Friday, November 30, 2012

U.N. press release on Palestine Vote, Avaaz: Huuuuge Victory - UN Recognizes Palestine!!

From: Jeff Warner []
Sent: Friday, November 30, 2012 11:19 AM
To: LA Jews for Peace
Subject: [LA Jews for Peace] U.N. press release on the Vote to make Palestine... 
U.N. press release on the Vote to make...
Jeff Warner 11:19am Nov 30
U.N. press release on the Vote to make Palestine a non-member observer state.

The resolution passed with 138 countries voting "yes." Nine countries voted "no" including Israel, United States, Canada the Czech Republic, and Panama.
41 countries abstained including Germany, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, and most of the former Soviet Union.
5 countries did not vote: Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Liberia, Madagascar, Ukraine.
Full list countries votes is at the end of the below link.
General Assembly plenary
General Assembly plenary

From: Ricken Patel - []
Sent: Friday, November 30, 2012 3:34 AM
Subject: Huuuuge Victory - UN Recognizes Palestine!!

Avaazers, it's time to celebrate!

A few minutes ago, the UN voted overwhelmingly to recognise Palestine as the world's 194th state!!! It's a huge victory for the Palestinian people, for peace, for our community, and people across the world are joining with massive crowds in Palestine to celebrate.

The Palestinian people's journey to freedom is far from over. But this is a powerful step, and our community played a key role in it. Palestine's Ambassador to Europe said today:

"Avaaz and its members across the world have played a crucial role in persuading governments to support the Palestinian people's bid for a state and for freedom and peace. They have stood with us throughout and their solidarity and support will be remembered and cherished across Palestine." - Leila Shahid, General Palestinian Delegate to Europe

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Brussels Action: While EU leaders were met, THIS was happening right outside their windows

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Madrid Action: Avaaz members want Spain PM Rajoy to say YES!
The US and Israeli governments, beholden to extreme lobby groups (yes, sadly even Obama has given in), threw everything they had at crushing this vote, using financial threats and even threatening to overthrow the Palestinian President if he went ahead. Europe was the key swing vote, and under intense US pressure, leaders were, just two weeks ago, leaning towards not supporting the Palestinian state. Knowing the stakes, our community responded with the speed and democratic force that we needed to win:
  • Nearly 1.8 million of us signed the petition calling for statehood.
  • Thousands of us donated to fund public opinion polls across Europe -- showing that a whopping 79% of Europeans supported a Palestinian state. Our polls were plastered all over the media, and repeatedly cited in Parliamentary debates in the UK, Spain and France!
  • We sent tens of thousands of emails, Facebook messages and Tweets to leaders across Europe and made thousands of calls to foreign ministries and heads of state.
  • We unfurled a giant 4-storey banner outside the EU Commission in Brussels (right) while leaders were meeting inside. Then, we staged another stunt in Madrid. Previously, we had sailed a flotilla of ships past the UN calling for a vote. Our actions made headlines all over Europe.
  • Avaaz staff and members met with dozens and dozens of government ministers, top advisors, senior journalists, parliamentarians and thought leaders in each of the key countries, in many cases teaming up to win over leaders one by one through advocacy, pressure, parliamentary resolutions and public statements, always drawing on the surge in people power behind this cause.
  • We reached out to key thought leaders like Stéphane Hessel, a 94-year old survivor of Nazi concentration camps, and Ron Pundak, an Israeli who played a key role in Oslo peace process, to speak out in favour of statehood.
One by one, key European states broke with the US to answer the call of justice and their peoples. In the final vote tally we got just now, only 9 countries out of 193 have voted against! France, Spain, Italy, Sweden and most of Europe has voted for Palestine.

The US and Israel argued first that statehood was dangerous for peace, and then, when they'd lost, that it didn't matter and the vote was just symbolic. But if it were just symbolic they wouldn't have done everything to try and stop it. And after years of bad-faith negotiations and Israeli comfort with the status quo as they steadily colonize more Palestinian land, this move shows the US and Israel that if they do not engage in good faith, the Palestinians and the world are prepared to move forward without them. It's a more balanced basis for real peace talks. And that's the best alternative to the kind of violence we saw Israel's government and Hamas offer in Gaza this month.

For decades the Palestinian people have suffered under a stifling Israeli military dictatorship, repressive controls on their travel and work, continual denial of their rights and the constant threat of insecurity and violence. 65 years ago today, the UN recognized the state of Israel, beginning a path to the establishment of a safe home for the Jewish people. Today the Palestinians take a step down the same path, and gain a dignity in the eyes of the international community that they have been denied for a generation. And from that dignity, we can build the foundations of peace.

With hope and joy,

Ricken, Alice, Ari, Wissam, Allison, Sam, Julien, Pascal, Wen, Pedro, Saravanan, Emma, Ben, Dalia, Alexey, Paul, Marie, Aldine, Luca, Jamie, Morgan and the whole Avaaz team.

PS Here are some sources - The Associated Press covers today's victory, the Guardian covers our polling two weeks ago, Avaaz's Daily Briefing provides a map of the vote result, and Haaretz describes Israel's response.



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Amira Hass: Israel's 'Right to Self-defense', Nobel Laureates, other notables call for Arms Boycott

Israel's 'right to self-defense' - a tremendous propaganda victory

By supporting Israel's offensive on Gaza, Western leaders have given the Israelis carte blanche to do what they're best at: Wallow in their sense of victimhood and ignore Palestinian suffering.

Haaretz: 04:06 19.11.12 |
One of Israel's tremendous propaganda victories is that it has been accepted as a victim of the Palestinians, both in the view of the Israeli public and that of Western leaders who hasten to speak of Israel's right to defend itself. The propaganda is so effective that only the Palestinian rockets at the south of Israel, and now at Tel Aviv, are counted in the round of hostilities. The rockets, or damage to the holiest of holies - a military jeep - are always seen as a starting point, and together with the terrifying siren, as if taken from a World War II movie, build the meta-narrative of the victim entitled to defend itself.

Every day, indeed every moment, this meta-narrative allows Israel to add another link to the chain of dispossession of a nation as old as the state itself, while at the same time managing to hide the fact that one continuous thread runs from the 1948 refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, the early 1950s expulsion of Bedouin from the Negev desert, the current expulsion of Bedouin from the Jordan Valley, ranches for Jews in the Negev, discrimination in budgets in Israel, and shooting at Gazan fishermen to keep them from earning a respectable living. Millions of such continuous threads link 1948 to the present. They are the fabric of life for the Palestinian nation, as divided as it may be in isolated pockets. They are the fabric of life of Palestinian citizens of Israel and of those who live in their lands of exile.

But these threads are not the entire fabric of life. The resistance to the threads that we, the Israelis, endlessly spin is also part of the fabric of life for Palestinians. The word resistance has been debased to mean the very masculine competition of whose missile will explode furthest away (a competition among Palestinian organizations, and between them and the established Israeli army). It does not invalidate the fact that, in essence, resistance to the injustice inherent in Israeli domination is an inseparable part of life for each and every Palestinian.

The foreign and international development ministries in the West and in the United States knowingly collaborate with the mendacious representation of Israel as victim, if only because every week they receive reports from their representatives in the West Bank and Gaza Strip about yet another link of dispossession and oppression that Israel has added to the chain, or
because their own taxpayers' money make up for some of the humanitarian disasters, large and small, inflicted by Israel.

On November 8, two days before the attack on the holiest of holies - soldiers in a military jeep - they could have read about IDF soldiers killing 13-year old Ahmad Abu Daqqa, who was playing soccer with his friends in the village of Abassan, east of Khan Yunis. The soldiers were 1.5 kilometers from the kids, inside the Gaza Strip area, busy with "exposing" (a whitewashed word for destroying ) agricultural land. So why shouldn't the count of aggression start with a child? On November 10, after the attack on the jeep, the IDF killed another four civilians, aged 16 to 19.

Wallowing in ignorance

Leaders of the West could have known that, before the IDF's exercise last week in the Jordan Valley, dozens of Bedouin families were told to evacuate their homes. How extraordinary that IDF training always occurs where Bedouin live, not Israeli settlers, and that it constitutes a reason to expel them. Another reason. Another expulsion. The leaders of the West could also have known, based on the full-color, chrome-paper reports their countries finance, that since the beginning of 2012, Israel has destroyed
569 Palestinian buildings and structures, including wells and 178 residences. In all, 1,014 people were affected by those demolitions.

We haven't heard masses of Tel Aviv and southern residents warning the stewards of the state about the ramifications of this destruction on the civilian population. The Israelis cheerfully wallow in their ignorance.  This information and other similar facts are available and accessible to anyone who's really interested. But Israelis choose not to know. This willed ignorance is a foundation stone in the building of Israel's sense of victimization. But ignorance is ignorance: The fact that Israelis don't want to know what they are doing as an occupying power doesn't negate their deeds or Palestinian resistance.

In 1993, the Palestinians gave Israel a gift, a golden opportunity to cut the threads tying 1948 to the present, to abandon the country's characteristics of colonial dispossession, and together plan a different future for the two peoples in the region. The Palestinian generation that accepted the Oslo Accords (full of traps laid by smart Israeli lawyers) is the generation that got to know a multifaceted, even normal, Israeli society because the 1967 occupation allowed it (for the purpose of supplying cheap labor) almost full freedom of movement. The Palestinians agreed to a settlement based on their minimum demands. One of the pillars
of these minimum demands was treating the Gaza Strip and West Bank as a single territorial entity.

But once the implementation of Oslo started, Israel systematically did everything it could to make the Gaza Strip into a separate, disconnected entity, as part of Israel's insistence on maintaining the threads of 1948 and extending them. Since the rise of Hamas, it has done everything to backup the impression Hamas prefers - that the Gaza Strip is a separate political entity where there is no occupation. If that is so, why not look at things as follows: As a separate political entity, any incursion into Gazan territory is an infringement of its sovereignty, and Israel does this all the time. Does the government of the state of Gaza not have the right to respond, to deter, or at least the masculine right - a twin of the IDF's masculine right - to scare the Israelis just as Israel scares the

But Gaza is not a state. Gaza is under Israeli occupation, despite all the verbal acrobatics of both Hamas and Israel. The Palestinians who live there are part of a people whose DNA contains resistance to oppression.

In the West Bank, Palestinian activists try to develop a type of resistance different from the masculine, armed resistance. But the IDF puts down all popular resistance with zeal and resolve. We haven't heard of residents of Tel Aviv and the south complaining about the balance of deterrence the IDF is building against the civilian Palestinian population.

And so Israel again provides reasons for more young Palestinians, for whom Israel is an abnormal society of army and settlers, to conclude that the only rational resistance is spilled blood and counter-terrorizing. And so every Israeli link of oppression and all Israeli disregard of the oppression's existence drags us further down the slope of masculine competition. 
* * *

Nobel peace laureates call for Israel military boycott over Gaza assault

Letter with 52 signatories including artists and activists also denounces US and EU 'complicity' through weapons sales

in Jerusalem,

A group of Nobel peace prize-winners, prominent artists and activists have issued a call for an international military boycott of Israel following its assault on the Gaza Strip this month.

The letter also denounces the US, EU and several developing countries for what it describes as their "complicity" through weapons sales and other military support in the attack that killed 160 Palestinians, many of them civilians, including about 35 children.

The 52 signatories include the Nobel peace laureates Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel; the film directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach; the author Alice Walker; the US academic Noam Chomsky; Roger Waters of Pink Floyd; and Stéphane Hessel, a former French diplomat and Holocaust survivor who was co-author of the universal declaration of human rights.

"Horrified at the latest round of Israeli aggression against the 1.5 million Palestinians in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip and conscious of the impunity that has enabled this new chapter in Israel's decades-old violations of international law and Palestinian rights, we believe there is an urgent need for international action towards a mandatory, comprehensive military embargo against Israel," the letter says.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

2 Great Entertainment Events this Saturday - Loafers Glory, and Roy Zimmerman

   Believe me, if the Ash Grove were around, this would be one of our most amazing
evenings.  Unfortunately, you have to make a choice between one of the greatest
bluegrass bands today, and one of the funniest, most musical and meaningful comedians 
you'll ever experience.  I still can't make up my mind which to get to.
4316 Sepulveda Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90230
Phone (310) 398-2583 -
Come down to the crossroads... Culver and Sepulveda



Saturday, December 1, 2012 Loafer's Glory - 8 pm
Tickets $20.00 (On sale 11/17/2012)

Loafer's Glory

Southern California has always been a haven for interested parties trying to find good live bluegrass, folk and blues. In the winter of February 2010, four players decided to form a new group with a direction combining the best of old-time and bluegrass music. These brave hearts have been playing acoustic music for the better part of 45 years, and found that this is indeed the time for another highly skilled acoustic band... "Loafer's Glory". Featuring Tom Sauber on fiddle and 5 string banjo, Patrick Sauber on 5-string banjo, mandolin, and guitar, Bill Bryson on upright bass, and Herb Pedersen on guitar and banjo. Four players with incredible resumes that could fill a book.


entertaining ideas from the historical to the hysterical!
Jeannine Frank * (310) 476-6735 * (310) 666-9066

Parlor Performances at Cornerstone Conservatory presents...

An Evening with Singing Political Satirist ROY ZIMMERMAN


Zimmerman displays a lacerating wit and keen awareness of society's

foibles that bring to mind a latter-day Tom Lehrer. Los Angeles Times

Roy Zimmerman color image

Saturday, Dec. 1st at 7:30pm


12121 W. Pico Bl. * one door w. of Bundy * Lot of free parking!

$25 / $20 for next 10 people to RSVP! * Cash at the door!

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Senator Bernie Sanders: What 'Grand Bargainers' Simpson and Bowles Really Stand For


What ‘Grand Bargainers’ Simpson and Bowles Really Stand For

: November 28, 2012

There has been a lot of discussion about Congress enacting a “grand bargain” during the lame duck session of Congress. Many members of Congress have talked about using the plan put forward by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles as an outline for a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction.

Let me take this opportunity to tell you a little about Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles and what their plan would do.

As many of you know, Alan Simpson is a former conservative Republican Senator from Wyoming who has wanted to cut Social Security benefits for decades.

Here are just a few of the rude, inaccurate, and derogatory statements that Alan Simpson has made about Social Security:

  • On August 24, 2010, Alan Simpson wrote in an e-mail to the head of the Older Women’s League: “And yes, I’ve made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know ‘em too. It’s the same with any system in America. We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits! Call when you get honest work!”
  • On Friday, May 6, 2011, Alan Simpson told the Investment Company Institute, that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme”, “not a retirement program.” Simpson went on to say that Social Security “was never intended as a retirement program. It was set up in ‘37 and ‘38 to take care of people who were in distress — ditch diggers, wage earners — it was to give them 43 percent of the replacement rate of their wages. The [life expectancy] was 63. That’s why they set retirement age at 65.”
  • On June 19, 2010, Alan Simpson said: “Social Security was never a retirement. It was set up to take care of poor guys in the depression who lost their butts who were getting butchered.”

Erskine Bowles has been a board member of Morgan Stanley since 2005 and made a fortune as a Wall Street investment banker as many of you know.

However, you may not know that Erskine Bowles made the following statement in 2011 at the University of North Carolina: “Paul Ryan is honest, he is straightforward, he is sincere. And the budget that he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan. It is a sensible, straightforward, honest, serious budget and it cut the budget deficit just like we did, by $4 trillion.”

You may also be unaware that Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson endorsed Congressman Charles Bass (R-NH) against progressive Democrat Ann McClane Kuster.

In their endorsement of Rep. Bass, Bowles and Simpson wrote: “Charlie supported a plan that demonstrated it is possible to raise revenues for deficit reduction through pro-growth tax reforms that reduce tax rates for individuals and businesses. Likewise, it is possible to reform entitlement programs … He is a brave leader who deserves the thanks of everyone who really cares about our nation’s future.”

Rep. Bass voted for the Paul Ryan budget that every Democrat in the Senate has voted against. In contrast, Kuster, who went on to defeat Rep. Bass, has said: “Let me be clear: I will never cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. My Tea Party opponent will.”

Even more distressing, in my opinion, is the belief that the Simpson-Bowles plan is a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction that we should be using as a model.

Here are the major elements of the Simpson-Bowles plan that I believe the Democratic Caucus should strongly oppose:

1. Cutting Social Security benefits for current retirees. The Simpson-Bowles plan would reduce Social Security benefits for current retirees by using a “chained-CPI” to determine cost-of-living-adjustments (COLAs). According to the Social Security Administration, enacting a chained CPI would cut Social Security benefits by $112 billion over 10 years meaning that the average Social Security recipient who retires at age 65 would get $560 less a year at age 75 and would get $1,000 less a year at age 85 than under current law.

Two-thirds of senior citizens rely on Social Security for more than half of their income, and the average Social Security benefit today is about $1,200 a month. At a time when seniors haven’t received a Social Security COLA in two out of the last three years as the price of prescription drugs and healthcare have gone up, the Simpson-Bowles plan would make it harder for today’s average senior citizen to make ends meet.

2. Cutting veterans’ benefits. Not only would enacting a chained-CPI be harmful to senior citizens, it would also make substantial cuts to the VA benefits of more than 3 million veterans. The largest cuts in benefits would impact young, permanently disabled veterans who were seriously wounded in combat. According to the Social Security Administration, permanently disabled veterans who started receiving VA disability benefits at age 30 would see their benefits cut by more than $1,300 a year at age 45; $1,800 a year at age 55; and $2,260 a year at age 65. That would be simply unacceptable.

3. Raising the retirement age to 69 years. Increasing the retirement age to 69 would reduce lifetime Social Security benefits for workers by about 13 percent. This would be particularly harmful to construction workers, nurses, factory workers and other labor intensive jobs. According to the Center for Economic Policy and Research, 45 percent of workers who are 58 years of age and older work in physically demanding jobs or jobs with difficult working conditions. Moreover, older Americans have a higher rate of long-term unemployment than any other age group.

4. Cutting Social Security benefits for middle class workers. According to the Social Security Administration, all of the Social Security policy changes in Bowles-Simpson would cut average annual Social Security benefits for middle-income workers (with average annual lifetime earnings of between $43,000 and $69,000) by up to 35 percent.

5. Reducing tax rates for the wealthy and large corporations. The Simpson-Bowles plan would significantly reduce income tax rates for the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations to between 23 and 29 percent — even lower than the top rate of 35% under the Bush tax cuts. Simpson and Bowles claim that some $1.2 trillion in revenue would be increased under their proposal by eliminating or reducing tax expenditures, such as the mortgage interest deduction, and the tax exclusion on employer health insurance and pension plans. However, a March 22, 2012 Congressional Research Service report has suggested that federal income tax rates could be reduced by no more than two percentage points under a realistic scenario of reducing tax expenditures in order to be deficit neutral, and could not reduce the deficit.

The President and almost all Democrats have supported repealing the Bush tax breaks for the top two percent. That means that the top individual income tax rate would be increased from 35 percent to 39.6 percent – the same level under President Clinton when over 22 million new jobs were created. We should eliminate corporate tax loopholes and tax breaks for the wealthy — and use this revenue to reduce the deficit and create jobs, not to lower tax rates.

Other harmful provisions in the Simpson-Bowles plan include:

  • Increasing the regressive gas tax by 15 cents starting next year;
  • Increasing premiums for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program;
  • Increasing interest rates on student loans;
  • Increasing co-payments for middle class veterans receiving health care through the VA;
  • Cutting 450,000 jobs in the federal workforce and private companies under contract with the federal government;
  • Eliminating or limiting the exclusion of taxation on employer provided health insurance and pensions;
  • Encouraging companies to ship jobs to China and other low wage countries by adopting a “territorial” tax system allowing corporations to evade U.S. income taxes by establishing subsidiaries overseas;
  • Increasing taxes on low-income workers making between $10,000 to $20,000 a year by 14.5% in 2021 by moving to a chained-CPI; and
  • Reducing the number of Americans eligible for Medicaid, SSI, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, WIC, Head Start, LIHEAP, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Refundable Child Credit, and the Savers’ credit by shifting to a chained-CPI.

Those are the major elements of the Simpson-Bowles plan. If enacted, they will cause major economic pain to virtually every American, while lowering tax rates for millionaires, billionaires and large corporations even more than President Bush.

For all of these reasons, I hope you will join me in opposing the Simpson-Bowles approach to deficit reduction.

Bernie Sanders is an independent U.S. senator from Vermont. This was written as a “Dear Colleague” letter to members of the U.S. Senate.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

France will vote 'yes' on Palestine, Aussie PM is forced by his party to abstain, 'NO' votes down to 6 - Guess Who...

From: Sid Shniad
France plans 'yes' vote on Palestinian statehood at UNGeneral Assembly

*Vancouver Sun November 27, 2012
France plans 'yes' vote on Palestinian statehood at UN General Assembly *By
Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press*

PARIS - France announced Tuesday that it plans to vote in favour of
recognizing a Palestinian state at the U.N. General Assembly this week.

With the announcement, France becomes the first major European country to
come out in favour, dealing a setback to Israel. The timing of the
announcement appears aimed at swaying other European nations.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told parliament that France has long
supported Palestinian ambitions for statehood and "will respond 'Yes'" when
the issue comes up for a vote "out of a concern for coherency."

The Palestinians say the assembly is likely to vote Thursday on a resolution
raising their status at the U.N. from an observer to a nonmember observer
state, a move they believe is an important step toward a two-state solution
with Israel. A Palestinian state would still not be a full General Assembly
member, however.

Unlike the Security Council, there are no vetoes in the General Assembly and
the resolution is virtually certain of approval. But such a vote by France -
a permanent council member - could weigh on decisions in other European

Europe is divided over the issue. Switzerland and Portugal have said they
will vote for the measure, but Germany is among the countries that have
opposed the bid. Britain's position remains unclear.

Palestinians say they are doing this out of frustration over the four-year
deadlock in peace efforts. They believe an endorsement of their state will
bolster their negotiating position.

Israel strongly opposes the bid, accusing the Palestinians of trying to
bypass negotiations. The resolution would endorse a Palestinian state in the
West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, the territories captured by Israel
in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel opposes a pullback to the 1967 lines.

As French lawmakers applauded Tuesday- many of them members or allies of the
Socialist-led government - Fabius cautioned against raising Palestinian
hopes too high.

"But, but, but, but, but - but at the same time, madame and monsieur
lawmakers, we must show in this case a lot of lucidity," he said.

"On the one hand, because the text is currently being discussed, and I
myself had (Palestinian) President Mahmoud Abbas on the phone yesterday
morning," he said. "On the other hand, because - let's not hide from this -
that this question will be asked at a very delicate moment."

He went on to note the "fragile cease-fire" after the recent deadly fighting
between Hamas and Israel, the Israeli election in January, and the upcoming
"change in composition of the American administration" - with the United
States seen by many as perhaps the most pivotal player in the region.

"In any case, it's only through negotiations - that we ask for without
conditions and immediately between the two sides - that we will be able to
reach the realization of a Palestinian state," Fabius said.

* * *

Sydney Morning Herald November 28, 2012
* Humiliating defeat forces Gillard to back down over Palestinian vote

*Israel's policy of allowing continuing expansion of Israeli settlements was
sabotaging peace and Israel's friends had to send it a message - former
prime minister Bob Hawke*

*Peter Hartcher *

THE Prime Minister was braced for a frontal assault from the Opposition
about her past, but she didn't expect the spontaneous revolt from her own
party over her support for Israel.

Julia Gillard relied on her authority as Prime Minister when she decided on
Monday that Australia would vote in support of Israel in a forthcoming
ballot in the United Nations, but her authority proved inadequate. Gillard
overruled the strong advice of her Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, and
the overwhelming opinion of her cabinet to insist on her position. This set
off a firestorm.

The uprising was led by Bob Carr. ''He was on the ring-a-round,''
canvassing support for his position, said a factional convener. ''I've never
seen a Cabinet minister stand up to a prime minister like that.'' But after
being advised that she was about to face a full Caucus revolt on the matter
on Tuesday, Gillard capitulated. Importantly, the bedrock support base for
Gillard in the Caucus, the Right faction, split.

While the Victorian bloc of the Right wanted to bind all the faction's votes
nationally in support of the Prime Minister, the NSW group refused.

It was a rare and humiliating backdown for a prime minister.

And it was an important marker in Australian political sentiment about the
impassioned dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

Gillard had insisted that Australia vote against giving Palestine observer
status in the UN General Assembly; her party forced her to change
Australia's position to abstaining instead.

Only seven countries are expected to vote against the move to upgrade
Palestinian recognition - Israel, the US, Canada, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau
and the Marshall Islands. If Gillard had prevailed, Australia would have
been the eighth.

Ten ministers representing both Labor factions spoke against the Prime
Minister's stated position in a long Cabinet debate; Tony Burke, Chris
Bowen, Bob Carr, Simon Crean, Craig Emerson, Martin Ferguson, and Peter
Garrett from the Right and Anthony Albanese, Mark Butler and Greg Combet
from the Left.

Only two spoke in support of Gillard's position; Stephen Conroy and Bill
Shorten, both from the Right.

In the debate, it was pointed out that one of Labor's staunchest friends of
Israel, the former prime minister Bob Hawke, had been on the phone urging
ministers to cast Australia's vote as an abstention.

Israel's policy of allowing continuing expansion of Israeli settlements on
was sabotaging peace, Hawke argued, and Israel's friends had to send it a

After Bob Carr got his way, he was the first to go public in defence of his
leader. It was not a humiliation but a textbook case of a leader heeding the
party, said Carr. Which is one way of putting it.
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Eric Foner on 'Lincoln'- a history lesson, Struggles, New and Old, Emerge in Sandy's Wake

Re “Why We Love Politics” (Op-Ed, Nov. 23):
New York, Nov. 23, 2012

The writer, a history professor at Columbia University, won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for history for “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.”

David Brooks praises the new movie “Lincoln” for illuminating “the nobility of politics” and, he hopes, inspiring Americans to reconsider their low regard for politicians. The film depicts Abraham Lincoln’s arm-twisting and political maneuvering in January 1865 to secure approval of the 13th Amendment, which, when ratified by three-quarters of the states, abolished slavery throughout the nation.

This was indeed an important moment in political history. But Mr. Brooks, and the film, offer a severely truncated view. Emancipation — like all far-reaching political change — resulted from events at all levels of society, including the efforts of social movements to change public sentiment and of slaves themselves to acquire freedom.

The 13th Amendment originated not with Lincoln but with a petition campaign early in 1864 organized by the Women’s National Loyal League, an organization of abolitionist feminists headed by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Moreover, from the beginning of the Civil War, by escaping to Union lines, blacks forced the fate of slavery onto the national political agenda.

The film grossly exaggerates the possibility that by January 1865 the war might have ended with slavery still intact. The Emancipation Proclamation had already declared more than three million of the four million slaves free, and Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee and West Virginia, exempted in whole or part from the proclamation, had decreed abolition on their own.

Even as the House debated, Sherman’s army was marching into South Carolina, and slaves were sacking plantation homes and seizing land. Slavery died on the ground, not just in the White House and the House of Representatives. That would be a dramatic story for Hollywood.

New York, Nov. 23, 2012

* * *

Struggles, New and Old, Emerge in Sandy's Wake
Peter Rugh
Nation of Change: 11/25/12

A month after Frankenstorm Sandy struck, battle lines are beginning to be drawn in the wreckage along New York City’s shores. The brewing struggles are taking shape amidst the popular relief effort that sprung up immediately after the storm, pitting organizers and thousands of newly-radicalized activists against the effects of ongoing crises in health care, housing and the environment. Alongside relief are the seeds of rebellion.

Veterans of the Occupy movement, calling themselves Occupy Sandy Relief, have been coordinating the delivery of basic necessities to those in need, filling a void where establishment first-responders — from city agencies to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Red Cross — have fallen short. Michael Premo, who began organizing with Occupy Sandy since the day of the storm, attributes the campaign’s ability to spread far and wide across the city to activists’ commitment to developing relationships with organizations already embedded in neighborhoods where they operate.

“The focus from jump,” Premo said, “has been how to identify local leadership in collaboration community structures like churches in order to build power citywide. Our lateral organizing structure has allowed us to be nimble in a really dynamic way, to spread out across the city and connect people.” By rapidly turning new volunteers into volunteer organizers, they’ve been able to grow quickly and inexpensively. But there are some things that the Occupiers simply aren’t equipped to provide.

Just a few blocks from where President Obama’s helicopter touched down in Staten Island last Thursday, an overturned hot dog truck lay on its side at Robert Raimondi’s front door, resting in sand from the beach that used to be three hundred yards away. “Nobody’s touching anything,” said Raimondi, “Insurance only covers foundation. They tell you to go to FEMA. FEMA tells you to fill out a small business loan. So you get nothing. You get no help other than volunteers.”

On November 16, at a press conference on the steps of City Hall organized by Healthcare for the 99% and other groups, medical professionals called for city, state and federal authorities to step up relief efforts, rather than continuing to outsource it to the improvised efforts of the Occupy movement. Psychiatrist Sandra Turner with the group Physicians for a National Health Program said, “Occupy Sandy has been out there from the very beginning giving help. They’ve sent people out doing canvassing and trying to see what the needs are of the people.” But, she made clear, this is no substitute for devoting the public resources necessary for meeting affected people’s needs.

The speak-out on the steps of City Hall represents one of several pressure campaigns that have begun sprouting up alongside relief efforts.

The debate in the Occupy movement around “demands,” once so heated at the fall 2011 encampment in Zuccotti Park, has faded amidst so many immediate and concrete demands that Occupy Sandy now confronts daily on the front lines of the relief effort. The Occupy organizers in orange fluorescent vests rushing around the relief hub in a church at 520 Clinton Ave. in Brooklyn, or shoveling out sand from basements in the Rockaways, or going door-to-door and delivering food to elderly residents on the upper floors of the city’s public housing complexes, are part of a maturing resistance movement that is growing deep roots in communities across the city. In some cases, they are even working closely with some of the same people who conducted raids on Occupy’s encampment in the Financial District a year ago.

Occupy activist Yoni Miller described a recent meeting he attended in which a representative of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office and the New York Police Department were present, along with National Guardsmen and an aide to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “It was really weird,” said Miller. “They were succumbing to meeting with Occupiers, this group they despise so much.”

In the low-lying Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook, Occupy Sandy helped reestablish the Adobo Family Health Center, providing generators and medical equipment to the only clinic in the area. Occupiers then had to seek the city’s help to keep this medical lifeline going. City officials, Miller recalled, “were harping on the different efforts that they were doing in the Rockaways, medical-wise. But when we had very basic requests, like to have one person to supervise 30 bed-bound patients, none of these power players were able to meet that need.”

A lack of basic health care for New York City residents existed before the storm, and it is not the only crisis that Sandy has exacerbated. On November 4, Mayor Bloomberg told reporters that 40,000 people have been left without shelter, nearly doubling the city’s previous homeless population and compounding an existing housing shortage. “We don’t have a lot of empty housing in this city,” he said, “so it’s really a problem to find housing when we need it.”

Kendall Jackman, an organizer with Picture the Homeless, wasn’t convinced. “We know there’s vacant housing in the city, because here it is,” Jackman said, as she stood in front of a row of city-owned properties on 129th St. in Harlem. Jackman pointed to the boarded-up doors with her cane. “They have all these buildings that people could be living in,” she said, “but instead they’re selling them to folks who are creating housing that we can’t live in.”

A study recently conducted by Picture the Homeless and Hunter College revealed that there are enough vacant properties in the five boroughs of New York City to house 71,707 people. What’s more, the study only covers one third of the city; 39 districts remain to be surveyed. If vacant lots were to be factored into the data, that would add potential housing for 199,981 more people. Picture the Homeless is calling for the city to use the current crisis as an opportunity to address the lack of basic housing that existed before the storm.

So far, according to Narlena Lunnon, the Bloomberg administration has been putting “a band-aid on a band-aid.” With three grandchildren at her side, Lunnon, a resident of the city-owned development Red Hook Houses, addressed those who were crowded into a classroom at Public School 27 in Red Hook on November 14 — a meeting facilitated by Occupy activists. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) had been largely absent throughout the ordeal, but recently representatives of the agency started to appear in the neighborhood, posting rent slips to people’s doors. The people in the room were united and angry.

“Those temporary generators aren’t going to do nothing,” Lunnon said. “The minute everybody plugs in the appliances they really need, the lights are going to go right back out. Fire trucks are going by left and right. There are sparks everywhere. I’m smelling gas all up and down the street. Nobody will tell us nothing. Oh, but you want your rent though!

After the applause died down, Lunnun continued. “I’m tired of the free blankets. I’m tired of my grandchildren going to bed cold. I’m tired of old people telling me they’re hurting because they can’t get up the stairs.

“If you can’t get no officials down here,” Lunnun told the Occupy Sandy activists facilitating the meeting, “I got to go to City Hall and keep screaming.”

It is in rooms like this that a push for a people’s recovery is beginning to emerge. At a follow-up meeting five days later, Red Hook residents put out a call for November’s rent to be waved and began plans for a rally to pressure NYCHA into meeting their demands. While the effort is being spearheaded largely by the Red Hook community, those living in public housing across the city who lost power, heat and gas due to the storm are being encouraged to participate.

That night, at a long table on the upper floor of Occupy Sandy’s distribution hub at 520 Clinton Ave., representatives of groups concerned with the environment, housing, health care and other issues sat together with people from several unions and Occupy Sandy. It was the first time that many in the room had met one another. The meeting focused both on immediate, on-the-ground needs and on laying out the basis for a recovery in which workers are paid a prevailing wage and New Yorkers’ essential needs are met. The meeting was the first of its kind, but it will not be the last.

“There has to be some form of accountability,” said Juan Carlos Ruiz, a community organizer and pastor at St. Jacobi Church in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, which became Occupy Sandy’s first distribution center. He expressed concerns that FEMA and the Red Cross would be withdrawing from Coney Island and from other regions hit by the storm in the near future. “They have all this money and resources but haven’t been meeting basic needs. We got folks out there without heat, without gas.”

He raised other concerns as well, concerns which will surely be impacted by how the city responds to this crisis: “What about renewable sources of power? We can put solar panels on these roofs. We have an opportunity to implement real solutions with a long-term vision.”

Back in Staten Island, Robert Raimondi would have agreed. “Lets get some solar, lets get some wind, lets get some help!” he said.

At the storm-ravaged YANA (You Are Never Alone) worker training center in Queens, Occupy Sandy has already begun implementing the long-term vision Ruiz spoke about. A week after it initially opened to serve the Rockaway community, floodwaters from Sandy inundated the center’s storefront structure. YANA later reopened its doors as a relief center. Now, activists have launched the “Restore YANA Project” and are rebuilding it as an example of sustainable design that could be utilized across New York and New Jersey’s regions in recovery. They’re treating the building for mold and laying down copper pennies on the floor to trap heat. The lights are already back on, thanks to solar power provided by Greenpeace.

Labor and environmental historian Jeremy Brecher suggests that the “social self-defense” Occupy Sandy is currently engaged in is forging “a connection between a set of values and political objectives and concrete daily life problems that ordinary folks face.”

Brecher tells a parable: A group of people are walking along a stream when a drowning person floats their way. They pull him ashore and start delivering artificial respiration when another body comes bobbing by. Just as they are resuscitating that person, yet another body comes downstream. All of a sudden one guy takes off sprinting upstream. “Hey where you going?” his friends call out after him, “What if another body comes by?”

“I’m going to see who’s pushing these people in,” he replies.

While doing the hard work of resuscitating the city, Occupy Sandy is also heading upstream toward City Hall and Wall Street, the forces it identifies as having submerged the city in deprivation to begin with. Rather than remaining splintered by the storm, communities are coming together to support one another. These bonds forged through relief will be tested in the struggle for a revitalized city ahead.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

On Gaza's "Severe Damage" and Why Truce Won't Stop the Violence of Occupation

Sharif Abdel Kouddous on Gaza’s "Severe Damage" and Why Truce Won’t Stop the Violence of Occupation
Democracy Now: November 26, 2012

AMY GOODMAN: As we continue speaking with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abel Kouddous in Cairo. He just returned to Egypt on Saturday after several days in Gaza. On Wednesday, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi brokered a deal to end Israel’s assault on Gaza that killed 170 Palestinians. During that period, six Israelis were killed as well in Palestinian rocket attacks. Earlier today, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak who presided over the assault on Gaza announced his resignation. Sharif, can you talk about the terms of the cease-fire and the reactions in Gaza afterwards?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: The reaction was one of celebration in Gaza. It was a very bizarre countdown to the 9:00 P.M. deadline which marked the end of the violence. The bombs were falling up until the very last minute. A Palestinian man was killed in the final minutes right before the 9 P.M. deadline. When it did come, we very quickly heard in Gaza cheers going out, mosques going on the loud speakers and claiming victory over Israel, cars whizzing in the streets, and it turned into a massive street celebration by many Gazans.

As you mentioned, the death toll is around 170. They are still getting the accurate figures. At least 34 of those are children. Over 100 are civilians. The destruction in Gaza is severe. The Israeli military targeted many civil institutions, a massive civil administration complex know as Abu Hudra that — where Palestinians would go to get Ids and documents, a bridge, dozens of homes and offices and apartment buildings have been reduced to rubble.

So, in asking Palestinians why they consider this a victory, it’s that they feel that Israel did not achieve any of its objectives, that they managed to avoid a ground invasion by Israeli forces, and they overwhelmingly put this to the resistance, to Hamas’ and other Palestinian factions’ resistance and rocket fire. Many Palestinians that you speak to say that this is the reason that they got a cease-fire, that what they view is on favorable terms.

Now, it must be said — so, part of the deal is that Israel will stop targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders, which they killed the Ahmed Jabari the head of the Hamas’ military wing last week, which set off this week of violence, and they’ve promised to stop ground incursions as well. On the Palestinian side, Hamas has promised to stop rocket attacks, and so forth. This is all guaranteed by Egypt.

What is interesting, also, and is also left very vague, is that Israel has promised to ease the movement of people and goods across the borders. Now, it must be said this is not talking about lifting the blockade that has crippled Gaza ever since Hamas was elected and took over the territory, but we have already seen an easing of some restrictions.

Palestinian fisherman who were barred from going out more than three kilometers from the coast are now allowed to go 6 kilometers, even though under the terms of the Oslo agreement, they are supposed to be able to go 20 kilometers. But, what was   inspiring in a way, on Friday, was in Hanunis in Southern Gaza on the eastern border, the border with Israel, there’s buffer zones   across the border with Israel of about 1,000 feet or more where Palestinians cannot go or risk being shot by Israeli forces.

The terms of the cease-fire were vague on these buffer zones. But, what we saw after Friday prayer was hundreds of Palestinians walking out into these buffer zones without assurance of what the response by the Israeli military would be. And many of them, it was the first time they had walked on the land for many years. Farmers were grabbing the soil for the first time and promising that they would, the next day, begin to form the soil that they hadn’t been able to for many years.

One Palestinian man was actually killed; him and a group of young men approached the border fence and began throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded by opening fire. So, it shows the fragility of the ceasefire agreement. But, if you just look at that difference in responses in Gaza, the massive celebrations on the streets and the response in Israel, the resignation of the Defense Minister, small protests in some Israeli cities against the terms of the cease-fire. We can see that most people are calling this, at least in Gaza, a victory for the Palestinians.

AMY GOODMAN: The affect on children? The estimates now, Palestinian medical officials say the death toll around 170, included up to 34 children.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: That’s right. The affect on children is devastating, really. We know the death toll and the number of wounded, but what really go uncounted are the severe emotional and mental trauma that many children suffer. The repeated Israeli air strikes have a sever effect on many children. And we’ve seen this effect from Israel’s even more brutal assault in 2008 and 2009, dubbed Operation Cast Lead.

I saw several families and spoke with them; children who — one child, his name is Hela Debwalta [sp] who can no longer talk after a Israeli missile strike shook the room he was in so hard, the doors blew off the hinges, and so he went into shock and never fully recovered. Another woman, Heba Allalter [sp], her daughter, 13-year-old daughter, Diann [sp] cannot stop crying. She needs to be held at all times, cannot walk without her mother holding her hand, and is constantly terrified.

So we always hear about the physical destruction, the death toll, and the wounded, but the severe, sever mental trauma that not only on children, but on adults as well, has really taken its toll on Gaza, and you can see it by speaking to the victims of this Israeli offensive.

AMY GOODMAN: Sharif, in an interview with the BBC, Sunday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, urged the U.S. to take a decisive lead in the resolution of the Palestinian-Isreali problems. This is what he said.

WILLIAM HAGUE: It is time for a huge effort on the Middle East peace process. This is what I have been calling for, particularly calling for the United States, now after the election, to show the necessary leadership on this over the coming months, because they have crucial leverage with Israel that no other country has. But yes, it does need the very active support of European nations and Arab nations to create incentives and disincentives for all involved to make sure that this final — that this last chance — we’re coming to the final chance maybe for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

INTERVIEWER: Would you like to see Bill Clinton come in?

WILLIAM HAGUE: Well I heard David Miliband saying that earlier. I think, in the government, we will keep our conversations with the Americans about these things private. But, certainly, on form or another, whatever personal form it takes, we do look to the United States to take a decisive lead on this in the coming months. And after the tragic conflict in Gaza, in the last ten days, if it is now possible to move on to the opening up of access in and out of Gaza and stopping the smuggling of weapons into Gaza, well then some good could actually come of that awful crisis and terrible casualty.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s British Foreign Secretary, William Hague. What is your sense, Sharif, of Palestinians’ feelings about the United States being an honest broker here?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, there’s no question, that they view the U.S. as being a dishonest broker, a huge disappointment with the Obama administration, but really a lack of surprise. The U.S. displaying the same kind of staunch unwavering support for Israel that it has had for decades.

The essence of the problem, the cease-fire may have stopped the immediate violence, but the essence of the problem, the core of the problem is the occupation. Israel withdrew its illegal settlers in 2005 but it has maintained control of the Gaza’s borders, Gaza’s air, Gaza’s water access, preventing exports. And this by international legal definitions, is still occupation. The crippling siege of Gaza — the U.N. issued a report in August saying by 2020 Gaza would be unlivable. This is the core of the issue, and if these fundamental issues aren’t addressed, if we just see a slight easing of restrictions on the movement of goods — and also to mention that Egypt is complicit in this siege, with the Rafah border crossing being closed to trade and most of the trade being done illicitly in these tunnels. It’s the core of the problem the occupation isn’t addressed, that we’re going to see, going to continue to see these waves of violence, waves of attacks by Israel.

To the United States’ discredit, it has not acted as an honest broker. We saw them pull out all diplomatic stops to prevent the bid for observer status at the United Nations, and the Palestinians are going to go again this year to the United Nations with the same bid. We will have to wait and see whether the U.S. puts on the same pressure on so many other countries to reject that.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, following the cease-fire, Sharif, reports have emerged bolstering speculation Israel launched the assault as a means to prepare potential future attack on Iran. The New York Times reports, the Gaza assault and the rocket attacks it provoked were, "something of a practice run for any future armed confrontation with Iran." Your response to that they cited unnamed Israeli and U.S. officials?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: It is difficult to say. I mean, the two situations are so completely different. The fact that Hamas’ military wing and other militant Palestinian factions were able to continue firing rockets into Israel while this assault was going — that it is unclear how their capacity was affected but it seems that they still have this capacity, going forward. A completely different situation to what is essentially a group in an open air prison compared to a very powerful country in the Middle East, Iran, with a massive army. So, a training run, I don’t see how the two are comparrible at all. The very notion of practicing or training by killing up to 170 people, most of them civilians, including over 30 children, is reprehensible. We have to think of things in these terms, not in geopolitical terms, that we sometimes hear in publications like The New York Times.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Sharif, for joining us. Sharif Abel Kouddous, Democracy Now! correspondent, wrote a piece last week before Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s announcement of taking more power, called " Mohamed Morsi in the Middle ."

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Uri Avneri: The Big Winner is Hamas

Weekend Edition November 23-25, 2012
"Once and For All"

The Big Winner is Hamas

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.

No more.

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.

Through out 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,


URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

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