Thursday, March 29, 2007

Continuing to Debunk Mythologies

I'm flattered that Evergreen College teacher Steve Niva thinks me important enough to mention my name 8 different times in his rebuttal to my feature article of Sunday, March 18th, 'Play Sheds Light on Conflict.' He would better spend his energies though on more rigorous research. For example, he re-introduces the tired, revisionist narrative of what was offered at Camp David in the summer of 2000, and studiously avoids the final offer later that December, known as the 'Clinton Parameters,' where over 96% of contiguous land in the West Bank was indeed offered to the Palestinians. See Ambassador Dennis Ross' maps in his definitive account of the talks, The Missing Peace; Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2004.

And trumpeting out the "fact that Hamas has not conducted a single suicide bombing in nearly two years" makes one wonder whether they should be nominated for some sort of peace prize for such heroic restraint. Except, of course, that this assertion (which in a better world would be cause for embarrassment instead of pride), also bandied about regularly by former President Carter, simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny. It was just 11 months ago that a falafel stand in Tel Aviv was blown up by a suicide bomber, killing eleven innocent diners and wounding over 60 others. Oh, sorry; the bomber hailed from Islamic Jihad. Yet Hamas, the reigning power in the newly elected Palestinian government, called the attack a legitimate response to Israeli's occupation of the West Bank. "We think that this operation . . . is a direct result of the policy of the occupation and the brutal aggression and siege committed against our people," said Khaled Abu Helal, spokesman for the Hamas-led interior ministry. Earlier, Moussa abu Marzouk, a Hamas leader based in Syria, told al-Jazeera television that "the Israeli side must feel what the Palestinian feels, and the Palestinian defends himself as much as he can."

Sounds to me like a pretty strong endorsement of suicide bombings continued legitimacy from the Hamas-led government. And let's not forgot all the attempted terror attacks (estimates range as high as 40 a month) that are thwarted by the indefatigable efforts of the Israeli Security Forces, saving countless innocent lives on all sides. The wall that Niva refers to (over 90% is actually a wire-linked fence) has been very instrumental in markedly cutting down terror attacks, also diminishing Israel's need for counter-terror efforts inside Palestinian villages. A non-violent solution to a violent problem.
I will proudly repeat my claim; despite it all, Israel continues to hold an outstretched, if guarded, hand in peace, working tirelessly to live side by side in peace and prosperity with the Palestinians and all her Arab neighbors.

Finally, I would challenge this author's ability to impart any sort of objectivity to his students in his role as an educator since it is quite obvious that his viewpoints regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict are very one-sided. This raises a larger question: what happens when students beg to differ with such prevailing sentiments? Are they penalized? Is there a true venue at Evergreen State College for more nuanced viewpoints towards the conflict? Are contextualized, fact-based, pro-Israel viewpoints welcomed?

Israel's apologists distort the truth
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The fairy-tale view of Israel as eternally besieged and completely faultless in its conflict with the Palestinians, as presented by David Brumer in the March 18 Focus ("Play shines light on conflict"), has certainly taken a hit this past year.
A growing number of Americans who deeply sympathize with Israel, including former President Jimmy Carter, have spoken eloquently of the need to recognize that Israel has committed severe human rights violations against the Palestinian people through its nearly 40-year military occupation and theft of Palestinian land for Israeli settlements. While extremely critical of Palestinian terrorism, they conclude that peace with security is not possible until Israel ends the injustices.
Perhaps that is why Israel's more fervent apologists are resorting to distortion and defamation as their preferred method to discredit anyone who dares acknowledge Palestinian grievances or Israel's grave and well-documented human rights abuses. Carter is facing an onslaught of malicious charges that range from intentionally lying to anti-Semitism. They want to silence an emerging debate over the United States' one-sided embrace of Israel.
This method of attacking the messenger is clearly on display in Brumer's article as well as in the flurry of protest against the play "My Name is Rachel Corrie" at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. The play tells the story of the 23-year-old woman from Olympia crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer demolishing Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip.
Instead of joining with Carter, Rachel Corrie and countless others, many Israeli and Jewish, who recognize Israel's occupation and settlements are unjustified and prevent peace, Brumer peddles defamation and falsehoods about Corrie masquerading as reasonable criticism.
Claiming that Corrie was even "unwittingly" supporting terrorists is contradicted by the fact that the Israeli army has never claimed or provided any evidence that the homes in the neighborhood of Gaza that Corrie was defending when she was killed were concealing tunnels or were involved in attacks on Israelis.
Claiming Corrie was in any way providing cover for suicide bombers is easily proved false by the fact that no Palestinian suicide bombers had come from Gaza three years before or during the time Corrie was there.
Claiming that Corrie was working with an "extremist" organization is contradicted by the fact that the International Solidarity Movement to End the Occupation is composed of leading Palestinian voices of non-violence and supported by numerous Israeli peace groups.
Legitimate questions can be raised about Corrie's risky decision to enter into a very dangerous conflict zone. But that zone was dangerous precisely because Israel has imposed a merciless military occupation over a largely defenseless population and was wantonly demolishing homes to steal land for Israeli settlements.
One can certainly and rightly blame, as Brumer does, Palestinian extremists for damaging the moral justness of the Palestinian cause through murderous and strategically worthless suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of innocent Israelis.
But none of that justifies Israel continuing to steal Palestinian land and building a wall deep within Palestinian lands to annex those settlements. Nor does it prevent Israel from taking unilateral steps to vacate completely the land that it has illegally occupied since 1967.
Brumer's complete silence regarding Israel's occupation and settlements implies that it does.
Brumer's implicit justification for Israel's occupation and settlements is the continually recycled myth that Israel has always extended its hand of peace while Palestinians have always rejected it. This myth conveniently ignores the fact Israel's "generous offer" at Camp David in 2000 was based on Israel annexing the bulk of its settlements, cutting any Palestinian state into five tiny enclaves surrounded by Israel. Brumer touts Israel's recent withdrawal from Gaza, but ignores Israel's withering siege upon its imprisoned population.
Brumer also justifies the status quo by emphasizing the immutable extremism of Hamas. But the fact is that Hamas has not conducted a single suicide bombing in nearly two years and has endorsed a reciprocal truce with Israel if it were to withdraw completely to its 1967 borders. But Israel completely rejects those terms, missing a historic opportunity to undercut Hamas extremism.
Those who truly support a balanced and just peace in the Middle East should honestly debate Corrie's life and legacy. Her very act of acknowledging legitimate Palestinians grievances and her promotion of alternatives to violence was a message of hope and peace sorely lacking today.
By attacking the messenger, Corrie's detractors are sending a clear message opposed to hope and peace.
Steve Niva teaches international politics and Middle East studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia.
© 1998-2007 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The New Saudi Initiative: Much Ado About Little

Once again, many in Washington and Europe are abuzz with the spring fever of yet another, new and improved, Saudi Initiative. But we should hold our applause until the curtain comes down and the brass tacks of the Arab Summit is examined. How much can really hoped for? How much is window dressing designed to present a unified front on the part of the Arab world? At the same time, what real windows of opportunity exist for breakthroughs, even if small?
According to Ambassador Dennis Ross, there is wiggle room for some progress if:

  • The U.S. could broker a comprehensive ceasefire between Olmert and Abbas
  • If the Palestinians rein in those still launching attacks into Israel and if Hamas stops the smuggling and build-up of arms
  • If Hamas would actually not just agree to but enforce such a ceasefire

Then a political dimension could perhaps be opened. Palestinians committed to peace would be supported while Hamas would continue to be ostracized for its rejectionist stance towards Israel's right to exist. But can such a weakened Abbas (and Fatah, by extension) truly compete against Hamas rising power and status?

Will Israel be able to portray itself as not the obstacle to peace and progress, because it rejects the new Saudi Initiative outright due to the lack of changes in the critical clauses regarding the return to the '67 borders & the Palestinian 'right of return" into Israel proper? Perhaps the best approach for Israel would be to officially accept negotiations while stating its objections to these demands. See more commentary below db

The Saudi Initiative - Dennis Ross

The Arab League is poised to reaffirm the Saudi initiative that offers the Israelis peace, but only after Israel has taken all the steps the Arabs want. Conflicts are rarely solved by one side making all the concessions before it sees what it gets in return. Today, with Hamas continuing to embody rejection, the Arab world must show that if Israel meets its terms (or something close to them), it will receive peace and security not as a slogan but as a reality. At this point, a plan that lays out the final contours of an agreement is unachievable. No one is prepared to embrace the necessary compromises. The Arab League is only conceding Israel's existence - useful, but hardly a breakthrough. (Financial Times-UK)

The Arab League Summit -
Zvi Bar'el
"The Arab citizen has gotten used to the idea that Arab summit meetings bring no benefit. He expects the meetings to produce declarations, but realizes that these declarations will mean nothing," Lebanese analyst Mohammed Mashmoushi wrote in Al-Hayat last week. A senior Jordanian visitor in Israel this week told Ha'aretz that the Arab summit meetings long ago stopped serving as a serious forum for debating the Middle East's problems. In fact, it is difficult to point to even one Arab League achievement in the past few years. It did not prevent the war in Iraq, and it cannot present an Arab formula for solving that country's problems. It is out of touch on the Palestinian issue, both in terms of a solution and the internal Palestinian crisis. (Ha'aretz)

Israel: "Now Is Not Time for Final Status Talks" -
Herb Keinon
"In the current situation it is impossible to reach a political settlement with the Palestinians," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Tuesday. She said the new PA unity government was not abiding by the conditions set by the Quartet and that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was "disappointing, especially because he failed to condition the formation of the new Fatah-Hamas coalition on the release of captured IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit." Earlier Tuesday, a senior Israeli diplomatic official said that for the first time since 2000, Israel and the Palestinians will begin regular discussions on all aspects of a future Palestinian state except for borders, Jerusalem, and refugees. This followed Secretary of State Rice's announcement that Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert had agreed to hold biweekly meetings. The "most important thing to come out of Rice's visit," the official said, "was that the Israelis and Palestinians decided to resume talks on the parameters of future Palestinian statehood, on the characteristics of this statehood." The official said that despite Abbas' weakness and "inability to deliver," there was need to talk to someone, and Abbas was the natural candidate. (Jerusalem Post)

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Clarification on a very Controversial Issue: Plus, Calev Ben-David on the Tragedy back in 2003

Firstly, my thanks to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, particularly Kimberly Mills of the editorial board, for agreeing to run this piece. Given the loaded nature of this subject, I appreciate their willingness to allow me to express my viewpoint.
I would however, like to clarify for readers that due to time pressures of going to press combined with my unavailability until moments before the piece went to copy, the P-I felt it crucial that some mention was made of how and under what circumstances Ms. Corrie died. Had I had the full opportunity, my preference for the phrase in bold of the second paragraph would have read, who was accidently killed while protesting the Israel Defense Forces demolitons of Palestinian homes in Gaza that the Israelis believed were being used to smuggle weapons through underground tunnels....
As with so much of this complex and heart-wrenching conflict, context remains ever critical to a fuller understanding and appreciation of the situation.
Accuracy is also vital and a blogger has pointed out that I incorrectly wrote "Some of Corrie's compatriots who joined the extremist Islamic Solidarity Movement, when describing the ISM. This should have read International Solidarity Movement and I apologize for this oversight and regret the inadvertent misrepresentation. I am fully aware of the distinction and had no intention of mischaracterizing. I vow to be more vigilant in the future. Thanks to Gordon for noting.
David Brumer


Play Shines Light on Conflict

Sunday, March 18, 2007
Last week, as the Seattle Repertory Theater opened the one-woman show, "My Name is Rachel Corrie," we were again reminded of the tragic death of this passionate young woman from Olympia. Yet perhaps her untimely death and the play that celebrates her life can help shed new light on the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict and bring us closer to peace for both peoples.

Without doubt, Corrie, who was killed in 2003 while protesting the Israeli Defense Forces demolitions of Palestinian houses in the West Bank and Gaza, wanted to make the world a better place, and she fervently believed her actions in Gaza furthered that goal. But armed with an incomplete understanding of a very complex situation, she may have unwittingly supported a cause she would have been horrified to learn, actually undermined many of the beliefs and values she most cherished. When she attended pro-Hamas rallies in Gaza and in one photographed instance, burned a mock American flag, she may have been swept away by the youthful exuberance that buoyed her in the certain belief that her protests were justified by the need to defend the rights of the innocent and oppressed.

But if she was alive today, I like to believe she would be shocked by Hamas' rise to power, given what they stand for. At first, she would be surprised to learn that Hamas, an acronym for "Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamia," or Islamic Resistance Movement, is an offshoot of the radical Islamist movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood and founded in 1928, long before the establishment of the modern state of Israel. That Hamas is fighting to establish an Islamic state in Palestine and beyond, a state that if ever successfully created, would be ruled by Islamic Sharia Law. She would be appalled to hear that institutionalized misogyny plagues Arab women in Gaza, with widespread violence often inflicted on them from their husbands and clans, the most severe culminating in "honor killings" for adultery, even when the accusation is unsubstantiated. The form of execution mandated is death by stoning.

Some of Corrie's compatriots who joined the extremist Islamic Solidarity Movement alongside her, who might be gay or lesbian, would also not fare well under the yoke of Hamas. Were they to assert their sexual orientation under such a government, they would risk certain persecution, violence and possibly even death. Those standing under the much vaunted human rights umbrella so frequently touted by the defenders of the downtrodden in Gaza might be surprised to discover that using unsuspecting Western activists as human shields constitutes a gross violation of the often cited Geneva Convention. So too does targeting civilians (a proudly self-proclaimed Hamas practice) and firing from densely populated civilian neighborhoods, another favored tactic of Hamas and other internationally recognized terror organizations operating out of Gaza, like Islamic Jihad.

Meanwhile Israel, the nation whose policies and practices Corrie characterized in her diary as "true evil," continues to be a thriving secular democracy, where gays participate in military service, all women have the right to vote, with 18 of them serving in the 120-member Knesset, or Israeli Parliament. Of that parliamentary body of 120 members, 10 are Arabs, and there are three parties in the government representing the Arab segment of the Israeli population. In addition, Ishmael Khaldi, the Israeli Deputy Counsel General for the Western United States, is an Israeli-Arab and the second highest Israeli government representative in Western America. All Israeli citizens, Christians, Muslims and Jews enjoy freedom of speech, the press and unfettered religious expression. And all citizens, including the over one-million strong Israeli-Arabs, 20 percent of the population, have access to education, modern health care and good jobs.
Israel mourns the senseless deaths of all the Palestinians who have died since the eruption of the second intifada, recognized by Israelis as a deliberately launched terror war by the late Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian leadership. The deaths of all Palestinians during that war are not only senseless and tragic, but have done nothing to further the cause of establishing two states, living side by side in peace. Yet even after all the bloodshed of those years, both the Israeli government and the vast majority of Israelis still yearn for peace and a two-state solution. As Ambassador Dennis Ross definitively established after the Camp David Talks in the summer of 2000 (he was there throughout those talks as Special Middle East Coordinator under President Clinton), the Clinton Parameters improved on those earlier Israeli peace offerings, and at Taba in early 2001 Israel made its most far-reaching offer for peace:

Full withdrawal from Gaza.
Relinquishment of more than 96 percent of contiguous land in the West Bank.
Arrangements for a 4 percent land swap in exchange for the remaining percent.
Palestinian control of their holy sites in Jerusalem as well the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, where they could declare their capital.
The right of return to all Palestinian refugees -- and their descendants -- to the new Palestinian state.
A $30 billion fund created to compensate those refugees who chose not to exercise their right of return into the new Palestine.

Arafat and the Palestinian leadership rejected this offer and instead launched the Second Intifada, leaving more than 1,000 Israeli men, women and children dead and thousands more wounded and traumatized. Yet despite such suffering, Israel's desire for peace remained great enough that in the summer of 2005, it withdrew completely from Gaza, uprooting more than 8,000 Israeli citizens, including 48 who had died, interred in graves near their families' homes.
Those very painful sacrifices made by the Israelis in the name of peace were answered with almost daily barrages of Qassam missile attacks launched from the newly emancipated Palestinian Gaza into southern Israeli communities. After Hamas swept into power in January 2006, those unrelenting Qassam missile attacks culminated in a brazen, unprovoked ambush through a tunnel dug into Israel proper, resulting in two Israeli soldiers killed and one kidnapped.

Despite it all, Israelis still wants nothing more than to live in peace with its neighbors. Just as Israel made peace with brave Arab leaders such as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Jordan's King Hussein, so Israel continues to dream of a day when she can live side by side with a free and democratic Palestine, realizing the vision of a two-state solution for the two beleaguered peoples.

"My Name is Rachel Corrie" reminds us of the tragic loss of life on both sides. Let us honor those lives by continuing to support the moderates in the region. May there soon come a day when the only aspirations of Palestinian children are to grow up to be doctors, educators, and entrepreneurs, living side by side in peace and prosperity with Israel. Let's not allow those dreams to blow up in smoke.

David Brumer is a member of the International Committee of the Anti-Defamation League of the Pacific Northwest. He works as a geriatric social worker and psychotherapist. Visit his blog, BRUMSPEAK, at
© 1998-2007 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

At Rachel's Tomb
We must mourn Rachel Corrie's death, but we should also mourn the choices that led to it.
By Calev Ben-David
formerly managing editor of the Jerusalem Post--where this piece first appeared in 2003

I didn't know Rachel Corrie, the 23-year old American activist killed on Sunday when she was run over by an IDF bulldozer while protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes in Rafah along the Gaza-Egyptian border.But I've known many like her, young, politically committed Americans and Europeans who come here to identify with the Palestinian cause in one capacity or another.
Some have been my friends; others made clear that wasn't an option with an Israeli citizen and IDF reservist who serves in the territories. One very special case was a Long Island Jewish woman, who when I met her was living with a Palestinian in Ramallah and claimed she couldn't even abide the very sound of Hebrew.
Today, back in New York, she is a firm (if still left-leaning) supporter of Israel, proud to be part of the local Jewish community.
Corrie's death has drawn predictably polarized reactions. "Within hours of being crushed by an Israeli bulldozer, Rachel Corrie became a martyr and hero for the peace activists of her home town," reported the Associated Press from Olympia, Washington.
"Rachel was filled with love and a sense of duty to her fellow man, wherever they lived. And, she gave her life trying to protect those that are unable to protect themselves," declared her parents in an e-mail distributed by the Gush Shalom movement.
Others were far less impressed. A photo showing Corrie looking not especially love-filled as she held up burning facsimiles of the American and Israeli flags is also making the e-mail rounds.
"As an Israeli, how exactly am I supposed to feel about an American who comes to my country to defend those trying to kill my children?" wrote the novelist Naomi Ragen in her own e-mail missive. "How am I supposed to feel about a girl who throws herself in front of my sons, my soldiers, who are risking their lives to uproot terrorism, forcing them to deal with naive foreigners who make their lives even more difficult and dangerous?... What a wasted life. What a foolish death."
Was her life a waste? Her death certainly was, tragically so.
One factor was its timing. Had Corrie died in this manner in almost any other week, I'm sure it would have been given major and repeated play in international news outlets traditionally not sympathetic to Israel. But coming on the eve of a US attack on Iraq, it received relatively little notice from an attention-stretched media. (Ironically, one place where due notice was taken is [the Jerusalem Post], which of course is editorially not in sympathy with her views.) Had the rest of the world not been busy criticizing the US for its decision to attack Iraq, I'm sure the international condemnation of Israel would also have been far stronger.
Especially muted was the State Department reaction; with America poised to began a military campaign in which there are bound to be civilian casualties, including whatever "human shields" like Corrie may be left in Iraq, it certainly wouldn't have been a politic time to come down heavy on Israel in this instance.
As I said, I've encountered a number of young people like Corrie over the years, and when I do, I try my best (if allowed) to dialogue with them. Had I met Corrie, I would have tried to put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in historical perspective, and explain how we have reached the current (but hopefully not permanent) impasse in large part because of Yasser Arafat sabotaging the Oslo process by giving the green light for violence in October 2000. I would have said that on the human level, I share her sympathy for the hardship of the Palestinian people, but added the suffering is equally experienced by Israelis contending with seemingly unending waves of terror.
I would have shared my experiences as a reserve soldier who more than once was called upon to stand guard when the IDF demolished Palestinian homes in the territories. Sometimes I felt these actions were unjustified, and admit I feel ashamed by my role in them. But the destruction of the homes in Rafah was a response to the terrorism and arms smuggling the Palestinian Authority has allowed to flourish along the Gaza-Egypt border, and it is the PA which bears the brunt of the blame for this particular operation.
I would have commended Corrie for her decision to engage in non-violent resistance, while pointing out that this strategy cannot be effective or morally elevated when it is accompanied by continued violence. Perhaps she should have begun her efforts by protesting against the extremists in her own (adopted) Palestinian camp, as Mahatma Gandhi once did in a famed hunger strike directed against the violent extremists in his Hindu community.
Most likely, at some point I would have lost my temper and accusingly asked her by what right she has to come to a country where she does not live and where she will not have to suffer the long-term consequences of her actions the same question I ask right-wing Jewish activists from abroad who campaign against any compromise in the territories, without a willingness to live here and share in the burdens of that policy.
Finally, I would have pointed to the example of Abigail Litle, the 14-year-old American Bapist girl killed in the Haifa bus bombing two weeks ago. Litle, like her family, was reportedly dedicated to the cause of Arab-Jewish reconciliation, and apparently did so by trying to bring the two sides together, not simply by lifting up a partisan banner for just one camp, an action that put Corrie in league with terrorists dedicated as much to Israel's destruction as to Palestinian liberation.
Litle's death was also a tragic waste; but unlike Corrie, I don't think anyone on either side of the conflict would suggest the same about her all-too-brief life. I do mourn for the death of Rachel Corrie; but I also mourn for the choices she made that led to it.

Calev Ben-David
The Israel Project
Director - Israel Office
Jerusalem, Israel

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Avoid "Grand Solution" Temptation while Seizing any Real Opportunities

Avoid the "Grand Solution" Temptation - Gerald M. Steinberg
While Gerald Steinberg warns against a false euphoria over the revived Saudi initiative, he also points to the narrow, but existent, windows of opportunity that the initiative does provide. It is the Jewish way to always seek any opportunity to forward our goal of living in peace and harmony with our neighbors, while simultaneously remaining ever vigilant of the very real threats and clouds we find ourselves living under.

"the specific opportunities presented by the revived Saudi initiative, under an American umbrella, should not be wasted. Beyond the immediate and shared strategic concerns regarding the growing Iranian influence and hegemonic goals, this channel can be used to lower the level of distrust and ignorance. The time is long overdue for Saudi leaders - political and religious - to end support for incitement and anti-Semitism. If Israelis are asked to take the Saudi plan seriously, the promised movement toward normalization must be visible, and not hidden behind closed doors."
Gerald Steinberg heads the Program on Conflict Management at Bar-Ilan University, and is the executive director of

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Saudi Plan will Find no Traction in Sand Dunes of Refugees and Final Borders

Once again the Saudis have offered up a supposedly fair and far-reaching proposal, the new and improved 2002 Saudi initiative. But the same problems remain, only magnified by a recalcitrant and radical Hamas-led Palestinian government. What are those problems? The demand that Israel return completely to the pre-1967 borders (see the Bush letter to Sharon in April of 2004, affirming the major settlement blocks near Jerusalem as irrefutable 'facts on the ground'),
as well as the 'right of return' of Palestinian refugees-and their descendants-into Israel proper. These are non-starters for Israel, and even the most dovish of Israeli governments would be forced to reject them outright.
The Saudis of course know this, and are maneuvering cleverly to present themselves as fair arbiters to both sides, hoping to, if nothing else, win favor in Washington and with opinion elites the world over. Since the world is desperate for any sense of movement on the Israeli-Arab front, many are likely to prod Israel into entering negotiations without any pre-conditions.
Since the Saudis share an interest with Israel, namely to prevent the spread of the Iranian dominated Shia Crescent and to combat the continued growth of Sunni Jihadists, they could in fact, do much more. But for that, they will have to take some real risks, and not just posture with empty public relations ploys.

Arab Leaders Rule Out Amending Saudi Proposal
Last week the Arab League said it would relaunch the 2002 Saudi initiative, but Arab leaders said it would not include changes Israel has been pushing for. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria on Tuesday explained their reasons for turning down Israel's request to amend the proposal. "We have the Arab peace plan and we are committed to it as a whole. Talk about amending it is baseless," Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa said after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak's spokesman Suleiman Awwad said, "Israel cannot pick and choose from the initiative and then jump into establishing normal relations with Arabs." Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said, "We have no desire to negotiate over this."

Overrated New Initiative - Hillel Halkin
Every couple of years, a much-ballyhooed new initiative has surfaced to solve the Israel-Arab problem. Will anyone remember the current "Saudi initiative" 40 or even five years from now? Not unless the Saudis are willing to go a lot further toward meeting minimal Israeli conditions for a peace agreement. There is no way that even the most dovish Israeli government can agree either to return all the way to the pre-1967 borders or to accept a massive influx of the descendants of the 1948 refugees. And because the Saudis know this, they also know that their initiative in its current form is no more than a propaganda ploy. This is not to say that the Saudis would not like to see Israel at peace with the Arab world as part of their efforts to contain the spread of Iranian and Sunni jihadist influence. They are simply not, so far, willing to take any real risks to do so.

See You Later, Riyadh - Eitan Haber
One has to know and remember that the "Saudi plan" in its current form is a recipe for the destruction of Israel. Agreement (over which there is not even the slightest possibility) to absorb in Israel hundreds of thousands or even millions of Palestinian refugees means from our standpoint that we have to pack our bags. The conclusion at this point can only be to agree to discuss the Saudi plan, but not agree to the lethal clauses that are contained in it. (Yediot Ahronot, 13Mar07)

The Saudi Mirage - Editorial (New York Sun)

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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Are the Foxes Monitoring the Hen-Houses? NGO's with Political & Ideological Agendas

It is often assumed that Human Rights NGOs represent the gold standard of impartiality and neutrality, that there only interest is in furthering the rights of the downtrodden and oppressed throughout the world. International NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have small on-the-ground teams operating in local areas like the West Bank and Gaza, but the unspoken truth is that most of their information is actually gathered from local NGOs who very often only emphasize and advocate for one side of a conflict.
"Using their enormous power and influence, NGOs are able to impose narrow perceptions and ideologies on the international diplomatic and journalistic communities, particular with respect to their interpretations of international law. Instead of the conflict resolution process that humanitarian relief NGOs claim to be supplying, they often become parties to the disputes, and actually exacerbate tensions and violence."
See the monitor of the "monitors," NGO Monitor's report to the United Nations, detailing the problems associated with reliance on highly politicized NGOs which claim to promote universal human rights, but instead all too often advance biased political agendas based on very distorted narratives. Their report to the UN Committee CERD at link below.
On February 22 and 23, 2007, the UN Committee (CERD) charged with monitoring the International Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination held its periodic review session on Israel.
Many politicized NGOs operating in the Arab-Israeli conflict submitted statements to CERD, including Adalah, ICAHD, BADIL, Ittijah, Al Mezan, Al Haq, and Amnesty International. For the first time, however, NGO Monitor also submitted a statement to theCommittee, which was accepted as evidence ( ). NGO Monitor's report details the problems associated with reliance on politicized NGOs which claim to promote universal human rights, but instead, advance biased political agendas based on a highly distorted narrative.
The submission also analyzes many of the NGO statements to the UN, highlighting their lack of credibility. Instead of promoting racial equality and non-discrimination, these statements merely heighten the conflict by utilizing inflammatory rhetoric which demonizes Israel; stripping away the context of mass terror; and promoting false historical claims.
see also
State Department Report Parrots Biased NGOs - Yaakov Lappin (Ynet News) A recent report released by the U.S. State Department which contains criticism of Israel's treatment of Palestinian security prisoners merely parrots allegations made by biased non-governmental organizations (NGOs), an Israeli monitoring organization said. "NGOs such as Adallah, Moussawa, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and B'tselem (all of which receive funding from European governments) provide the bulk of the 'evidence' for the discussions on Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement in this report," said Professor Gerald Steinberg. "However, as NGO Monitor analyses have shown, these groups distort the facts and systematically erase the context of terror in order to promote their political goals."

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Monday, March 5, 2007

More on Music as a Path Toward Genuine Reconciliation and Understanding: EDEN MI QEDEM

The Jerusalem-based World Music band "'Eden Mi Qedem" (Ancient Eden) was established by Samuel (Shmuel) Nelson, who has lived and traveled extensively in the East and the West, in both the Jewish and Arab world. He created 'Eden Mi Qedem' to give musical expression to his own spiritual and aesthetic journey. Their recently released debut disk brings together some of the region's finest musicians of Middle Eastern/Arabic music and Western rock/pop. The band's lyrics are a unique blend of Hebrew, Arabic, and English, and are based on inspiring traditional texts as well as original poetry. All of this has created a genre breaking music with a powerful message; and with potential to help bring about Jewish/Muslim spiritual reconciliation.
See samplings of their inspiring music below

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Friday, March 2, 2007

Music as a Reflection of Culture: 'Teapacks' sings, "Don't Wanna Go Kaput-Kaboom"

One of Israel's most popular and talented musical groups, Teapacks (or as they are known in Israel Tipp-ex) was picked as Israel's contest competitor to the EuroVision song competition-to be held in Helsinki, Finland in May. They offered up four songs to the telephone-voting Israeli public, which overwhelming chose "Push the Button." Lyrics include, "And I don't wanna die, I wanna see the flowers bloom, don't wanna go kaput-kaboom."
Teapacks was created 19 years ago and they are known for their unique sound, combining oriental/eastern musical styles with more western pop music. They are also known for their satirical and humorous takes on Israeli life and for the biting social criticism in their lyrics. Famous for sampling music from old cultural themes and songs and re-writing them, the band was created in 1988 by Kobi Oz and Gal Peremen in the town of Sderot.
Art, and particularly popular music so often best reflect the mood and times of a culture. In this Israel is no different from anyplace else. "Push the Button" appears to reflect a widespread Israeli view that Iran's nuclear programme is a threat to the Jewish state's very existence.
And small, connected world that it is, guitar player Rami Yosifov was my wife's first enduring love during the last three years of teenagehood in Holon, when she was still Iris Malka!

Israelis Pick Anti-Nuke Song for Eurovision
Israelis have voted overwhelmingly for a song about nuclear annihilation as their country's entry in this year's Eurovision song contest, in what is considered a response to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's fiery rhetoric. The group Teapacks was picked as Israel's contest competitor earlier, and they offered up four songs to the telephone-voting Israeli public, which overwhelming chose "Push the Button."
Not only does Oz, the group's leader and soloist sing about "demonic" and "crazy rulers" and the threat of being "blown to kingdom come", but he continues with the lyrics: "And I don't wanna die, I wanna see the flowers bloom, don't wanna go kaput-kaboom." The song appears to reflect a widespread Israeli view that Iran's nuclear programme is a threat to the Jewish state's very existence. In October 2004, President Ahmadinejad made a statement in which he envisaged the replacement of Israel with a Palestinian state.
Mr Ahmadinejad has called for an end to the Israeli state, though Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful. "The idea is to do something that crosses the accepted norms," singer Kobi Oz told reporters. Controversial entry The group was picked as Israel's contest competitor earlier, and they offered up four songs to the telephone-voting Israeli public, which overwhelming chose Push the Button. The lyrics are sung in English, French and Hebrew and the music fluctuates between folk, rap and hard rock themes.
View the Song
See also Eurovision Contest May Ban Israeli Entry
Eurovision may ban Israeli entry due to lyrics on nuclear war
By The Associated Press
HELSINKI, Finland - Eurovision Song Contest organizers said Thursday they might ban this year's Israeli entry, Teapacks' Push the Button, because of what they termed its inappropriate political message.The song, to be performed at the contest in Helsinki in May, overwhelmingly won Israel's competition Wednesday. It is sung in English, French and Hebrew and seemingly refers indirectly to Iran's nuclear ambitions and its hard-line leader, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
.Click here for the official Israeli Eurovision Web site.

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