ATFP Organizes Meetings With Zionist Groups: Hussein Ibish, Washington Concierge To The PNA

>Posted on September 30, 2010 by Ikhras


Fayyad and Zionist Propagandist Mizrahi

The ANTI-PALESTINE Task Force operating under the misnomer American Task Force on Palestine describes itself as an “independent voice for Palestinian-Americans and their supporters…”, but as was clearly demonstrated during Mahmoud Abbas’ recent visit to the US, when he couldn’t find any Palestinian community leader willing to meet with him, the overwhelming majority of Palestinian-Americans refuse to associate with the Palestinian National Authority or the ATFP which operates as the Washington public relations firm for the Israeli-sponsored, Western-funded, and American-supervised PNA.  During that visit Abbas did meet with representatives of 50 Zionist organizations.

Last week the unelected, American-approved Prime Minister of the PNA met with Pro-Israel, Jewish groups in New York.  The meeting was hosted by The Israel Project, an organization founded by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, and dedicated to defending Israel’s occupation of Palestine and all its war crimes.  Mizrahi defended her meeting with a Palestinian by pointing to the imprimatur Benjamin Netanyahu has bestowed upon Fayyad:  “The prime minister of Israel said that this is his partner for peace,” Mizrahi said. “If the supposedly right-wing prime minister of Israel says this is partner for peace, it is.” Operatives for The Israel Project don’t deny their “recent aggressive outreach — to Palestinians in particular and Arabs and Muslims generally…” which they describe as an indication of “Netanyahu’s seriousness in his direct talks with Palestinian leaders...”  Hadar Susskind of J Street, another extremist Pro-Israel lobbying group formed to provide, in contrast with the obnoxious leaders of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a more polite defense of Zionism, said “You’ve got to welcome anyone who reaches out,” How magnanimous these Zionists must feel when they look across the table and see a smiling Palestinian.


Ibish: “The ATFP also dialogues with AIPAC”

As meetings between PNA officials and members of the Zionist lobby become a recurring feature in the peace process show, and with the ATFP acting as facilitator and organizer, its no surprise Hussein Ibish is found helping arrange the recent meeting between The Israel Project and Fayyad.  The ATFP’s “Senior Fellow” made it clear “his organization sees engaging with the mainstream of the American Jewish community as critical to making negotiations work.”  Ibish did not hesitate to add “The American Task Force on Palestine also dialogues with AIPAC…”  Describing these fanatical Zionists as the “mainstream of the American Jewish community” is first, and foremost, an insult to American Jews, the majority of which are not pre-occupied with Israel and have no emotional or political attachment to it.  It’s also an insult to the intelligence of anyone remotely familiar with the role these extremist organizations play in the U.S., and quite possibly to the leaders and members of these groups themselves who don’t pretend to be anything other than anti-Arab extremists, and fanatical Zionists.

Supporters of the Palestinians should not be bothered too much by these meetings.  On the contrary, they actually highlight the inevitability of the collapse of the Zionist project.  Sure, it’s disappointing when they can find even a single Palestinian or Arab to meet with them, but Palestinians or Arabs that attend such meetings immediately place themselves outside the Palestinian and Arab popular consensus, and lose any legitimacy they may have enjoyed.  Fayyad and Abbas don’t have to worry about that.  Israel and her supporters in this country are caught in a Catch-22.  Such meetings may offer a quisling leader the seal of approval from the occupier, but that also seals his fate making it impossible for him to deliver his own people’s acquiescence.  In the final analysis, the occupying power is denied the legitimacy it seeks through signed agreements with the occupied which are born null and void.

Anwar Sadat and King Hussein were in a far better position than Abbas and Fayyad relative to Israel and they failed in their attempts to force their people to accept the legitimacy of the signed agreements or the usurping Zionist entity.  They continue to consider those so called “peace treaties” signed by unelected dictators null and void.  As these regimes moved closer to Israel over the years they have increasingly resorted to harsher measures in the face of sustained domestic opposition.  In fact, a direct correlation is found between the extent of an Arab regime’s relationship with Israel and the level of brute force and raw power that must be applied by those regimes to maintain their rule. This same dynamic can be seen today in the occupied West Bank with an increasingly repressive PNA security apparatus, acting as an extension of Israeli occupation, and presided over by American General Keith Dayton, with the only distinction being the PNA is a police state without a state.


America’s Favorite Palestinian

In the meantime Salam Fayyad has become everyone’s favorite Palestinian, everyone other than the Palestinians that is.  Israeli war criminal Shimon Peres, known outside of the US for his central role in establishing Israel’s nuclear program which currently includes an arsenal of 200 to 300 nuclear warheads, and the butcher of Qana 1 (There have been so many Zionist massacres over the decades we can no longer refer to them solely by the names of the cities and villages) has described Fayyad as “the Palestinian Ben-Gurion.”  Fayyad himself seems to have taken pride in this description and has on several occasions compared his economic plan for the West Bank to the policies of the early Zionist colonizers in Palestine 48 describing it as a blueprint to eventual statehood.  Tony Blair, another war criminal with Arab blood on his hands, and whose appointment as a “peace envoy” underscores the West’s moral bankruptcy and contempt for Arabs, described Fayyad as “absolutely first class — professional, courageous, intelligent.”

Glowing reviews for someone willing to surrender all Palestinian rights and adopt the American-Israeli vision of peace should come as no surprise to anyone.  Fayyad has signaled (not that it was necessary) his willingness to abandon the Palestinian right of return.  In an interview with Haaretz earlier this year he said “Of course, Palestinians would have the right to reside within the State of Palestine” by which he means three to four, South-Africa style Bantustans he and a small, corrupt gang of  business associates hope to preside over in the West Bank under Israeli auspices. Fayyad has also adopted Netanyahu’s arrogant notion of “economic peace”, and with economic funding from the West, has attempted to repackage it and sell it to the Palestinians as a first step towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

The Abbas/Fayyad vision for a future peace that surrenders Palestinian rights, under the empty slogans of “realism” and “pragmatism”, is exactly what Ibish and the ATFP have been promoting in Washington.  This identical framework for a future arrangement with Israel is currently being peddled by Ibish and Ziad Asali through a recently released book by the ATFP leaving no doubt this outfit is the unofficial voice of the PNA.

For those who may be wondering, yes, this is the same Ibish who not too long ago co-authored an articulate defense of Palestinian rights, including the right of return, and was later hired by the ATFP only to argue with equal rigor for the abandonment of Palestinian rights with a special emphasis on the need to abandon the right of return.  Now, as meetings between PNA officials and Zionist organizations become routine business, Ibish has been further reduced to an events organizer tasked with the responsibilities of a concierge for visiting PNA officials.

For some Arab-Americans, morally grounded, and principled activism on behalf of a just cause and an oppressed people simply has no chance against the lure of mainstream media acceptance, hobnobbing with US officials, and galas attended by Arab royalty or the “The Honorables” in Congress.  But the better informed US officials and Israeli leaders are well aware the PNA does not speak on behalf of the Palestinian people.  Likewise, here in the US the ATFP does not represent “Palestinian-Americans and their supporters.”  As long as that’s clearly understood the ATFP may continue with preparations for its upcoming annual “gala” at which Ibish will exchange his professional, concierge attire for a dashing black-tie tuxedo as he, and the debonair Ziad Asali, take the stage together on October 20, 2010 at the Ritz Carlton.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

"Elliott Abrams? worse than disingenuous. Dishonest!"

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“Elliott Abrams? worse than disingenuous. Dishonest!”

The problem with Abrams’ op-ed is in his sourcing. He writes:

The World Bank reported this month that “If the Palestinian Authority (PA) maintains its current performance in institution-building and delivery of public services, it is well-positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future.” The West Bank’s economy will grow 8% this year, said the bank. Meanwhile, tax revenues are 15% above target and 50% higher than in the same period last year.

 

Good news, right? Absolutely. But Abrams left out one of the other major findings of the report (.pdf) — the one that undermines his entire op-ed:

Sustainable economic growth in the West Bank and Gaza, however, remains absent. Significant changes in the policy environment are still required for increased private investment particularly in the productive sectors, enabling the PA to significantly reduce its dependence on donor aid. 

h. The obstacles facing private investment in the West Bank are manifold and myriad, as many important GoI restrictions remain in place: (a) access to the majority of the territory’s land and water (Area C) is severely curtailed; (b) East Jerusalem — a lucrative market — is beyond reach; (c) the ability of investors to enter into Israel and the West Bank is unpredictable; and (d) many raw materials critical to the productive sectors are classified by the GoI as “dual-use” (civilian and military) and their import entails the navigation of complex procedures, generating delays and significantly increasing costs. … Unless action is taken in the near future to address the remaining obstacles to private sector development and sustainable growth, the PA will remain donor dependent and its institutions, no matter how robust, will not be able to underpin a viable state.

The point of the whole friggin’ World Bank report was that the very real economic gains we have witnessed in the West Bank over the past few years will turn out to be ephemeral if they are not followed by a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Abrams continues:

Regarding security, cooperation between Israeli and PA forces has never been better. This month the International Crisis Group acknowledged that “In the past few years, the Palestinian Authority (PA) largely has restored order and a sense of personal safety in the West Bank, something unthinkable during the second intifada. Militias no longer roam streets, uniformed security forces are back, Palestinians seem mostly pleased; even Israel — with reason to be skeptical and despite recent attacks on West Bank settlers — is encouraged.”

Again, nothing wrong with that paragraph, and you can read that report as well. But again, Abrams doesn’t mention a key finding ofthat report:

The undeniable success of the reform agenda has been built in part on popular fatigue and despair – the sense that the situation had so deteriorated that Palestinians are prepared to swallow quite a bit for the sake of stability, including deepened security cooperation with their foe. Yet, as the situation normalises over time, they could show less indulgence. Should Israeli-Palestinian negotiations collapse – and, with them, any remaining hope for an agreement – Palestinian security forces might find it difficult to keep up their existing posture. … Without a credible Israeli-Palestinian peace process or their own genuine reconciliation process, Palestinians will be stuck in their long and tenuous attempt to square the circle: to build a state while still under occupation; to deepen cooperation with the occupier in the security realm even as they seek to confront it elsewhere; and to reach an understanding with their historic foe even as they prove unable to reach an understanding among themselves.

The Crisis Group report that Abrams cites, like the World Bank report, only supports the thesis of Abrams’ op-ed if you very selectively cut and paste from the reports. Otherwise, the reports he cites actually undermine the central argument of his op-ed. (And it goes without saying that Abrams did not similarly endorse this Crisis Group report. Or cite the 2009 address by Keith Dayton to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (.pdf) in which Dayton similarly warned that security gains in the West Bank were ephemeral absent political progress.)

Abrams has to know this. I mean, even assuming Abrams did not himself read the entire Crisis Group report, that bit above was from the executive summary….

I have heard from many people I admire and trust that Abrams is one of the most brilliant people in Washington. But this is the kind of stuff that gives think tank researchers a bad name. I simply cannot believe that Abrams was not aware of the conclusions of the reports he cites when he cited them. Not mentioning those conclusions in his op-ed, then, is worse than disingenuous….

  

“Welch & Abrams meet Siniora … “The Dishonorablly Dishonest & Disingenious Club!” 

The point of this post is that unlike most readers of the Wall Street Journal, those paid to study security issues in the Middle East for a living (and are thus familiar with the sources Abrams cites) know when an author is selectively sourcing his argument and deliberately avoiding evidence or conclusions that might weaken his thesis. Again, this is worse than disingenuous. This is dishonest.”

Posted by G, Z, or B at 3:09 PM

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Israel kidnaps about 500 Palestinian children every year – 70,000 Palestinians jailed since intifada

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[ 30/09/2010 – 12:31 PM ]

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– The Prisoner Studies Center issued Thursday on the tenth anniversary of the Aqsa intifada a comprehensive report which found that Israeli authorities have since the intifada arrested 70,000 Palestinians, around 6,800 of whom remain scattered in more than 20 prisons and detention centers in inhumane conditions.

The center said there are nearly 300 minors in the Damon, Megiddo, Hawara, and other prisons and 35 female inmates in the Hasharoun and Damon prisons. There are around 210 prisoners in administrative detention, dubbed “unlawful combatants”, whose terms have ended, or who are held without charges or tried under undemocratic emergency laws.

There are a number of politicians and dozens of prisoners who have been in solitary confinement for long years and more than 1,000 sick prisoners. There are 750 war prisoners from the Gaza Strip and hundreds of others from the West Bank who have been denied visits from family for the last four years.

Violations against the prisoners include banning visits against hundreds of prisoners, denying them the right to finish secondary studies, ill-treatment of minor prisoners, night searches, unreasonable rulings in the military courts, serving unclean food, moving prisoners repeatedly from room to room, sector to sector, or prison to prison, and violations of courts’ extensions of detention.

The report highlighted that the prison administration uses solitary confinement as a punishment for the most minor cases, adding that the length of seclusion may range from hours to years depending on the verdict of prison officials. There is a solitary confinement section and areas designated for long-term seclusion in each jail.

Ansar Al-Asra: Israel kidnaps about 500 Palestinian children every year



[ 30/09/2010 – 12:44 PM ]

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– Ansar Al-Asra, a human rights organization, reported Thursday that Israel kidnapped about 500 Palestinian prisoners under age 18 every year and there are still 310 of them in its jails.

The organization affirmed that Israel invented racist military laws allowing it to arrest and torture Palestinian prisoners, adding that the repeated international condemnations did not deter it from its violations against them.

It noted that Israel identified Palestinian children as those under age 16, while Israeli children as those under age 18 and uses its law number 132 to justify the arrest and prosecution of Palestinian children.

Some of the Israeli violations mentioned in its report said that Palestinian children in Israeli jails are threatened if they do not cooperate they will be raped and killed or their families will be harmed, and sometimes they are placed in private rooms with grown-up criminals to pressure them.

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>Conference: Toxic munitions used against protesters in O. Jerusalem

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[ 30/09/2010 – 09:50 AM ]

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– A conference was held by the Silwan defense committee and the Quds Information Center on Wednesday to discuss forming a probe into bombs Israeli soldiers used in crackdowns against Palestinians and other demonstrators during last week’s protests throughout occupied Jerusalem.

Protests erupted last week after an Israeli settler shot and killed Palestinian man Samer Sarhan and wounded others for allegedly throwing stones at his vehicle. The perpetrator was released on bail.

Members of the meeting offered evidence that Israeli forces used expired gas and stun grenades, which caused immediate effects such as fatigue, breathing difficulties, and vomiting, and may lead to other long-term effects against the environment.

Sheikh Ikrema Sabri, head of the Islamic supreme court, said that Israel “contravenes all international laws and norms, which prohibit the use of gas and toxic weapons.”

Silwan defense committee member Fakhri Abu Diyab said: “We collected some of the grenades that were tossed to determine their type, and we discovered that they had been expired for a year or six months; and doctors confirmed that the gas found inside them was oxidized and could cause serious damage to humans and the environment.”

In turn, Quds Information Center director Mohammed Sadiq called for an international investigation into the types of weapons used in Jerusalem during the protests, saying: “Jerusalem has turned into a laboratory to test weapons, gas, and bullets, and has also become an arena for them to be used indiscriminately.”

Rajih Horin, vice-president of the Arab paramedics federation, cited a decision issued by the central court of Tel Aviv in 2005 classifying tear gas as a very toxic substance used against people intended to cause deliberate harm to them. The Israeli Supreme Court recognized tear gas as a poisonous chemical in 2006, he added.

In a separate development, clashes broke out on Thursday in the Isawiya district of occupied Jerusalem when the Israeli army raided and launched an arrest campaign in the district.

Local residents said the Israeli forces arrested three men after storming their homes in Isawiya. The arrestees were taken to an unknown destination.

Israeli police and border guards carry out regular arrest campaigns against Palestinians in Jerusalem for allegedly throwing stones at cars belonging to Israeli settlers and participating in demonstrations and marches opposing the occupation and continued demolitions of the homes of Palestinians in the holy city.

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Our Man in Palestine

>Source

Nathan Thrall

On August 31, the night before President Obama’s dinner inaugurating direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Hamas gunmen shot and killed four Jewish settlers in Hebron, the West Bank’s largest and most populous governorate. The attack—the deadliest against Israeli citizens in more than two years—was condemned by Palestinian and Israeli officials, who said that it was meant to thwart the upcoming negotiations.

According to a Hamas spokesman, however, the shooting had a more specific purpose: to demonstrate the futility of the recent cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces. This cooperation has reached unprecedented levels under the quiet direction of a three-star US Army general, Keith Dayton, who has been commanding a little-publicized American mission to build up Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.1

Referred to by Hamas as “the Dayton forces,” the Palestinian security services are formally under the authority of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and chairman of Hamas’s rival, Fatah; but they are, in practice, controlled by Salam Fayyad, the unelected prime minister, a diminutive, mild-mannered technocrat. Abbas appointed Fayyad following Hamas’s grim takeover of Gaza in June 2007—which occurred seventeen months after the Islamist party won the January 2006 parliamentary elections—and entrusted him with preventing Hamas from also seizing the West Bank.

Fayyad received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas at Austin and held positions at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the World Bank, and the IMF before becoming finance minister under President Yasser Arafat. His reputation as a fiscally responsible and trustworthy manager ensures the steady supply of international aid on which the Palestinian economy depends. Though he has neither a popular following nor backing from a large political party (his Third Way list received a mere 2.4 percent of the votes in the 2006 legislative elections), today he is responsible for nearly every aspect of Palestinian governance. Yet he is not participating in the negotiations over a settlement with Israel, which are the province of the PLO (of whose leadership Fayyad is not a member) and are handled by its chairman, the seventy-five-year-old Abbas.

Fayyad is criticized at home for many of the same reasons he is lauded abroad. He has condemned violence against Israel as antithetical to his people’s national aspirations, stated that Palestinian refugees could be resettled not in Israel but in a future Palestinian state, and suggested that this state would offer citizenship to Jews.2

He is praised in the opinion pages of The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, and has good relations with foreign leaders unpopular in Palestine: on Fayyad’s first visit to the Oval Office, in 2003, George W. Bush greeted him with index and pinky fingers extended to display UT Austin’s “Hook ‘em Horns” sign.

When the daughter of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s chief of staff was married several years ago, Fayyad sat next to Sharon at the wedding and talked with him at length.3 In February, Fayyad spoke before Israel’s security establishment at the annual Herzliya Conference, where he was compared by Israeli President Shimon Peres to David Ben-Gurion.4 Much of Fayyad’s speech concerned his ambitious plan, made public in late August 2009, to establish unilaterally a de facto Palestinian state by August 2011. By that time, according to Fayyad, “the reality of [a Palestinian] state will impose itself on the world.”5 Fayyad’s plan to “build” a state—he does not say he will declare one—has been endorsed by the Quartet (the US, EU, UN, and Russian Federation) and supported eagerly by international donors.
Some Palestinians have rejected it as too closely resembling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s notion of “economic peace,” which proposes that development precede independence. And a number of Israelis have expressed suspicions that Palestine will seek UN recognition of its statehood when the plan is complete. Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, has warned that any unilateral steps Fayyad takes toward a state could prompt Israel to annul past agreements and annex parts of the West Bank.6

Fayyad has said that his plan to build a new state “is intended to generate pressure” on Israeli–Palestinian negotiations, and the direct talks recently started by the two parties have a late summer 2011 deadline that coincides with Fayyad’s.7 Mike Herzog, former chief of staff to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, told me, “Ultimately, I think Fayyad calculates that political negotiations will not succeed and his plan [to establish a state] will be the only game in town.” The danger, for Israel and the Palestinian Authority alike, is what will happen if negotiations fail and Fayyad’s plan does not produce significant concessions from Israel. “We are not going to withdraw from certain areas just because there was a declaration or a UN resolution,” Herzog said. In that event Hamas will be able to present a persuasive argument that violence is the only means of achieving national liberation. “Fayyad sets an arbitrary date and says, ‘Okay, now all of you break your heads if you want to avoid a catastrophe,’” Herzog said. “What he did is very risky but also very smart.”

So far, Fayyad’s strategy is succeeding. His administration has started more than one thousand development projects, which include paving roads, planting trees, digging wells, and constructing new buildings, most prominently in the twin cities of Ramallah and al-Bireh.8 He has reduced dependence on foreign aid and started to carry out plans to build new hospitals, classrooms, courthouses, industrial parks, housing, and even a new city, Rawabi, between Ramallah and Nablus. But “reforming the security forces,” Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, told me, “is the main and integral part of the Fayyad plan. Many of the government’s other successes, such as economic growth, came as a result.”

To its citizens, Fayyad’s government has presented reform of the police and other security forces as principally a matter of providing law and order—apprehending criminal gangs, consolidating competing security services, forbidding public displays of weapons, and locating stolen cars. But its program for “counterterrorism”—which is directed mainly against Hamas and viewed by many Palestinians as collaboration with Israel—is its most important element: targeting Hamas members and suspected sympathizers is intended to reduce the likelihood of a West Bank takeover and, as important, helps Fayyad make a plausible case that he is in control and that Israel can safely withdraw from the territory.

In 2009, Palestinian and Israeli forces took part in 1,297 coordinated activities, many of them against militant Palestinian groups, a 72 percent increase over the previous year.9 Together they have largely disbanded the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a principal Fatah militia; attacked Islamic Jihad cells; and all but eliminated Hamas’s social institutions, financial arrangements, and military activities in the West Bank.
According to the latest annual report of the Shin Bet, Israel’s FBI, “continuous [counterterrorist] activity conducted by Israel and the Palestinian security apparatuses” reduced Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to their lowest numbers since 2000.10
Today’s level of cooperation, Herzog said, “is better than before the second intifada even—it’s excellent.” Mouna Mansour, a Hamas legislator in the Palestinian Parliament and widow of an assassinated senior leader of the movement, told me, “The PA has succeeded more than the Israelis in crushing Hamas in the West Bank.”

At the center of the Palestinian government’s security reforms are several “special battalions” of the National Security Forces (NSF), an eight-thousand-member gendarmerie that makes up the largest unit of the 25,000-strong Palestinian armed forces in the West Bank.11 The officer in charge of the vetting, training, equipping, and strategic planning of these special battalions is Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, the United States security coordinator (USSC) for Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In a desert town sixteen miles southeast of Amman, more than three thousand Palestinians have completed nineteen-week military courses under Dayton’s supervision at the Jordan International Police Training Center, built with American funds in 2003 for the instruction of Iraqi police. In Hebron, Jenin, Jericho, and Ramallah, the Dayton mission is organizing the construction and renovation of garrisons, training colleges, facilities for the Interior Ministry, and security headquarters—some of which, like the one I visited on a hilltop in central Hebron, were destroyed by Israel during the second intifada. The office of the USSC plans to build new camps in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Tubas, and Tulkarm. It offers two-month leadership courses to senior PA officers, and has created and appointed advisers to a Strategic Planning Directorate in the Ministry of Interior.12 Over the past three years, the State Department has allocated $392 million to the Dayton mission, with another $150 million requested for 2011.13

At its headquarters in a nineteenth-century stone building at the US consulate in West Jerusalem, the USSC has a forty-five-person core staff composed primarily of American and Canadian but also British and Turkish military officers. In addition, it employs twenty-eight private contractors from the Virginia-based DynCorp International.14 State Department rules require the mission’s US government staff to travel only in large, heavily armored convoys, though these restrictions do not apply to its private security contractors and foreign military officers, some of whom are based in Ramallah. By late 2011—a date that dovetails with Fayyad’s deadline—the USSC plans to have supervised the training of ten NSF battalions, one for every West Bank governorate except Jerusalem.15

General Dayton reports to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He advises George Mitchell, special envoy for Middle East peace, and has been praised by influential senators, congressmen, and Middle East analysts, who view the work of the USSC as a singular achievement.16 Israel has granted greater responsibility to Palestinian security forces, expanding their geographical areas of operation, sharing higher-quality intelligence with them, and lifting their midnight-to-five-AM curfews in several of the largest West Bank cities.17 According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel has also reduced the travel time between most urban centers in the West Bank by opening roads, relaxing controls at checkpoints, lifting vehicle permit requirements, and removing physical obstacles, which are expected to be reduced in the near future to their lowest number since 2005.18

Colonel Philip J. Dermer, a former member of the USSC, wrote in a March 2010 report circulated among senior White House and military staff that “the USSC mission has arguably achieved more progress on the ground than any other US effort in Israeli- Palestinian peacemaking”19 Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, has said, “You can send George Mitchell back and forth to the Middle East as much as you like, but expanding what [General] Dayton is doing in the security realm to other sectors of Palestinian governance and society is really the only viable model for progress.”20

The first United States security coordinator, Lieutenant General William “Kip” Ward, arrived in Jerusalem in March 2005. Elliott Abrams, formerly the deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush, told me that Ward’s mission was organized in response to three closely coinciding events: the reelection, in November 2004, of Bush, who wanted to rebuild Palestinian security forces as a part of his 2003 road map to Middle East peace; the death, nine days later, of Yasser Arafat, who had resisted American attempts to reform the Palestinian security services; and the victory of America’s favored candidate, Mahmoud Abbas, in the January 2005 presidential election.

  1. For an excellent report on Palestinian security reform, see “Squaring the Circle: Palestinian Security Reform Under Occupation,” International Crisis Group, September 7, 2010.
  2. “Fayyad: Jews Can Be Equal Citizens in a Palestinian State,” Haaretz, July 5, 2009.
  3. For an example of the sort of approbation Fayyad receives, see several recent columns by Roger Cohen, who has called Fayyad “the most important phenomenon in the Middle East,” and Thomas Friedman, who has coined a term for the prime minister’s brand of “transparent, accountable administration and services”—”Fayyadism”—which he thinks “the most exciting new idea in Arab governance ever.” Roger Cohen, “Beating the Mideast’s Black Hole,” The International Herald Tribune, April 27, 2010; Thomas Friedman, “Green Shoots in Palestine,” The New York Times, August 4, 2009.
  4. Akiva Eldar, “A Day in the Life of the Palestinian Ben-Gurion,” Haaretz, February 11, 2010.
  5. Fadi Elsalameen, “Fayyad: ‘Build, Build Despite the Occupation,'” The Palestine Note, July 30, 2010.
  6. Merav Michaeli, “Lieberman: Israel’s Gestures to Palestinians Met with ‘Slaps in the Face,'” Haaretz, May 13, 2010.
  7. Fadi Elsalameen, “Fayyad: ‘Build, Build Despite the Occupation.'”
  8. Much has been made of a report by the International Monetary Fund stating that real GDP in the West Bank grew by 8.5 percent in 2009. For a source arguing that the IMF’s report of West Bank economic growth is greatly exaggerated, see Bassim S. Khoury, “Putting the Palestinian ‘Carriage Behind the Horse,'” ForeignPolicy.com, July 1, 2010.
  9. Measures Taken by Israel in Support of Developing the Palestinian Economy, the Socio-Economic Structure, and the Security Reforms,” Report of the Government of Israel to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, April 13, 2010.
  10. “2009 Annual Summary—Data and Trends in Palestinian Terrorism,” Israeli Security Agency, 2009. See also previous Israeli Security Agency reports and “Four Years of Conflict: Israel’s War Against Terrorism,” Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, October 3, 2004.
  11. On the size of the NSF, see the estimates made in “Palestinian Authority: US Assistance Is Training and Equipping Security Forces, but the Program Needs to Measure Progress and Faces Logistical Constraints,” Government Accountability Office, May 2010; and “Squaring the Circle: Palestinian Security Reform Under Occupation.” The number used in this piece falls between the figures provided in those two reports and represents a slight adjustment, presented to me by a spokesman for EUPOL COPPS (the European Union Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories) in April 2010, of a previous estimate made by US officials. See “West Bank: Palestinian Security Forces,” US Security Coordination Road Warrior Team, June 2008.
  12. These courses are open to members of each of the seven security services: the National Security Forces, Presidential Guard, Civil Police, Civil Defense, and three intelligence services—Military Intelligence, General Intelligence, and Preventive Security.
  13. “Palestinian Authority: US Assistance Is Training and Equipping Security Forces, but the Program Needs to Measure Progress and Faces Logistical Constraints.”
  14. “Palestinian Authority: US Assistance Is Training and Equipping Security Forces, but the Program Needs to Measure Progress and Faces Logistical Constraints.”
  15. The State Department, however, expects the forces to be deployed in only nine governorates, with one battalion as a reserve force. (The PA security sector treats the governorates of Jenin and Tubas as a single unit.) See “US Security Assistance to the Palestinian Authority,” Congressional Research Service, January 8, 2010; and “Squaring the Circle,” International Crisis Group, September 7, 2010, p. 11.
  16. Dayton served alongside the national security adviser, General James Jones, who was special envoy for Middle East security in 2007–2008; wrote a glowing blurb for a recent book coauthored by Dennis Ross, a senior director at the National Security Council and special adviser to the President; and has given presentations to influential senators, congressmen, and interest groups visiting Israel.
  17. “Squaring the Circle: Palestinian Security Reform Under Occupation.”
  18. West Bank Movement and Access Update,” United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Occupied Palestinian Territory, June 2010.
  19. Colonel Philip J. Dermer, “Trip Notes on a Return to Israel and the West Bank: Reflections on US Peacemaking, the Security Mission, and What Should Be Done,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 39, No. 3 (Spring 2010).
  20. James Kitfield, “United They Fall; Divided They Stand,” National Journal, March 28, 2009.

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Protection by any means necessary

>Matthew Cassel, The Electronic Intifada, 29 September 2010

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon insist on their right to bear arms. (Matthew Cassel)

This month, Palestinians in Lebanon commemorated the 28th anniversary of a crime whose perpetrators remain unpunished and whose victims still wait for justice. In September 1982, the Israeli army surrounded the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Beirut. For nearly three days, Israeli forces allowed their allies in the right-wing Lebanese Christian Phalange militia to enter the camps and massacre more than a thousand Palestinian refugees and Lebanese citizens. All of the victims — men, women and children — were unarmed civilians.

The massacre was the culmination of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and more than two months of siege of West Beirut which eventually forced the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to withdraw from the country. PLO fighters relinquished their heavy weapons to the Lebanese army and in a symbolic act of resistance, left Beirut with their small arms still at their sides. However, the majority of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, exiled since 1948 when Israel was established on top of their homes, remained behind. Dispersed throughout the country’s dozen or so refugee camps, Palestinians were left virtually unprotected.

The PLO withdrew from Beirut only after agreeing to a US-mediated ceasefire with Israel. They were given reassurances by Washington that Israel would not harm Palestinian civilians remaining in the camps. However, these reassurances proved to be shallow, and after waging an invasion of Lebanon that killed nearly 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians and devastated much of the country, Israel invaded and occupied the practically defenseless Lebanese capital.

Prior to this somber anniversary, a writer argued in the Guardian’s Comment is Free site that Palestinian weapons were the key issue preventing Palestinian refugees from obtaining basic civil rights in Lebanon, which the state has denied them for 62 years. He described the camps as “heavily armed” and the refugees living there as gripped by an “illusion of martial security” (“Disarming Lebanon’s Palestinians,” Ahmed Moor, 8 September 2010).

As someone who has lived in Lebanon for several years, I was struck by these assertions. Anyone familiar with Lebanese politics recognizes them as the typical refrain of the right-wing, whose adherents object not only to providing Palestinian refugees with basic rights but their very presence on Lebanese soil. Nor do these characterizations come close to accurately describing the camps or the Palestinians in Lebanon I know. The camps today are far from being heavily armed, especially when compared to the various Lebanese militias or the Lebanese army.

I thought I would visit the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, which today are essentially one camp resembling a slum, and speak with Palestinian refugees about the issue of trading in their weapons for rights.

Inside a small call center in the camp, frequented by mostly Palestinians without credit on their mobile phones and foreign workers calling home, I spoke to a young man named Osama. He told me: “The issue of our arms and our civil rights are unrelated. Lebanese should give us rights as Arabs, as human beings living among them like Palestinian refugees in Jordan and Syria.”

“Our weapons don’t necessarily make me feel safer,” he added, “especially with the internal problems that we have in the camps here like in Palestine. But if we were to give them up, we’d have no protection. At least with our weapons if we die, we die standing and not like in Sabra and Shatila when we were massacred without even one weapon to resist. If the Lebanese army was able to protect us from Israel, then there would be no need for Palestinians to have weapons.”

At the headquarters of the Najdeh Association just outside the camp, I spoke with executive director Laila al-Ali. Founded in the 1970s, Najdeh is an nongovernmental organization that runs social programs in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps and is the leading organization behind the “Right to Work Campaign” for Palestinian refugees. Al-Ali, a Palestinian refugee who grew up in Shatila, explained, “It’s not the Lebanese who are looking for assurances or guarantees from the Palestinians, it’s the Palestinians who need this guarantee from the Lebanese. Palestinians don’t feel safe.”

Al-Ali said that only a few groups and individuals have weapons in the camps. She added that the argument claiming these small arms are a prerequisite to granting Palestinians rights is merely “Lebanese [rhetoric] trying to deny Palestinians their human and civil rights.”

I asked her about a recent law passed by the Lebanese parliament that made minor changes to the restrictions on the ability of Palestinian refugees to work in the country. Al-Ali stated bluntly: “It gives them nothing. The Lebanese mentality needs to be changed, they cannot continue dealing with Palestinians from the security perspective [alone].”

Back in Shatila, others shared her sentiments. I walked into a barbershop owned by Ahmed, who explained while snipping away at a man’s hair that “We keep weapons for protection. Even between the Lebanese there is no stability. Today they are together and tomorrow they’re not. In the past we only had our weapons to protect ourselves. Like during the [1985-88] war of the camps, our weapons protected us from the [Lebanese Shia] Amal movement.”

I turned to a young man named Omar who was finishing a deep pore cleansing. Bearing a pistol on his hip, Omar is a member of one of the camp’s security branches. “The weapons are not the reason for denying us rights, this is a pretext for the Lebanese to take our weapons,” he said. “If we lose our weapons, we lose the right to go back to Palestine. I carry my weapon because it’s not worth throwing away. The weapons are the peoples’ property.”

Unprompted, a taxi driver named Mahmoud with a freshly trimmed mustache jumped in. “Once we lose the weapons we’ll be slapped from all directions,” he said. “I will never accept to give up our weapons. The Lebanese will never be able to protect our cause. It’s not their cause, and nobody can protect it but ourselves.”

After speaking with dozens of individuals in the camp, all of whom refused to give up their right to bear arms, I asked a friend to take me to someone in the camp who he thought would disagree. He brought me to his 66-year-old grandmother, Miyasar, a refugee who has been forced to flee her home at least five times since 1948 and now lives in Shatila.

Before I could even finish asking her the first question about trading rights for arms, Miyasar closed her eyes, shook her head and said: “The Lebanese cannot give us rights, they can’t even give themselves rights. Each group is by itself with its own weapons — Hizballah has guns, Amal has guns, the Future [movement] has guns. The Lebanese are the ones who need help, not the Palestinians.”

She added, “When the Israelis came they said, give up our guns. We did and look what happened! Even a donkey that falls in one spot learns not to fall in that same spot again. We have no faith in Lebanese to give us rights. We will keep our weapons until we go back to Palestine.”

Matthew Cassel is based in Beirut, Lebanon and is Assistant Editor of The Electronic Intifada. His website is justimage.org. A version of this essay was originally published by the Guardian’s Comment is Free and is republished with permission.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Israel’s Reasoning Against Peace

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It would be misleading to assume that the only major obstacle to the success of the negotiations is the right-wing political ideology the settler movement represents. Equally important are deeply entrenched economic interests shared across Israeli society, notes Jonathan Cook.

Deal comes at high cost to Jewish privilege

With the resumption of settlement construction in the West Bank yesterday, Israel’s powerful settler movement hopes that it has scuttled peace talks with the Palestinians.

It would be misleading, however, to assume that the only major obstacle to the success of the negotiations is the right-wing political ideology the settler movement represents. Equally important are deeply entrenched economic interests shared across Israeli society.

These interests took root more than six decades ago with Israel’s establishment and have flourished at an ever-accelerating pace since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip after the 1967 war.
Even many Israeli Jews living within the recognised borders of Israel privately acknowledge that they are the beneficiaries of the seizure of another people’s lands, homes, businesses and bank accounts in 1948. Most Israelis profit directly from the continuing dispossession of millions of Palestinian refugees.

Israeli officials assume that the international community will bear the burden of restitution for the refugees. The problem for Israel’s Jewish population is that the refugees now living in exile were not the only ones dispossessed.

The fifth of Israel’s citizens who are Palestinian but survived the expulsions of 1948 found themselves either transformed into internally displaced people or the victims of a later land-nationalisation programme that stripped them of their ancestral property.

Even if Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, signed away the rights of the refugees, he would have no power to do the same for Israel’s Palestinian citizens, the so-called Israeli Arabs. Peace, as many Israelis understand, would open a Pandora’s box of historic land claims from Palestinian citizens at the expense of Israel’s Jewish citizens.

But the threat to the economic privileges of Israeli Jews would not end with a reckoning over the injustices caused by the state’s creation. The occupation of the Palestinian territories after 1967 spawned many other powerful economic interests opposed to peace.

The most visible constituency are the settlers, who have benefited hugely from government subsidies and tax breaks designed to encourage Israelis to relocate to the West Bank. Peace Now estimates that such benefits alone are worth more than $550 million a year.

Far from being a fringe element, the half a million settlers constitute nearly a tenth of Israel’s Jewish population and include such prominent figures as foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Hundreds of businesses serving the settlers are booming in the 60 per cent of the West Bank, the so-called Area C, that falls under Israel’s full control. The real estate and construction industries, in particular, benefit from cut-price land — and increased profits — made available by theft from Palestinian owners.

Other businesses, meanwhile, have moved into Israel’s West Bank industrial zones, benefiting from cheap Palestinian labour and from discounted land, tax perks and lax enforcement of environmental protections.
Much of the tourism industry also depends on Israel’s hold over the holy sites located in occupied East Jerusalem.

This web of interests depends on what Akiva Eldar, of the Haaretz newspaper, terms “land-laundering” overseen by government ministries, state institutions and Zionist organisations. These murky transactions create ample opportunities for corruption that have become a staple for Israel’s rich and powerful, including, it seems, its prime ministers.

But the benefits of occupation are not restricted to the civilian population. The most potent pressure group in Israel — the military — has much to lose from a peace agreement, too.

The ranks of Israel’s career soldiers, and associated security services such as the Shin Bet secret police, have ballooned during the occupation.

The demands of controlling another people around the clock justifies huge budgets, the latest weaponry (much of it paid for by the United States) and the creation of a powerful class of military bureaucrat.
While teenage conscripts do the dangerous jobs, the army’s senior ranks retire in their early forties on full pensions, with lengthy second careers ahead in business or politics. Many also go on to profit from the burgeoning “homeland security” industries in which Israel excels. Small specialist companies led by former generals offer a home to retired soldiers drawing on years of experience running the occupation.

Those who spent their service in the West Bank and Gaza Strip quickly learn how to apply and refine new technologies for surveillance, crowd control and urban warfare that find ready markets overseas. In 2006 Israel’s defence exports reached $3.4bn, making the country the fourth largest arms dealer in the world.
These groups fear that a peace agreement and Palestinian statehood would turn Israel overnight into an insignificant Middle Eastern state, one that would soon be starved of its enormous US subsidies. In addition, Israel would be forced to right a historic wrong and redirect the region’s plundered resources, including its land and water, back to Palestinians, depriving Jews of their established entitlements.

A cost-benefit calculus suggests to most Israeli Jews — including the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu — that a real solution to their conflict with the Palestinians might come at too heavy a price to their own pockets.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

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