Friday, November 30, 2012

131 Yes, 9 No, 41 Abstain

131 Yes, 9 No, 41 Abstain.  That is the official tally on the UN General Assembly Vote that recognized Palestine as a non-member state of the UN.

Above is an image of the official tally sheet. The original can be found here.

The 9 No votes were:
United States
Check Republic
Marshall Islands
Among the Yes votes: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Mexico, Algeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Philippines, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Egypt, and New Zealand.

The Yes votes include 24 of the 48 countries in geographical Europe, and 14 of the 27 members of the European Union. All other European countries - except the Check Republic - abstained.

The Yes votes include 14 of the 15 worlds most populous countries and 7 of the 10 largest countries in the world by area. (Australia, #6 by area, abstained.)

New Zealand, appears to be the only "white settler state" to have voted Yes. (Maybe that has something to do with the relatively positive relations between the native Maori people and the "later arrivals.")

In percentage terms the vote was: Yes 72.4%, No 4.9%, Abstain 22.7%.  For comparison, the November 29 1947 vote on UN General Assembly resolution 181, the partition plan that ended the British Mandate and established the legal basis for the State of Israel, was: Yes 58.9%, No 23.3%, Abstain 17.7%.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Two State Manifesto

Israeli Ambassador to the UN speaking against Palestinian Statehood

The UN resolution accepting Palestine in to the UN as an observer state, is a pure endorsement of the two state solution.

If Israeli leaders were smart they should grab this offer with both hands, before its too late.

It is unequivocally a two state solution and that clearly comes to undo 1967 and not 1948. Not a hint of a single state in the future.

[the UN] Affirms its determination to contribute to the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the attainment of a peaceful settlement in the Middle East that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and fulfils the vision of two States: an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security with Israel on the basis of the pre-1967 borders;
And it talks of negotiations to work out the thorniest issues.

Reaffirming further its resolution 66/18 of 30 November 2011 and all relevant
resolutions regarding the status of Jerusalem, bearing in mind that the annexation of
East Jerusalem is not recognized by the international community, and emphasizing
the need for a way to be found through negotiations to resolve the status of
Jerusalem as the capital of two States,

The only mention "the right of return" is

"[the need for] a just resolution of the problem of the Palestine refugees."

Read full resolution here.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

This Dog Don't Hunt

I couldn't agree more.

These Palestinians are demonstrating against Harper's policy to oppose Palestine's statehood bid at the UN General Assembly. Harper is not popular in Palestine

And when it comes to Harper, they don't know the half of it.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

29th of November: Take Two

The 29th of November is an auspicious date in the history of Israel. And it promised to be so again.

On the 29th of November 1947, the UN voted for "Resolution 181: A Plan of Partition with Economic Union." The resolution called for the end the British Mandate for Palestine and for partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state  (with a UN controlled region around Jerusalem.) The resolution formed the legal basis for Israel's creation. Jews around the world rejoiced. Most of us have seen the iconic videos of the vote being announced over loudspeakers in Tel-Aviv, and people breaking out in song and dance when it became clear that it would pass.

The date was considered so significant that there are streets in a dozen Israeli cities named "Kaf Tet b"November" (Hebrew for 29th of November) Street. The map above shows Kaf Tet b'November Street in Jerusalem's Katamon neighbourhood. It runs from Gdud Ha'Ivri (the Hebrew Brigade) Street to Kovshei Katamon (Conquerors of Katamon) Street. (My mother's cousin, Rushka Olian z"l, used to live just around the corner, on Eli Cohen Street.)

Now, another event on the 29th of November, and also at the UN, may serve as the final nail in the coffin of a two state solution: exactly what the original partition plan envisioned. Or alternately, the UN that day, may breath some life into this almost dead idea. On that date - this coming Thursday - on the 65th anniversary of the United Nations original resolution to partition British Mandatory Palestine, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to ask the U.N. General Assembly to recognize Palestine as a “nonmember state.”

If he succeeds, it may give the PA, Fatah, and their relatively conciliatory positions some credibility  with the Palestinian people, versus Hamas and its hard line. If he succeeds, Abbas may be able to jettison his condition that Israel freeze settlement growth and call to restart peace talks. It may give him enough clout to wring some concessions out of the Israelis (something he has not been able to do so far with all his cooperation and conciliatory gestures.) If he fails, thats it for the PA. Even if it does not fold  (and it very well may) it will have lost all credibility with the Palestinian people. They will likely draw the conclusion, that diplomacy and cooperation with Israeli authorities will never bring them much closer to independence, or even decent living conditions. They will have learnt what Hamas wants them to learn - that (to quote Mao) "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun" - or to use a more Israeli idiom, "The Jews only understand force."

For a more thorough analysis of this, as well as a prognosis of why we should be pessimistic about Abbas succeeding even if he wins the UN vote (hint:  both the U.S. and Israel are working very hard to make him fail) see this piece by Peter Beinart.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

While Gazan's Celebrate A Real Victory, Israel Violates Ceases Fire

Gaza "buffer zone" with border fence in the distance

While Gazans returned to land to which they had long been denied access, Israeli troops fired across the border, killing one Palestinian. Other than 12 Palestinian rockets attacks that occurred within 30 minutes of the formal Wednesday 9:00 PM cease fire, this is the first violation of the ceasefire and comes after more than 24 hours of quiet.

According to the New York Times:
A group of Palestinians went to Abassan, a border area east of the southern town of Khan Younis, on Friday to pray on their land, and ended up throwing stones at soldiers, who responded with gunfire. … 
Capt. Eytan Buchman, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said that about 300 Palestinians were demonstrating at various points along the border fence on Friday, prompting Israeli soldiers to fire warning shots in the air. Then some demonstrators “tried to damage the fence and cross into Israel,” Captain Buchman said. “When that happened, the forces fired at their feet.” … 
Witnesses and Hamas police officers said the shooting Friday happened near the spot where a missile fired by Palestinian militants injured three Israeli soldiers in a jeep stationed along the border fence earlier this month. 
They said that as many as 2,000 people had flocked to the area on Thursday in celebration of the cease-fire, and that hundreds returned Friday morning. Many of them had not been that close to the border in a decade or more: it was considered too dangerous at least since the onset of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000, and became officially off limits starting in 2008. 
An Israeli government official said on Friday that, as part of the latest cease-fire understandings, Israel agreed to discuss the buffer zone with the Egyptian sponsors of the truce. But, the official added, no negotiations have taken place yet. For now, the official said, Israel’s regulations for maintaining the zone and the army’s rules of engagement remain unchanged. 
A Palestinian who approached the security fence on Friday, Eyad Qudaih, 38, said he had not visited his modest farm measuring around 1.7 acres close to the fence in the 12 years he had lived in one of the few scattered houses in the buffer zone. The feeling of standing on his land, he said, “was like someone who is hungry and had a big meal, grilled sheep with nuts.” 
Someone planted a green Hamas flag on a long pole atop the fence, and a smaller Palestinian one nearby, unimaginable sights only a few days ago. Some Palestinians talked to Israeli soldiers through the fence, according to witnesses and photographs posted on the Internet. 
But around 11 a.m., shooting broke out, according two witness — Eyad Qudaih, a cousin of the man who was killed, and another family member, Samih Qudaih. They said the bullets came from an Israeli watchtower and a jeep, and that there had been no stone-throwing to provoke them.

The celebrations and the subsequent shooting highlight one of the lesser known but more significant ways that Israel has made life miserable for Gazan’s over the last five years (and perhaps longer.) In 2008, Israel officially – and unilaterally – declared a 300 metre buffer zone long the border fence between Gaza and Israel. (In reality Israel often enforces the zone to much greater depth.) Of course, the buffer zone was entirely on the Gazan side of the fence. It was to be a no-go zone. Any Palestinian in the buffer zone could be and, not so rarely, was shot. People who where unlucky enough to live or farm land in the zone where simply out of luck.

How much land are we talking about? Officially 15.9 square kilometres, or 4.4% of the land base of Gaza: almost all of it agricultural land. In a tiny, over crowed territory that cannot produce enough food to feed itself, this is socially and economically significant, over and above the psychological and financial losses of the families affected. This is the size of the official buffer zone. The defacto buffer zone was probably 60% larger (500 meters deep, 26.5 square kilometers, 7.25% of the Gaza land base.)

One of the clauses of Wednesday’s cease fire agreement was that Israel would ease restrictions on Palestinians' access to these lands. Many Gazans took them at their word. One paid with his life.

* * *
Update:  The Jerusalem Post has an article about the same incident. The headline reads: "Hamas polices Gaza border after IDF fire kills man by fence: IDF says group of Palestinians tried to breach border"  Below is the picture that accompanied the article.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Was It Worth It?

This is what 8 days of fighting, and approximately 170 dead, 1000 wounded, $100 million in munitions, and untold millions of economic damage will get you.

Agreement of Understanding For a Ceasefire in the Gaza Strip 
A. Israel should stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals. 
B. All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border. 
C. Opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents' free movements and targeting residents in border areas and procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire 
D. Other matters as may be requested shall be addressed.
2: Implementation mechanisms:
A. Setting up the zero hour for the ceasefire understanding to enter into effect. 
B. Egypt shall receive assurances from each party that the party commits to what was agreed upon. 
C. Each party shall commit itself not to perform any acts that would breach this understanding. In case of any observations Egypt as the sponsor of this understanding shall be informed to follow up.
In the year prior to Nov 13, (the start of this latest war), though 700 rockets had been launched from Gaza to Israel, not  a single Israeli had been killed and only one had been wounded. In the eight days of the war, 6 Israelis were killed and many dozens wounded.

Do you suppose, that if on November 13, the Israeli government had proposed to Hamas that in exchange for a total cessation of rocket fire from Gaza, Israel would being "opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods" that Hamas would have agreed?  I'm pretty sure they would have.  It certainly would  have been worth a try. It might have saved 6 Israeli lives, dozens of Israeli wounded, millions of Israeli dollars, and avoided a lot of trauma for Israeli citizens. (And I am deliberately not mentioning the wars effects on Palestinians.)

So, even from the narrowly defined perspective of "Israeli rational self interest", was this war worth it?

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Amidst The Fog of Words, Perhaps Some Progress

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared a position on Palestinian statehood that is nearly identical to that of his Fatah rival, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in an interview with CNN aired Wednesday.

"I accept a Palestinian state according [to] the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital, with the right to return," he  told Christine Amanpour in Cairo.

In an interview with CNN, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said that he accepts a Palestinian state "according to 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the capital, with the right of return [for Palestinian refugees]."

Mashaal went on to say that

Palestine, from the river to the sea, from the north to the south, it is my land. And the land of my fathers and grandfathers, inhibited by the Palestinian people for a long time ago. This is my land, my right. ... because of the circumstances of the region, because of the keenness to stop the bloodshed, the Palestinians today, and in the past, and Hamas, have agreed about a program that accepts the 1967 borders. But the Israelis don't accept."
Good news!!?

But, apparently Hamas is not ready to say this full on (yet?) Later the same day Hamas denied that its prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, had expressed support for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's effort to upgrade the status of a Palestinian state to non-member.

Supporting Abbas's statehood bid would have meant that Hamas is willing to accept a Palestinian state "only" within the pre-1967 lines.

The denial came shortly after Abbas's office announced that he had received a phone call from Haniyeh, who expressed support for the statehood bid.

So was Mashaals' statement to CNN (and perhaps Haniyeh's phone call to Abbas) a trial balloon. Does it represent a cautious softening of Hamas' position, and an accommodation with Israel and with the PA?  One can hope.

source: jpost, and jpost

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Three Reactions

Following Tuesday's bus bombing in Tel-Aviv, the Jerusalem Post records three reactions from bystanders. They sort of sum up the options.

1. Why can't we all just get along.
At the scene of the bombing on Wednesday, a young Palestinian couple from Qalqilyah walked their daughter away from the bombing, and made their way to the bus station after they had taken their daughter for treatment at Ichilov Hospital around the corner.
As his daughter cried and he tried to calm her fears, father Bader Badir expressed a desire for quiet on both sides, and expressed his opposition to violence against civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.
2. Bomb them into submission.
Paramedic Israel Kornik said at the site of the bombing “if this is happening while we're talking about a cease-fire why stop? We can't stop, the IDF must keep working until they finish the job.”
3. Negotiate an Agreement
Haim Shefer, 62, said he was at his house about 100 meters from the explosion ...
When asked if he thinks the era of terror attacks could be making a return, he said “I don't think so, they're trying to get us here to show that if we hit them they'll hit us. But we cant win by force and neither can we,” Shefer said, adding “I'm against a ground invasion, it's time for both sides to sit down and talk.”

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Monday, November 19, 2012

What Do Most Israelis Expect?

A poll in today's Jersualem Post says that "85 percent of Israelis" believe that it was right of Israel to embark on the "Operation Pillar of Cloud."  (I have to believe that this percentage, and the others below, are of Israeli Jews not all Israelis. Twenty-five percent of Israelis are non-Jews, and I have to believe that a vast majority of them are against this operation. The fact that the Jerusalem Post can so easily say "Israelis" when then mean "Israeli Jews" is itself a large part of the problem.)

But when asked what should happen next, 45% said to continue air strikes, 22% said to seek a cease fire, and just 25% recommended a ground offensive. (Presumably 8% had no opinion.).

I understand the 22% who want to seek a ceasefire. Most of these people, no doubt, are a part of the 15% who did not  think the operation was a good idea in the first place.

What I don't understand is: what do the 70% who want this to continue want? Do they believe that Israel can crush Hamas completely and unilaterally, with no agreement of any sort?  Are they against agreements because they don't want to restrict Israel's freedom of action in the future? Or are they simply against offering Hamas any carrots (easing of the blockade  perhaps)? Or are they just intent on maximum punishment and revenge? Are they willing to risk more Israelis casualties - both civilian and military - in order achieve these "goals"? - not to mention Israel's international support, and increased hatred on the part of Palestinians.

I think the answer is simply that people don't think clearly in situations like these. These answers are from the gut, not the brain. We see similar reactions on the Palestinian side.

The good news, I suppose, is that 15 percent think this whole operation was and is a bad idea. If I am right that this is 15% of Israeli Jews, and if we can assume that virtually all of Israel's non-Jews are against this operation, than that means that 35-40% of all Israelis are against it.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"They Won't Know and They Won't See"

For the most part, our Jewish religious/right policy makers have been too smart to state their policy goals clearly. Not for them a grand legal framework like "Apartheid." Rather, they "create facts on the ground," and in public discourse they obfuscate.  Now maybe they are getting arrogant and sloppy.  Maybe that's a good thing.

This incident is almost unbelievable. Read about it in Haaretz.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Gvaldt! World to Be 6 Degrees Warmer by 2100 !!


While every one is looking at the American elections, the economy, the ME, etc., the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Hurricane Sandy and last summers droughts and wild fires are only a taste of what is to come.

As reported in the Guardian, a U.K. report - from Price Waterhouse Cooper no less - predicts 6 degrees C (10.8 F) average warming by 2100.t
The report concludes that "governments and businesses can no longer assume that a two-degree warming world is the default scenario", and urges greater planning to cope with the disruptive effects that more unpredictable and extreme weather will have on supply chains, long-term assets, and infrastructure, particularly in coastal or low-lying regions.
The Guardian goes on on to say:
Meanwhile, businesses in carbon-intensive sectors must also anticipate "invasive regulation" and the possibility of stranded assets, said Jonathan Grant, director of sustainability and climate change at PwC.
That may be so - eventually - but I fear too late to avoid massive damage and dislocation. But if anyone in power is reading this, I say lets get started sooner than later.

h/t to JJG in the Forward 

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Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Palestinians as Injuns. Israelis as Cowboys

Sometimes the right is so far right, its right.

Take this quote from an article by Sharon Speevak in Canada.Com

... like Palestinians, First Nations have outstanding land claims arising from their expulsion ...

Speevak wants to make the point that Canada would also violently suppress its First Nations if those people attempted to reclaim their lost lands: lands where most Canadians now live. And since that is so, why criticize Israelis for doing the same thing.

But, of course, the Palestinians have also seen what became of the North American Indians, and that is precisely why they are fighting so hard to prevent it from happening to them. They don't want to be reduced to living on  "reservations"  (aka, "camps', "Area A". etc...)  It is interesting to note in this regard that the South African authorities based their 1940's apartheid laws, in part, on Canada's Indian Act (see here) and that Israel based its current de-facto policy of separation and confinement of Palestinians to the semi autonomous PA controlled Area A and Hamas controlled Gaza Strip, in part, on South Africa's 1970's policy of Bantustans (see here.)

I think the analogy of the Palestinians as the First Nations and the Israelis as the European Settlers is quite apt. Though, as with any analogy, it is not 100% accurate. On the one hand Jews had a historic link to Israel/Palestine that Europeans did not re North America (though they tried to create one through myths such as "The New Jerusalem"). And the Palestinians, unlike the First Nation, were not a small and scattered people that was easily subdued by overwhelming numbers, vastly superior technology, and lack of disease immunity. While we Canadians have gotten away with our historic injustices to the First Nations, Israel, it seems will not be so "lucky". Nor, if we believe in justice, should it be able to.

(For a related opinion, by American Indian activist Winona LaDuke, see here.)

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Thursday, November 01, 2012

You Don't Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way the Wind Blows

This is pretty, educational, and just plain neat! Click here.