Amid the Western media’s obsessive search for a Palestinian Gandhi, many stories of peaceful, non-violent resistance are often overlooked. One such story is that of Budrus, a small West Bank village — dotted with ancient olive trees and cacti — lying very close to the Green Line (the internationally-recognized border separating Israel from the West Bank). In 2003, Budrus’ residents found out that Israel’s separation wall would swallow chunks of their land. It was then that the villagers decided to employ non-violent tactics to protect their trees and land.(...more)
Tuesday, 7 May 2013
Thursday, 2 May 2013
We often talk about “the Islamic world,” or the “Muslim community,” but sometimes it takes being smacked with an enormous, amazing data dump to remind us that Muslims are actually an incredibly diverse group — if you can call them a group — who adhere to views that are informed by their cultural and political context as much as their religion.
For their mammoth new study about the world’s Muslims, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life interviewed more than 38,000 Muslims in 39 countries on topics ranging from morality, to politics and justice, and the relationships between the sexes.(...more)
Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Since the Israeli army first occupied the West Bank in 1967, there has been a massive military presence in the area. A complex system has been developed to keep the local population under control, which extends far beyond the wall separating the West Bank from neighbouring Israel. On a daily basis, Palestinians have to negotiate a series of checkpoints, spot checks and road blocks, all under the watchful eye of the army’s surveillance towers…
Médecins Sans Frontières has been running a mental health program in the West Bank for more than 10 years. More than half of our patients are children who have directly experienced violence related to the conflict.(...more)
Tuesday, 9 April 2013
Ten years after the capture of Baghdad on 5 April 2003 by US troops, following an invasion of Iraq by US and UK forces, we are still awaiting the outcome of the Chilcot Inquiry which was set up by the government of Gordon Brown in 2009. The report has been delayed at least until the end of 2013 due to the reluctance of the government to release key documents, but the outcome as regards the illegality of the invasion should not be in doubt.
Any student of international law, and the laws governing the use of force in particular (the jus ad bellum), knows the recognized exceptions to the prohibition on the use of force (self-defence and enforcement action taken under the authority of the UN Security Council) and that attempts by the US and the UK to fit their actions of 2003 into these exceptions were either exercises in political hubris or damage limitation by skilled lawyers. Rather than rehearse these debates, I’ll attempt to lay out a path to a clearer understanding of the Security Council as a recognized source of authority for using force (The invasion of Iraq was purportedly undertaken under the authority of that organ to enforce disarmament resolutions of that very same organ.) Given the calamitous effects of the ill-judged invasion of Iraq in 2003, where no Weapons of Mass Destruction were found, we should have expected profound changes in the work of the Security Council and the attitude of the permanent members towards collective security.
There has been some evidence of positive change. The main protagonists in favour of the use of military force against Libya in the spring of 2011, France and the UK, were clearly mindful of the lessons from Iraq, taking care that their actions were underpinned by legality by securing a clear authorising resolution (Resolution 1973) from the Security Council. This suggested a return to respect for the jus ad bellum but, as the operation against Libya unfolded, it became clear that some of the problems that undermined the legality and legitimacy of the invasion of Iraq remain.(...more)
On Tuesday, 2 April 2013, after seven years of discussions and negotiations, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Arms Trade Treaty by an overwhelming margin — the first ever global agreement governing the transfer of conventional arms. A total of 154 States voted in favour of the resolution, three voted against, and 23 abstained. The treaty will now be opened for signature on 3 June 2013.
The treaty is a strong and balanced text that clearly enjoys very widespread support, and if adhered to and implemented in good faith it will significantly reduce the humanitarian impact from the irresponsible transfer of weapons. That it is a meaningful treaty is evidenced by the fact that in two successive diplomatic conferences, certain States blocked its adoption by consensus. First time around, in July 2012, it was the United States (followed by Russia) that asked for more time. In the ‘final’ diplomatic conference in late March 2013, three States — Iran, DPR Korea, and Syria — blocked the adoption of the text that had been skillfully negotiated by the new Conference President, Ambassador Peter Woolacott of Australia. These same three States went on to vote against the General Assembly resolution that adopted the treaty.(...more)
Tuesday, 5 March 2013
Members of Congress have been intensifying their Iran-war rhetoric in recent days. For example, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) are planning to introduce a resolution that urges the United States government to support Israel — militarily, economically and diplomatically — should the Jewish state be “compelled to take military action” against Iran.
While it appears that Congress, still struggling to shake the neocons’ influence, tends to favor a more militaristic approach toward the Islamic Republic, the Obama administration has focused on a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis, while pledging to take no options off the table and also warning about what war with Iran would look like.
But given now the Graham-Menendez resolution, what do the Israelis think about war with Iran? It’s no secret the current Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu is the most vocal about pushing a military option with Iran, but over the past two years, numerous former and current high-level members of Israel’s security establishment have pushed back. Below is a compilation of those statements:
“Mr. Netanyahu has been playing the role of irresponsible player in the region [with his threats against Iran].That raises the questions: Does he mean it? And what is the price?” — Ami Ayalon, former head of the Shin Bet, [10/25/12]
“They talk too much, they talk too loud. They are creating an atmosphere and a momentum that may go out of their control.” — Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, [04/30/12]
“I don’t think Israel should use the military option. I don’t agree with some of my colleagues who support a military strike. An attack on Iran wouldn’t add anything to our security.” — Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, [04/16/12]
“An attack on Iran before you’re exploring all other approaches is not the right way how to do it.” — Meir Dagan, former Mossad chief, [03/08/12]
. . . more
Friday, 1 March 2013
As a film, 5 Broken Cameras works on both an artistic and a political level. It’s a deeply personal film to Burnat in many ways, while also being a chronicle of the struggle of his village, Bilin, against Israel’s apartheid wall and policies of dispossession.(...more)
Friday, 22 February 2013
The Radio Bethlehem 2000 has reported that dozens of residents have been injured after Israeli soldiers attacked the weekly nonviolent protest demanding the army to reopen a main street it blockaded 12 years ago, in Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank.(...more)
The two-year anniversary of Egypt’s revolution has not been a happy one. Anti-government protests have once again swept through the country, and as activists have begun to resort to violence, President Mohamed Morsi has chosen to respond in kind. Cairo’s economy is in shambles, its alliances with the West are in question, and its newly ratified constitution leaves secularists, women and minorities on the political sidelines for the foreseeable future. Simply put, those who predicted a rosy future for Egypt are left to scratch their heads, wondering how their prophecies could have turned out so wrong.
As the world witnesses Egypt’s depressing slide two years on, now is an opportune time to re-examine the nonviolent protests that unintentionally paved the way for it…(...more)
IN 2005 Emad Burnat was given a video camera to record the birth of his fourth son, Gibreel. It was while he dutifully chronicled the formative years of his son that Mr Burnat unexpectedly became the film-maker behind “Five Broken Cameras”, a sombre documentary about the struggle of his native West Bank village of Bil’in against Israel’s construction of the separation wall.
The film’s premiere in the Palestinian territories took place recently at the Ramallah Cultural Palace, a multimillion-dollar centre unmatched in its size and facilities in the territories. The audience featured mainly young Palestinians and foreign expatriates, a common mix in a city that has become the West Bank’s administrative capital.(...more)
Monday, 7 January 2013
As 2012 came to a close, massive nonviolent demonstrations took place in Iraq, with thousands of Sunni demonstrators in Anbar province marching in protest of the allegedly sectarian policies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Al Jazeera English (AJE) has carried live reports this past week showing tens of thousands of Iraqis, mostly self-declared Sunnis, as they demonstrated along a main highway leading to Syria and Jordan. Local councils called for civil disobedience because, they said, Sunnis are being sidelined in Iraqi politics, and pronouncements asserted that sit-ins would not end until protesters’ demands were met. AJE’s reporter commented that the challengers had a stated commitment to nonviolent action, and that local clergy had joined in the call to such action.(...more)
Sunday, 6 January 2013
Following the upgrade of Palestine as a non-member state at the United Nations last month, and in light of ongoing reconciliation talks between rival Palestinian factions, many people pin hopes on the possibility of a widespread campaign of strategic non-violent activism in the West Bank – and perhaps even the Gaza Strip. The methods advocated by the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King could undoubtedly accomplish miracles, not only for the Palestinians but also for the Israelis. Unfortunately, the chances of success appear very slim in practice.(...more)
Saturday, 5 January 2013
“The bloody cycle in which I live…is a vicious circle that is sustained by the choice of both sides to engage in violence. I refuse to take part in this choice.”
Meet Sahar Vardi. Sahar is an outspoken peace activist from Jerusalem who bravely started protesting against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people at a very young age.(...more)
Saturday, 29 December 2012
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will relinquish responsibility for governing the more than two million Palestinians in the West Bank to Israel if the current diplomatic stalemate persists, he said yesterday, in a sign of growing frustration with Israeli settlement expansion and financial penalties.
Mr Abbas said he would tell Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “take the keys and be responsible for the Palestinian Authority” if current conditions persist after Israel’s election on 22 January.
He also said there could be no renewal of peace negotiations unless Israel resumes the transfer of the Palestinian customs revenues it collects. The money is essential for the Palestinian Authority to pay the salaries of its 165,000 employees.
Israel suspended the tax transfers – which amount to more than £60m a month – in response to Palestine being granted statehood at the United Nations last month.(...more)
Wednesday, 19 December 2012
Middle East Conflicts, all linked to one another, are getting out of hand and becoming resistant to any external mediation. The United States is seemingly displaying a new-found interest in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict after the failed attempt of 2009. President Obama seems to be behind these efforts, as he certainly would like to leave a positive “legacy” of involvement in the Middle East. However, he may be underestimating the difficulty of the task at hand after the upheavals brought about by the “Arab Spring” and overestimating U.S. influence in the Middle East, especially after the upheavals brought about by the “Arab Spring.” More than ever, local and regional dynamics, not external mediators, are dictating the magnitude and direction of change. The simple and obstinate fact is that the greatest obstacle to peace today is not differences of opinion on the scope of a balanced agreement between Arabs and Israelis but the behaviour of internal political forces on both sides. These are currently making any kind of agreement impossible and are increasingly impervious to the either U.S. or other influences.(...more)
Tuesday, 18 December 2012
AL ZAYYEM, West Bank — They buried Rabi al-Essawy 14 months ago on land his family owns not far from this village, between East Jerusalem and the large Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim. Mr. Essawy, 65, was a member of an important clan, and thousands attended his funeral.
But Mr. Essawy’s grave is in a parcel of land known as E1, a largely empty patch of the West Bank that is among the most sensitive pieces of real estate in an intractable conflict that is fundamentally about the land. The Israelis mean to annex E1 — short for East 1 — and they do not want Muslim graves to complicate future plans to build more settlements here.
Israeli authorities have ordered the family to remove Mr. Essawy’s remains and bury him in the village cemetery, just outside E1.
The fight over Mr. Essawy’s grave is a tiny skirmish in the long, intensifying battle over this parcel of land, a fight that speaks to the seemingly insurmountable differences, hostility and distrust between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It also stands as a symbol of the failure of negotiations as each side tries to outmaneuver the other with unilateral actions, and the international community is left on the sidelines to do little more than express discontent.(...more)
Thursday, 13 December 2012
It began as a joke. Mohamed Tolba, an IT executive, had time to kill between meetings and told the receptionist in his Cairo office that he would be at the Costa Coffee around the corner if anyone needed him. “You go to Costa?” she asked, startled.
“Yes,” he replied patiently. “Even me. I drink coffee and eat cheesecake.”
His colleague couldn’t quite fathom the idea that someone like Mr. Tolba – who sports a bushy beard and prays fives times a day without fail – might hang out in an outlet of the British coffee chain that is a haunt of secular Egyptian urbanites. For Mr. Tolba, it was just one more incident of the misconceptions that dog Salafism, the stream of Islam he practises.
“I realized,” he recalled later, “we have issues.”
The interaction, though, spurred him finally to take them on. He resolved to try to address the image problem of his ultra-conservative Islam using, what else, Facebook. He started a forum for debate and outreach, and he named it Salafyo Costa – the Salafis at Costa – after his favourite latte joint. Within months, thousands of Egyptians, and Muslims in other countries, were participating in the online debates, and soon the group was meeting in real life. Over, of course, coffee.(...more)
Tuesday, 11 December 2012
Last week B’nai Jeshurun (a.k.a. BJ), an independent progressive synagogue in Manhattan, made the front page of the New York Times after its leadership sent a membership-wide email applauding the UN vote granting Palestinians non-member “state” status. While it predictably met with mixed reactions, it became the most visible American synagogue to break ranks with the pro-Israel lobby protesting the UN vote.
A few days later the Reform Movement issued a statement criticizing the Israeli government’s decision to revive settlement construction in the E1 area of the West Bank. This has long been considered a “red line” by the U.S. and other states friendly to Israel in that it would geographically make a two-state solution (with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital) impossible.
Back in November, in a Times of Israel blog post, Rabbi Dr. Daniel Gordis, Senior Vice-president of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and self-appointed “defender of Israel,” penned a scathing critique of a letter written by Rabbi Sharon Brous to her congregation IKAR in Los Angeles. Brous, Gordis’ former student, had “dared” to express sympathy and concern for Gazan civilian casualties of Israeli air strikes as she had for Israeli victims of Palestinian rocket fire. “At the same time, supporting Israel’s right to protect and defend itself does not diminish the reality that the Palestinian people are also children of God, whose suffering is real and undeniable,” she wrote in a rather temperate acknowledgment of human suffering that apparently crossed a “red line” resulting in Gordis’ accusation that Brous has somehow “abandoned” her people.
These three communiques arguably mark a significant fissure in American Jewish institutional support of Israeli polices and has ignited robust debate among American Jews as to their responsibility and allegiance to Israel as Americans and as Jews.(...more)
Monday, 10 December 2012
For a man used to spending time in solitary confinement, Terry Waite could be forgiven for feeling very alone as he was shuttled to a secret location in Beirut for talks with the group thought to be responsible for his kidnapping 25 years ago.
When the author and humanitarian last visited the city’s southern suburbs he was forced to spend 1,760 days locked in a cramped cell, being subjected to mock executions and beatings while chained to a radiator.
But under the cover of darkness on Monday last week, he returned to Lebanon offering forgiveness and reconciliation to his captors, a quarter of a century after he was kidnapped and tortured by associates of the militant group Hezbollah.(...more)
Thursday, 6 December 2012
In the first years of the Oslo Accords the Israeli government didn’t question the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination in the land of Israel. Israel also expressed this in its mutual recognition with the PLO.
Years later, Prime Minister Ehud Barak toyed with the idea that the Palestinians will settle for a “political entity” with a lower status than a state and make do with part of the West Bank and Gaza territories. But the “ripening” process he underwent made it clear to him the principle “the 1967 lines as a basis and territory swaps in a 1:1 proportion” was the only option.
Until the Palestinian statehood request from the United Nations, it seemed the Netanyahu government’s withdrawal from the parameters to conduct negotiations to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel was designed to ensure that “only” this parameter isn’t implemented. But going to the UN, a move intended to pull the rug from under the Israeli position – that the West Bank areas are contested rather than occupied – made it clear that Israel objected to more than that.(...more)