Posts Tagged 'Human Rights'

Haiti Didn’t Become a Poor Nation All on Its Own — The U.S’s Hidden Role

AlterNet, January 15, 2010

Haiti Didn’t Become a Poor Nation All on Its Own — The U.S’s Hidden Role in the Disaster

In the hours following Haiti’s devastating earthquake, CNN, the New York Times and other major news sources adopted a common interpretation for the severe destruction: the 7.0 earthquake was so devastating because it struck an urban area that was extremely over-populated and extremely poor. Houses “built on top of each other” and constructed by the poor people themselves made for a fragile city. And the country’s many years of underdevelopment and political turmoil made the Haitian government ill-prepared to respond to such a disaster.

True enough. But that’s not the whole story. What’s missing is any explanation of why there are so many Haitians living in and around Port-au-Prince and why so many of them are forced to survive on so little. Indeed, even when an explanation is ventured, it is often outrageously false such as a former U.S. diplomat’s testimony on CNN that Port-au-Prince’s overpopulation was due to the fact that Haitians, like most Third World people, know nothing of birth control.

It may startle news-hungry Americans to learn that these conditions the American media correctly attributes to magnifying the impact of this tremendous disaster were largely the product of American policies and an American-led development model.

From 1957-1971 Haitians lived under the dark shadow of “Papa Doc” Duvalier, a brutal dictator who enjoyed U.S. backing because he was seen by Americans as a reliable anti-Communist. After his death, Duvalier’s son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” became President-for-life at the age of 19 and he ruled Haiti until he was finally overthrown in 1986. It was in the 1970s and 1980s that Baby Doc and the United States government and business community worked together to put Haiti and Haiti’s capitol city on track to become what it was on January 12, 2010.

After the coronation of Baby Doc, American planners inside and outside the U.S. government initiated their plan to transform Haiti into the “Taiwan of the Caribbean.” This small, poor country situated conveniently close to the United States was instructed to abandon its agricultural past and develop a robust, export-oriented manufacturing sector. This, Duvalier and his allies were told, was the way toward modernization and economic development.

From the standpoint of the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Haiti was the perfect candidate for this neoliberal facelift. The entrenched poverty of the Haitian masses could be used to force them into low-paying jobs sewing baseballs and assembling other products.

But USAID had plans for the countryside too. Not only were Haiti’s cities to become exporting bases but so was the countryside, with Haitian agriculture also reshaped along the lines of export-oriented, market-based production. To accomplish this USAID, along with urban industrialists and large landholders, worked to create agro-processing facilities, even while they increased their practice of dumping surplus agricultural products from the U.S. on the Haitian people.

This “aid” from the Americans, along with the structural changes in the countryside predictably forced Haitian peasants who could no longer survive to migrate to the cities, especially Port-au-Prince where the new manufacturing jobs were supposed to be. However, when they got there they found there weren’t nearly enough manufacturing jobs go around. The city became more and more crowded. Slum areas expanded. And to meet the housing needs of the displaced peasants, quickly and cheaply constructed housing was put up, sometimes placing houses right “on top of each other.”

Before too long, however, American planners and Haitian elites decided that perhaps their development model didn’t work so well in Haiti and they abandoned it. The consequences of these American-led changes remain, however.

When on the afternoon and evening of January 12, 2010 Haiti experienced that horrible earthquake and round after round of aftershock the destruction was, no doubt, greatly worsened by the very real over-crowding and poverty of Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas. But shocked Americans can do more than shake their heads and, with pity, make a donation. They can confront their own country’s responsibility for the conditions in Port-au-Prince that magnified the earthquake’s impact, and they can acknowledge America’s role in keeping Haiti from achieving meaningful development. To accept the incomplete story of Haiti offered by CNN and the New York Times is to blame Haitians for being the victims of a scheme that was not of their own making. As John Milton wrote, “they who have put out the people’s eyes, reproach them of their blindness.”

Carl Lindskoog is a New York City-based activist and historian completing a doctoral degree at the City University of New York. You can contact him at cskoog79@yahoo.com

Also see “Why is Haiti Poor?”

shortlink to this post: http://wp.me/p3xLR-lU

Please Help Haiti

An Urgent Appeal from the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund

Haiti hit by the first large earthquake in 240 years

Death toll growing. Tens of thousands may have been killed and hundreds of thousands left homeless.

This is a moment in which your solidarity is of critical importance.

January 13, 2010

Dear Friends of Haiti:

Haiti has been hit by the first large earthquake in 240 years. The enormity of the effects of this devastating 7.0 quake are only barely understood at this time. Thousands may have been killed and tens of thousands left homeless. This is a moment in which your solidarity is of critical importance.

Haiti’s grassroots movement – including labor unions, women’s groups, educators and human rights activists, support committees for prisoners, and agricultural cooperatives – will attempt to funnel needed aid to those most hit by the earthquake. Grassroots organizers are doing what they can – with the most limited of funds – to make a difference. Please take this chance to lend them your support.

This is a time for all of us to act.

What Can You Do?

Since its inception in March 2004, the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund has given concrete aid to Haiti’s grassroots democratic movement as they attempted to survive the brutal coup and to rebuild shattered development projects. We urge you to contribute generously, not only for this immediate crisis, but in order to support the long-run development of human rights, sustainable agriculture and economic justice in Haiti.

During this period, if you or anyone you know are planning to make a donation to assist those in need, please consider the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. Donations will be forwarded to our partners on the ground to help them rebuild what has been destroyed.

CLICK HERE TO MAKE ON-LINE DONATION OR FOR OTHER INFORMATION ON HOW TO DONATE

Other information about the fund:

Here are some of the projects we continue to support in Haiti:

Sustainable Agriculture – HERF has contributed much-needed funds to peasant cooperatives in various parts of Haiti. We have provided irrigation pumps, funds for seeds and tools, and other needed resources. We believe that local agricultural development and the growth of a cooperative movement in Haiti are part of the long-term solution to the food crisis.

Victims Assistance –HERF funds have supported grassroots activists who had to flee their homes and live as internal refugees. We have also contributed to campaigns to free political prisoners and given much-needed financial support to their families. In a recent case, a family could not locate their son who had been held as a prisoner in Port-au-Prince. After weeks of pressuring the authorities, they finally found his body at the morgue. No explanation was given for his death, a common occurrence in Haitian prisons.

Independent Human Rights Monitoring – HERF has given support to human rights workers and attorneys who continue, under dangerous conditions, to document human rights violations and defend victims of repression. They have provided material, psychological and legal assistance to victims of the 2004 coup. In particular, we have given continued support to the efforts to insure the safe return of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, a central figure in Haiti’s popular movement, who was disappeared on August 12, 2007, and has not been heard from since.

Women’s Organizing – Women’s organizations are leading education campaigns, supporting market women, helping women form cooperatives, sustaining the victims of rape and other forms of sexual and physical abuse. HERF has been in the forefront of supporting these projects.

Defending Trade Union Organizers – HERF has assisted trade unionists whose labor organizing was violently attacked throughout the coup period. We have provided support for labor activists forced from their homes and their jobs due to repression, and supported the efforts of trade unionists to fight privatization.

Education/Literacy – Since the coup, government subsidies for school children have been cut and many literacy projects have been terminated. HERF has provided funding for many important educational projects in this period: a school for poor children in Port-au-Prince, educational projects in the rural areas of northern Haiti, literacy programs

We can expect that the mainstream media will shift its eyes away from Haiti over the next months. We will not do the same. One concrete form of support is to help the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. HERF is administered by a board of Haiti solidarity activists and deeply connected to grassroots movements in Haiti. In a country in which many people live on less than a dollar a day, every dollar goes a long way. Please give generously. Our dollars can do so much.

Sincerely,

Walter Riley
Civil rights attorney, Chair of the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund

Sister Maureen Duignan, O.S.F.
Co-Chair, Haiti Emergency Relief Fund

Pierre Labossiere,
Board Member, Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, Co-Founder of Haiti Action Committee

Randall White
Deacon, Allen Temple Baptist Church, Board Member HERF

The massive outpouring of protest over food prices has shattered this façade. The United Nations occupation forces have a budget of over $535 million this year and the Preval government has received international aid denied to the former government of President Aristide. Yet under this government, economic conditions for the average Haitian have deteriorated rapidly. While the export-import sector run by Haiti’s traditional elite has profited from international aid, the poor have been even further marginalized. Prices for rice, beans, water, cooking oil and gas have skyrocketed to the point where many Haitians simply cannot afford to eat. The Associated Press recently ran an article reporting that many Haitians were now eating “mud cookies.”

What Can You Do?

Since its inception in March 2004, the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund has given concrete aid to the people of Haiti as they attempted to survive the brutal coup and rebuild shattered grassroots development projects. We are committed to aiding the grassroots democratic movement, so evidently needed in this time of crisis and hunger. We urge you to contribute generously, not only for this immediate crisis, but in order to support the long-run development of human rights, sustainable agriculture and economic justice in Haiti.

Women’s Organizing – Women’s organizations are leading education campaigns, supporting market women, helping women form cooperatives, sustaining the victims of rape and other forms of sexual and physical abuse. HERF has been actively supporting these projects.

Defending Trade Union Organizers – HERF has assisted trade unionists whose labor organizing was violently attacked throughout the coup period.  We have provided support for labor activists forced from their homes and their jobs due to repression, and supported the efforts of trade unionists to fight privatization.

Education/Literacy – Since the coup, government subsidies for school children have been cut and many literacy projects have been terminated. HERF has provided funding for many important educational projects in this period: a school for poor children in Port-au-Prince, educational projects in the rural areas of northern Haiti, literacy programs

We can expect that the mainstream media will shift its eyes away from Haiti over the next months. We will not do the same. One concrete form of support is to help the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. HERF is administered by a board of Haiti solidarity activists and deeply connected to grassroots movements in Haiti. In a country in which many people live on less than a dollar a day, every dollar goes a long way. Please give generously. Our dollars can do so much.

Sincerely,

Walter Riley
Civil rights attorney, Chair of the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund

Sister Maureen Duignan, O.S.F.
Co-Chair, Haiti Emergency Relief Fund

shortlink to this post: http://wp.me/p3xLR-lD

Israel: No turning back from the apartheid state

“(By)  preclud(ing) the possibility of a two-state solution,   Israel has crossed the threshold from “the only democracy in the Middle East” to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.  …  It is now widely recognized in most Israeli circles — that the settlements have become so widespread and so deeply implanted in the West Bank as to rule out the possibility of their removal.  Olmert  said Israel would turn into an apartheid state when the Arab population in Greater Israel outnumbers the Jewish population. But the relative size of the populations is not the decisive factor in such a transition. Rather, the turning point comes when a state denies national self-determination to a part of its population–even one that is in the minority–to which it has also denied the rights of citizenship.

The Nation, January 25,  2010

Imposing Middle East Peace

Israel’s relentless drive to establish “facts on the ground” in the occupied West Bank, a drive that continues in violation of even the limited settlement freeze to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed himself, seems finally to have succeeded in locking in the irreversibility of its colonial project. As a result of that “achievement,” one that successive Israeli governments have long sought in order to preclude the possibility of a two-state solution, Israel has crossed the threshold from “the only democracy in the Middle East” to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.

The inevitability of such a transformation has been held out not by “Israel bashers” but by the country’s own leaders. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon referred to that danger, as did Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who warned that Israel could not escape turning into an apartheid state if it did not relinquish “almost all the territories, if not all,” including the Arab parts of East Jerusalem.

Olmert ridiculed Israeli defense strategists who, he said, had learned nothing from past experiences and were stuck in the mindset of the 1948 war of independence. “With them, it is all about tanks and land and controlling territories and controlled territories and this hilltop and that hilltop,” he said. “All these things are worthless. Who thinks seriously that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, that this is what will make the difference for the State of Israel’s basic security?”

It is now widely recognized in most Israeli circles–although denied by Israel’s government–that the settlements have become so widespread and so deeply implanted in the West Bank as to rule out the possibility of their removal (except for a few isolated and sparsely populated ones) by this or any future Israeli government unless compelled to do so by international intervention, an eventuality until now considered entirely unlikely.

It is not only the settlements’ proliferation and size that have made their dismantlement impossible. Equally decisive have been the influence of Israel’s settler-security-industrial complex, which conceived and implemented this policy; the recent disappearance of a viable pro-peace political party in Israel; and the infiltration by settlers and their supporters in the religious-national camp into key leadership positions in Israel’s security and military establishments.

Olmert was mistaken in one respect, for he said Israel would turn into an apartheid state when the Arab population in Greater Israel outnumbers the Jewish population. But the relative size of the populations is not the decisive factor in such a transition. Rather, the turning point comes when a state denies national self-determination to a part of its population–even one that is in the minority–to which it has also denied the rights of citizenship.

When a state’s denial of the individual and national rights of a large part of its population becomes permanent, it ceases to be a democracy. When the reason for that double disenfranchisement is that population’s ethnic and religious identity, the state is practicing a form of apartheid, or racism, not much different from the one that characterized South Africa from 1948 to 1994. The democratic dispensation that Israel provides for its mostly Jewish citizens cannot hide its changed character. By definition, democracy reserved for privileged citizens–while all others are kept behind checkpoints, barbed-wire fences and separation walls commanded by the Israeli army–is not democracy but its opposite.

The Jewish settlements and their supporting infrastructure, which span the West Bank from east to west and north to south, are not a wild growth, like weeds in a garden. They have been carefully planned, financed and protected by successive Israeli governments and Israel’s military. Their purpose has been to deny the Palestinian people independence and statehood–or to put it more precisely, to retain Israeli control of Palestine “from the river to the sea,” an objective that precludes the existence of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state east of Israel’s pre-1967 border.

A vivid recollection from the time I headed the American Jewish Congress is a helicopter trip over the West Bank on which I was taken by Ariel Sharon. With large, worn maps in hand, he pointed out to me strategic locations of present and future settlements on east-west and north-south axes that, Sharon assured me, would rule out a future Palestinian state.

Just one year after the 1967 war, Moshe Dayan, then defense minister, described Israel’s plan for the future of the territories as “the current reality.” “The plan is being implemented in actual fact,” he said. “What exists today must remain as a permanent arrangement in the West Bank.” Ten years later, at a conference in Tel Aviv whose theme was finding a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Dayan said: “The question is not, What is the solution? but, How do we live without a solution?”

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s conditions for Palestinian statehood would leave under Israel’s control Palestine’s international borders and airspace, as well as the entire Jordan Valley; would leave most of the settlers in place; and would fragment the contiguity of the territory remaining for such a state. His conditions would also deny Palestinians even those parts of East Jerusalem that Israel unilaterally annexed to the city immediately following the 1967 war–land that had never been part of Jerusalem before the war. In other words, Netanyahu’s conditions for Palestinian statehood would meet Dayan’s goal of leaving Israel’s de facto occupation in place.

From Dayan’s prescription for the permanence of the status quo to Netanyahu’s prescription for a two-state solution, Israel has lived “without a solution,” not because of uncertainty or neglect but as a matter of deliberate policy, clandestinely driving settlement expansion to the point of irreversibility while pretending to search for “a Palestinian partner for peace.”

Sooner or later the White House, Congress and the American public–not to speak of a Jewish establishment that is largely out of touch with the younger Jewish generation’s changing perceptions of Israel’s behavior–will have to face the fact that America’s “special relationship” with Israel is sustaining a colonial enterprise.

President Barack Obama’s capitulation to Netanyahu on the settlement freeze was widely seen as the collapse of the latest hope for achievement of a two-state agreement. It thoroughly discredited the notion that Palestinian moderation is the path to statehood, and therefore also discredited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, moderation’s leading Palestinian advocate, who announced his intention not to run in the coming presidential elections.

Netanyahu’s “limited” freeze was described by the Obama administration as “unprecedented,” even though the exceptions to it–3,000 housing units whose foundations had supposedly already been laid, public buildings and unlimited construction in East Jerusalem–brought total construction to where it would have been without a freeze. Indeed, Netanyahu assured the settler leadership and his cabinet that construction will resume after the ten-month freeze–according to minister Benny Begin, at a rate “faster and more than before”–even if Abbas agrees to return to talks. In fact, the Israeli press has reported that the freeze notwithstanding, new construction in the settlements is “booming.” None of this has elicited the Obama administration’s public rebuke, much less the kinds of sanctions imposed on Palestinians when they violate agreements.

But what is widely believed to have been the final blow to a two-state solution may in fact turn out to be the necessary condition for its eventual achievement. That condition is abandonment of the utterly wrongheaded idea that a Palestinian state can arise without forceful outside intervention. The international community has shown signs of exasperation with Israel’s deceptions and stonewalling, and also with Washington’s failure to demonstrate that there are consequences not only for Palestinian violations of agreements but for Israeli ones as well. The last thing many in the international community want is a resumption of predictably meaningless negotiations between Netanyahu and Abbas. Instead, they are focusing on forceful third-party intervention, a concept that is no longer taboo.

Ironically, it is Netanyahu who now insists on the resumption of peace talks. For him, a prolonged breakdown of talks risks exposing the irreversibility of the settlements, and therefore the loss of Israel’s democratic character, and legitimizing outside intervention as the only alternative to an unstable and dangerous status quo. While the Obama administration may be reluctant to support such initiatives, it may no longer wish to block them.

These are not fanciful fears. Israeli chiefs of military intelligence, the Shin Bet and other defense officials told Netanyahu’s security cabinet on December 9 that the stalled peace process has led to a dangerous vacuum “into which a number of different states are putting their own initiatives, none of which are in Israel’s favor.” They stressed that “the fact that the US has also reached a dead-end in its efforts only worsens the problem.”

If these fears are realized and the international community abandons a moribund peace process in favor of determined third-party initiatives, a two-state outcome may yet be possible. A recent proposal by the Swedish presidency of the European Union is perhaps the first indication of the international community’s determination to react more meaningfully to Netanyahu’s intransigence. The proposal, adopted by the EU’s foreign ministers on December 8, reaffirmed an earlier declaration of the European Council that the EU would not recognize unilateral Israeli changes in the pre-1967 borders. The resolution also opposes Israeli measures to deny a prospective Palestinian state any presence in Jerusalem. The statement’s endorsement of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s two-year institution-building initiative suggests a future willingness to act favorably on a Palestinian declaration of statehood following the initiative’s projected completion. In her first pronouncement on the Israel-Palestine conflict as the EU’s new high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton declared, “We cannot and nor, I doubt, can the region tolerate another round of fruitless negotiations.”

An imposed solution has risks, but these do not begin to compare with the risks of the conflict’s unchecked continuation. Furthermore, since the adversaries are not being asked to accept anything they have not already committed themselves to in formal accords, the international community is not imposing its own ideas but insisting the parties live up to existing obligations. That kind of intervention, or “imposition,” is hardly unprecedented; it is the daily fare of international diplomacy. It defines America’s relations with allies and unfriendly countries alike.

It would not take extraordinary audacity for Obama to reaffirm the official position of every previous US administration–including that of George W. Bush–that no matter how desirable or necessary certain changes in the pre-1967 status may seem, they cannot be made unilaterally. Even Bush, celebrated in Israel as “the best American president Israel ever had,” stated categorically that this inviolable principle applies even to the settlement blocs that Israel insists it will annex. Speaking of these blocs at a May 2005 press conference, Bush affirmed that “changes to the 1949 armistice lines must be mutually agreed to,” a qualification largely ignored by Israeli governments (and by Bush himself). The next year Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was even more explicit. She stated that “the president did say that at the time of final status, it will be necessary to take into account new realities on the ground that have changed since 1967, but under no circumstances…should anyone try and do that in a pre-emptive or predetermined way, because these are issues for negotiation at final status.”

Of course, Obama should leave no doubt that it is inconceivable for the United States not to be fully responsive to Israel’s genuine security needs, no matter how displeased it may be with a particular Israeli government’s policies. But he must also leave no doubt that it is equally inconceivable he would abandon America’s core values or compromise its strategic interests to keep Netanyahu’s government in power, particularly when support for this government means supporting a regime that would permanently disenfranchise and dispossess the Palestinian people.

In short, Middle East peacemaking efforts will continue to fail, and the possibility of a two-state solution will disappear, if US policy continues to ignore developments on the ground in the occupied territories and within Israel, which now can be reversed only through outside intervention. President Obama is uniquely positioned to help Israel reclaim Jewish and democratic ideals on which the state was founded–if he does not continue “politics as usual.” But was it not his promise to reject just such a politics that swept Obama into the presidency and captured the amazement and respect of the entire world?

About Henry Siegman

Henry Siegman, director of the U.S./Middle East Project in New York, is a visiting research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Program, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America.

shortlink to posting: http://wp.me/p3xLR-lq

Israel’s relentless drive to establish “facts on the ground” in the occupied West Bank, a drive that continues in violation of even the limited settlement freeze to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed himself, seems finally to have succeeded in locking in the irreversibility of its colonial project. As a result of that “achievement,” one that successive Israeli governments have long sought in order to preclude the possibility of a two-state solution, Israel has crossed the threshold from “the only democracy in the Middle East” to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.

» More

The inevitability of such a transformation has been held out not by “Israel bashers” but by the country’s own leaders. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon referred to that danger, as did Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who warned that Israel could not escape turning into an apartheid state if it did not relinquish “almost all the territories, if not all,” including the Arab parts of East Jerusalem.Olmert ridiculed Israeli defense strategists who, he said, had learned nothing from past experiences and were stuck in the mindset of the 1948 war of independence. “With them, it is all about tanks and land and controlling territories and controlled territories and this hilltop and that hilltop,” he said. “All these things are worthless. Who thinks seriously that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, that this is what will make the difference for the State of Israel’s basic security?”

It is now widely recognized in most Israeli circles–although denied by Israel’s government–that the settlements have become so widespread and so deeply implanted in the West Bank as to rule out the possibility of their removal (except for a few isolated and sparsely populated ones) by this or any future Israeli government unless compelled to do so by international intervention, an eventuality until now considered entirely unlikely.

It is not only the settlements’ proliferation and size that have made their dismantlement impossible. Equally decisive have been the influence of Israel’s settler-security-industrial complex, which conceived and implemented this policy; the recent disappearance of a viable pro-peace political party in Israel; and the infiltration by settlers and their supporters in the religious-national camp into key leadership positions in Israel’s security and military establishments.

Olmert was mistaken in one respect, for he said Israel would turn into an apartheid state when the Arab population in Greater Israel outnumbers the Jewish population. But the relative size of the populations is not the decisive factor in such a transition. Rather, the turning point comes when a state denies national self-determination to a part of its population–even one that is in the minority–to which it has also denied the rights of citizenship.

When a state’s denial of the individual and national rights of a large part of its population becomes permanent, it ceases to be a democracy. When the reason for that double disenfranchisement is that population’s ethnic and religious identity, the state is practicing a form of apartheid, or racism, not much different from the one that characterized South Africa from 1948 to 1994. The democratic dispensation that Israel provides for its mostly Jewish citizens cannot hide its changed character. By definition, democracy reserved for privileged citizens–while all others are kept behind checkpoints, barbed-wire fences and separation walls commanded by the Israeli army–is not democracy but its opposite.

The Jewish settlements and their supporting infrastructure, which span the West Bank from east to west and north to south, are not a wild growth, like weeds in a garden. They have been carefully planned, financed and protected by successive Israeli governments and Israel’s military. Their purpose has been to deny the Palestinian people independence and statehood–or to put it more precisely, to retain Israeli control of Palestine “from the river to the sea,” an objective that precludes the existence of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state east of Israel’s pre-1967 border.

A vivid recollection from the time I headed the American Jewish Congress is a helicopter trip over the West Bank on which I was taken by Ariel Sharon. With large, worn maps in hand, he pointed out to me strategic locations of present and future settlements on east-west and north-south axes that, Sharon assured me, would rule out a future Palestinian state.

Just one year after the 1967 war, Moshe Dayan, then defense minister, described Israel’s plan for the future of the territories as “the current reality.” “The plan is being implemented in actual fact,” he said. “What exists today must remain as a permanent arrangement in the West Bank.” Ten years later, at a conference in Tel Aviv whose theme was finding a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Dayan said: “The question is not, What is the solution? but, How do we live without a solution?”

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s conditions for Palestinian statehood would leave under Israel’s control Palestine’s international borders and airspace, as well as the entire Jordan Valley; would leave most of the settlers in place; and would fragment the contiguity of the territory remaining for such a state. His conditions would also deny Palestinians even those parts of East Jerusalem that Israel unilaterally annexed to the city immediately following the 1967 war–land that had never been part of Jerusalem before the war. In other words, Netanyahu’s conditions for Palestinian statehood would meet Dayan’s goal of leaving Israel’s de facto occupation in place.

From Dayan’s prescription for the permanence of the status quo to Netanyahu’s prescription for a two-state solution, Israel has lived “without a solution,” not because of uncertainty or neglect but as a matter of deliberate policy, clandestinely driving settlement expansion to the point of irreversibility while pretending to search for “a Palestinian partner for peace.”

Sooner or later the White House, Congress and the American public–not to speak of a Jewish establishment that is largely out of touch with the younger Jewish generation’s changing perceptions of Israel’s behavior–will have to face the fact that America’s “special relationship” with Israel is sustaining a colonial enterprise.

President Barack Obama’s capitulation to Netanyahu on the settlement freeze was widely seen as the collapse of the latest hope for achievement of a two-state agreement. It thoroughly discredited the notion that Palestinian moderation is the path to statehood, and therefore also discredited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, moderation’s leading Palestinian advocate, who announced his intention not to run in the coming presidential elections.

Netanyahu’s “limited” freeze was described by the Obama administration as “unprecedented,” even though the exceptions to it–3,000 housing units whose foundations had supposedly already been laid, public buildings and unlimited construction in East Jerusalem–brought total construction to where it would have been without a freeze. Indeed, Netanyahu assured the settler leadership and his cabinet that construction will resume after the ten-month freeze–according to minister Benny Begin, at a rate “faster and more than before”–even if Abbas agrees to return to talks. In fact, the Israeli press has reported that the freeze notwithstanding, new construction in the settlements is “booming.” None of this has elicited the Obama administration’s public rebuke, much less the kinds of sanctions imposed on Palestinians when they violate agreements.

But what is widely believed to have been the final blow to a two-state solution may in fact turn out to be the necessary condition for its eventual achievement. That condition is abandonment of the utterly wrongheaded idea that a Palestinian state can arise without forceful outside intervention. The international community has shown signs of exasperation with Israel’s deceptions and stonewalling, and also with Washington’s failure to demonstrate that there are consequences not only for Palestinian violations of agreements but for Israeli ones as well. The last thing many in the international community want is a resumption of predictably meaningless negotiations between Netanyahu and Abbas. Instead, they are focusing on forceful third-party intervention, a concept that is no longer taboo.

Ironically, it is Netanyahu who now insists on the resumption of peace talks. For him, a prolonged breakdown of talks risks exposing the irreversibility of the settlements, and therefore the loss of Israel’s democratic character, and legitimizing outside intervention as the only alternative to an unstable and dangerous status quo. While the Obama administration may be reluctant to support such initiatives, it may no longer wish to block them.

These are not fanciful fears. Israeli chiefs of military intelligence, the Shin Bet and other defense officials told Netanyahu’s security cabinet on December 9 that the stalled peace process has led to a dangerous vacuum “into which a number of different states are putting their own initiatives, none of which are in Israel’s favor.” They stressed that “the fact that the US has also reached a dead-end in its efforts only worsens the problem.”

If these fears are realized and the international community abandons a moribund peace process in favor of determined third-party initiatives, a two-state outcome may yet be possible. A recent proposal by the Swedish presidency of the European Union is perhaps the first indication of the international community’s determination to react more meaningfully to Netanyahu’s intransigence. The proposal, adopted by the EU’s foreign ministers on December 8, reaffirmed an earlier declaration of the European Council that the EU would not recognize unilateral Israeli changes in the pre-1967 borders. The resolution also opposes Israeli measures to deny a prospective Palestinian state any presence in Jerusalem. The statement’s endorsement of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s two-year institution-building initiative suggests a future willingness to act favorably on a Palestinian declaration of statehood following the initiative’s projected completion. In her first pronouncement on the Israel-Palestine conflict as the EU’s new high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton declared, “We cannot and nor, I doubt, can the region tolerate another round of fruitless negotiations.”

An imposed solution has risks, but these do not begin to compare with the risks of the conflict’s unchecked continuation. Furthermore, since the adversaries are not being asked to accept anything they have not already committed themselves to in formal accords, the international community is not imposing its own ideas but insisting the parties live up to existing obligations. That kind of intervention, or “imposition,” is hardly unprecedented; it is the daily fare of international diplomacy. It defines America’s relations with allies and unfriendly countries alike.

It would not take extraordinary audacity for Obama to reaffirm the official position of every previous US administration–including that of George W. Bush–that no matter how desirable or necessary certain changes in the pre-1967 status may seem, they cannot be made unilaterally. Even Bush, celebrated in Israel as “the best American president Israel ever had,” stated categorically that this inviolable principle applies even to the settlement blocs that Israel insists it will annex. Speaking of these blocs at a May 2005 press conference, Bush affirmed that “changes to the 1949 armistice lines must be mutually agreed to,” a qualification largely ignored by Israeli governments (and by Bush himself). The next year Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was even more explicit. She stated that “the president did say that at the time of final status, it will be necessary to take into account new realities on the ground that have changed since 1967, but under no circumstances…should anyone try and do that in a pre-emptive or predetermined way, because these are issues for negotiation at final status.”

Of course, Obama should leave no doubt that it is inconceivable for the United States not to be fully responsive to Israel’s genuine security needs, no matter how displeased it may be with a particular Israeli government’s policies. But he must also leave no doubt that it is equally inconceivable he would abandon America’s core values or compromise its strategic interests to keep Netanyahu’s government in power, particularly when support for this government means supporting a regime that would permanently disenfranchise and dispossess the Palestinian people.

In short, Middle East peacemaking efforts will continue to fail, and the possibility of a two-state solution will disappear, if US policy continues to ignore developments on the ground in the occupied territories and within Israel, which now can be reversed only through outside intervention. President Obama is uniquely positioned to help Israel reclaim Jewish and democratic ideals on which the state was founded–if he does not continue “politics as usual.” But was it not his promise to reject just such a politics that swept Obama into the presidency and captured the amazement and respect of the entire world?

About Henry Siegman

Henry Siegman, director of the U.S./Middle East Project in New York, is a visiting research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Program, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America.

Honduran Dictatorship Is A Threat to Democracy In the Hemisphere

Huffington Post,  November 23, 2009

Honduran Dictatorship Is A Threat to Democracy In the Hemisphere

A small group of rich people who own most of Honduras and its politicians enlist the military to kidnap the elected president at gunpoint and take him into exile. They then arrest thousands of people opposed to the coup, shut down and intimidate independent media, shoot and kill some demonstrators, torture and beat many others. This goes on for more than four months, including more than two of the three months legally designated for electoral campaigning. Then the dictatorship holds an “election.”

Should other countries recognize the results of such an election, to be held on November 29th? Latin America says absolutely not; the United States is saying, well, “yes we can”- if we can get away with it.

“There has been a sharp rise in police beatings, mass arrests of demonstrators and intimidation of human rights defenders,” since President Zelaya slipped back into Honduras and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy, wrote Amnesty InternationalHuman Rights Watch, the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and human rights groups worldwide have also condemned the violence and repression perpetrated by the Honduran dictatorship.

On November 5, the 25 nations of the Rio Group, which includes virtually all of Latin America, declared that they would not recognize the results of the November 29th elections in Honduras if the elected President Manuel Zelaya were not first restored.

Why is it that Latin American governments can recognize this threat to democracy but Washington cannot? One reason is that many of the governments are run by people who have lived under dictatorships. President Lula da Silva of Brazil was imprisoned by the Brazilian dictatorship in the 1980s. President Michele Bachelet of Chile was tortured in prison under the brutal Pinochet dictatorship that was installed with the help of the Nixon administration. The presidents of Bolivia, Argentina, Guatemala, and others have all lived through the repression of right-wing dictatorships.

Nor is this threat merely a thing of the past. Just two weeks ago the President of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, had to fire most of the military leadership because of credible evidence that they were conspiring with the political opposition. This is one of the consequences of not reversing the Honduran military coup of June 28th.

Here in the United States we have been subjected to a relentless campaign of lies and distortions intended to justify the coup, which have been taken up by Republican supporters of the dictatorship, as well as by hired guns like Lanny Davis, a close associate of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Perhaps the biggest lie, repeated thousands of times in the news reporting and op-eds of the major media, was that Zelaya was overthrown because he was trying to extend his term of office. In fact, the non-binding referendum that Zelaya proposed had nothing to do with term limits. And even if this poll of the electorate had led eventually to a new constitution, any legal changes would have been far too late for Zelaya to stay in office beyond January 29.

Another surreal part of the whole political discussion has been the attempt to portray Zelaya, who was merely delivering on his campaign promises to the Honduran electorate, as a pawn of some foreign power – conveniently chosen to be the much-demonized Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. The anti-communist hysteria of 1950s McCarthyism is still the model for these uncreative political hacks.

What a disgrace it will be to our country if the Obama team follows through on its current strategy and recognizes these “elections!” It’s hard to imagine a stronger statement than that human rights and democracy in this hemisphere count for zero in the political calculations of this administration.

This op-ed was distributed by McClatchy Tribune Information Services on November 18, 2009 and published by the Sacramento Bee and other newspapers.

Israel evicts Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, Settlers immediate occupy houses

Aljazeera English, August 3, 2009

Israel evicts Palestinian families

Israeli security forces have forcibly evicted two Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem after a court rejected an appeal against their eviction.

The al-Ghawi and al-Hanoun families who were evicted on Sunday have been living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood since 1956.

Israel has reportedly set aside the land their houses were built on for a planned hotel project.

The eviction comes amid international calls for Israel to halt settlement activity on occupied Palestinian land.

A large police force was involved in the operation in Sheikh Jarrah, one of the most sensitive and upmarket Arab neighbourhoods closest to the so-called Green Line which separates east and west Jerusalem.

Violent ‘scuffles’

Sherine Tadros, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in East Jerusalem, said: “According to the Hanoun family, the members that I have spoken to, at about 6am as they were sleeping inside the house, Israeli police officers broke in and we can see the shattered glass all over the floor outside.

“They say that the police were armed and they forcibly evicted both the international activists that were staying at the house and members of the family themselves.

“Members of the family say the police officers beat them with batons and children as young as six were man-handled … scuffles were seen and heard between the police and the two families trying to get back into their houses,” she said.

Tadros said the international activists were arrested and personal items belonging to the families such as cameras, laptops and computers have all been confiscated.

‘Blatant violation of law’

Residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, composed of 28 Palestinian families, held a press conference on May 6 in order to raise awareness regarding the Israeli District Court decision to issue an ultimatum to the al-Ghawi and al-Hanoun families giving them 10 days to evacuate their homes or face punitive measures, including forcible expulsion.

Maher Hanoun, one of 53 family members of the two families affected by the court decision said in a statement: “The al-Ghawi and al-Hanoun cases are part of an ongoing attempt by the two Jewish settler organisations to take over 28 housing units built in 1956 to house refugees and to turn it into a Jewish colony.

“Israel’s measures against the two families constitute blatant violations of international law including the 4th Geneva Convention that obligates the occupying authorities, Israel, to maintain the geographic and demographic characteristics of occupied East Jerusalem,” he said.

Hanoun appealed to the “international community, human rights organisations, and the EU to exert pressure on Israel to stop it from pursuing its plan to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem of its Palestinian population”.

In 1982, Israeli settler organisations began demanding rent from the Palestinian families of Sheikh Jarrah, who at that point had been living in the neighbourhood for almost 30 years – and when many of the families refused to pay this rent, the first eviction orders were issued.

The legal proceedings continued over the years, and in 2006 it was ruled by court that the settler organisations did not have rights to the land, and the Israeli land registration department agreed to revoke the settler associations’ ownership.

Settlement expansion

Despite pending appeals and the lack of legal ownership of land in the neighbourhood, the settler organisations sold their property claim in 2008 to an investment company that plans to demolish the 28 Palestinian homes and build 200 settlement units for new Jewish immigrants.

Further reports state that two additional construction plans being currently reviewed by the Jerusalem municipality would create an additional 150 housing units, for a total of 350 new housing units for Israelis, as well as a synagogue in Sheikh Jarrah.

Settlements have emerged as a major sticking point in relations between Israel and the administration of Barack Obama, the US president.

Although Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, recently yielded to US pressure to conditionally endorse the establishment of a Palestinian state, he has consistently resisted US demands for a total freeze on settlement expansion.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem and declared the whole city its capital after the 1967 Six Day War, a move not recognised by the international community

Deportations spark outcry

Earlier on Saturday, thousands of Israeli and migrant workers, including children, formed a human chain in Tel Aviv in protest at Israel’s decision to deport families of illegal aliens, most of them from Africa.

Israel had set an August 1 deadline to expel illegal migrants and their children, even those who grew up in the country, triggering an outcry among human rights groups.

According to the interior ministry, some 300,000 illegal aliens – including 100,000 migrants, tourists who overstayed their visit and Palestinians – live in Israel which is home to seven million inhabitants.

But human rights groups have said that these figures are inflated.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Joel

Joel Beinin, of Jewish Peace News,  adds:

Stand Up for Jerusalem has posted videos <http://bit.ly/xu92J> of Israeli police evicting two Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem at 5:00 am on August 2.  One of the families, the Hijazi family, claims to have deeds to the property dating to the 19th century.  The Sephardic Community Committee also claims to have owned the properties before the 1948 War.  Twenty-eight Palestinian refugee families were resettled in Sheikh Jarrah by the UN and the Jordanian government, which occupied East Jerusalem during the war.  After Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 they were granted the status of “protected” tenants (meaning ordinarily they could not be evicted).  The putative Jewish owners claimed the two families were delinquent in their rent and therefore subject to eviction.  With the consent of the Sephardic Community Committee, settlers have already occupied the homes.

This appears to be a further step in the process of “judaizing” Sheikh Jarrah, a project which has been under way for some time.  Nahalat Shimon International, a settler-related real estate group which also claims to have an Ottoman-era deed, has been seeking to build a 200-unit settlement named Shimon Ha-Tzadik in the area. Settlers already occupy several other houses in the neighborhood.

A full report on the legal background to the case is available at the website of ‘Ir ‘Amim, an NGO that seeks an equitable and shared Jerusalem in the framework of an agreed political future. <http://bit.ly/1bu3Fd>

The Sheikh Jarrah evictions have aroused a storm of international protest from the USA, UK, the EU, Sweden, Egypt, and others. Secretary of State Clinton called the eviction “a very regrettable action,” and the Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, was called in for a scolding.  Verbal protests seem unlikely to be enough to halt the Netanyahu government’s determination to build more Jewish colonies in East Jerusalem.

UN observer finds Israeli laws and practices incompatible with human rights

   

United Nations Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Mr.   Martin Scheinin, will present his mission report following his July 2007 visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday, 12 December 2007.

In the report, the Special Rapporteur finds serious incompatibilities between Israel’s counter- terrorism laws and practices and Israel’s international human rights obligations.   Among his conclusions and recommendations are the following:

–  “…not all acts of violence committed against an occupying power, particularly when violence is targeted at military forces of an occupying power, amount to acts of terrorism.” [para.   3]

–  “All legislation, regulations and military orders must comply with the requirements of the principle of legality…Having achieved those requirements, the enactment by the Knesset of this new [counter-terrorism] legislation should be accompanied by a repeal or revocation of all current counter-terrorism legislation, regulations and military orders.” [para.   55]

–  “[The incompatibilities of Israeli law and practice include those related to] the prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; the right to life and humanitarian law principles concerning legitimate targeting; the right to liberty and fair trial; and the severe impact of the construction of the barrier in the West Bank and associated measures on the enjoyment of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights and freedoms in the OPT.” [para.54]

–  “Given the illegality under international law of the existence and continued development of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Special Rapporteur recommends that a decision be made immediately to withdraw all such settlements…” [para.   59]

–  “To replace the still unfinished barrier, extending deep into Palestinian territory, with a security infrastructure that…respects the Green Line or is otherwise accepted by the Palestinians.” [para.   59]

The Special Rapporteur’s oral presentation related to his  Israel/OPT mission report will be broadcast live via the Human Rights Council’s webcast between 9:00 -10:00 am (GMT +1) on 12 December.

http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp ).

The Special Rapporteur’s full report is available in the following formats:

English only – http://daccess-ods.un.org/TMP/3354845.html


Archives

Categories

RSS Gray Panthers in the News

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 590 other followers


%d bloggers like this: