Posts tagged ‘Palestinians’

12/16/2011

Gingrich-Republicans Wrong on Palestine

Former Congressman Gingrich incorrectly suggested the word “Palestine” was not commonly used until 1977, Palestinians are an “invented people,” and their “right of return” to Palestine, now illegally occupied by Israel, is based on a false story. Other Republicans have also harbored twisted views on the Mideast, including Santorum, who thinks, “the West Bank is Israeli land,” Romney who believes it’s wrong to criticize Israel for illegally erecting settlements in occupied Palestine, Perry who said the Palestinian request for statehood is a travesty, and Bachmann who complained when Obama said Israel should return to the pre-1967 borders. All of these Republicans need to learn some history.

Palestinians have continuously lived in Palestine for thousands of years. The Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Israel are all on land previously known as Palestine, an area ruled by the Turkish Ottoman Empire for 402 years (1516-1918). Only 30,000 Jews lived there as of 1880, and as of 1893, 95% were Arab. In WWI, as the Turks were about to surrender, former British Prime Minister Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration (1917), without first consulting the Palestinians, in which he promised a homeland for the European Jews in Palestine.

Once WWI ended, the League of Nations gave Britain a formal mandate to govern Palestine (1920). They in turn gave the Jews of Europe permission to start settling among the Arabs of Palestine. As the percentage of Jews in Palestine grew from 11% in 1922 to 29% in 1939, opposition from Arab Palestinians grew.

After WWII, upon the disclosure of the atrocities inflicted upon the Jews of Europe, momentum developed for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. UN Res. 181 partitioned Palestine into two areas, one Jewish, and one Arab (1947). Because the Jews were only 33% of the population, but received 55% of the land, the Palestinians rejected the plan, triggering a civil war (1947-48).

Meanwhile, terrorist attacks by Jewish militants, caused the British to give up on Palestine. As they were leaving the country, Israel declared independence, which caused the 1st Arab-Israeli War (1948-49). The Arab nations around Palestine tried to stop the formation of a new Jewish state, but failed. Israel proceeded to destroy 420 Arab villages, and seized lands that had been assigned to the Arabs, as 700,000 Palestinian refugees fled to neighboring states. Homeless Palestinians lived in caves and makeshift tents, in the winter of 1948-49. Following a 1949 Armistice, the UN recognized Israel as a nation-state, but many Arabs, at least initially, refused to accept Israel’s UN based right to exist.

U.S. foreign policy under Republican President Eisenhower (1953-61) took a middle course, as Israeli requests for military equipment were denied. Israel was persuaded to return to the 1949 borders after the Suez War (1956), by a U.S. threat to cut off aid.

Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula (Egypt), Golan Heights (Syria), East Jerusalem, and West Bank (Jordan), started in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, as Israel launched a surprise attack on Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. The UN Assembly censured Israel (99-0, 20 abstentions), and the Security Council found their seizure of lands illegal. The UN ordered a “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” (Res. 242). To this day, Israel has never fully complied.

Following the 1967 war, Israel ignored international law, and started building settlements in Arab East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. The UN warned Israel in 1968 against changing Jerusalem by conquest (Res. 252). They reminded Israel in 1971, it is illegal under international law to expropriate land, or forcibly remove civilians (Res. 298). In a 14-0 vote, the Security Council directed Israel in 1971 to relinquish control over East Jerusalem.

The U.S. made a major foreign policy change in 1972, when they started vetoing UN Resolutions critical of Israel. The shift in U.S. policy came about through campaign contributions supplied by the Israeli Lobby to both parties. Without the help of the U.S., the Arabs tried to take back the occupied territories in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, but failed, as Israel had superior firepower supplied by the U.S. The UN continued to demand withdrawal (Res. 344).

Progress was made in 1978 following talks between President Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Begin, and Egypt’s President Sadat, as Israel withdrew from the occupied Sinai, back to the pre-1967 Egyptian border, under the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty (1979).

When the right-wing Likud Party however gained power in 1980, they reversed the process, by escalating settlement construction on Arab lands. As they imposed Israeli law in the occupied Golan Heights (1981), the UN declared it null and void, as a violation of civilian rights, under the Geneva Conventions (Res 497).

Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), said as early as 1985, he would accept Israel’s UN right to exist, if only they would return to the pre-1967 borders.

President Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, and Jordan’s King Hussein, made progress with another agreement in 1994, but the process stalled in 1995, when an Israeli extremist assassinated Rabin, and Netanyahu lifted the ban on new settlements in 1996.

Israel also damaged the peace process by building a Wall in and around occupied East Jerusalem, which now separates Arabs from each other. The International Court of Justice ruled the demolition of Palestinian homes, and the deportation of civilians by Israel to construct the Wall, amounted to an annexation and a violation of international law, under the 4th Geneva Convention (2004). Although Israel was ordered to remove the Wall, they ignored the court, and declared it their new West Bank border (2006).

While Israel finally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, they closed off all land, sea, or air access to that Palestinian territory, and made prisoners of the 1.5 million Palestinians who reside there. Today, Israel maintains strict blockades around Gaza, and continues to occupy East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights.

President Carter, a person we should all listen to with regard to the Mideast, correctly said the U.S. squandered international prestige, and intensified global anti-American terrorism, by unofficially condoning Israeli confiscation of Palestinian lands.

President Obama also showed leadership in 2011, when he asked Israel to stop building illegal settlements and to end their longstanding occupation of Palestine, by withdrawing to the pre-1967 borders. He said Palestinians suffered the humiliation of occupation, and have a right to govern themselves in a sovereign state. He requested a “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces.” “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, so secure and recognized borders are established for both states,” he said.

Although Netanyahu agreed: “The Palestinians…should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state” and the solution is “two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state, alongside the Jewish state,” he rudely lectured Obama, saying Israel cannot defend the old 1967 lines. The truth is the current borders are the ones that caused nothing but conflict and violence for 44 years, and are the lines that are indefensible.

The problems in the Mideast will never be solved as long as aspiring American leaders ignore the truth of what has happened there over the past 94 years. They at least have to get the facts straight. This Republican crowd, running for President in 2012, has an awful lot to learn about Palestine and the Mideast before they could even begin to be ready for the White House.

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10/18/2011

Bachmann Is No Commander-in-Chief

Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann is not fit to serve as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, because she has no statewide, national, or worldly experience, little knowledge of international law, and several incorrect views on foreign policy.

While she opposed the military operation that President Obama successfully prosecuted in Libya, claiming no American interests were involved, she remains overly willing to engage in armed conflict in Iran, even though there is no evidence they are building a bomb, or pose any credible threat to the U.S.

Bachmann has obviously not studied Middle East history, because she criticized President Obama for suggesting a Palestinian peace plan that would require Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, and give up lands illegally occupied for 44 years.

Bachmann lives in the past, as she still sees Cuba as a sponsor of global militarism of the sort used during the Cold War, even though the Soviet Union dissolved 20 years ago, and Cuba no longer receives any weapons or instructions from Russia.

Bachmann incorrectly concludes the elimination of Osama bin Laden had something to do with our mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, and worse yet, she shows little or no regard for the Geneva Conventions, and international law, as she thinks the U.S. somehow has a special god-given right to engage in torture.

Bachmann’s Evangelical religious views make her unqualified in an era when we need a President who will take on fundamentalist viewpoints all across the globe. We need one who believes no government should ever establish a religion. Bachmann’s problem is she would interject religion in politics, and not separate the two.

We need a President like Obama who supports democracy against the rule of tyrants, such as Gaddafi in Libya. Our next leader must not be a sucker for fabricated proofs of the sort that drew President Bush into Iraq. He must understand special interests are right now trying to trump up another phony case for war, this time against Iran. We need a candidate with courage to broker a peace in the Mideast, which means not blindly taking Israel’s side, but rather considering the views of the Palestinians. Our next leader must respect international law, and understand that if we torture, our soldiers will likely be subjected to do the same abuse.

Since Michelle Bachmann is not a person who will ever be fit to serve as Commander-in-Chief, the Republicans should not advance her cause any further. If they do, all Americans should be prepared to rally to her defeat, whether she runs in 2012 as a Presidential candidate, or as a Vice-Presidential sidekick.

09/20/2011

Palestine: What Pat Buchanan Thinks

Commentator Pat Buchanan’s book Where the Right Went Wrong (2004) includes a section on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, which served as a basis for this article about Palestine.

Buchanan’s book explains that during WWI, British Lord Balfour decreed: “his Majesty’s government looks with favor upon the establishment of a homeland for the Jews in Palestine.” After the British Army seized Palestine from Turkey in 1917, they received a mandate from the League of Nations to govern it, and remained until militant Jews, in the Stern Gang and Irgun, used terrorist tactics to drive them out in 1948.

After Israeli independence in 1948, and particularly since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, negative feelings about the U.S. rose to new highs in the Islamic world. Americans need to listen to what they say about us so we can learn why they hate us.

Arab and Islamic peoples universally resent our one-sided reflexive support for Israel. We use a double standard when dealing with Israel and Arabs. We give Israel aid, but allow them to defy UN Resolutions, seize Arab land, and deny Palestinian rights. Americans are not hated for who we are; we are hated for what we do. It is not our principles, but rather our policies.

When President Bush took power in 2001, the Neo-Cons, many of whom were Jewish-American with strong emotional ties to Israel, were put in charge of U.S. Middle East Policy. Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle saw U.S. and Israeli interests as the same. Since Israel was unable to remove threats to their homeland, they wanted the U.S. to disarm their neighboring states. They wanted America to establish permanent military bases in the Mideast.

The U.S. was attacked on 911, because our Foreign Policy supports Israel and the fundamentalist Likud regime. Buchanan said: the terrorists of 911 came over here, because we were over there. Since Israel and the U.S. could not be confronted directly, terrorism was used, as it is the only weapon they had.

The Palestinian case must be resolved, because as Buchanan said, no amount of force can keep an unwilling population in subjugation indefinitely. Unless we change, we are headed for endless conflict in the Islamic world.

While Israel must withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, the problem is America is no longer an honest broker, because we sit with Israel and have a compulsive need to provide their defense. The U.S. has embraced a neo-imperial pro-Israeli foreign policy the Founding Fathers would have seen as a breach of faith.

The U.S. needs to pull back from the Middle East, Buchanan said. We must stop volunteering to fight their wars, since such a foreign policy does not serve our interests. He said America needs a foreign policy made in the United States, and not in Tel-Aviv, or at the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

05/26/2011

Israel’s Netanyahu Offers Little Hope

If I was a Palestinian, this is what I would have heard, as Israeli Prime Minister Ben Netanyahu addressed the U.S. Congress.

He said Israel will not vacate the occupied territories by returning to the 1967 lines. “The border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.”

He said certain occupied areas will be annexed by Israel. “650,000 Israelis, who live beyond the 1967 lines, reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and Greater Tel Aviv. These areas, as well as other places of critical and national importance, will be incorporated into the final borders of Israel.”

He told the Palestinian refugees, who had been driven from their homes, that there will be no right to return, and they will have to reside somewhere other than within Israel itself. “The Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.”

He told the Palestinians, and the entire Islamic faith, the City of Jerusalem will never again be divided between Jews and Muslims, as it once was. “Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”

He told the people of Gaza, Israel will never work with their elected leaders, people they chose in free, fair, and open elections.

He told the UN, a body to which Israel owes its very existence, and an organization that includes every nation on earth, that Israel will not accept a UN remedy. “The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the UN will not bring peace.”

As he stated his uncompromising positions, he acknowledged it “would be difficult for the Palestinians,” and then also said, we must “find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians.”

To his credit, Netanyahu said: “The Palestinians…should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state…I publically committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state, alongside the Jewish state.”

Although he said “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace,” and later repeated: “I will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise,” the part of the speech he left out was what, if any, compromises he would actually make.

The problem with Netanyahu, and the Orthodox Likud Party, is their reliance on the Old Testament, instead of the UN Charter, and modern international law. He resorted to the Bible: “in Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers…This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel…Abraham…No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year-old bond, between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”

Netanyahu’s 4,000-year claim to the occupied territories, based on who was there first, has no basis. Even if Abraham had led the Jews to Canaan in 1900 BC, the Canaanites were already there, since they arrived in 3000 BC. Today, the land would belong to the Arab descendants of Canaanites, who were there 5,000 years ago. Oh, by the way, if we are going to start using this type of logic, then Florida belongs to the Seminoles, the Iroquois own New York, and Texas has to be turned over to the Apache Indians.

Netanyahu failed to mention in his speech that after the Jewish Kingdom was established (1006 BC), many others subsequently conquered and occupied the area, including the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Muslim Arabs (since 7th Century), and Turks (1516-1918). The modern Jewish state, which is what we are talking about, did not come into existence until 1948.

Israel needs a new leader who has his head is in the 21st Century, and who respects the rule of international law. Once they find such a person, only then may there be a hope for a real and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace.

05/25/2011

Palestinian State Must Be Contiguous

To create a lasting peace for Israel, any new Palestinian state must be established as a single territorial unit, meaning the borders must be contiguous. The two parts of Palestine (Gaza and West Bank) must have land-based link, which must be clearly included in any “land swaps” that will define the ultimate borders.

The Palestinian Corridor should be from Beit Hanoun, in the Gaza Strip (northeast), to Dura, in the West Bank (southwest). It should include a high-speed rail link, with no stops in between, so Israel will have no security reason to stop or interrupt service. The corridor should include a 2-lane highway on each side of railway.

The world has previously made the mistake of physically dividing peoples and nations, in situations that have led to war.

Britain made a mistake when they created Pakistan, by locating the western part on one side of India, and the eastern half, 900 miles away, on the other side (1947). The distance between the two parts made Pakistan unmanageable, and caused East Pakistan to secede. Although an independent state of Bangladesh emerged, it was not until after Britain’s error first took the lives of millions in the Pakistan Civil War and Indo-Pakistan War (1971).

The allies made a mistake after WWI (1919), when they separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany, and transferred to Poland some German-speaking territories, near the Danzig Corridor. The lack of a sovereign connection between the two parts of Germany gave hardliners like Hitler a platform, upon which to rationalize an invasion of Poland in WWII, in which millions died.

The allies again made an error after WWII (1945), when they divided Berlin, located entirely in the Soviet Zone, into four sectors, occupied by the U.S., Britain, France, and Russia (1945). The only way the U.S., Britain or France could access their parts of Berlin, was to travel through the Russian Sector. When the Soviets cut off the highway to Berlin (1948), war was narrowly avoided, as the U.S. landed one supply plane with food every minute, for 318 days straight, to finally break the blockade.

It would be a mistake to create a new Palestinian state with Gaza and the West Bank physically separated by Israel. To prevent future roadblocks and conflict, any peace agreement must make the two parts contiguous, by creating a permanent and irrevocable easement between them, known as the Palestinian Corridor.

04/13/2011

Gaza and Israel: What’s It All About?

The news again reported that Israeli aircraft and tanks pounded the Gaza Strip in response to a Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli bus. Although we have heard this kind of news for the past 63 years, many still have no idea why the Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting each other for so long.

The Gaza Strip and Israel both occupy an area in the Mideast that was previously known as Palestine. It was ruled for 400 years by the Turkish Ottoman Empire (1518-1918). In WWI, as the Turks were about to surrender, former British Prime Minister Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration, in which he promised to give the Jewish people a national homeland in Palestine, even though the overwhelming majority of people living there were Arabs (1917).

After Turkey surrendered, the League of Nations gave Britain a mandate to govern Palestine (1920). The English in turn gave the Jews of Europe permission to settle among the Arabs of Palestine. As the percentage of Jews in Palestine rose from 11% in 1922 to 29% in 1939, opposition from the Arab Muslims grew.

After WWII, upon the disclosure of the atrocities against the Jews in Europe, momentum developed for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The UN partitioned the British mandate in Palestine into two areas, one Jewish, and one Arab (1947). The Palestinians however rejected it, and a civil war began (1947-48).

As the British were about to leave Palestine, Israel declared independence, and triggered the 1st Arab-Israeli War (1948-49). The Arab countries around Palestine tried to stop the creation of Israel, but failed. Israel seized land that had been assigned to the Arabs and made refugees out of 700,000 Palestinians. Following the 1949 Armistice, the UN recognized Israel as a nation-state, but many Arabs refused to acknowledge the new country. After another Arab-Israeli War (1967), Israel built settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of several UN Resolutions.

Progress was made later as self-rule was granted in Gaza (1993) and Israel transferred some control to the Palestinian National Authority (1994). Although Israel later re-entered Gaza during an Intifada (1999-00), they withdrew again when Mahmud Abbas was elected Palestinian Authority president (2005).

Israel however continued to confine the Palestinians of Gaza by maintaining strict controls over their maritime, air, and land borders. One major complaint today is that the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza are effectively prisoners in their own land. The border controls have made their economy desperate at times, which explains why the Palestinians continue to lash out at Israel.

Another complaint is the refusal of Israel to let the Palestinians choose their own leaders, without consequence. When elections were held in 2006, Hamas won, but Israel refused to accept the outcome, even though the process was free, fair and democratic.

Over the last 40 years, the UN Security Council has not acted to correct the situation, because the Israeli lobby controls the U.S. Congress, through campaign contributions supplied by special interest groups. The U.S. vetoed 42 UN Resolutions critical of Israel since 1972, and there is little hope the U.S.-Israeli arrangement will change any time soon. Even the 911 attacks, which were the direct result of the unconditional U.S. support for Israel, did not wake up the American public.

So the violence in the Middle East continues. Disproportionate air and ground attacks are made in response to occasional rocket fire from Gaza, and nothing ever changes. Hopefully, someday, the people in the Mideast themselves will see that the tactics of the past have not worked, and that they need a new approach.