On Bush, Yassir Arafat: 1929-2004, Gaza, New European Initiative, Two Peoples One State, Iran, Two World Views, Peres' Disappointment, Protest against call for European boycott of academic and cultural ties with Israel, Building Business Bridges MBA Program, Faculty For Israeli-Palestinian Peace
Dear friends and colleagues,
Some of you still use my JHU e-mail address. This e-mail ceased to be active. Please use either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations to George W. Bush for a great win. Against all odds, he had a smooth and sweet triumph. He has all reasons to be pleased.
Many people had to swallow their heats. Against predictions, some of which were wishful thinking, Bush had a decisive win. All those who said that a large turnout will work for Kerry were wrong. People came to vote in huge numbers, and they voted Bush. Only a minority of states voted for Kerry. Kerry paid the price for his unsophisticated politics. For a long time he refrained to say something, trying to appeal to the wide common denominator, not to aggravate anybody. When he realized that this policy actually worked against him, because he did not offer an alternative and remained ambiguous, only then he became vocal in promoting certain policies. He concentrated his attention on Iraq, but then the question begs why he initially voted for the war.
I must say that I have many question marks regarding the polls that were published before the elections. Some of them were so way out wrong, beyond acceptable margin of error, that it seems that the people conducting them were not completely honest. They tried to influence the results by publishing untrue numbers. Statistics has become a matter of ideology. Prostitution substituted professionalism.
The Israeli newspapers welcomed the result. Maariv headlines on 4 November 2004 was: "The Friend Remains." Israel yearns that Bush will continue to be its friend. It is said that the government had a sigh of relief when the results became known. Kerry seemed to be less friendly to Israel.
I wish Bush all the success in the world to tackle some of the most difficult issues. I wish him success in improving the healthcare system, the most inefficient healthcare system in the western world. I wish him success in improving public education. I hope Bush will see fit to improve the country's infrastructure: the state of the roads; public transportation; cleaning and improving the well-being of many poor neighbourhoods. It is time that the United States put these priorities high on its agenda. This super country has the resources to tackle these issues successfully. It just needs the will and the foresight.
Internationally, the future of Iraq is still a mystery. But I am more concerned with the US policy towards Iran. Here we need caution and prudence. The US is advised to consult European countries, such as France, Germany and Russia in conducting its affairs vis-à-vis Iran. The US is advised to coordinate its steps with the UN. If not, Iraq will be a kindergarten compared to Iran. Even Clint Eastwood needed some help from friends, sometimes. Hasty steps against Iran may lead the United States to a risky position: risky to itself and risky to the world at large. Iran is the big cloud that hovers above all of us. We need sunshine to fight against it. Only international cooperation will assure that the sunshine will not turn into an inferno.
Yassir Arafat: 1929-2004
On November 11, 2004, the last saga of Arafat's life came to an end. Arafat led a life of a terrorist until his last days. He never wanted peace. He worked on the genuine yearning of Israeli officials to achieve peace in their life time to gain substantial political achievements. Oslo was a bluff. The man remained an obstacle to peace and now he is no longer with us to ruin, to destroy, to maim and to kill. I hope his successors will choose to pursue other channels and work for the true benefit of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people deserve a far more competent Rais to lead them to independent statehood, ending of the occupation, and creating a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel. A lot is to be done: security, a unified army, eradication of all factions to achieve a cohesive unity, an independent economy, fighting down the corruption, decreasing poverty, tunneling human resources to productivity, to creating rather than destroying. I wish the new Palestinian government a lot of success.
Arafat's death entails the reborn of Bush's Road Map. Now there is a new partner. Whether he's viable we don't know. Time will tell, and we won't need to wait for long. The Road Map, which was dead and buried, is back to life. It was ridiculous to insist on it during the past few years. Frankly, I was surprised to hear the extent people I met last year at the State Department insisted on it. Now Bush needs to insist to make it part of this place.
Two days ago Abu Mazen made a pledge to the man in the grave, and to all listeners that he is committed to the right of return, to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. It is going to be a long and winding road.
Gershon Baskin passed me an article written by Daoud Kuttab. He is a Palestinian journalist from Jerusalem who was jailed by Yassir Arafat. Now he is the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in Ramallah. To join his mailing list, please write to email@example.com. His Web site is www.daoudkuttab.com.
A blessing and a curse
By Daoud Kuttab
Nov. 11, 2004
I had mixed feelings as I looked over the Muqata building in Ramallah. While everyone was there to see the place where Yasser Arafat made his last stand in his long struggle for his people's independence, I remembered this compound as the location where I was imprisoned for seven days in 1997. At the time Arafat ordered my incarceration because the television station I was in charge of, Al Quds Educational Television, dared to broadcast sessions of the Palestinian Legislative Council dealing with corruption. But I didn't feel bitterness as I looked at the compound. I felt that in his own way Arafat was true to himself and his principles. He did everything he could to fulfill the hopes of millions of Palestinians. In the process he no doubt broke many rules and betrayed the trust of many people. The world wanted him to shed his military uniform, throw away his gun, and follow Israeli orders to pacify his own people while they were still under occupation. He refused; he insisted that the revolution was not over until the occupation ended. In life and in death Arafat would not allow anyone to put him in any predictable classification. He was so dedicated to the Palestinian cause, so obsessed with it, that he was both a blessing and a curse for Palestine. He was a blessing in that his dedication to the cause brought him the love of his own people and their willingness to forgive any mistakes he committed. He was able to unify Palestinians behind one national cause that became a worldwide cry for freedom and independence. This obsessive dedication, however, sometimes stood in the way of good judgment. Arafat's mistakes cost Palestinians dearly. His failure to stand up to the popular and emotional Palestinian support for Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait was a glaring example: As a result nearly 400,000 Palestinians were evicted from Kuwait, and Palestinians lost much Arab and international support. In the Oslo years, Arafat failed to delegate the power the accords granted to the Palestinians. His insistence on control rendered the Palestinian Authority inefficient and corrupt. He also failed to understand the possibilities that Clinton's last year in office offered: He threw away a potentially honorable agreement reached in Taba without being able to offer an alternative strategy to end the occupation and to establish a Palestinian state. Perhaps Arafat's death was also a blessing.
Having withstood tremendous physical and psychological pressures for almost three years, Arafat's last stand at the Muqata will become an integral part of his political legacy. Leaders that follow him will have difficulty in yielding any more concessions than he did. During his career Yasser Arafat took on many titles. And to understand what the Palestinian cause will look like without Arafat, we must consider the various titles that he last held. Arafat was chairman of the PLO Executive Committee, president of the Palestinian National Authority, commander in chief of the Palestinian forces, and head of the Fatah movement. The PLO embodies Palestinian national aspirations for independence and statehood. It is the highest political body for all Palestinians, both those living in Palestine and the refugees and other Palestinians in the diaspora. Arafat's successor will need to juggle between negotiations with Israel, which will require concession on refugees' "right of return" to Palestine, and the aspirations of more than 3 million Palestinians who wish to come back to the homes from which they were expelled in the wars of 1948 and 1967. And he must do this while dealing with the daily needs of Palestinians living under occupation. As the commander of the Palestinian forces Arafat was able to keep the various Palestinian military, security and intelligence units under his own control. The successor will not only have to deal with these forces, which have been torn apart by the Israelis, but he will also have to deal with local paramilitary units. These units, most of which are not controlled by the PNA's central leadership, are more loyal to grassroots figures than to uniformed PNA officers. Local Fatah leaders like Marwan Barghouti have tremendous power over the nationalist armed units that are loosely organized under the name Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Barghouti advocated internal Fatah elections and was trying to implement them when the Israelis arrested him and charged him with conspiring with terror bombers. As a street leader who had been elected the head of the Bir Zeit University student council, he gained legitimacy by being chosen by his peers. When the Oslo process began, he refused to accept any official position within the Palestinian Authority, choosing instead to remain close to the local Fatah cadres.
Whoever fills Arafat's shoes will need to make sure that these brigades are satisfied that their status, demands and leaders are respected. Indeed, the power struggle that will ensue in the post-Arafat era will ultimately center on Al Fatah, the backbone of the PLO. A worldwide assembly chooses Fatah's 100-member revolutionary council, which in turn elects a 20-member central committee, where most of the power struggle will take place. Many young street leaders will insist on an emergency meeting of the revolutionary council, or even that a sixth general assembly be convened (it would be the first since 1988). Events in recent months have shown that the Al Aqsa Brigades forced even Arafat to take their demands into consideration. Marwan Barghouti has the credibility that the official Palestinian leaders, Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmad Qurei, lack. As a result, many Palestinians are searching hard for a way to achieve his release from Israeli prison. Some hope that the Egyptians will trade Israeli spy Azzam Azzam for Barghouti; others predict that he will be released as part of a trade with the Lebanese militant group/political party Hezbollah, which has the bodies of a number of Israeli soldiers. But Barghouti and others of his generation will most probably have to wait. A transition period will no doubt take place in which people like Abbas and Qurei will be a bridge to the next wave of Palestinian leaders. Of course, the succession problem in Palestine, as in many other Arab countries, is greatly complicated by the absence of an accepted, regular structure by which authority is passed on. In the absence of such a structure, leaders are reluctant to handpick a deputy, let alone allow one to gain experience and competence.
Elections, whether at the presidential, parliamentary or municipal level, could do a lot in helping to nurture and develop a representative leadership. The absence of these democratic mechanisms is even worse inside the various liberation movements. Internal elections are not happening in the Islamic and left-wing groups generally, and in the nationalist movement that Arafat headed there have not been internal elections since the late 1980s. While much of the power struggle will take place within the nationalist camp, one must not overlook the Islamist camp led by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Although the Islamists are unlikely to interfere in the post-Arafat power struggle, they will not sit idly by if the new leadership moves in what they consider the wrong direction. Of course, the new leadership will have to reach some agreement with the Islamists regarding the rules of the game, both domestically and vis-à-vis Israel. If no such agreement is reached and the new leadership cracks down hard on the Islamists, a violent civil war could erupt. Most important, to consolidate his leadership the next Palestinian leader must make some hard decisions and show some tangible results quickly. The experience of the first Palestinian prime minister, Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), who resigned largely because of his inability to deliver any improvements to his people -- whether strengthening personal and collective security, restoring the rule of law, or bringing an end to chaos in Palestinian areas -- remains fresh in the public's memory. Which is why an Israeli freeze on settlement activities, the release of Palestinian political prisoners, and the removal of the hundreds of checkpoints between Palestinian cities would revive a feeling of hope, without which no Palestinian leader can negotiate what the world wants: a peace settlement. The problem is that no Palestinian leader, no matter who he is, can deliver these changes without help from other players. The Israeli occupiers, the neighboring Arab countries, and the international community, led by the United States, face a challenge. They all must help out if they expect the new leadership of Palestinians to be able to withstand the pressures they will be under to raise the bar higher than Yasser Arafat did during a lifetime dedicated to the cause of Palestinian freedom.
Gaza has been the burial place of many people: citizens, soldiers and politicians of all sides. I hope it won't be Sharon's.
New European Initiative
The European Union will shortly unveil a plan to ensure the viability of a Palestinian state, based on the 1967 borders. Frustrated with what they see as US diplomatic inertia resulting from domestic political imperatives, EU politicians are pushing to accelerate the EU's engagement in the region. A detailed plan is expected shortly from external affairs commissioner Javier Solana for advancing the Road Map drawn up by the Quartet of the EU, US, UN and Russia. Solana's paper is expected to focus on security, economic development and reform, and to emphasize the need for free and fair elections.
A recent article by Michael Tarazi, the PLO's legal adviser, which explicitly rejects a two-states solution, suggests that the EU initiative is running against the grain of current Palestinian strategy. Tarazi argues that "the quest for equal statehood should now be superseded by a struggle for equal citizenship" within a single Palestinian and Israeli state.
The Middle East expert Barry Rubin suggests that the Road Map and similar initiatives have rested on a fundamental misconception. "The key to understanding the history of the last half-century's Arab-Israeli conflict is that the PLO was never a true nationalist movement," he argues. "For the PLO destroying Israel is more important than building an independent Palestinian state or relieving the Palestinian people's suffering." The demand for a "right of return" of Palestinian refugees confirms this. "If the goal was to build a strong, stable Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel, everything would be done to discourage refugees from going to Israel," Rubin suggests. "For why should a Palestinian state make a gift of these people, their money and talents to someone else?"
Tarazi's article, infra, suggests that any chance for progress in the peace process, based on mutual understanding and agreement, is an illusion as long as Arafat conducts the affair. While road maps, declarations, delegations, and other efforts may contribute to peace in the long-term, in the immediate context they are useless exercises in wishful thinking.
Two Peoples, One State
by Michael Tarazi*
New York Times, 4th October 2004
Israel's untenable policy in the Middle East was more obvious than usual last week, as the Israeli Army made repeated incursions into Gaza, killing dozens of Palestinians in the deadliest attacks in more than two years, even as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reiterated his plans to withdraw from the territory. Israel's overall strategy toward the Palestinians is ultimately self-defeating: it wants Palestinian land but not the Palestinians who live on that land.
As Christians and Muslims, the millions of Palestinians under occupation are not welcome in the Jewish state. Many Palestinians are now convinced that Israeli support for a Palestinian state is motivated not by a hope for reconciliation, but by a desire to segregate non-Jews while taking as much of their land and resources as possible. They are increasingly questioning the most commonly accepted solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - "two states living side by side in peace and security," in the words of President Bush - and are being forced to consider a one-state solution.
To Palestinians, the strategy behind Israel's two-state solution is clear. More than 400,000 Israelis live illegally in more than 150 colonies, many of which are atop Palestinian water sources. Mr. Sharon is prepared to evacuate settlers from Gaza - but only in exchange for expanding settlements in the West Bank. And Israel is building a barrier wall not on its land but rather inside occupied Palestinian territory. The wall's route maximizes the amount of Palestinian farmland and water on one side and the number of Palestinians on the other.
Yet while Israelis try to allay a demographic threat, they are creating a democratic threat. After years of negotiations, coupled with incessant building of settlements and now the construction of the wall, Palestinians finally understand that Israel is offering "independence" on a reservation stripped of water and arable soil, economically dependent on Israel and even lacking the right to self-defense.
As a result, many Palestinians are contemplating whether the quest for equal statehood should now be superseded by a struggle for equal citizenship. In other words, a one-state solution in which citizens of all faiths and ethnicities live together as equals. Recent polls indicate that a quarter of Palestinians favor the secular one-state solution - a surprisingly high number given that it is not officially advocated by any senior Palestinian leader.
Support for one state is hardly a radical idea; it is simply the recognition of the uncomfortable reality that Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories already function as a single state. They share the same aquifers, the same highway network, the same electricity grid and the same international borders. There are no road signs reading "Welcome to Occupied Territory" when one drives into East Jerusalem. Some government maps of Israel do not delineate Israel's 1967 pre-occupation border. Settlers in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem) are interspersed among Palestinian towns and now constitute nearly a fifth of the population. In the words of one Palestinian farmer, you can't unscramble an egg.
But in this de facto state, 3.5 million Palestinian Christians and Muslims are denied the same political and civil rights as Jews. These Palestinians must drive on separate roads, in cars bearing distinctive license plates, and only to and from designated Palestinian areas. It is illegal for a Palestinian to drive a car with an Israeli license plate. These Palestinians, as non-Jews, neither qualify for Israeli citizenship nor have the right to vote in Israeli elections.
In South Africa, such an allocation of rights and privileges based on ethnic or religious affiliation was called apartheid. In Israel, it is called the Middle East's only democracy.
Most Israelis recoil at the thought of giving Palestinians equal rights, understandably fearing that a possible Palestinian majority will treat Jews the way Jews have treated Palestinians. They fear the destruction of the never-defined "Jewish state." The one-state solution, however, neither destroys the Jewish character of the Holy Land nor negates the Jewish historical and religious attachment (although it would destroy the superior status of Jews in that state). Rather, it affirms that the Holy Land has an equal Christian and Muslim character.
For those who believe in equality, this is a good thing. In theory, Zionism is the movement of Jewish national liberation. In practice, it has been a movement of Jewish supremacy. It is this domination of one ethnic or religious group over another that must be defeated before we can meaningfully speak of a new era of peace; neither Jews nor Muslims nor Christians have a unique claim on this sacred land.
The struggle for Palestinian equality will not be easy. Power is never voluntarily shared by those who wield it. Palestinians will have to capture the world's imagination, organize the international community and refuse to be seduced into negotiating for their rights.
But the struggle against South African apartheid proves the battle can be won. The only question is how long it will take, and how much all sides will have to suffer, before Israeli Jews can view Palestinian Christians and Muslims not as demographic threats but as fellow citizens.
*Michael Tarazi is a legal adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's confidential report, made available to The Associated Press on November 15, said all nuclear material Iran had declared to the agency in the past year has been accounted for, "and therefore we can say that such material is not diverted to prohibited (weapons) activities." But the report also said its author, IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei, was "not yet in the position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials" that could have been used for a weapons program.
Iran said it was suspending uranium enrichment and related activities briefly, voluntarily and in hopes of building confidence in the world that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters the deal was "the best decision under the current circumstances." Iran faces the possibility of being slapped with UN Security Council sanctions for a program the United States and others says is aimed at building nuclear weapons.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian said the suspension will last until the completion of negotiations with Europe over Iran's nuclear program. "We accept suspension as a voluntary measure on the basis of agreement with the European Union," Mousavian said, emphasizing that his country viewed the decision as a "confidence building" move and not a "legal obligation on Iran's part… Europe will support Iran's joining the international group of states possessing the ability to manufacture nuclear fuel" once the suspension ends. The decision is expected to anger extremists within the hard-line camp who have called on the government to ignore international demands and even expand, not limit, nuclear activities.
The key dispute that prolonged negotiations between Iran and the Europeans was over the conversion of uranium into gas, which when spun in centrifuges can be enriched to lower levels for producing electricity or processed into high-level, weapons grade uranium, and the length of any suspension.
Washington believes Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons under cover of a peaceful nuclear program. Iran denies this and has offered to provide guarantees that its program is strictly confined to producing electricity.
Two World Views
A youth educational talk at Yachad, the liberal civil rights party:
"A man is born free and would like to remain free. Stop the occupation".
A youth educational talk at National Unity, the extreme right-wing party:
"What is this nonsense of a man is born free? A man is not born free. A man is born with placenta that provides the newborn with its lifeline. We provide the Palestinians their lifeline. And how do they show gratitude? By terror".
Shimon Peres had all the right to expect an invitation to join the government after providing Sharon the security net and support he needed to pass the resolution affirming his disengagement plan. However, Sharon explained that he cannot join Labour into the coalition because of the delicate situation within the Likud Party. The days of Sharon's government are numbered, unless he will teach us yet another lesson in politics and pull a trick that will bring another party to reinforce his collapsing coalition. It is difficult to see how exactly Sharon can do that. I repeat my prediction that you can start counting the days to early elections.
Protest against call for European boycott of academic and cultural ties with Israel
European scholars and scientists who unequivocally condemn the call for a moratorium on research and cultural links with Israel are welcome to join the petition at http://euroisrael.huji.ac.il/list-european.html
Building Business Bridges MBA Program
I was asked to post the following:
The Center for Jewish Arab Economic Development, in cooperation with The University of Haifa and the Palestinian Media & Development Institute
is launching a 6th cycle of the Building Business Bridges MBA program, a unique program that includes:
Academic Studies (MBA program) at the University of Haifa’s Graduate School of Business
An enrichment program that includes studies of: Middle East economics, management in a multicultural setting, mediation and more.
Study tours: in the region and abroad
The program accepts 30 students: 20 Israeli (Jewish and Arabs) and 10 Palestinians.
The Center for Jewish Arab Economic Development is now accepting candidates for the new cycle beginning in May 2005. We are asking your assistance in promoting this program by sending this letter to persons who you know who might be interested in participating in the program.
The prerequisites to be accepted are:
Demonstrated initiative and business ability
Three years experience in business or management
Accredited Bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 80
A minimum of a 500 score on the GMAT
Excellent Command of the English Language (studies are in English)
Other relevant information:
Studies Begin in May 2005
Program length is 18 months
The studies are on Thursday and Friday at the University of Haifa (including sleeping at a hotel in Haifa on Thursday night)
For more information please contact Ronit Sassoon at telephone 09-957-1379 ext.105 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for assisting us in promoting this program.
Ms. Ronit Sassoon
Director of the Municipal Unit and
Building Business Bridges, Applications Coordinator
Center for Jewish Arab Economic Development
16 Galgalei Haplada, POB 12017, Herzlyia Pituach 46733
Tel: 09-954-1379 ext 105
Faculty For Israeli-Palestinian Peace
I wish to bring to your attention the mission and objectives of Faculty For Israeli-Palestinian Peace.
FFIPP, the Faculty For Israeli-Palestinian Peace, is a network of faculty endeavoring to achieve just peace and end the occupation in Israel/Palestine and the region.
FFIPP is organized by the Executive Committee with the invaluable advice of the Advisory Board. Our Campus Contacts help coordinate activities at their local universities. A large number of faculty supports the network and makes their support known on the list of Endorsers.
About FFIPP International
What Do We Stand For?
Peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine is the resolution to their conflict supported by virtually all interested parties. Future cooperation between the two states and the enormous resulting regional benefits expected, make the pursuit of such a goal imperative.
We have no doubt that it is possible to reach such a brighter future, and we strongly believe that actions and policies moving in that direction are not only crucially needed, but that they can and must be pursued NOW.
We strongly believe that no peace and no justice can be achieved without Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territories, and that anybody truly and honestly favoring peaceful coexistence must support such withdrawal.
Furthermore, we are certain that any delay in beginning this process will result in increasing suffering and loss of human life. We, therefore, urge all faculty, and others, who care about the two peoples and the Middle East to support such efforts.
The bias of a large part of the U.S. media reinforces the call for faculty to take part in educating the public about the unfolding situation.
The sharp escalation of violence since late March 2002, makes all the above even more urgent, and it appears that without international, including faculty, involvement, stabilization is unlikely.
Our goal is to achieve just peace and end the occupation in Israel/Palestine and the region.
The objectives of FFIPP are these:
To build an effective faculty network that will influence U.S. policy in the region, and, indirectly, Israel’s policy, towards making those policies more conducive to reaching a just peace;
To influence policy and opinion makers and others to implement policies to stop the violence;
To cooperate with those who work for a just peace and assist Palestinian and Israeli faculty.
We believe that the sector we represent can have impact in Washington; experience strongly suggests that the potential for impact exists.
In addition to building and strengthening the network, planned activities will include,
Organizing symposia throughout US universities in which experts discuss perspectives to the situation in the Middle East
Sponsoring Israeli and Palestinian faculty to speak on US campuses, educating/updating the academic community on the situation
Arranging faculty delegations to Israel and Palestine
Sponsoring delegations for faculty and students to members of the United States Congress
Sponsoring campus campaigns to promote human rights and just peace in Israel and Palestine
Creating media awareness
Sponsoring ad campaigns in the media (e.g., in the New York Times)
Writing Op-Ed articles
Efforts to help Palestinian universities with some immediate needs that they might have
Further information at http://www.ffipp.org/
With my very best wishes, as ever,
My last communications are available on http://almagor.blogspot.comEarlier posts at my home page: http://lib-stu.haifa.ac.il/staff/rcohen-Almagor
Books archived at http://almagor.fetchauthor.info