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The Real Worry Should Be Sharon Not Arafat
T he recently released text of the Geneva Accord seems about as good a deal as could be worked out for a Two-State Solution, unless it’s already too late for any such venture. Till now almost everything that had been put forward was an “agreement to go on trying to agree,” which led to disillusionment and nothing of lasting substance. The new proposal has dealt with all the difficult points—and both the Israeli and Palestinian participants have agreed to it.
Secret negotiations, held mainly in Geneva and with the help of Swiss diplomats, have proceeded for more than two years between Israeli and Palestinian delegations, consisting largely of left- wing former and current politicians (including former cabinet ministers from both sides), retired Israeli military officers, writers, and academics. Contrary to the prevailing Israeli lament that there is no one to talk to, significant breakthrough negotiations have brought about a 50-page agreement on all major issues.
Revelations of the highlights of the accord on October 12, 2003 brought mixed reactions—from cautious optimism to outright fury. The Palestinian Authority appears to support the initiative, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad are expected to reject it. Although an early poll in Israel shows about 40 percent support, the Sharon government has vigorously denounced it. Sharon has proclaimed that no agreement is possible if Arafat is involved, saying, “This man is the greatest obstacle to peace. Therefore, Israel has committed to removing him from the political arena.” Why this fixation on Arafat as an insurmountable problem?
Arafat is corrupt and naïve, filled with his own sense of self-importance. He’s almost totally ineffectual and in poor health. Meantime, it’s astonishing that for Israel and most Jews in general, the major concern is Arafat, to the exclusion of almost all other possibilities, including this new accord. The real concern for Israeli people, and all diaspora Jews, should be Sharon and his regime. For one thing, for what it’s worth, Arafat has apparently “blessed the initiative.” On the other hand, Sharon is apoplectic about it, calling it “high treason,” and Barak dismisses it as “delusional.”
A Knesset member and leader of an Israeli political party has written to Israel’s attorney general demanding that the Israeli participants should be charged with treason and sentenced to death. Since Eichmann is the only person ever executed by Israel, does this demand for a death penalty indicate that for some Israelis even an unofficial peace proposal is comparable to the crimes of Eichmann? How is it that the Israeli government is so touchy about the prospect of a peace proposal? But, as Uri Avnery said, “That’s no wonder, considering that there is no greater danger to Sharon and his grand design than the danger of peace.”
The Sharon government wouldn’t dream of a One-State Solution nor would it agree to a realistic and viable Two-State Solution; so what are the alternatives for them?
The first is a continuation of the status quo, i.e., continue with the repressive military occupation of the Occupied Territories. But, in less than ten years the Palestinians will outnumber the Jewish population. So if Israel continues as a “democracy,” it will cease to be a Jewish state since Jews will be in a minority. Alternatively, Israel or a “Jewish state” could survive as a “non-democracy” by militarily dominating a steadily enlarging Arab majority, deprived of civic rights, thereby becoming an apartheid regime.
The second alternative: at an opportune time, Israel could conduct massive violent ethnic cleansing with tanks and troops in which the entire Palestinian population (about three million or more) would be driven out of biblical “Greater Israel” to the Jordan River. Lacking an “opportune time,” a simple escalation of the present policy could starve the Palestinians of land, food, and a livelihood, leaving them no option but to go into exile in the millions. Both these approaches are war crimes under the Geneva Conventions. Either way, for Sharon this would be the completion of his grand design. But where would this leave Israel and the Jewish diaspora?
Taking over the Palestinian territories and incorporating them officially into the Israeli state would be an illegal land grab, in violation of international law (aside from the war crimes aspect). Certainly, over the years Israel has consistently thumbed its nose at world public opinion and ignored countless UN resolutions, but such a course of action by Israel would push it beyond the pale and it would become a permanent international pariah. Without a doubt Israel would be faced with trade sanctions by a wide range of countries. Forget about any “peace” with the Arab world. Sure, Israel has its weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, but this constant military preparedness would haunt and undermine the state and its people. The Sugar Daddy U.S. will some day have a change of government and, together with concerns about Middle East oil security, it may change its policy towards Israel. What if there wasn’t over $5 billion coming in each year?
How long before the Israeli people would rue the day they didn’t listen to Ben-Gurion when he advised them in 1967 to withdraw from all the territory they conquered. Or heed the words of the “non-Jewish Jew” Isaac Deutscher who also urged Israel to withdraw to its 1967 boundaries. Deutscher compared the Jews who were fleeing post-Hitler Europe to people jumping out of a burning building and the Palestinians to innocent passersby who were crushed by the fall—the Jews had a right to escape, but they also had an obligation to make amends to the Palestinians.
What about Diaspora Jews? They can’t influence Israeli policies, but they nevertheless are identified with them, especially since Israel insists on their allegiance. So, unfortunately, the behavior of Israel affects the way many people look at Jews. Misdirected efforts to get back at Israel may put innocent diaspora Jews in harm’s way. Although anti-Semitism has many causes, it can’t just be coincidental that Sharon’s anti-terrorism campaign against the Palestinians has been accompanied by a recent upsurge in anti-Semitism worldwide. Also, Israel’s flouting of UN resolutions and disregard of world public opinion are matters to consider too.
In my own circle of Jewish friends, they all lament the fact that Judaism’s concern for ethics is being undermined by Israeli policies that make a mockery of this traditional Jewish virtue. Put much more bluntly by Norman Finkel- stein (professor, writer, Holocaust researcher, and the son of survivors of the Holocaust), if Israelis object to being compared to Nazis, they should stop acting like Nazis. There’s no question about it, Israeli policies affect the lives of Diaspora Jews.
Tony Judt’s recent article in the New York Review of Books , “Israel: The Alternative,” is timely, apropos, and challenging. He feels it may be too late to establish a Two-State Solution and hence the most rational alternative is the One-State Solution—as Edward Said had long advocated. This would give all the people in a combined Israel/Palestine state equal citizenship and equal rights—hence a single, integrated, binational state of Jews and Palestinians. This might indeed be the most rational solution. Yet, we now have the Geneva Accord, with a seemingly viable Two-State Solution. However, this would never take place under a Sharon government—could one imagine Sharon ordering the dismantling of his cherished settlements, with some 250,000 inhabitants? Hence Judt’s pessimism, but with a challenge for a new solution.
A leading Israeli historian, Martin van Creveld, in an article a few months back, pointed out that Sharon considers Jordan to be the real Palestinian state, and, by inference, that’s where all Palestinians should eventually be located. As Creveld says, Sharon “has always harbored a very clear plan—nothing less than to rid Israel of the Palestinians.” According to Creveld, Israel has worked out a detailed military plan on how to expel the entire West Bank Palestinian population of two million or more in a lightning strike, all in a matter of about eight days. All that would be required is a suitable pretext and an opportune political moment. There’s a strange ambivalence in the views of the Israeli public on this—over half the population would like to see the settlements dismantled, yet almost half would agree to Palestinian “transfer” under the “right” con- ditions.
What’s the rationale for the establishment of the settlements in the Occupied Territories? If this was to bring security to Israel, it’s done the opposite. Actually, it’s a clear violation of international law and countless UN resolutions. Why should Israelis be surprised that Palestinians resist being under military occupation? Under international law, they have the right to resist. Though occupation and repression cannot justify terrorism against civilians, the way to end the Palestinian crimes is to end the occupation that inspires the Palestinians to commit them. The response to justified Palestinian anger should be justice, not more repression. As for the constant Israeli refrain for the Palestinians to “stop the violence,” it’s the Palestinians who have suffered almost four times the fatalities that Israel has in the current round of hostilities.
As for Golda Meir’s comment about Palestinians teaching their children to hate Jews, an article from the Jewish Voice for Peace has this observation: “A Palestinian child who is awakened at dawn by Israeli soldiers demolishing his home and uprooting the family’s olive grove does not need anyone to tell him to hate.” It’s Israeli actions over the past 35 years that have exacerbated previous ill-feelings and have now brought Palestinian anger to a boiling point. At this stage, any kind of solution is not going to be easy, but to pretend that this is all the fault of “sub-human” Arabs and that Israelis are blameless for the violence and hatred that they face is delusional.
The grim reality of the situation is that the Sharon government appears to have no intention of concluding any kind of “peace agreement” that would bring about a fair and just solution to the region’s problems. They intend to “solve” the problem with military force and if that doesn’t work, more military force would be applied, until there is a “solution” to the Arab problem—the eventual expulsion of the Palestinian population—and the achievement of a territorial Greater Israel.
There are two courses of action that Israel would be wise to reject. The first is to simply maintain the present status quo, which in a fairly short time will devolve into an apartheid regime with ever increasing military repression trying to control an ever enlarging Palestinian population, bereft of any democratic rights. The second is the almost unthinkable proposal to conduct massive ethnic cleansing to remove the Palestinian population (passively or violently) in order to create a majority Jewish state within a substantial part of biblical Greater Israel.
Israel does have two alternatives that could enable its people to live at peace with the Palestinians and with its Arab neighbors. The first is the Two-State Solution that could perhaps come about from the implementation of the Geneva Accord. The second is a One-State Solution, which would give the people of a combined Israel/Palestine state equal citizenship and equal rights— i.e., a single, integrated, binational state of Jews and Palestinians. Both alternatives present challenges, but with either one there could be a prospect for peace in the region.
John Ryan is a retired professor of geography and senior scholar at the University of Winnipeg. His has traveled to the Middle East, Egypt, and Israel.
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AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
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ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
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MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
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BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
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 scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
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LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
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VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
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ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.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 University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & 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.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
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 throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
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LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
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 branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, 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.
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CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
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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 in the world.
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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.
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LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
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WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
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HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
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SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
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WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.