Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem’

Gaza bombings rock Palestinian reconciliation

November 21, 2014

By Nicola Nasser*

It is ironic that the annual commemoration of the death of Yasser Arafat should turn into an occasion for rekindling the flames of internal strife. This was clearly the aim of last week’s bombings that targeted the homes of Fatah leaders in Gaza, as well as the podium for the commemorative ceremonies of Arafat, who strove to make Palestinian national unity one of the pillars of his political legacy.

How desperately those concerned need to be inspired by the political legacy of that great president.

During a visit to demonstrate solidarity with the West Bank village of Al-Mughayyar, where settlers, under the protective eye of occupation soldiers, set fire to a mosque, Director of the Ministry of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) Kamel Abu Aliya remarked that his ministry have documented 20 similar attacks on mosques in the West Bank since 2011.

In targeting mosques, the occupation is clearly targeting major symbols of national and popular unity. Mosques, by definition, gather people together rather than drive them apart. Inside the mosque all the factions of the national struggle that are at odds with each other assemble as one with their fellow men, in solid ranks with a single heart.

The occupation has never foregone any means at its disposal to drive a wedge into the Palestinian national ranks. This has not changed. So it is ironic that the bombings would become an occasion to present the occupation with the gift of factional polarisation and a war of words, at a time when the factions most need to be united, and that they would serve to turn the national compass away from Jerusalem, on which Arafat had set his national compass until his dying breath.

But here is another important point. Both sides of the dispute — Fatah and Hamas — have condemned the attacks, denied all charges of responsibility and insist on the need to conduct an investigation into bombings as quickly as possible.

If these two factions can agree on these points, what would keep them from agreeing to form a joint fact-finding committee that would include representatives from all other factions (most notably the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front) and independent figures from civil society that would be committed to publishing its findings in fulfilment of the right of the Palestinian people to know the truth?

Moreover, why couldn’t the creation of a joint committee such as this become a new mechanism for enhancing national reconciliation and ending acrimonious exchanges before they spiral out of control?

In this regard, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says that he is not interested in “an investigation by them” — referring to Hamas, of course — but does not propose an alternative investigatory mechanism, he is not helping efforts to unearth the truth, which his people are more eager to learn than the two factions whose protracted dispute has exhausted their people.

But the most appalling irony resides in their aversion to turning the finger of accusation in the direction of the ultimate beneficiary from all this — namely, the Israeli occupation authority and its state. A focus on that beneficiary would suffice, in and of itself, to contain the dangerous repercussions of the bombings on national unity and, simultaneously, to expose the truth about the existence of parties who fear their interests would be jeopardised by the end of the rift in both the occupied West Bank and blockaded Gaza Strip.

These parties are exploited, knowingly or not, by the occupation, and collectively they form a “fifth column” that works to obstruct the process of national reconciliation in order to safeguard their interests.

But even if those who carried out the bomb attacks were Palestinian this does not obscure the identity of the first and foremost beneficiary. This, moreover, comes at a time when the occupation is escalating its aggression against the Palestinian people under occupation.

It is increasing its forces in the West Bank, intensifying its repressive measures and moving to augment its budget for settlement expansion. More significantly, the Israeli government recently approved a bill of law to extend the laws of the Israeli state to the Jewish colonies in the West Bank, as is the case in East Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. In other words, we are effectively speaking of another Israeli annexation bid.

The history of dissension and strife is repeating itself. A statement by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) urges Fatah and Hamas to exercise restraint and to remain alert to the conspiracies that are being woven against the Palestinian people.

It cautions the two factions against falling into the Israeli trap of igniting Palestinian discord and urges them to give competent agencies and relevant political authorities sufficient time to unearth the threads of the crime.

Yet this statement, which applies perfectly to the current situation, was issued by the PFLP in July 2008 after four Ezz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigade members were killed in a bombing on Gaza beach. At the time, Hamas accused Fatah and the Fatah charged Hamas with carrying out an “internal purge.”

Nothing appears to have changed, apart from the fact that today Fatah accuses Hamas of planting the bombs and the latter responds that the attack was related to an internal conflict inside Fatah. In both cases, the occupation power and its government come out innocent!

That rush to judgment and finger pointing before the smoke has cleared is suspicious and raises questions regarding the political motives behind such reactions. One is reminded of a similar case of accusations that were hurled after the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri in 2005.

Before his blood had dried some fingers in Lebanon pointed to Syria, even though it was palpably evident that Damascus could not have been behind the crime as it was fully aware that it could only be harmed by the consequences.

The same applies to Hamas today. After its long political experience it would realise that it could only stand to lose from the Gaza bombings.

The hands that carried out the bombings in Gaza might be Palestinian and even Fatah or Hamas hands, but those who issued the orders could not have been Palestinian decision-makers. Anyone familiar with the history of Palestinian assassinations knows this.

The perpetrators may have been motivated by personal interests but the consequences cannot possibly serve Palestinian interests, factional or otherwise. They can only serve the occupation authority and its state, especially as the victim is certainly the Palestinian people and their national unity.

The fifth column that benefits from Palestinian division and that feels threatened by its end is still searching for opportunities to sabotage Palestinian national reconciliation. It must have seen the Gaza bombings as a perfect opportunity to fan the flames of discord, offering a service free of charge to the occupation (presuming the best possible intentions under that situation), or not free of charge (presuming the worst).

It does not take much effort to reach the above conclusion. However, building on it by containing the unpatriotic repercussions of the attacks requires great thought and effort in order to prevent outbursts of factional acrimony or to keep them contained in order to safeguard national reconciliation from collapse.

This is essential to ensure that the reconstruction of Gaza moves forward, to sustain the national unity government and to return the focus to solidifying national ranks in the face of the occupation’s ongoing aggression against the Palestinian people, their security and wellbeing and their sanctities, and behind the political battle that the Palestinian presidency is waging in the international arena.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (nassernicola@ymail.com). This article was translated from Arabic and first published by Al-Ahram Weekly on November 20, 2014.

Antagonizing Palestinians, Australia’s linguistic blunder snowballs

June 17, 2014

By Nicola Nasser*

Reacting to antagonized Palestinian snowballing protests to her government’s decision on June 5 to reverse a 47-year old bipartisan consensus on describing eastern Jerusalem as “occupied,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on June 13 denied any “change in the Australian government’s position.”

On June 5, Australian Attorney-General George Brandis in a statement said: ”The description of East Jerusalem as ‘Occupied East Jerusalem’ is a term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful.”

The new Australian terminology provoked Jordan, the third largest importer of Australian sheep in the Middle East, to summon Australia’s charge d’affaires, John Feakes, to convey its “concern” because “The Australian government’s decision violates international law and resolutions that consider east Jerusalem as an integral part of all Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.”

Similarly, the Australian Representative in Ramallah, Tom Wilson, was summoned by the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to convey “deep concern” because Brandis’ remarks “contradict all international resolutions.” They requested “official clarification.”

Bishop’s “no change” statement came in response. It was followed on June 14 by Prime Minister Tony Abbott who said, while on a trip to North America, that his government had made only a “terminological clarification.”

Australia still “strongly” supports the “two-state solution” and “there has been no change in policy – absolutely no change in policy,” Abbot said, but at the same time confirmed that, “We absolutely refuse to refer to occupied East Jerusalem.”

Abbot two days earlier stated that the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are in “truth … disputed territories.”

Canberra is showing no signs of backing down. Australian ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, on June 11 said Brandis’ reasoning could lead his government to similar official linguistic change on the West Bank.

“I think we just call the West Bank, ‘the West Bank,’ as a geographical entity without adding any adjectives to it, whether ‘occupied’ [the Palestinian position] or ‘disputed’ [the Israeli position]. We’ll just call it what it is, which is ‘the West Bank.’,” he told the Tablet. However, this is not official yet, he said.

“There has been no change in the Australian government’s position on the legal status of the Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem,” Bishop “clarified” in her statement. She was not convincing. The credibility of Bishop’s and Abbot’s denial of “change” could hardly be plausible.

It is a “radical change in the Australian position on Palestine,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said. The head of the Palestinian delegation to Canberra, Izzat Abdulhadi, said Australia’s new stance is “very provocative.”

On June 12, Arab and Islamic ambassadors from 18 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Indonesia, protested to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra.

Jerusalem is the permanent headquarters of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The organization was founded in response to the burning of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, by the Australian arsonist Michael Dennis Rohan in 1969.

The Australian on June 10 reported from Jerusalem that the 57-member OIC will hold a joint emergency meeting this month with the 22-member Arab League to decide their response to Australia’s “terminology” declaration.

Secretary General of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi sent Bishop a “letter of protest” requesting “official clarification,” his deputy Ahmad bin Hilli said last Monday.

Palestinians are on record to invoke the multi-billion annual Australian agricultural exports to the member states in the discussions. Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told reporters last Friday that “we will work very hard with them … to maintain the trade,” but so far his government has shown no signs to that effect.

Bishop’s and Abbot’s “no change” statements tried to imply that their country’s policy has not changed and that if there was a change it is a linguistic one only.

Either case the change in “terminology” serves neither Australian nor Palestinian interests. Coming ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to Australia this summer, to be the first ever sitting Israeli premier to visit Canberra, it serves only as a free of charge welcoming present.

However, coming on the 47th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory in eastern Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza Strip and in 2014, which the United Nations proclaimed an International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Australian “change of language” was “absolutely disgraceful and shocking,” according to the member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Hanan Ashrawi.

“Such inflammatory and irresponsible statements … are not only in blatant violation of international law and global consensus, but are also lethal in any pursuit of peace and toxic to any attempt at enacting a global rule of law,” Ashrawi was quoted as saying by the Times of Israel on June 6.

In fact, describing the Palestinian territories, eastern Jerusalem inclusive, as “occupied” is not only a Palestinian position.

The Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem has not been recognized by the international community and all 193 countries of the UN, including the U.S., refuse to have their embassies in Jerusalem because it would imply their recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

Published by The Guardian on this June 11, Ben Saul wrote: “Calling east Jerusalem ‘occupied’ simply recognizes the near-universal legal status quo, namely that it is not sovereign Israeli territory.”

“Declaring that east Jerusalem will not be described as ‘occupied’ implies that Australia rejects the application of international humanitarian law … The term “occupation” is therefore not pejorative or judgmental.” Saul said, adding that “Australia’s new view … corrodes the international rule of law and violates Australia’s international law obligations” in accordance with the Geneva conventions to which both Australia and Israel are signatories.

The UN Security Council Resolution 478 on August 20, 1980 censured “in the strongest terms the enactment by Israel of the ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem,” affirmed “that the enactment of the ‘basic law’ by Israel constitutes a violation of international law” and determined “that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the recent ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”

Ninety UNSC resolutions, let alone 40 others vetoed by the U.S., rule accordingly. Now Australia is the only other nation that joins and supports Israel in its violation of all these resolutions. Aside from Israel, it is also the only nation to change its language on the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

Australian linguistics in context

The Palestinian people are not known for their short memory. They view the Australian government’s “terminological clarification” in the context of the country’s recent pro-Israel changes of policy as well as in Australia’s historical anti-Palestinian policies.

Last month, Ambassador Sharma met in East Jerusalem with the Israeli Minister of Housing Uri Ariel, who is in charge of the illegal construction of the colonial settlements in the OPT.

In January this year, while on an official visit to Israel, Foreign Minister Bishop told the Times of Israel that she isn’t convinced that Israeli construction of illegal settlements in OPT is a violation of international law, and called international boycotts of these settlements “anti-Semitic” and “Hypocritical beyond belief.”

Last November, Australia failed to join 158 nations who supported a UN General Assembly resolution calling for an end to Israeli settlements or to join 160 countries which supported another resolution calling on Israel to “comply scrupulously” with the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

In November 2012, Australia abstained from supporting the UNGA recognition of Palestine as a “non-member observer state” by a vote of 138 to 9, rendering PM Abbot’s latest “clarification” that Australia still “strongly” supports the “two-state solution” a hollow statement.

Quoted by Emeritus Professor Peter Boyce AO, President of the Australia Institute of International Affairs in Tasmania, a 2010 study found that 78% of Australians were opposed to Israel’s settlements policy and only 22% thought Jerusalem should be recognized as Israel’s capital. More recently, at the time of the 2012 General Assembly vote on Palestinian non-member observer State status, 51% of Australians thought their country should vote “Yes” and only 15% “No.”

“Australia has had an important role in the establishment of the Israeli state” and it “stood alone among western governments in its uncritical alignment with Israel,” Professor Boyce wrote.

Certainly Boyce had history in mind. Australia in its capacity as the Chairman of the UN General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine helped to push through the UN Partition Plan on November 29, 1947. It was the first UN member state to vote in favor of Israeli statehood and the first to grant Israel de-jure recognition when the U.S. recognized it de-facto only. Israel was also the first Middle East country with which Australia established diplomatic relations in 1949.

Australia had defended all Israeli wars on Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria as “in self defense,” especially the 1967 war in which it occupied more Palestinian territories and the lands of four Arab countries.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. nassernicola@ymail.com

Pope’s unbalanced neutrality in Holy Land

June 4, 2014

By Nicola Nasser*

Pope Francis’ “”pilgrimage” to the Holy Land last week proved to be an unbalanced impossible mission. The pontiff failed to strike a balance of neutrality between contradictory and irreconcilable binaries like divinity and earth, religion and politics, justice and injustice and military occupation and peace.

Such neutrality is viewed by the laity of Christian believers, let alone Muslim ones, in the Holy Land as religiously, morally and politically unacceptable.

The 77-year old head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics “is stepping into a religious and political minefield,” Naim Ateek, the Anglican priest who founded the Palestinian liberation theology movement and runs the Sabeel Ecumenical Center in Jerusalem and Nazareth, was quoted as saying by “Time” on last May 24, the first day of the pope’s “pilgrimage.”

Ironically, the symbolic moral and spiritual power of the Holy See was down to earth in Pope Francis’ subservient adaptation to the current realpolitik of the Holy Land in what the Catholic Online on May 26 described as “faith diplomacy.”

The pontiff’s message to the Palestinian people during his three-day “pilgrimage” to the Holy Land boils down to an endorsement of the Israeli and U.S. message to them, i.e.: “The only route to peace” is to negotiate with the Israeli occupying power, refrain from unilateral actions and “violent” resistance and recognize Israel as a fait accompli.

The UK-based Jordanian-Palestinian journalist Lamis Andoni, a Christian herself, wrote on May 27: “We don’t need the Vatican blessing of negotiations … Whoever sees occupation and remains neutral has no justice in his vision.”

The Vatican and the pope himself had insisted that his visit to the birthplace of the three monotheistic “Abrahamic faiths” of Islam, Christianity and Judaism was “purely spiritual,” “strictly religious,” a “pilgrimage for prayer” and “absolutely not political.”

But the Vatican expert John Allen, writing in the Boston Globe a week ahead of the pope’s visit, had expected it to be a “political high-wire act,” and that what it truly was, because “religion and politics cannot be separated in the Holy Land,” according to Yolande Knell on BBC online on May 25.

Pope Francis would have performed much better had he adhered “strictly,” “purely” and “absolutely” to making his trip a “pilgrimage for prayer” and one that is committed to Christian unity and to helping indigenous Christians survive the highly volatile and violent regional environment.

Instead he had drowned his spiritual role in a minefield of symbolic political semantics and semiotics.

The pope finished his “pilgrimage,” which was announced as a religious one but turned instead into a political pilgrimage, with a call for peace.

However, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Hussein, while welcoming the pontiff inside Islam’s third holiest site of Al-Aqsa Mosque on May 26, said: “Peace in this land will not happen until the end of the [Israeli military] occupation.”

Palestinian-American Daoud Kuttab on May 25 wrote in a controversial column that the pope “exceeded expectations for Palestinians.”

He flew directly from Jordan to Bethlehem in Palestine without passing through any Israeli entry procedures, implicitly and symbolically recognizing Palestinian sovereignty.

He addressed the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as the head of the “State of Palestine,” announced that there must be “recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign homeland and their right to live with dignity and with freedom of movement” and met with Palestinian children whose parents were refugees whom Israelis displaced from their homes in 1948.

And in an undeniable expression of solidarity with the Palestinians, he made an unplanned stop to pray at Israel’s apartheid wall of segregation in Bethlehem, because, as he said, “the time has come to put an end to this situation which has become increasingly unacceptable.”

However, the word “occupation” was missing in more than thirteen of his speeches during his “pilgrimage” as was any reference to world’s “largest open-air prison” in Gaza Strip or to Dahiyat a-Salam (literally: Neighborhood of Peace) and other five neighbourhoods in eastern Jerusalem, including the Shu’fat Refugee Camp, where some eighty thousand Palestinians were cut off from the city services, including water, since March 2014 and isolated from Jerusalem by Israel’s segregation wall. His itinerary did not include the Galilee and Nazareth where most Palestinian Christians are located.

Eight papal messages

However, within less than twenty four hours the pontiff was to offset his positive overtures to Palestinians and his call for a “just solution” and a “stable peace based on justice” for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with eight messages to them.

The pontiff’s arrival in the Palestinian Holy Land came three days before Israel’s celebration of its 47th anniversary of its military occupation and annexation of the Christian and Muslim holy sites in the Arab east Jerusalem and ten days after the Palestinian commemoration of the 66th anniversary of their Nakba on the creation of Israel in 1948 on the ruins of more than 500 towns and villages from which the Zionist paratroops ethnically cleansed forcefully more than 800,000 Arab Muslim and Christian native Palestinians.

The pope had nothing to say or do on both occasions to alleviate the ensuing plight of the Palestinians except prayers, because “the concrete measures for peace must come from negotiations … It is the only route to peace,” according to the pope aboard his flight back to Rome.

That was exactly the same futile message the Israeli occupying power and its U.S. strategic ally have been sending to Palestinians for sixty six years, but especially since 1967: Palestinians should be held hostages to exclusively bilateral negotiations with their occupying power. This was the pope’s first message to Palestinians.

For this purpose, the pope invited Palestinian and Israeli presidents, Abbas and Shimon Peres, to pray for peace at “my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer” on June 8. The pope’s spokesman, Federico Lombardi, told the BBC it was “a papal peace initiative.” This was his second message.

His third message to Palestinians was to “refrain from initiatives and actions which contradict the stated desire to reach a true agreement” with Israel, i.e. to refrain from unilateral actions, which is again another Israeli and U.S. precondition which both allies do not deem as deserving Israeli reciprocity.

By laying a wreath at the grave of Theodor Herzl, the atheist founder of Zionism who nonetheless believed in God’s promise of the land to His Jewish “chosen people,” the pope legitimized Herzl’s colonial settlement project in Palestine. This was his fourth message: Israel is a fait accompli recognized by the Vatican and blessed by the papacy and Palestinians have to adapt accordingly. The Washington Post on May 23 went further. “Some are interpreting” the pope’s act “as the pontiff’s tacit recognition of the country’s Jewish character.”

The pope sent his fifth message to Palestinians when he addressed young Palestinian refugees from the Dehiyshe Refugee Camp in Bethlehem: “Don’t ever allow the past to determine your life, always look forward.” He was repeating the Israeli and U.S. call on Palestinian refugees to forget their Nakba and look forward from their refugee camps for an unknown future in exile and diaspora.

On the same occasion he sent his sixth message: “Violence cannot be defeated by violence; violence can only be defeated with peace,” the pope advised the young Palestinian refugees. This is again the Israeli and U.S. message to them, which after more than two decades of Palestinian commitment produced neither peace nor justice for them.

The pope prayed at the Holocaust memorial, the western al-Buraq Wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque, which Israelis call “The Wailing Wall,” the memorial of the Israeli victims of Palestinian resistance, laid a wreath at Herzel’s grave, visited Israeli president at his residence where he “vowed to pray for the institutions of the State of Israel,” which are responsible for the Palestinian Nakba, and received Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Notre Dame complex. The pontiff was in fact blessing and granting the Vatican legitimacy to all the Israeli symbolic casus belli claims to the land, which justify the Palestinian Nakba. This was his seventh message.

All those events took place in Jerusalem, which Israel annexed as the “eternal” capital of the Hebrew state and the “Jewish people.” Reuven Berko, writing in Yisrael Hayom, said that the Pope’s meetings with Peres and Netanyahu were “de facto expressions of the Vatican’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel.”

The pope’s eighth message to Palestinians was on the future of Jerusalem: “From the negotiations perhaps it will emerge that it will be the capital of one State or another … I do not consider myself competent to say that we should do one thing or another.”

Normalization with Israel

The “greatest importance” of Pope Francis’ visit “may lie in the fact that it reflects the normalization of relations between the Vatican and the State of Israel,” head of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, wrote on May 23.

The Second Vatican Council early in the sixties of the last century rejected the collective Jewish guilt for Jesus Christ’s death. Since then the Vatican’s “normalization” of relations with the Jews and Israel has been accumulating.

Rabbi David Rosen, director of inter-religious affairs at the American Jewish Committee, was quoted as saying by the USA Today on May 26: There “has been a revolution in the Christian world.”

At Ben-Gurion airport on May 25, Pope Francis reiterated his predecessor Benedict’s call for “the right of existence for the [still borderless] State of Israel to be recognized universally,” but was wise enough not to reiterate his “thanks to God” because “the Jews returned to the lands of their ancestors.”

To emphasise interfaith coexistence he broke the precedent of including a Jewish rabbi and a Muslim sheikh in his official delegation. “It’s highly symbolic,” said Rev. Thomas Rosica, a consultant to the Vatican press office.

By laying a wreath of white and yellow flowers, the colours of the Vatican, on the Herzl’s grave, the pope broke another historic precedent. It was an unbalanced act, 110 years after Pope Pius X met Herzl and rejected the idea of a Jewish state.

The pontiff’s “pilgrimage” could not dispel the historical fact that lies deep in the regional Arab memory that papacy was “still linked to the Crusades of the 11th through 13th centuries” when the successive popes’ only link to the Holy Land was a military one, according to the international editor of NPR.org, Greg Myre, on this May 24.

Of course this does not apply to Christianity. The indigenous oriental churches’ link to the land has never been interrupted while the Catholic Church was cut off from the region since the end of the Crusades until it came back with the European colonial domination since the nineteenth century.

No pope ever travelled to Jerusalem until Paul VI spent one day in the city, on January 4, 1964, when the holy sites were under the rule of the Arab Jordanians. John Paul visited thirty six years later and established a new papal tradition that has been followed by Pope Benedict, who visited in 2009, and now Pope Francis.

It doesn’t bode well with the Arabs and the Palestinians in particular that the new papal tradition is building on the background of recognizing Israel, which is an occupying power and still without a constitutional demarcated borders, as a fait accompli that the Palestinian people should recognize as well.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. An edited version of this article was first published by the Middle East Eye. nassernicola@ymail.com

Drying up Ideological Wellsprings of Arab – Israeli Conflict

October 30, 2013

By Nicola Nasser*

Gradually, awareness that de-Zionization of the US and European foreign policy as well as the internal policies of the State of Israel has become a prerequisite for peace in the Middle East is steadily taking roots in Israeli and world public opinion and consciousness.

However this awareness has yet to wait for drying up the Zionist ideological wellsprings of the Arab – Israeli conflict and translating it into real politics by de-Zionization of Israel and disengaging western foreign policy from its ideological attachment to Zionism.

In his article published by Foreign Policy on last October 25, James Traub quoted US President Barak Obama in a speech last May, “announcing a re-formulation of the war on terror,” as saying: “We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root;” the only alternative to “perpetual war” is a sustained effort to reduce “the wellsprings of extremism.”

The “wellsprings” of “perpetual wars” and “extremism” in the Middle East during most of the past twentieth century until now could easily be detected in the unholy combination of real politics and the “radical ideology” of the secular – turned – religious Zionism.

This combination made it possible and seemingly ethical for Americans and Europeans to accept and justify the unethical displacement of the indigenous Arab people of Palestine to be replaced by a multi-national artificial gathering of Jews who suffered oppression, anti – Semitism, pogroms and holocaust in their western home countries.

US and European continued attachment to the Zionist ideology lies at the heart of their treatment of Israel, the offspring of this ideology, as one of their top “vital interests” in the Middle East, which is an attachment that in turn lies at the heart of anti-Americanism and other forms of Arab conflicts with the “west.”

The safe haven of the “new world” in America was a timely and practical solution for Europeans to get rid of and solve their “Jewish Question;” it now absorbs more Jews than Israel does.

The communists offered their own solution; it materialized in the Jewish autonomous “Oblast” first ever republic in the Russian Birobidzhan, close to the border of the former Soviet Union with China, which was home to some three million Jews before some one third of them immigrated to Israel following the collapse of the communist empire.

The nation states basing citizenship on the rule of law is now the rule of the day in Europe, where Jews enjoy full constitutional religious, civil, political and all the other rights enjoyed by their compatriots.

There is no more a “Jewish Question” in Europe in particular or in the west in general. If such a question still persists there it is one related to the disproportionate influence of Jewish citizens on the decision makers in the political, financial and media arenas.

Nonetheless, the Zionist propaganda in Israel and abroad is still fervently inciting that Jews are an endangered species outside Israel, soliciting Jewish immigration, encouraging dual citizenship and binational loyalty among them and considering all Jews outside Israel as “refugees.”

Writing in the http://www.huffingtonpost.com on September 6 last year, Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian leader and elected parliamentarian, quoted Shlomo Hillel, a government minister and an active Zionist from Iraq, as saying, “I don’t regard the departure of Jews from Arab lands as that of refugees. They came here because they wanted to, as Zionists” and quoted Former Knesset member Ran Cohen, who immigrated from Iraq, as saying: “I have to say: I am not a refugee. I came at the behest of Zionism.”

Consequently, the “Jewish Question” moved ironically to the very Arab safe haven to which the oppressed European Jews fled with their lives to survive the culture of inquisition in Medieval Europe. The largest Jewish minority among Arabs in Morocco nowadays tells the story.

This Arab safe haven was turned by the Zionist ideology into a hell of wars, instability, ongoing conflict and home of a revived “Jewish Question” since Israel was artificially created 65 years ago in the heart of the Arab world, where Jews used previously to be a prosperous minority in every one of the capitals of the 22 Arab states except Jordan.

Zionism justifies the creation of Israel in Palestine by two basic controversial arguments: That God promised the land to Jews no matter what would happen to its Arab inhabitants who was there long before Joshua and his army crossed River Jordan to destroy Jericho and kill every man, woman, child and animal by “God’s command.”

On November 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary then, Lord Balfour, acted as the self – appointed messenger of God’s will to issue a modern God’s promise to Jews to have a “homeland” in Palestine.

The modern justification of the Holocaust does not care that another people, namely Arab Palestinians, pay the price for a crime they did not commit.

Ironic but informative as well is the fact that Zionism was not originally a Jewish product.

According to the author of “Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?” (InterVarsity Press, 2004) Revd. Dr. Stephen Sizer, writing in the Middle East Monitor on last August 1, “The origins of the movement can be traced to the early 19th century when a group of eccentric British Christian leaders began to lobby for Jewish restoration to Palestine as a necessary precondition for the return of Christ… Christian Zionism therefore preceded Jewish Zionism by more than 50 years. Some of Theodore Herzl’s strongest advocates were Christian clergy.” Dr. Sizer headlined his article, “Christian Zionism: The Heresy that Undermines Middle East Peace.”

He, together with the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem: The Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad of the Syrian Orthodox, the Episcopal Church Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal and the Evangelical Lutheran Church Bishop Munib Younan issued in 2006 and signed the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, which concluded: “We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as a false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.”

The Zionist narrative was challenged by Israel’s “New Historians.” Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe’, Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev, Hillel Cohen, Baruch Kimmerling and others have already reconsidered and created a post – Zionists’ awareness. Pappe’ concluded that the Zionist leaders planned and executed “ethnic cleansing” to displace most of the Arab Palestinians.

Shlomo Sand’s trilogy – – “The Invention of the Jewish People,” “The Invention of the Land of Israel” and his upcoming third volume “The Invention of the Secular Jew” – – hits hard at the very foundations of Zionism.

The fact that the secular Zionism was not popular among the world religious Jewry in the early stages of the movement and that it is an ideology still opposed by a strong Jewish minority is a fact Zionists are keen to smokescreen.

“The UN avenue” in Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv was renamed “The Zionism avenue” in response to the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) of Resolution 3379 on November 10, 1975, which determined that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination;” it was revoked by the UNGA resolution 46/86 in 1991; the ongoing Israeli Zionist ideology and practices render its repeal a premature step that should be reconsidered to reinstate it.

The world community as represented by the United Nations, by adopting resolution 181 of 1947 dividing Palestine between its indigenous Arab Palestinians and the invading aliens of the Zionist settlers played in the hands of Christian and Jewish Zionism to commit an historical mistake that doomed peace in the Middle East as an elusive humanitarian hope for a long time to come.

Jews were an integral part of the region’s history and social fabric until Zionism cut this fact short. Only the prerequisite of de-Zionization of Israel and world politics will make peace a dream that would come true in the region and restore history to its normal course in it. The Crusaders’ interruption of the regional history is an informative precedent from which all those concerned could draw lessons.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. nassernicola@ymail.com

Unsustainable Israeli Politics of Exclusion in Jerusalem

December 31, 2011

By Nicola Nasser**

 

While the history of the world is moving decisively toward a culture of inclusion, diversity and pluralism, Israeli politics seems to challenge history by moving in the opposite direction of exclusion and unilateral self – righteous monopoly of geography, demography, history, archeology and culture, especially in Jerusalem, where Israelis are desperately trying to establish a “Jewish” capital for Israel and “the Jewish people” worldwide, excluding centuries old presence of Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and Christian deep-rooted existence and heritage, thus sowing the seeds of imminent conflict and foreseeable war by strangling a city that has historically been of diversified and pluralistic character and a flashpoint for human misery whenever exclusion becomes the rule of the day.

 

Israeli politics is not moving against history only, but is challenging world politics as well. Although the first Knesset of the newly born “state of Israel” voted on December 13, 1949 to move the seat of government from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and despite Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem on June 27, 1967, which the UN Security Council declared “null and void,” both unilateral declarations have never been accepted and recognized by the international community, not even by the U.S., Israel’s strategic guardian.

 

More recently, while millions of Christians were celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem, and the birth of Christianity in Jerusalem, the scene of Jesus’ resurrection following his death by crucifixion, which is the cornerstone of Christian faith, the Knesset was, on Christmas day, scheduled to consider a draft law that would declare Jerusalem “the capital of the Jewish people” and the capital of Israel at the same time.

 

The fact that the ruling elite in Tel Aviv has made a prior recognition of Israel as a “Jewish” state a precondition for making peace implicitly and consequently applies to Christians as well, otherwise how could any observer interpret the still simmering crisis with the Vatican over the holy places in Jerusalem. The “Fundamental Agreement” signed by both sides on December 30, 1993, as well as an agreement on the recognition of the civil effects of ecclesiastical legal personality, signed on November 10, 1997, have yet to be ratified by Israel’s Knesset. Some in the Israeli media has been recently accusing theVaticanof seeking to hold control of “Jewish holy sites” inJerusalem.

 

The Vatican in the past supported making Jerusalem a corpus separatum, an international city in accordance with the UN Resolution 181 of 1947; Israel’s non-compliance delayed Vatican’s formal recognition of Israel until 1993.

 

More recently, theVaticanrenewed calls for an internal agreement to protect the holy places inJerusalem. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of theVatican’s Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, andVatican’s former foreign minister, declared “There will not be peace if the question of the holy sites is not adequately resolved. The part ofJerusalemwithin the walls – with the holy sites of the three religions – is humanity’s heritage. The sacred and unique character of the area must be safeguarded and it can only be done with a special, internationally-guaranteed statute.”

 

The only perceived threat to the holy places against which theVaticanis seeking protection comes from the Israeli politics of exclusion. Rabbi David Rosen, member of the Israeli delegation to the negotiations with theVaticantold the Israeli daily Haaretz on January 17, 2010 thatIsrael“has not been faithful to the pacts of 1993.”

 

The precondition of recognizing Israel as a “Jewish state” is rejected by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Israel’s partner in peace accords, and its self-ruled Palestinian Authority, the 22-member League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC); in a statement he issued on December 26, 2011, the Secretary-General of the 57-member states of the OIC, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, condemned the Israeli draft law that declares Jerusalem “the capital of Israel and the Jewish people” as “a direct assault on the Palestinian people and their inalienable and clear rights” and “a flagrant violation of international law and international legitimacy resolutions,” which affirm that Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967. PLO representatives considered the Israeli draft law a “declaration of war” and a recipe for igniting a religious conflict. The Islamic – Christian Commission in Support ofJerusalem, in a statement, said if the Israeli draft law is passed it would makeJerusalem“for Judaism and Jews only, which means there would be no freedom of worship in the land of worship.”

 

Israeli attorney and founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem, a Jerusalem-based NGO, Daniel Seidemann, wrote on November 30, 2011: “Cumulatively, Israeli policies inEast Jerusalemtoday threaten to transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a bitter national conflict that can be resolved by means of territorial compromise, into the potential for a bloody, unsolvable religious war. This threat derives fromIsrael’s dogged pursuit of the settlers’ vision of an exclusionary Jewish Jerusalem.”

 

“… Today, Israelmust choose between two visions of Jerusalem. On the one hand, it can continue pursuing an exclusive, largely fictitious rule over an already divided, bi-national city — exposing Israelto virtually universal censure and imperiling the two-state solution. On the other hand, it can pursue policies that can make Israeli Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, a thriving national capital, recognized by all, existing side-by-side with but politically divided from the Palestinian capital in Jerusalem, al Quds. To those who cherishIsrael and understand what is truly at stake, the choice is clear,” Seidemann concluded.

 

What is much more important than excluding “a conflict that can be resolved by means of territorial compromise,” is that the Israeli politics of exclusion in Jerusalem, which could be summarized by Judaization of the holy city, is a roadmap to de-Arabizing, de-Islamizing, de-Christianizing, de-historizing and de-humanizing Jerusalem, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, and this could not be anything but a roadmap to hell.

 

Absolutely this is unsustainable Israeli politics.

 

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

* nassernicola@ymail.com

 

The ‘Security Vacuum’ in Jerusalem

August 6, 2008

By Nicola Nasser*

 

Jerusalem, the casus belli of the Palestinian national struggle of liberation and the rallying cry of the Zionist movement for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, was recently described as becoming a terror hub,a “hotbed” of violent Palestinian neighborhoods and as being “encircled” by “a security vacuum,” where going into the Palestinian refugee camp of Shuafat “is more dangerous than the (northern West Bank) Jenin refugee camp,” according to the Israeli former “defense” minister who now holds the transport portfolio, Shaul Mofaz, and the director of Israel’s internal security agency “Shin Bet,” Yuval Diskin, respectively.

 

Those descriptions of the Holy City came as commentary on the lone Palestinian Bulldozer attack in Jerusalem on July 2 and a similar attack twenty days later by a tractor. Both “lone” attacks and an earlier bloody one on a Jewish seminary in March were used by Israeli officials to whip up a mounting internal and external campaign of incitement and hatred against the native Palestinian Jerusalemites, which led Martin Sieff, a conservative defense industry editor for United Press International to stretch the exaggeration out of proportion to write on August 6 that, “A new front in the global war on terror has opened up” in Jerusalem.

 

However Sief was unintentionally right to add that, “both the U.S. government and the American media have been blind to the evidence staring them in the face”: This is an Israeli-made “security vacuum” and a self-inflicted “hotbed” of threat.

 

Since Israel occupied eastern Jerusalem in 1967, the Israeli government extended the municipal borders of Jerusalem to the east, north and south and officially, but unilaterally, annexed, enlarged, united and declared the city “the eternal capital of Israel,” incorporating in the process a large Palestinian population within its boundaries, but squeezing them out by an accelerating expansion of the Jewish colonial settlement, tightening the residency and building laws and taxation policies, and “Wall”ing them in into isolated and separated Palestinian cantons or walling them out of their native city altogether.

 

Israel’s discriminatory neglect of urban development of the eastern sector, the transfer –oriented demographic policies against its Arab-Palestinian natives, and squeezing out the national Palestinian institutions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) were also crucial factors in creating what the Israeli security experts describe now as a “security vacuum” in the city, which is increasingly being filled by extreme violent elements who are overwhelmed by political despair in view of the deadlocked peace process since 2000.

 

“Indeed, the policy of neglect is reflected in the gallery of portraits of former mayors that decorate the Jerusalem Municipality: Kollek, Olmert, Mordechai Ish-Shalom, Gershon Agron, Yitzhak Kariv, Zalman Shragai, Daniel Auster, “as if their Arab predecessors had not existed. But the latter – and, for that matter, the entire Arab population of Jerusalem – cannot be wished away,” Israeli former foreign minister Moshe Arens wrote in Haaretz recently, adding: “Possibly the most blatant example of this (Neglect) is the Shuafat refugee camp, which was included in Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries.”

 

Ironically Arens missed the fact that Shuafat remains a refugee camp in the heart of the self-proclaimed capital after 41 years of military occupation, thus qualifying Israel to join the Arab states as a host of Palestinian refugees!

 

Systematically depriving Palestinian Jerusalemites of political representation was not confined to ruling out the PLO, but escalated to contain the other Palestinian mainstream political movement, Hamas, as well as what Israeli security experts describe as the “Hamasization” of the grassroots popular resistance to the 41-year old Israeli occupation, following the landslide victory of the Islamic movement in January 2006 legislative election, which was a direct result of closing the PLO – led institutions as much as it was the result of the dead end the PLO’s peace strategic option is still facing.

 

The ensuing dual PLO-Israeli crackdown on Hamas following the breakout of the inter-Palestinian divide, especially after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007, paralyzed the national Palestinian institutions, polarized the Palestinian society and created a territorial as well as a political de facto separation between the Strip and the West Bank.

 

On the ground in Jerusalem the crackdown exacerbated the political vacuum among Palestinian Jerusalemites, where both mainstream national movements are either ruled out or outlawed, leaving the ground open to lone adventures and extreme marginal undergrounds, which are opportunistically used by the Israeli occupying power as further pretexts to evade its peace prerequisites and obligations and at the same time to continue misleading the world public opinion about “Palestinian violence.”

 

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was neither accurate nor historically honest recently when he said that, “Whoever thinks the basic pattern of life in Jerusalem can continue with 270,000 Arabs in east Jerusalem must take into account that there will be bulldozers, trucks and private cars, and no way of preventing terror attacks of this kind.”

 

For years until Israel closed the PLO Jerusalem institutions in 2001, the Orient House was leading a successful coexistence campaign, pending a successful conclusion of the Oslo interim period accords in July 1999 with a final status negotiations leading to an independent Palestinian state, and since Hamas electoral victory in 2006 bulldozers were used only by Israelis to demolish Palestinian homes or to expand the illegal Jewish colonization of the city.

 

The Israeli – made “security vacuum” in Jerusalem is self – inflicted and Olmert himself, or whoever would succeed him, holds the Palestinian key to offset it.

 

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit of the Israeli – occupied Palestinian West Bank.