Hamas, the IRA and Us

ALI ABUNIMAH, The New York Times, August 28, 2010

(Chicago) GEORGE J. MITCHELL, the United States Middle East envoy, tried to counter low expectations for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations by harking back to his experience as a mediator in Northern Ireland.

At an Aug. 20 news conference with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, announcing the talks that will begin this week, Mr. Mitchell reminded journalists that during difficult negotiations in Northern Ireland, “We had about 700 days of failure and one day of success” — the day in 1998 that the Belfast Agreement instituting power-sharing between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists was signed.

Mr. Mitchell’s comparison is misleading at best. Success in the Irish talks was the result not just of determination and time, but also a very different United States approach to diplomacy.
The conflict in Northern Ireland had been intractable for decades. Unionists backed by the British government saw any political compromise with Irish nationalists as a danger, one that would lead to a united Ireland in which a Catholic majority would dominate minority Protestant unionists. The British government also refused to deal with the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, despite its significant electoral mandate, because of its close ties to the Irish Republican Army, which had carried out violent acts in the United Kingdom.

A parallel can be seen with the American refusal to speak to the Palestinian party Hamas, which decisively won elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006. Asked what role Hamas would have in the renewed talks, Mr. Mitchell answered with one word: “None.” No serious analyst believes that peace can be made between Palestinians and Israelis without Hamas on board, any more than could have been the case in Northern Ireland without Sinn Fein and the I.R.A.

The United States insists that Hamas meet strict preconditions before it can take part in negotiations: recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by agreements previously signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which Hamas is not a member. These demands are unworkable. Why should Hamas or any Palestinian accept Israel’s political demands, like recognition, when Israel refuses to recognize basic Palestinian demands like the right of return for refugees?
As for violence, Hamas has inflicted a fraction of the harm on Israeli civilians that Israel inflicts on Palestinian civilians. If violence disqualifies Hamas, surely much greater violence should disqualify the Israelis?

It was only by breaking with one-sided demands that Mr. Mitchell was able to help bring peace to Northern Ireland. In 1994, for instance, Mr. Mitchell, then a Democratic senator from Maine, urged President Bill Clinton — against strenuous British objections — to grant a United States visa to Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader. Mr. Mitchell later wrote that he believed the visa would enable Mr. Adams “to persuade the I.R.A. to declare a cease-fire, and permit Sinn Fein to enter into inclusive political negotiations.” As mediator, Mr. Mitchell insisted that a cease-fire apply to all parties equally, not just to the I.R.A.

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December 28, 2008
Take Action to End Israeli Attacks on Gaza – Radio Show Sunday

Our friends in Rafah and elsewhere in Gaza report massive casualties from Israeli air strikes. Hospitals are overflowing with more than 200 dead and over 500 wounded (so far). So-called “Hamas compounds” included a civil police training school where scores of young men desperate for a salary to support families were assembled for a graduation ceremony. Bombs hit at school let-out time so children were in the streets in large numbers.

Many expected that no Israeli attack would be launched just hours after Israel, as widely reported in the western media, had finally allowed the delivery of a small amount of humanitarian aid to the starving population of Gaza. Widespread property damage is making life in the cold and dark of Gaza even more miserable than it was, if such a thing can even be imagined. And as I write this, it is reported that new missile attacks are targeting a mosque and various social welfare agencies located in densely crowded neighborhoods.

And the U.S. media continues to promote the myth of Israeli “retaliation” when in reality it was Israel that broke the truce several weeks ago.

If you need more information on today’s events in Gaza, click here: Gaza City hospital a gruesome scene; families pick through body parts to identify loved ones:

    (27 Dec) Death shrouds the hallways of Gaza City’s Ash-Shefa medical compound Saturday, its smell creeping in from all corners. Amputated bodies are strewn throughout hallways because morgues in the city can no longer accommodate the dead. In one corner a man stands with his seven year old son in a cardboard box because the hospital ran out of sheets to cover the dead with. This is how he will carry him home and bury him. Another man stands dazed, in shock after watching his son Mohammed killed during his graduation ceremony at the de facto police headquarters. The father of one of Mohammed’s classmates stood next to his son as he was decapitated. The man is still screaming.

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February 22, 2007
Ali Abunimah in Madison

Ali Abunimah is coming to Madison to speak on his new book, One Country — A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

A Palestinian-American, Abunimah is a co-creator and editor of the The Electronic Intifada web site and more recently, of Electronic Iraq and Electronic Lebanon. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Chicago, he has written for the Chicago Tribune, among numerous other publications.

One Country presents a provocative approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is sure to touch nerves on all sides. Clear-eyed, sharply reasoned, and compassionate, the book proposes a radical alternative: the revival of an old and neglected idea of one state shared by two peoples.

One reviewer had the following to say about the book: “Ali Abunimah shows how the two [peoples] are by now so intertwined—geographically and economically—that separation cannot lead to the security Israelis need or the rights Palestinians must have. He reveals the bankruptcy of the two-state approach, takes on the objections and taboos that stand in the way of a binational solution, and demonstrates that sharing the territory will bring benefits for all. The absence of other workable options has only lead to ever greater extremism; it is time, Abunimah suggests, for Palestinians and Israelis to imagine a different future and a different relationship.”

Abunimah will be appearing at the Wisconsin Historical Society Auditorium at 7:00pm on Thursday, February 22nd. A reception and book signing will follow at the Memorial Union.

Sponsored by the Distinguished Lecture Series of Wisconsin Union Directorate and the Associated Students of Madison. Co-sponsored by Al-Awda Wisconsin, Campus Anti-War Network, Four Lakes Greens, Madison Area Peace Coalition, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Rainbow Bookstore, UW Middle East Studies Department, and WORT radio.

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Wisconsin Bookstore’s Fight for Free Speech Victorious

David Grogan, American Booksellers Association, Nov 12, 2003

On Thursday, November 6, Madison, Wisconsin’s Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative and a local newsweekly were able to convince Madison Area Technical College (MATC) to reverse its decision to impose restrictions on a speaking event about the Middle East, featuring noted writer and University of Chicago researcher Ali Abunimah. MATC had attempted to limit the scope of the talk and to deny Rainbow’s request to sell books in conjunction with the event after some residents protested the talk due to Abunimah’s pro-Palestinian point-of-view. However, faced with an unexpected backlash from the public, MATC decided at the last moment to proceed with the event as scheduled the evening of November 6.

The speaking engagement featuring Abunimah was scheduled as part of MATC’s “Reporting From the Middle East,” which is sponsored in part by Rainbow Bookstore, and also is part of MATC’s Global Horizon lecture series. However, some in the community who vehemently opposed Abunimah’s point-of-view on the Middle East exerted pressure on MATC to cancel, or at the very least, limit what Abunimah could talk about at the event. Subsequently, the college “sent an e-mail to Abunimah telling him what he could and could not speak about,” Allen Ruff, Rainbow’s events coordinator, told BTW.

When Abunimah was informed of the restriction, he told The Isthmus, a Madison alternative weekly newspaper, that it was “an outrageous violation of my First Amendment rights and the rights of the community to engage in dialogue and debate about matters of public interest.”

While Ruff said he did not know who in Madison had exerted pressure on the school, The Isthmus quoted Steve Morrison, executive director of the Madison Jewish Community Council, as saying he perceived a lack of balance in the Global Horizon series. Morrison said he told MATC’s events coordinator, Geoff Bradshaw, and MATC acting president Roseann Findlen, that his concerns regarding Abunimah would be mitigated if his talk were limited to media issues, the newsweekly reported.

In addition to the attempt to restrict Abunimah’s speech, MATC administrators also put a ban on literature tables in the building where Abunimah’s talk was being held. “We asked [Bradshaw] if this edict applied to us, and he checked and came back to us with a compromise — that we could only sell books by Abunimah,” Ruff reported. But while Abunimah had published many articles, he had not authored any books. As a result, MATC decided Rainbow could not have a table of books at the event. “We usually have a broad range of books relating to a topic [at similar events],” he said. “We had planned to test [the school decision] by having a table anyway.”

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October 30 – November 20, 2003
Reporting the Middle East, From the Road Map to Iraq: A Lecture Series

Amira Hass
Thursday, October 30, 2003
Morgridge Auditorium, UW-Madison Grainger Hall
7:30 pm

Amira Hass covers Palestinian affairs for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. She is the only Israeli journalist who actually lives in the Occupied Territories. Author of Drinking the Sea at Gaza, she has just published a second book, Reporting from Ramallah. Known for her honest and often brutal portrayals of the impact of Israeli occupation on the lives of ordinary Palestinians, she received the 1999 International World Press Freedom Award in recognition of her work in the Gaza Strip.

Ali Abunimah
Thursday, November 6, 2003
Madison Area Technical College, Room D240
211 N. Carroll St.
7:00 pm

Ali Abunimah is a co-founder of and major contributor to The Electronic Intifada, an online educational gateway to the Palestine-Israel conflict, and one of today’s most prominent critics of mainstream U.S. media coverage of that conflict. He is also vice-president of the Arab-American Action Network of Chicago.

As’ad Abukhalil
Thursday, November 13, 2003
The “War on Terrorism” and its Impact on Middle East Politics”
UW-Madison Memorial Union, Great Hall
7:30 pm

Dr. Abukhalil is a Professor of Political Science in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at California State University-Stanislaus. He is the author of the just-released book, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.: The Tale of the ‘Good’ Taliban.

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