding the US government’s dangerous meddling in Syria’s affairs, renewed Cold War with Russia and ill-defined military mission in that country, is all true.

Neither is the US, nor its western and other allies, following rules of war nor adhering to a particularly noble set of principles aimed at ending that most devastating war, which has killed well over 300,000 people, rendered millions displaced and destroyed the country’s wealth and infrastructure.

So what is the truth on Syria?

In the last five and a half years, since a regional uprising turned into an armed rebellion – turned into civil, regional and international war – “the truth on Syria”, has been segmented into many self-tailored “truths,” each promoted by one of the warring party to be the one and only, absolute and uncontested reality. But since there are many parties to the conflict, the versions of the “truth” communicated to us via copious media, are numerous and, most often, unverifiable.

The only truth that all parties seem to agree upon is that hundreds of thousands are dead and Syria is shattered. But, of course, each points to the other side for culpability of the ongoing genocide.

An oddly refreshing, although disturbing “truth” was articulated by Alon Ben-David in the Israeli Jerusalem Post last year.

The title of his article speaks volumes: “May it never end: The uncomfortable truth about the war in Syria.”

“If Israel’s interest in the war in Syria can be summarized in brief, it would be: That it should never end,” Ben-David wrote.

“No one will say this publicly, but the continuation of the fighting in Syria, as long as there is a recognized authority in Damascus, allows Israel to stay out of the swamp and distance itself from the swarms of mosquitoes that are buzzing in it.”

Of course, Israel never truly “stayed out of the swamp”, but that is for a separate discussion.

Aside from the egotistical, unsympathetic language, Israel’s “truth”, according to the writer, is predicated on two premises: the need for an official authority in Damascus, and that the war must continue, at least, until the fire burns the whole country down, which is, in fact, the case.

Russia’s supporters, of course, refuse to accept the fact that Moscow is also fighting a turf war and that it is entirely fair to question the legality of Russia’s actions in the context of US-Russian regional and global rivalry while, at the same time, attempting to underscore Moscow’s own self-seeking motives.

The other side, who are calling for greater American firepower, commit an even greater sin. Not least, since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US has not only scarred, but truly devastated the Middle East – killing, wounding and displacing millions – and has no intention of preserving Syria’s territorial integrity or the human rights of its people.

That group’s plausible hatred for the Bashar al-Assad regime has blinded them to numerous facts, including the fact that the only country in the region that Washington is truly and fully committed to in terms of security is Israel, which has recently received a generous aid package of 38 billion dollars.

Keeping in mind Ben-David’s reasoning, it is no surprise that the US is in no rush to end the war in Syria, if not intentionally prolong it.

The American “truth” on Syria – reiterated by its European cheerleaders, of course – is largely centered around demonizing Russia – never about saving lives, nor even – at least not yet – about regime change.

For the US, the war is largely pertinent to American regional interests. After suffering major military and political setbacks in the Middle East, and considering its ongoing economic misfortunes, the US military capabilities have been greatly eclipsed. It is now, more or less, another powerful western country, but no longer the only dominant one, able to “decree the death of nations” on its own.

So, when Secretary of State John Kerry called recently for a war crime investigationinto Russian bombings in Syria, we can be certain that he was not sincere, and his impassioned appeal was tailored to win only political capital. Expectedly, his accusations were parroted in predictable tandem by the French, the British and others. Then, soon after, they evaporated into the augmenting, but useless discourse, in which words are only words, while the war grinds on, unabated.

So why is the truth on Syria so difficult to decipher?

Despite the proliferation of massive platforms for propaganda, there are still many good journalists who recognize that, no matter what one’s personal opinion is, facts must be checked and that honest reporting and analysis should not be part of the burgeoning propaganda war.

Yes, these journalists exist, but they fight against many odds. One is that much of the existing, well-funded media infrastructure is part of the information war in the Middle East. And good journalists, are either forced to, albeit begrudgingly, toe the line or to stay out of the discussion altogether.

But the problem is not entirely that of media manipulation of facts, videos and images. The war in Syria has polarized the discourse like never before, and most of those who are invested in that conflict find themselves forced to take sides, thus, at times abandoning any reason or common sense.

It is rather sad that years after the war in Syria ends, and the last of the mass graves is dug and covered, many unpleasant truths will be revealed. But would it matter, then?

Only recently, we discovered that the Pentagon had spent over 500 million dollars in manufacturing propaganda war videos on Iraq. The money was largely spent on developing fake al-Qaeda videos. Unsurprisingly, much of the US media either did not report on the news, or quickly glossed over it, as if the most revealing piece of information of the US invasion of Iraq – which destabilized the Middle East until today- is the least relevant.

What will we end up learning about Syria in the future? And will it make any difference, aside from a sense of moral gratification by those who have argued all along that the war in Syria is never about Syrians?

The truth on Syria is that, regardless of how the war ends, Syria has been destroyed and its future is bloody and bleak; and that, regardless of the regional and global “winners” of the conflict, the Syrian people have already lost.