VIDEO of Israeli massacre on civillian – (WARNING! This not your american or israeli state propaganda images at display but reality!)

MASSACRE

Czech minister admits mistake in describing Israeli ground operation as defensive

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg admitted on Sunday that a “large” and “personal” mistake had been made by a spokesperson for the new Czech presidency of the European Union on Saturday, when he described Israel’s ground incursion into Gaza as “more defensive than offensive.”

Schwarzenberg said that the spokesperson had made a personal mistake, adding that the only declaration by the Czech Presidency of the EU was that which was published by the foreign ministry. He added that the first declaration had been a misunderstanding.

A Czech government spokesman, Jiri Frantisek Potuznik, had told AFP on Saturday, “At the moment, from our perspective, we do understand that the action is part of the defensive action of Israel (…) we do understand that it is more defensive than offensive. This is the position of the Czech prime minister.”

The spokesperson also said that the Israeli ground operation in Gaza was about the crossing of the Gaza border, “There is no violence, no victims, so we are waiting for more information, we would like more details,” he said.

Ref: Now

UN Complicity in Israel’s Massacre in Gaza – A Rubber Stamp for U.S. Dictats

us_thwarts_un_gaza_ceasefire_by_latuff2

A friend forwarded to me the most original greeting for the New Year: “I wish in 2009 a horrible year for all war criminals and their accomplices.” I could not but think of whether some UN officials can be counted among such “accomplices.”

Over the last two days, various UN officials stated that the percentage of civilians among those Palestinians killed in the current Israeli war of aggression on Gaza is about “25%” and is “likely to increase.” Assuming the best of intentions, stating such a painfully low figure reflects shabby research or scandalous incompetence. At worst, it reveals intentional deception and misinformation that can only benefit the already massive and well-oiled Israeli PR machine.

The United Nations’ complicity in Israel’s propaganda war is the latest, albeit hardly ever mentioned, dimension of the international organization’s utter failure in defending its principles, foremost among which are the prevention of war and the promotion of peace, when performing such a duty is expected to stir the wrath of the US master and the uniquely influential Israel lobby. Not only has the UN General Secretary betrayed the very Charter of the UN and all relevant international law principles by failing to even condemn Israel’s massacre of civilians and targeting of civilian institutions and residential neighborhoods; the entire UN system has so far dealt with it as a “war” between two relatively symmetric forces, where the mightier side has sufficient justification to “defend itself,” but should do so more proportionately, while the weaker side is chiefly responsible for triggering the “armed conflict.”

Now, senior UN officials, excluding the particularly courageous and principled UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Richard Falk, and a few others, are only focusing on “women and children” victims of the massacre, implying, even if unintentionally, that all Palestinian men in Gaza are fair game for the Israeli killing machine. The tens of Palestinian civilian policemen that were butchered in the opening hours of the massive Israeli attack by dozens of fighter jets were, thus, conveniently dismissed by such irresponsible UN figures of casualties as Hamas “fighters,” more or less, that may be targeted with impunity. This is not to mention the scores of male teachers, doctors, workers, farmers and unemployed who were killed by Israel’s indiscriminate bombing in their workplaces, public offices, homes or streets and were not accounted for as civilian victims of Israel’s belligerent murder spree.

Above everything else, this UN discourse not only reduces close to half a million Palestinian men in that wretched, tormented and occupied coastal strip to “militants,” radical “fighters,” or whatever other nouns in currency nowadays in the astoundingly, but characteristically, biased western media coverage of the Israel “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Gaza, as some international law experts have described them; it also treats them as already condemned criminals that deserve the capital punishment Israel has meted out on them. I am not an expert on the history of the UN, but I suspect this sets a new low, a precedent in dehumanizing an entire adult male population in a region of “conflict,” thereby justifying their fatal targeting or, at least, silently condoning it. But this should surprise no one as the same UN leaders have for 18 months watched in eerie silence or even indirectly justified, one way or another, Israel’s siege of Gaza which was described by Falk as a “prelude to genocide” and compared by him to Nazi crimes.

If one wants to be truly magnanimous and give those UN officials the benefit of the doubt — not something I would recommend at all, given the scale of the massacre and their verifiable complicity — one has to assume that they are quite confused as to how best to categorize the thousands of Palestinian victims of Israel’s war on Gaza, whether those injured or killed. A casual overview of Israeli army press statements and human rights organizations’ reports, however, will immediately dismiss the possibility that the UN figure of 25% was the product of clinical incompetence or technical ineptness, widely recognized trademarks of the organization.

A recent article published in the Washington Post, for instance, quoted a senior Israeli military official saying: “There are many aspects to Hamas, and we are trying to hit the whole spectrum, because everything is connected and everything supports terrorism against Israel.” An Israeli army spokeswoman went further stating. “Anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate target.” Given that, in the ghetto of Gaza, Hamas is effectively the “ruling” party — it was democratically elected, after all — and its network of social and charitable organizations are the largest provider of social services to the impoverished and besieged population, all of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure, public schools, hospitals, universities, law and order organs, traffic police, sewage treatment and water purification stations, ministries providing vital services to the public, mosques, public theatres and many non-governmental institutions can technically be considered “affiliated” with Hamas.

Lest the reader feels that this is an exaggeration, today, in the first hours of the first day of the new year, the Israeli air force already bombed the following “targets” in Gaza: the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Justice. Earlier, several mosques were pulverised to the ground. So were main buildings in the Islamic University of Gaza, which serves 20,000 students. Ambulances and private homes were not spared either.
Even B’Tselem, Israel’s leading human rights organization that often issues sanitized, “balanced” or selective reports focusing on Israel’s less criminal behaviour in the OPT, was compelled to conclude that the Israeli army was intentionally targeting “what appear to be clear civilian objects” that are not “engaged in military action against Israel,” without making the distinction between male and female civilians. A statement from the organization on December 31st said:

For example, the military bombed the main police building in Gaza and killed, according to reports, forty-two Palestinians who were in a training course and were standing in formation at the time of the bombing. Participants in the course study first-aid, handling of public disturbances, human rights, public-safety exercises, and so forth. Following the course, the police officers are assigned to various arms of the police force in Gaza responsible for maintaining public order.

Another example is yesterday’s bombing of the government offices. These offices included the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Labor, Construction and Housing. An announcement made by the IDF Spokesperson’s Office regarding this attack stated that, ‘the attack was carried out in response to the ongoing rocket and mortar-shell fire carried out by Hamas over Israeli territory, and in the framework of IDF operations to strike at Hamas governmental infrastructure and members active in the organization.’

Just to drive the point closer to home for an average western reader who may have internalized over the years a perception of Israelis — inaccurately and quite deliberately depicted by Israeli and western propaganda as part of the “west” — as full humans and Palestinians, along with almost all global southerners, as relative humans, perhaps the following mirroring exercise is necessary.

Imagine if the Palestinian resistance, in exercising its otherwise perfectly legitimate, UN-sanctioned right to fight Israel’s occupation and apartheid, were to regard all institutions “affiliated” with the Israeli government as legitimate targets, justifying the bombing of universities, hospitals, civilian ministries, publicly-run synagogues, neighborhoods where government or army officials live or work, and other civilian “targets,” killing in 5 days only 1,600 Israelis and wounding 8,000 (four times the current toll in Gaza, given that Israel’s population is four times as large). What would the UN do? Would UN officials only count Israeli women and children victims? Would they call on both parties to “exercise restraint” or to end “the violence”? Morally, and even legally, this is not even a fair reversal of roles, for Israel, no matter what, remains the occupier and settler-colonial oppressor, while the indigenous Palestinians remain the colonized and oppressed.

The truth is the UN leadership, in the unipolar world that we are still living in and is perhaps on its way to be transformed to more multipolar space, has effectively turned into a rubber stamp bureau for US dictates. Ban Ki-Moon will go down in history as the most subservient and morally unqualified general secretary to ever lead the international organization. The only question remaining is whether one day he and his senior staff will stand trial for being accomplices in Israel’s war crimes, together with leaders of the US, the EU and many Arab regimes. In a more just world, governed by the rule of law, not the US-dominated rule of the jungle, they should.

Ref: Counterpunch

Omar Barghouti is a founding member of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign http://www.BDSmovement.net

Was Arafat the Problem?

One thing nearly all pundits seem to agree on is that Yasser Arafat’s rejection of the land-for-peace offer made by Ehud Barak at Camp David in the summer of 2000 was indefensible. This conventional wisdom has been a great asset to Ariel Sharon. Its implication—that Arafat was never really interested in a two-state solution to begin with—has helped turn many former peaceniks in both Israel and America into hard-liners.
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An example is Rabbi Martin Weiner of San Francisco, president of the Rabbinical Association of Reform Judaism. “For most of us Prime Minister Barak’s proposals seemed so generous,” he explained on NPR’s All Things Considered. He can’t understand how Arafat could have “rejected the Palestinian state that was offered to him in the summer of 2000.” Given this rejection, and Arafat’s subsequent sponsoring of terrorism, Weiner is “sadly coming to believe” that Yasser Arafat’s goal “is now and may have always been the destruction of Israel.”

In this week’s Nation, political scientist Richard Falk contests the standard view that Israel’s offer at Camp David was eminently fair. But Falk’s argument, embedded in a larger critique of American foreign policy, doesn’t get deeply into the nuts and bolts of the issue. If you want to see Camp David from Arafat’s point of view, a better place to look is a New York Review of Books piece that appeared back in August and was co-authored by Robert Malley, special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs in the Clinton administration. Malley was at Camp David and found Arafat’s behavior there intensely frustrating, but he doesn’t buy the interpretation that is favored on the right—that Arafat’s rejection of the deal amounts to rejection of a two-state solution.

So, are Falk and Malley right? Is Arafat’s Camp David behavior even remotely defensible?

There were actually two Barak offers to Arafat—one at Camp David, and a more generous one that took shape over ensuing months, culminating in failed negotiations in Taba, Egypt, in January of 2001. Most Arafat critics, like Rabbi Weiner, focus on Camp David. So, let’s look at Camp David first and Taba second.

David Horowitz, editor of the Jerusalem Report, recently said on the NPR show To the Point that Barak offered “basically all the territory the Palestinians were purporting to seek.” This is a widely repeated claim—that Israel offered something like the “pre-1967 borders” that had long been the mantra of Palestinians who favored a two-state solution. But for Palestinians to get all the territory that had been under Arab control before the war of 1967 would mean getting a) all of what we now think of as the West Bank; b) all of East Jerusalem (which some consider part of the West Bank); and c) all of the walled “Old City” that lies between East and West Jerusalem. Barak never offered any of those things—not at Camp David, not at Taba.

As a practical matter, he couldn’t. The problem wasn’t just the famously provocative settlements that Israel’s government had long been sponsoring in the West Bank. Barak was willing to dismantle some of those and consolidate others. But there had also been more organic, more “innocent” settlement, in the greater Jerusalem area and elsewhere. Further, for political reasons, Barak couldn’t possibly surrender control of the part of the Old City that contains the Western Wall of the Second Temple—the wall you see Jews praying at in file footage.

So, Barak hung on to key parts of the Old City and proposed that, before surrendering the West Bank, Israel would annex 9 percent of it, leaving 91 percent for the Palestinians. That was his last, best offer, at Camp David.

But wait. Didn’t Barak, as his defenders say, offer Arafat land from Israel proper in return for the annexed 9 percent?

Yes. But the terms of the trade bordered on insulting. In exchange for the 9 percent of the West Bank annexed by Israel, Arafat would have gotten land as large as 1 percent of the West Bank. And, whereas some of the 9 percent was choice land, symbolically important to Palestinians, the 1 percent was land whose location wasn’t even specified.

I’m trying to imagine Yasser Arafat selling this 9-to-1 land swap to Palestinians—who, remember, are divided into two camps: the “return to 1967 borders” crowd and the “destroy the state of Israel” crowd. I’m not succeeding. And Arafat would have had to explain other unpalatable details, such as Israeli sovereignty over Haram al-Sharif (site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque), which had been under Arab control before 1967 and is the third-holiest site in Islam.

The Camp David offer also had features that kept it from amounting to statehood in the full sense of the term. The new Palestine couldn’t have had a military and wouldn’t have had sovereignty over its air space—Israeli jets would roam at will. Nor would the Palestinians’ freedom of movement on the ground have been guaranteed. At least one east-west Israeli-controlled road would slice all the way across the West Bank, and Israel would be entitled to declare emergencies during which Palestinians couldn’t cross the road. Imagine if a mortal enemy of America’s—say the Soviet Union during the Cold War—was legally entitled to stop the north-south flow of Americans and American commerce. Don’t you think the average American might ask: Wait a minute—who negotiated this deal?

I’m not saying any of these things aren’t defensible from an Israeli point of view. I’m just saying it takes very little imagination to see why Palestinians might balk, after three decades of nursing a grievance centered on—at the very minimum—the right to have their very own state defined by pre-1967 borders.

Another big issue was the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees. The Israeli fear is certainly understandable: If all Palestinians who once lived in Israel—and all of their descendants—were allowed to return, Israel might wind up with an Arab majority. Accounts differ on how hard a line the Palestinians have taken on this issue at various negotiations. Malley and his co-author, Hussein Agha of Oxford University, say Arafat showed unprecedented flexibility at Camp David. In any event, by early 2001 Arafat was showing flexibility, advocating in a New York Times op-ed “creative solutions to the plight of the refugees while respecting Israel’s demographic concerns.”

Malley and Agha do a good job of illuminating Arafat’s psychological state at Camp David, notably his lack of trust of the Israelis and his sense that the Israelis and Americans were ganging up on him. The portrait at times borders on the patronizing—Arafat comes off as almost childish in his insecurity and pride compared with the cool, linear-thinking Barak. But this is the kind of portrait Arafat’s harshest critics have been known to paint when they’re not busy depicting his Camp David demurral as the coolly rational act of an evil mastermind.

Arafat’s complex psychology may help explain the most valid criticism of his conduct in the summer of 2000, routinely cited even by his defenders: the failure to offer a distinct counterproposal, or, after Camp David, to tell the larger world exactly what was wrong with the Israeli offer. Certainly the latter failure was a public-relations disaster, and it is one reason Arafat has been depicted as the problem ever since. (An aide to Arafat has said that he kept quiet after Camp David out of respect for Clinton’s interests. )

As for the failure to be clearer at the negotiations themselves: In the Malley and Agha account, this reticence—which Malley found maddening—emerges as a product not just of Arafat’s peculiar psychology, but of a specific Palestinian concern. In any event, depicting the Palestinian silence at Camp David as signifying opposition to a two-state solution doesn’t mesh well with subsequent events. In the ensuing months, Palestinian negotiators got quite explicit about their position. By the time of the Taba negotiations, they were drawing maps and talking numbers: Israel could annex 3 percent of the West Bank and compensate Palestine with the same amount of land from Israel proper.

The Israelis, for their part, had sweetened the pot considerably by the time they got to Taba—most notably in accepting Palestinian sovereignty over Haram al-Sharif. They also made the land offers more generous. But they didn’t really offer “97 percent of the West Bank,” as has been asserted not just in such right-wing outlets as National Review and the Fox News channel, but in Newsweek, the Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. The Israelis offered 94 percent of the West Bank—a 6-percent annexing—and then offered to compensate the Palestinians with land from Israel proper equaling 3 percent of the West Bank. That is, they offered a total land mass as large as 97 percent of the West Bank.

Taba was a big step forward. A 2-to-1 land swap sure beats a 9-to-1 swap. But it still left Arafat having to answer the obvious question: Um, why not 1-to-1? If Israel really accepts the principle that pre-1967 borders are a valid goal except where rendered impractical by demographic “facts on the ground,” then shouldn’t it offer fair recompense for the land being withheld—especially since it created those facts on the ground, in some cases cynically? Israel’s Taba position also left in place some details—no Palestinian military, for example—that made the term “statehood” a bit misleading.

More important, by the time of Taba, the whole political environment had changed. In September, Barak had allowed Ariel Sharon to make his famous visit to Haram al-Sharif, which many observers consider the spark that ignited the current intifada. Given the only deepening mistrust between Arafat and Israel, America was, more than ever, a vital guarantor of any deal. Yet President Clinton was by then a lame duck, and comments from President-elect Bush had made clear his limited enthusiasm for Middle East peace brokering.

Arafat may also have been troubled by the fact that Barak seemed doomed to lose upcoming elections to Ariel Sharon, who probably wouldn’t honor a Barak-negotiated deal. Maybe Arafat can be blamed here. Assuming he realized that a deal at Taba was the only thing that could save Barak’s government, thus keeping Sharon out of office, maybe he should have decided that, for the sake of his people, he would seize the moment, notwithstanding the shaky foundation of an America-less deal. But the question before us isn’t whether Arafat is a humane, creative, visionary leader—he’s roughly the opposite along all three dimensions. The question is whether Arafat’s behavior at Camp David and afterward are incomprehensible unless we assume he never really wanted a two-state solution. This is the interpretation favored by Ariel Sharon and many others on the right—as well as such former peaceniks as Rabbi Weiner. And, in my view, this interpretation just doesn’t survive close scrutiny of the facts.

So, how did it arise?

In late 1988, during the first (and essentially nonviolent) intifada, I was in Israel. One afternoon I had a drink with the legendary Teddy Kollek, mayor of Jerusalem. I asked Kollek what he thought the Palestinians would accept in the way of territory. He looked at me with a conspicuous lack of concern and said knowingly, “Whatever they can get.”

Ideologically, Kollek was no Ariel Sharon. So, I’m guessing that he was reflecting a mainstream Israeli view: that Israel was in the catbird seat and could eventually cut a nearly painless deal with the Palestinians. That would explain why, when Camp David hit the airwaves, the papers were full of stories about how a taboo had been broken in Israel: There was now serious discussion of ceding parts of Jerusalem! Never mind that the parts of East Jerusalem Barak was willing to cede didn’t constitute nearly what had been under Arab control before 1967. The idea of actually returning to anything like the much-discussed “pre-1967 borders” simply hadn’t been taken seriously in Israel before.

So, it’s natural that many Israelis would share Rabbi Weiner’s view of Barak’s offer as “so generous.” They had never looked at things from the Palestinian point of view. Barak’s proposals were, in the context of Israeli politics, path-breaking and courageous. But, as Malley wrote in a New York Times op-ed that is a CliffsNotes version of his NYRB piece, “[T]he measure of Israel’s concessions ought not be how far it has moved from its own starting point; it must be how far it has moved toward a fair solution.”

Of course, the bias was symmetrical. Palestinians, by and large, had never looked at things from Israel’s point of view. One of many valid criticisms of Arafat is that he had never tried to change that—never paved the way for the various compromises that would ultimately be necessary; he had never really been a leader. Still, if many Israelis were shocked in the summer of 2000 to hear that parts of Jerusalem were on the bargaining table, it would seem that Israel’s succession of leaders hadn’t done much road-paving, either.

You can call Yasser Arafat many bad things and can use the Camp David negotiations to justify a number of them. But so far as I can tell, these negotiations don’t justify what they’re now being used to justify: the claim that the Palestinians will never accept a two-state solution, so Ariel Sharon’s search-and-destroy policy is the only option Israel has left. If it’s true that negotiations are now hopeless—and I genuinely don’t know if it is—that is largely due to things that have happened since the beginning of the second intifada. And here, as with Camp David, it would be naive to place the blame on either side alone.

Ref: slate

Arabic under fire

A child on Hamas TV talked of annihilating the Jews … or did she?
Memri, the “research institute” which specialises in translating portions of the Arabic media into English, has issued a video clip from a children’s programme on Hamas TV in which it claims that a Palestinian girl talked of becoming a suicide bomber and annihilating the Jews.

Memri – described by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman as “invaluable” – supplies translations free of charge to journalists, politicians and others, particularly in the US.

Though Memri claims to be “independent” and maintains that it does not “advocate causes or take sides”, it is run by Yigal Carmon, a former colonel in Israeli military intelligence. Carmon’s partner in setting up Memri was Meyrav Wurmser who in 1996 was one of the authors of the now-infamous “Clean Break” document which proposed reshaping Israel’s “strategic environment” in the Middle East, starting with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

In the Hamas video clip issued by Memri, a Mickey Mouse lookalike asks a young girl what she will do “for the sake of al-Aqsa”. Apparently trying to prompt an answer, the mouse makes a rifle-firing gesture and says “I’ll shoot”.

The child says: “I’m going to draw a picture.”

Memri’s translation ignores this remark and instead quotes the child (wrongly) as saying: “I’ll shoot.”

Pressed further by the mouse – “What are we going to do?” – the girl replies in Arabic: “Bidna nqawim.” The normal translation of this would be “We’re going to [or want to] resist” but Memri’s translation puts a more aggressive spin on it: “We want to fight.”

The mouse continues: “What then?”

According to Memri, the child replies: “We will annihilate the Jews.”

The sound quality on the clip is not very good, but I have listened to it several times (as have a number of native Arabic speakers) and we can hear no word that might correspond to “annihilate”.

What the girl seems to say is: “Bitokhoona al-yahood” – “The Jews will shoot us” or “The Jews are shooting us.”

This is followed by further prompting – “We are going to defend al-Aqsa with our souls and blood, or are we not?”

Again, the girl’s reply is not very clear, but it’s either: “I’ll become a martyr” or “We’ll become martyrs.”

In the context of the conversation, and in line with normal Arab-Islamic usage, martyrdom could simply mean being killed by the Israelis’ shooting. However, Memri’s translation of the sentence – “I will commit martyrdom” turns it into a deliberate act on the girl’s part, and Colonel Carmon has since claimed that it refers to suicide bombers.

The overall effect of this is to change a conversation about resistance and sacrifice into a picture of unprovoked and seemingly motiveless aggression on the part of the Palestinians. But why hype the content in this way? Hamas’s use of children’s TV for propaganda purposes is clearly despicable, as the BBC, the Guardian and others have noted, without any need to exaggerate its content.

Among those misled by Memri’s “translation” was Glenn Beck of CNN, who had planned to run it on his radio programme, until his producer told him to stop. Beck informed listeners this was because CNN’s Arabic department had found “massive problems” with it.

Instead of broadcasting the tape, Beck then invited Carmon on to the programme and gave him a platform to denounce CNN’s Arabic department, and in particular to accuse one of its staff, Octavia Nasr, of being ignorant about the language.

Carmon related a phone conversation he had had with Ms Nasr:

She said the sentence where it says [in Memri’s translation] “We are going to … we will annihilate the Jews”, she said: “Well, our translators hear something else. They hear ‘The Jews are shooting at us’.”

I said to her: “You know, Octavia, the order of the words as you put it is upside down. You can’t even get the order of the words right. Even someone who doesn’t know Arabic would listen to the tape and would hear the word ‘Jews’ is at the end, and also it means it is something to be done to the Jews, not by the Jews.”

And she insisted, no the word is in the beginning. I said: “Octavia, you just don’t get it. It is at the end” … She didn’t know one from two, I mean.

Carmon’s words succeeded in bamboozling Glenn “Israel shares my values” Beck, who told him: “This is amazing to me … I appreciate all of your efforts. I appreciate what you do at Memri, it is important work.

It was indeed amazing, because in defending Memri’s translation, Carmon took issue not only with CNN’s Arabic department but also with all the Arabic grammar books. The word order in a typical Arabic sentence is not the same as in English: the verb comes first and so a sentence in Arabic which literally says “Are shooting at us the Jews” means “The Jews are shooting at us”.

I have written about Memri’s tweaking of translations before. One example was its manipulation of Osama bin Laden’s speech on the eve of the last American presidential election (details here, at the end of the article). Another was an Egyptian newspaper’s interview with the mufti of Jerusalem. Memri’s translators changed the question: “How do you deal with the Jews who are besieging al-Aqsa and are scattered around it?” to “How do you feel about the Jews?” They then heavily edited the mufti’s words to give an anti-semitic-sounding reply to the new question.

The curious thing about all this is that Memri’s translations are usually accurate (though it is highly selective in what it chooses to translate and often removes things from their original context). When errors do occur, it’s difficult to attribute them to incompetence or accidental lapses. As in the case of the children’s TV programme, there appears to be a political motive.

The effect of this is to devalue everything Memri translates – good and bad alike. Responsible news organisations can’t rely on anything it says without going back and checking its translations against the original Arabic.

Ref: Guardian

Why Barak is wrong (a MUST read)

In an interview last week, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak laid the blame squarely on Yasser Arafat for the breakdown of the peace process. Here, Robert Malley and Hussein Agha counter his claims

The Camp David summit ended almost two years ago yet the various interpretations of what happened there and its aftermath continue to draw exceptional attention both in Israel and in the US. Ehud Barak’s interview with Benny Morris makes it clear why this is the case: Barak’s assessment that the talks failed because Yasser Arafat cannot make peace with Israel and that his answer to Israel’s unprecedented offer was to resort to terrorist violence has become central to the argument that Israel is in a fight for its survival against those who deny its very right to exist.

Barak’s central thesis is that the current Palestinian leadership wants “a Palestinian state in all of Palestine. What we see as self-evident, two states for two peoples, they reject”. Arafat, he concludes, seeks Israel’s “demise”.

On the question of the boundaries of the future state, the Palestinian position was for a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967 borders, living alongside Israel. At Camp David, Arafat’s negotiators accepted the notion of Israeli annexation of West Bank territory to accommodate settlements, though they insisted on a one-for-one swap of land “of equal size and value.” The Palestinians argued that the annexed territory should neither affect the contiguity of their own land nor lead to the incorporation of Palestinians into Israel.

The ideas put forward by President Clinton at Camp David fell well short of those demands. In order to accommodate Israeli settlements, he proposed a deal by which Israel would annex 9% of the West Bank in exchange for turning over to the Palestinians parts of pre-1967 Israel equivalent to 1% of the West Bank. This proposal would have entailed the incorporation of tens of thousands of Palestinians into Israeli territory near the annexed settlements; and it would have meant that territory annexed by Israel would encroach deep inside the Palestinian state.

The suggestion made by some that the Camp David summit broke down over the Palestinians’ demand for a right of return simply is untrue: the issue was barely discussed between the two sides and President Clinton’s ideas mentioned it only in passing.

The Palestinians can be criticised for not having presented detailed plans at Camp David; but, as has been shown, it would be inaccurate to say they had no positions. It is also true that Barak broke a number of Israeli taboos and moved considerably from prior positions while the Palestinians believed they had made their historic concessions at Oslo, when they agreed to cede 78% of mandatory Palestine to Israel; they did not intend the negotiations to further whittle down what they already regarded as a compromise position.

Barak claims that the Palestinian position was tantamount to a denial of Israel’s right to exist and to seeking its destruction. The facts do not validate that claim. True, the Palestinians rejected the version of the two-state solution that was put to them. But it could also be said that Israel rejected the unprecedented two-state solution put to them by the Palestinians from Camp David onward, including the following provisions: a state of Israel incorporating some land captured in 1967 and including a very large majority of its settlers; the largest Jewish Jerusalem in the city’s history; preservation of Israel’s demographic balance between Jews and Arabs; security guaranteed by a US-led international presence.

The former prime minister’s remarks about other Arab leaders are misplaced. Arafat did not reach out to the people of Israel in the way President Sadat did. But unlike Sadat, he agreed to cede parts of the territory lost in 1967 – both in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

Barak claims that “Israel is too strong at the moment to defeat, so [the Palestinians] formally recognise it. But their game plan is to establish a Palestinian state while always leaving an opening for further ‘legitimate’ demands down the road.” Here Barak contradicts himself. For if that were the case, the logical course of action for Arafat would have been to accept Clinton’s proposals at Camp David, and even more so on December 23. He would then have had over 90% of the land and much of East Jerusalem, while awaiting, as Barak would have it, the opportunity to violate the agreement and stake a claim for more.

Barak focuses on the Palestinians’ deficiencies, and dismisses as trivial sideshows major political decisions crucial to the understanding of that failure. When he took office he chose to renegotiate the agreement on withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank, signed by Benjamin Netanyahu, rather than implement it. He delayed talks on the Palestinian track while he concentrated on Syria.

Barak’s apparent insensitivity to the way his statements might affect the other side is revealed. He characterises Palestinian refugees as “salmon” whose yearning to return to their land is somehow supposed to fade away in 80 years in a manner that the Jewish people’s never did, even after 2,000 years. When he denounces the idea that Israel should be a “state for all its citizens” he does not seem to realise that he risks alienating its many Arab citizens. Most troubling of all is his description of Arabs as people who “don’t suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judaeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category”. It is hard to know what to make of this disparaging judgment of an entire people. In the history of this particular conflict, neither Palestinians nor Israelis have a monopoly on unkept commitments or promises.

He rejects entirely the notion that Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif on September 28 2000, played any part in setting off the subsequent clashes. When we consider the context in which the visit was taking place – the intense focus on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif at Camp David and the general climate among Palestinians – its impact was predictable.

Barak suggests that Arafat had planned as his response to the Camp David summit a campaign of violent terror. That is a curious assertion in view of the fact that the Palestinians had argued that the parties were not ready for a summit and that Camp David should be understood as merely the first of a series of meetings. In contrast, as he knows well, Barak conceived of Camp David as a make-or-break-summit. He made clear early on that he foresaw only two possible outcomes: a full-scale agreement on the “framework” of a settlement, or a full-scale confrontation.

Barak’s broad endorsement of Israel’s current military campaign is cause for perhaps the greatest dismay. He appears to have given up on the current Palestinian leadership, placing his hopes in the next generation, but is there any reason to believe that today’s children will grow up any less hardened and vengeful?

The Camp David process was the victim of failings on the Palestinian side; but it was also, and importantly, the victim of failings on Israel’s (and the United States’) part. By refusing to recognise this, Barak continues to obscure the debate and elude fundamental questions about where the quest for peace ought to go now.

Ref: Guardian

· Robert Malley was a member of the Clinton team at Camp David. Hussein Agha is a senior associate member of St Anthony’s College, Oxford. This is an edited version of their response to Benny Morris’s interview with Ehud Barak. Both articles are published in the current New York Review of Books.

“Israel is deeply deeply sadden” rethoric + Gaza: The Killing Zone – Israel/Palestine

: this is how they come served;
the lies.
the rethoric of killing.
the propaganda!
and the image building PR process “Israel bla bla bla”.

who is supplying Israel with their bombs?
what was the ratio of the Israel aggression in Lebanon?
and what was the damage in “infrastructure” in Israel Lebanon?
yeah… let´s not attend to that but to the slogan that “Israel might
get wiped out from the map”. security of a few first on the bloods
of others…

Israel is a colonial racist killing machine!
Killing by Israel is banality.
This banality must be questioned!!!

: a

Ref: Journeyman