URI AVNERY – Commentary on Palestinian Politics

URI AVNERY – Commentary on Palestinian Politics

THE CLOSER Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, gets to the end of his reign, the more extreme his language becomes.

Recently he spoke about Donald Trump and uttered the words “May your house be destroyed”. In Arabic this is a common curse, and sounds less extreme than in English. But even in Arabic this is not a usual phrase when speaking about a head of state.        

This week Abbas spoke about the USA ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and called him a “Son of a Dog”. This, too, sounds in Arabic slightly less offensive than in English, but is hardly diplomatic.

It is hard to say that Friedman does not deserve it, though I would have wished, as a dog-lover, that Abbas had chosen another animal.

Friedman is a kippah-wearing Jew, who identifies completely with the most extreme settlers in the occupied territories. He certainly would be more fitting as Israeli ambassador to the USA than as USA ambassador to Israel.

That would be problematic, too, because he has called liberal American Jews “worse than Capos” – “Capos” (short for “camp police”) were the prisoners who assisted the Nazis in the concentration camps.

To appoint such a Jewish fascist ambassador to Israel is – well – chutzpah. This could not happen in a normal country, which does not send an ambassador to a country in which he or she has a personal involvement. But Trump does not care. Not for Israel and not for Palestine.

SO WHAT does Trump really care about? He cares about votes in USA elections.

Sending a religious Jew to serve as his ambassador in Jerusalem may gain him some votes in the US Jewish community. American Jews generally vote for the Democrats. Why? Out of habit. Generations of new immigrants to the US have voted for the Democratic party – the Irish before the Jews, the Asians after the Jews.

But most American Jews will continue to vote for the Democrats, in spite of the kippah on the head of Friedman. There are voices in the Jewish community which accuse their leaders of neglecting their own concerns, such as rising anti-Semitism, and spending all their energies supporting Israel’s extreme right-wing government.

But Trump has far more important supporters: the millions of evangelists. These peculiar Christian fanatics have a special vision: they believe that Jesus Christ will return once all the Jews congregate in the Holy Land.

They do not like to mention what they expect to happen next: The Jews will convert to Christianity, and those who do not will perish.

Sounds strange? It sure is strange. But Trump needs these millions of votes, without which he would not have been elected in the first place. He acts according to the beliefs of this sect.

As a result, the President of the USA totally ignores the rights of the Palestinian people and their aspirations. According to him, the Palestinians must accept what is offered to them, as a dog must accept what his master throws to him and wag his tail. What exactly? Trump’s masterful Peace Plan is still wrapped in secrecy. But it is enough to know who is in charge of it: His Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

So it is natural for Abbas to despair. He knows that during his remaining days in office, nothing good will happen to the Palestinians.

NEVER SINCE the emergence of the modern Palestinian nation has its situation been as dire as it is now.

The inhabitants of Palestine began to feel like a nation at the end of World War I, when the Ottoman Empire broke down. Photos of demonstrations held at the time in Jerusalem show the new Palestinian flag – black, white, green and red. Until then, the Palestinians were generally considered “South Syrians”. But when Syria was turned over to the French and Palestine to the British, this tie was broken.

Since then, the Palestinians have experienced many events: the Zionist influx, the Great Arab Rebellion of 1936, the United Nations partition resolution of 1947, the end of British rule, the war of 1948, the Naqbah (catastrophe), the several wars, the rise and murder of Yasser Arafat, and more. But never was their situation as desperate as now.

True, the heart of all the Arab peoples, and indeed all the Muslim peoples, has remained true to the Palestinians. But there is no Arab – or Muslim – government which is not ready to sell the Palestinian cause for its own interests.

Throughout the world there is a lot of sympathy for the Palestinians, but no government would lift a finger for them. And the most powerful country in the world is now their open enemy.

AS IF all this was not enough, the Palestinians themselves are deeply divided between the PLO in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This is so much in the interest of the Israeli government that it is difficult not to suspect that it is involved.

Between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River there live now about 13 million people, about half of them Jews and the other half Arabs. The Arabs may have a slight majority, which will grow continuously because of their higher birth rate. That does frighten the Zionist demographers. So they “cut off” the Gaza Strip from the rest of the country, pretending that its 2 million inhabitants do not belong to Palestine. That makes the problem seem a little less frightening.

This is the situation now. There is a tacit agreement in Israel not to “count” the inhabitants of the Strip. They are not there. There is only the West Bank, which must be Judaized.

A DESPERATE situation has one advantage: It encourages the search for new solutions.

That is happening now on the Palestinian side. Without waiting for the stepping down of Abbas and the appointment of a new leader, new ideas are popping up.

Yasser Arafat once explained to me why he entered the path to Oslo. We tried everything, he said. We tried the armed struggle. We tried diplomacy. We tried full-scale wars. Everything failed. So we entered a new road: Peace with Israel. (The first sign was Arafat’s inviting me to a meeting in Beirut.)

It is clear now that Oslo has failed. Yitzhak Rabin was murdered. In Israel the extreme right is in power. It steals the land and puts settlers on it. Israel has a leader who hates the Palestinians, an annexationist from birth.

The path to peace is blocked. The generation of Mahmoud Abbas, the generation of Yasser Arafat, has reached the end of its road.

And here comes a new generation. In a few weeks, a new chapter in the Palestinian story may start.

There have always been voices in the Palestinian community who advocated non-violent struggle. They found no listeners, because in Arab tradition, struggles are generally violent. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were not Muslims.

Now the idea of the non-violent struggle is raising its head. Not because of its moral aspect, but because it promises results.

In a few weeks, the Palestinians will start a non-violent campaign. Its declared aim is the return of the refugees. Thousands of Palestinians are about to march to the borders with Israel, first in the Gaza Strip and then in other places. They will not confront the Israeli army, and not break through the fences. Instead they will put up tent camps on the Palestinian side of the fences and stay there for a long time.

This is a well-tried method. The sleepy Palestinian cause will suddenly return to life. From all over the world, journalists will come and see. The camps will become centers of world attention. Throughout Europe and the world, solidarity camps will spring up. In the Arab countries, the princes and Emirs will find it hard to suppress demonstrations of sympathy.

And what then? Allah is great.

IN MY eyes, this plan has one great defect: The official aim.

If the protest movement concentrated on the aim of Palestinian independence, the world would give its blessing. There is now a world-wide consensus in favor of Palestinian statehood and the end of the Israeli occupation. In Israel, too, this aim has a lot of supporters. “Two States” or one colonial state, independence or occupation – the choice is clear.

The refugee problem is quite different. During the war of 1948, some 650 thousand Palestinians were displaced, either in the turmoil of the fighting or as a deliberate Israeli policy. By now, their families have grown to 6 million.

Some live in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, some in the countries around Israel and throughout the world. Some have taken root and started a new life, some are still refugees, supported by the international community. All are longing for their ancestral homes.

Bringing them back would mean the end of Israel, the displacement of millions of Israelis. This would be possible only through war. The very idea frightens every Israeli.

Is there no solution? I believe there is.

Once, after a very emotional meeting with Palestinian refugees in America, I told my wife: “You know what my impression is? That these people are less interested in an actual return than in moral compensation. They want Israel to confess and apologize.”

When drawing up plans for peace, I proposed (a) to apologize officially, (b) to allow the return of a symbolic number of refugees, (c) to pay compensation to all others.

How many would be allowed to return? A number of 100 thousand has been mentioned. I believe that we can do much better. In a situation of peace and reconciliation, even the addition of half a million to Israel’s present 1.5 million Palestinian citizens would be acceptable.

I discussed this solution with Yasser Arafat. My impression was that he agreed more or less, though he kept the refugee issue as a bargaining chip. Anyhow, this is no longer the main problem in the way of peace.

So why go back 70 years? In a major Palestinian campaign, as planned now, why not concentrate on the main point: an end to the occupation, a State of Palestine next to the State of Israel?

THE NON-VIOLENT struggle is an excellent idea.

It reminds me of a saying of the late Abba Even: “People and states always do the right thing – after all other possibilities have been exhausted.”

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  • Clyde Duncan  On 03/26/2018 at 11:45 am

    A Domestic Budget to Make Barack Obama Proud

    The Republican Congress didn’t just ignore Trump’s proposals:

    The $1.3 trillion spending bill actually fulfilled — or even exceeded — many of the funding requests of his Democratic predecessor.

    Russell Berman | The Atlantic

    President Obama finally got a Republican-controlled Congress to fund his domestic budget. All it took was Donald Trump in the White House to get it done.

    In the $1.3 trillion spending bill that President Trump reluctantly signed on Friday, lawmakers did more than reject the steep cuts in dollars and programs that Trump proposed for domestic agencies a year ago.

    Across much of the government, Republican leaders agreed to spending levels that matched or even exceeded what Obama asked Congress to appropriate in his final budget request in 2016 — and many of which lawmakers ignored while he was in office.

    The Department of Health and Human Services received $78 billion, nearly identical to the $77.9 billion Obama sought and almost 20 percent more than what the Trump budget called for.

    Ditto for the Department of Labor and the Department of Education, which got $1.5 billion more than Obama’s final request and nearly $12 billion more than the reduced level Trump sought. Obama-era priorities like Head Start and Pell Grants drew increases, also.

    Congress eliminated none of the 18 independent agencies Trump wanted to scrap, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    And several of the programs he wanted to zero out won huge increases instead.

    Take the TIGER grants, an infrastructure program created by Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus package. Congress had allocated $500 million to it each of the last several years, despite annual Obama requests to boost it to $1.25 billion.

    Trump’s budget called for axing it entirely, but lawmakers went even higher than Obama, giving $1.5 billion to TIGER.

    The spending spikes all contributed to this week’s unexpected display of Democrats celebrating legislation enacted under complete GOP control of Washington. And the victories for a president who has been out of office for a year were not lost on conservatives.

    “This could have been written by President Obama and liberal Democrats,” Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said Thursday night on Fox News, hours before he consented to a vote on a 2,200-page bill most of his colleagues hadn’t had time to read.

    Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska accused his party of hypocrisy. “Every Republican would vote against this disgusting pork bill if a Democrat were president,” he said in a statement.

    The domestic spending increases were set in motion a month ago, when Trump signed a budget agreement Congress approved so that he could get the dramatic spike in military spending he had prioritized all along.

    And Trump took notice. He vented to colleagues about insufficient funding for his southern border wall and the lack of restrictions for so-called sanctuary cities.

    Then, he bemoaned that he was forced to “waste money on Dem giveaways” in order to secure a 10 percent jump in defense spending and some additional funding for border security.

    “This spending agreement brings the era of austerity to an unceremonious end and represents one of the most significant investments in the middle class in recent history,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer proclaimed in a press conference.

    The legislation retained funding for Planned Parenthood despite years of Republican promises to prohibit it.

    “We don’t have the House. We don’t have the Senate. We don’t have the presidency,” Schumer said, “but we produced a darn good bill for the priorities that we believe in.”

    “We ended up spending a lot more money than we wanted to because the Senate rules put the Democrats in the game,” Cole said. “They’re not going to give their votes away for free.”

    Republicans used the higher budget caps to steer money toward programs that they had historically supported, like medical research at the National Institutes of Health, Native American programs, or the college preparatory initiatives Gear Up and TRIO.

    “There’s a lot more money for NIH than Barack Obama proposed in any budget,” Cole said. “There’s a lot more money for Native American programs than he ever proposed.”

    Cole continued: “To say this is the Barack Obama domestic budget is just not true. To say that we’re spending more domestically than we wanted to do is true. But we did that in order to get the defense spending.”

    “I don’t think they were as deeply involved at the subcommittee and committee levels as Obama or Bush,” Cole said. “This administration will probably get there, but it may take a while.”

    “They’re just basically not staffed up to do this work,” said Bill Hoagland, a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center who for two decades served as a top GOP staffer on the Senate Budget Committee.

    Hoagland said the Trump administration was “somewhat irrelevant” in the budget process. It’s a reality that may explain why a Republican president unhappily signed a spending bill that fulfilled his Democratic predecessor’s wishes as much or more than his own.

  • Mark  On 03/26/2018 at 1:31 pm

    Many “Jews” don’t believe in God, yet misuse the Bible to justify genocide and oppression against Palestinian who lived there for hundreds of years!

  • Clyde Duncan  On 03/27/2018 at 1:36 am

    Trump Has Played His Supporters For Suckers

    Eugene Robinson | The Washington Post

    President Trump’s most urgent political problem doesn’t involve Robert S. Mueller III, Stormy Daniels, Vladimir Putin or the hundreds of thousands of voters who marched for gun control. Rather, it’s that his die-hard supporters might be starting to realize how thoroughly he has played them for suckers.

    On immigration, the issue that most viscerally connects the president with his thus-far-loyal base, Trump got basically nothing in the $1.3 trillion spending bill he signed Friday.

    The vaunted “big, beautiful wall” he pledges to build along the 2,000-mile border with Mexico? Trump got 25 miles’ worth of new wall, along with eight miles of new fencing. And the bill specifies that none of this tiny increment can be built using any of the prototype designs Trump so ostentatiously showed off.

    The threatened punishment for “sanctuary cities” that show compassion for undocumented immigrants? Not in there. The money to hire 1,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents? Trump got enough for just 100, with the proviso that they all be administrative and support personnel working in offices, not in the field. The 20 percent increase in funding for detention centers that Trump asked for? Congress not only refused to authorize an extra penny but also went so far as to rebuke ICE for overspending its current detention budget.

    The results sent conservative pundit Ann Coulter into paroxysms on Twitter, flying uncontrollably into all-caps mode. One tweet read simply: “CONGRATULATIONS, PRESIDENT SCHUMER!”

    Coulter referred, of course, to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), and indeed this spending bill in many ways reflected Democratic spending priorities more than Republican.

    Think of it this way: If I told you that the president just signed spending legislation that funds Planned Parenthood but not a border wall, you might wonder for a moment if Barack Obama were still president and this whole ridiculous Donald Trump thing had been just a long, profoundly disturbing dream.

    Sadly, it’s real. But aside from his business-friendly tax cut and deregulation policies, Trump has offered little more than symbolic crumbs to his red-meat base. As Coulter wrote in a column: If “you’re a Trump voter, you’re scratching your head wondering what happened to those campaign promises that set him apart from every other Republican.”

    Trump obviously didn’t actually mean much of the crazy stuff he said during his campaign, but his racism and xenophobia did seem sincere. On immigration, it’s probably the sheer incompetence of the Trump White House that has caused the president to go back on his word.

    On the question of national security, Trump drew cheers at his rallies when he blasted prior administrations for miring us in long-running wars that had drained the country of trillions of dollars without making us any safer.

    Trump promised an “America first” foreign policy that ended attempts at nation-building abroad and instead focused resources and attention on domestic concerns.

    Yet last week he boasted of having hiked defense spending to record levels.

    Trump has sent additional troops to Afghanistan and plunged the U.S. military into the Syrian civil war. And as his new national security adviser he is hiring John Bolton, a super-hawk you might remember from the George W. Bush administration. Bolton is the guy with the Yosemite Sam mustache who led the cheers for the Iraq War, saying, “We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction . . . .”

    Trump has brutally ridiculed the architects of that war, so he and Bolton will have a lot to talk about – it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall for their talks.

    Better that they focus on the past than on the present, because Bolton appears determined to foment dangerous and ill-advised crises with both Iran and North Korea — perhaps at the same time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone in a MAGA hat holding up a sign that says, “Start two more wars!”

    Trump clearly sees the political peril. He briefly threatened not to sign the spending bill, then caved and signed it, then vowed in a tweet that “I will NEVER sign another bill like this again.”

    To prevent a recurrence, he has demanded that Congress give him a line-item veto on spending bills and eliminate the Senate’s filibuster rule — neither of which is going to happen. So he will surely be presented with such legislation again.

    There’s something Trump is as eager to hide as any entanglements with Russians and porn stars: The man who gave us “The Art of the Deal” couldn’t get Congress to approve a resolution supporting Mother’s Day. Even if he brought flowers.

  • kamtanblog  On 03/27/2018 at 12:16 pm

    Simple Simon Says
    Ghandi did it ..independence for India
    Mandela did it ..independence for Africa

    Palestinian can do it too !

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