Far From Reservation, Sisters Lead Louisville.
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
Shoni Schimmel (23) with her sister Jude, right, during Louisville’s win over Baylor last Sunday. Louisville then defeated Tennessee to reach the Final Four.
By JERÉ LONGMAN, Published, The New York Times on-line: April 6, 2013
OKLAHOMA CITY — Louisville had just advanced to the women’s Final Four, and the sisters Shoni and Jude Schimmel had helped cut the nets in celebration, a rare achievement for American Indian athletes. But it was not the biggest family news of the day.
Shoni Schimmel leads Louisville in scoring at 14.4 points a game.
As the sisters left the court Tuesday night, their father beamed and their mother waved and flashed her wedding ring. After 25 years of companionship and 8 children, Ceci Moses and Rick Schimmel had been officially married, inspired in part by Louisville’s epic run through the N.C.A.A. tournament, a mother’s deferred dream realized and an accomplishment by her daughters that was as much a cultural triumph as an athletic success.
Although basketball has long been the most popular sport on Indian reservations, seldom has that esteem translated into great performance in the highest college and professional ranks. An N.C.A.A. study indicated that during the 2011-12 academic year, only 21 women and 4 men identified as American Indian/Alaska Native participated among the 10,151 basketball players at the Division I level.
The Schimmel sisters, who belong to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla in eastern Oregon, are not only participating, but also have become indispensable members of Louisville’s team. Shoni Schimmel, a 5-foot-10 junior guard, leads the Cardinals in scoring at 14.4 points a game and has seemingly unlimited range on her arcing 3-point shot. Jude Schimmel, a 5-5 sophomore, is the team’s steady sixth man.
While Jude is quietly reliable, Shoni is a florid passer with a brash on-court personality. She twice scored more than 20 points and was named most outstanding player of the Oklahoma City regional as Louisville upset Baylor, the defending national champion, and Tennessee, which has won eight N.C.A.A. titles.
On Sunday, Louisville (28-8) will face California at the Final Four in New Orleans. Through Shoni’s influence, in particular, the Cardinals have adopted a more structured version of what many call Rez Ball, an up-tempo style that is joyful, feverish and fearless.
“It’s a very rare position they’re in to excel at this level,” said Ryneldi Becenti, a star at Arizona State in the 1990s who is the only female basketball player inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame. “I don’t think I’ve heard of any Native American women getting to the Final Four, especially being the biggest part of the team.”
For Tuesday’s victory over Tennessee here in the regional final, Indians from numerous tribes came in support, holding up signs that said “Rez Girls Rock” and “Native Pride” and “Never Give Up.” Many said they viewed the Schimmels as an inspirational counterpoint to the despair of poverty, alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, drug addiction and educational indifference often found on reservations.
Depending on the region of the country, 30 percent to more than 50 percent of Indians do not graduate from high school, according to various studies. And many who do leave for college often feel pressure to return in a culture that finds comfort at home, and fear and suspicion in the outside world.
“This shows you can go to college and you don’t have to drink and have babies,” said Glory Thompson, 48, a Cherokee from Holdenville, Okla. “Every step you want to take to get somewhere, it’s out there. Just because you’re Indian doesn’t mean you can’t go.”
Basketball serves a passionate communal purpose and provides an objective measure of success against the bleak statistics of failure on reservations, said Don Wetzel Jr., who operates the Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame, founded by his father. Stories abound of cars ringing makeshift courts at night, lights on, boundaries marked with flour, players honing their ball-handling skills by wearing gloves or dribbling over rocks.
“A lot of things are holding the tribes down in a lot of ways,” Wetzel said, “but you cross those lines on the court, and it’s an equal playing field. What these Schimmel sisters are doing is really impacting Indian country. It’s all over Facebook, TV. Everybody is cheering for them.”
For as long as she can remember, Shoni Schimmel said, she was obsessed with basketball. By age 2, she was allowed to dribble freely around the house. At 4, she played in her first tournament. By 10 or 12, she said, she sometimes shot outside until 3 in the morning. Her parents knew she was safe “because they could hear me dribbling.”
“Rez Ball,” Shoni said. “It’s run and gun, shoot whenever you’re open, trust in your heart.”
As Shoni entered her junior year of high school and Jude her sophomore year in 2008-9, however, the family left the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Mission, Ore., for Portland. Moses, now 40, began coaching her daughters at Franklin High School. Rick Schimmel, now 44, who is white and played baseball briefly at Stanford, became the assistant coach.
Shoni Schimmel and her mother and ex-coach Ceci Moses, right, were in a documentary about the family called “Off the Rez.”
Shoni Schimmel in the documentary film “Off the Rez,” directed by Jonathan Hock.
Some relatives resisted, but the move was necessary, Moses said. Her own basketball and track career had been disrupted in high school, she said, when she gave birth to her eldest son at 15. Later, she had to settle for basketball at community college, Moses said, because her coach seemed reluctant to promote Indians to university recruiters.
For her daughters, Moses planned a different outcome. To help them gain exposure, they would play at a city school and showcase their talents against top-flight competition.
“I was afraid,” Moses said. “I love the reservation. But I wanted my babies to have a fair opportunity. Plus, I wanted to show people what I could do. Even though I didn’t want to leave the reservation, I told myself: ‘If I don’t do it, my kids are going to follow suit. They’re going to see, well, Mom never left, why should I?’ I wanted to show the kids that if you really want your dream, sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone and go get it.”
Urged by her mother not to limit her college possibilities to the West Coast, Shoni chose Louisville in 2010. The Cardinals had reached the national championship game in 2009. They average 9,500 fans a game and have a coach, Jeff Walz, who cultivates a flamboyant, frantic style that suits her. He also provides what she considers a family-style atmosphere. During inevitable periods of homesickness as a freshman, Shoni even baby-sat for Walz’s two children.
“That made her feel comfortable and needed,” said Jonathan Hock, who directed a documentary about the Schimmel family called “Off the Rez.”
To have her sister Jude now joining her “is amazing,” Shoni said, adding, “I’m so glad I can share it with her.”
Still, Shoni can be a challenge to coach. She leads the team in assists (127) and turnovers (123). In a tense 82-81 victory over Baylor last Sunday, Schimmel made a sublime and maddening play at the same time, dribbling behind her back, flicking a blind shot over the 6-8 Brittney Griner, then screaming at Griner and risking a second technical foul.
“I tell her all the time, she’s talented enough to play for anybody,” Walz said of Shoni. “But not anybody can coach her because she’s going to do some things that make you scratch your head.”
Kim Mulkey, the Baylor coach, complained that the referees had lost control and let the game become too personal among the players. Shoni shrugged and said her barking was just an exhale of emotion. She apparently is not the only family member who acts on the spur of the moment.
On a 26-hour drive to Oklahoma City from Portland, Rick Schimmel joked with his wife that Louisville would beat Baylor because the game was on “Easter Sunday, a day of miracles.” O.K., Moses said, “If they win, I’ll marry you.”
On Tuesday, the couple married in a chapel near the county courthouse, records indicate. Their daughters could not attend because of a shoot-around practice. Hours later, after Louisville defeated Tennessee and their parents debated whether to drive to New Orleans and the Final Four, Shoni and Jude greeted about 30 Indian fans who had waited for the team bus.
“It’s a blessing to show other people you can make it; coming off a reservation, you can do whatever you want,” Shoni said. “You’ve got to set your mind to it and believe in yourself. It’s indescribable how I feel that they’re following me and supporting me.”
A cry of Joy from Women in Saudi Arabia: from this April “Energy Fools’ Day” they will be allowed – dressed in abaya and with a male supervisor to their side – to ride circles on bikes in a park out of sight of joung men! Mind it further – bicycles and motor-bikes are meant for pleasure and forbidden as transportation – that would cause losses to the oil indusatry and deserves special remuneration from Western Democracies.
Saudi Arabia follows an ultraconservative – or should we say orthodox – interpretation of Islam, and bans women from driving. Women are also banned from riding motorcycles or bicycles in public places.
Let us see – AP relates from RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — that A Saudi newspaper today, Monday April 1, 2013 - said - “the kingdom’s religious police are now allowing women to ride motorbikes and bicycles — but only in restricted, recreational areas.”
The Al-Yawm daily cited an unnamed official from the powerful religious police as saying women will be allowed to ride bikes in parks and recreational areas – but they must accompanied by a male relative and dressed in the full Islamic head-to-toe abaya.
The newspaper didn’t say what triggered the lifting of the ban.
The official told the paper that Saudi women may not use the bikes for transportation, but “only for entertainment,” and that they should shun places where young men gather – “to avoid harassment.”
THEIR BREAK-THROUGH ACHIEVEMENT WILL NOT IMPACT THE PRICE OF OIL!
Responsible Government is Demanded by 630 MPs from 121 Countries at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Quito, Ecuador March 27, 2013. Democratic Governance a Must-Have Goal for Post-2015 Development Targets- they conclude.
IPU E-BULLETIN N°21, 28 March 2013
IPU Calls for Greater International Support for Syrian Refugees – In the second resolution on Syria at an IPU Assembly in 12 months, IPU has urged all parties in the country to end violence immediately. It has also called on international and regional parties to help find ways to end the conflict peacefully whilst safeguarding Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as the security and human rights of its citizens. The resolution, which followed an emergency debate at the 128th IPU Assembly, focused particularly on the growing refugee crisis involving more than one million Syrians in neighbouring countries. IPU members have expressed concern that some countries may be forced to close their borders to new influxes of refugees. The organization is urging donor countries to fulfill pledges to provide US$ 1.5 billion to fund humanitarian assistance given only US$200 million has been received so far. In a separate development, the IPU Committee on International Humanitarian Law decided to send an urgent assessment mission to Jordan where many of the refugees have found shelter.
Parliaments Must Intensify Efforts to Protect Civilians - Parliaments must do everything they can to safeguard the lives of civilians in conflict, paying particular attention to women and children. A resolution on peace and security adopted on the closing day of the 128th IPU Assembly in Quito calls on parliaments to ensure governments protect their people against genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity through legislation, the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and by overseeing government action to combat terrorism. If national authorities fail to safeguard their population, then collective action should be applied in a timely and decisive manner through the UN Security Council on a case-by-case basis. The resolution also stresses the need for sustained peace-building assistance to post-conflict situations and urges parliamentarians to make sure their governments commit the necessary funds to the reconstruction of countries emerging from crisis.
Democratic Governance a Must-Have Goal for Post-2015 Development Targets – MPs from 121 countries participating at the 128th IPU Assembly have called for democratic governance to be included as a stand-alone goal in a new development agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015. Defining participation, transparency and accountability as the core of democratic governance, they argued that true prosperity could not exist in any society without respect for the universal values of democracy, rule of law and human rights. Democratic governance should also underpin other future goals. The message came out loud and clear both in statements on the general theme of the Assembly “From unrelenting growth to purposeful development “Buen Vivir”: New Approaches, New Solutions, and from a survey carried out among MPs on the issue. IPU’s membership declared it was more important than ever for parliaments to assert their legitimate place in the decision-making process at national and international levels and for parliaments to be strengthened across the world to allow greater oversight and legislative authority.
Parliaments Urged to Take Tougher Action on Sexual Violence – Parliaments across the world have been urged to take a much tougher approach to sexual violence, in particular to rape. In a statement at the closing session of the 128th Assembly, Fernando Cordero, the President of the Assembly, expressed deep concern at the widespread crime with rape cases increasingly making the headlines in recent months. He called upon parliaments to scrutinize existing laws to ensure tougher punishment for sexual violence crimes, the enforcement of laws, the protection of victims as well as the provision of adequate resources to address the issue. Highlighting a common practice of punishing victims, President Cordero demanded the training of law enforcers so that the response to rape and other forms of sexual violence does not punish or stigmatize women.
Too Many MPs Under Attack and in Danger the World Over - Too many MPs in the world are being targeted, intimidated and harassed as an attack on democracy itself, according to IPU. Countries such as Afghanistan and Maldives are witnessing concerted direct violence against parliamentarians and at times also their families. As the 128th IPU Assembly concluded in Quito, Ecuador, IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians expressed concern at the recent suicide bombing attack on the family of the Speaker of the Lower House of parliament in Afghanistan. As part of a series of resolutions on cases on the human rights abuses of MPs around the world, IPU also voiced serious concern at the level of confrontation between the government and parliament of Maldives. The Indian Ocean Island nation has been in political crisis since February 2012. Significant intimidation and harassment of MPs has led to the IPU Committee following 21 cases of human rights abuses of parliamentarians, including that of Afrasheem Ali who was assassinated last October. IPU has stated its deep concern that despite evidence, no-one has been held accountable for attacks on the MPs and at allegations that MPs may no longer be receiving the security protection they need. The IPU Committee examined the cases of 147 MPs in 24 countries during its latest session, pronouncing resolutions on cases involving 86 MPs in 17 countries.
Colombian Prosecutors committed to resolving murders of Patriotic Union MPs - A mission by IPU’s Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians to Colombia this month witnessed new efforts to shed light on the cases of 6 members of parliament from the Unión Patriótica (Patriotic Union) murdered between 1986 and 1994, as well as the death threats which forced fellow MP Hernán Motta into exile in October 1997. Colombia’s Chief Prosecutor and the Attorney General revealed the cases are now a priority with new methodology for gathering evidence developed. The Committee also learnt that the murder of one of the six Patriotic Union MPs, Manuel Cepeda, has been declared a crime against humanity in Colombia. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights concluded in May 2010 that the Colombian State bore responsibility for his murder. The IPU Committee has asked for detailed information from the Colombian authorities as to the exact steps being taken to find the perpetrators of all the crimes. It has called upon members of Congress to do their utmost to help in pursuing the cases.
IPU and Parliaments Should Play Pivotal Role in Advocating Fair Trade – Parliamentarians and IPU are being urged to take the lead in advocating fair trade as a means of ensuring sustainable development. A resolution submitted by the Standing Committee on Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade at the 128th IPU Assembly, appeals to governments and MPs to support fair trade and to include it as an integral component of post-2015 sustainable development goals. In addition, it says parliaments and governments should explore more innovative, open and transparent financing mechanisms to allow for more effective funding of fair-trade projects. The Committee also appeals to governments to do more to combat corruption and to join forces in the fight against tax evasion, crucial to achieving increases in domestic revenue.
Record Number of Women MPs Attend 128th IPU Assembly – A record number of women MPs attended the 128th IPU Assembly in Quito, Ecuador, breaking the 200 mark for the first time ever. The 210 women MPs at the Assembly represented 33 per cent of all MPs attending. It was the first time the proportion of women MPs had been as high. The Quito gathering also witnessed a growing trend of better balanced delegations in terms of gender representation. The trend in women’s representation at IPU assemblies echoed global parliamentary figures which in 2012 saw the highest percentage of women MPs in national parliaments. For the first time, the global average of women MPs broke the 20 per cent to reach 20.3 per cent. The Quito gathering also marked the first time women parliamentarians from Saudi Arabia participated at an IPU event with two newly-appointed women representatives from the Shura Council.
Using Social Media to Enhance Citizen Engagement and Democracy – Delegates to IPU’s 128th Assembly have adopted a resolution that calls on parliaments to both use social media to better inform and engage with their citizens but also to protect the right to freedom of expression on and off-line. The resolution also underscored that a free, open and accessible internet is both a fundamental human right and a tool for citizen engagement. Parliamentarians also needed to take on the responsibility for ensuring citizens’ access to free and secure online communications. The resolution followed IPU’s release of its first ever social media guidelines for MPs and parliamentary staff. Available freely online, it aims to encourage the more widespread and effective use of social media by parliaments and politicians, as well as provide guidance to those responsible for managing social media channels. The guidelines help to define the scope and purpose of social media for parliaments whilst also providing a benchmark for good practice in citizen engagement. The World e-Parliament Report identified that by the end of 2012, a third of all parliaments were already using social media with another third planning to.
Intensify Efforts to Protect Civilians in Conflict Including Syria, Urges IPU
Quito/Geneva 27 March 2013 – The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has called for a set of actions enforcing the responsibility to protect civilian lives during conflict on the closing day of its 128th Assembly in the Ecuadoran capital, Quito.
Adopting resolutions on the Syrian refugee crisis and on the role of parliaments in safeguarding civilian lives, the IPU Assembly urged parliaments to ensure governments protected their people from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity through legislation, the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and by overseeing government action to combat terrorism.
If national authorities fail to safeguard their population, then collective action should be applied in a timely and decisive manner through the Security Council on a case-by- case basis.
Particular focus was put on the need for laws and measures to protect women and children, prevent and criminalize sexual violence and to provide redress for survivors in conflict.
Parliaments should also ensure they support governments in peace-building efforts through the allocation of necessary funds.
In the second resolution on the conflict in Syria in 12 months, IPU called for an immediate end to the violence there. Concerned by the displacement crisis which has left more than one million Syrian refugees seeking shelter and protection in neighbouring countries and stretching resources and capacity there, the Organization is urging donor countries to fulfil pledges to provide US$1.5 billion for humanitarian aid. So far, only $US200 million has so far been received.
IPU’s Committee on International Humanitarian Law in session during the 128th Assembly will send an urgent assessment mission to Jordan which hosts a large number of Syrian refugees.
The Quito Assembly, which brought together more than 1,250 delegates, including nearly 630 MPs from 121 countries, also called for a radically new way of tackling economic growth and sustainable development as the world begins work on an agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals.
Aiming for human well-being, IPU members highlighted the need for more attention to be paid to the nature of growth, the distribution of its benefits, prioritizing action on youth unemployment and job creation, better management of the world’s resources and eradicating gender inequalities once and for all.
As a result, IPU has called for democratic governance to be included as a stand-alone goal in a new set of sustainable development targets post 2015.
Defining participation, transparency and accountability as the core of democratic governance, the Organization’s membership declared that it was more important than ever for parliaments to be strengthened in their oversight and legislative functions and to assert their place in decision-making processes at national and international levels.
The 128th IPU Assembly also adopted resolutions on the promotion of fair trade and innovative mechanisms for sustainable development and on the use of social media to enhance citizen engagement and democracy.
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COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE
L’UIP demande que l’on protège davantage les civils pris dans les conflits, notamment en Syrie
Quito/Genève, 27 mars 2013 – A la clôture de sa 128ème Assemblée, qui s’est tenue à Quito, capitale de l’Equateur, l’Union interparlementaire (UIP) a appelé à une série de mesures destinées à faire respecter la responsabilité de protéger la vie des civils pendant les conflits.
L’Assemblée de l’UIP, qui a adopté des résolutions au sujet de la crise des réfugiés syriens et du rôle des parlements dans la protection des civils, demande instamment aux parlements de veiller à ce que leur gouvernement protège la population contre le génocide, le nettoyage ethnique, les crimes de guerre et les crimes contre l’humanité, en adoptant des lois, en ratifiant le Statut de Rome de la Cour pénale internationale et en contrôlant l’action menée par le gouvernement pour combattre le terrorisme.
L’Assemblée dit aussi que si les autorités nationales manquent à leur obligation de protéger leur population, la communauté internationale se doit d’engager en temps voulu une action collective résolue, par le truchement du Conseil de sécurité et, ce, au cas par cas.
L’Assemblée insiste en particulier sur le fait qu’il faut des lois et des mesures pour protéger les femmes et les enfants, prévenir et criminaliser la violence sexuelle et assurer réparation aux victimes des conflits.
Elle appelle en outre les parlements à accompagner les gouvernements dans leurs efforts de consolidation de la paix, en votant les crédits nécessaires.
Par ailleurs, dans sa deuxième résolution en 12 mois sur le conflit syrien, l’UIP appelle à une cessation immédiate de la violence dans ce pays. Préoccupée par les déplacements massifs qui ont fait plus d’un million de réfugiés cherchant asile et protection dans les pays voisins et mettant à rude épreuve les moyens disponibles, l’Organisation engage les pays donateurs à tenir leurs engagements et à fournir 1,5 milliard de dollars E.-U. pour financer l’aide humanitaire. A ce jour, seuls 200 millions de dollars ont été reçus.
Le Comité de l’UIP chargé de promouvoir le respect du droit international humanitaire, qui s’est réuni à l’occasion de la 128ème Assemblée, va dépêcher d’urgence une mission d’évaluation de la situation en Jordanie, où se trouvent actuellement un grand nombre de réfugiés.
L’Assemblée de Quito, à laquelle ont participé plus de 1 250 délégués, dont près de 630 parlementaires de 121 pays, souhaite également que l’on trouve une toute nouvelle façon d’envisager la croissance économique et le développement durable, alors que la communauté internationale s’attèle à l’élaboration d’un programme destiné à succéder aux Objectifs du Millénaire pour le développement.
Ayant à l’esprit le bien-être de l’humanité, les Membres de l’UIP ont insisté sur la nécessité de se soucier davantage de la nature de la croissance, de la répartition de ses bienfaits, de donner la priorité à la création d’emplois et à l’emploi des jeunes, de mieux administrer les ressources de la planète et de mettre fin une bonne fois pour toutes aux inégalités entre hommes et femmes.
Forte de ces convictions, l’UIP décidé de demander que la gouvernance démocratique soit intégrée, comme un objectif à part entière, dans le nouveau programme de développement durable pour l’après-2015.
Les Membres de l’UIP, pour qui la participation, la transparence et la reddition de comptes sont les piliers de la gouvernance démocratique, ont déclaré qu’il était plus important que jamais de renforcer les fonctions législative et de contrôle des parlement et d’associer davantage les législateurs aux processus de prise de décision aux échelons national et international.
La 128ème Assemblée de l’UIP a également adopté des résolutions sur la promotion du commerce équitable et de mécanismes novateurs de développement durable, ainsi que sur l’utilisation des médias sociaux pour accroître la participation des citoyens et renforcer la démocratie.
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UN Watch was never enthusiastic about the UN – it took RITA to show that the Great Hall can also be a place of Peace. Mr. Ahmedine-Nejad – watch the video and enjoy – RITA is an exponent of your Culture and could be an envoy of your Civilization. Why did nobody think of bringing her to Vienna last week for the meeting of the Alliance?
WE WERE AT THAT CONCERT IN NEW YORK CITY TOWN HALL, and in the nearby Bar, NOVEMBER 2012, WHEN AMBASSADOR PROSOR SAW RITA SING AND DANCE IN FARSI, HEBREW, and ENGLISH, and DECIDED THAT THIS OUGHT TO BE SEEN AT THE UN AS WELL. SURELY, HE WAS NOT NAIVE TO THINK THAT IT WILL BE EASY, BUT HE DID IT!!!
Global Music With a New York Edge
rita un review
“Only dreamers can do changes in the world,” Israeli rock star Rita reminded the crowd as she exited the stage after an exhilarating, politically radical, hourlong set for a private audience seemingly composed of dignitaries, their guests and a scattering of media at the United Nations General Assembly hall last night. Her English may have been slightly fractured, but she left no doubt in the tone of her voice. Rita is as big in Israel as Madonna was at the peak of her popularity here in the US; she is just as popular in Iran. Her dream: peace in the Middle East. On one hand, the pressure on her to cave in to partisan politics must be enormous, especially for someone whose family escaped a brutally repressive regime in her native Iran for the democracy of Israel when she was eight. On the other hand, she refuses to give up on that dream. Last night marked the historic occasion that a performer had ever sung in both Persian and Hebrew on the same night at the UN, but it also might have been the first time that anyone ever spoke those two languages side by side in public there. To see ten Israelis onstage singing lustily in Persian – the langauge of their country’s sworn enemy – was radical to the extreme. And this was with the blessing of the Israeli ambassador, who acceded that it had always been his “dream to open for Rita,” and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who described Rita as “A reminder of the role of music to transcend cultures, build bridges and connect people. Instead of global hegemony, global harmony!”
And the audience ate it up! They seemed to know all the words, whether or in Persian or Hebrew, sang along, and by the end of the show there was a lively circle of dancers gathered at the front of the stage. This wasn’t some small posse of peaceniks from the kibbutz hanging out in a cramped Tel Aviv basement: the auditorium was packed with a mainstream, monied Israeli crowd. Nor was the music bland, tepid pop: in Israel, Rita may be top 40, but her band’s closest American musical equivalent is Gogol Bordello. Laughable as it may seem, from an American perspective, to imagine such a cutting-edge, haunting blend of Middle Eastern folk themes and epic art-rock as Rita plays getting airplay on commercial radio, it’s an everyday thing in Israel. That general, mainstream listeners would not only accept but embrace this music makes the idea of dropping bombs on the people of Israel, or the people of Iran, all the more repulsive. Rita self-effacingly hinted more than once that she would have liked to be singing something other than love songs, but it didn’t matter: her message couldn’t have been more clear, or vividly shared.
About the music: it was brilliant. The concert began with a long, plaintively crescendoing improvisation played by Mark Eliyahu on the Persian kamancheh fiddle over an ominous keyboard drone – this is not how Madonna starts her shows. It finally picked up with a lush majesty over a swaying dance beat and in a split second the crowd was clapping along. The show ended with Yeladem Zim Sincha (Children Are a Joy), a feral gypsy-rock romp completely at odds with its saccharine title, the band exploding out of a biting Galia Hai viola solo midway through. In between, Rita alternated between her Hebrew-language hits and the vintage Iranian songs on her most recent album My Joys. The most exhilarating solo moment of the night belonged to Jonathan Dror, playing shivery microtones on a genuine rams-horn shofar on the introduction to Hachnisini Tachat Knafech (Under Your Wing), Rita adding her own spine-tingling, chromatically-charged vocalese solo. She gave energetic vocal cameos to rapidfire accordionist Ariel Alaev and eclectically fiery guitarist Ofer Koren; Dror also energized the crowd with his dance moves late in the set. The biggest hit with the crowd, predictably, was Shah Doomad (The Groom King), an ecstatic but rather ferocious wedding song: this guy is something to be reckoned with! To paraphrase what Edward Said said long ago, there is no discrete, exclusionary Middle Eastern culture: there is only Orientalism. As Rita made defiantly clear, it is possible to be both pro-Israel and pro-Iran: we are all in this together, with her. And who wouldn’t want to be?
Rita with Ambassador Ron Prosor, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his wife, March 5 (photo credit: Shahar Azran)
VIDEO OF UN PHOTO OP AT THE END OF THE CONCERT – by Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
Hi Pincas. So far I’ve put up this outtake video:
Rita is congratulated by Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor at the end of her UN performance, March 5 (photo credit: Shahar Azran)
and our own older announcement:
Feb 22, 2013 – Matthew writes: Israel Plans UN Concert by Iranian-Born Singer Rita, … the Viva Vox choir, invited to perform a concert at the UN by General …
and even earlier -
THE ISRAELI MISSION MAKES HISTORY AT THE UN WITH A CONCERT BY ISRAELI POP ICON RITA, SINGING IN BOTH PERSIAN AND HEBREW FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER IN THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY HALL.
by Irith Jawetz, reporting from the UN Headquarters in New York.
On March 5, 2013 the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN has hosted a special event and first of its kind in the UN General Assembly hall – a concert by the world-renowned Israeli-Iranian singer Rita Yahan-Farouz. The performance was titled “Tunes for Peace” .
Among the attendees were Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic, ambassadors, celebrities, and Jewish and Iranian community leaders.
H.E. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was the first to speak and he started his speech by greeting everybody with the Hebrew word “Shalom”. He said there is no room like this one and it serves to seek peace among nations, preserve Human rights, but sometimes also for concerts. He praised Rita for her desire to reach many cultures through her music, connect people and he hopes this concert will inspire people to strive for peace, justice and Human rights. He thanked the Government of Israel and especially Ambassador Rom Prosor for enabling this important event.
The next speaker was H.E. Mr. Vuk Jeremic, President of the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly. He also thanked Ambassador Prosor and mentioned his personal special friendship with the Ambassador. He announced that he will be going to Israel soon and will be visiting Yad Vashem, since a few members of his family, who saved Jews during the Holocaust will be honored as righteous among Nations. This announcement brought a huge applause from the audience. He mentioned that music has a very important tool for connecting people and nations since biblical times. Music is a universal language and he shares Rita’s hopes that it will bring cooperation between nations.
After the speeches the General Assembly Hall transformed completely and the concert began. Rita came on stage and the audience welcomed her with huge applause. She has a terrific personality and projected it throughout the whole evening.
The album, which has received widespread international acclaim, interweaves the Iranian melodies of Rita’s childhood with the rich tapestry of contemporary Israeli music. She introduced herself by saying that she was born in Tehran and emigrated with her parents at the age of eight. She credited her mother for her remarkable singing career by telling us that her mother used to sing the whole day long, even while cooking or doing chores around the house.
The concert lasted about an hour and brought the hall to its feet. The audience definitely following Ambassador Proser’s closing words in his speech ”Let’s Rock the Hall”.
Let us all hope that politicians will follow Rita’s example!
Some of our older postings on RITA in NEW YORK:
Feb 22, 2013 – Matthew writes: Israel Plans UN Concert by Iranian-Born Singer Rita, … the Viva Vox choir, invited to perform a concert at the UN by General …
Nov 14, 2012 – RITA from Israel, last Sunday night at the Town Hall in New York City, … Such as In 2006, Rita put on a show called One (in English) which ran …
Amazingly, it took 40 years since the Stockholm 1972 Conference on the Human Environment to make finally UNEP into a Global Organization – a home for all of Humanity – all UN Member States and complete Non-Governmental participation as well.
Now the questions are – will UNEP speak for Science and the Global Environment rather then bow, as until now, to the few leading Member States interested in keeping it low and far?
Back in 1972 it was sent off to far away Nairobi so it would not impact the ongoing in New York or Geneva. The result was indeed that the Environment continued to be left out from discussions of the Development and Social Agendas.
The UN celebrates now: “United Nations Environment Programme Upgraded to Universal Membership Following Rio+20″ and that is not funny. They also say now:
Will ECOSOC – the Economic and Social Council – be allowed now to embrace this newly empowered UNEP and be upgraded to a body that is UNIVERSAL as well, and deals with Sustainability including all three legs of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT – the Environment, Social Development and Economic Development? This at a time that sees the closing of the useless Commission – the UN CSD?
Will the new UNEP be charged to promote SUSTAINABLE ENERGY in the UN effort to provide Energy-4-All, the post RIO+20 other effort that will have its hub in Vienna? Sustainable Energy and the Global Environment are the twin pillars that will hold our arch to Future Generations.
NEW – Rabbi Schneier’s weekly column in the Huffington Post.
The Making of Modern-Day Miracles: Hanukkah With the Chief Rabbi, Imams and Barack Obama.
Hanukkah, the eight day holiday which the Jewish people just observed, is first and foremost, about miracles. Hanukkah commemorates both the miracle of the victory of the Jewish people led by Judah Maccabee in their uprising against their Greek oppressors in 165 B.C.E. and the miracle that the menorah in the reconsecrated Temple in Jerusalem burned for eight days, even though there was only enough oil to light it for one day.
To be sure, miracles have always played a major role in Jewish history; indeed, the very survival of the Jews as a people, despite nearly 2,000 years of exile and persecution, is the greatest miracle of all. Yet, in the Talmud, our sages remind us that one must not rely on miracles. Yes, miracles can happen, but one has to work terribly hard for them.
There is an enormous human component that goes into the making of a miracle.
Over the past six years, I have been privileged to take part in a modern-day miracle: the establishment of a global movement of Muslims and Jews committed to communication, reconciliation and cooperation. Two weeks ago, as I wrote in my last column, I was one of several rabbis invited to take part in the opening of the King Abdullah International Center for Interfaith Dialogue in Vienna, an institution created by the King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to strengthen dialogue between world religions — very much including Islam and Judaism. On Dec. 10, the second day of Hanukkah, together with my friend and esteemed colleague, Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens, the largest mosque in New York City, I organized a festive Hanukkah meal at the SOLO kosher restaurant in midtown Manhattan featuring the Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger and eight prominent New York area imams and Muslim leaders.
As I noted in my remarks at the luncheon, such an event would have been unthinkable a few years ago; and many people might assume, should have been all but impossible in the wake of the exchange of missile fire between Israel and Gaza last month. However, thanks to the ongoing step-by-step work in which I have been engaged with Imam Shamsi Ali and other visionary Muslim and Jewish leaders around the world; arranging hundreds of mosque-synagogue exchanges every November during our annual International Muslim-Jewish Weekend of Twinning and bringing together European, North American and Latin American Muslim and Jewish leaders to stand together against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, we have managed to build a framework that allows us to celebrate each others’ holidays together, and to work productively in concert with each other, even at a time of conflict in the Middle East.
That willingness to build ties of cooperation and understanding very much includes Chief Rabbi Metzger, who has made it a point to reach out to imams and Muslim leaders, both within Israel and the Palestinian territories and around the world. Pointing out that through the greater part of the past 1,300 years, Jews and Muslims lived and worked closely together, the Chief Rabbi invoked the miracle of the long burning menorah of Hanukkah to appeal to the New York imams to join with him and like-minded Jews in “spreading the light of Jewish-Muslim understanding.” Responding on behalf of his fellow imams, Shamsi Ali emphasized that “the Middle East conflict is not a Jewish-Muslim conflict but a human one and we have a shared human responsibility to intervene. We don’t have the luxury to become discouraged and give up on the situation; rather we must remain optimistic and keep building our network of contacts.”
Presiding over this historic gathering, the first time a chief rabbi of Israel has sat down together with American Muslim leaders, I reflected that its very occurrence showed about how far Muslims and Jews have come together in six short years and the great opportunity we now have to work together for the betterment of both communities — including helping to bring peace to the Middle East. Indeed, thanks to the efforts in which we have been engaged, there is greater reason for optimism about Muslim-Jewish relations than has existed in a long time.
Several days later, on the evening of Dec. 13, I was privileged to participate in the menorah lighting ceremony at the White House. Listening to President Obama’s eloquent words at that event, I reflected that he is a man of conviction and principle whom I deeply admire.
Yet, as someone who has been in the vanguard of strengthening black-Jewish relations in America for a quarter of a century, being in Barack Obama’s presence at a Hanukkah celebration at the White House also evoked another miracle that continues to amaze and inspire me: the first-ever African-American President of the United States.
Like the remarkable progress we have achieved in Muslim-Jewish relations, the triumph of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the election of President Obama 40 years later, are also examples of miracles that good people worked terribly hard to make happen. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other milestones of that movement would never have occurred without the tireless efforts of Americans of diverse backgrounds who came together in support of the struggle of African-Americans for freedom and equality. In fact, as I have noted in my book “Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King and the Jewish Community,” there was no segment of American society which provided as much and as consistent support to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as did the Jewish community.
Among the modern day Maccabees who sacrificed their lives were Jewish civil rights activists Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who together with their African-American co-worker James Chaney, were brutally murdered in the swamps of Mississippi.
Other brave Jews who joined that struggle included Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched alongside Dr. King from Selma to Montgomery, and countless other rabbis who were arrested and beaten during the Freedom Rides of 1961.
As I stood in the White House and witnessed the first African-American President light the Hanukkah menorah, I felt that the President’s solidarity with the Jewish community that evening was so very fitting given the seeds of the black-Jewish alliance that were planted in the Civil Rights struggle of half a century ago.
As I left the White House that evening, I reflected on the miraculous accomplishments of the Civil Rights movement, confident that we can achieve the miracle of Muslim-Jewish reconciliation as well. Both of these movements remind us of the enormous human effort that goes into the making of a miracle.
Rabbi Marc Schneier is President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and Vice President of the World Jewish Congress. Schneier is co-authoring a book on Muslim-Jewish relations entitled Sons of Abraham, with Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center, New York City’s largest mosque, to be published by Beacon Press in the Fall of 2013.
But lest we are accused of not considering all evidence, I must bring up also the OpenDemocracy column we read today:
Turkey, the end of Islamism with a human face.
Kerem Oktem 20 December 2012
Turkey’s AKP government has over a decade promised a new model of governance: progressive and reformist, Islamist and democratic. But a series of developments, including the expanding power of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, is now exposing the party and its policies to ever-deeper scrutiny, says Kerem Oktem.
For eight decades after the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the dominant ideology and political model was one of authoritarian secularism. In November 2002, the election victory of the Justice & Development Party (AKP) brought with it a double promise: to accommodate growing demands for inclusion (from both Turkey’s majority Muslim population and the country’s subordinated ethno-religious minorities), and to marry Turkey’s mainstream Islamist tradition and conservative political right with a programme of modernisation geared towards accession to the European Union.
The prospect of historic change struck a chord far beyond Turkey, especially among liberals in Europe and the United States but also across the middle east. The culture wars unleashed by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida and George W Bush’s administration had both polarised world opinion and created longing for a new reconciliation between “Islam” and “democracy” (or more accurately, between Islamism and popular sovereignty). Many read in the Turkish result a sign of hope.
The AKP’s ambition could hardly be exaggerated: to reconcile conservative religious values and modern politics in a way that resembled the achievement of Christian Democrat parties in late-19th century Europe when they carried Catholic voters and Christian values into democratic politics. The party, after several false starts and legal sanctions from a still confident and intimidatory state, had built a broad coalition of old Islamists, moderate nationalists and new liberals. It seemed a strong foundation for a change-making project inspired by the notion of “Islamism with a human face”.
The AKP’s election breakthrough of November 2002 was the prelude to an exciting decade-long political roller-coaster ride where impressive economic growth, progressive legal reforms, empowerment of civil society and modernisation of infrastructure was counterbalanced by growing nationalism and chauvinism, spreading machismo and untamed neo-liberal restructuring. Amid many setbacks and frustrations, the ride more often than not seemed to lean towards the former. Now, however, Turkey’s politics appear to have come full circle. The country’s Kurds are even more antagonised than during the highpoint of the Kurdish war of the 1990; the non-orthodox Alevi community (which numbers at least 10 million) feels more disenfranchised even than under Kemalist dictatorship; and virtually all societal groups that diverge from the AKP’s notion of the “Islamic middle-class family” experience a sense of exclusion as a result of state attitudes.
It is a good time to take stock, and re-evaluate the actors and dynamics which have reshaped Turkey over these ten years. In particular, to ask: why has the human face of Islamism appears to have gone missing; why has the country’s political realm experienced a puzzling a loss of decency; what do these developments mean for the people of Turkey and the country’s overlapping neighbourhoods; and what are the available alternatives?
A discredited legacy
Turkey shares with other middle-east regimes a tradition of secular authoritarianism whose combination of rigorously controlled institutions, populist nationalism and repressive security systems enabled it to remain in power for decades. Turkey differed from countries such as Egypt, Syria or Tunisia not in the underpinnings of power, but in its state legacy and geostrategic environment. The Republic of Turkey, which had its foundations in the Ottoman empire’s modernisation of the late 19th century, was able to avoid the colonial domination that was to shape the experience of modern Arab statehood. Moreover, at the onset of the cold war, Turkey’s political elites were able to secure a place for the country in the western security alliance, thanks above all to its geographical proximity to western Europe and its status as a frontline state vis-à-vis the former Soviet Union.
Throughout the second half of the 20th century, this place facilitated the maintenance in Turkey of a semi-democratic hybrid regime which kept a balance between some socio-economic and ethno-religious groups while repressing and/or denying the existence of others (especially the Kurds, a middle-eastern nation with a long history of local statehood and a distinct literary tradition). The reality of the Armenian genocide, on which the relative religious homogeneity of modern Turkey as a Muslim majority state was built, was also denied.
At heart, Turkey over these decades was a deeply unjust society marked by profound ideological and ethno-religious divisions, which came to the fore particularly in the years of near civil war (as in the 1970s) and was then controlled by the extreme security state established after the coup d’etat of September 1980. By the early 2000s, however, the version of modernity projected by the Kemalist regime – so-called after the state’s founder, Kemal Atatürk – was looking anachronistic, reminiscent as it was of the leader-worship, mass events and orchestrated nationalist fervour of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany; while political and social developments in Turkey had massively undermined its claim to represent the country.
The Islamist movement, partly supported by the generals of the 1980 coup as a prophylactic against socialist infiltration, had matured significantly. The leading cadres within Turkey’s Milli Görü? (National View) movement, the mainstream Islamist tradition from whom the AKP’s leading cadres hail, had come to embrace non-statist, globalised economic thinking and to accept the need to work within the parameters of the secular state. Islamic networks such as Fethullah Gülen’s HIzmet, which combined conservative social values with successful educational enterprises and trust-based business networks, facilitated the emergence of internationally successful industrial establishments in medium-sized towns and cities in the Anatolian heartlands. These flourishing “Anatolian tigers” in central Turkey – led by a new “Islamic bourgeoisie” whose hard work and focused business ambition even attracted the sobriquet “Islamic Calvinists” – created what Cihan Tugal calls a “passive revolution” which integrated Islamists into capitalism and municipal politics, thereby keeping radicalisation at bay.
The Kemalist model was also exposed by the dirty war against the Kurdish guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish civilian population, which by the 2000s had left more than 30,000 dead and up to 2 million Kurds internally displaced. The loss of legitimacy was shared: among a series of weak coalition governments, among the “deep state” that effectively co-opted them, and among the Kemalist modernisation project as a whole.
Thus, by the time the AKP came to power in 2002, Turkey was over-ready for a change – and change it did. In a relatively short period, and at breakneck speed, the government embarked on an ambitious programme of legal and institutional reform. The prospect of accession negotiations with the European Union unleashed a frenzy of liberal initiatives: the enacting of a progressive civil code, the opening to scrutiny of the repressive institutions of the post-1980 era (including the Higher Education Council, devised to keep unruly universities under control, and the National Security Council, which did the same for the country’s politics).
All vestiges of the ancien regime were open to consideration. The media brimmed with public debates about hitherto unspeakable taboos: from the repression of the Kurds and the marginalisation of Alevis to the denial of the many crimes against humanity which the Turkish nationalist modernisers committed in the dying days of the Ottoman empire and the early ones of the Turkish republic. This liberal moment was framed by high levels of economic growth and a tripling of GDP per capita, which allowed the government to reorganise public services and infrastructure. Significant portions of the public gained unprecedented access to healthcare, with visible results on public health (particularly in underprivileged areas like the Kurdish provinces). This aspect of neo-liberal adjustment came with better services and a more courteous public administration.
A new balance
True, even at the time, there were signs of an undercurrent of religious chauvinism, and an element of Islamist “revenge” for the reprisals inflicted upon them throughout the republic (and particularly after the “mini-coup” of 1997). From 2005, the country witnessed an almost inexplicable nationalist backlash in which prominent liberal public intellectuals such as Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak were publicly assaulted and subject to a barrage of court cases. These campaigns of psychological warfare against Turkey’s faint but vital liberal voice were supplemented by targeted violence whose victims included the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink (murdered in January 2007) and several Christian priests and missionaries.
The operations of the deep state, a remnant of Nato’s “stay behind” forces that went viral during the Kurdish war, had been supported (unknowingly or cynically) by parts of the secular establishment and the Republican People’s Party (CHP). The latter’s efforts extended at times into a form of brinkmanship aimed at deposing the AKP government, preventing the AKP foreign minister Abdullah Gül from competing for the presidency, or even (via the constitutional court) attempting to shut down the governing party. All of these manoeuvres failed; though they did succeed in polarising the political space and galvanising support for the AKP government, which could rightfully accuse the Kemalist establishment of undemocratic conduct. They also opened the door to a direct popular election of the president.
There were other worrying signs. An amended anti-terror law in 2006 significantly expanded the definition of terrorism to make the expression of ideas that happen to be shared by terrorist organisations a punishable offence. At a stroke, demands for education in the Kurdish language or for regional autonomy became a security matter. In tactics reminiscent of Israel’s tactics in the occupied Palestinian territories, Turkish security officers abused demonstrating children in Diyarbakir and other Kurdish cities and imprisoned them for minor offences like hurling stones or carrying placards with the insignia of the PKK. The legal attacks against pro-Kurdish parties and politicians – established tools of governance since their emergence in the 1990s – continued. In the late 2000s, a legal battle was unleashed upon the whole domain of Kurdish politics, with hundreds (and soon thousands) of Kurdish politicians, activists and employees of municipalities run by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) taken into detention, sometimes under humiliating circumstances.
A successful referendum initiative in September 2010 then broke the hegemony of Kemalist judges in the high courts and made possible the prosecution of the hitherto protected leaders of the 1980 coup. This fuelled the zeal of prosecutors close to the government in their undeclared war on the old establishment, which involved bringing charges against former and serving chiefs of the general staff and leading figures in the media and politics for alleged involvement in a series of (averted) coup attempts. Turkey’s history of military interventions made the accusations not unreasonable, and they helped the government to scare the military into full cooperation. Yet if the court cases against the BDP were aimed at marginalising the AKP’s main rival in the Kurdish provinces, those against the military and secularist figures were directed against the Kemalist establishment as such, not necessarily at any actual acts individuals might have engaged in. The ever-growing number of those detained, and the mounting incidents of half-baked evidence, secret witnesses, and (in line with Turkish judicial tradition) fantastic indictments, gradually eroded the legitimacy of the prosecutorial assault.
But prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and his government had been able – at least until the 2010 elections – to counterbalance such highhanded moves with more benign ones in other policy domains. TV and radio broadcasts in Kurdish were legalised, and Kurdish education gradually phased in. This led to multiple contradictions: as the first university degree programmes for Kurdish teachers began, for example, detained Kurdish politicians were charged for insisting on defending themselves in their mother tongue. This doesn’t diminish the importance of the fact that Kurdish, denied its very existence throughout the entire history of the republic, is now a recognised subject in state schools and universities.
The court proceedings cannot be defined as anything but “exceptional justice”. There is little doubt, though, that the Kemalist establishment (including the CHP) had been deeply implicated in dodgy dealings with the deep state to overthrow or at least weaken the ruling AKP. Turkey’s visibility in its neighbourhood, and its seemingly successful foreign-policy activism, also helped to convince a global audience that the AKP government was still engaging in a struggle to defend the popular will against the machinations of the authoritarian Kemalist establishment and the deep state.
An authoritarian shift
So, what changed after the 2010 elections, which returned the AKP to government for a third time and with almost half of the popular vote? Many secularists argue there was no such change: rather, that the cadres of this Islamist party had artfully manipulated the public in Turkey, the European Union and pretty much everybody in the world in order to subvert the military and then rule supreme. They now had the strength to fulfil their “real” motive, to create a sort of theocracy. Some liberals, and even more reflective Islamist actors, would make a different case, based on Lord Acton’s dictum that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Indeed, ten years in government is a long time.
Both explanations have a grain of truth, though the proponents of the first might recall that the secular establishment has played a major role in cornering the AKP elites and socialising them into the very exceptional use of force which the government and its supporters in the judiciary and bureaucracy is now engaged in. The flipside of the secularist explanation hence suggests that the Kemalist state has managed to shape the Islamists in its own image, turning them into the same kind of authoritarian modernisers and social engineers; the difference being that the core reference-points are now Islam, Ottomanism and neo-liberalism rather than Turkish ethno-nationalism. In the government’s defence, its apologists proclaim that Erdo?an wants to attract the nationalist vote with hawkish policies in order to ensure his election as president, insinuating that he might become more moderate when that is achieved.
Geostrategy has also helped. Turkey happens to share borders with states that are vilified by the western security establishment. In the past, it was the Soviet Union; then Iran, followed by Iraq, and lately Syria. The United States needs Turkey as an ally in its middle-eastern policy, no matter what shape this policy may eventually take. It is not a good time to criticise Turkey – and thanks to geostrategy, the time never seems to be just right. The rebranding of Turkey as an economic powerhouse and model of Muslim democracy, professionally and aggressively conducted globally by civil-society organisations and pro-business Islamic networks, also remains potent. Turkey is still able to depict itself, albeit in a far less convincing way than before, as a model for the democratic transitions in the Arab world.
A political faultine
If the AKP government is now in more or less full control of the Turkish state, unconstrained by foreign-policy pressures, and able to benefit from a relatively well-performing economy, what exactly is it doing? The answer is that it is concentrating extreme power in the hands of the prime minister, and conducting remorseless policies without a modicum of balance. There are thousands of Kurdish activists and hundreds of university students in jail, who are by any definition political prisoners; they are joined by critical journalists who are often held on terrorism charges. The judiciary is cracking down on pretty much any individual who dares to question the legitimacy of “Islamism with a human face” and of Turkey’s neo-liberal restructuring. Critical academics such as Bü?ra Ersanl? and P?nar Selek have been imprisoned or face charges. Some campuses, like that of the Aegean University in Izmir and now that of the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, are subjected to a state of emergency, where police snatch away protesting students and intimidate intervening faculty members.
The balancing-act between neo-liberal adjustment and redistribution was one of the great success stories of earlier AKP governments. Now that the economy is slowing, redistribution has become harder and industrial action more pronounced. Turkish Airlines is a showcase for intelligent management, brand consolidation and growth thanks to high levels of productivity. Yet working conditions are harsh, and when a few hundred employees staged a short strike earlier in 2012, all of them were dismissed (via SMS) after an angry intervention by Erdo?an. Istanbul’s skyline is slowly being destroyed by what will soon be called the Turkish property bubble; the prime minister himself, usually not responsible for urban planning, is pushing through plans for the largest mosque in Turkey on a hilltop overlooking Istanbul, and for an ill-advised plan to “beautify” the city’s heart around Taksim Square. All of these projects have been finalised behind closed doors, with no regard to public consultation.
Erdo?an’s is a sad story, especially in relation to the promise he represented as a child of poor immigrants to Istanbul who rose to the top echelons of power via the municipality of greater Istanbul, along the way defying the Kemalist establishment and enduring a jail term. Now, he has become a choleric figure who lectures the world about all and sundry; plays down the Armenian genocide (while accusing China of the same crime against the Uyghur people and maintaining cordial relations with Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, whose regime is accused of genocide in Darfur); lambasts Israel (rightly) for its brutal occupation regime, while failing to apologise for the killing of thirty-four Kurdish civilians in an airstrike near the village of Roboski; tells Turkish women how many children to have (three) and threatens to rescind relatively liberal abortion laws.
That socially conservative politics would eventually close in on the female body and, as Deniz Kandiyoti suggests, attempt a “masculinist restoration”, is probably not so surprising. That Erdo?an now even seeks to have a popular TV series on Suleiman the Magnificent banned, because it depicts the Ottoman Sultan as a man concerned more with his harem than with conquest, however, is. Could Erdo?an be approaching the threshold to ludicrousness?
A contested hegemony
The hegemonic aspect of Turkey’s new governing system is a case of the phenomenon different from Egypt’s, where Andrea Teti and colleagues view Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as non-hegemonic actors that consequently face widespread protests that contest their power-base. The foundations of post-Kemalist hegemony run deeper, as they have been built gradually and in a more deliberate manner. In ten years, the AKP and sympathetic Islamic networks have succeeded in educating a new generation of administrators, judges and foreign-policy experts in private schools and new universities, who approximate in mindset and persuasion to what Erdo?an calls a “pious youth”. The part of the population which has benefited from the AKP’s economic growth and redistribution policies is incomparably larger than in Egypt; and Turkey is much richer now than it was in 2002-03.
The infinitely self-confident Erdo?an is not without possible challenge, however – though not from the main opposition party, which is failing to unite its two main factions into a progressive social-democrat coalition (the division is between a nationalist and anti-Kurdish Kemalist establishment, and a more liberal left-wing faction with a strong Alevi component). The challenge, rather, comes from two other sources. The first could emerge from within the Islamist movement and the Islamic networks, which have played a key role in mobilising their constituencies for the AKP in the preceding elections. Many people here regard “decency” as not (or not exclusively) a matter of piety and modest dress. Some wonder whether their longstanding struggle really was for a Turkey with more mosques, shopping-malls and high-speed trains, ruled by an autocratic dictator who gasps for even more power than he already holds. The extent to which they will be able to revoke the implicit agreement between Islamists not to compromise a fellow brother, and to find a voice in the AKP (or beyond) will be decisive for the future of Turkey’s politics and of Erdo?an himself.
The second challenge may come from Turkey’s current president, the much less divisive Abdullah Gül, who enjoys considerably more approval for a second term in office than Erdo?an does in his bid for the presidency. The two are now in open conflict over a wide range of policy issues. This struggle will unfold over the next year.
In the meantime, Turkey veers ever closer to an abyss of multiple crises on different geographical scales: in its neighbourhood, in Syria, in its own Kurdish regions, in its higher-education system, its courtrooms, and in its inner cities. If there is anything like “path dependence”, the possibility of Erdo?an returning to the politics of decency, with which he initially captured the hearts and minds of the electorate in Turkey, can be precluded. For now, Turkey’s experiment of “Islamism with a human face” seems to have come to a tentative end.
That this is happening at the same time as the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on Egypt seems to be slipping, and unrest is mounting in Tunisia, might offer some hints about the future of this ideology. Olivier Roy’s repeated insistence that Islamism is nearing its end might still be unfounded. The Turkish experience, however, suggests that its neo-liberal, pro-American version cannot provide credible or sustainable answers to the needs of complex modern societies, and certainly not to the demands for social justice and inclusive governance.
Similar difficulties exist in Israel and they will not be resolved by the January 2013 elections.
The up-shot is thus that lot of hard work is needed to make the needed miracles of civil co-existence happen.
Up to 800.000 darker skin people are today slaves in Mauritania – a country of 3.5 million. Mauritania was now elected to Vice Presidency of the UN Human Rights Council – the official warden of the Declaration of Human Rights. A Medal of Shame to the voting Africans at the UN!
As Revolutionary as saying Good Morning: To Save Congo, Let It Fall Apart. The continuing legacy of colonialism in Africa is to be found in the largest artificial States it left behind and at the UN where dictators are honored and supported.
WHY DOES NOT SOMEONE SPEAK THE TRUTH TO THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND ITS SECURITY COUNCIL?
THE LARGEST STATES OF AFRICA MUST BE BROKEN UP IN ORDER TO ALLOW THE PEOPLE CREATE THE GOVERNMENT THEY NEED SO THEY CAN THRIVE FROM THE HUGE RESOURCES THESE COUNTRIES POSSES. ANYTHING ELSE IS SIMPLY THE CONTINUATION OF COLONIALISM BY PROXY EMPIRES.
SUDAN FOR INSTANCE HAS FINALLY BEEN ALLOWED TO BREAK INTO TWO – BUT EVEN SO IT IS TOO LARGE TO BE GOVERNED OUT OF ARAB KHARTOUM. CONGO IS JUST AS BAD AND HIDING BEHIND THE WORDS DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC IS NOT EVEN A FIG LEAF OVER ITS NAKEDNESS.
The New York Times Op-Ed Contributor
J. PETER PHAM writes – Congo isn’t too big to fail; it’s too big to succeed. Rather than striving to hold it together, we should let it break up.
To Save Congo, Let It Fall Apart
By J. PETER PHAM
The Tragedy of Palestine – Rendering Two Complementing Israeli – Even Though at First View Opposing – Points of View – and They Are Both Right. Ambassador Ron Prosor’s wide range presentation at the UN (Seconded by Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird) and Former One-Man Conscience of the Israeli Knesset the sage Uri Avnery in Tel Aviv.
Below is posted the full transcript of Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor’s address at the United Nations General Assembly
Today I stand before you tall and proud because I represent the world’s one and only Jewish state. A state built in the Jewish people’s ancient homeland, with its eternal capital Jerusalem as its beating heart.
We are a nation with deep roots in the past and bright hopes for the future. We are a nation that values idealism, but acts with pragmatism. Israel is a nation that never hesitates to defend itself, but will always extend its hand for peace.
Peace is a central value of Israeli society. The bible calls on us:
“seek peace and pursue it.” ??? ???? ??????
Peace fills our art and poetry. It is taught in our schools. It has been the goal of the Israeli people and every Israeli leader since Israel was re-established 64 years ago.
Israel’s Declaration of Independence states, “We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help…”
This week was the 35th anniversary of President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem. In a speech just before that visit, President Sadat famously stood in the Egyptian parliament in Cairo and stated that he would go “to the ends of the earth” to make peace with Israel.
Israel’s Prime Minister at the time, Menachem Begin, welcomed President Sadat to Israel, and paved the way for peace. This morning Prime Minister Netanyahu stood at the Menachem Begin Center and said this about the resolution that you are about to vote on:
“Israel is prepared to live in peace with a Palestinian state, but for peace to endure, Israel’s security must be protected. The Palestinians must recognize the Jewish State and they must be prepared to end the conflict with Israel once and for all.
None of these vital interests, these vital interests of peace, none of them appear in the resolution that will be put forward before the General Assembly today and that is why Israel cannot accept it. The only way to achieve peace is through agreements that are reached by the parties and not through U.N. resolutions that completely ignore Israel’s vital security and national interests. And because this resolution is so one-sided, it doesn’t advance peace, it pushes it backwards.
As for the rights of Jewish people in this land, I have a simple message for those people gathered in the General Assembly today, no decision by the U.N. can break the 4000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel.”
The People of Israel wait for a Palestinian leader that is willing to follow in the path of President Sadat. The world waits for President Abbas to speak the truth that peace can only be achieved through negotiations by recognizing Israel as a Jewish State. It waits for him to tell them that peace must also address Israel’s security needs and end the conflict once and for all.
For as long as President Abbas prefers symbolism over reality, as long as he prefers to travel to New York for UN resolutions, rather than travel to Jerusalem for genuine dialogue, any hope of peace will be out of reach.
Israel has always extended its hand for peace and will always extend its hand for peace. When we faced an Arab leader who wanted peace, we made peace. That was the case with Egypt. That was the case with Jordan.
Time and again, we have sought peace with the Palestinians. Time and again, we have been met by rejection of our offers, denial of our rights, and terrorism targeting our citizens.
President Abbas described today’s proceedings as “historic”. But the only thing historic about his speech is how much it ignored history.
The truth is that 65 years ago today, the United Nations voted to partition the British Mandate into two states: a Jewish state, and an Arab state. Two states for two peoples.
Israel accepted this plan. The Palestinians and Arab nations around us rejected it and launched a war of annihilation to throw the “Jews into the sea”.
The truth is that from 1948 until 1967, the West Bank was ruled by Jordan, and Gaza was ruled by Egypt. The Arab states did not lift a finger to create a Palestinian state. Instead they sought Israel’s destruction, and were joined by newly formed Palestinian terrorist organizations.
The truth is that at Camp David in 2000, and again at Annapolis in 2008, Israeli leaders made far-reaching offers for peace. Those offers were met by rejection, evasion, and even terrorism.
The truth is that to advance peace, in 2005 Israel dismantled entire communities and uprooted thousands of people from their homes in the Gaza Strip. And rather than use this opportunity to build a peaceful future, the Palestinians turned Gaza into an Iranian terror base, from which thousands of rockets were fired into Israeli cities. As we were reminded just last week, the area has been turned into a launching pad for rockets into Israeli cities, a haven for global terrorists, and an ammunition dump for Iranian weapons.
Time after time, the Palestinian leadership refused to accept responsibility. They refused to make the tough decisions for peace.
Israel remains committed to peace, but we will not establish another Iranian terror base in the heart of our country.
We need a peace that will ensure a secure future for Israel.
Three months ago, Israel’s Prime Minister stood in this very hall and extended his hand in peace to President Abbas. He reiterated that his goal was to create a solution of two-states for two-peoples—where a demilitarized Palestinian state will recognize Israel as a Jewish State.
That’s right. Two states for two peoples.
In fact, President Abbas, I did not hear you use the phrase “two states for two peoples” this afternoon. In fact, I have never heard you say the phrase “two states for two peoples”. Because the Palestinian leadership has never recognized that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people.
They have never been willing to accept what this very body recognized 65 years ago. Israel is the Jewish state.
In fact, today you asked the world to recognize a Palestinian state, but you still refuse to recognize the Jewish state.
Not only do you not recognize the Jewish state, you are also trying to erase Jewish history. This year, you even tried to erase the connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem. You said that Jews were trying to alter the historic character of Jerusalem. You said that we are trying to “Judaize Jerusalem”.
President Abbas, the truth is that Jerusalem had a Jewish character long before most cities in the world had any character! Three thousand years ago King David ruled from Jerusalem and Jews have lived in Jerusalem ever since.
President Abbas, instead of revising history, it is time that you started making history by making peace with Israel.
This resolution will not advance peace.
This resolution will not change the situation on the ground. It will not change the fact that the Palestinian Authority has no control over Gaza. That is forty percent of the population he claims to represent!
President Abbas, you can’t even visit nearly half the territory of the state you claim to represent.
That territory is controlled by Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization that rains missiles on Israel’s civilians. This is the same Hamas that fired more than 1,300 rockets into the heart of Israel’s major cities this month.
This resolution will not confer statehood on the Palestinian Authority, which clearly fails to meet the criteria for statehood.
This resolution will not enable the Palestinians Authority to join international treaties, organizations, or conferences as a state.
This resolution cannot serve as an acceptable terms of reference for peace negotiations with Israel. Because this resolution says nothing about Israel’s security needs. It does not call on the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the Jewish State. It does not demand an end of conflict and a termination of all claims.
Let me tell you what this resolution does do.
This resolution violates a fundamental binding commitment. This is a commitment that many of the states here today were themselves witness to. It was a commitment that all outstanding issues in the peace process would only be resolved in direct negotiations.
This resolution sends a message that the international community is willing to turn a blind eye to peace agreements. For the people of Israel, it raises a simple question: why continue to make painful sacrifices for peace, in exchange for pieces of paper that the other side will not honor?
It will make a negotiated peace settlement less likely, as Palestinians continue to harden their positions and place further obstacles and preconditions to negotiations and peace.
And unfortunately, it will raise expectations that cannot be met, which has always proven to be a recipe for conflict and instability.
There is only one route to Palestinian statehood. And that route does not run through this chamber in New York. That route runs through direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah that will lead to a secure and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. No instant solutions. As President Obama said in 2010, “Peace cannot be imposed from the outside.”
The real message of this resolution for the people of Israel is that the international community will turn a blind eye to violations of these agreements by the Palestinians.
In submitting this resolution, the Palestinian leadership is once again making the wrong choice.
65 years ago the Palestinians could have chosen to live side-by-side with the Jewish State of Israel. 65 years ago they could have chosen to accept the solution of two states for two peoples. They rejected it then, and they are rejecting it again today.
The international community should not encourage this rejection. It should not encourage the Palestinian leadership to drive forward recklessly with both feet pressing down on the gas, no hands on the wheel, and no eyes on the road.
Instead it should encourage the Palestinians to enter into direct negotiations without preconditions in order to achieve an historic peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state.
Winston Churchill said, “The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it … ignorance may deride it … malice may distort it … but there it is.”
The truth is that Israel wants peace, and the Palestinians are avoiding peace.
Those who are supporting the resolution today are not advancing peace. They are undermining peace.
The UN was founded to advance the cause of peace. Today the Palestinians are turning their back on peace. Don’t let history record that today the UN helped them along on their march of folly.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Address by Minister Baird to United Nations General Assembly in Opposition to Palestinian Bid for Non-Member Observer State Status.
November 29, 2012 - New York City, New York
Canada opposes this resolution in the strongest terms because it undermines the core foundations of a decades-long commitment by the international community and the parties themselves to a two-state solution, arrived at through direct negotiations.
While we understand a final resolution remains elusive, Canada has long opposed unilateral actions by either side as these are unhelpful. The outstanding issues are too intricate and too complex to be resolved by symbolic, unilateral measures.
We do not believe that unilateral measures taken by one side can be justified by accusations of unilateralism directed at the other. That approach can only result in the steady erosion and collapse of the very foundations of a process which—while incomplete—holds the only realistic chance to bring about two peaceful, prosperous states living side-by-side as neighbours.
Canada’s support for a negotiated settlement, like our opposition to the initiative before us today, is rooted in the very history of this venerable organization and in the sustained international effort to resolve this matter.
Canada was proud to be one of the countries preparing the blueprint for peace as part of the 1947 UN Special Committee on Palestine. That committee came up with a proposal for a two-state solution—one predominantly Jewish and the other predominantly Arab living side by side—which ultimately resulted, in November 1947, in the passage of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 setting out the Partition Plan. However, not all of those who should have supported this vision were prepared to do so, and the people of the region have suffered for seven decades as a result.
Even in those early, difficult days, however, the principle of collaboration between the two parties was seen as an inherent necessity, as reflected in the elaboration of a plan for economic union between the two sides. While Resolution 181 has never been fully implemented, this principle—the idea that the two parties need to work together to achieve their mutual and intertwined destinies and potential—has survived as an essential ingredient in successive efforts to find an elusive peace.
In 1948, UN Resolution 194 set up a Conciliation Commission aimed at finding solutions to the full range of problems facing the two sides. It established an important principle in calling for the parties involved to seek agreement, through negotiations, “with a view to the final settlement of all questions outstanding between them.”
In 1967, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 242. The Council requested the dispatch of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the region to “promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement,” entrenching further the principle that solutions required the acceptance and collective action of both sides.
This idea was reaffirmed in 1973 in UN Security Council Resolution 338, which decided that “immediately and concurrently with the ceasefire, negotiations shall start between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace.”
These two resolutions—242 and 338—form the explicitly recognized cornerstone of all the subsequent peace commitments, accords and understandings that followed between the two parties, enshrining the need for negotiations as a core principle.
Both the Israelis and the Palestinians reaffirmed their acceptance of the principles and obligations laid out in both resolutions in 1993 with the signing of the Oslo Accords. Article I made the point explicitly in highlighting that the “interim arrangements are an integral part of the whole peace process and that the negotiations on the permanent status will lead to the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338.”
In 1995, Oslo II built on those important foundations. In the preamble, both sides reaffirmed “their desire to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement and historic reconciliation through the agreed political process.” Article 31, under Final Clauses (section 7), stipulated that “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and Gaza pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.”
These principles were, again, reaffirmed in 2002. UN Security Council Resolution 1397 called on “the Israeli and Palestinian sides and their leaders to cooperate in the implementation of the Tenet work plan and Mitchell Report recommendations with the aim of resuming negotiations on a political settlement.” It also offered support to the Secretary-General and others in their efforts to “resume the peace process.”
The following year, 2003, the Middle East Quartet was established. It developed the Roadmap, which was a performance-based, goal-driven plan covering peace, security and humanitarian areas. Its approach and directions were based explicitly on the principles contained in UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and 1397. A key element of the Quartet Principles contained in the Roadmap was the requirement that “a clear, unambiguous acceptance by both parties of the goal of a negotiated settlement” was needed to reach the destination. It goes on to underscore that “a settlement, negotiated between the parties, will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors.” The Quartet Roadmap requires, by its very nature, a collaborative effort explicitly requiring “reciprocal steps” by the two sides.
Later that year, UN Security Council Resolution 1515 formally “endorse[d] the Quartet Roadmap, while calling on the parties to “fulfil their obligations under the Roadmap in cooperation with the Quartet and to achieve the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security.”
Resolution 1850, passed in 2008, underscored the Council’s explicit support for the negotiations undertaken in Annapolis in 2007, including “its commitment to the irreversibility of the bilateral negotiations.” The Resolution reaffirmed international support for the Quartet Principles and the determination of both parties to “reach their goal of concluding a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, without exception.” It also called on both sides to “refrain from any steps that could undermine confidence or prejudice the outcome of negotiations.”
Mr. President, successive UN Security Council resolutions and various international commitments and understandings over nearly seven decades have formed the building blocks of a collaborative peace process that remains unfinished. The path to peace has historically rested in direct negotiations between the two parties to resolve all outstanding issues and it remains the same today. Solutions can only come through the two sides working together.
This resolution will not advance the cause of peace or spur a return to negotiations. Will the Palestinian people be better off as a result? No. On the contrary, this unilateral step will harden positions and raise unrealistic expectations while doing nothing to improve the lives of the Palestinian people.
Canada is committed to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East whereby two states live side-by-side in peace and security.
Any two-state solution must be negotiated and mutually agreed upon by both sides.
Any unilateral action, from either side, outside of the bilateral framework outlined above is ultimately unhelpful.
Canada has long supported efforts to bring the two sides to the bargaining table to resolve all outstanding issues, and we remain committed to that objective.
But we cannot support an initiative that we are firmly convinced will undermine the objective of reaching a comprehensive, lasting and just settlement for both sides.
It is for these reasons that Canada is voting against this resolution. As a result of this body’s utterly regrettable decision to abandon policy and principle, we will be considering all available next steps.
We call on both sides to return to the negotiating table without preconditions. Canada will be there to offer its good offices and support.
December 1, 2012
The Strong and the Sweet
IT WAS a day of joy.
Joy for the Palestinian people.
Joy for all those who hope for peace between Israel and the Arab world.
And, in a modest way, for me personally.
The General Assembly of the United Nations, the highest world forum, has voted overwhelmingly for the recognition of the State of Palestine, though in a limited way.
The resolution adopted by the same forum 65 years ago to the day, to partition historical Palestine between a Jewish and an Arab state, has at long last been reaffirmed.
I HOPE I may be excused a few moments of personal celebration.
During the war of 1948, which followed the first resolution, I came to the conclusion that there exists a Palestinian people and that the establishment of a Palestinian state, next to the new State of Israel, is the prerequisite for peace.
As a simple soldier, I fought in dozens of engagements against the Arab inhabitants of Palestine. I saw how dozens of Arab towns and villages were destroyed and left deserted. Long before I saw the first Egyptian soldier, I saw the people of Palestine (who had started the war) fight for what was their homeland.
Before the war, I hoped that the unity of the country, so dear to both peoples, could be preserved. The war convinced me that reality had smashed this dream forever.
I was still in uniform when, in early 1949, I tried to set up an initiative for what is now called the Two-State Solution. I met with two young Arabs in Haifa for this purpose. One was a Muslim Arab, the other a Druze sheik. (Both became members of the Knesset before me.)
At the time, it looked like mission impossible. “Palestine” had been wiped off the map. 78% of the country had become Israel, the other 22% divided between Jordan and Egypt. The very existence of a Palestinian people was vehemently denied by the Israeli establishment, indeed, the denial became an article of faith. Much later, Golda Meir famously declared that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people”. Respected charlatans wrote popular books “proving” that the Arabs in Palestine were pretenders who had only recently arrived. The Israeli leadership was convinced that the “Palestinian problem” had disappeared, once and forever.
In 1949, there were not a hundred persons in the entire world who believed in this solution. Not a single country supported it. The Arab countries still believed that Israel would just disappear. Britain supported its client state, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The US had its own local strongmen. Stalin’s Soviet Union supported Israel.
Mine was a lonely fight. For the next 40 years, as the editor of a news magazine, I brought the subject up almost every week. When I was elected to the Knesset, I did the same there.
In 1968 I went to Washington DC, in order to propagate the idea there. I was politely received by the relevant officials in the State Department (Joseph Sisco), the White House (Harold Saunders), the US mission to the UN (Charles Yost), leading Senators and Congressmen, as well as the British father of Resolution 242 (Lord Caradon). The uniform answer from all of them, without exception: a Palestinian state was out of question.
When I published a book devoted to this solution, the PLO in Beirut attacked me in 1970 in a book entitled “Uri Avnery and Neo-Zionism”.
Today, there is a world consensus that a solution of the conflict without a Palestinian state is quite out of the question.
So why not celebrate now?
WHY NOW? WHY didn’t it happen before or later?
Because of the Pillar of Cloud, the historic masterpiece from Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Avigdor Lieberman.
The Bible tells us about Samson the hero, who rent a lion with his bare hands. When he returned to the scene, a swarm of bees had made the carcase of the lion its home and produced honey. So Samson posed a riddle to the Philistines: “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”. This is now a Hebrew proverb.
Well, out of the “strong” Israeli operation against Gaza, sweetness has indeed come forth. It is another confirmation of the rule that when you start a war or a revolution, you never know what will come out of it.
One of the results of the operation was that the prestige and popularity of Hamas shot sky-high, while the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas sank to new depths. That was a result the West could not possibly tolerate. A defeat of the “moderates” and a victory for the Islamic “extremists” were a disaster for President Barack Obama and the entire Western camp. Something had to found – with all urgency – to provide Abbas with a resounding achievement.
Fortunately, Abbas was already on the way to obtain UN approval for the recognition of Palestine as a “state” (though not yet as a full member of the world organization). For Abbas, it was a move of despair. Suddenly, it became a beacon of victory.
THE COMPETITION between the Hamas and Fatah movements is viewed as a disaster for the Palestinian cause. But there is also another way to look at it.
Let’s go back to our own history. During the 30s and 40s, our Struggle for Liberation (as we called it) split between two camps, who hated each other with growing intensity.
On the one side was the “official” leadership, led by David Ben-Gurion, represented by the “Jewish Agency” which cooperated with the British administration. Its military arm was the Haganah, a very large, semi-official militia, mostly tolerated by the British.
On the other side was the Irgun (“National Military Organization”), the far more radical armed wing of the nationalist “revisionist” party of Vladimir Jabotinsky. It split and yet another, even more radical, organization was born. The British called it “the Stern Gang”, after its leader, Avraham Stern”.
The enmity between these organizations was intense. For a time, Haganah members kidnapped Irgun fighters and turned them over to the British police, who tortured them and sent them to camps in Africa. A bloody fratricidal war was avoided only because the Irgun leader, Menachem Begin, forbade all actions of revenge. By contrast, the Stern people bluntly told the Haganah that they would shoot anyone trying to attack their members.
In retrospect, the two sides can be seen as acting as the two arms of the same body. The “terrorism” of the Irgun and Stern complemented the diplomacy of the Zionist leadership. The diplomats exploited the achievements of the fighters. In order to counterbalance the growing popularity of the “terrorists”, the British made concessions to Ben-Gurion. A friend of mine called the Irgun “the shooting agency of the Jewish Agency”.
In a way, this is now the situation in the Palestinian camp.
FOR YEARS, the Israeli government has threatened Abbas with the most dire consequences if he dared to go to the UN. Abolishing the Oslo agreement and destroying the Palestinian authority was the bare minimum. Lieberman called the move “diplomatic terrorism”.
And now? Nothing. Not a bang and barely a whimper. Even Netanyahu understands that the Pillar of Cloud has created a situation where world support for Abbas has become inevitable.
What to do? Nothing! Pretend the whole thing is a joke. Who cares? What is this UNO anyway? What difference does it make?
Netanyahu is more concerned about another thing that happened to him this week. In the Likud primary elections, all the “moderates” in his party were unceremoniously kicked out. No liberal, democratic alibi was left. The Likud-Beitenu faction in the next Knesset will be composed entirely of right-wing extremists, among them several outright fascists, people who want to destroy the independence of the Supreme Court, cover the West Bank densely with settlements and prevent peace and a Palestinian state by all possible means.
While Netanyahu is sure to win the coming elections and continue to serve as Prime Minister, he is too clever not to realize where he is now: a hostage to extremists, liable to be thrown out by his own Knesset faction if he so much as mentions peace, to be displaced at any time by Lieberman or worse.
ON FIRST sight, nothing much has changed. But only on first sight.
What has happened is that the foundation of the State of Palestine has now been officially acknowledged as the aim of the world community. The “Two-State solution” is now the only solution on the table. The “One-State solution”, if it ever lived, is as dead as the dodo.
Of course, the apartheid one-state is reality. If nothing changes on the ground, is will become deeper and stronger. Almost every day brings news of it becoming more and more entrenched. (The bus monopoly has just announced that from now on there will be separate buses for West Bank Palestinians in Israel.)
But the quest for peace based on the co-existence between Israel and Palestine has taken a big step forwards. Unity between the Palestinians should be the next. US support for the actual creation of the State of Palestine should come soon after.
The strong must lead to the sweet.
65 Years Late to the date – November 29, 2012 – Palestine laid out on the reception table in the UN Anteroom. To understand better the mechanism of a 2012 Palestine we bring up the Persona of Prime Minister SALAM FAYYAD who expressed skepticism about the approach to the UN for a vote on statehood, saying it would be only a symbolic victory.
For an introduction to long last night’s event at the UN General Assembly that extended for many hours before an empty Hall and a line-up of speakers for the record:
Remarks to the press by Ambassador Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Permanent Representative of the UK Mission to the UN, following the UK vote on the Palestinian resolution at the UN General Assembly – 29 November 2012.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen,
As you know the United Kingdom abstained on the resolution just adopted by the General Assembly on the status of Palestine. In my explanation of vote I explained why, and my Foreign Minister has issued a statement which explains that. In our view the focus now should be very much on the future and that is why we are encouraging the United States to show decisive leadership in energizing the parties to restart direct negotiations. And the United Kingdom, supported by other Europeans and the full international community stands four square behind those efforts. We are committed to the creation of an independent Palestine through negotiations between both parties. That is the only way that sustainable peace will be achieved in the region and we will now be devoting our energies to achieving that objective. Thank you.
Q: You seem to be saying that you sought an assurance that Palestine wouldn’t try to join the ICC or take a case there. What would you say to the people of the idea of the depoliticized ICC or accountability? Does it make the ICC a political chip in this process?
A: No, we are very strong supporters of international justice and particularly the International Criminal Court. But we did seek assurances that Palestine would not take any steps during a peace process, which could undermine the chances of those peace negotiations being successful. We were in intensive dialogue, as I said, with the Palestinian delegation in the run-up to today’s events in order to try and ensure that those assurances were made because that might have affected our vote. On the day we did not receive those assurances, which is why we abstained in the vote.
Q: The Turkish foreign minister asked a question which I thought was interesting: He said, if not now, when? For 65 years the Palestinians have been delayed to have their own state. What would you say to that question?
A: Well we strongly agree with the sense of urgency that the Turkish Foreign Minister was setting out today. We believe that the window for the two-state solution is closing and that is why we are encouraging the United States and other key international actors to grasp this opportunity and use the next 12 months as a way to really break through this impasse that has lasted now for 60 years and have a negotiated solution which brings about an independent State of Palestine.
Q: …in a few months, or six months, or whatever, after the election of Israel?
A: Well we didn’t believe that the timing was ideal for the Palestinians to bring this resolution to the vote now so soon after the American elections. But we would have been prepared to vote in favour of it had we received the assurances that we were requesting that this would lead to an immediate and unconditional return to negotiation by the Palestinians and that they would not take steps which would undermine the chances of a rapid resumption of negotiations.
Thank you very much.
The de-Facto Palestinian State of Gaza, or what we call Hamastan, was not represented at the UN debate. What we heard about was the Mahmoud Abbas led Palestine of the West Bank – who with the help of his Prime Minister Salam Fayyad – following former leader Yassir Arafat, is trying to formulate a modern State wedged in between Israel and Jordan. We are ready to stand by him, and in order to show clearly the real dilemma of President Abbas we bring up the honored persona of the unelected Prime Minister who personifies the fact that in reality it is only Israel that is capable of assuring or denying the rule of Mr. Abbas in the territories of the West Bank. As we found through Wikipedia, Mr. Fayyad puts his hope on building first with US help the basis of a State and then the confluence with Israel ought to lead to the two State solution as nobody wants the alternative which is a bi-National State.
Salam Fayyad ( Sal?m Fay??; born 1952) is a Palestinian politician and Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority. His first appointment, on 15 June 2007, which was justified by President Mahmoud Abbas on the basis of “national emergency”, has not been confirmed by the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Palestinian Authority’s parliament. He was reappointed on 19 May 2009. Fayyad has also been the finance minister from 17 March 2007 and previously held the post from June 2002 to November 2006. Fayyad is an internationally respected economist and politician.
Salam Fayyad was born in Deir al-Ghusun. He graduated from the American University of Beirut in 1975 and received his MBA from St. Edward’s University in 1980.
Upon resigning as finance minister, Fayyad ran as founder and leader of the new Third Way party in the legislative elections of 2006 alongside Hanan Ashrawi and Yasser Abd Rabbo. Fayyad and Ashrawi won their seats.
He is seen as pro-Western and was predicted to be offered prime minister by both Fatah and by the winner of the elections: the List of Change and Reform. Fayyad was credited for the U.S. Congress’ deposit of $200 million to the Palestinian Authority in 2009. In response to the offer, Fayyad presented several conditions to becoming prime minister, including that Hamas would recognise Israel, which Hamas declined.
On 17 March 2007, Fayyad was again appointed finance minister, this time within the Fatah-Hamas coalition government. On 15 June 2007, following the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, Fayyad was appointed prime minister of a new “independent” government (without any Fatah or Hamas members) which is supported by the Fatah, Israel and the West. In April 2007, during his time as Palestinian Minister of Finance, Fayyad visited the Palestine Center in Washington, DC and gave a lecture entitled “Building a Thriving Economy and a Strong Democracy.”
Known as “Fayyadism”, Fayyad’s political agenda holds that neither violence nor peaceful negotiations have brought the Palestinians any closer to an independent state. His main tenets are: 1) strong security, 2) good governance, and 3) economic opportunity.
On August 23, 2009, Fayyad came out with a detailed working plan for the 13th Government of the Palestinian Authority for establishing the fundamental infrastructures of a Palestinian State, called “Palestine — Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State”, in which he detailed a two year working plan for reinforcing the institutions of the future Palestinian State. This included, among other elements, a separation of powers, a free market, the development of existing infrastructure, and the building of new infrastructure such as government offices, a stock market, and an airport, all with the purpose of establishing a “de facto Palestinian State,” based on the premise that the peace talks with Israel were faltering.
Thomas Friedman, has praised Fayyad for trying to build functioning institutions of a Palestinian state, and not focusing on Israel. Friedman wrote – “Unlike Yasser Arafat, Fayyad calls for the opposite — for a nonviolent struggle, for building non corrupt transparent institutions and effective police and paramilitary units, which even the Israeli Army says are doing a good job; and then, once they are all up and running, declare a Palestinian state in the West Bank by 2011.”
In September 2010, The New York Review of Books published an article by Nathan Thrall that raised serious questions about the Fayyad plan and one of its central elements: United States-sponsored training, equipping, and funding of the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, which have been cooperating with Israel at unprecedented levels in the West Bank to quell supporters of Hamas, the main Palestinian Islamist group that opposes negotiations with Israel.
This appointment has been challenged as illegal, because while the Palestinian Basic Law permits the president to dismiss a sitting prime minister, the appointment of a replacement requires the approval of the Legislative Council. The law provides that after removal of the prime minister (in this case, Ismail Haniyeh), the outgoing prime minister heads a caretaker government. The current Legislative Council, in which Hamas holds a majority of seats, has not approved the appointments of Fayyad or the balance of his new government. Fayyad’s appointment was never placed before, or approved by it. Haniyeh continues to operate as prime minister in Gaza, and is recognized by a large number of Palestinians as the legitimate acting prime minister. Anis al-Qasem, a constitutional lawyer who drafted the Basic Law, is among those who publicly declared the appointment of Fayyad to be illegal.
On 17 October 2008, while visiting the University of Texas in Austin, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award before the Texas-Missouri football game, presented by the Ex-Students’ Association of the University of Texas.
On 7 March 2009, Salam Fayyad submitted his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas.
Salaam Fayyad won international and domestic approval for his management of the West Bank. The World Bank credited him with making substantial improvements in Palestinian state institutions. A polling in November of 2009 showed that 60.7% of Palestinians credited his government with improving the economy of the West Bank;
Mr. Salam Fayyad’s views on Palestinian Statehood:
Fayyad has rejected calls for a binational state and unilateral declaration of statehood:
On 29 June 2011, in contravention of the Palestinian Authority‘s official position, and that of President Mahmoud Abbas, Fayyad expressed skepticism about its approach to the UN for a vote on statehood, saying it would be only a symbolic victory.
On 19 May 2009, Fayyad was reappointed to the post of Prime Minister.
On Thursday, November 29, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed an upgrade in status for Palestine in the UN, in spite of opposition from Israel and the United States. The resolution elevated their status from “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state,” the same category as the Vatican. Palestinians hope the recognition will provide new leverage in their negotiations with Israel. Its leaders had been working with dozens of supporting nations to develop a formal draft, enlisting the support of European countries such as France and Spain.
The vote was 138 delegates in favor of the measure, 9 against and 41 abstentions. That ads up to 188 States voting and leaves 5 States unaccounted for.
Voting “no” were Israel, the United States and Canada, joined by the Czech Republic, Panama and the Pacific island nations of Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau.
Not voting at all: Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Liberia, Madagascar, Ukraine.
The 41 States that voted ABSTAIN: Albania, Andorra, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Croatia, Dem Rep of Congo, Estonia, Fiji, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malawi, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Poland, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, TFYR Macedonia, Togo, Tonga, UK, and Vanuatu.
Who won the Thanksgiving Gaza Round? Avnery’s clear vision has the answer for us – The Hamas and Mohamed Morsi Isa al-Ayyad (Isa being the Arab form of Jesus, who is regarded in Islam as a prophet). Avnery also says give Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian National Authority the credit of enhancing the Palestine position at the UN and open a parallel open negotiation with Hamas. We say – this is the path to a THREE STATES SOLUTION of the Middle East impasse.
November 24, 2012
Once And For All!
THE MANTRA of this round was Once And For All.
“We must put an end to this (the rockets, Hamas, the Palestinians, the Arabs?) Once and For All!” – this cry from the heart was heard dozens of times daily on TV from the harassed inhabitants of Israel’s battered towns and villages in the South.
It has displaced the slogan which dominated several decades: “Bang And Finish!”
It did not quite work.
THE BIG winner emerging from the cloud is Hamas.
Until this round, Hamas had a powerful presence in the Gaza Strip, but practically no international standing. The international face of the Palestinian people was Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian National Authority.
Operation Pillar of Cloud has given the Hamas mini-state in Gaza wide international recognition. (Pillar of Cloud is the official Hebrew name, though the army spokesman decreed that the English name, for foreign consumption, should be Pillar of Defense.) Heads of state and droves of other foreign dignitaries made their pilgrimage to the Strip.
First was the powerful and immensely rich Emir of Qatar, owner of Aljazeera. He was the first head of state ever to enter the Gaza strip. Then came the Egyptian prime minister, the Tunisian foreign minister, the secretary of the Arab League and the collected Arab foreign ministers (except the one from Ramallah.)
In all diplomatic deliberations, Gaza was treated as a de facto state, with a de facto government (Hamas). The Israeli media were no exception. It was clear to Israelis that any deal, to be effective, must be concluded with Hamas.
Within the Palestinian people, the standing of Hamas shot sky-high. The Gaza Strip alone, smaller than an average American county, has stood up to the mighty Israeli war machine, one of the largest and most efficient in the world. It has not succumbed. The military outcome will be at best a draw.
A draw between tiny Gaza and the powerful Israel means a victory for Gaza.
Who remembers now Ehud Barak’s proud declaration in the middle of the war: “We shall not stop until Hamas gets on its knees and begs for a cease-fire!”
WHERE DOES that leave Mahmoud Abbas? Actually, nowhere.
For a simple Palestinian, whether in Nablus, Gaza or Beirut, the contrast is glaring. Hamas is courageous, proud, upright, while Fatah is helpless, submissive and despised. Pride and honor play a central role in Arab culture.
After more than half a century of humiliation, any Palestinian who stands up against the occupation is the hero of the Arab masses, in and outside the country. Abbas is identified only with the close cooperation of his security forces with the hated Israeli occupation army. And the most important fact: Abbas has nothing to show for it.
If Abbas could at least show a major political achievement for his pains, the situation might be different. The Palestinians are a sensible people, and if Abbas had come even one step closer to Palestinian statehood, most Palestinians would probably have said: he may not be glamorous, but he delivers the goods.
But the opposite is happening. The violent Hamas is achieving results, the non-violent Abbas is not. As a Palestinian told me: “He (Abbas) has given them (the Israelis) everything, quiet and security, and what did [or “does”] he get in return? They spit in his face!”
This round will only reinforce a basic Palestinian conviction: “Israelis understand only the language of force!” (Israelis, of course, say exactly the same about the Palestinians.)
If at least the US had allowed Abbas to achieve a UN resolution recognizing Palestine as a non-member state, he might have held his own against Hamas. But the Israeli government is determined to prevent this by all available means. Barack Obama’s decision, even after re-election, to block the Palestinian effort is a direct support for Hamas and a slap in the face of the “moderates”. Hillary Clinton’s perfunctory visit to Ramallah this week was seen in this context.
Looked at from the outside, this looks like sheer lunacy. Why undermine the “moderates” who want and are able to make peace? Why elevate the “extremists”, who are opposed to peace?
The answer is openly expressed by Avigdor Lieberman, now Netanyahu’s official political No. 2: he wants to destroy Abbas in order to annex the West Bank and clear the way for the settlers.
AFTER HAMAS, the big winner is Mohamed Morsi.
This is an almost incredible tale. When Morsi was elected as the president of Egypt, official Israel was in hysteria. How terrible! The Islamist extremists have taken over the most important Arab country! Our peace treaty with our largest neighbor is going down the drain!
US reactions were almost the same.
And now – less than four months later – we hang on every word Morsi utters. He is the man who has put an end to the mutual killing and destruction! He is the great peacemaker! He is the only person who can mediate between Israel and Hamas! He must guarantee the cease-fire agreement!
Can it be? Can this be the same Morsi? The same Muslim Brotherhood?
The 61 year old Morsi (the full name is Mohamed Morsi Isa al-Ayyad. Isa being the Arab form of Jesus, who is regarded in Islam as a prophet) is a complete novice on the world stage. Yet at this moment, all the world’s leaders rely on him.
When I wholeheartedly welcomed the Arab Spring, I had people like him in mind. Now almost all the Israeli commentators, ex-generals and politicians, who uttered dire warnings at the time, are lauding his success in achieving a cease-fire.
THROUGHOUT THE operation I did what I always do in such situations: I switched constantly between Israeli TV and Aljazeera. Sometimes, when my thoughts wander, I am unsure for a moment which of the two I am looking at.
Women weeping, wounded being carried away, homes in shambles, children’s shoes strewn around, families packing and fleeing. Here and there. Mirror images. Though, of course, Palestinian casualties were 30 times higher than the Israeli ones – partly because of the incredible success of the Iron Dome interception missiles and home shelters, while the Palestinians were practically defenseless.
On Wednesday I was invited to air my views on Israel’s Channel 2, the most popular (and patriotic) Israeli outlet. The invitation was of course withdrawn at the last moment. Had I been on air, I would have posed to my compatriots one simple question:
Was It Worthwhile?
All the suffering, the killed, the injured, the destruction, the hours and days of terror, the children in trauma?
And, I might add, the endless TV coverage around the clock, with legions of ex-generals appearing on the screen and declaiming the message sheet of the prime minister’s office. And the blood-curdling threats of politicians and other nincompoops, including the son of Ariel Sharon, who proposed flattening neighborhoods in Gaza City, or even better, the whole Strip.
Now that it is over, we are almost exactly where we were before. The operation, commonly referred to in Israel as “another round”, was indeed round – leading nowhere than to where it started.
Hamas will be firmly in control of the Gaza Strip, if not more firmly. The Gazans will hate Israel even more than before. Many of the inhabitants of the West Bank, who throughout the war came out in their thousands in demonstrations for Hamas, will vote in even greater numbers for Hamas in the next elections. Israeli voters will vote in two months as they intended to vote anyhow, before the whole thing started.
Each of the two sides is now celebrating its great victory. If they organized just one joint celebration, a lot of money could be saved.
WHAT ARE the political conclusions?
The most obvious one is: talk with Hamas. Directly. Face to face.
Yitzhak Rabin once told me how he came to the conclusion that he must talk with the PLO: after years of opposing it, he realized that they were the only force that counted. “So it was ridiculous to talk with them through intermediaries.”
The same is now true for Hamas. They are there. They will not go away. It is ridiculous for the Israeli negotiators to sit in one room at the Egyptian intelligence service HQ near Cairo, while the Hamas negotiators sit in another room, just a few meters away, with the courteous Egyptians going to and fro.
Concurrently, activate the effort towards peace. Seriously.
Save Abbas. As of now, he has no replacement. Give him an immediate victory to balance the Hamas achievements. Vote for the Palestinian application for statehood in the UN General Assembly.
Move towards peace with the entire Palestinian people, including Fatah and Hamas – so we can really put an end to the violence,
ONCE AND FOR ALL!
Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry — (LULUCF) — can provide a relatively cost-effective way of offsetting emissions, either by increasing the removals of greenhouse …
With many kind regards,
Institute of World Economics
Budaörsi út 45
PART OF THE MIDDLE EAST PROBLEMATIQUE IS THAT HISTORICALLY THE US DID NOT DO ENOUGH TO ACHIEVE A REGIONAL SOLUTION THAT WOULD IMPLEMENT THE UN DECISION TO ESTABLISH TWO STATES IN THE TERRITORY OF THE PREVIOUS LEAGUE OF NATIONS BRITISH MANDATE IN PALESTINE. IT WAS THE ARAB KINGS THAT DID NOT ACCEPT THE PARTITION, AND IT WAS THE US INTEREST IN OIL THAT DID NOT LET IT PUSH TO CHANGE FOR A CHANGE IN THEIR POSITION – IT THUS BECAME AN EASY LIGHTNING ROD FOR ALL THAT WAS WRONG IN THE REGION. THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE DEALS SOME MORE WITH WITH THIS SUBJECT BY MENTIONING WHAT BECAME A UN POLITICAL AND FINANCIAL INTEREST TO KEEP THE PROBLEM ALIVE.
Washington’s Failure to Rein in UNRWA.
by Asaf Romirowsky
FROM THE VERY RECENT UNRWA NEWS - 23 October 2012, East Jerusalem:
“The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) arrived in Ireland today at the start of his first official visit and will attend meetings with key members of the Irish government and the Irish parliament.”
“I am delighted to travel to Ireland and have this opportunity to give an update on our work with refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, all of which have been in the news recently”, said Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi. “I also want to thank the people and government of Ireland who are among our most loyal partners for their support.” Ireland has donated over USD 35 million to support Palestine refugees through UNRWA since 2007. The country is also a member of the Agency’s Advisory Commission.”
General Assembly resolution 194 of December 11, 19 offers two options, repatriation and resettlement, to achieve the reintegration of the Palestinian Arab refugees “into the economic life of the Near East.” Yet, U.S. Department of State documents from 1949 through the early 1950s reveal that despite the lip service paid to repatriation, Washington and its allies effectively equated reintegration with the resettlement of the refugees in the neighboring Arab states.
Economic development has been viewed by successive U.S. administrations as the key to integrating regions and peoples, and since the 1930s, their vision of this endeavor was largely modeled on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) project.
Created by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1933, the TVA was conceived as a regional economic development agency. It was tasked with responsibilities for flood control, electrification, reforestation, fertilizer production, agricultural education, and river navigation throughout the Tennessee Valley, an area that includes the state of Tennessee, parts of Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama, and smaller portions of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia.
The TVA was the first regional economic development project in American history and was by almost any measure a dramatic success. The region’s endemic malaria was eliminated, and health and life expectancy were improved through education about rural hygiene as well as through greater medical access. Educational efforts increased agricultural output. Rural electrification attracted a variety of industries to the region, increasing employment and raising standards of living. The TVA itself employed large numbers of local unskilled workers as well as skilled workers in various management roles. Hydroelectric projects on the region’s rivers during World War II made it a vital center for aluminum production and for the Manhattan Project when the world’s first uranium enrichment plant was built in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
When the Palestine Arab refugee problem was approached by development-oriented planners, many of whom had been in government service throughout the New Deal, the TVA was seen as a natural model to emulate. In the winter of 1949, an Economic Survey Mission (ESM) was proposed for the Middle East in order to assess what could be done. It was anticipated that this U.S.-led regional development program would help raise the overall economic level of the region and thereby facilitate resettlement of Palestine Arab refugees. The orientation of the commission, particularly under former TVA chairman Gordon Clapp, signaled to all parties that Washington would back a large-scale regional development orientation that could benefit both the major states and the refugees.
U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Middle East George McGhee explained the selection of Clapp:
This strategy, with its implicit resettlement component, did not succeed. Despite initially positive responses from Arab states, the Clapp mission was quickly perceived as an official U.S. undertaking rather than an international effort. Secretary of State Dean Acheson instructed U.S. representatives in Lebanon to stress to Arab authorities that “ESM was activated by PCC [Palestine Conciliation Commission] as [a] UN organ” and that they should make “special effort to dissipate FonMin [foreign minister] fears that establishment of ESM implies abandonment by UN or US of political or other functions of PCC.”
Even U.S. relations with Britain were affected by the launch of the ESM. On September 10, 1949, Acheson wrote the U.S. Embassy in London instructing representatives there to request more public British support. The British responded that Arab states were complaining that “political objectives [were] being subordinated to economic objectives and that their case [was] consequently prejudiced.”
The Clapp mission’s primary task—to investigate and make recommendations for regional economic development—had also raised the prospect of large-scale resettlement. Though the mission used the same “repatriation, resettlement, and economic and social rehabilitation” formula of resolution 194 (paragraph 11), the implicit resettlement implications of regional economic development were clear. This appeared to divide both the members of the Clapp mission and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), who were engaged in refugee relief operations.
The mission’s preliminary report on November 6, 1949, stated its goal as making recommendations for “the finding of temporary work for Palestinian Arab refugees … since the matter is extremely urgent and cannot await long-term decisions, attention has been concentrated on short-term projects.” It recommended a new—and temporary—relief scheme for the refugees to “direct the programmes of relief and public works on or after April 1, 1950.” Direct relief would cease at the end of 1950, and thus the new program would “halt the demoralizing process of pauperization” that the refugees were undergoing. The report estimated a total of 627,000 refugees, and the inclusion of 25,000 additional destitute Arabs, for a total of 652,000. In contrast, in its draft final report, the U.N. Relief for Palestine Refugees agency (UNRPR)—precursor to the U.N. Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)—simply noted that it had provided 940,000 rations to “refugees.” The response by the Department of State to the Clapp report was generally positive.
Despite earlier differences with Washington, London also agreed with the Clapp report recommendations: A mid-November meeting between U.S. and British representatives noted that “it is important that the Clapp report lay the basis for longer range development programs.” The classified document also stated that “the Arabs must take the major responsibility for carrying out development work” but cautioned that “private capital was not attracted by the type of project envisaged for the Middle East countries.” How all this was to be reconciled with efforts to involve relief organizations on the one hand and private groups (notably oil companies) on the other is not immediately apparent. However, it was becoming quite clear that repatriation was considered a less likely option while resettlement was being viewed more favorably.
Reintegration and its Implications
After much debate, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 393 (V) on December 2, 1950, stating that
The resolution went on to direct UNRWA “to establish a reintegration fund which shall be utilized for projects requested by any government in the Near East and approved by the Agency for the permanent reestablishment of refugees and their removal from relief.” The AFSC had discussed reintegration for close to a year, but with its adoption as a preferred option by the United Nations, it became an international goal. Defining reintegration, however, was to become subject to changing geopolitical contingencies.
Throughout 1949 and 1950, a series of developments fundamentally reshaped the global scene and changed the Western and especially U.S. perspectives on the Middle East generally, and the Palestine Arab refugee question specifically. Western defense interests had been given new shape and urgency in 1949 by the communist takeover of northern China in January, the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in April, and the detonation of the Soviet Union’s first atomic weapon in August. Cold War issues began to dominate foreign policy planning as never before and reached new levels with the issuing in April 1950 of NSC-68, a classified national security report that situated the conflict with the Soviet Union as central and existential for the West and that moved Washington closer to a policy of containment. The beginning of the Korean war in June 1950 shifted U.S. priorities still further, particularly in the areas of military alliances and the conduct of the war through the United Nations.
For Washington and London, Middle East affairs, including arms control efforts such as the Tripartite Declaration between the United States, Britain, and France guaranteeing the territorial arrangements reached by the Arab-Israeli armistice agreements and refugee policy, were increasingly viewed through the lens of superpower competition and anti-communism. Foreign aid would be restructured in view of the larger Cold War situation, and regional defense projects would be launched. After a brief period of official neutrality, Israel began to gravitate toward the West, but it was feared that the Arab states might fall under communist sway. This became a central concern for both the U.S. State Department and the National Security Council. An October 1951 proposal for a Middle East Defense Command, relying heavily on Western basing rights in the Suez Canal zone was floated, only to be promptly rejected by Egypt, which had just repudiated the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936 and the Anglo-Egyptian agreement of 1899.
In November 1951, the State Department’s chiefs of Middle East missions met in Istanbul but with a completely new strategic outlook. In a document generally concerned with power politics, the threat of communism, and the need to strengthen Greece, Turkey, Israel, and the Arab regimes, the Palestine Arab refugee issue found a central place. It was stated, with some apparent relief by the participants, that although during the course of 1950, “the Arabs have not abandoned the principle of repatriation, and may be expected to reaffirm it, they show signs of becoming more realistic as to the obstacles to any satisfactory implementation of this principle, and are giving serious thought to the alternative of compensation and to the concept of reintegration.”
The conference also expressed some satisfaction that Israel had voiced interest in resolving the issue of the refugees’ blocked bank accounts, which was regarded as evidence of Israeli good will. But the official U.S. orientation toward the refugee issue was stated clearly: “The hard core of approximately 800,000 refugees, on relief and in temporary shelter, constitutes a serious threat to stability, and an important impediment to peace between the Arab states and Israel.” With stability in mind, the report endorsed the goal of reintegration, but it also made clear that the term was being used in a specific sense with respect to UNRWA’s task of “direct reintegration,” especially in rural areas, financed by international funds. The conferees recommended,
The U.S. National Security Council concurred with the State Department. In a memorandum on U.S. policy toward Israel and the Arab states, Undersecretary of State James E. Webb reported to the executive secretary of the National Security Council, James S. Lay, that UNRWA had not received full funding and was “perforce confined chiefly to relief measures and to very limited works projects.” But he added with regard to the Arab states: “By their public acceptance of this resolution [creating UNRWA] and by private statements, Arab representatives have indicated that they regard resettlement of most of the refugees in Arab territory as inevitable.”
The same policies regarding resettlement were echoed a year later in a top secret memorandum sent to the State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs bureau from the second secretary of the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Donald C. Bergus, who noted that the Arab and Israeli concepts of compensation differed vastly. Israel was willing to consider paying for real property that had been lost while the Arab states factored in damages. Bergus estimated that the Israeli concept would entail about $500 million while the Arab version would cost many billions of dollars. Either way, he wrote, “Ultimate reintegration of refugees now on relief will require an additional expenditure of at last half a billion dollars, and the U.S. will probably have to pay most of this bill as well” but that the
Reintegration, though perhaps initially vague, had become firmly understood as resettlement, at least in some official U.S. circles, just as it had earlier for most senior AFSC leaders. This also reflected the British understanding with Sir Henry Knight, a member of UNRWA’s Advisory Commission, commenting in July 1951, “Reintegration is interpreted as assistance to refugees in finding homes and jobs.” Throughout 1951 and 1952, similar tantalizing rumors regarding the Arab states’ willingness to accept refugees were reaching the UNRWA Advisory Committee just as they had at the U.N.-convened Lausanne conference some two years earlier (only to be dashed just days later).
The appointment of John Blandford, Jr. as director of UNRWA to replace Howard Kennedy was telling of the mindset regarding reintegration at the United Nations and among its patrons. Rather than a military quartermaster like Kennedy, Blandford was a TVA “veteran,” had been a consultant to President Truman on the Marshall Plan, and was, in short, a professional development administrator with experience in managing large-scale construction projects, budgets, and negotiating the surrounding politics. His efforts in building housing for defense workers during World War II had, among other things, entailed cutting through bureaucratic obstacles resulting in the construction of tens of thousands of residences in a matter of months. If anyone could put UNRWA back on track and bring it into sync with regional development plans, it was Blandford.
Yet by mid-1951, the UNRWA Advisory Committee had become increasingly frustrated with the unfounded rumors regarding Arab willingness to accept refugee resettlement. Sir Henry Knight, for example, commented, “One of the Iraqi officials told Blandford that all the Arab states agree that the refugees must be resettled but not on who should ‘bell the cat’ by accepting refugees!” Despite the frustrations, large-scale resettlement of Palestine Arab refugees remained the preferred U.S. policy through the 1950s.
Reintegration would be the paradigm adopted by UNRWA and the international community for the next several years. On January 26, 1952, the U.N. General Assembly adopted resolution 513 (VI) “which envisages the expenditure of US$ 50 million for relief and $200 million for reintegration over and above such contributions as may be made by local government, to be carried out over a period of approximately three years starting as of 1 July 1951.”
As part of the reintegration paradigm, UNRWA in tandem with the U.S. administration explored a variety of regional development projects. A primary focus became comprehensive studies for developing regional water resources. While state development was the explicit goal of these studies, refugee resettlement was implicit in them as well. The inspiration for the scale and complexity of these efforts was again the American experience as seen by the title of a book on one of the plans, James B. Hays’s T.V.A. on the Jordan, Proposals for Irrigation and Hydro-Electric Development in Palestine. For Israel, this became the basis for Israeli efforts that culminated in the construction of the National Water Carrier system. In 1952 and 1953, UNRWA also undertook a project with Syria and Jordan to develop water resources on the Yarmuk River but disagreements with Washington regarding the specifications as well as conflicts with Israel regarding potential diversions from the Jordan River delayed implementation. France also developed its own plans based on the concept of an international agency that would pay compensation to refugees for lost property. This, too, however, was never adopted because of fears by French officials that such an agency would be dominated by Washington and would reduce Paris’s influence in the region.
In all these efforts, the concerns of the Palestine Arab refugees, as opposed to the interests of the West and Arab states, were pushed to the background. The envisioned $200 million from U.N. resolution 513 (VI) did not materialize. Reintegration, whether construed as resettlement or public works, was effectively dead, and UNRWA would henceforth concentrate on relief and later, in the 1960s, on education. A changing geostrategic situation in the Middle East, which included rising Egyptian nationalism and pan-Arabist fantasies, culminated in the 1956 Suez war, a conflict that, for the most part, ended sweeping regional development schemes by the West.
As late as 1959, the connection between reintegration, regional development, and the Palestine Arab refugee problem was still occasionally raised. U.N. secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld suggested that the
But even this mild and encouraging formula was rejected by the Arab states. Hammarskjöld was forced to insist publicly and privately that his proposal had been misunderstood and that he did not intend for resettlement to be the primary means of reintegration. He continued to defend the proposal throughout 1959, but a letter from the Arab League rejecting reintegration effectively ended the concept at the United Nations.
The refugees’ narrative, which would become an integral part of the Palestinian national story line as a whole, was completely crystallized less than a year and a half after their “exile”: They bore no responsibility whatsoever for their unfortunate fate; their own political processes and decisions, and those of their leaders, went unmentioned. In reality, the Arab states bore significant responsibility for the situation, having encouraged and facilitated the refugees’ flight. But the ultimate villain in this narrative was none other than the United Nations, which had passed the November 1947 partition resolution that set in motion the chain of events leading to the Palestinian Arab catastrophe, or the Nakba; as such, it had to maintain the refugees until the state of affairs was resolved in their favor by complete and total repatriation and compensation.
These demands are clear and absolute and, arguably, have not changed to this day. The U.S. policy of resettlement and reintegration, which once held such promise, is no longer seriously discussed while the intractable insistence on a “right of return” remains the ultimate obstacle to any durable solution.
 U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) res. 194 (III), Dec. 11, 1948, para. 11, stipulated that “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date,” but also that efforts should be made to facilitate the “resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees.”
Who Threw Israel Under the Bus?
By EFRAIM HALEVY
Published: October 23, 2012
ON Monday, in their final debate, Mitt Romney denounced President Obama for creating “tension” and “turmoil” with Israel and chided him for having “skipped Israel” during his travels in the Middle East. Throughout the campaign, Mr. Romney has repeatedly accused Mr. Obama of having “thrown allies like Israel under the bus.”
But history tells a different story. Indeed, whenever the United States has put serious, sustained pressure on Israel’s leaders — from the 1950s on — it has come from Republican presidents, not Democratic ones. This was particularly true under Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.
Just one week before the Iraq war began in March 2003, Mr. Bush was still struggling to form a broad international coalition to oust Saddam Hussein. Unlike in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, Russia, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, decided to opt out, meaning that the United Nations could not provide formal legitimacy for a war against Mr. Hussein. Britain was almost alone in aligning itself with America, and Prime Minister Tony Blair’s support was deemed crucial in Washington.
Just as the British Parliament was about to approve the joint venture, a group of Mr. Blair’s Labour Party colleagues threatened to revolt, demanding Israeli concessions to the Palestinians in exchange for their support for the Iraq invasion. This demand could have scuttled the war effort, and there was only one way that British support could be maintained: Mr. Bush would have to declare that the “road map” for Middle East peace, a proposal drafted early in his administration, was the formal policy of the United States.
Israel’s prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, had been vehemently opposed to the road map, which contained several “red lines” that he refused to accept, including a stipulation that the future status of Jerusalem would be determined by “a negotiated resolution” taking into account “the political and religious concerns of both sides.” This wording implied a possible end to Israel’s sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, which has been under Israeli control since 1967.
On March 13, 2003, senior Israeli officials were summarily informed that the United States would publicly adopt the draft road map as its policy. Washington made it clear to us that on the eve of a war, Israel was expected to refrain from criticizing the American policy and also to ensure that its sympathizers got the message.
The United States insisted that the road map be approved without any changes, saying Israel’s concerns would be addressed later. At a long and tense cabinet debate I attended in May 2003, Mr. Sharon reluctantly asked his ministers to accept Washington’s demand. Benjamin Netanyahu, then the finance minister, disagreed, and he abstained during the vote on the cabinet resolution, which eventually passed.
From that point on, the road map, including the language on Jerusalem, became the policy bible for America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. Not only was Israel strong-armed by a Republican president, but it was also compelled to simply acquiesce and swallow the bitterest of pills.
Three years later, the Bush administration again pressured Israel into supporting a policy that ran counter to its interests. In early 2006, the terrorist group Hamas ran candidates in the Palestinian legislative elections. Israel had been adamant that no leader could campaign with a gun in his belt; the Palestinian party Fatah opposed Hamas’s participation, too. But the White House would have none of this; it pushed Fatah to allow Hamas candidates to run, and pressured Israel into allowing voting for Hamas — even in parts of East Jerusalem.
After Hamas won a clear majority, Washington sought to train Fatah forces to crush it militarily in the Gaza Strip. But Hamas pre-empted this scheme by taking control of Gaza in 2007, and the Palestinians have been ideologically and territorially divided ever since.
Despite the Republican Party’s shrill campaign rhetoric on Israel, no Democratic president has ever strong-armed Israel on any key national security issue. In the 1956 Suez Crisis, it was a Republican, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who joined the Soviet Union in forcing Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula after a joint Israeli-British-French attack on Egypt.
In 1991, when Iraqi Scud missiles rained down on Tel Aviv, the administration of the first President Bush urged Israel not to strike back so as to preserve the coalition of Arab states fighting Iraq. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir resisted his security chiefs’ recommendation to retaliate and bowed to American demands as his citizens reached for their gas masks.
After the war, Mr. Shamir agreed to go to Madrid for a Middle East peace conference set up by Secretary of State James A. Baker III. Fearful that Mr. Shamir would be intransigent at the negotiating table, the White House pressured him by withholding $10 billion in loan guarantees to Israel, causing us serious economic problems. The eventual result was Mr. Shamir’s political downfall. The man who had saved Mr. Bush’s grand coalition against Saddam Hussein in 1991 was “thrown under the bus.”
In all of these instances, a Republican White House acted in a cold and determined manner, with no regard for Israel’s national pride, strategic interests or sensitivities. That’s food for thought in October 2012.
Efraim Halevy was the director of the Mossad from 1998 to 2002 and the national security adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, from October 2002 to June 2003.
and please note that Qatar considered a Saudi and US ally, is not only involved in Syria, but is backing now Hamas as well, and it is to be expected that next US President will be faced with new situations in the Middle East.
among the new facts on the ground are a potential ceasefire in Syria for the Eid-al-Adha holiday as announced in Cairo by U.N special envoy to Syria the Algerian Lakhdar Brahimi – who by the way just also ended the contact with the spokesman for his Syria Mission – the Arab League favored Ahmad Fawzi.
Qatar’s Emir Visits Gaza, Pledging $400 Million to Hamas.
Hatem Moussa/Associated Press
Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister, drove the emir of Qatar in Gaza City on Tuesday.
By JODI RUDOREN
Published: October 23, 2012
JERUSALEM — The emir of Qatar on Tuesday became the first head of state to visit the Gaza Strip since Hamas took full control of it in 2007, the latest step in an ambitious campaign by the tiny Persian Gulf nation to leverage its outsize pocketbook in support of Islamists across the region — and one that threatened to widen the rift between rival Palestinian factions.
The emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, pledged $400 million to build two housing complexes, rehabilitate three main roads and create a prosthetic center, among other projects, a transformational infusion of cash at a time when foreign aid to the Palestinian territories has been in free fall. The sheik, his wife and the Qatari prime minister led a large delegation that entered Gaza from Egypt and sped in a convoy of black Mercedes-Benzes and armored Toyotas through streets lined with people waving Qatari and Palestinian flags.
“Today you are a big guest, great guest, declaring officially the breaking of the political and economic siege that was imposed on Gaza,” Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister, told the emir and his cohort as they sat on sofas in a white shed in the southern town of Khan Yunis, where they plan to erect 1,000 apartments. “Today, we declare the victory on this siege through this blessed, historic visit.”
In the West Bank, allies of Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, who has struggled to preserve his own legitimacy, warned that the visit set a dangerous precedent of Arab leaders’ embracing Mr. Haniya as a head of state and thus cleaving the Palestinian people and territory in two. “We call on the Qatari prince or his representative to visit the West Bank too!” blared a headline on an editorial in the leading newspaper Al Quds.
The visit signaled just how much the region had changed for Hamas since the advent of the Arab Spring. Where Egypt under President Hosni Mubarak once allied with Saudi Arabia to squeeze Hamas by keeping the border largely closed, Egypt under a new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, opened the crossing to allow the Qatari ruler through. But the visit also reflected the unique foreign policy that has allowed Qatar to straddle competing worlds, bankrolling political movements like Hamas, deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, while maintaining strong links to Washington.
Sheik Hamad, who has ruled Qatar since 1995, has gradually transformed the tiny nation into a regional powerhouse, relying on its immense wealth to extend its influence. That has been especially true in the past two years, as Qatar has played decisive roles in the revolutions in Libya and Yemen and the isolation of the Syrian government.
Qatar allied with the West in helping oust Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya, while financing Islamists on the ground. In Egypt, it has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. In Syria, it provides cash and weapons to Islamists battling President Bashar al-Assad, and at the same time it hosts a large United States military base that affords it protection in a volatile neighborhood.
“Qatar is a secure little kernel with huge resources that has chosen to use those resources in foreign policy,” said Paul Salem, director of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Center. “They have no constraints. They can take any position anytime anywhere.”
But eight months after Doha, the Qatari capital, hosted the signing of a reconciliation agreement between the Hamas leadership and Mr. Abbas, the deal has not come to fruition in the form of national elections. On Tuesday the emir’s visit drove a deeper wedge between Hamas and Fatah, the party of Mr. Abbas, and raised alarm in Israel.
Hamas has refused to reject violence or recognize Israel, which also considers it a terrorist organization, and has struggled lately to control more militant Islamist groups within Gaza. Since the uprising began in Syria in March 2011, Hamas has closed its offices in Syria, its primary patron, and tried to establish a close and direct connection to Mr. Morsi of Egypt, who was a leader within the Muslim Brotherhood before his election.
Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, declared that the emir had “thrown peace under the bus,” noting that his visit came a few hours after an Israeli soldier was severely wounded when a bomb exploded along the border with Gaza. Southern Israel has faced what he described as “a steady drizzle of rockets” in the last few weeks.
“It helps Hamas entrench themselves in Gaza, not to yield one inch to the P.A., and enhancing the division and the reality of two de facto states,” Mr. Palmor said. “Most of the money that he’s pouring in Gaza will go to Hamas pockets, directly or indirectly. You think that will encourage them to hold national elections?”
The Qatari projects dwarf the roughly $300 million in foreign aid that analysts estimate Gaza receives annually. They come as international donations to the Palestinian Authority have nose-dived, from a peak of $1.8 billion in 2008 to less than $700 million this year, according to a World Bank report. The shift is part of a broader financial crisis that has caused the delayed or partial payment of government salaries three months running, the focus of violent street protests in the West Bank last month.
Nathan Thrall, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, said a critical question was whether rumored visits to Gaza by other regional heads of state would follow Qatar’s. He said that Cairo’s role in brokering the visit was an important signal in the evolving relationship between Gaza and Egypt, and that Hamas was hoping it would help reverse the so-called “West Bank-first model of attempting to promote prosperity in Ramallah and austerity in Gaza.”
“The message that Hamas wishes to convey is ‘We are the future; the P.A. is disintegrating,’ ” he said. “The argument Hamas is hoping to make is that this is the beginning of a sort of Gaza-first model: Arabs ignoring a failing P.A., and supporting Gaza with sums of money that Europeans, even if they wanted to, couldn’t match.”
The six-hour visit ended with a large rally at the Islamic University in Gaza City, where the emir and his wife received honorary doctorates.
Speaking at the university, he called on Palestinian leaders to repair their rift, which he said “was more painful than the Israeli aggression” and left them “without peace negotiations or a resistance and liberation strategy.”
Indigenous People living in the Ecuadorean Amazon are Human Beings and Should Be Protected Against Predatory International Big Oil. The US Supreme Court Came Down Against Chevron whose properties will thus be seized by Ecuador.
Amazon Farmers Seize Chevron Assets.
SustainableBusiness.com News October 17, 2012.
In a huge success for Amazon farmers that have been suing Chevron for 18 years, an Ecuadorian court ruled they can seize $200 million in assets from the oil company.
That includes $96.3 million the Ecuador government owes Chevron, money held in Ecuadorean bank accounts by Chevron, and licensing fees generated by the use of the company’s trademarks in the country, reports Reuters.
This is a critically important case – the first time an indigenous community has prevailed against a multinational corporation. Oil companies are, of course, keeping close watch on this case as it provides an important precedent for communities to fight their pollution.
The company even took it to the US Supreme court, which last week rejected Chevron’s attempt to overturn the $19 billion judgment against it.
The suit was originally brought against Texaco (bought by Chevron in 2001). In February 2011, an Ecuadorean judge imposed damages for $8.6 billion – the fine has more than doubled since then because Chevron has not made the public apology the court required.
Instead, the company filed an appeal in New York to block the judgment, saying it was illegal and unenforceable under the state’s law – and a federal judge took its side in March 2011.
But earlier this year, an appeals court overturned that decision, noting US courts can’t interfere with courts from other countries.
The Supreme Court’s rejection of that appeal opened the door for this week’s ruling, issued in the Amazon town of Lago Agrio.
“This is a huge first step for the rainforest villagers on the road to collecting the entire $19 billion judgment,” Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the communities, told Reuters.
Chevron is fighting back again, charging racketeering against New York attorney Steven Donziger, a group of Ecuadoreans and the environmental groups that helped win the original judgment against it.
It is also bringing the matter to an international trade arbitration panel which is scheduled to begin hearings on the dispute in November, reports Reuters.
After the original judgment, Ecuador and the United Nations Development Program signed a historic deal to leave an estimated 846 million barrels of crude oil untapped beneath Yasuní National Park, a World Biosphere Reserve since 1989.