A Black Flag

From: Jennifer Loewenstein
Subject: Resuming Emails: Gideon Levy – A Black Flag
Date: Mon, 3 Jul 2006 00:17:34 +0100

Last week I was in the West Bank and East Jerusalem trying to accomplish work for a research project, hence my absence. All I can say now is that what you are reading in real news reports about the IDF push into Gaza and the arrest of half of the Hamas government on the West Bank last Thursday is as terrible as these articles portray it, if not worse. The tension in the air is almost visible. The director of a West Bank NGO and respected politician (even today) says that we are on the eve of the Third Intifada. Last Wednesday when the first rumors of an IDF invasion of Ramallah hit the news, foreigners were asked to leave the city. By 5:00 pm more than 1000 youths had gathered at the Manara Square (city center) armed with rocks and sticks, and unveiled a huge Palestinian flag down the middle of the Lions’ statues monument. The IDF did not enter that day. Instead, a convoy of jeeps and army vehicles entered the city in stealth in the middle of the night arresting many of the Hamas officials including 8 ministers in the cabinet. The situation in Gaza is far worse and the Gaza Strip remains deliberately locked shut to the world. Nobody is allowed in or out except select foreign journalists, diplomats and, today, a handful of aide workers. Meanwhile the Hamas ministers with Jerusalem residency cards were stripped of their right to enter the city. Entry to Bethlehem was cut off to Palestinians from East Jerusalem as well and, according to a reliable Israeli journalist, the next to be restricted will be the entry at Qalandiya. Whatever happens, now is the time to speak up. Please do not betray the people of Palestine with silence. JL.


The difference between us and them? We kidnapped civilians and they captured a soldier, we are a state and they are a terror organization. A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organization.

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, 2 July 2006

A black flag hangs over the “rolling” operation in Gaza. The more the operation “rolls,” the darker the flag becomes. The “summer rains” we are showering on Gaza are not only pointless, but are first and foremost blatantly illegitimate. It is not legitimate to cut off 750,000 people from electricity. It is not legitimate to call on 20,000 people to run from their homes and turn their towns into ghost towns. It is not legitimate to penetrate Syria’s airspace. It is not legitimate to kidnap half a government and a quarter of a parliament.

A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organization. The harsher the steps, the more monstrous and stupid they become, the more the moral underpinnings for them are removed and the stronger the impression that the Israeli government has lost its nerve. Now one must hope that the weekend lull, whether initiated by Egypt or the prime minister, and in any case to the dismay of Channel 2’s Roni Daniel and the IDF, will lead to a radical change.

Everything must be done to win Gilad Shalit’s release. What we are doing now in Gaza has nothing to do with freeing him. It is a widescale act of vengeance, the kind that the IDF and Shin Bet have wanted to conduct for some time, mostly motivated by the deep frustration that the army commanders feel about their impotence against the Qassams and the daring Palestinian guerilla raid. There’s a huge gap between the army unleashing its frustration and a clever and legitimate operation to free the kidnapped soldier.

To prevent the army from running as amok as it would like, a strong and judicious political echelon is required. But facing off against the frustrated army is Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz’s tyro regime, weak and happless. Until the weekend lull, it appeared that each step proposed by the army and Shin Bet had been immediately approved for backing. That does not bode well, not only for the chances of freeing Shalit, but also for the future management of the government, which is being revealed to be as weak as the Hamas government.

The only wise and restrained voice heard so far was that of the soldier’s father, Noam Shalit, of all people. That noble man called at what is clearly his most difficult hour, not for stridency and not for further damage done to the lives of soldiers and innocent Palestinians. Against the background of the IDF’s unrestrained actions and the arrogant bragging of the latest macho spokesmen, Maj. Gen. Yoav Gallant of the Southern Command and Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, Shalit’s father’s voice stood out like a voice crying in the wilderness.

Sending tens of thousands of miserable inhabitants running from their homes, dozens of kilometers from where his son is supposedly hidden, and cutting off the electricity to hundreds of thousands of others, is certainly not what he meant in his understated emotional pleas. It’s a shame nobody is listening to him, of all people.

The legitimate basis for the IDF’s operation was stripped away the moment it began. It’s no accident that nobody mentions the day before the attack on the Kerem Shalom fort, when the IDF kidnapped two civilians, a doctor and his brother, from their home in Gaza. The difference between us and them? We kidnapped civilians and they captured a soldier, we are a state and they are a terror organization. How ridiculously pathetic Amos Gilad sounds when he says that the capture of Shalit was “illegitimate and illegal,” unlike when the IDF grabs civilians from their homes. How can a senior official in the defense ministry claim that “the head of the snake” is in Damascus, when the IDF uses the exact same methods?

True, when the IDF and Shin Bet grab civilians from their homes – and they do so often – it is not to murder them later. But sometimes they are killed on the doorsteps of their homes, although it is not necessary, and sometimes they are grabbed to serve as “bargaining chips,” like in Lebanon and now, with the Palestinian legislators. What an uproar there would be if the Palestinians had grabbed half the members of the Israeli government. How would we label them?

Continue reading

The government is losing its reason

Haaretz Editorial, 30 Jun 2006

Bombing bridges that can be circumvented both by car and on foot; seizing an airport that has been in ruins for years; destroying a power station, plunging large parts of the Gaza Strip into darkness; distributing flyers suggesting that people be concerned about their fate; a menacing flight over Bashar Assad’s palace; and arresting elected Hamas officials: The government wishes to convince us that all these actions are intended only to release the soldier Gilad Shalit.

But the greater the government’s creativity in inventing tactics, the more it seems to reflect a loss of direction rather than an overall conception based on reason and common sense. On the face of it, Israel wishes to exert increasing pressure both on Hamas’ political leadership and on the Palestinian public, in order to induce it to pressure its leadership to release the soldier. At the same time, the government claims that Syria – or at least Khaled Meshal, who is living in Syria – holds the key. If so, what is the point of pressuring the local Palestinian leadership, which did not know of the planned attack and which, when it found out, demanded that the kidnappers take good care of their victim and return him?

The tactic of pressuring civilians has been tried before, and more than once. The Lebanese, for example, are very familiar with the Israeli tactic of destroying power stations and infrastructure. Entire villages in south Lebanon have been terrorized, with the inhabitants fleeing in their thousands for Beirut. But what also happens under such extreme stress is that local divisions evaporate and a strong, united leadership is forged.

In the end, Israel was forced both to negotiate with Hezbollah and to withdraw from Lebanon. Now, the government appears to be airing out its Lebanon catalogue of tactics and implementing it, as though nothing has been learned since then. One may assume that the results will be similar this time around as well.

Israel also kidnapped people from Lebanon to serve as bargaining chips in dealings with the kidnappers of Israeli soldiers. Now, it is trying out this tactic on Hamas politicians. As the prime minister said in a closed meeting: “They want prisoners released? We’ll release these detainees in exchange for Shalit.” By “these detainees,” he was referring to elected Hamas officials.

The prime minister is a graduate of a movement whose leaders were once exiled, only to return with their heads held high and in a stronger position than when they were deported. But he believes that with the Palestinians, things work differently.

As one who knows that all the Hamas activists deported by Yitzhak Rabin returned to leadership and command positions in the organization, Olmert should know that arresting leaders only strengthens them and their supporters. But this is not merely faulty reasoning; arresting people to use as bargaining chips is the act of a gang, not of a state.

The government was caught up too quickly in a whirlwind of prestige mixed with fatigue. It must return to its senses at once, be satisfied with the threats it has made, free the detained Hamas politicians and open negotiations. The issue is a soldier who must be brought home, not changing the face of the Middle East.

Madison Alders Attack Sister Cities

Wisconsin State Journal :: FRONT :: A2, Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Rafah is not a city in El Salvador

Ald. Lauren Cnare doesn’t oppose buying milk for kids in Rafah on the Gaza Strip in Palestine. She just objects to tax money given to a Madison sister city in El Salvador being used that way.

Cnare sits on the Sister Cities Grant Review subcommittee, which during the grant review process found that the Arcatao, El Salvador sister city program gave some of its money to the controversial Rafah Sister City project — looking like an end run around the City Council, which in 2004 voted against making Rafah a sister city. (Opponents raised heated objections, saying it appeared to be taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.)

“It’s not that the kids don’t deserve milk or money, they do,” says Cnare. “While these are worthwhile causes, we as a city need to be good stewards of our money and make sure these programs are following the guidelines.” The Arcatao sister city group had not returned calls by press time.


ISTHMUS, MADISON.GOV, APRIL 21, 2006, Vol. 31, No. 16, Vikki Kratz

Sisterly spending

Ald. Zach Brandon thinks some Madison sister-city groups are misusing their city funds.

“There’s no oversight,” he complains, noting that the Madison-Vilnius (Lithuania) sister donated money to Hurricane Katrina relief last year. “It’s a worthy cause, but it’s not what they were given tax dollars for. It’s not their money to do whatever they want with.”

Daina Zemliauskas-Juozevicius of the Madison-Vilnius Sister City Committee says the group has always used its $500 in city funds appropriately, providing English books to Lithuanian libraries and supporting a local folk dancing troupe. She admits it gave $50 to the Red Cross during its Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. “They were allowing us to use a meeting room for our monthly board meetings. The donation was kind of a thank you.”

Brandon is unmoved, saying, “It’s less the dollar amount. It’s more the principle.” He also complains that the Arcatao, El Salvador sister has given money to the Rafah Sister City Project. The Madison Common Council refused to name Rafah in Palestine a sister city, in part due to allegations that it’s a haven for terrorists. “The sister-city program has deviated from the original intent,” says Brandon. “It’s become more political.”

But Barbara Alvarado of the El Salvador group says it never gave money to the Rafah program; she suspects Brandon misread its annual report. “We have done joint fund-raisers with Rafah,” she says. “We do not give money to them.”


Wisconsin State Journal :: OPINION :: A8, Wednesday, May 3, 2006

(Red text was deleted and blue text was added by the State Journal.)

No city money to Rafah project

Madison Ald. Lauren Cnare and the State Journal readers can rest easy. Contrary to Melanie Conklin’s April 19 column, the Arcatao, El Salvador sister city project DID NOT give any city money to the Rafah sister city project. Had Conklin been less hasty, she could have gotten the facts from the Arcatao or Rafah projects.

In spite of erroneous comments made by the Sister City Oversight Committee, Arcatao only reported co-sponsoring public events with other groups, including a Passover Seder with Madison-Rafah. Proceeds were split between humanitarian projects of the two groups. No city money was used.

The claim of an “end-run” around the City Council is ludicrous. We are completely self-supporting and have raised tens of thousands of dollars for humanitarian projects, thanks to hard work from our members and the backing of many good people in the Madison area.

We expect better from our elected officials, and the press. Conklin and The State Journal have smeared our reputation at a time of soaring hunger and poverty in Rafah, when maintaining the trust of our supporters is essential.

Continue reading

No city money to Rafah project

Madison.com, May 3, 2006

Madison Ald. Lauren Cnare and State Journal readers can rest easy. Contrary to Melanie Conklin’s April 19 column, the Arcatao, El SalVador, sister city project did not give any city money to the Rafah sister city project.

In spite of erroneous comments made by the Sister City Oversight Committee, Arcatao only reported co-sponsoring public events with other groups, including a Passover Seder with Madison-Rafah. Proceeds were split between humanitarian projects of the two groups. No city money was used.

The claim of an “end-run” around the City Council is ludicrous. We are completely self-supporting and have raised tens of thousands of dollars for humanitarian projects, thanks to hard work from members and the backing of many good people in the Madison area.

Conklin and the State Journal have smeared our reputation at a time of soaring hunger and poverty in Rafah, when maintaining the trust of our supporters is essential. Conklin quotes Cnare as saying, “It’s not that the kids don’t deserve milk or money. They do.” We agree.

To help the people of Rafah with food and medicine, send contributions payable to MRSCP and marked “Rafah relief” to MRSCP, P.O. Box 55371, Madison, Wis. 53705.

— George Arida, Barbara Olson and Kathy Walsh, members of Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

Rafah is not a city in El Salvador

Melanie Conklin, Madison.com, Apr 19, 2006

Ald. Lauren Cnare doesn’t oppose buying milk for kids in Rafah on the Gaza Strip in Palestine. She just objects to tax money given to a Madison sister city in El Salvador being used that way.

Cnare sits on the Sister Cities Grant Review subcommittee, which during the grant review process found that the Arcatao, El Salvador sister city program gave some of its money to the controversial Rafah Sister City project — looking like an end run around the City Council, which in 2004 voted against making Rafah a sister city. (Opponents raised heated objections, saying it appeared to be taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.)

“It’s not that the kids don’t deserve milk or money, they do,” says Cnare. “While these are worthwhile causes, we as a city need to be good stewards of our money and make sure these programs are following the guidelines.” The Arcatao sister city group had not returned calls by press time.

A Lobby, Not a Conspiracy

TONY JUDT, New York Times, April 19, 2006

IN its March 23rd issue the London Review of Books, a respected British journal, published an essay titled “The Israel Lobby.” The authors are two distinguished American academics (Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago) who posted a longer (83-page) version of their text on the Web site of Harvard’s Kennedy School.

As they must have anticipated, the essay has run into a firestorm of vituperation and refutation. Critics have charged that their scholarship is shoddy and that their claims are, in the words of the columnist Christopher Hitchens, “slightly but unmistakably smelly.” The smell in question, of course, is that of anti-Semitism.

This somewhat hysterical response is regrettable. In spite of its provocative title, the essay draws on a wide variety of standard sources and is mostly uncontentious. But it makes two distinct and important claims. The first is that uncritical support for Israel across the decades has not served America’s best interests. This is an assertion that can be debated on its merits. The authors’ second claim is more controversial: American foreign policy choices, they write, have for years been distorted by one domestic pressure group, the “Israel Lobby.”

Some would prefer, when explaining American actions overseas, to point a finger at the domestic “energy lobby.” Others might blame the influence of Wilsonian idealism, or imperial practices left over from the cold war. But that a powerful Israel lobby exists could hardly be denied by anyone who knows how Washington works. Its core is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, its penumbra a variety of national Jewish organizations.

Does the Israel Lobby affect our foreign policy choices? Of course — that is one of its goals. And it has been rather successful: Israel is the largest recipient of American foreign aid and American responses to Israeli behavior have been overwhelmingly uncritical or supportive.

But does pressure to support Israel distort American decisions? That’s a matter of judgment. Prominent Israeli leaders and their American supporters pressed very hard for the invasion of Iraq; but the United States would probably be in Iraq today even if there had been no Israel lobby. Is Israel, in Mearsheimer/Walt’s words, “a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states?” I think it is; but that too is an issue for legitimate debate.

The essay and the issues it raises for American foreign policy have been prominently dissected and discussed overseas. In America, however, it’s been another story: virtual silence in the mainstream media. Why? There are several plausible explanations. One is that a relatively obscure academic paper is of little concern to general-interest readers. Another is that claims about disproportionate Jewish public influence are hardly original — and debate over them inevitably attracts interest from the political extremes. And then there is the view that Washington is anyway awash in “lobbies” of this sort, pressuring policymakers and distorting their choices.

Each of these considerations might reasonably account for the mainstream press’s initial indifference to the Mearsheimer-Walt essay. But they don’t convincingly explain the continued silence even after the article aroused stormy debate in the academy, within the Jewish community, among the opinion magazines and Web sites, and in the rest of the world. I think there is another element in play: fear. Fear of being thought to legitimize talk of a “Jewish conspiracy”; fear of being thought anti-Israel; and thus, in the end, fear of licensing the expression of anti-Semitism.

The end result — a failure to consider a major issue in public policy — is a great pity. So what, you may ask, if Europeans debate this subject with such enthusiasm? Isn’t Europe a hotbed of anti-Zionists (read anti-Semites) who will always relish the chance to attack Israel and her American friend? But it was David Aaronovitch, a Times of London columnist who, in the course of criticizing Mearsheimer and Walt, nonetheless conceded that “I sympathize with their desire for redress, since there has been a cock-eyed failure in the U.S. to understand the plight of the Palestinians.”

And it was the German writer Christoph Bertram, a longstanding friend of America in a country where every public figure takes extraordinary care to tread carefully in such matters, who wrote in Die Zeit that “it is rare to find scholars with the desire and the courage to break taboos.”

How are we to explain the fact that it is in Israel itself that the uncomfortable issues raised by Professors Mearsheimer and Walt have been most thoroughly aired? It was an Israeli columnist in the liberal daily Haaretz who described the American foreign policy advisers Richard Perle and Douglas Feith as “walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments …and Israeli interests.” It was Israel’s impeccably conservative Jerusalem Post that described Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, as “devoutly pro-Israel.” Are we to accuse Israelis, too, of “anti-Zionism”?

The damage that is done by America’s fear of anti-Semitism when discussing Israel is threefold. It is bad for Jews: anti-Semitism is real enough (I know something about it, growing up Jewish in 1950’s Britain), but for just that reason it should not be confused with political criticisms of Israel or its American supporters. It is bad for Israel: by guaranteeing it unconditional support, Americans encourage Israel to act heedless of consequences. The Israeli journalist Tom Segev described the Mearsheimer-Walt essay as “arrogant” but also acknowledged ruefully: “They are right. Had the United States saved Israel from itself, life today would be better …the Israel Lobby in the United States harms Israel’s true interests.”

BUT above all, self-censorship is bad for the United States itself. Americans are denying themselves participation in a fast-moving international conversation. Daniel Levy (a former Israeli peace negotiator) wrote in Haaretz that the Mearsheimer-Walt essay should be a wake-up call, a reminder of the damage the Israel lobby is doing to both nations. But I would go further. I think this essay, by two “realist” political scientists with no interest whatsoever in the Palestinians, is a straw in the wind.

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Re “Settlers, Israeli public part company”

Kathy Walsh, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, April 4, 2006

In the article “Settlers, Israeli public part company” (Capital Times, April 3), Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun is quoted as saying “Olmert will at least take something.” Rabbi Bin Nun gets it right. Despite all the fuss about Olmert giving up land to Palestine with his proposed disengagement, what he is giving up is not now and never has been Israel’s. Neither are the parts of the West Bank that he intends to keep for Israel.

Olmert has made it clear that his proposed disengagement from some settlements and consolidation of others serves Israel’s demographic interest. That is to keep as much territory as possible for Israel without losing its Jewish majority.

Article 47 of the Geneva Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, 12 August 1949 reads:

    “Protected persons who are in occupied territory shall not be deprived, in any case or in any manner whatsoever, of the benefits of the present Convention by any change introduced, as the result of the occupation of a territory, into the institutions or government of the said territory, Nor by any agreement concluded between the authorities of the occupied territories and the occupying power, nor by any annexation by the latter of the whole or part of the occupied territory.”

Under this Fourth Geneva Convention, which Israel signed, all of the Israeli settlements are illegal. In addition, none of the concessions made by the Palestinians since then are valid.

Until Israel is willing to negotiate in good faith from a position of fairness based on international law there is no possibility of a just peace in Palestine. It is time that the international community, including the U.S., insists that Israel be held to this law.

Girl’s Grieving Palestinian Mother Was Not Celebrating Her Martyrdom

Kathy Walsh, Capital Times, November 19, 2005

The photographs titled “Faces of grief in Palestine and Israel” in the April 3 Capital Times once again leave readers with the idea that Palestinians grieve for killers while Israel grieves the victims of terrorism.

In reality, many more Palestinians have died at the hands of Israelis than vice versa. Remember These Children reports that since the beginning of 2006, 11 Palestinian children have died at the hands of Israeli soldiers. During this same period, one Israeli child has died as the result of Palestinian violence.

Since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000 nearly five Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli violence for every Israeli child that has died due to Palestinian violence. All of these deaths are equally deplorable, yet in America, we rarely see or hear of the “other” victims. When will we see pictures of the many Palestinian victims and their grieving families?

April 8, 2006
Ibdaa Health Committee Panel Discussion

UW-Madison
1345 Health Sciences Learning Center
750 Highland Avenue
7-9:00 pm

healthtourflyer


Workers from the Ibdaa Health Committee of the Dheisheh Refugee Camp will be in Madison as part of a national tour. The Committee consists of volunteer health professionals, including nurses, physicians, and social workers.

The goals of the tour are to build relationships and encourage an exchange of ideas and educational information. There will be a panel discussion with local health providers in Madison.

The Dheisheh Refugee Camp is located in the West Bank of Palestine near Bethlehem. The Ibdaa Health Committee is committed to improving the welfare of the camp’s residents despite the conditions in the West Bank.

The event is free and open to the public. The Committee delegates are:

    Wisam Hasanat
    Wisam is from Dayr Duban Village. He was born and raised in Dheisheh Refugee Camp along with his six brothers and four sisters. Wisam was politically active during the first Intifada as a young adolescent. He was shot in both legs by an Israeli soldier while participating in a demonstration against the military occupation. Wisam received his practical nursing degree in Hebron; he is currently completing his BSN at Al Quds University. He works at the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation and Surgery. His specialty areas include surgical and emergency care. Wisam is an active member of the Nursing Union and the Union of Palestine Healthcare Workers. Wisam is a founding member and director of the Ibdaa Health Committee. He is married and has two sons.

    Areej Ja’fari
    Areej is from Dary Rafat Village. She was born and raised in Dheisheh Refugee Camp. She is currently completing her BS degree in Computers and Information Systems. Promoting gender equality and empowerment of women constitutes her primary political aim. She joined the first women’s basketball team and is currently the coordinator of the Women’s Committee where she organizes educational programs in English, computers, and leadership training. Areej has five sisters and two brothers.

    Talal Shihadeh
    Talal is from Faluja Village. Following the 1948 Nekba, his family fled to Hebron where they lived until the 70’s, and then to Dheisheh Refugee Camp. Talal was politically active within the resistance movement prior to and during the first Intifada; he is a former political prisoner. He assumed a leadership role within the student union at Bethlehem University while working on his nursing degree. Talal is a founding member of the Ibdaa Health Committee and currently serves as the Director of Public Relations. He is a nurse with more than 17 years of experience. Talal worked at Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem for 14 years, but was forced to leave his position by the construction of the apartheid wall and the denial of a travel permit. Talal currently works at Beit Jala General Hospital in surgical and emergency care and pediatrics. He is an active member of the Nursing Union and the Union of Palestine Healthcare Workers. He is currently completing his MA in Public Health at Al Quds University. Talal is married and has two sons.

Sponsored by SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Center for Global Health, and the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

April 25-27, 2006
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi in Madison

barghouthi


Please mark your calendars for April 25-27, when Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, human rights activist, former Palestinian presidential candidate and representative of one of the Independent groups which won parliamentary seats, will be visiting Madison. The following events are scheduled:

    “Peace and Democracy: The Reality of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict”
    Tuesday, April 25, 7:00 pm, 1100 Grainger Hall

    “Democracy in Palestine: The Role of Civil Society”
    Wednesday, April 26, 4:00 pm, Pyle Center

    Seminar for students, faculty, and the public
    Thursday, April 27, 12:20 pm, (location TBA)

Review Dr. Barghouthi’s comments on the Palestinian election results and his biography.

Co-sponsored by the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, the A. E. Havens Center for the Study of Social Structure and Social Change, and Kavanah, A Progressive Jewish Voice.