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VOLUME 10 NUMBER 1 AUTUMN 2007 RAMADAN 1428
3 5 9 13
Divide and rule, Israeli style JONATHAN COOK Boycott Israel RAJNAARA AKHTAR Armageddon Now STEPHEN SIZER Sewage Tsunami and Economic, Physical and Political Strangulation in Gaza ANNA BALTZER Islamic Libraries in Jerusalem MAZEN NUSSIEBEH
Ismail Adam Patel
Impress Printers, Batley. © 2007 Friend of Al-Aqsa
Papers, articles and comments on any issue relating to Palestine and the Middle East conflict. We especially encourage writings relating to the History, Politics, Architecture, Religion, International Law and Human Rights violations. The word count should not exceed 2,000 words. Reviews of Books relating to the issue of Palestine are also welcome and should not exceed 1,000 words. Letters on any related topics can also be sent and the Editor reserves the right to edit letters for the purpose of clarity. All contributions should be in Word format, Times New Roman font size 12 and sent to the Editor either via email or on a disc at the above address. It must include the author’s full name, address and a brief curriculum vitae.
BOOK REVIEWS Checkpoint Watch, Testimonies from Occupied Palestine by Yehudit Kirstein Keshet REVIEWED BY RAJNAARA AKHTAR Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine by Joel Kovel REVIEWED BY SAMUEL J. KURUVILLA Occupied Territories, The Untold Story of Israel’s Settlements by Gershom Gorenberg REVIEWED BY ALAN HART American Policy Toward Israel: The power and limits of beliefs by Michael Thomas REVIEWED BY RUQAIYYAH AHMED
E D I T O R I A L
hose who reject the Signs of Allah and the Meeting with Him (in the Hereafter), it is they who shall despair of My Mercy: it is they who will (suffer) a most grievous Penalty. May Allahs blessings be upon all His Prophets from Adam to His final Messenger Muhammad (saw). On 12 June 2007, weeks, months and years of oppressive measures and deliberately divisive policies culminated into a catastrophic seismic split in Palestinian society. For the first time in almost 60 years, the occupation was forgotten and Palestinian turned on Palestinian. This dire situation was altogether predictable for the simple reason that it was the direct result of Israeli and Western policy in the occupied territories, especially following the Hamas election victory of January 2006. The economic siege coupled with the favouring of one side against the other, was intended to sew seeds of division. Unfortunately, Fatah under Mr Abbas, aligned themselves with the occupiers and their supporters to undermine the legitimately elected government of Hamas. This left little choice but for Hamas to reinstall law and order which was severely fractured by Mohammed Dahlan along the political lines of Fatah. Israel sold the boycott of the Palestinians as a legitimate and necessary move in opposition to their support for a terrorist organisation. Thus, they achieved international backing to starve the Palestinians and break down their society. When the Unity government was formed, the sanctions did not ease at all, even though Hamas had made spectacular moves to accommodate Israel’s wishes. This made it clear that Israel’s actions were opportunistic rather than a direct response to a perceived threat. Since the Hamas/Fatah - Gaza/West Bank split, Mahmoud Abbas has formed his own government (almost unanimously accepted as being illegal by the impartial observer), and has began ‘peace’ talks with Prime Minister Olmert. This has led commentators to conclude that he has, in true Fatah style, sold out the Palestinian people and their struggle for justice, in favour of personal gain, power and glory. The US and Israeli response was open armed welcome, and a clear stamp of approval for the move from democracy to dictatorship in the Palestinian Territories. Reports which emerged in Mid-August suggested that Abbas was taking it upon himself to ensure that his Palestinian brethren in Gaza were being denied access to the outside world with the closing of the Rafah border crossing. While publicly Abbas continues to call for the borders to be opened immediately to avert further suffering
in what has become a humanitarian catastrophe, in private it is reported that he wants the border to remain firmly closed with the sole purpose of choking Hamas. While the effects on Hamas are still not clear, what is clear is that Gaza’s 1.4 million Palestinians are all suffering and are all but a few reliant on international aid for survival. Gaza’s industries have all collapsed as there are no more raw materials to sustain them. The fishing industry continues to suffer from bars on entering Gaza’s militarily monitored waters. No Palestinian in Gaza has been left unaffected by this man-made tragedy. Calls have been made by aid agencies, including the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) for a besieged Gaza’s borders to be re-opened in order to prevent 100% reliance on aid. These calls have gone largely unheard. Further to the misery inside the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians remained trapped outside the border on the Egyptian or Israeli side waiting desperately to get home. 31 of these Palestinians have died in these inhumane conditions, and many are ill as their travel to Egypt or Israel was for medical treatment. Those who have died include 27 year old Wael Abu Warda who died on August 4 from Kidney failure while waiting at Erez crossing, separating Gaza from Israel, A twist of events at the UN clearly reflects the seriousness of this split, where the Palestinian Ambassador to the UN himself opposed a draft Resolution proposed by Qatar and seconded by Indonesia, which expressed concern over the humanitarian disaster intensifying in the Gaza Strip. This resolution was intended to embarrass Israel into lifting its siege on Gaza, and the Abbas government worked in collusion with Israel and the US Zionist lobby to kill the draft. They were successful, and Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour justified this disgusting behaviour on the grounds that “it is unacceptable for anyone, including friends, to act on our behalf without our knowledge and no one should take such initiatives without consulting us.” Thus, Gaza’s Palestinians remain imprisoned, with all necessities in scarce supply including medicine, food, electricity, fuel, and clean water. The suffering continues in Gaza, while Abbas wines and dines with Olmert in the West Bank. This division between the Palestinians is historic, as for the first time, there has emerged a group of people who have forgotten that their fight is against their occupiers, not each other for a seat of power.
A YOUTH EXCHANGE PROGRAMME WITH AN NAJAH NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, NABLUS, PALESTINE
Divide and rule, Israeli style
he boycott by Israel and the international community of the Palestinian Authority finally blew up in their faces with Hamas’ bloody takeover of Gaza in June 2007. Or so argued Gideon Levy, one of the saner voices still found in Israel. “Starving, drying up and blocking aid do not sear the consciousness and do not weaken political movements. On the contrary ... Reality has refuted the chorus of experts and commentators who preached [on] behalf of the boycott policy. This daft notion that it is possible to topple an elected government by applying pressure on a helpless population suffered a complete failure.” But did Levy get it wrong? The faces of Israeli and American politicians, including Ehud Olmert and George W. Bush, appeared sootfree. On the contrary, during the Gaza violence they were looking and sounding even more smug than usual. The problem with Levy’s analysis was that it assumes that Israel and the US wanted sanctions to bring about the fall of Hamas, either by giving Fatah the upper hand so that it could deal a knockout blow to the Palestinian government, or by inciting ordinary Palestinians to rise up and demand that their earlier electoral decision be reversed and Fatah reinstalled. In short, Levy, like most observers, assumes that the policy was designed to enforce regime change. But what if that was not the point of the sanctions? And if so, what goals were Israel and the US pursuing? The parallels between Iraq and Gaza may be instructive. After all, Iraq is the West’s only other recent experiment in imposing sanctions to starve a nation. And we all know where it led: to an even deeper entrenchment of Saddam Hussein’s rule. True, the circumstances in Iraq and Gaza are different: most Iraqis wanted Saddam out but had no way to effect change, while most
Gazans wanted Hamas in and made it happen by voting for them in last year’s elections. Nevertheless, it may be that the US and Israel drew a different lesson from the sanctions experience in Iraq. Whether intended or not, sanctions proved a very effective tool for destroying the internal bonds that held Iraqi society together. Destitution and hunger are powerful incentives to turn on one’s neighbor as well as one’s enemy. A society where resources - food, medicines, water and electricity - are in short supply is also a society where everyone looks out for himself. It is a society that, with a little prompting, can easily be made to tear itself apart. And that is precisely what the Americans began to engineer after their “shock and awe” invasion of 2003. Contrary to previous US interventions abroad, Saddam was not toppled and replaced with another strongman - one more to the West’s liking. Instead of regime change, we were given regime overthrow. Or as Daniel Pipes, one of the neoconservative ideologues of the attack on Iraq, expressed it, the goal was “limited to destroying tyranny, not sponsoring its replacement ... Fixing Iraq is neither the coalition’s responsibility nor its burden.” In place of Saddam, the Americans created a safe haven known as the Green Zone from which its occupation regime could loosely police the country and oversee the theft of Iraq’s oil, while also sitting back and watching a sectarian civil war between the Sunni and Shia populations spiral out of control and decimate the Iraqi population. What did Washington hope to achieve? Pipes offers a clue: “When Sunni terrorists target Shiites and vice-versa, non-Muslims [that is, US occupation forces and their allies] are less likely to be hurt. Civil war in Iraq, in
This daft notion that it is possible to topple an elected government by applying pressure on a helpless population suffered a complete failure
1. JONATHAN COOK is a freelance journalist based in the Palestinian city of Nazareth. He is a regular contributor to the English-language Arab media, including Al-Ahram Weekly in Cairo, the Daily Star in Beirut and the website al-Jazeera.net. His book Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State (Pluto Press, London, 2006) examines Israel’s treatment of its Arab citizens during the second intifada. Al-Aqsa 5
The cumulative effect of US support for Fatah, as well as Israel’s continuing arrests of Hamas legislators in the West Bank, was to strain already tense relations between Hamas and Fatah to breaking point
short, would be a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one.” In other words, enabling a civil war in Iraq was far preferable to allowing Iraqis to unite and mount an effective resistance to the US occupation. After all, Iraqi deaths - at least 650,000 of them, according to the last realistic count - are as good as worthless, while US soldiers’ lives cost votes back home. For the neocon cabal behind the Iraq invasion, civil war was seen to have two beneficial outcomes. First, it eroded the solidarity of ordinary Iraqis, depleting their energies and making them less likely to join or support the resistance to the occupation. The insurgency has remained a terrible irritation to US forces but not the fatal blow it might have been were the Sunni and Shia to fight side by side. As a result, the theft of Iraq’s resources has been made easier. And second, in the longer term, civil war is making inevitable a slow process of communal partition and ethnic cleansing. Four million Iraqis are reported to have been forced either to leave the country or flee their homes. Iraq is being broken up into small ethnic and religious fiefdoms that will be easier to manage and manipulate. Is this the model for Gaza now and the West Bank later? It is worth recalling that neither Israel nor the US pushed for an easing of the sanctions on the Palestinian Authority after the national unity government of Hamas and Fatah was formed earlier this year. In fact, the US and Israel could barely conceal their panic at the development. The moment the Mecca agreement was signed, reports of US efforts to train and arm Fatah forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas became a newspaper staple. The cumulative effect of US support for Fatah, as well as Israel’s continuing arrests of Hamas legislators in the West Bank, was to strain already tense relations between Hamas and Fatah to breaking point. When Hamas learned that Abbas’ security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, with US encouragement, was preparing to carry out a coup against them in Gaza, they got the first shot in. Did Fatah really believe it could pull off a coup in Gaza, given the evident weakness of its forces there, or was the rumour little more than American and Israeli spin, designed to undermine Hamas’ faith in Fatah and doom the unity government? Were Abbas and Dahlan really hoping to topple Hamas, or were they the useful idiots needed by the US and Israel? These are questions that may have to be settled by the historians. But with the fingerprints of Elliott Abrams, one of the more durable neocons in the Bush
administration, to be found all over this episode, we can surmise that what Washington and Israel are intending for the Palestinians will have strong echoes of what has unfolded in Iraq. By engineering the destruction of the unity government, Israel and the US have ensured that there is no danger of a new Palestinian consensus emerging, one that might have cornered Israel into peace talks. A unity government might have found a formula offering Israel: limited recognition inside the pre-1967 borders in return for recognition of a Palestinian state and the territorial integrity of the West Bank and Gaza; a long-term ceasefire in return for Israel ending its campaign of constant violence and violations of Palestinian sovereignty; and a commitment to honor past agreements in return for Israel’s abiding by UN resolutions and accepting a just solution for the Palestinian refugees. After decades of Israeli bad faith, and the growing rancor between Fatah and Hamas, the chances of them finding common ground on which to make such an offer, it must be admitted, would have been slight. But now they are non-existent. That is exactly how Israel wants it, because it has no interest in meaningful peace talks with the Palestinians or in a final agreement. It wants only to impose solutions that suit Israel’s interests, which are securing the maximum amount of land for an exclusive Jewish state and leaving the Palestinians so weak and divided that they will never be able to mount a serious challenge to Israel’s dictates. Instead, Hamas’ dismal authority over the prison camp called Gaza and Fatah’s bastard governance of the ghettoes called the West Bank offer a model more satisfying for Israel and the US - and one not unlike Iraq. A sort of sheriff ’s divide and rule in the Wild West. Just as in Iraq, Israel and the US have made sure that no Palestinian strongman arises to replace Yasser Arafat. Just as in Iraq, they are encouraging civil war as an alternative to resistance to occupation; while Palestine’s resources - land, not oil - are stolen. Just as in Iraq, they are causing a permanent and irreversible partition, in this case between the West Bank and Gaza, to create more easily managed territorial ghettoes. And just as in Iraq, the likely
Just as in Iraq, they are encouraging civil war as an alternative to resistance to occupation; while Palestine’s resources – land, not oil – are stolen
reaction is an even greater extremism from the Palestinians that will undermine their cause in the eyes of the international community. Where will this lead the Palestinians next? Israel is already pulling the strings of Fatah with a new adeptness since the latter’s humiliation in Gaza. Abbas is currently basking in Israeli munificence for his rogue West Bank regime, including the decision to release a substantial chunk of the $700 million tax monies owed to the Palestinians (including those of Gaza, of course) and withheld for months by Israel. The price, according to the Israeli media, was a commitment from Abbas not to contemplate re-entering a unity government with Hamas. The goal will be to increase the strains between Hamas and Fatah to breaking point in the West Bank, but ensure that Fatah wins the confrontation there. Fatah is already militarily stronger and with generous patronage from Israel and the US — including arms and training, and possibly the return of the Badr Brigade currently holed up in Jordan - it should be able to rout Hamas. The difference in status between Gaza and the West Bank that has been long desired by Israel will be complete. The Palestinian people have already been carved up into a multitude of constituencies. There are the Palestinians under occupation, those living as second-class citizens of Israel, those allowed to remain “residents” of Jerusalem, and those dispersed to camps across the Middle East. Even within these groups, there are a host of sub-identities: refugees and non-refugees; refugees included as citizens in their host state and those excluded; occupied Palestinians living under the control of the Palestinian Authority and those under Israel’s military government; and so on. Now, Israel has entrenched maybe the most significant division of all: the absolute and irreversible separation of Gaza and the West Bank. What applies to one will no longer be true for the other. Each will be a separate case; their fates will no longer be tied. One will be, as Israelis like to call it, Hamastan, and other Fatahland, with separate governments and different treatment from Israel and the international community. The reasons why Israel prefers this arrangement are manifold First, Gaza can now be written off by the international community as a basket case. The Israeli media is currently awash with patronizing commentary from the political and security
establishments about how to help avoid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the possibility of air drops of aid over the Gaza “security fence” - as though Gaza were Pakistan after an earthquake. From past experience, and the current menacing sounds from Israel’s new Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, those food packages will quickly turn into bombs if Gaza does not keep quiet. As Israeli and US officials have been phrasing it, there is a new “clarity” in the situation. In a Hamastan, Gaza’s militants and civilians can be targeted by Israel with little discrimination and no outcry from the international community. Israel will hope that message from Gaza will not be lost on West Bank Palestinians as they decide who to give their support to, Fatah or Hamas. Second, Olmert and Bush have revived talk of Palestinian statehood. According to Olmert, Bush “wants to realize, while he is in office, the dream of creating a Palestinian state.” Both are keen to make quick progress, a sure sign of mischief in the making. Certainly, they know they are now under no pressure to create the single viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza once promised by President Bush. An embattled Abbas will not be calling for the inclusion of Gaza in his ghetto-fiefdom. Third, the separation of Gaza from the West Bank may be used to inject new life into Olmert’s shopworn convergence plan if he can dress it up in new clothes. Convergence, which required a very limited withdrawal from those areas of the West Bank heavily populated with Palestinians while Israel annexed most of its illegal colonies and kept the Jordan Valley, was officially ditched last summer after Israel’s humiliation by Hizballah. Why seek to revive convergence? Because it is the key to Israel securing the expanded Jewish fortress state that is its only sure protection from the rapid demographic growth of the Palestinians, soon to outnumber Jews in the Holy Land, and Israel’s fears that it may then be compared to apartheid South Africa. If the occupation continues unchanged, Israel’s security establishment has long been warning, the Palestinians will eventually wake up to the only practical response: to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s clever ruse to make the Palestinian leadership responsible for suppressing Palestinian resistance to the occupation, thereby forcing Israel to pick up the bill for the occupation rather than Europe. The next stage would be an anti-apartheid struggle for one state in historic Palestine.
Israel is already pulling the strings of Fatah with a new adeptness since the latter’s humiliation in Gaza
In a Hamastan, Gaza’s militants and civilians can be targeted by Israel with little discrimination and no outcry from the international community
Israel looks as if it is dusting off yet another blueprint for how to manage the Palestinians and their irritating obsession with sovereignty
For this reason, demographic separation from the Palestinians has been the logic of every major Israeli policy initiative since - and including Oslo. Convergence requires no loss of Israel’s control over Palestinian lives, ensured through the all but finished grid of walls, settlements, bypass roads and checkpoints, only a repackaging of their occupation as statehood. The biggest objection in Israel to Olmert’s plan - as well as to the related Gaza disengagement - was the concern that, once the army had unilaterally withdrawn from the Palestinian ghettoes, the Palestinians would be free to launch terror attacks, including sending rockets out of their prisons into Israel. Most Israelis, of course, never consider the role of the occupation in prompting such attacks. But Olmert may believe he has found a way to silence his domestic critics. For the first time he seems genuinely keen to get his Arab neighbours involved in the establishment of a Palestinian “state”. As he headed off to the Sharm al-Sheikh summit with Egypt, Jordan and Abbas, Olmert said he wanted to “jointly work to create the platform that may lead to a new beginning between us and the Palestinians.” Did he mean partnership? A source in the Prime Minister’s Office explained to The Jerusalem Post why the three nations and Abbas were meeting. “These are the four parties directly impacted by what is happening right now, and what is needed is a different level of cooperation between them.” Another spokesman bewailed the failure so far to get the Saudis on board. This appears to mark a sea change in Israeli thinking. Until now Tel Aviv has regarded the Palestinians as a domestic problem. After all, they are sitting on land that rightfully, at least if the Bible is to be believed, belongs to the Jews. Any attempt at internationalizing the conflict has therefore been strenuously resisted. But now the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office is talking openly about getting the Arab world
more directly involved, not only in its usual role as a mediator with the Palestinians, nor even in simply securing the borders against smuggling, but also in policing the territories. Israel hopes that Egypt, in particular, is as concerned as Tel Aviv by the emergence of a Hamastan on its borders, and may be enticed to use the same repressive policies against Gaza’s Islamists as it does against its own. Similarly, Olmert’s chief political rival, Binyamin Netanyahu of Likud, has mentioned not only Egyptian involvement in Gaza but even a Jordanian military presence in the West Bank. The “moderate” Arab regimes, as Washington likes to call them, are being seen as the key to developing new ideas about Palestinian “autonomy” and regional “confederation.” As long as Israel has a quisling in the West Bank and a beyondthe-pale government in Gaza, it may believe it can corner the Arab world into backing such a “peace plan.” What will it mean in practice? Possibly, as Zvi Barel of Haaretz speculates, we will see the emergence of half a dozen Palestinian governments in charge of the ghettoes of Gaza, Ramallah, Jenin, Jericho, and Hebron. Each may be encouraged to compete for patronage and aid from the “moderate” Arab regimes but on condition that Israel and the US are satisfied with these Palestinian governments’ performance. In other words, Israel looks as if it is dusting off yet another blueprint for how to manage the Palestinians and their irritating obsession with sovereignty. Last time, under Oslo, the Palestinians were put in charge of policing the occupation on Israel’s behalf. This time, as the Palestinians are sealed into their separate prisons masquerading as a state, Israel may believe that it can find a new jailer for the Palestinians - the Arab world.
oycott as a tool for fighting state sponsored oppression and repression has been used successfully in the past against states such as South Africa at the height of apartheid. Such moves towards boycott are the response of civil society where governments themselves fail to act. This is the medium used by individuals and groups to make clear their position and force a change in policies from their governments. Since 2002, Israel has found itself at the end of a concerted and sustained campaign calling for economic, cultural, academic and sporting boycotts. The call for boycotting Israel has become necessary after decades of illegal occupation and denial of basic human rights to an occupied people and the commission of innumerable war crimes by the state of Israel. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a coalition of more than 50 Palestinian civil society organisations; first made a call for boycott in 2004. During the last 3 years the momentum has grown significantly, especially in Britain and also in countries such as Canada, South Africa and the USA. The call to boycott Israel is being made at many levels with the aim of enforcing an end to its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. The occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip began following the 6 Day War in 1967. Since then, Israel has been responsible for committing innumerable war crimes against the Palestinian people which have been documented by various human rights organisations.2 Moves towards boycott, or in the very least, discussions about boycott or some form of condemnation has emanated from a number of professional bodies, unions and other organisations. These include teachers, doctors, architects, trade unions and sports tournaments. Education In May 2007, the University and College Union (UCU) supported motions endorsing the logic
of academic boycott against Israel, in response to what was termed the ‘complicity of the Israeli academy’ 3 in perpetuating Israel’s illegal military occupation of the Palestinian territories and the Israeli apartheid system. The Jewish Chronicle ran an article on June 15, 2007, naming the ‘boycott ringleaders’. It stated unequivocally that the boycott was being driven mainly by Jewish or Israeli activists who had taken this position in support of the rights of Palestinian people and because they wanted to see an end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. This was a surprising revelation as the popular portrayal of the move to boycott was that it was being spearheaded by a ‘racist’ few who were verging on the border of antiSemitism, and most probably a mix of the far-left activists and Islamic organisations. The organisations actually backing the boycott drive include Jews for the Boycotting of Israeli Goods, Bricup, Friewos of Al-Aqsa and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, most of whom have a significant Jewish presence. Professor Bresheeth from the University of East London has been quoted as saying the boycott movement was a “civil action against a military occupation”. He is one of the supporters of the academic boycott campaign. Other Jewish academics who support the boycott move do so because they feel outrage at Israel’s ‘brutal and illegal’ policies, carried out in their name. While to many the move to boycott makes perfect sense, the voices of dissent against the boycott have been ringing load and wide. Political figures were joined by academics, journalists and others, eager to combat such a move, arguing it was directly and diametrically opposed to the true nature of universities. Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks wrote: “It betrays a misunderstanding of the academic mission which is founded squarely on academic freedom of enquiry
the boycott was being driven mainly by Jewish or Israeli activists who had taken this position in support of the rights of Palestinian people
1. RAJNAARA AKHTAR is a researcher at Friends of Al-Aqsa. She is a law graduate with a Masters in Human Rights Law from the University of Nottingham. She is also a freelance writer and commentator, and the Chair of the campaign group Protect-Hijab. Al-Aqsa 9
It is not only Palestinian students who face discrimination, as the occupation policies also effect academics who are limited in their potential and purpose by the restrictions placed on their movement
and freedom of speech. Any institution worthy of the title of university has the responsibility to protect these values, and it is particularly disturbing to find an academic union attacking academic freedom in this way.”4 What Sir Jonathan Sacks and others who put forward similar arguments fail to recognise, is that this move to boycott Israeli academic institutions has materialised because of the very same failure to afford the academic freedom which they describe, to Palestinians. While many individuals have responded robustly to the threat of an academic boycott and its resultant restrictions on Israeli academia, these restrictions are merely a possibility. For Palestinians on the other hand, such restrictions and discrimination is part the parcel of life under Israeli occupation, yet Israeli academia has never objected to this treatment of their neighbours. The late Tania Reinhart, who was an academic in Tel-Aviv, said: “Never in its history did the senate of a any Israeli university pass a resolution protesting the frequent closure of Palestinian universities, let alone voice protest over the devastation sowed there [in the OT]....It is not that a motion in that direction failed to gather a majority, there was no such motion anywhere in Israeli academia.”5 There are numerous examples of Palestinian student being denied the right to education and to free movement to facilitate such education. Closures across the West Bank and Gaza Strip have led to the loss of hundreds of school days. School children and students have experienced great trauma while in class rooms and lecture halls, including the killing and injury of pupils as they sat at their desks, by Israeli snipers.6 While some opportunities become available for study in Israeli and other universities, the occupation policies means that few students are allowed to take up these positions. One example is that of Wisam Madhoon from Gaza who has a Masters degree in environmental engineering and was offered a place at Tel Aviv University to study environmental science at PhD level. However, the Israeli army refused to grant travel permission without explanation and thus he was unable to leave the occupied territories to enter Israel. There was no redress for Wisam and many like him suffer the same restrictions. Even when this restriction was challenged in the Israeli High Court, the ban on students from Gaza was upheld.7 Any Palestinian wishing to study for a PhD must go abroad as no Palestinian university is able to offer this programme. Thus, even Israel’s judiciary has in effect upheld a boycott of Palestinian students by the state of Israel and limited the academic freedom of Palestinians without question. Since October 2006, there has been in effect a blanket ban on
Palestinian students being allowed access to Israel and even Jerusalem in order to study.8 Bearing this in mind, it is clear why many have accused the Israeli academia and those in Britain who oppose the boycott on such terms; of hypocrisy and duplicity. It is not only Palestinian students who face discrimination, as the occupation policies also effect academics who are limited in their potential and purpose by the restrictions placed on their movement. Checkpoints and closure policies have meant that on some days, it has been impossible for academics to even reach their places of work. During the al-Aqsa intifada period, hundreds of school days were lost due to closures imposed on the occupied territories. 9 Palestinian academics have also faced discrimination in access to libraries and other facilities.10 In Britain, the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee Against AntiSemitism, Labour MP John Mann, promised to make approaches to every university in Britain in opposition to the move by the UCU to debate the issue of boycotting Israeli Universities. This exemplifies the response of many politicians to the boycott calls from various sectors, however, the persistence of the boycott movement seems a clear reflection of the mood of people on the ground. Professionals on many fronts, from academics, to architects and the medics are all becoming increasingly aware of Israel’s breaches of international law and its inhumane policies towards the occupied Palestinians. The excuses for Israel peddled by its supporters are typified by remarks from Denis Macshane who said in Parliament: “There is not a call for a boycott against people from universities in other countries where state practices are infinitely more odious that those undertaken by some agents of the government of Israel.” The fallacies of this argument are clear – while there is no doubt that regimes such as that in Zimbabwe and other African states are guilty of oppressing their people, these regimes do not claim to be beacons of democracy; these regimes are not being propped up by billions in aide from the Western world, and these regimes are not occupying the land of another people with impunity and denying them their basic rights while usurping our tax-payers’ money in the process. Israel claims to be a democratic country parallel to Western democracies. And right now, Israel is being judged according to these democratic standards. Therefore the move to boycott Israel is not only to be expected, but necessary in order to force an end to the occupation,
as such an occupation is not acceptable from a democracy. Baroness Jenny Tonge has commented on the political situation in Britain, and stated that the “Pro-Israeli lobby has got its financial grips on the Western World” and added that her party, the Liberal Democrats were effected by this. While some MPs responded to this statement as being anti-Semitic, clearly Ms Tonge made no mention of Jewish people but rather targeted Zionists who are both Jewish and Christian. It is this deliberate confusion of the terms that is allowing calls of anti-Semitism to be made against those in favour of the boycott. However, as explained previously, this argument is false and frankly insulting, as many pro-boycott campaigners are themselves Jewish and it is the iniquity of Zionism that they oppose. Professor Steven Rose, himself Jewish, stated: “It really isn’t good enough to attack the Messenger as anti-Semitic or a self-hating Jew rather than deal with the message that Israel’s conduct is unacceptable.”11 Clearly, the British public does not owe a debt to pro-Israeli supporters and therefore is free to criticise the actions of the state of Israel. It is doing just that with the move to boycott, saying that academic freedom must apply to both Israel and Palestinians. While many have argued that Israeli academics cannot be held responsible for the actions of their government, PACBI takes the position that Israeli academic institutions (mostly state controlled) and the vast majority of Israeli intellectuals and academics have either contributed directly to the Israeli occupation or at the very least have been complicit through their silence. However, some Palestinians who have tried to gain access to higher degrees in Israel have praised members of individual institutions for their support of their applications to study.12 The move to boycott Israel is by no means limited to the UK alone. In France, an appeal to the European Union not to renew its 1995 Association Agreement with Israel was issued by the University of Paris-VI (Pierre-et-MarieCurie) in December 2002 and was endorsed by several other French universities. Similar calls were published in Italy and Australia, while in the United States, student and faculty groups at several universities including New York University, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton launched divestment from Israel campaigns. Most recently the Church of Sweden has called for a boycott of goods produced by Israeli colonies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the Presbyterian Church in the United States has decided to divest from Israel.13
Unions In mid-2007, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted to boycott Israeli goods, but was forced down by a ‘rebellion’ thought to have been led primarily by BBC journalists. Doubts over the ethics of boycott have been splashed about by many Israeli sympathisers and for many, the pressure has been too much to with-stand. On the other hand, in Northern Ireland, the big gest Union, the 46,000 member Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance has pressed ahead with 5 unanimous boycott resolutions. These included boycotts of Israeli produce and investments in companies which support Israel. In Britain, the UNISON National Delegate Conference of 2007 stated that it “continues to consider that a just solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict must be based upon international law and Israel should: 1. withdraw to its 1949-67 borders; 2. allow the refugees of 1948 to return home; 3. remove all of its settlements from the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Occupied Syrian Al-Joulan; 4. take down the Apartheid Wall; and 5. respect the Palestinian people’s right to national self-determination and to establish a state in the West bank and the Gaza Strip with its capital in Jerusalem.” The conference went on to state that ending the occupation demands concerted and sustained pressure upon Israel including an economic, cultural, academic and sporting boycott. Following this, Britain’s Transport and General Workers’ Union went on to call on its 800,000 members to boycott Israeli-made products based on what they term “Israel’s criminal policies in Palestinian territories.”14 While this was merely declarative in nature and no concrete steps were taken to facilitate implementation, the resounding sentiment is clear. British politicians have responded sternly against such boycott calls, however, this does not seem to have abated the rush towards boycott. Sports Israel’s inclusion in the EURO 2008 football tournament is being opposed by many solidarity organisations. The ‘Kick Israeli Apartheid Out of Football’ petition organized
The conference went on to state that ending the occupation demands concerted and sustained pressure upon Israel including an economic, cultural, academic and sporting boycott
The move to boycott has become necessary as Western governments are failing to hold Israel accountable for its breaches of international law
by the PSC has received over 1,000 signatures. In response to calls to exclude Israel, an FA Spokesman said the ‘FA would not be part of anything which discriminates against teams of players’. The Israeli FA has stated that it assists Palestinian players travel between the West Bank and Gaza and those traveling abroad to participate in matches. However, Palestinians tell a different story of restrictions and policies which are perceived to be deliberate to exclude them from international games. In August 2007, the Under 19 national football team was denied travel visas for a planned tour of the UK. While this was a move made by the British Consulate in Jerusalem, one of the reason given was that Israel had suggested it would deny the players the right to re-enter Gaza after the tour, thus the British government was trying to avert a refugee crisis. This is unacceptable behavior from both Israel and the British government. There is an anti-boycott campaign now being run, led by a web-site called ‘Engage’, and some supporters have been accusing the boycott campaigners of inciting hatred and being antiSemitic. But given the fact that many Jews are leading the campaign, such accusations appear to be nothing short of defamatory and once again, show a refusal of Israel’s supporters to look at the real reasons for such action – the occupation. The move to boycott has become necessary as Western governments are failing to hold Israel accountable for its breaches of international law, just as they did with Apartheid South Africa. It is time for individuals and organisations to force governments to change their policies in the Middle East, and boycotts send strong signals of the people’s will. The
Palestinians have faced every for m of oppression in the decades of the occupation, and those who support the boycott do so because they feel it is time to say enough to this inhumanity. Notes
1. See reports, see for example The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories http://www.btselem.org/ English/, or The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights http://pchrgaza.org/ 2. Pacbi Press Release: ‘Boycotting Israeli Apartheid Back on the Agenda’, 30 May 2007, http:// www.pacbi.or g/announcements_mor e.php?id= 504_0_5_0_M (last visited 3 March 2007) 3. Sacks, J, “Boycott? This is a With Hunt”, in The Jewish Chronicle 15 June 2007. 4. As quoted by Davidson, Lawrence, “Why the Academic Boycott is Necessary”, MESE November 2006. 5. For example, 9 year old Ghadeer Jaber Mokheimer, who was shot in October 2004 as she was sat at a UN run school in the Gaza Strip. 6. Details about Wisam’s case can be found at http:/ /www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/868538.html 7. See for example a BBC news report on Palestinian student Sawsan Salameh available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/ 6087968.stm (Last visited 8 August 2007) 8. 9. 10. Rose, Steven, “Why pick on Israel? Because its actions are wrong”, in The Independent 4 June 2007. 11. For example, Sawsan Salameh, http://news. bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6087968.stm (Last visited 8 August 2007) 12. Facts from http://www.pacbi.org/about.htm 13. For further details, see http://www.haaretz.com/ hasen/spages/879531.html
Information on Palestine
Journal – Referenced articles from previous issues of Al Aqsa. Newsletter – Quarterly printed by Friends of Al Aqsa. Publications – History of al Masjidul Aqsa and Guide to al Masjidul Aqsa. Flyers – On Jerusalem, Refugees, al Masjidul Aqsa, UN Resolutions and Much More. News From Palestine – Important news and views from Palestine. Photographic Gallery – Photos from the ground in Palestine. Book Reviews – Reviews on books related to Palestinian issues.
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he video game taking Christian America by storm, aptly titled ‘Left Behind: Eternal Forces’, encourages its players to kill anyone who resists conversion to Christianity. As Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft battle it out for domination of the electronic game world, the games’ creator anticipates a ready market among those who have already bought 63 million copies of the Left Behind novels. The game is set in New York City, a rather unusual venue for Armageddon you might think since New York doesn’t actually get a mention in the Bible. It is, however, the location of the United Nations headquarters and that is the clue. Never popular among conservative evangelicals, in Left Behind: Eternal Forces, the bad guys are the Global Community Peacekeepers, who are on a search and destroy mission in Manhattan. Their target is the remnant of newly converted Bible-believers, left behind when Christians were apparently raptured secretly to heaven. These new believers, left on earth, form a Christian army called the Tribulation Force. Under the heading ‘Turn or Burn?’ a review by Focus on the Family suggests the game could well be an evangelistic tool for teenagers – “the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior—and use to raise some interesting questions along the way.” Perhaps anticipating a degree of incredulity on the part of some readers, the review asks, ‘How do peace and prayer go hand in hand with tanks, attack choppers and street battles?…’ Yes, you are offered sniper rifles, gun turrets, even tanks and helicopters. And there are points at which a gun battle is necessary to avoid a massacre. (When this happens, there’s no gore. Units fall to the ground and fade away.) But if you go in guns blazing, nine times out of 10 you fail. It quickly becomes clear that the strongest weapons in your arsenal are your top-level missionaries and worship leaders. It’s easier to
convert a group of enemies than it is to shoot them. Still, post-Rapture warfare is integral to the game, as it is in the Left Behind books and movies. In an interview with Tim LaHaye, the author of the Left Behind books on which the video game is based, Focus on the Family asked whether Christians will really be expected to militarize in the future? He told Plug ged In Online that this fictionalized depiction in the books, movies and now video games is a representation “of the self preservation instinct of the muchpersecuted saints during the Tribulation.”2 What a relief. It’s all right then apparently as long as it is “faith-based” killing. Players pray for their adversaries “and try to do good spiritual things for them”. But at a certain point, it becomes acceptable to kill them. So killing is OK as long as it is done in the name of Jesus. A rather more sceptical review by Jews on First observes that, ‘The goals of the game are simple: Spread the gospel, and stay alive. But staying alive may sometimes lead to the taking of life – “fighting hellfire with hellfire”. And that raises a knotty moral conundrum for any game designer who worships Jesus, the Prince of Peace.’3 Sadly, the mistaken idea of a secret rapture on which the Left Behind empire is based, and the belief that some will come to faith after Jesus returns, has generated a lot of bad theology and galvanised a belligerent US foreign policy in the Middle East. Confident that Christians will escape and witness the events from the grandstands of heaven, exponents detach themselves from the Christian responsibility to work for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. Instead they describe in graphic detail the suffering that will soon take place there. Charles Ryrie, for example predicts this will be, ‘the time of Israel’s greatest bloodbath.’ 4 John
Confident that Christians will escape and witness the events from the grandstands of heaven, exponents detach themselves from the Christian responsibility to work for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East
1. STEPHEN SIZER is the vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water. He is a founding member of the Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism (ISCZ), a member of the Advisory Council of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding, a Trustee of the Amos Trust and the UK Board of Reference for the Mar Elias Educational Institutions, in Ibillin, Galilee, founded by Bishop Elias Chacour. Al-Aqsa 13
Efforts to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East are spurned as counterfeit and a satanic ploy to beguile Israel
It is painful to me that in this Holy Land, scriptures and religion have been terribly used, abused and twisted to justify violence, injustice and hate
Walvoord similarly predicts a holocaust in which at least 750 million people will perish.5 Tim LaHaye, author of Left Behind, warns that ‘Jacob’s trouble’, prophesied by Jeremiah 30:7, will certainly be far worse than the Spanish Inquisition … or even the Holocaust of Adolf Hitler.’6 Not to be outdone, in The Final Battle, Hal Lindsey claims, ‘Israel is in for a very rough time. The Jewish State will be brought to the brink of destruction.’7 In a later chapter he clarifies what this will mean for the Jews: ‘The land of Israel and the surrounding area will certainly be targeted for nuclear attack. Iran and all the Muslim nations around Israel have already been targeted with Israeli nukes … All of Europe, the seat of power of the Antichrist, would surely be a nuclear battlefield, as would the United States ... Zechariah gives an unusual, detailed account of how hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the Israel battle zone will die. Their flesh will be consumed from their bones, their eyes from their sockets, and their tongues from their mouths while they stand on their feet (Zechariah 14:12). This is exactly the sort of thing that happens from the intense radiation of a neutron type bomb.’8 John Hagee takes an even more aggressive approach towards Iran. At the July 19th, 2006 Washington DC inaugural event for Christians United for Israel, after recorded greeting from George W. Bush, and in the presence of four US Senators as well as the Israeli ambassador to the US, John Hagee stated: ‘The United States must join Israel in a preemptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West... a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ.’9 The highly speculative and imaginative interpretation of ancient prophecies that under girds the Left Behind books, films and now computer game; has a fatalistic view of the future. With its prewritten script, it is inherently suspicious of anything international, anything ecumenical, and anything involving the European Community or the United Nations. Efforts to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East are spurned as counterfeit and a satanic ploy to beguile Israel. Such paranoia might be deemed a sick joke were it not so pervasive and influential, not least in galvanising US foreign policy with its perpetual war against the ‘Axis of Evil’. Its greatest danger, however, must surely be that it is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the Middle East, this kind of apocalyptic theology, which is invariably pro-Zionist and hostile to Islam; is having a devastating effect on relations between the faith communities, and
on the viability of the indigenous Christian community. Munib Younan is Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, and a Vice President of the Lutheran World Federation. He describes how this theology has impacted him and his family. “My father was one of the 6,500 refugees driven out of Beersheba in 1948, and my mother was from West Jerusalem. She remembers fleeing her home after the Haganah told her family to go and it would be safe for them to return soon, only to look back and see they had bombed her house and it was engulfed in flames. Their families became part of the 800,000 Palestinian refugees that were driven from their homes, more than 200,000 of whom left before May 1948 or before any of the more organized neighboring Arab armies came in. I grew up in the Old City of Jerusalem, through the 1967 war which led to the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, which has dominated our lives since then. Occupation continues to violate basic human rights. The worst part for me, however, was that some of my own Christian sisters and brothers from all over the world began justifying what happened as a part of God’s plan. I still remember my first encounters with what I would now call a Christian Zionist who came to tell me that I should be thanking God because the scriptures were being fulfilled in the Six Day War… It is painful to me that in this Holy Land, scriptures and religion have been terribly used, abused and twisted to justify violence, injustice and hate...”10 The Right Reverend Riah Abu El Assal, the retired Episcopal Bishop in Jerusalem, also said recently: “Nearly a thousand years ago, European Crusaders tried to colonise Palestine, fuelling religious hatred and bringing the indigenous Christian community close to extinction. It is tragic, if ironic, that misguided Western Christian Zionists, by their one-sided political support for Israel, are today succeeding where the Crusaders failed… It is heartbreaking to see misguided Christians identifying more with Ahab and Jezebel than with Naboth. On a daily basis we are seeing our land confiscated, our vineyards destroyed, our homes demolished, our children traumatised and our future negated for the sake of an earthly kingdom which the Lord Jesus has plainly repudiated. I [call] Evangelical Christians, in particular, to break the spiral of violence and hatred. Instead we must obey the teachings of the Prince
of Peace who has called us to a ministry of reconciliation.” In the Summer of 2006, members of the EMEU Executive were invited to assist the heads of the local churches in Jerusalem to draft the “Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism” rejecting the tenets of this movement. The Jerusalem Declaration included this statement: “We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation. We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world. We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ. Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to liberate themselves from the ideologies of
militarism and occupation. Instead, let them pursue the healing of the nations!”11 The new Left Behind video game seems a very long way from the simple teaching of Jesus who promised “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
1. Focus on the Family. Left Behind now an ‘End Times’ game. http://www.plug gedinonline.com/ thisweekonly/a0002989.cfm 2. Ibid 3. Charles Ryrie, The Living End, (Old Tappan, Revell, 1976), p81. The title of chapter 8 is entitled ‘A Bloodbath for Israel.’ 4. John Walvoord, Israel in Prophecy, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1962), p108. 5. Tim LaHaye, Are We Living in the End Times? (Wheaton, Tyndale House, 1999), p146. 6. Hal Lindsey, The Final Battle, (Palos Verdes, Western Front, 1995), p184 7. Ibid., pp. 255-7. 8. Sarah Posner, “Pastor Strangelove” The American Prospect Online, http://www.prospect. org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewPrint& articleId=11541 <Accessed March 2007> 9. Munib Younan, “An Ethical Critique of Christian Zionism”, Journal of Lutheran Ethics (JLE) May 2007, Volume 7, Issue 5 http://www.elca.org/jle/ article.asp?k=717 10. h t t p : / / w w w. s i z e r s . o r g / a r t i c l e s / j e r u s a l e m declaration.htm
Editor The Articles published in this journal do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or of Friends of Al-aqsa
Sewage Tsunami and Economic, Physical and Political Strangulation in Gaza
n April 2007, an overused cesspool in northern Gaza collapsed, flooding a nearby Bedouin village with up to two meters of raw sewage. At least five people drowned to death, with dozens more left sick, injured, or missing. Predictably, the international community’s fingers pointed at the Palestinian Authority, which was warned of the danger of Beit Lahia treatment plant’s flooding but did not take the necessary steps to ensure the villagers’ safety. To many, it’s just another example of how the Palestinians are incapable of ruling over themselves. But the PA is only part of the problem. In fact, funds were secured long ago for transferring the dangerous sewage pools, but according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), the project “was delayed for more than two years due to delays in importing pipes and pumps from abroad as a result of the closure imposed by IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) on the Gaza Strip. In addition, IOF military operations in the project area prevented workers from free and safe access to the area to conduct their work. It is noted that this project is funded by the World Bank, European Commission, Sweden, and other donors.”2 Almost two years ago, Israel claimed to be withdrawing from Gaza, yet according to the Human Rights Council report commissioned by the UN last year and released earlier this year, “Even before the commencement of ‘Operation Summer Rains’, following the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit, Gaza remained under the effective control of Israel. [...] Israel retained control of Gaza’s air space, sea space and external borders, and the border crossings of Rafah (for persons) and Karni (for goods) were ultimately under Israeli control and remained closed for lengthy periods.” Rafah has only been open for an average of 14% of scheduled times, so Gazans (including sick
people needing treatment in Egypt, and students) have had to wait sometimes for weeks on end to get through either way. In December 2006, Israel promised to allow 400 trucks a day to pass through the Karni crossing, delivering among other things desperately needed food and medical supplies, and allowing produce out to support the largely agriculture- based economy. This promise remains yet to be implemented with “disastrous” consequences for the local economy. The report continues, “In effect, following Israel’s withdrawal, Gaza became a sealed off, imprisoned and occupied territory”.3 Fishermen face arrest if they try to go fishing as Israel controls Gaza’s waters, not Palestinians. The Army regularly opens fire on small fishing boats4. Israeli soldiers also frequently shoot through the cage around Gaza from sniper positions if not conducting all-out ground invasions. Israel has killed more than 700 Gazans (including hundreds of women and children) since the celebrated “withdrawal”, which is still used by Israeli apologists to show that Palestinians are unable to take advantage of a good opportunity even if it falls into their laps. Recently, perhaps the most paralyzing features of Israel’s continued control over Gaza - as well as the West Bank - is the US and Israeli-led economic embargo against the Palestinian government since Hamas’ victory last year. Doctors, teachers, elected officials, and other civil servants have not been fully paid in more than one year, pushing the population into a humanitarian crisis as about quarter of the population is financially dependent on these salaries. Over 80% of Gazans are living below the official poverty line, and even issues as serious as overburdened cesspools are often left unaddressed. It is tempting to wonder why the international community should be held
the project “was delayed for more than two years due to delays in importing pipes and pumps from abroad as a result of the closure imposed by IOF
1. ANNA BALTZER is a volunteer with the International Women’s Peace Service in the West Bank and author of the book, Witness in Palestine: Journal of a Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories. For information about her writing, photography, DVD, and speaking tours, visit her website at www.annainthemiddleeast.com
Europe chose not to oblige Israel to respect its obligations, and preferred to pay money to the Palestinians. When it put an end to this, it breached international law
Actions speak louder than words. Hamas says it reserves the right to resist violently, but has stopped attacking Israelis. Israel claims that all it wants is peace, yet the daily invasions and assassinations continue
responsible for financially supporting the Palestinian population to begin with. The late Tanya Reinhart articulated her answer to this question during her last lecture in France. She explained that Europe, like the US, had no right to cut off food and medicine from the Palestinians: “It was not an act of generosity which Europe could either carry on or not,” she said. “It was a choice which had been made to take on the obligations imposed by international law on the Israeli occupier to see to the well-being of the occupied populations. Europe chose not to oblige Israel to respect its obligations, and preferred to pay money to the Palestinians. When it put an end to this, it breached international law.”5 The United States, Europe, and Israel (which has withheld $55 million per month in taxes collected from Palestinians on behalf of the PA) say they will only return the Palestinians’ lifelines if Hamas agrees to three conditions: (1) renouncing violence, (2) accepting previous agreements, and (3) recognizing Israel. These conditions sound reasonable enough, but are painfully ironic for anyone living on the ground here. True, Hamas has not sworn off violence once and for all, but neither has Israel! In the past year, Palestinians have killed 27 Israelis, most of them soldiers. During that same period of time, Israelis have killed 583 Palestinian civilians (suicide bombers, fighters, or others targeted for assassinations are not included). Hamas has held fairly consistently to a unilateral ceasefire since January 2005, when they announced their transition from an armed struggle to a political struggle. Actions speak louder than words. Hamas says it reserves the right to resist violently, but has stopped attacking Israelis. Israel claims that all it wants is peace, yet the daily invasions and assassinations continue. The second condition involving previous agreements is hard to take seriously given Israel’s consistent violations. In one of her last speeches in New York at St Mary’s Church, Tanya cited an early 2006 interview in the Washington Post in which “Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh explained that according to the Oslo Accords in 1993, five years later in ‘98, there should have been already a Palestinian state. Instead, what Israel did during this whole period was appropriate more land, continue to colonize, to build settlements, and it did not keep a single clause of the Oslo Agreements.”6 When will the US demand that Israel adhere to previous agreements in order to receive the billions that we hand over every year? And finally, the last and crucial condition is that Hamas must recognize Israel. The question
is, what exactly is meant by “Israel”? Does “Israel” mean a place where Jewish people are respected and secure, or is it something else? Israel defines itself as “the state of the Jewish people.” It is not the state of its citizens; Israel is the state of a group of people who aren’t its citizens. Palestinian citizens of Israel do not have equal rights to Jews (for specific examples, read my recent “Existence is Resistance” report), because so many laws are aimed at condensing or chasing away Palestinian communities in order to fully “Judaize” the country. Israel has an artificial Jewish majority that was created and is maintained through various forms of ethnic cleansing. Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state is conditional upon the dispossession and either expulsion or bantustanization of the indigenous Palestinian population. If you ask one of these Palestinians if he recognizes the right of such an Israel to exist, a country built on his land that explicitly excludes him and discriminates against him, and that Palestinian says “no,” is he being racist or anti-Semitic? Or is he himself defending against racism and anti-Semitism? (Remember that Arabs are Semites too.) Israel cannot specify what exactly it wants Palestinians to recognize because Israel does not actually recognize itself. Israel has refused to clarify its own borders, because they keep expanding as the Jewish state establishes more settlement “facts on the ground.” In spite of all of these things, the PLO actually agreed to recognize Israel, renounce terror, and sign agreements with Israel almost twenty years ago. Israel responded with continued colonization and resource confiscation in the occupied territories and bombardment of Lebanon to root out the PLO, which was becoming dangerously moderate. 7 Hamas too has indicated that it would consider peace if Israel withdrew to its internationally recognized 1967 borders leaving Palestinians with just 22% of their historic homeland, but Israel says full withdrawal is out of the question. It is Israel who has yet to recognize Palestine’s right to exist, not the other way around. One more point of irony is that Israel justifies the ongoing siege of Gaza as a response to the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit even though such collective punishment is cruel, illegal, and hugely hypocritical. Week after week, the Israeli Army abducts and imprisons dozens of Palestinians, including children. Israel has “captured” (“kidnapped” would be a more appropriate word for many since most of
the abductees were civilians) at least 860 Palestinians this year.8 While Palestinians are illegally holding one Israeli; Israel is illegally holding more than 11,000 Palestinians9, including about 40 elected officials and almost 500 women and children. If the Israeli Army is justified in collectively starving and bombarding 1.3 million Gazans to avenge the capture of one of their fighters, what could the families of 11,000 Palestinians claim is justified? In reality, Israel is holding more than 1.3 million Palestinians prisoner with its ongoing siege of Gaza. Most of them are refugees, encaged in one of the most densely populated places in the world and many still see their historic land around them, but are forbidden from ever returning because they are not Jewish. I, on the other hand, could go and live there next month if I wanted to. The Beit Lahia sewage treatment plant was designed in the 1970’s to serve up to 50,000 people, but the local population has since risen to 200,000. The “sewage tsunami” is as much a result of population density as anything else. In comparison, the land-rich West Bank feels like paradise, but perhaps not for long. As the Wall continues to snake around West Bank towns and villages, cutting inhabitants off from their land, jobs, schools, hospitals, and each other, Israel’s intention seems clear: those Palestinians who won’t leave the West Bank altogether will be squeezed into bantustans, each of them a new Gaza. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority, civilians, and popular resistance will continue
to be demonized with claims of “antiSemitism” even though the worst crimes are not their own. The guilt and responsibility is not just Israel’s, but we all share in it. The sun is gleaming through silvery olive trees into our office window as I look out across Palestinian land and homes that still remain intact in spite of the Occupation and all its crimes. There is still hope for the West Bank, but only if people speak out and act now. There are so many ways. Visit Palestine. Support the non-violent boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement called for by Palestinian civil society. Join a local solidarity group and educate your community. Write to your representatives. Anything but staying silent. Notes 2. http://www.pchrgaza.ps/files/PressR/English/ 2007/20-2007.htm 3. htt p://www.ohchr.or g/english/bodies/ hrcouncil/docs/4session/A.HRC.4.17.pdf 4. http://bbsnews.net/article.php/2007032610 4022273 5. h t t p : / / w w w. z m a g . o r g / c o n t e n t / p r i n t _ article.cfm?itemID=12385§ionID=1 6. htt p://www.democrac ynow.or g/ar ticle. pl?sid=07/03/19/1354224 7. See Chomsky, N. The Fateful Triangle 8. For week by week statistics, visit http:// www.pchrgaza.ps/ 9. http://www.mandela-palestine.org/
While Palestinians are illegally holding one Israeli; Israel is illegally holding more than 11,000 Palestinians
Books Available For Review
1. 2. Broken Promises, Broken Dreams, Stories of Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience, by Alice Rothchild Hollow Land, Israel’s Architecture of Occupation, by Eyal Weizman
If you would like to review one of these titles, please email email@example.com
Islamic Libraries in Jerusalem
What an Islamic library looked like Libraries carried the name of Khazana (cupboard), as books were kept in closed cupboards and not on open shelves. Books were arranged inside the cupboard horizontally and not perpendicularly, with the small ones at the top and the big ones at the bottom. So anyone looking for a particular book must move the ones above until they reach their desired title. The cupboards were made of wood, and locked with keys. Therefore access was only gained via a librarian. Books were arranged in the library according to subject matter beginning with Qur’an, then Tafseer (Qur’anic commentary), Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him), Hadith Sciences, Seerah (the story of the life of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him), Fiqh (Islamic laws), Tawheed (the attributes of God), Tasawuf (spirituality); then language and literature with other sciences like arithmetic. Catalogues were put together in a single book and reading was only allowed inside the library, as there was no lending service. Historical preview Libraries were formed in the early Islamic centuries in Jerusalem inside mosques and mainly within the Al-Aqsa compound. There were many Qur’an manuscripts written in different styles. Ibn Abedrabo wrote (in 328AH) that there were 70 copies of the Qur’an in Al-Aqsa. While Ibn Faqih mentioned in his book “Al Buldan” (902AD) that there were 16 boxes of Qur’an copies in Al-Aqsa. Books of Hadith, Tafseer and others were added later by men like Alzouhary and Alaouza’i. But unfortunately, most of these were burned or lost during
uring the last 14 centuries, Jerusalem has not been a political capital. However, under Islamic rule it has been a spiritual and a cultural capital to millions of Muslims, Jews and Christians throughout this time. This was clearly demonstrated by the building works Muslims undertook in Jerusalem since the second caliph Omar bin al Khatab liberated the city in 635 AD. There were mosques, schools, and zawaya of which the most important are the Aqsa Masjid and the Dome of the Rock built by the Umayyads. Building in Jerusalem, showing Muslim interest in the city, continued in the Abbasid period also. But in the 5th Hijri century came the crusade wars which were known for their brutality against both human beings and building structures, and in particular against any indication of Jerusalem’s Islamic history or heritage, in an attempt to erase it. After Salaheddin’s liberation of Jerusalem in 1187 AD, rebuilding and restoration work began. Today, any visitor of Jerusalem and the Aqsa Sanctuary will find in every corner and every meter - a building, a dome, a school, a fountain, a gate that was built by a prince, an army leader, a sultan or even a sultan’s wife from the Ayoubi , Mamluk or the Othmani period. This reflected the love felt for Jerusalem and the Muslims’ spiritual connection with it. But once again Jerusalem has fallen under another occupation, 780 years after being liberated from the Crusaders. This is a more vigorous occupation, filled with more hatred but with the same old intention, to change the identity of the city and remove its Islamic identity. To counter this, the revitalizing and renewing of the libraries in Jerusalem with treasured books and manuscripts has formed a crucial part of the efforts to keep the Islamic face and identity of Jerusalem.
This is a more vigorous occupation, filled with more hatred but with the same old intention, to change the identity of the city and remove its Islamic identity
1. MAZEN NESSIEBEH lives in Jerusalem in the Occupied Territories. He has a BSc in Biology from Jordan University, a BA in Islamic Education from Al-Quds University, and an MA in Islamic Studies. Al-Aqsa 21
The library at Al-Aqsa was the richest in terms of content
the crusade wars as Mohammad bin Ali bin Mayser mentions in his book of history. After the sixth century AH, the building of schools, zawayas (halls of the Sufi sheikhs) and khankas (buildings built for poor worshippers/ students) flourished under Salaheddin and those who came after him in the Ayoubi and Mamluk periods. As a result libraries began to form due to the large number of scholars and religious science students present in the city and their need for books. Examples of such libraries and schools included: Al Nassirya library after Sheikh Nasser Ibrahim al Maqdisi Al Khanka al Fakhriya School and library after Qadi Fakhereddin ibn Fadelallah Mohammed Khalidi, Mufti al Shafia sect, library Bukhari Naqshabandi, Sufi way, library (still existing) Khazanet kutub (library) Ashrafya School Khazanet kutub Ghadria School Burhaneddin bin Jamaa library The library at Al-Aqsa was the richest in ter ms of content. This was due to the abundance of writers and copiers in the area, and to the will and insistence of writers to keep a copy of what they wrote in the Al-Aqsa library. In the late 18th century and the early 19th century, personal libraries began to appear, possessed by those who occupied formal ranks like judges or governors or sufi sheikhs. Examples of these libraries included: Sunallah Khalidi (d.1727) library. Ahmad bin Mahmud al Mouaqet, Hanafi Mufti (d.1776) library. Sheikh Ahmad bin Budair al Qudsi (d.1805) library. Amat Kalifa bin Ibrahim library. Sheikh Mohammed Effendi Zade library. Hassan bin Abedlatif Husseini library. These libraries were normally financed by the owners or from the awqaf (community fund). There would only be a single copy of each book in the library thus the use was restricted to a small number of individuals. These personal libraries evolved into family libraries or just vanished for one reason or another. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Christian missionaries started to settle in and around Jerusalem and for med their own libraries in the churches and monasteries. These groups brought with them their printing machines and thus facilitated increased book making. This also had an impact on Islamic libraries in Jerusalem as it aided the growth of
these libraries and led to an increase in the formation of family libraries. On the downside, some of Palestine’s precious books and manuscripts were lost as the missionaries purchased them and shipped them to museums and universities in Europe. As a result, we find a number of valuable Islamic manuscripts throughout Europe that originally came from Palestine. Another factor that affected library growth was the appearance of a new generation of Palestinian youth who traveled to Europe to study and came back with new ideas to enhance the libraries. In this period the following personal libraries appeared: Hassan Sidki al Dajani library Abdullah Mukhles library Isaaf al Nashashibi library Khalil al Sakakini Aref al Aref Some of the family libraries which appeared in the same period were: Mouaqet librar y: Established by Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Ahmad bin Muhammad Yahya, known as al Mouaqet. His library was made waqf in 1776 but nothing of it exists today. Qutteinah library: Known as the Hanbali library since the family were followers of the Hanbali school of thought. The library used to have a big number of manuscripts and it was located near the Damascus gate. Nothing is known about the library today. Sheikh Hussam Jarallah library: This library used to have 2000 books and manuscripts in Islamic subjects and Arabic language. However, the books were stolen in the year 1948 during the Palestinian Nakba. Abu Saud librar y: collected by Sheikh Taher Abu Saud Shaafi who was Mufti of Jerusalem in the early 20th century. The library books are now kept in boxes in the family house. These were the known Islamic family libraries in Jerusalem, most of which do not exist any more and therefore do not play an active role in the cultural life of Jerusalem. As well as the Al-Aqsa library, a small number of personal and family libraries have undergone repair and still play an important role in the Islamic cultural life of Jerusalem.
some of Palestine’s precious books and manuscripts were lost as the missionaries purchased them and shipped them to museums and universities in Europe
Al-Aqsa library: This is considered to be the most important library in Jerusalem. The Al-Aqsa was a center for intellectual debate and a school for teaching Islamic sciences. Therefore a good library was essential to serve its purposes. In many cases, the books in the library were actually dictated by their writers while they were inside the mosque. Examples of such books included: Mutheer al gharam illa ziaret al Quds wa Asham” by Ibn Hilal al Maqdisi (d.765h). Ba’ath al nufus ila ziaret al Quds al mahrous” by Sheikh Burhaneddin bin Ishaaq al Fizari (d.729h). Eljamr al mustafa fi fada’al al masjed al Aqsa” by Bahaaeddin bin Assaker (d.600h). In the past, the Books within the Al-Aqsa mosque compound were not kept in a single building but were distributed all over the compound. They were mainly kept in the Aqsa mosque building and in the Dome of the Rock building and each had a librarian. These were also government assignees overlooking the library. Al Sakhawi mentions the name of Shamseddin Muhammad bin Ahmad al Ghanimi al Maqdsi in the 9th Hijri century and Sheikh Bashir al Khalili in the Dome of the Rock mosque in the 11th Hijri century. The Mamluk sultans used to send copies of the Quran as gifts to the Al-Aqsa library and with them there would come someone to read and recite the Quran inside the mosque. An example was King Al Ashraf Barsbi who sent a large Musshaf (Arabic text Qur’an) and with it, Sheikh Shamseddin al Ramli who was to recite it in the mosque. Other sultans sent similar gifts, including al Malek al Taher Jakmak, al Malek al Ashraf Yanaal, al Malek al Taher Khashakdum. This was a habit that the Othman sultans also followed. In addition to the libraries in the two mosque buildings, there were also libraries in the schools which existed in and around the yards of the Aqsa compound. These differed in size and number according to the specific subjects, and examples included: “Al Nassir ya School” to which Salaheddin`s nephew al Malek al Muaatham sent a number of books. “Al Khanka al Fakhrya School” established by Qadi Fakhereddin bin Fadelallah, which contained 10,000 books. “Al Ameenya School” to which Sheikh Yahiya Sharafeddin donated his personal library as a waqf. This was thought to be a huge collection of books.
In 1923 AD, the High Islamic Committee in Jerusalem with Mufti Hajj Amin Husseini at its helm decided to collect all the books from the different buildings in the Al-Aqsa compound and established the modern Aqsa mosque library housing them all. The library building was at first in al Quba al Nahawea. Since that time it moved again before finally settling in what was known as the women’s mosque in the southern western corner of the Aqsa compound next to the Islamic museum.
One of these manuscripts is from an earlier period – an incomplete copy of the Qur’an hand written by Muhammad bin al Hassan bin al Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
Women’s mosque, the present library’s site
The library now contains more than 14,000 books. The libraries of Sheikh Khalil al Khalidi and Sheikh Muhammad al Khalili, as well as other smaller collections, have also been added. These manuscripts date back to between the 3rd to the 13th Hijri centuries, and some of which survived the crusader era. One of these manuscripts is from an earlier period - an incomplete copy of the Qur’an hand written by Muhammad bin al Hassan bin al Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Another manuscript is a copy of the Quran which was written in the handwriting of Moroccan king Sultan Abusaid Othman al Marini in the 8th Hijri century. Personal and family libraries: The number of personal and family libraries that still exist today in Jerusalem are few. This does not mean there is a complete absence of such libraries however. There are a good number of modern libraries which were established through the efforts of Jerusalem’s youth. These include the “Al Quds University” library and “Arabic Studies Center” library, and other similar institutions’ libraries. The remaining old libraries include: ISAAF NASHASHIBI LIBRARY Isaaf Nashashibi was born in Jerusalem in 1885 AD, into a rich and well educated family. His father was a prominent figure during
the Turkish rule and was also a member of parliament. During his youth, Isaaf witnessed many meetings in his home between men of literature like Assad al Imam and Ragheb al Khalidi and others. Discussions at these meeting were wide including poetry, literature, fiqh and other subjects. While he was young he learned to recite the entire Quran by heart, and then went to Dar al Hikma School in Beirut. During his life he traveled a lot which enabled him to meet many well known poets and writers in the Arab world such as Ahmad Shawki (Ameer al Shuraa) the well known Egyptian poet. He also met Shakib Arsalan and Khalil Sakakini. His knowledge of the French language also enabled him to study French literature. Isaaf worked as a teacher then headmaster of Al Rashidya School in Jerusalem. He was known for his enthusiastic speeches and his calls for respect of religious teaching and for defending the Arabic Language. Isaaf Nashashibi was also a writer and wrote a number of books and essays. He died in 1948.
THE LIBRARY BUILDING:
The building is called Isaaf Nashashibi’s Palace and was built in 1922 AD by Isaaf himself. It consists of two floors each with an area of 296 square meters. It still stands in all its beauty in the Sheikh - Jarrah neighborhood, with its old gate and two palm trees at the entrance which have guarded it since it was first built. The palace has 4 beautiful ceramic terraces; two on each floor over looking the old city from the north. During Isaaf ’s life, many well known characters visited the palace including Ibrahim al Mazini, Maarof al Rasafi, Khalil Mardam and Bishara al Khoury. Isaaf collected many books and manuscripts during his life using his personal funds. After his death the palace was used as the French consulate (the first floor was burned during a demonstration in 1956 AD), and then it was used as the Saudi consulate. After 1967 it accommodated the German School of Archaeology. In 1982 it was considered a part of Dar al Tiffel Institute and was made a library and a cultural center by Dr Isshaq Husseini.
THE LIBRARY: The library contains about 8000 books, with an additional 2000 more donated from the library of Aref al Aref (the well known historian) by his family, and another 2000 books donated by Fawzi Yousef ( a publisher). Smaller collections were also donated by Isshaq Darwish,
Muhammad Younes Husseini and the writer Naserddin Nashashibi. The main titles in the library are: Islamic civilization, Palestinian history, Arabic language, Arabic literature, Arabic handwriting, fiqh and hadith. Despite such a great breadth of literature, the librarian complains of the scarcity of visitors to it since the isolation of Jerusalem from the West Bank. The number of manuscripts totals 294 and a catalogue was compiled by librarian Mr.Bashir Barakat. The number of titles in these manuscripts is 780. In addition to complete manuscripts, there are a large number of papers or parts of manuscripts that date back to the Mamluk period. Indexes of the books and manuscripts were complied according to authors, subjects and dates. In order to face modern challenges, the manuscripts were filmed digitally. This enables scholars and researchers to consult manuscripts without needing to reach the library itself; a task that the Israelis have made impossible for Palestinians outside of Jerusalem. The resources of the library can now be accessed over the internet. CULTURAL CENTER: Beside the library, a cultural center was established at the Isaaf Nashashibi Palace. Different cultural activities are run including musical evenings, poetry Readings, lectures, and exhibitions: photography, oil Drawings, books, and other activities.
THE KHALIDI LIBRARY The Khalidi Family is one of the oldest families in Jerusalem. It is said that they were named after Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) companion and army leader Khalid bin al Waleed. Others also suggest that the name appeared more recently as they were previously named Al Dayri after the Dayer Othman village near Nablus. The family took refuge in this village during the crusade wars. This was mentioned in one of the manuscripts written by a family member Abdil Aziz Khalidi in 1214 AD. Many Khalidi family members have occupied important political and religious positions, as judges, Mufties and religious scholars. Family member Yousef Dia Pasha also undertook the role of council of the Ottoman Empire in a Russian city. He then became the Mayor of Jerusalem after that in 1867-1873.
The Khalidi library gate
THE BUILDING: The library building is 100 meters from the Chain Gate (Bab al Silseleh) of the Al-Aqsa compound. The building was originally a burial site built by an army leader Hussameddin Baraka Khan who was brought by King Najmeddin Ayoub to fight in Jerusalem when it was restored from the crusades for the last time. He died in Hums, in Syria, but according to his will he was buried in Jerusalem. Two of his sons were also buried beside him according to Mujeereddin al Hanbali in his history book “Al Uns al Jalil”. ESTABLISHMENT:
the Israelis would confiscate the property, however, the family challenged the army and their property was restored to them in court. Then came the settlers. Since the building overlooked the Wailing Wall area, Israel stationed a number of soldiers on the second floor to guard the place. When the soldiers later left the site, settlers took over and established a religious school and tried to prevent the Khalidi family from repairing and renewing parts of the library. Once again, the family overcame this difficulty. Other challenges included financing the revitalizing of the building and preserving the manuscripts in addition to updating the library so that it servs its users as any modern library does. This was achieved through great efforts from family members inside and outside Palestine and many well wishers from the Arab and Islamic worlds.
CONTENTS OF THE LIBRARY:
The library was established in 1899 AD by Hajj Ragheb al Khalidi as a public trust, using an amount of money donated by his mother Khadije, the daughter of Musa effendi al Khalidi. It contained the family holdings of books and manuscripts which were collected over the years by generations of the family beginning with Muhammad Sunallah, Muhammad Ali, Yousef Dia, Musa Shafiq and others. The formal announcement of its public opening was made in 1900. The announcement clarified that the spread of knowledge was the base for progress and prosperity. It added that the library was an asset to the holy land. The Khalidi library was intended to restore to the Arabs prosperity by fostering knowledge and to enable them to match the cultural establishments created by foreign powers through out the region. The opening ceremony was attended by a well known Syrian Sheikh, Taher al Jazairi.
PERIODS IN THE LIFE OF THE LIBRARY:
1900-1917 AD: 4000 books were collected from family members. 1917-1948 AD: members of the family took care of the library but the main librarian in this period was Muhammad al Danaf al Ansari. A custom was created whereby whenever a family member passed away, his books would be added to the library collection. Following 1967 AD: This was considered to be the most difficult period as the Israelis tried to confiscate the building claiming that its owners were absentees. Usually, when this was evoked,
The first collections of books, about 560 manuscripts, were gathered by Muhammad Sunallah in 1726 and were made waqf to the family. His son, Muhammad Sunallah added another 260 manuscripts to the collection. More were added to these later but some were lost between that period and 1900 when Hajj Ragheb opened the library. The library today has 1029 Arabic manuscripts, 18 Persian manuscripts, and 36 Turkish manuscripts. Most of the manuscripts are in average condition. About 100 of these manuscripts have been repaired, cleaned, steamed and preserved in special non acidic boxes with the required humidity and temperature. Plans are in place to also preserve the remaining manuscripts in this way. Microfilming the manuscripts is an ongoing process, in addition to classifying single papers. The collection reflects the great interest of the family in owning books covering a wide spectrum of subjects including religion, literature, language and science. Since a good number of the Khalidi family were graduates of the Al Azhar University, and many have or had formal jobs all over the Islamic World as mentioned earlier, this is clearly reflected by the diversity of the texts in the library. There are 288 manuscripts that exist in only one single copy in the Al Khalidi library. This fact distinguishes the Khalidi library from many other libraries. Out of these manuscripts, 112 are the originals as written by the author, including: Prophets’ Stories” by Ibn Adsa al Qudsi. Jalaa’ al Afkar fi Sirat al Mukhtar” by Al Bilbesi (986 AH)
Al Ashbah wa al Natha’ar” by Ibn Nujem al Masri (969 AH) Bust al Maqaal”by Shirniblali (1029 AH). BUDEIRI LIBRARY Sheikh Muhammad bin Budeir bin Muhammad bin Hubaish Alshafii al Maqdisi was born in 1160 AH (1747AD). He traveled to Egypt to study fiqh at Al Azhar University and remained there for 30 years. He then returned to Jerusalem and settled at the home he bought next to the Bab al Nather gate of the Al-Aqsa mosque. This home accommodates the library on its first floor. Sheikh Budeir wrote poetry and booklets about some fiqh problems.
more than 50,000. Of these, only 8,000 remain today. This was the result of destruction during war time or theft during the British mandate and the Israeli occupation. A large number of lost manuscripts are found today on the shelves of the Hebrew University library or the Jewish National library. Most of these were stolen from houses with their owners inside or from abandoned houses, during war time. Names of the original owners are still found on some of these books and manuscripts. Such books include some owned by: Khalil Baides who died in 1949; Sheikh Muhammad al Khalili, whose family lost 90 manuscripts during the 1967 war; Abdullah Mukhles who used to have a library of more than 3000 books and 120 manuscripts. Fearing the war, in 1948 he moved the library to a nearby monastery for safekeeping. However, Israelis demolished the building with dynamite and before doing so, an eye witness said that she saw Israeli gang members carrying boxes out of the building; and Sheikh Hussam Jarallah’s entire library was lost in 1948 war. Conclusion Writing recorded the history of many cultures and civilizations all over the world including Palestine. But unluckily for Palestine, occupiers through out its history, like the Israelis at present, have tried to erase this written heritage and claim that they came to an empty land. The theft of this written heritage has helped the Israeli occupiers peddle their myths. Libraries in Palestine in general and in Jerusalem in particular, would be one of the factors that under mine these claims as studying the history of these libraries, with the people and efforts behind them, would be like studying a summary of Jerusalem’s history. A fact that I discovered while writing this paper.
The Budeiri library has about 1200 manuscripts, some of which were collected by Sheikh Budeiri himself in1790, while establishing the library. More were added by family members later. The manuscripts are in bad condition in general due to inadequate storage in humid rooms. As a result, many pages have been destroyed. However, a small number of the manuscripts are still in good condition and work is being carried out to restore them.
CATALOGUE : The first catalogue for the library was made in 1987 by Mr Khader Salameh. Within the catalogue, the subjects were arranged according to the Hijri century in which it was written. The library has a small number of printed books in the Arabic language and some in Turkish. The Turkish are mostly on legislation during the Othman Empire. Printed books are from the late 19th century and early 20th century. The library has a good number of newspapers and magazines from the early 20th century like the “Palestine” newspaper from 1920, printed in Jaffa. “Al Hakika” newspaper and “Al Balaghah” newspaper printed in Beirut in 1923. And “Al Lata’if ” newspaper from Cairo in 1916. MANUSCRIPT THEFT: Scholars estimate the number of manuscripts that were in Jerusalem during the Ottoman rule to be
B O O K R EV I EW
Checkpoint Watch, Testimonies from Occupied Palestine
BY YEHUDIT KIRSTEIN KESHET, Zed Books (2006), ISBN 184277719, 182pp, £14.95
CheckpointWatch (MachsomWatch) is an organisation of Israeli women who have come together to monitor human rights abuses being perpetrated by the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinians. The author of this book, Keshet is a co-founder of the group and thus in a position to provide a first hand analysis of the conflicts and turmoil faced by these women in undertaking a task that questions their very loyalty to the state of Israel. Keshet, herself the daughter of refugees from Nazi Germany, is now retired and dedicates all her time to opposing her countries occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The book begins with a Foreword by Amira Hass who sets out that since the establishment of CheckpointWatch in 2001, not one single checkpoint has been removed from the West Bank. As the movement grew in size, so too did the number of checkpoints. She explains in no uncertain terms the reality of a checkpoint: “Watchers are witnesses to, and recorders of, the permanence of supposedly temporary major checkpoints allegedly erected in response to security needs, and have recorded their metamorphosis into well-fortified gates between walls and fences that create Palestinian enclaves, isolated from one another.” The author explains that while checkpoints continue to be sold to the world as a military and security necessity for Israel, their impact on Palestinians is to bring every day life to a grinding halt. The frustration surrounding the bureaucratic procedures that Palestinians are subject to when seeking travel permits exemplifies the imposition of practices which by their very nature deny Palestinians the right to basic freedoms. The women of CheckpointWatch have gone behind the half-truths that surround the security arguments, to
discover the reality of the conditions imposed by their country on their neighbours. Keshet describes her awakening to the Palestinian side of the story during a meeting with a dialogue group in Beit Sahour. Here, the Palestinians set out that their desire was exactly the same as that of Israeli’s, to oppose annihilation and have their national aspirations recognised. The issues, she states, were the Palestinian political, cultural and economic liberation. This challenged the prevalent and inbred notion carried by the vast majority of Israeli’s – that Palestinians did not want to live in peace. The book is divided into three parts, titled 1) the context, 2) the checkpoints, and 3) the observers. These 3 parts are also further subdivided into seven chapters dealing with particular aspects of the checkpoints and their aims and impact. Keshet begins her analysis on the checkpoints from the 1967 imposition of permits for Palestinian entry into Israel. While the traditional checkpoints did not materialise until some years later, the idea of humiliating checks was already taking form. Keshet explains how military checkpoints began to be implemented during the outbreak of the first Gulf War of 1991. A series of events following this, including the stabbing of some Israelis by individual Palestinians, tighter restrictions and the opening of the tunnels under the AlAqsa compound; resulted in wide scale unrest which was dealt with by restricting the movement of Palestinians and dividing the occupied territories. Checkpoints have only increased in numbers since then, and now disrupt every aspect of life. Keshet does not consider checkpoints in isolation but also discusses other measures that are used to restrict Palestinian movement including curfews and closures, which all have the same aim of disabling the society in its entirety. Thus the checkpoints facilitate a wider aim of emptying Palestinian territories of Palestinians, by making life there unbearable. This book gives in depth and personal accounts of incidents at checkpoints; reflecting the resilience of Palestinians and their determination to persevere, and the fact that the Israeli Occupation Forces have some human faces. There are a small number of images and maps to help decipher the situation on the ground. But at the crux of this book is an analysis that is often lacking in this conflict, as it is one side truly understanding the plight of the other – a position often absent between Israelis and Palestinians. The personal accounts themselves make it a gripping read. In conclusion, what CheckpointWatch has witnessed and propagates is the unjust denial to many and freedom of movement to only a few. Leicester Rajnaara Akhtar
Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/ Palestine
BY JOEL KOVEL, London, Pluto Press, 2007, ISBN: 0-74532569-6, pp. 299, £15.99
he author is a famous left-wing writer and College Professor in Social Studies, and a major critic of US and Israeli governmental policies in the Middle East, and Western policies in general in the rest of the so-called ‘developing’ world. He worked as a doctor and a psychiatrist in various American hospitals and research establishments for over twenty four years, but eventually quit the system over dissatisfaction with the direction that the US public health service was headed. Kovel is a well-known anti-racism activist and social ecologist, as well as a member and former Presidential candidate for the Green Party in the US. His previous best work was ‘White Racism’ (1972) which won him a National Book Award. His work is so controversial in America that the Library of Congress, one of the world’s largest libraries and a compulsory repository of almost all published material in the US, does not have a copy. Nor does Kovel’s own institution – the Bard College in Annandale, New York. ‘Overcoming Zionism’ is Kovel’s first book about the ArabIsraeli conflict, which has appeared rather late considering his long history of left-wing activism and publishing in the US. The book is a compilation of the many essays written by the author regarding the state of Israel and the Israel-Palestine conflict. These were mainly published in the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun, to which the Author has been a major contributor since its inception. He details his early life as the child of East European immigrants to New York and being brought up as a Zionist American Jew, coupled with the later adolescent rebellion against the religious-cultural traditions of his ancestors. Kovel sees himself as a non-Jewish Jew, in that he no longer believes in the particularistic Jewish traditions that separate Jews from other people. In that sense, Joel is a universalist-humanist in the ‘liberal’ Western tradition. Joel Kovel identifies with those Jewish people who have left their tribal origins and constricted backgrounds and have embraced the whole world as their pasture and area of action. The Author sees himself as being part of the post-enlightenment tradition of Jewish intellectuals, such as Spinoza, Marx, Freud, Proust, Eistein, Kafka, Wittgenstein and Rosa Luxembourg.
Kovel proposes “the true glory of being Jewish is to live on the margin and across boundaries” (Prologue, p. 8). For Kovel, Zionism is nothing but ‘Jewish tribalism at its worst’ (p.8). In this book, the Author essentially advocates the singular transformation of the state of Israel to accommodate all segments of the population of the Holy Land. Like Israeli leftist critic, Michael Warschawski (author, On the Border), Kovel too recommends and exhorts Israel to be de-Zionised and integrated into the rest of the Middle East (p. 220). The Author is a self confessed angry man in this book. He is truly furious at the ‘racist-apartheid’ attitude of the Zionist people of the state of Israel in their treatment of the Palestinian Arabs in their own homeland. Kovel states that the only solution to the Israel-Palestine problem is to have a bi-national secular democratic state in the territory of the former British mandatory Palestine. In this sense, this book joins the increasing body of literature that points towards such an option as a solution to the Israel-Palestine problem. Kovel is unanimous in his condemnation of the Jewish state as racist in the mode of the former ‘apartheid’ South African minority-ruled state. Kovel feels that more than ending the occupation in Palestine, well-meaning people in the world should focus on ending Zionism, which is the pathological-sociological condition that produces the ongoing Israeli ‘occupation’ of the Arab inhabited areas of Israel-Palestine. Indeed, he advocates a relentless critique of Zionism as a movement that has caused so much uprooting and misery in the 20th century and given the present circumstances, looks likely to continue well into the present century. Kovel deals in great detail with the kind of racism affecting Israeli society at large. This is not only directed against the Arab minority, but also intra-Jewish racism as manifested by the European (Ashkenazi) elite against Jews of North African and Asian origin (Sephardim). As a Jewish American, from Ukrainian immigrant stock, he is well-aware of the impact of racism on the social and political fabric of society, especially following his own special study of white-black racism in the US. While many modern Israelis may deny this, to quote famous New York Jewish Attorney and Human Rights activist, Michael Steven Smith, “Racism is in the nature of a colonial settler state.” Kovel refers to the widespread denial among Israelis that they are a racist society and people; despite numerous poll results pointing towards the inability of the majority of Israelis to cohabit with Palestinian Arabs. As Kovel states, ‘for Israel to admit racism would be to put it in the same category as the apartheid South African state and would be an obvious reason for the delegitimisation of the state’ (p.164). As he mentions in the autobiographical prologue to the book, Zionism today is nothing but a re-incarnation of historic European colonialism, or a kind of virulent tribalism linked with the extremely dangerous poison of majoritarian nationalism, which has created so much havoc in the West and in the modern world over the last one millennia (p.6). Kovel details how difficult it is to mention the question of Israeli racism or apartheid in the US, given the extent of support for the Zionist state in America. He quotes from Theodore Herzl, seen as the founder of modern Zionism, to show that it was the earliest desire of the earliest Zionist ideologues to evacuate and dispel the native Arabs from Palestine (p.48). Kovel is very cynical about the future of Zionism in Israel, as is evident from the recorded introductory talks about the present book under review, available on his website (www.joelkovel.org). He quotes from Thomas Jefferson saying that all states in the world are illegitimate to a certain degree or other (p.202). In this sense he believes that the state of Israel is also illegitimate.
Kovel deals with the common accusation against him as being essentially ‘anti-Semitic,’ stating that criticising Israel is almost always considered ‘anti-Semitic’ in the West. He makes the point that racism in all its forms has been the worst form of human behaviour known to man. The excuse of anti-Semitism has often been used to justify counter-racism on the part of the Jewish people. Kovel chronicles the much concealed fact that most Jewish people, at least in the West, are brought up on the notion that they are ethically superior. Such ‘Zionist logic engenders a racist resolution’ according to Kovel. Kovel relates how one of the contradictions about the state of Israel is the fact that it insists on regarding itself as a democratic state in the Western liberal perspective, while actually much the opposite is true. The Author is quite clear that the modern Israeli state is an ethnocracy, a state meant for the welfare of the ruling dominant white Westernised Ashkenazi Jewish group in Israel. Kovel’s book is not the first that breaks new ground over the allegation that Israel is an ‘apartheid’ society. Jimmy Carter’s latest book (Palestine: Peace not Apartheid) has already stolen the match on this issue. Issues dealing with the impact and power of the ‘Jewish Lobby’ on Capitol Hill have already been academically exposed with the publication of Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s article in the London Times. Another aspect of this book is that the author painstakingly reveals some of the inner thought processes of the leaders of the Zionist movement such as Chaim Arlosoff, Vladimir Jabotinsky and David Ben-Gurion who privately, if not publicly, advocated the need to evacuate and disperse most of the Arab people of Palestine. He writes in the mode of many of the ‘new’ revisionist historians of Israel like Benny Morris, Avi Schalim and Ilan Pappe. Kovel is no supporter of Morris whose hardheaded ‘realist-racist’ attitude towards the native Arab people of Palestine is out right condemned in this book. The author repeatedly makes the comparison between the present Zionist state of Israel and the former ‘Apartheid’ state of South Africa. Kovel does not spare any of the former premiers of Israel such as Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon whom he freely castigates as being members of terrorist organisations, etc. In his book, Kovel also reveals the extent of collaboration between the pre-independence Yishuv and the Hitlerite regime in Germany over the status of German-Jewish property. He also narrates the ‘Deir Yassin’ incident in which over a hundred Palestinian villagers were murdered in cold blood in one single massacre. Kovel believes, in accordance with most standard historians, that the incident at Deir Yassin along with many other similar massacres, most of which have been successfully concealed and are still to be researched in detail, were ultimately responsible for the mass flight of Palestinians from the state of Israel. This book also reveals details of big-town America’s dealings with Zionist Israeli businessmen and the activities of right-wing Americans in support of the state of Israel. This is through various large-scale ‘Zionist’ donations to both major American political parties as well as to establishing various ‘centres of excellence’ in Israeli academia. Kovel relates how every US President since Eisenhower has tried to control Israel’s nuclear policy without success, given the power of Israel’s US Jewish and Christian support lobby. Kovel clearly believes in the right of the state of Israel to exist, but not in its current mode. He postulates about a future secular democratic one-state solution, termed in his words Palesreal-a state that would support the rights of the ‘white’ Jewish population as well. He ends the book with the story of a Palestinian man who he names Ahmad, a native of East Jerusalem who has spent 17 years in Israeli jails. Through Ahmad, Kovel defines ideology of
the Palestinian people in the face of overwhelming odds as manifested in the form of the Israeli state, which he correctly defines as ‘Sumud’ (Arabic for steadfastness). Kovel correctly analyses, again along the lines of Michael Warschawski that the gargantuan struggle being played out in Israel today is between the reactionary forces of Zionism, in an albeit aged spectrum, and the desires and aspirations of an entire generation of young Israelis brought up in a post-Zionist ‘Capitalist-Globalist’ climate, wishing to be classified as normal human beings without the trauma of any inherited ‘holocaustrightist’ baggage attached to them. To quote from Kovel’s appropriation of the language of Warschawski, “for them (the ‘new Israelis’), solidarity with Palestinians is evidence of their engagement with a broader solidarity with all who suffer oppression.” Kovel is quite clear that the problem with the state of Israel is not the ‘illegal’ occupation of the West Bank, but the whole issue of the ideology of Zionism and the question of the Jewish nature of the state. In this context, he advocates that the new watchword of the leftist-liberal struggle should not be ‘postZionism’ but ‘anti-Zionism,’ which can again be defined as ‘an overcoming of Zionism through active struggle.’(p. 221) Kovel is quite clear that the two-state solution is no longer an option. Palestinians effectively control only 8% of the West Bank state, mainly the city limit areas of major Palestinian urban areas that are subject to invasion by Israeli troops at anytime. Palestinians are today isolated from each other and cut off economically and socially from each other. Their present habitations are economically unviable and they are completely dependent on foreign aid to survive. Kovel is uncompromising when it comes to the way that well-meaning people should respond to Zionism and the state of Israel. He advocates an open fight against the state, using all means, except open violence. In short, like the army of nonviolent activists working in Palestine-Israel, Kovel also advocates a kind of ‘pro-active non-violent’ approach to actively resist the Zionists and their supporters, mainly in the West. Kovel recommends campaigning against and boycotting Western multi-national corporations that actively fund and support the state of Israel through the transfer of sensitive technologies and military and industrial hardware. In essence, Kovel advocates putting into place the entire machinery of the anti-Apartheid struggle against the former South African state into the struggle against the Zionist state of Israel. While Kovel does not call for the end of the state of Israel, he supports the right of return of all the Palestinian refugees to the state of Israel. He feels that the best method to undo the ‘Jewish-ness’ of the state of Israel is to encourage the return of the Arab migrants and refugees from the Holy Land. Already, the population of the entire Israel-Palestine, west of the Jordan River, is roughly equal. Kovel’s book is written sensitively, using a simple style, and incorporates many different stories within its pages without overwhelming the reader. The all-embracing bibliography available at the end contains an unusually wide-ranging website list. The crux of the book is the argument that the ideology called Zionism and Western liberal democracy are highly incompatible. A two-state solution is not the solution to the conflict at all as this envisages the division of the Holy Land on the basis of 20th century nationalism which was the essential reason for the outbreak of the Zionist-Arab / Israel-Palestine conflict in the first place. Department of Politics, University of Exeter Samuel J. Kuruvilla
Occupied Territories, The Untold Story of Israel’s Settlements
BY GERSHOM GORENBERG, I.B.Tauris, 2007, ISBN 1845114302, 480pp, £14.99
his book was first published as The Accidental Empire, Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977 by Times Books, Henry Holt and Company. If this wonderfully readable book is re-published in updated form at some point in the foreseeable future, it could have the following subtitle – How the Zionist State of Israel (With American Assistance) Dug Its Own Grave. Born in the U.S. and living in Jerusalem, Gershom Gorenberg, journalist and author, is what could be called an associate member of that small, brave band of “new” or “revisionist” (for which read honest) Israeli historians. This band of truth-tellers includes Professors Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe. Shortly after the publication of his latest book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ilan decided to take his leave of Israel because its intelligence services and other agencies were making it impossible for him to work at Haifa University. He has now taken up a post at Exeter University. The Zionised Board of Deputies of British Jews tried and failed to block the appointment. (Ilan told me that hardcore Zionists were not too worried about his latest book because they could rubbish it and him in their usual way. But they were, he said, “very worried” about my book because of its title. Ilan agrees with me that Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews is a profoundly important summary statement of a great if uncomfortable truth for our time). Occupied Territories is two things in one. It is the documented story of who said what to whom, at Israeli and American leadership level, as Israel’s colonisation of Arab land grabbed in 1967 was proceeding. It is also the story, reading between the lines, of the struggle within an author’s soul as he comes to grips with painful facts, which sadly, most Jews are not yet ready to hear. My only disagreement with Gorenberg’s interpretation of events is over the important question of why it was that Israel ended the Six Days war in occupation of the whole of the West Bank as well as Eygpt’s Sinai including
the Gaza Strip and Syria’s Golan Heights. His judgement is that “Accidentally, Israel had acquired an empire.” In this interpretation of events, which echoes Avi Shlaim’s, Israel did not go to war to take territory. Military advances simply “outpaced plans”, or, as Avi put it, Israeli military commanders simply took advantage of opportunities to take land as they opened up. The other version, mine, recognises that Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin did not want to go to war. Like all of Israel’s leaders, they knew, contrary to what they told their people, that Egypt’s President Nasser was not intending to attack Israel. But what Eshkol wanted was actually a very limited military operation to put pressure on President Johnson to oblige Nasser to end his closure of the Straits of Tiran. However, this was of no consequence by 5 th June. In the final countdown to war on the Israeli side, there was something close to a coup (more political than military), which resulted in Eshkol being forced to handover the defence portfolio to Israel’s one-eyed warlord, General Moshe Dayan. And the very first thing Defence Minister Dayan did when he was appointed on 1st June was to tear up Eshkol’s plan and replace it with one for total war. In my assessment, there is more than enough evidence to support the conclusion that Israel’s military and political hawks went to war to create Greater Israel, and that for them it was the unfinished business of 1948/49. The central theme of the bulk of Occupied Territories is how and why Israel’s leaders decided not to decide how much land to give back in exchange for peace. As Gorenberg notes, the first proposals for withdrawal were born in the midst of the fighting. “At Military Intelligence’s research department, Colonel Shlomo Gazit and his staff completed a document that called for a near-complete pullback to the pre-war lines in return for full, formal peace agreements. Gazit’s paper also proposed establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The paper was sent to Dayan, Rabin and other top military figures on June 9th None responded.” After the 1973 war, General Shlomo Gazit was prevailed upon to become Director of Military Intelligence with a brief to ensure there could never again be an intelligence failure as there was on the eve of that war. In conversation with him some years later I took a deep breath and said: “Shlomo, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all a myth. Israel’s existence has never, ever been in danger.” Through a sad smile he replied, “The trouble with us Israelis is that we’ve become the victims of our own propaganda.” After the Creation of Greater Israel, the actual occupation policy, as brilliantly illuminated by Gorenberg, was “speaking softly and ‘creating facts’; using faits accomplis to determine the political future of disputed land… A new policy, neither articulated nor admitted.” As Eshkol put it, it was “better to be criticised after the fact (when nobody could do anything about it) than to do something Israel had been told in advance not to do.” And it was as
Gorenberg notes, quoting Israeli political scientist Ehud Sprinzak, the “ethic of illegalism.” Gorenberg’s most important revelation is that in a memorandum marked Top Secret, dated 18th September 1967, Theodor Meron, legal counsel to the foreign ministry, informed Prime Minister Eshkol that “civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” As Gorenberg put it, from then on “Eshkol (and at least some other Israeli cabinet ministers) knew that settling civilians in occupied land, including the West Bank, violated international law.” Gorenberg also reveals that “Israel’s leaders expected to be pressured by the United States to pull out.” But as he goes on to say, Israeli policymakers “actually had less to fear than they thought.” The U.S. was not going to press Israel to withdraw. And the reason for this was explained by Harold Saunders, an NSC (National Security Council) staffer. “We were convinced that we just could not move Israel against its will.” Some readers, perhaps many, and possibly all, will ask – Why, really, was the U.S. not prepared to require Israel to act in accordance with international law? The short answer was, and still is, the power of the Zionist lobby on Capitol Hill. That, plus the fact that the criminal Zionist state has nuclear weapons. In a conversation that took place in the living room of Johnson’s ranch, “first Rusk (secretary of state) and then Johnson asked Eshkol to describe ‘what kind of Israel we would be expected to support.’” Eshkol evaded answering. “Johnson posed the question yet again – ‘What kind of Israel do you want?’ – in a one-on-one conversation with Eshkol. Afterward, Eshkol told Allon he had replied, ‘My government has decided not to decide.’” So Israel’s illegal settlement activity, the obstacle to peace, continued and was speeded up when Menachem Begin, the most successful terrorist leader of modern times, became Israel’s prime minister in 1977. This is where Gorenberg’s main story ends. In an Epilogue titled Ephemeral for the Fourth Decade, Gorenberg briefly touches upon some of the main developments from 1977 to Prime Minister Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal of settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005. And he ends his book with this paragraph: “The meaning of the denouement in Gaza would be determined only by its yet-to-be-written sequel. It could later be interpreted as the moment showing that the cost in tears and fury of dismantling settlements was too high to be paid again, on a grander scale, for evacuating the larger Israeli communities in the West Bank – or as the proof that settlements are indeed potentially temporary, and that the settlers had lost the support of the Israeli mainstream. It may be recorded as the act that revived peace efforts, or as the intermezzo before a new battle over the torn land. It did not yet answer the question posed to Israelis when the unexpected conquests of 1967 were fresh: What kind of Israel do you want? The answer still lay in the future” At the time of writing this review (late August 2007) events cry out in suggestion to me that the denouement in
Gaza will be recorded as the intermezzo. In my view the prospects for a just and therefore peaceful resolution of the conflict in and over Palestine have never been as bad as they are today. Sharon did not withdraw from Gaza to give peace a chance but to defuse the demographic timebomb of Israeli occupation which, on the West Bank, he intended to consolidate. And the answer to the question of how the story will end might not be in the future. We might already know it. When Eshkol and his cabinet colleagues first discussed whether they wanted to keep only some of the newly conquered territory, or all of it, four ministers said they totally rejected annexation. The one Gorenberg quotes was justice minister Yaakov Shapira. He said that annexation meant turning Israel into one binational state, in which Jews would eventually become a minority. He added that the necessary alternative was to return almost all of the West Bank to Jordan, “because otherwise we’re done with the Zionist enterprise.” Shapira meant that if Israel remained in occupation of the Palestinians who lived beyond Israel’s borders as they were on the eve of the 1967 war, there would come a time when the Palestinians in all of Greater Israel would be able to vote the Zionist state out of existence (if Israel remained a democracy). In theory and unless Israel does end its occupation and withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, to make the space for a genuine two-state solution, one possible end of the story is the creation of a secular, democratic state for all in which Jews and Arabs would have equal rights. That would amount to the de-Zionisation of Palestine (as foreseen by Shapira). If it can be assumed that hardcore Zionists will never let that happen, what is a possible alternative ending to the story? Most of Israel’s political and military leaders still believe that by means of brute force and reducing them to abject poverty, they can break the will of the Palestinians to continue the struggle for their rights. The assumption being that, at a point, and out of total despair, the Palestinians will be prepared to accept crumbs from Zionism’s table in the shape of two or three bantustans, or, better still, will abandon their homeland and seek a new life in other countries. The question that’s almost too awful to think about is something like this: What will the Zionists do when it becomes apparent even to them that they can’t destroy Palestinian nationalism with bombs and bullets and brutal repressive measures of all kinds? My guess is that they, the Zionists, will go for a final round of ethnic cleansing - to drive the Palestinians off the West Bank and into Jordan and beyond. That, I fear, will be Zionism’s final solution to the Palestine problem. If that happens, the West Bank will be turned red with blood, mostly Palestinian blood. And honest reporters will describe it as a Zionist holocaust. I find myself wondering if Gershom Gorenberg shares my fear on this account. I know Ilan Pappe does. Alan Hart Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews (2 vols.)
American Policy Toward Israel: The power and limits of beliefs
BY MICHAEL THOMAS, Routledge, 2007, ISBN 9780415771467 (HB), Pp 272, £65
n ‘American Policy Toward Israel: The power and limits of beliefs’, Michael Thomas looks at how the American-Israeli relationship has influenced American policy toward Israel and the Palestinians. He describes how policy decisions are constrained and defined as a result of this relationship. Beliefs determine how we view the world and hence influence the decisions we make, and thus policies can be defined based on these beliefs rather than based on evidence. By introducing the book with these ideas and mindset, Thomas goes deep in to the underlying causes which led to the development of this relationship as it now stands. This prepares the reader for what is to come in the following chapters, and, rather like a jigsaw puzzle, historical events in this relationship fit neatly together. In chapter 1, Thomas refers to the American-Israeli relationship as ‘special’ – it exceeds beyond religious and moral boundaries to economic, political and military assistance. By drawing on historical facts and evidences Thomas provides a strong and convincing expose on American bias towards Israel. Using specific examples, he peels off the layers to uncover the true extent and depth of this special relationship. Thomas explains how Israel achieves American support through its penetration of the policy-making process. This began at the time of Reagan with the Evangelical Christian community and has persisted to the second Bush administration where Christian Zionists have access to the White House. The relationship is not just about the two countries as the Jewish community in America also plays a significant role, as discussed in Chapter 2. Thomas brings the reader’s attention to the strength of this community, and their organised activities/ campaigns in the fields of politics, civil rights, fair employment and democracy. Digging deeper reveals how even the demography of the Jewish population in America was organised to impact upon key elections. This book provides the reader with an insight into an intricate matrix of issues which affect American policy towards Israel. These issues are not always readily apparent, yet they have such
profound effects on the belief system of the American people (both Jewish and non-Jewish) and eventually on policy. The media is also mentioned as a tool which has aided the strong support for the existence of Israel since the end of WWII. Jewish people are usually portrayed as positive images whereas Arabs are depicted as racists associated with terrorism. Another factor is the lack of opposition to these ideas, and so there is ultimately no reason for politicians and Americans not to support the proIsraeli ideas that were being pumped through various channels. In this book, there is a particular focus on the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior. Chapter 4 explores the way in which Reagan’s personality and beliefs shaped the special relationship. Thomas looks at how Reagan dealt with the specific issue of the E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) sale to Saudi Arabia and the fight against the American Jewish Community who were against the sale. This provides an insight into the process of negotiation and conflict involved, thus shedding light into the establishment of power relationships. The issues which arose went further than just considerations about the security of Israel in the sale. This chapter takes the reader on a journey through the mind of Reagan during the events and decisions which took place during his presidency. Within this overview of the relationship, the author mentions some of the key organisations which hugely impact on the policy making process. One such organisation is the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) which has influences in Congress. Together with the Zionist Organization of America and the Anti-Defamation League, this group aims to ‘reinforce the image of Israel as America’s cultural, religious and democratic sibling’ (p. 13). In Chapter 8 we read about George H W Bush and James Baker and their close relationship. Personal relationships also shape how policies are dealt with and made, and hence America’s relationship with Israel. Financial investment (and increases in aid) made by America at significant historic moments illustrate America’s commitment to Israel. The author also describes how Israel’s primary interest for America shifted from the security of Israel to western access to Gulf oil. An interesting event which forms the topic of Chapter 9 was the US promise to guarantee Israeli loans if Israel stopped the building of new settlements. America’s support was now becoming conditional and many accused George Bush junior of being an anti-Semite. Although Yitzhak Shamir rejected this condition (as he valued the settlements more than the loan guarantees), once Rabin took office in Israel, Bush authorised $10 billion in loan guarantees without a settlement freeze. This provides a fine example of how beliefs influence policy as the US reached a stage where it could no longer afford to have anything but a special relationship with Israel unconditionally. In this book, Thomas gives the reader a deep insight into the complexities of this special relationship. It provides a different lens through which one can view developments between America and Israel; where beliefs, establishment of power and organisations such as AIPAC have the greatest influence in determining policy. No matter what issues or obstacles the two countries are faced with, the conclusions remain the same and have not altered the bond that exists between them. As Thomas succinctly puts it - ‘the more things change, the more they are likely to stay the same’(p 192). Oxford Ruqaiyyah Ahmed
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