Palestine

Dromocratic Palestine

Toward the end of January 2008, residents of Gaza living under a suffocating Israeli blockade managed to punch holes in the wall separating Gaza from Egypt. For a few days, thousands of Gazans were able to cross into Egypt and purchase needed supplies before Egyptian officials, bowing to US and Israeli pressure, moved to refortify the border.

From the Editor (Fall 2008)

It’s easy to forget, but the United States has a pressing year-end deadline to meet in Israel-Palestine as well as in Iraq. At Annapolis in November 2007, President George W. Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pledged to “make every effort” to hammer out a comprehensive peace accord “before the end of 2008.” For Bush, the joint statement underlined a previous vow, uttered soon after the 2004 election, “to use the next four years to spend the capital of the United States” on creating a Palestinian state.

In Annapolis, Conflict by Other Means

At an intersection in front of Nablus city hall, a pair of women threaded a knot of waiting pedestrians, glanced left, then dashed across the street. “What’s this?” an onlooker chastised them. “Can’t you see the red light?” Not long after, his patience exhausted, the self-appointed traffic cop himself stepped off the curb and made his way to the other side of the boulevard. Such is life in the West Bank on the eve of the meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, where the Bush administration intends to create the semblance of a “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians for the first time since it assumed office.

Israel’s Occupation Remains Poisonous

Lori Allen 07.26.2007

There is an oft-told Palestinian allegory about a family who complained their house was small and cramped. In response, the father brought the farm animals inside — the goat, the sheep and the chickens all crowded into the house.

Then, one by one, he moved the animals back outside. By the time the last chicken left, the family felt such relief they never complained of the lack of elbow room again.

No doubt, the recent release of Palestinian tax receipts by Israel, some of which will be used to pay Palestinian civil servants who received only partial wages for the last 16 months, felt like the last chicken leaving.

Forty Years of Occupation

An outpouring of retrospectives—good, bad and indifferent—has marked the fortieth anniversary of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Predictably, and perhaps appropriately, most looks backward have also attempted to peer forward, and consequently most have focused on the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians. This question, though predating 1967 and not the only one left unresolved by the war, is nearly synonymous with “the Middle East” in the global media. Plentiful as the 1967 commentary has been, the relative silences have also spoken volumes. Middle East Report asked six critically minded scholars and analysts for their reflections on what has been missing from the conversation about Israel-Palestine occasioned by the passage of 40 years since that fateful June.

The Only Place Where There’s Hope

Beginning in December 2004, and then every Friday since February 2005, Palestinians, Israelis and internationals have converged on the West Bank village of Bil‘in to demonstrate against the barrier that Israel is building there, as part of the chain of walls and fences (the Wall) that the Israeli government hopes will be Israel’s unilaterally declared eastern border. The protests in Bil‘in have been among the most effective and sustained of any in the Occupied Territories.

Gaza in the Vise

Omar Karmi 07.11.2006

Five-year-old Layan cupped her hands over her ears and screwed her eyes shut when she tried to describe the effect of a sonic boom. She said the sound scares her, even though her father, Muntasir Bahja, 32, a translator, has told her “a small lie to calm her”—that the boom is nothing more than a big balloon released by a plane and then popped.

Israel’s “Demographic Demon” in Court

Jonathan Cook 06.1.2006

A low-key but injudicious war of words briefly broke out between Israel’s two most senior judges in the wake of the May 2006 decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law. A temporary measure passed by the Knesset in July 2003, the law effectively bans marriages between Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Israeli citizens.

Hurting Peace, Not Hamas

As President George W. Bush said in his second inaugural address, and as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last summer at the American University in Cairo: “America will not impose our style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, to attain their own freedom and to make their own way.”

Contradicting their lofty rhetoric, the Bush administration, along with the European Union, is undermining democracy and U.S. credibility in the Middle East by sabotaging the result of the January 25 Palestinian elections. In completely rejecting the outcome they are also effectively giving up the biggest “carrot” in their arsenals for influencing Palestinian Authority policy.

The Conflict After Israel’s Elections

Joel Beinin 03.27.2006

No matter how Israelis vote tomorrow, they will likely be voting for a future of insecurity and conflict. The three major political parties—the right-wing Likud, the “centrist” Kadima and the so-called left-wing Labor—have not offered them a genuine peace option.

Despite the talk of possible Israeli withdrawals from parts of the West Bank, a new consensus has emerged among these parties that East Jerusalem and Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank should be annexed to Israel. This would violate international law, destroy the possibility of a viable Palestinian state and condemn the Middle East to ongoing strife.

Dual War: The Legacy of Ariel Sharon

Yoav Peled 03.22.2006

The elections scheduled for March 28, 2006 will conclude what has got to be one of the more bizarre campaigns in Israel’s history. The series of totally unexpected events began with Amir Peretz’s surprise victory over Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres in the race for the Labor Party leadership. Peretz immediately withdrew Labor from the coalition government, forcing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to call early elections.

Respect Democracy? Engage Hamas

Richard Falk 03.11.2006

The Bush administration is caught in a trap of its own making. Having championed democratic elections in the Middle East, Washington now confronts a politically unpalatable outcome—a Palestinian Authority led by Hamas, the radical Islamic group.

The choices for the US are stark, but clear. President Bush can either accept Israel’s logic of unilaterally imposing a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or he can show some leadership and insist that Israel finally end the occupation.

The Hamas Headache

Two days before the January 25 Palestinian legislative elections, Birzeit University professor and Hamas campaign adviser Nashat Aqtash found himself in an unusual situation. Bound by US regulations forbidding direct contact with Hamas, the joint National Democratic Institute (NDI)/Carter Center election observer delegation asked Aqtash — who pointedly describes himself as a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but not of Hamas — to brief its members on the Islamic organization’s philosophy and electoral activities. After enthusiastically showing several Hamas TV advertisements, Aqtash provided the large group of observers gathered in Ramallah a list of reasons why Hamas may consider a long-term hudna (state of calm), but never a permanent peace with Israel.

Hamas Risen

On January 27, 2006, Fatah activists and Palestinian security personnel converged on the Palestinian Authority’s parliament building in Gaza City. Within minutes, cars were torched, tires set aflame and stones thrown at election banners displaying the visages of victorious Hamas candidates. The cry was for vengeance, particularly against a leadership that had just presided over Palestine’s premier nationalist movement’s worst political defeat in its 47-year history.

Why Hamas Won and Why Negotiations Must Resume

Joel Beinin 02.8.2006

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has admitted that her staff was caught off guard by Hamas’ victory in the Jan. 25 Palestinian Legislative Council elections. “I’ve asked why nobody saw it coming,” she said. “It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse.”

While the State Department, President Bush and many other observers understand that Hamas’ popularity is due to frustration with Fatah’s corrupt governance of the Palestinian Authority, they have been missing several other crucial reasons why the P.A. has failed.

Sharon Legacy Needs Undoing

With the sudden incapacitation of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his effective exit from the political scene, the rush to define his legacy has begun. President George W. Bush called Sharon “a man of courage and peace,” and Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) commented, “it is [Sharon’s] vision for making peace with the Palestinians and achieving a two-state solution that has driven him in recent years.”

In fact, progress toward Middle East peace depends on undoing the ailing premier’s legacy.

Impunity on Both Sides of the Green Line

Jonathan Cook 11.23.2005

As Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon strode up to the podium at the UN General Assembly on September 15, 2005 to deliver a speech recognizing the Palestinians’ right to statehood, government officials back in Jerusalem were preparing to draw a firm line under unfinished business from the start of the Palestinian uprising, five years earlier.

West Bank Road vs. Peace

Stephanie Koury 11.11.2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's brokering of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on border crossings into the Gaza Strip is a good step for the economic development of Gaza and a positive sign of American engagement in the peace process. But the real test for the U.S. administration’s commitment to this peace process isn’t the Gaza Strip—it’s Israel’s settlement expansion and its separation plan for the West Bank.

Israeli Settlements Illegal and Getting Worse

Stephanie Koury 09.24.2005

On his way to the UN summit in New York, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon said to reporters, “Building is continuing there [West Bank settlements]; we will build as much as we need.” Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz proclaimed the day before, “We have to make every effort to direct resources to the development of the settlement blocs.” While the media portrays dismantling Gaza settlements as an Israeli concession to the Palestinians, scant attention has been focused on the real problem—that the whole settlement enterprise pursued by successive Israeli governments since 1967 is illegal. Israeli withdrawal of settlements from Gaza is partial compliance with international law, not a concession.

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