Posts Tagged ‘Peace’

Smashing the Abbas icon of Palestinian non – violence

October 14, 2015

By Nicola Nasser*

Indisputably, the 80 – year old President Mahmoud Abbas has established himself internally and worldwide as the icon of Palestinian non – violence. His Israeli peace partners leave none in doubt that they are determined to smash this icon, which would leave them only with opposite alternatives the best of which is a massive peaceful intifada (uprising) against the Israeli occupation.

It is true that Abbas cannot yet be called the Ghandi of Palestine. He has yet to follow in the footsteps of the founder of modern India and deliver similar national results by leading a massive popular revolution for liberation and independence, but his strictly adhered to non – violence platform continues to be the prerequisite for any peaceful settlement of the Arab – Israeli conflict in and over Palestine.

For decades, before and after the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories was completed in 1967, Abbas has stuck to his belief in negotiations as the only way to settle the more than a century old conflict. Building on Abbas’ legacy, his chief negotiator, Saeb Erakat, wrote his book, “Life Is Negotiations.”

Abbas has all along rejected “armed struggle” and all forms of violence. He even did his best to avoid popular uprisings lest they glide into violence. Instead he has unequivocally opted to act as a man of state committed to international law and United Nations legitimacy.

Ever since he was elected as president he conducted Palestinian politics accordingly to make his people an integral part of the international community. His respect to the signed accords with Israel raised backlash among his own people when he described, for example, the security coordination agreement with the Hebrew state as “sacred.”

Demonising Abbas

Nonetheless, the Israelis are still persisting on an unabated campaign to demonise Abbas, tarnish his image, undermine his peace credentials and deprive him of any gains for his people.

A Haaretz editorial on Oct. 4 said that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “fanning the flames of incitement against” Abbas. On Oct. 10, The Times of Israel quoted the Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon as saying that “We have come a long way to convince Israeli society that he’s (i.e. Abbas) no partner.”

Evidently, this is the only way for the Israelis to absolve themselves from their signed peace commitments. Ya’alon’s deputy, Eli Ben – Dahan, was quoted on the same day as saying that “Palestinians have to understand they won’t have a state and Israel will rule over them.”

The Israeli minister of education Naftali Bennett, speaking to the army radio on Oct. 11, raised the anti – Abbas ante to an adventurous and irresponsible end game when he said that Abbas’ “absence is better.”

Bennett left it to the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, to explain the raison d’être for his call for the “absence” of Abbas. In a Ynetnews article on Oct. 3, Oren concluded absurdly that “Abbas poses a danger which may be revealed as strategically more serious than the tactical dangers posed by (the Islamic Resistance Movement) Hamas.”

Former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman was more forthright when he called on Oct. 12 for Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank to be “overthrown.”

According to William Booth, writing in The Washington Post on Oct. 10, “Israeli (Cabinet) ministers have branded Abbas ‘a terrorist in a suit’ and ‘inciter in chief’. They mock him as weak,” ignoring that their smearing campaign accompanied by their government’s determination to undermine his peace – making efforts is making him weaker internally and render the “two – state solution” a non – starter among his people.

A poll released by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research on Oct. 6 found that 65% of the public want Abbas to resign and if new presidential elections were held the deputy chief of the Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas,” Ismail Haniyeh, would win 49 percent of the votes against 44 percent for Abbas. The “main findings” indicated a “decline in the level of support for the two – state solution” as 51 percent “opposed” this solution. What is more important in this context was that “57% support a return to an armed intifada.”

International Community Indifference

The Israeli anti – Abbas campaign could only be interpreted as a premeditated endeavour to evade a mounting international pressure for saving the so – called “two – state solution.”

The cancelation of a visit scheduled for last week by senior envoys of the international Middle East Quartet upon Netanyahu’s request was the latest example of the world community’s helplessness and indifference vis – a – vis Israel’s sense of impunity against accountability, which empowers the Israeli occupying power to escalate its crackdown on Palestinians under its military occupation since 1967.

In particular, U.S. President Barak Obama Administration’s “reversals” and “empty promises,” in the words of Peter Berkowitz on Oct. 13, to Abbas as well as the inaction of the European Union and the other two Russian and UN members of the Quartet are encouraging Israel in its anti – Abbas campaign, thus discrediting the Palestinian icon of non – violence further in the eyes of his own people as incapable of delivery to walk away from his non – violent path.

On Oct. 12 the AFP reported that the “frustrated’ Palestinians “have defied” both Abbas and the “Israeli security crackdown” to launch what many observers are calling the beginnings of a “third intifada.”

To his credit, Abbas proved true to his non – violence commitment. Israeli daily Haaretz on Oct. 11 quoted a senior official of the Israeli Shabak intelligence agency as telling a cabinet meeting on the same day “that not only does Abbas not support ‘terrorist attacks’ but also tells PA security services to ‘undermine’ anti-Israel protests as much as possible.”

Abbas was on record recently to tell “our Israeli neighbours that we do not want a security or military escalation. My message to our people, security agencies and leaders is that the situation must calm down.” He warned against “an intifada which we don’t want.” On Oct. 6, he publicly told a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) that “we want to reach a political solution by peaceful means and not at all by any other means.”

The practical translation of his on record “principles” was self evident on the ground during the past two weeks of Palestinian rebellion against the escalating violence of the illegal Israeli settlers of the occupied Palestinian territories and the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), especially in eastern Jerusalem, which so far claimed the lives of more than 25 Palestinians and at least four Israelis in October 2015.

Within the PA security mandate, violence was practiced by the IOF only and only Palestinians were killed. Mutual violence was confined to Jerusalem, the area designated “C” by the Oslo accords in the West Bank and Israel proper, where security is an exclusive Israeli responsibility. There Abbas has no mandate. Most victims of both sides fell there and there only Israel should be held responsible and accountable.

One could not but wonder whether eastern Jerusalem and area “C” of the West Bank would have seen no violence had Abbas’ security mandate been extended to include both areas. U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, who announced on Tuesday plans to visit “soon” to calm down the violence, should consider this seriously.

Ending the Israeli occupation is the only way to move the situation “away from this precipice,” lest, in Kerry’s words, the two-state solution, “could conceivably be stolen from everybody” if violence were to spiral out of control.

In 1974 late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat appealed to the UN General Assembly to “not let the olive branch fall from my hand,” saying that he was holding a “freedom fighter’s gun” in his other hand. Abbas embraced the “olive branch” with both hands and dropped the “gun” forever.

In May this year, Pope Francis told Abbas during a visit to the Vatican: “I thought about you: May you be an angel of peace.” The Jewish Virtual Library’s biography of the Palestinian President vindicates the Pope’s vision. It hailed him as “considered one of the leading Palestinian figures devoted to the search for a peaceful solution to the Palestinian – Israeli conflict… It was Abbas who signed the 1993 peace accord with Israel.

End of Era

Writing in Al – Ahram Weekly on Oct. 12, the President of Arab American Institute, James Zogby, was one only of several observers who announced recently the “burial” of the Oslo accords. In “fact” Oslo “was on life support” and “has been dying for years” Zogby said, concluding: “What happened this week was the final burial rite.”

The Oslo accords were the crown of Abbas’ life – long endeavour. The “burial” of Oslo would inevitably be the end Abbas’ era.

Smashing the Abbas icon of Palestinian non – violence would herald an end to his era, dooming for a long time to come any prospect for a negotiated peaceful solution. His “absence,” according to Gershon Baskin, the Co-Chairman of Israel/Palestine Center for research and Information (IPCRI), will be “definitely the end of an era” and “will be a great loss for Israel and for those who seek true peace.”

Israelis by their ongoing campaign of defamation of Abbas would be missing an irreversible historic opportunity for making peace.

However, Abbas will go down in Palestinian chronicles as a national symbol of non – violence, who raced against time to make what has so far proved to be an elusive peace. Despite his failure, thanks to Israeli unrealistic dreams of “Greater Israel,” he will be the pride of his people in future in spite of the current widespread national opposition to his life – long commitment.

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

Advertisements

Palestinian reconciliation at crossroads

September 15, 2014

By Nicola Nasser*
President Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah movement, which he commands, have unleashed a media campaign against Hamas and the resistance. If pressure from the Palestinian public fails to stop the campaign, Abbas may achieve politically what Israel failed to achieve militarily: forcing the Palestinian presidency to choose “peace with Israel” over national reconciliation.

It appears that President Abbas has, indeed, prioritised “peace with Israel.” He has devised plans for resuming negotiations, and is still banking on American support for such talks. This is the only explanation for the current anti-Hamas media campaign.

Abbas sent his negotiators — Saeb Erekat, Majed Faraj and Maen Erekat — to Washington, where they met with US Secretary of State John Kerry a week ago last Wednesday. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki described the more than two-hour meeting as “constructive”. Abbas then prepared to obtain an Arab mandate, which seems guaranteed in advance, for his plans from the 142nd session of the Arab foreign ministers conference, held in Cairo this week.

However, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power poured cold water over the Palestinian Authority (PA) president’s bid to obtain US backing for his plan, which he intends to put before the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly. The proposal would end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza within three years, during which period negotiations would resume within three months with the occupying power over its borders with the Palestinian state.

“We don’t think there are shortcuts or unilateral measures that can be taken at the United Nations or anyplace else that will bring about the outcome that the Palestinian people most seek,” Power said in a press conference last week. “To think that you can come to New York and secure what needs to be worked out on the ground is not realistic.”

This clearly translates into an unequivocal US “No.” The Palestinian president’s new plan has run up against the same American wall that Palestinian negotiators have faced since negotiations were adopted as a strategic approach. The Zionist route remains the only way these negotiators can access the White House and the UN Security Council.

There can be only one explanation for this plan. It is in fulfilment of a Palestinian promise not to resist the occupation and to offer the occupying power the opportunity to agree to yet another futile round of negotiations. Such negotiations will give Israel the time it needs to turn the Givaot colony into a major settler city on the 4,000 dunams of Palestinian land that it has just seized by declaring it “state land”.

The purpose of this appropriation is to separate the Hebron and South Bethlehem governorates in the West Bank. It is also a means to deflect international humanitarian pressure in reaction to Israeli war crimes in Gaza, to evade Israel’s obligations to the truce agreement with the resistance in Gaza, and to fuel internal Palestinian tensions until they reignite once more.

It was not Hamas or the resistance that described Abbas’s new plan as a “spurious process”. It was independent Palestinian figures who expressed their views in a statement read out by Mamdouh Al-Akr, general commissioner of the Independent Organisation of Human Rights, on 2 September in Ramallah. They called for an urgent meeting of the unified leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), in accordance with the Cairo agreement of 2011, so that it can serve as a frame of reference for the Palestinian will and take critical national decisions.

Activating the unified leadership framework of the PLO will put President Abbas’s call for a “single Palestinian central authority”, uniquely empowered to “determine matters of war and peace”, into its concrete national context. Only this context can confer legitimacy on a Palestinian leadership that does not derive its authority from resisting the occupation in all forms.

Moreover, the currently missing “electoral legitimacy” is no longer sufficient in and of itself to allow Palestinian decisions on war and peace to remain in the hands of a leadership that is the product of elections that were held with the approval of the occupation power and in the framework of agreements signed with it.

The Palestinian presidency has dropped the available option of resistance from the lexicon of its negotiating strategy, let alone the option of war, which is not available. The PA, in coordination with the occupation’s security apparatus, has become “the security proxy for the occupying power, rather than an instrument to end the occupation and establish the state,” as Palestinian analyst Hani Al-Masri wrote on 26 August.

As a result, the occupying power, alone, holds the keys to the decision of war, which it continues to repeat, and to the decision of peace, which it still refuses to take.

It appears that President Abbas is working against the tide of Palestinian public opinion, as voiced in a recent survey conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) in Ramallah. According to this poll, only 22 per cent of respondents supported a resumption of negotiations, while 53 per cent said they regarded resistance as “the more effective way” to realise the creation of a Palestinian state.

The results of the PCPSR poll contradict all the charges levelled by the president and Fatah against the resistance and Hamas. Of those polled, 79 per cent believe that the resistance emerged victorious from the recent war, while 86 per cent support the defensive use of rockets.

Respondents gave very low ratings to the performance of the Palestinian president, the PA, the national unity government and the PLO, while the approval rating for Hamas was 88 per cent.

What is the substance of this media campaign against Hamas? It ranges from blaming Hamas for prolonging the war and for the consequent loss of lives and material damage, to adopting the Israeli narrative regarding a Hamas-engineered “coup attempt” against the president in the West Bank and the existence of a “shadow government” in Gaza that prevents the national unity government from functioning.

Then there are the charges of keeping Fatah members under “house arrest”, of “opening fire on civilians”, and of “selling emergency relief on the black market.” On top of these come the accusation that Hamas has violated “the law that defines the colours and dimensions of the flag.”

President Abbas’s instructions to create a “committee to hold a dialogue” with Hamas to discuss the “fate of the national unity government,” as announced by Amin Maqboul, secretary of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, does little to encourage optimism. The national unity government, national reconciliation, the Cairo agreement of 2011, the unified leadership framework that it stipulated, and the reactivation of the PLO, all stand at a crossroads.

This is because of the confrontation stirred by the systematic smear campaign that President Abbas and the Fatah movement are waging against Hamas and the resistance. The campaign has created a media smokescreen behind which the occupation authority can conceal its foot-dragging in carrying out its obligations under the truce agreement, which will probably be echoed in Israeli procrastination on continuing with truce talks due to be held in Cairo.

It should also be stressed that to accuse the resistance and Hamas of prolonging the war is to exonerate the occupation power of responsibility. The Israeli media was quick to capitalise on this, further proof of the extensive coverage the campaign has received.

Indeed, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev virtually reiterated it verbatim when he said that the Egyptian initiative was on the table from 15 July and that while the Arab League and Israel had approved the initiative, Hamas rejected it, only to turn around and agree to it a month later. “If [Hamas] had agreed then to what it agrees to now” it would have been possible “to avoid all that bloodshed,” he said.

The investigatory commission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council will most likely cite the president’s charges to strengthen the claims of the occupying power, as these charges would be regarded as “testimony of a witness from the other side.”

Abbas says that while the “final toll” from the most recent war in Gaza was 2,140 dead, “if added to the number of dead in previous wars, and those who died during the period of the Shalit problem, the number would be 10,000 dead and wounded, in addition to the 35,000 homes that were totally or partially destroyed.”

When Abbas says that “it would have been possible” to avert the human and material losses of the recent conflict he is effectively blaming the resistance, not the occupation, for the last war on Gaza and the two wars since 2008 that preceded it.

The spectre of discord once again hovers over Palestinian unity, with Palestinian opinion divided over a programme of negotiations versus a programme of resistance. This is the breach through which Arab and non-Arab “axes” penetrate into the Palestinian interior, deepening rather than mending Palestinian rifts.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (nassernicola@ymail.com). This article was first published and translated from Arabic by Al-Ahram Weekly on September 11, 2014.

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

Cornering a Brave Palestinian Man of Peace

February 5, 2014

By Nicola Nasser*

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stands now at a crossroads of his people’s national struggle for liberation and independence as well as of his political life career, cornered between the rock of his own rejecting constituency and the hard place of his Israeli occupying power and the US sponsors of their bilateral negotiations, which were resumed last July 29, despite his minesweeping concessions and backtracking “on all his redlines.”

Unmercifully pressured by both Israeli negotiators and American mediators, the elusive cause of peace stands about to loose in Abbas a brave Palestinian man of peace-making of an historical stature whose demise would squander what could be the last opportunity for the so-called two-state solution.

To continue pressuring Abbas into yielding more concessions without any reciprocal rewards is turning a brave man into an adventurer committing historical and strategic mistakes in the eyes of his people, a trend that if continued would in no time disqualify him of a personal weight that is a prerequisite to make his people accept his “painful” concessions.

The emerging, heavily “pro-Israel” US-proposed framework agreement “appears to ask the Palestinians to accept peace terms that are worse than the Israeli ones they already rejected … that it would all but compel the Palestinians to reject it,” Larry Derfner wrote in The National Interest on this February 3.

Abbas “rejects all transitional, partial and temporary solutions,” his spokesman Nabil Abu Rdaineh said on last January 5, but that’s exactly what the leaks of the blueprint of the “framework agreement” reveal.

Reportedly, the international Quartet on the Middle East, comprising the US, EU, UN and Russia, meeting on the sidelines of the Munich security conference last week, supported US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to commit Palestinian and Israeli negotiators to his proposed “framework agreement.”

Europe is also tightening the rope around Abbas’ neck. If the current US-backed framework agreement talks with Israel fail, Europe will not automatically continue to support the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s Walla website reported on last January 29.

However, The US envoy Martyn Indyk said on last January 31 that Kerry will be proposing the “framework agreement” to the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators “within a few weeks,” but the State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on the same day “clarified” in a statement that the “contents of the framework” are not “final” because “this is an ongoing process and these decisions have not yet been made.”

Historic versus Political Decisions

Israeli President Shimon Peres on last January 30, during a joint press conference with the envoy of the Middle East Quartet, Tony Blair, said that there is “an opportunity” now to make “historic decisions, not political ones” for the “two-state solution” of the Arab – Israeli conflict and that “we are facing the most crucial time since the establishment of the new Middle East in 1948,” i.e. since what the Israeli historian Ilan Pappé called the “ethnic cleaning” of the Arabs of Palestine and the creation of Israel on their ancestral land.

Peres on the same occasion said that he was “convinced” that Abbas wants “seriously” to make peace with Israel, but what Peres failed to note was that “historic decisions” are made by historic leaders and that such a leader is still missing in Israel since the assassination of late former premier Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, but already available in the person of President Abbas, whom Peres had more than once confirmed as the Palestinian peace “partner,” defying his country’s official denial of the existence of such a partner on the Palestinian side.

Abbas’ more than two – decade unwavering commitment to peace, negotiations, renunciation of violence and the two –state solution has earned him a semi-consensus rejection and opposition to his fruitless efforts among his own people. He is defying his own Fatah-led Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) constituency, let alone his Hamas-led non-PLO political rivals, who have opposed his decision to resume bilateral negotiations with Israel and are overwhelmingly rejecting the leaked components of Kerry’s “framework agreement.”

“Abbas is perhaps the last Palestinian leader today with some measure of faith in the diplomatic process,” Elhanan Miller, wrote in The Times of Israel this February 3. Palestinian “pressure” is mounting on him even from members of his own Fatah party and “his negotiating team crumbled” when negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh resigned in November last year. In an interview recorded especially for the conference of Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies in the previous week, Abbas “indicated he may not be able to withstand the pressure much longer,” Miller wrote.

“Abbas is in an unenviable position these days. As negotiations with Israel enter the final third of their nine-month time frame,” the Palestinian president stands “cornered” between a Palestinian rejection “and an Israeli leadership bent on depicting him as an uncompromising extremist,” according to Miller, who quoted the Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz as describing Abbas in the previous week as “the foremost purveyor of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli venom.”

Similar Israeli “political” demonization of an historic figure like Abbas led Jamie Stern-Weiner, of the New Left Project, writing in GlobalResearch online on last January 11, to expect that, “It’s possible that Abbas will get a bullet in his head!” Jamie was not taking things too far in view of Kerry’s warning, reported by Palestinian Authority (PA) officials, that Abbas could face the fate of his predecessor Yasser Arafat.

Israel’s chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni, stated on last January 25 that Abbas’ positions are “unacceptable to us” and threatened the Palestinians “to pay the price” if he sticks to them.

“This is a clear threat to Abbas in person and it must be taken seriously,” the PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told reporters soon after. “We will distribute Livni’s statements to all foreign ministers and the international community. We can’t remain silent towards these threats,” he added.

Israeli demonization was not confined to Abbas; it hit also at Kerry as “hurtful,” “unfair,” “intolerable,” “obsessive,” “messianic” and expects Israel “to negotiate with a gun to its head.” US National Security Adviser Susan Rice “tweeted” in response to convey, according to Haaretz on this February 5, that “Israeli insulters have crossed the red line of diplomatic etiquette!”

Minesweeping Concessions

Abbas’ demonization was the Israeli reward for the minesweeping concessions he had already made to make the resumed negotiations a success, risking a growing semi-consensus opposition at home:

* Abbas had backtracked on his own previously proclaimed precondition for the resumption of bilateral negotiations with Israel, namely freezing the accelerating expansion of the illegal Israeli Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories, which Israel militarily occupied in 1967, at least temporarily during the resumed negotiations.

* Thereafter, according to Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu, writing in The Jewish Press on this February 3, Abbas “has essentially backtracked on all his redlines, except for” heeding Israel’s insistence on recognizing it as a “Jewish state,” which is a new Israeli unilaterally demanded precondition that even the Jordanian Foreign Minister, Nasser Judeh, considered “unacceptable” on this February 2 despite his country’s peace treaty with Israel.

* In his interview with The New York Times on this February 2, Abbas reiterated his repeated pledge not to allow a third Intifada, or uprising: “In my life, and if I have any more life in the future, I will never return to the armed struggle,” he said, thus voluntarily depriving himself from a successfully tested source of a negotiating power and a legitimate instrument of resisting foreign military occupation ordained by the international law and the UN charter.

* In the same interview he yielded to the Israeli precondition of “demilitarizing” any future state of Palestine, thus compromising the sovereignty of such a state beforehand. Ignoring the facts that Israel is a nuclear power, a state of weapons of mass destruction, the regional military superpower and the world’s forth military exporter, he asked: “Do you think we have any illusion that we can have any security if the Israelis do not feel they have security?”

* Further compromising the sovereignty of any future state of Palestine, Abbas, according to the Times interview, has proposed to US Secretary Kerry that an American-led NATO force, not a UN force, patrol a future Palestinian state “indefinitely, with troops positioned throughout the territory, at all crossings, and within Jerusalem;” he seemed insensitive to the fact that his people would see such a force with such a mandate as merely the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) operating under the NATO flag and in its uniforms.

* Abbas even agreed that the IOF “could remain in the West Bank for up to five years” — and not three as he had recently stated – provided that “Jewish settlements” are “phased out of the new Palestinian state along a similar timetable.”

* Not all “Jewish settlements” however. Very well aware of international law, which prohibits the transfer of people by an occupying power like Israel from or to the occupied territories, Abbas nonetheless had early enough accepted the principle of proportional land swapping whereby the major colonial settlements, mainly within Greater Jerusalem borders, which are home to some eighty percent of more than half a million illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank, would be annexed to Israel. This concession is tantamount to accepting the division of the West Bank between its Palestinian citizens and its illegal settlers.

* Yet, what Abbas had described as the “historic,” “very difficult,” “courageous” and “painful” concession Palestinians had already made dates back very much earlier, when the Palestine National Council adopted in 1988 the Declaration of Independence, which was based on the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution No. 181 (II) of 29 November 1947; then “we agreed to establish the State of Palestine on only 22% of the territory of historical Palestine – on all the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel in 1967,” he told the UNGA in September 2011.

* Accordingly, Abbas repeatedly voices his commitment to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which stipules an “agreed upon” solution of the “problem” of the 1948 Palestinian refugees. Israel is on record that the return of these refugees to their homes according to the UNGA resolution No. 194 (III) of December 11, 1948 is a non-negotiable redline, thus rendering any such “agreed upon” solution a mission impossible. Abbas concession to such a solution is in fact compromising the inalienable rights of more than half of the Palestinian population.

On September 29, 2012, Abbas “once again” repeated “our warning” to the UNGA: “The window of opportunity is narrowing and time is quickly running out. The rope of patience is shortening and hope is withering.”

Out of Conviction, Not out of Options

Abbas is making concessions unacceptable to his people out of deep conviction in peace and unwavering commitment to peaceful negotiations and not because he is out of options.

One of his options was reported in an interview with The New York Times on this February 2, when Abbas said that he had been “resisting pressure” from the Palestinian street and leadership to join the United Nations agencies for which his staff “had presented 63 applications ready for his signature.”

In 2012 the UNGA recognized Palestine as an observer non-member state; reapplying for the recognition of Palestine as a member state is another option postponed by Abbas to give the resumed negotiations with Israel a chance.

Reconciliation with Hamas in the Gaza Strip is a third option that Abbas has been maneuvering not to make since 2005 in order not to alienate Israel and the US away from peace talks because they condemn it as a terrorist organization.

Suspension of the security coordination with Israel is also a possible option, which his predecessor Arafat used to test now and then.

Looking for other players to join the US in co-sponsoring the peace talks with Israel is an option that Abbas made clear in his latest visit to Moscow. “We would like other parties, such as Russia, the European Union, China and UN, to play an influential role in these talks,” the Voice of Russia quoted him as saying on last January 24.

Israel’s DEBKAfile in an exclusive report on last January 24 considered his Moscow visit an “exit from the Kerry peace initiative,” labeling it a “diplomatic Intifada” and a “defection” that caught Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “unprepared.”

Abbas’ representative Jibril al-Rjoub on January 27 was in the Iranian capital Tehran for the first time in many years. “Our openness to Iran is a Palestinian interest and part of our strategy to open to the whole world,” al-Rjoub said. Three days later the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi daily reported that Abbas will be invited to visit Iran soon with the aim of “rehabilitating” the bilateral ties. The Central committee of Fatah, which Abbas leads, on this February 3 said that al-Rjoub’s Tehran visit “comes in line with maintaining international relations in favor of the high interests of our people and the Palestinian cause.”

Opening up to erstwhile “hostile” nations like Iran and Syria is more likely a tactical maneuvering than a strategic shift by Abbas, meant to send the message that all Abbas’ options are open.

However his strategic option would undeniably be to honor his previous repeated threats of resignation, to leave the Israeli Occupation Forces to fend for themselves face to face with the Palestinian people whose status quo is no more sustainable.

Speaking in Munich, Germany, Kerry on this February 1 conveyed the message bluntly: “Today’s status quo, absolutely to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained,” Kerry said of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “It is not sustainable.” Last November, Kerry warned that Israel would face a Palestinian “third Intifada” if his sponsored talks see no breakthrough.

The loss of Abbas by resignation or by nature would for sure end Kerry’s peace mission and make his warning come true.

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

Kerry’s Coup from Mediator to Antagonist

December 11, 2013

By Nicola Nasser*

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to start his ninth trip of shuttle diplomacy between Palestinian and Israeli leaders on this December 11. However, the bridging “security arrangements,” which he proposed less than a week earlier on his last trip, have backfired and are now snowballing into a major crisis with Palestinian negotiators who view Kerry’s “ideas” as a coup turning the US top diplomat from a mediator into an antagonist.

Kerry’s “ideas” had provoked a “real crisis” and “will drive Kerry’s efforts to an impasse and to total failure,” the secretary general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Yasser Abed Rabbo, said on this December 9.

Resumption of the peace talks and U.S. involvement in the negotiations with Israel were both on record Palestinian demands. Disappointed by the deadlocked negotiations and more by the way Kerry decided finally to get his country involved, the Palestinian presidency expectedly stands now to regret both demands.

Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy during his current trip seems more aimed at controlling the damage his “ideas – proposal” caused than at facilitating the deadlocked Palestinian – Israeli bilateral talks.

On this December 6, Kerry said that (160) American security specialists and diplomats, headed by General John Allen, the former commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, had drafted the “proposal,” believing “that we can contribute ideas that could help both Israelis and Palestinians get to an agreement.”

According to leaks published by mainstream Israeli media, including Israeli Channel 10 news, Haaretz, Maariv, Yedioth Ahronoth and DEBKAfile, as well as by the official Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, the U.S. “security arrangements” propose:

* Demilitarization of the future State of Palestine.

* U.S. monitoring of its demilitarization.

* To put the border crossings into Jordan under joint Israeli-Palestinian control.

* Maintaining an Israeli military presence deployed along the western side of Jordan River after the establishment of a Palestinian state.

* Installing Israeli early warning stations on the eastward slopes of the West Bank highlands.

* Postponement of arrangements for the final status of Gaza Strip, i.e. severing the strip from the status planned by Kerry’s proposal for the West Bank.

* All of the foregoing are on the background of the U.S. recognition of an understanding that the large Israeli illegal colonial settlements on the West Bank would be annexed to Israel, according to the letter sent by former U.S. President George W. Bush to the comatose former Israeli premier Ariel Sharon in April 2004, to which the incumbent administration of President Barak Obama is still committed.

Kerry and his administration have obviously coordinated a political coup by the adoption of the Israeli preconditions for recognizing a Palestinian state almost to the letter, turning the Palestinian priorities upside down and changing the terms of reference for the Palestinian – Israeli negotiations, which Kerry succeeded to resume and sponsor late last July.

When he announced the resumption of talks on last July 29, Kerry declared that his goal would be to help the Israelis and Palestinians to reach a “final status agreement’” within nine months.

Now, President Barak Obama, speaking at Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum in Washington last Saturday, says there would have to be a “transition process” and that the Palestinians wouldn’t get “everything they want on day one” under an accord, which initially may exclude Gaza, and let the “contiguous Palestinian state,” which he had previously promised, wait. The aim of the negotiations now is to reach a “framework that would not address every single detail,” he added.

And now Kerry, on the same occasion, was speaking about a “basic framework” and establishing “guidelines” for “subsequent negotiations” for a “full-on peace treaty,” i.e., in his game of words, another “road map.”

Kerry moreover hinted that the negotiations might have to extend beyond the agreed upon nine months, thus, from a Palestinian perspective, planning to buy Israel more time to create more colonial facts on the occupied Palestinian ground.

Kerry’s “ideas” alienated the Palestinian “peace camp” and negotiators led by Fatah, which rules the Palestinian Authority (PA) and leads the PLO, who have put “all their eggs in the U.S. basket” for the past two decades, let alone all the other PLO member factions who are against the resumption of the negotiations with Israel for pragmatic reasons, but first of all because they did not trust the U.S. mediator; Kerry has just vindicated their worst fears. Non-member organizations like Hamas and al-Jihad oppose the negotiations as a matter of principle.

On December 8, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, according to The Times of Israel three days later, met with the American consul general in Jerusalem, Michael Ratney, and formally rejected the proposal, saying that the Palestinian position was “unequivocal”: no Israeli presence, though the Palestinians would tolerate a third-party military presence.

On the same day on the occasion of the first 1987 Palestinian Intifada against the 1967 Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories, the PLO Executive Committee in a statement said the Palestinian people will not accept Kerry’s proposed plan, which the committee’s secretary general Abed Rabbo described as “extremely vague” and “open-ended.”

On the same day in Qatar, the PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, commenting on Kerry’s proposals, said that the Palestinian leadership “perhaps” committed a “strategic mistake” by agreeing to the resumption of negotiations with Israel instead of seeking first the membership of international organizations to build on the UN General Assembly’s recognition last year of Palestine as a non-member state.

The former second in command in Erakat’s negotiating team, Mohammad Shtayyeh who resigned his mission recently because there was no “serious Israeli partner,” called for replacing the U.S. sponsorship of the negotiations by an international one, on the lines of the Geneva conferences for Iran and Syria, because the U.S. sponsorship is “unbalanced.”

Former negotiator Hassan Asfour wrote that kerry’s plan, which he described as a “conspiracy,” would “liquidate the Palestine Question and end any hope for a Palestinian state,” adding that its rejection is a “necessity and national duty” because it “violates the red national lines.”

Member of the PLO executive committee and former Palestinian chief negotiator, Ahmad Qurei’, said Kerry’s plan replaces the land for peace formula by a security for peace one as the basis for Palestinian – Israeli talks.

Abed Rabbo said last week in Ramallah that if the U.S. accepts that final borders are set according to what Israel determines are its security needs “all hell with break loose.”

Kerry who on his last eighth trip warned Israelis of a Palestinian third Intifada seems himself laying the ground for one. His “ideas” clash head to head with the Palestinian repeated and plain rejection of long or short term interim or transitional arrangements based only on Israel’s security.

He seems obsessed with Israel’s security as “the top priority” for Washington, both in nuclear talks with Iran and peace talks with the Palestinians. In his press availability at Ben Gurion International Airport on December 6 he used the word “security” and “secure” twenty times in relation with Israel, but no words at all about the Israeli “occupation” and “settlements.”

U.S. commitment to Israel’s security is “ironclad,” “spans decades,” “permanent,” “paramount” and a “central issue” in the work of the United States for both final agreements with Iran and Palestinians, he said. President Obama last Saturday said that this commitment is “sacrosanct.”

George Friedman of Stratfor on December 3 reported that “Israel’s current strategic position is excellent” and “faces no existential threats.” About “the possibility that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon,” Friedman wrote: “One of the reasons Israel has not attempted an air strike, and one of the reasons the United States has refused to consider it, is that Iran’s prospects for developing a nuclear weapon are still remote.”

Despite objections to Kerry’s “security arrangements” by the Israeli defense and foreign cabinet ministers, Moshe Ya’alon and Avigdor Lieberman, the chief Israeli negotiator and justice minister Tzipi Livni admitted that the proposed American security framework addresses a large part of Israel’s security needs.

Obsession with “Israel’s security” could not be interpreted as simply a naïve commitment out of good faith by an old hand veteran of foreign policy like Kerry.

More likely Kerry is dictating to and pressuring the Palestinian presidency with the only option “to take” his proposal or “leave it,” to be doomed either way, by its own people or by the U.S.-led donors to the PA. With friends like Kerry, Palestinian Abbas for sure needs no enemies.

Ironically, Kerry’s “ideas” create a solid political ground for a Palestinian consensus that would be an objective basis for ending the Palestinian divide and reviving the national unity between the PLO in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip as a prerequisite to be able to stand up to Kerry’s “coup.”

Such a development however remains hostage to a decision by President Abbas who is still swimming against the national tide because he has made peace making through negotiations only the goal of his life and political career.

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

The Killers of Peace

August 14, 2013

By Nicola Nasser*

The Israeli Jewish settlers of the Palestinian territory, which was occupied by Israel in 1967, are dictating unilaterally the demarcation of the borders with any future Palestinian state, thus rendering its creation impossible; holding the Israeli decision-making process hostage, they have become the real killers of peace, who brought the twenty –year old Palestinian – Israeli peace process to its current stalemate.

As early as the summer of 1995, the Iraqi born Israeli – British “new historian” Avi Shlaim wrote in the Journal of Palestine Studies: “The settlers now are the ones who determine Israel’s internal political agenda.”

Their numbers then were in the tens of thousands; now there are three quarters of a million settlers. The Head of the “Samaria Regional Council” of the Israeli illegal settlements in the Israeli – occupied Palestinian West Bank (WB) of River Jordan, Gershon Mesika, on this August 6 boasted there will be one million settlers there “in just three years time,” telling “Arutz Sheva” online that “the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria (i.e. the Palestinian WB) has passed the point of no return.”

Writing in the “National Interest” on September 6, 2012, the President of the U.S./Middle East Project, Henry Siegman, agreed that “Israel’s colonial… settlement project has achieved its intended irreversibility, not only because of its breadth and depth but also because of the political clout of the settlers and their supporters within Israel.”

When Benjamin Netanyahu assumed his second term as prime minister, with the settler Avigdor Lieberman as his foreign minister, the German Süddeutsche Zeitung, quoted by Spiegel on March 17, 2009, wrote: “He and Lieberman are the gravediggers of the Middle East peace process. They want to maintain the occupation and expand the settlements.”

The electoral campaign of Netanyahu for his first term in 1995 was blamed by Israeli media for creating the right environment which led to the assassination of the “father’ of the first Oslo accord for peace with Palestinians in 1993; ever since the “peace process” has been deadlocked.

The incumbent government of Netanyahu’s third premiership is now described as the “settlers’ government” or “a settler –friendly government,” the survival of which is secured by a Knesset led by Speaker Yuli Edelstein, himself an illegal settler of the Neve Daniel colony in the WB, who called recently for the annexation of two thirds of the WB area.

This is a call that was also repeatedly voiced by the pro – settler Jewish Home party, a partner to Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, which holds three key ministries, including the housing ministry, and controls the parliamentary finance committee. Netanyahu declared his backing for the Jewish Home’s plan. Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett was the chairman of the council of the illegal settlements in the WB and Gaza Strip and is still an advocate of imposing Israeli sovereignty unilaterally on “Area C” in the WB. Uzi Landau, of Lieberman’s Yisraeli Beiteinu party, has the tourism portfolio. Likud’s ardent supporter of settlements, Moshe Yaalon, has the ministry of defense. Foreign minister’s deputy, Zeev Elkin, is himself a settler. The education minister, Shai Piron, of Yair Lapid’s so-called “centrist” Yesh Atid party, is a settler rabbi; Lapid himself who is the finance minister supports the “growth” of settlements even during peace talks and rejects any Palestinian sovereignty under any pact in eastern Jerusalem.

Deputy Minister of Defense, Danny Danon of Likud, was quoted by The Jewish Press on August 8 as saying that the “views” of Israel’s chief negotiator, the Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, whose Hatnua party holds six seats only in the settler –dominated Knesset, “do not represent the majority of the current government.” Livni’s role in Netanyahu’s “government of settlers” seems a cosmetic one intended only to circumvent the U.S. pressure for the resumption of the peace talks.

In Israel’s proportional system, the voting settlers and the pro – settler political parties and groups have over the years accumulated enough political clout that is far – in – excess of their numbers to determine the internal balance of power, decide the electoral outcome and dictate their own agenda. They are holding the system hostage. So far they have become the real killers of peace.

On July 28, 2013, Barak Ravid wrote in Haaretz that Netanyahu “is acting so weak … like a prisoner … a hostage” of his pro –settler coalition partners.

During the interval between the first and the second rounds of the recently resumed negotiations, Israel approved a “new” settlement and 1700 settlement units in eastern Jerusalem; the government included 90 settlements in a new list of “national priority development areas” eligible for special benefits; the list included also the three formerly dubbed by the Israeli government as “illegal outposts,” namely Bruchin, Rachelim and Sansana.

U.S. Lip Service

On August 11, 2013, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reacted by reiterating from Bogota, Colombia his country’s “unchanged” position since 1967: The U.S. “views all of the settlements as illegitimate” and had “communicated that policy very clearly to Israel.”

Ironically, “Israel’s settlement project” has evolved “irreversible” nonetheless, mocking the U.S. repeatedly declared illegitimacy thereof as merely a lip service that has been all throughout a thinly veiled cover of the U.S. actual protection of the accelerating expansion ever since of “Israel’s colonial” project.

No surprise then Kerry from Colombia “expected” what Peter Beinart described in the Daily Beast on August 12 as the “Opening of settlement floodgates” just two days ahead of the second round of the U.S. – sponsored Palestinian – Israeli negotiations, which were resumed in Washington D.C. on July 29, 2013.

Worse still, Kerry pragmatically defended the new “opening of settlement floodgates” as an incentive which “underscores the importance of getting to the table … quickly,” ignoring insensitively the Palestinian reaction.

On May 18 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Netanyahu must choose between settlements and peace. Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation organization (PLO), Yasser Abed Rabbo, and the PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said they were considering not to participate in the second round of the talks, scheduled in Jerusalem on August 14. Member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Hanan Ashrawi, condemned Israel’s latest settlement plans as “confidence-destruction measures.” Her co – member, Wasel Abu Yusuf, concluded that the PLO committed a “big mistake” by joining the Kerry – sponsored talks. Spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, Nabil Abu Rudeineh said that Israel’s latest plans “aim at obstructing the peace efforts.”

However, the PLO is too weak to translate its words into deeds and challenge kerry’s statement that the issue of settlements should not derail the resumed peace talks.

Israelis without Compass

Americans for Peace Now, in a report titled “Settlements & the Netanyahu Government: A Deliberate Policy of Undermining the Two-State Solution,” said that in “its policies and actions” this government “disclose a clear intention to use settlements to systematically undermine and render impossible a realistic, viable two-state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.”

In a roundtable on the sidelines of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York on September 22, 2011, former U.S. President Bill Clinton blamed the “Netanyahu administration” and what he called a “demographic shift in Israel,” which was an indirect reference to the settlement project, for the failure of the peace process.

In “A Message from a Longstanding Zionist to the Israeli People,” Robert K. Lifton, a former president of The American Jewish Congress, on this August 8 urged Israelis that they “must make clear the direction they want their country to pursue,” “separate Israel from the Palestinians,” and “avoid being ensnared in a bi – national state.”

However, Lifton’s appeal sounds like a cry in the settlers’ wilderness. Israelis have yet to liberate themselves from being hostage to these killers of peace. Until then, Israelis will continue to navigate without compass, rejecting the one – state solution, the two – state solution, the bi – national state solution and every other proposed solution for peace, except their peace – killing colonial settlement project, which Henry Siegman, referred to by The Forward on October 5, 2012 as a “Jewish elder statesman,” believes is “suicidal.”

Most likely, the settlers are drawing on the fact that Israel itself is the product of a “colonial settlement project,” which so far has proved successful; they are expectedly betting also on the “unbreakable” support of the other successful colonial settlement project that has become the United States of America.

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

Man of Peace Swimming against the Current

September 15, 2008

By Nicola Nasser*

 

For the first time, since the U.S.-hosted Annapolis conference on November 27 last year re-launched the Palestinian – Israeli negotiations, which were interrupted by the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000 after the collapse of the Camp David trilateral summit, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas came out for the first time on record in Cairo on September 6 to “doubt” striking a peace deal with Israel “by the end of the year because very little time is left;” on September 10 he reiterated his skepticism in an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz.

 

Accordingly he dispelled U.S. President George W. Bush’s pledge to reach such a deal before his term ends and at the same time practically announced that peace talks have now been frozen for at least a year by the government changes in Washington and Tel Aviv. Abbas was reportedly scheduled to hold his last meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, in Jerusalem on September 16, one day before Kadima, Olmert’s ruling party elects his successor, ahead of his scheduled meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House on September 25. It seems all the partners to the Annapolis process are trying to strike a last minute impossible deal or simply saying good by to each other.

 

Nonetheless Abbas shows all evidence that he is determined to swim against an overwhelming current to prove that he is the persistent unrelenting Palestinian partner who will never despair in his pursuit of peace, even he would pay the price with his own life, despite all the internal and external odds, nor will he be deterred by the undelivered U.S. promises to loose trust in Washington.

 

On September 10 he told Haaretz that, “Even today, I’m convinced that I would have signed the Oslo Accords. I risked my life for peace and if I have to pay for it with my life, that’s a negligible price. I don’t regret the Oslo Accords. Twenty years before the agreement I believed in peace with the Israelis, and I still believe in it.”

 

He is still desperately determined to remain committed to his “strategic option” of a negotiated peace deal with Israel in pursuit of a life-long hope that would make or break his political career as well as a Palestinian leadership team, led by him, that has bet everything on a mirage-like U.S. promises to deliver a Palestinian state on the part of historic Palestine which Israel occupied in 1967, although Bush’s pledges to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on April 14, 2004 have so far proved much more stronger strategic commitments than the U.S. vague promises to Palestinians, and despite the fact that the overall Israeli policy and every single tactic of that policy indicate a strategy that clashes head-to-head with the minimum Palestinian national aspiration for an independent, viable and contiguous state as the basis for a just and lasting peace.

 

Not deterred by all indications to the contrary, his determination, it seems, would never loose hope to agree with those, like King Abdullah II of Jordan, who believe that the Annapolis opportunity was the last chance for the Palestinian – Israeli peace process to deliver. He is determined too not to be held responsible for any collapse of the peace talks; therefore he ignores Israeli non-commitment and clings to his own commitments to the letter and soul of the Annapolis understandings.

 

He is similarly determined not to loose his hope that the United States could still deliver on its promises. “We are determined to continue accelerated diplomatic negotiations concurrently with the change of administration in the United States,” Abbas was quoted as saying in Cernobbio, Italy, on Friday. He appealed to the upcoming U.S. administration not to waste “seven more years” to resume its peace efforts. “The new administration should not wait seven years for us to start negotiations. It should begin immediately as soon as a new president is in the White House.” However, with nothing on the record to prove the U.S. would be forthcoming, a Palestinian semi-consensus is ruling out such a possibility as wishful thinking, and Abbas is similarly swimming against this strong internal current, which has all throughout opposed the Annapolis initiative as a non-starter.

 

Peace-making seems so absurd now as to defy all logic and belief, at least to the majority of the Palestinian people, according to Palestinian polls, the most recent of which was released on September 7 by the Near East Consulting Company to show that 86% of Palestinians are frustrated, 43% believed that the conflict with Israel will continue and a Palestinian state will not be established, 24% of respondents believed that a Palestinian state will be established within 10-20 years, 18% within 5-10 years 16% within a year to five years.

 

The optimistic fanfare Abbas and his team raised following the Annapolis conference has now boiled down to publicly voiced bitter disappointment and disillusion; his earlier insistence on time tables and deadlines as preconditions have now been forgone for the sake of not dooming the talking process; his threatening repeated warnings that the continued expansion of the illegal Israeli colonial settlements would spell the end of negotiations have been replaced by lenient appeals to the same effect.

 

Abbas’ preconditioning a deal with the Israelis on reaching an agreement on all and every issue of the final status issues, a precondition which was recently revived with stress, was met by a cold shower with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s proposal for a partial deal agreement that rules out Jerusalem, ostensibly temporarily until a later stage, but detrimentally excluding the issue of refugees for good, a deal not to be implemented but to be presented to Bush then to the United Nations General Assembly in November, which would bestow on the proposal a UN legitimacy that would in turn legitimize Ariel Sharon’s original draft of an interim, transitional and long-term temporary Palestinian state on (42) percent of the West Bank, demarcated by the more than 700km-long wall Israel is building on the occupied Palestinian territory, termed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the Wall of Expansion and Annexation, by Israelis as the “security barrier” and by everyday media as simply the Apartheid Wall, which the International Court of Justice in the Hague ruled as “illegal” in July 2004.

 

Abbas, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have officially on record rejected both Israeli proposals of the transitional state and the partial agreement. “Jerusalem and the right of return are inalienable Palestinian rights, too,” he confirmed during his recent visit to Cairo. However this official rejection is defying the Israeli-created facts on the ground of more than 200 Jewish settlements and outposts, home to slightly less than half a million settlers, living among two and a half million Palestinians, but exclusively controlling (37) percent and restricting the free movement of Palestinians on (21) percent of the land, all tied inextricably into Israel proper by a massive network of Israeli-only highways and, ultimately, the “Security Barrier,” which all indicate that the Occupation is no longer “a temporary military situation” as defined by international law. These facts, together with the U.S. collusion with the Israeli determination to annex most of them, especially in Jerusalem, to Israel proper, sweep away whatever credibility is left to whatever remains of the peace process.

 

Bush’s letter to Sharon was an old proof of the U.S. collusion; the latest proof was revealed on September 7 by Tayseer Khaled, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO), that the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in her last visit to Ramallah, tried to get the PLO’s OK for a statehood with temporary borders and the postponement of negotiating the outstanding final-status issues.

 

While rejecting out of hand the notion that peace-making would ever have a “last chance,” Abbas however would accept a “last chance” to resolve peacefully the inter-Palestinian conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. If the ongoing Egyptian mediation fails to reconcile the Palestinian rivals, Abbas will “take all steps and measures to restore Gaza before the end of this year,” he said in Egypt. This impatience with Hamas is another manifestation of his determination to use the break in negotiations, brought about by the U.S. and Israeli government changes, to put his Palestinian house in order ahead of any possible resumption of talks thereafter.

 

Within this context Abbas is battling political foes on two fronts, declaring the Hamas – Gaza front as being his first priority. He is also involved in a power struggle within his own Fatah party on another front. Abbas here is allying himself with a U.S. – backed and Israeli – okayed diverse spectrum of Fatah and non-Fatah politicians who share his strategy and tactics, with the government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in the forefront. The battle ground revolves now on the renewal of Abbas’ mandate, which terminates on January 9.

 

This spectrum is evolving as a “third power” between Fatah and Hamas and is fueling the rivalry between them in the hope of establishing itself as the alternative to both, but has yet to officially take shape as a unified party. Both Abbas and this “third” power are mutually exploiting each other to gain the upper hand both within the ranks of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, where there is still very strong opposition to the strategy of both. This evolving force is fomenting the power struggle between Abbas and that opposition as much as it is exacerbating his rivalry with Hamas, cornering him in a very sensitive but critical showdown with his own party, Fatah. Abbas’ bitter battle with Hamas is smoke-screening the power struggle within Fatah, which currently evolve around convening both the PLO National Council (parliament-in-exile) and the sixth Congress of Fatah, both overdue.

 

However Abbas shows all the determination necessary to put his house in order, with his sight unwaveringly focused on his peace prize, an independent, viable and contiguous state, no matter what!

 

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