Archive for the ‘Palestine’ Category
In recent months, a controversial idea that has been on ice for more than 20 years has re-entered public discourse in Jordan. In a meeting with a Palestinian charity in October, Prince Hassan al Talil – uncle of King Abdullah II, the ruler of Jordan – suggested that if Israeli forces were to eventually withdraw from parts of the West Bank, Jordan would have a claim to the land, as they had been in possession of it prior to the Israeli occupation. He said that although he “did not personally oppose the two state solution”, it had become irrelevant. Palestine should become part of Jordan.
This idea was popular in decades past. In 1972 King Hussein revealed his plan to establish a federal United Arab Kingdom in Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank, and claim sovereignty over these three areas. In 1985 he agreed with Yasser Arafat to pursue a goal of Palestinian self-determination within a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation. In 1988, however, during the first intifada, the King abruptly severed all Jordan’s legal and administrative ties to the Palestinian territories, stating that the time had come for the Palestinians to determine their own future and negotiate with Israel directly. In the decades that followed, attention became focused on securing an independent state for the Palestinians, and the notion of any sort of Jordanian-Palestinian amalgamation became deeply taboo.
Following Prince Hassan’s October speech, however, the London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Prime Minister, had instructed his lieutenants “to be prepared for a new confederation project with Jordan”. It was speculated that Abbas’ new-found political currency from his successful UN bid, coupled with his declining authority at home, placed him in the ideal position to negotiate an arrangement of this kind.
An official denial was released by the Palestinian authorities, but the idea was up and running. Israeli news websites posted unconfirmed reportsthat Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, has been discussing the possibility of confederation with King Abdullah II. A senior Palestinian journalist, Daoud Kuttab, wrote a lengthy piece for an American magazine entitled “Are the Palestinians ready to share a state with Jordan?“. Whatever the truth, it is clear that this idea is gaining momentum. But how much of it is mere speculation? Continue reading on the Telegraph website
At first glance, the exhumation of the remains of Yasser Arafat, the former Palestinian leader, seems a bit bizarre. Conspiracy theories about his demise swirl on Twitter, particularly those that ascribe his death to Israeli poison or HIV, but neither of these seem to have much in the way of serious traction. Meanwhile, a tentative ceasefire is holding in Gaza, and a vote on enhancing the status of Palestine is coming up on Thursday; it seems that there would be more important things to think about than submitting an eight-year-old corpse to the autopsy that Arafat‘s widow would not allow at the time.
On a deeper level, however, this points to the lack of confidence that Palestinians of the West Bank have in their current leadership. Many believe that Mahmoud Abbas’ rejection of violence, acceptance of the 1967 borders, and even – in a recent interview with Israeli television – his suggestion that he is willing to abandon his desire to return permanently to his birthplace of Safed, in northern Israel, has left him emasculated. This has been highlighted by what is seen as the success of Hamas’ recent operations in attracting the attention of Israel and forcing it to the negotiating table.
Perhaps the contrast between Abbas’ impotency and Hamas’ dynamism is best illustrated by the kidnap of Gilad Schalit. Abbas frequently issues demands for prisoners to be released, and these have consistently fallen on deaf ears. Hamas kidnaps a soldier, and is rewarded with the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
The pictures coming from Israel are all too familiar. In recent days, we have found ourselves transported to the Gaza conflict of 2008-9; now, with the reprise of the bus bombing, we find ourselves thrust back to the unhappy years of the Intifada.
It is all but certain that the bus attack earlier today was intended to derail the ceasefire talks currently being brokered by Egypt. In this, it will almost certainly be successful; such attacks provoke a vicious retaliation at the best of times, let alone in the midst of a conflict. The real question, however, is whether it will have even more catastrophic implications for the region.
There has not been a terrorist bombing of this size in Israel for many years. Several factors have contributed towards the de-escalation in their frequency, including the West Bank barrier, which has been a highly effective way of preventing would-be bombers from entering Israel. But the fundamental principle of terrorism – to create maximum chaos, fear and disruption from a few random attacks – still stands, and has long been used by Palestinian militants to frustrate the political process.
During the second intifada, which began in 2000, Israel’s streets were attacked with alarming frequency, throwing the region into turmoil. This was the case as recently as 2010, when a terrorist killed four Israeli civilians, including a pregnant women, in an effort to obstruct President Obama’s efforts to restart the peace talks which had been abandoned since 2008. Today’s attack will raise bitter memories of that time, and threaten to ignite the powder keg that has been smouldering since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Cloud.
The burning question is how effective this attack will be in inflaming an already febrile situation. Will the bus-bombing spark the Israeli ground invasion that the international community dreads, and herald a full-blown war?
That is the challenge that faces all those working for a ceasefire. The threat of a ground operation is abhorred by many on both sides and onlookers around the world – with the notable exception of the extremists, who by their own admission love death as much as we love life. As seen on the Telegraph website
Yesterday, on Voice of Russia, the Russian state radio channel, I took part in a debate on – what else? – the situation in Gaza. Other panellists included the pro-Palestinian journalist Rachel Shabi, and Yossi Mekelberg of Chatham House, the influential independent think-tank. At some point, they tell me that you will be able to listen to it here andhere, if you’re interested.
What struck me was the propagation of an alternative reality of recent events in the Middle East. To me, it seems indisputable that the fillip for the Israeli bombardment was the dramatic increase in rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel’s population centres. This intense terror operation – codenamed Operation Shale Stones by Hamas, and Operation Blue Sky by Palestinian Islamic Jihad – was directly responsible for the conflict. When hostilities broke out, democratic nations around the world, by and large, recognised that Israel was acting legitimately, in self defence. Not only did the USA come out in support of the Jewish state, but so did Britain, France and the European Union. These latter two are traditionally not friends that Israel wins over easily.
As the conflict becomes more protracted, and the death toll rises, support for Israel will ebb away amongst concerns over proportionality. But the fact remains that most people accept that in principle, Operation Pillar of Cloud is justified.
Other contributors, however, seemed to believe that Israel had sparked the hostilities during a minor incursion into Gaza on November 8, and followed this with an intense bombardment instigated purely to win the election for Likud. No mention of terrorist rockets at all. The fact that the international community has voiced more support for Israel than usual shows – wait for it – bias. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
So William Hague has come out in support of Israel. Although he said that he was “gravely concerned”, and urged Israel “to do their utmost to reduce tension”, he made his views absolutely clear, stating that “Hamas bears principal responsibility for the current crisis”.
The fact that the Foreign Secretary is able to support Israel so unequivocally at this stage indicates how effective and professional the Israeli military has so far been this time around.
In Israel, relief at the death of Ahmed Jabari, who was responsible for shaping Hamas into an instrument of violence, is being tempered by the realisation that they may be in it for the long haul. Three Israelis have been killed by retaliatory rocket attacks, and the reservists have been called up. However, despite the fact that nobody likes war, there is good reason for Israelis to have buoyant morale, and Hague’s endorsement confirms this.
So far, the first phase of Operation Pillar of Cloud has gone like clockwork. Although retaliatory missile fire from the Gaza Strip has been heavy, it has been rather ineffective, with the Iron Dome missile defence system largely protecting the major population centres. Casualties on the Israeli side have been relatively low, and the Hamas leadership has been decapitated. And despite the deaths on the side of the Gazans, including the tragic mistaken killing of an 11-month-old son of a BBC employee, the death toll is not mounting as quickly as it has in the past, making Israel’s cause easier to support. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
You may remember him from 2008, when he was refused a visa to visit Britain after the Home Office said it would not tolerate the presence of those seeking to justify acts of terrorist violence; during a visit to London four years earlier, al-Qaradawi had referred to suicide attacks on Israelis as “martyrdom in the name of God” in an interview with the BBC.
But al-Qaradawi, although undeniably rather extreme by Western standards, is a complex figure. On the one hand, he has referred to the Holocaust as “divine punishment” which “put [the Jews] in their place”; supports attacks on Israeli civilians; has a longstanding hatred of the Shia (though he supports Hizbollah as they are sworn enemies of Israel); and has condoned the death sentence – in principle at least – for Muslims who turn their backs on the religion. On the other hand, he has denounced as “extremists” those who hold more extreme views than he does, opposes the notion of theocracy, supports the notion of democracy in the Middle East, and called upon Muslims to donate blood in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
If I were to argue that the real enemy of the Arab world is not Israel, but the Arab world itself, what would people say? If I suggested it is the Arab states’ own endemic corruption, poor healthcare, inadequate education system, lack of respect for human rights, and disregard for human life and freedom of speech that is the real problem? If I said that many Arab states actually cause their own people far greater suffering than Israel does? That in attacking Israel in 1948 and 1967, and intermittently thereafter, the Arab world only harmed itself? That Israel offers a far better standard of living to Palestinians than many Arab states offer their citizens? If I argued all of this, wouldn’t the response be a tsunami of animosity?
I think so. For that reason, I won’t. I’ll leave it to Abdulateef al-Mulhim, the former commodore of the Saudi Navy.
In an article that first appeared in the Arab News and has been widely cited since, al-Mulhim made all these points. The Times printed a lengthy extract in their Opinion pages. Here are some choice quotations. Read on the Telegraph website
The British public is often commended for its common sense. Over recent years, however, the movement to boycott all aspects of Israeli output – from vegetables and cosmetics to orchestras and dance troupes – has been so vociferous that it has begun to cast doubt upon our reputedly solid sense of judgment.
Now, however, those concerns can be laid to rest. A new poll conducted by YouGov for the Jewish Chronicle has established that “fewer than one in five Brits believe that Israeli actors, dancers or musicians should not be welcome to perform here, and three-quarters can see no reason why British performers should not travel to Israel”.
The principal polling question was whether Israeli performers ”should not be welcome to perform in Britain, even if they receive a subsidy from the Israeli government”. 53 per cent of respondents felt that Israelis should be made welcome in Britain, which according to the JC is “far below the level of support claimed by anti-Israel and pro-boycott campaigners.” The full details are available on the Jewish Chronicle website. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
When darkness falls this evening, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) – the holiest day of the Jewish calendar – will begin. It is believed that the strength of one’s prayers and repentance on Yom Kippur will determine who is written in the “Book of Life” and who in the “Book of Death”, as well as “who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried … who will be degraded and who will be exalted.” The intense spirit of of Yom Kippur is captured within its liturgy; Jacqueline du Pre’s heartrending rendition of the “Kol Nidre” can be heard on YouTube, which also features atmospheric footage of synagogue choirs rehearsing.
In 1973, as the people of Israel commenced this day of prayer and fasting, the Arab world launched a surprise attack from both the north and the south. Egypt and Syria led the assault, with additional force from Iraq, Jordan, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Tunisia, Lebanon, Sudan, Cuba and North Korea. Estimates vary, but in total up to a million troops stood against Israel, who could muster just 400,000 in response. After more than two weeks of fighting Israel finally emerged victorious; but it had teetered on the very brink of destruction. Loss of life was heavy, and a quarter of its fighter planes and tanks had been destroyed. This was a watershed in Israeli history, after which everything changed.
In many ways, the Yom Kippur War represented the end of an age of innocence. Israel’s self-image of indomitability, based on the audacious victory of the Six Day War in 1967, had been shattered. The top brass, which had previously enjoyed almost god-like status, were vilified; the prime minister, Golda Meir, was hounded from office. Eventually, the fallout resulted in the collapse of the Left and the ascendency of the Right for the first time in the history of Zionism. In some ways, it set the tone for everything that was to follow.
A B Yehoshua, the pre-eminent Israeli novelist, describes Israeli bewilderment in the aftermath of the war in his 1977 novel The Lover. “Again and again,” he writes, “I read the confused accounts of what happened, trying to get to the bottom of the chaos that ruled then … To this day there is before us a list of so many missing, so many mysteries. And next of kin still gathering last remnants – scraps of clothing, bits of charred documents, twisted pens, bullet-ridden wallets, melted wedding rings.”
This month, however, some of these mysteries have been explained. Important documents detailing the inquiry carried out by the Agranat Commission in the aftermath of the war have been declassified and released, giving the Israeli public unprecedented access to more “confused accounts of what happened” from the inside. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
So it’s all kicking off again. As I write, the making of a film mocking the Prophet Mohammad has sparked violence in Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Libya. Details are still emerging, but the filmappears to have been made by an Egyptian intent on scapegoating American Jews. But this is of no consequence. The touchpaper of offence has been lit, and the conflagration has begun to consume the Middle East and North Africa.
From a British perspective, the violence unfolding in the region is bewildering. After all, we are the nation that gave birth to Life Of Brian. But as sure as night follows day, the liberal Left will soon start wringing their hands, beating their brows, and blaming alternately George Bush and themselves; the Right, afraid of appearing “un-PC”, will grumble behind closed doors that the blighters are fundamentally barbaric.
Rather than going down that wormhole again, it is more interesting to note that the Islamic ringleaders who stoke the flames of this sort of offence-fuelled violence are exactly the people who spew out truckloads of racist and anti-Semitic material daily.
Try running a Google Images search for the keywords “Arab” and “cartoon”. There is no need to insert the words “racist”, “anti-Semitic” or even “Jew”. Just “Arab” and “cartoon”. You can run the search by simply clicking here.
What you will discover is page upon page of cartoons concerning Jews and Israel. Some may, if you squint, be excused as “political”; a few may even pass for the work of Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell. Most, however, are sickening. There are Jews eating children, Jews gloating over bags of money, Jews with a blood lust, and so on and so on. The sheer irony of Islamic zealots having a hair-trigger themselves towards anti-Islamic cartoons and the like, while simultaneously churning out such vile racism themselves, is almost funny. Continue reading on the Telegraph website