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Israel’s New Government, Old Policies
C oming only four weeks after the European declaration of sanctions against the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s announcement in May of a new Israeli government should raise questions in any Western country interested in a “balanced” approach towards the Middle East.
It appears that the explicitly racist Yisrael Beiteinu party, which advocates creating an Israel cleansed of Palestinians, will now not be a coalition partner, though Olmert remains open to the idea of their entry into government—as apparently does the Labor Party, which has joined Kadima in the coalition. Nonetheless, Olmert’s government does contain many politicians responsible for the last five years of terror and impoverishment on the West Bank. Consider the denunciation of violence. During the week of April 12, the Israeli Army fired more than 950 artillery tank shells and 46 F16 missiles in this densely populated, supposedly free Gaza strip. Overall 19 Palestinians were killed by the Army, including 3 children, during that week.
In January Prime Minister Olmert made clear that, “We firmly stand by the historic right of the people of Israel to the entire Land of Israel. Every hill in Samaria and every valley in Judea [the West Bank] is part of our historic homeland.” This is the same, in reverse, as Hamas’s historical claim to the whole of mandate Palestine, which the West believes makes them unsuitable for governing. Moreover Olmert doesn’t stop at theory: “Israel will maintain control over the security zones, the Jewish settlement blocs, and those places which have supreme national importance to the Jewish people, first and foremost a united Jerusalem under Israeli sov ereignty.”
In other words, in violation of international law, the Oslo Accords, and the Road Map, Olmert has clearly stated that he will incorporate the largest settlement outposts in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, into Israel proper, and re-draw the map to include an Israeli presence on the eastern side of Palestine in the Jordan valley. Any state that results from this exercise will be cut into several sections, with no control over its borders or its international and trade relations or its security—it will have no sovereignty. In no way does this constitute recognition of a Palestinian state.
The majority of Israel’s political establishment, including the governments of Sharon and Olmert, have spent many years preventing the emergence of a two-state solution through expanding settlements, the Separation Wall, a system of racist settler roads, gateways, and tunnels, which have resulted in two people living separate and unequal lives within the Occupied Territories themselves. Indeed, this was the conclusion of EU diplomats in Jerusalem in a suppressed report leaked before Christmas, as well as a more recent report by UN Human Right Special Rapporteur John Duggard last month. Israeli peace activists such as Jeff Halper from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions are quite clear that “the two-state solution is now dead.”
And so it has come to pass. The 152,000 people employed by the PA—running health clinics, hospitals, primary and secondary schools —now face the real prospect of unemployment or non-payment of salaries. The World Bank and United Nations have predicted increases in poverty to around 75 percent of the population, and the economy is expected to shrink by 27 percent. In addition, Israel is trying to prevent the Palestinian government from functioning by preventing the free movement of ministers around Palestine and banning their travel to the outside world.
These steps have been condemned by all aid agencies and human rights campaigners working in the region. Amnesty International has said it is a dereliction of duty by the international community, and expresses concern that the decision to sever financial aid “could have very serious consequences impacting on the health, education, and other economic and social rights of Palestinians.” Indeed the consequences of the present course of action are well known throughout the world, after a leak from a cabinet meeting at which Israeli government advisor Dov Weisglass joked that the current policies would put the Palestinians on a “starvation diet.”
Yet this seems to mean nothing to the UK or the EU. Campaign Against the Arms Trade recently reported that UK arms sales to Israel have doubled over the last year —to $47 million. Since Sharon came to power the UK has sold $130 million worth of arms to Israel, including machines guns, tear gas, leg irons, components for surface to surface missiles, tanks, and helicopters. As coroner’s courts in the UK decided that journalists and peace campaigners James Miller and Tom Hurndall were murdered by the Israeli Army, barely a word was uttered by the Foreign Office. In contradistinction to the EU’s refusal to consider the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, to put pressure on Israel for its ongoing human rights abuses, sanctions on Palestine seemed to require little discussion or political will.
Hamas’s dream, one day, of a Palestinian state covering the whole of Israel/Palestine, is no different from the dream of the Prime Minister of Israel that Israel will one day (if not now) cover the same area. The difference is that one party is trying to put its dream into effect by a mixture of violence, breached agreement, and serious violation of international law. The other is abiding by a year-long ceasefire, and offering to extend it. Yet they don’t receive equality. One side, the occupier and the cause of poverty in Palestine, is given weapons, trade agreements, and the offer of a blind eye from the West; the other side has sanctions imposed and attempts to destabilize its democracy for daring to stand up to a 40-year occupation that the international community has done nothing to end despite its international obligations.
Hamas’s election was, among other factors, a result of Western hypocrisy and inactivity towards injustice in the Middle East over many decades. Its reactions to that election do not merely prove the point, but threaten devastation to an already desperate, deserted, and traumatized society. In the words of Seumas Milne in the Guardian recently, we are playing “a highly dangerous role...in the most inflammatory conflict on the planet”—one that risks a rising spiral of violence and impoverishment which will haunt the planet for many decades to come.
Nick Dearden is a member of War on Want (www.waronwant.org).
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
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BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
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NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
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GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
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IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
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