Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why Palestine deserves Statehood

US Palestine Peace: patterns, problems, possibilities
The piece would help readers understand Palestine’s point of view as they approach the UN Security Council for the right to statehood

The UN Security Council’s admissions committee approved a report last Friday saying it failed to reach a unanimous decision about Palestinian bid for statehood. 
The reason why Palestine is still struggling is because the United States had clearly said that it would veto any Security Council bid and flat out reject any bid from Palestine for statehood. This US veto could be offset if Palestine gathers nine votes from the council’s 15 members, but it appears the Palestinians have only managed to secure eight supporters so far.

While Russia, China, Brazil, India, Lebanon, South Africa, Gabon and Nigeria support the Palestinian bid, the US is firmly against it. The other six members are expected to either vote ‘no’, or abstain from voting.

Palestine claims that the US has been trying to convince other countries to not vote in support of Palestine.

Late last month, Palestine received full membership status within the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 107 countries voted yes, 14 voted no, and 52 abstained from voting. But as a result, UNESCO ended up losing about 22% of its funds due to the US law passed in 1990 which obliges Washington to cut off funding to UNESCO if it admits Palestine.

“What we see that the US has been advocating for two-state solution for Palestine over several years, but when the real test came, they failed to move the paradigm forward,” Pat Carmeli, Member of CNY Working for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel,said.

An American woman marries visits Israel, ends up supporting Palestine

Pat Carmeli, 53, is an Israeli-American citizen. She had shifted to Israel after marrying an Israeli man. She returned to the US in 2004.

Pat didn’t know much about the conflict before going to Israel.

“That’s like the general public here who know very little except what they hear through the media that generally makes one think that Israelis are the good guys. I would hear the historical perspective from my husband. Who are Israelis!We would talk about how they came and wanted the Palestinians to stay in 1948 but the Palestinians fled the land. And I believed a lot of this,” Pat said.

She said after going there, it took her nearly 4-5 years before she started to catch on to what was really going on.

“At one point, I decided to jump into action. Along the Egyptian-Gaza border there’s the Palestinian city of Rafah. And the Israelis were just clearing out homes… people being rendered homeless… and it was terrible. And that’s probably the first time when I felt the little disconnect… when I thought something is really wrong here and that was the first time I decided make a sign and head to a demonstration in Tel Aviv,” Pat said.

Pat said after that she started to pay more attention and realize that injustice was rampant. “And then it was just one thing after the other,”she said.

US attitude towards Palestine
The US and Israel say Palestine should resolve the statehood issue through negotiations.
“The negotiations that have failed to show any results for about 30 years,”Karen Carmeli, daughter of Pat Carmeli, said.

Karen, 23, moved in with her parents to Israel at the age of four and stayed there till 2004. She and her mother came back after she turned 16. “Right before I would have had to go through the military service which is something I wasn’t interested in doing,” Karen said.

“The US support what they say are direct negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. They say that Palestinians should not be pleading to the UN for statehood. They should talk directly to Israel about whether or not they can have a state. I feel that negotiating with an oppressing force is not always on equal terms when one group is the oppressor and the other group is the oppressed,” Karen said.

She said that’s the reason why the Palestinians have had to seek assistance from larger international bodies as opposed to dealing directly with Israel. “Especially when settlements continue to be expanded throughout this so called roadmap to peace or peace talks,” Karen said.

Pat said she feels that US is being disingenuous to pretend to advocate on behalf of people’s rights to self-determination. “With the Arab spring and the US claiming that they support these democratic movements – in Libya, in Egypt, in Syria – but when it comes to the Palestinians they are still supporting Israelis,” Pat said.

Pat said she thinks that the US actions towards Palestine are indicative that they do not support a real democracy in Palestine.

Karen thinks it was after 1967 war that US became staunchly intertwined with Israel. “Seeing it as a David against the Goliath Arab world,” Karen said.

“Palestine is using all of the acceptable means of liberating themselves. And one of those means is going to the UN asking for membership. But that’s straight being denied by US even though US has supported it on a number of diff occasions for other countries. In this instance it is seen as something that is counter productive to what the US has as roadmap to peace between two parties... which has so far done nothing,” Karen said.

There is a very large lobbying group of the US called AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). Many AIPAC supporters see borders made in 1967are indefensible meaning that it would leave Israel in a very insecure situation if the borders would be along the 67 border. “Even though that is the internationally recognized border..eventhough anything built beyond that border by Israel is considered an illegal settlement,” Karen said.

Why the US support Israel?
 Mohamed Khater, 54, is the former President of the Islamic Society of Central New York
“More than 95% of the US congressmen support Israel… As they needJewish voters and Jewish money. Even if you have a President at the top, he can’t do anything unilaterally. Everything has to be approved by the Congress,”Khater said.

Pat said although only 2% of the US population is comprised of Jews, they tend to have a lot of money and control. “They are very successful of being able to target our elected officials who take a critical opinion of Israel. And they are very able to mobilize and support that person’s opponent and get them out. So the politicians know that if they are critical to Israel they will lose funding, or probably lose the next election. So this is a major part of the problem here,” Pat said.

The US gives Israel $3 billion every year in military aid. “That 3 Bn dollars we give to Israel, they are buying from us in weapons, missiles, white phosphorus. So it is not just how the US government is pushed by AIPAC but also our own military industry that loves this,” Pat said.
Khater said that the US has always supported Israel.

“Israel has more western values than any other middle-east country. There are manyAmerican Jews who live in Israel right now. And the US outright says that Israel is its ally. But they won’t flat out say that the enemy of my ally, Palestine, is my enemy,” Khater said.

US Plan for Two-state solution
“The plan that the US has for the two state solution means an “armed” Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state which is fragmented, that is, they have not figured out how to connect Gaza and the West Bank. Israel is in there in between. They are also thinking of doing something called “land swaps” which means Israel is going to keep many of its settlement it has been building illegally for 40 plus years,” Karen said.

She also said the current plan for a two state solution doesn’t address the issue of the right of return to Palestinians.

“Currently there are over 5million Palestinian refugees who were displaced from their homes in 1948. They are the largest refugee population in the world. They are scattered throughout the US. 

Some are in Arab countries… some are living in refugee camps in Syria, Jordan… the plan that the US is proposing is not going to give those refugee the right to return. Even though Jews who live throughout the world even if they cannot prove any lineage which links them back to Israel have the law of return,”Karen said.

This means that any Jew who lives anywhere in the world can apply for citizenship in the state of Israel and will be granted citizenship. “They are also going to be given financial incentives to move to the state of Israel…and to help to find an apartment or job,” Karen said.

Karen said many of the Palestinian refugees even have keys to their old home, many can prove ownership to their land though land deeds

“So those people will not be able to return to their ancestral home. While any jew living anywhere in the world is given automatic citizenship in the state of Israel. I don’t see that as an equal democratic two-state solution in any form,” Karen said.

Checkpoints within the West Bank
Karen said thatthe disconnect between Gaza and the West Bank makes the life of Palestinians miserable.Also, there are many checkpoints within the fragmented West Bank.

They would keep ambulances waiting at the check points and say that they need to search the ambulance even when there was a woman who was in labor.For instance, once a woman was carrying twins.They pulled her out of the ambulance and searched for however long it took and got her back in. She had to walk up and down into the ambulance. By the time she reached the hospital, both of her children had died,” Karen said.

She said the checkpoints make it difficult for Palestinians to pursue their medical and educational needs.

“If the university where you would want to study happens to be within three checkpoints away there is no guarantee that you’re goingto be able to make it to your classes or exams,” Karen said.

She said the checkpoints have also hurt the Palestinian economy because people cannot make it to work at times.

Khatersaid if the Israeli military would see a car with a yellow number plate indicating that of a Palestinian, the car will be held up. If the journey normally takes half an hour, it can take as long as seven hours. But with a blue number plate for Israelisone can commute freely.

Lack of Peace supporters
Pat said there aren’t enough supporters for establishing peace and settlementbetween the countries.

“People who are working towards peace have been doing it for years and they are very dedicated. There are just not that many people,” Pat said.

Karen said Israel has a very nationalistic society. “Once you go through the military you have a strong bond with the military… and probably all your family would have served in the military too. When everyone you know has been through the military,your association with anything that the military does, and your willingness to defend its actions gets increased,” Karen said.

Peace and settlement: Possible or far from Possible?

1) With middle-east support, can Palestine get statehood?

Egypt is the most highly populated Arab country and has the greatest influence in Middle-East.

“Over the past 30 years during Mubarak, the direction was to generally follow what US said. Palestinians had limited access to Egypt through the Egyptian-Gaza border But in March 2010 after the revolution, the barriers were removed Palestinians could travel freely between Gaza and Egypt,” Khater said.

Khater said the only time that the MiddleEast countries affected the US policy was during the war in 1973.

“All the Arab countries refused to export oil to the US. How can you really affect someone? By using your resources as your power,” Khater said.

Khater said following that the US became more careful as to not upset the Arab countries.

“If coalition of countries in Middle-East can support Palestine then it can have a huge impact. If Saudi Arabia, the emirates such as Kuwait refuse to export oil to the US, a lot can change,”Khater said. “But those countries are still ruled by dictators who support the US. Those countries need a revolution to change things,” Khater said.

Khater said two years ago when Israel bombed Gaza, there was a huge revolt in the Arab world also. However it was suppressed by the government.

“Now after the revolution and with the new government, Egypt can try to convince Saudi Arabia to help Palestine,” Khater said.

2) Can media bring about peace and settlement?
Karen said she thinks that the way most people feel about the conflict has to do with the way they learn about it from their representatives in the media.

“The media is generally portraying Israel as a victim in a situation not as an aggressor. They fail to mention that Israel gets the financial backing from the US. Quite often the media leaves out some of the basic facts about existence in Palestinian territories right now -their limited mobility, their limited access to education, to resources… medicine,” Karen said.

During the Gaza flotilla raid, nine activists were murdered. Karen said what the US media watcher perceived was that the activists on the boat were actually armed. “They were told that the activists in the boat were armed Islamic terrorists who were heading to Gaza to deliver weapons,” Karen said.

However in reality, she said the IDF (Islamic Defense Forces) raided the boat illegally at the middle of the night after shooting from a helicopter before the activists boarded the boat.
“So the activists armed themselves with chairs, clubs, and kitchen knives to defend themselves. 
No Israeli soldiers were killed and 9 activists were murdered. Many many were injured. All recordings were confiscated and never returned. And any thing that was shown on CNN was Israeli footage. It came from the IDF. Some of them were doctored and IDFhad admitted that it had doctored before giving it out,” Karen said.

“But the initial reaction that it creates when you see soldiers raiding a boat and people have knives; it seems thatthese people weren’t peace activists, they were dangerous people,” Pat said.

The media is supposed to represent impartially the truth or the facts. But our media has been one-sided for so long. Anyone who is interested in this subject is reading reports directly from the people who are experiencing it. People are led to believe certain things through what our media is telling them, then they vote a certain way, they support a certain way,” Pat said.

Pat said, she and her group try to showpeoplewhat really happens between Israel and Palestine.

“And usually the response that we get is that people are shocked. They didn’t realize that there are hundreds of settlements, not a few… and that there are well developed cities with transportation systems, where everybody has a swimming pool. And there you have people in the Palestinian villages holding up plastic soda bottles waiting for it to be filled maybe twice a week with water,” Pat said.

Khater said just few days ago he heard the US media say this small Israel is surrounded by the Arab countries.

“Israel may be small in size but it’s the most militarily powerful country in the Middle East. Israel is more powerful than all middle-east countries combined. And the US makes sure that this is the case,” Khater said.

“Israel has nuclear powers, it’s confirmed… atleast 200 nuclear warheads.But no one talks about this in the media. What media is talking about now is the threat of Iran. And this is the focus of US policy in the last couple of years - how the US can stop Iran from being a nuclear power. And that’s why the media only raise those issues. Some people in the media also have an interest in pushing this agenda,” Khater said.

Khater said Israel doesn’t deny it’s nuclear power. “They say it flat out – it’s a secret we can’t talk about this. They don’t say “yes” or “no”.  And the subject gets closed,” Khater said.

The entire media and the atmosphere shape public opinion. “So when you hear this in the news all the time, you think it must be true. So the public opinion has always been with Israel,” Khater said.

“The other factor is Hollywood,” Khater said. “When you see movies in which great Hollywood actors sympathizewith the Jew point of view, and say how the Muslim terrorists are attacking them. So people will think it must be true.If Paul Newman and John Wayne support Israel, people follow them.”

“The perception about Arabs and Palestinians is they are all Muslims and hence terrorists… They are barbaric, they are terrorists.They want to destroy the little state of Israel,” Khater said.

Pat said only when people become active enough to sign a petition to call their congress person, or write a letterto Obama, things can change.

“When I get the mail saying “Vote for Obama” , I write on it “You will not get my vote  unless you respect Palestinian human rights” and I put it back in that envelope. And I mail it back to them,” Pat said.

She said things will change only when enough people in this country step over that line and be willing to speak “We don’t want our tax dollars going to Israel warcrimes,”

Pat said she thinks if US starts withdrawing its military support from Israel, peace may flourish.

The other day in the G-20 summit Sarkozycalled Netanyahu a liar in a private conversation with President Obama, with him agreeing to it. “So what does this show? And even Dennis Ross who is one of the US advisors on the Middle East just left. Now did he quit or resign? Or President Obama pushed him out? Nobody can tell,” Pat said.

AnnTiffany ,76, is another member of the CNY working towards a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel.

She said she thinks Israel with its resourcesand power, is like a colony of the US.

It’s like the US base in the Middle East. And the reason for our isolation from the entire Arab world at this point,” Tiffany said.

I was in Israel when the towers came down on 9/11… and I still believe that would never have happened if we weren’t allied with Israel the way we are and had alienated the others,” Pat said.

Pat said she thinks that the main issue that upsets the Arab world is the US relationship with Israel and the oppression of the Palestinian people.

“If that goes on we will not resolve our relationship with the Arab world. That’s primary,” Tiffany said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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