Tuesday, April 22, 2008

AJ Congress on Carter initiative

Article follows my comments:

Israel has nothing to lose in working the deal with Hamas, not signing is simply missing an opportunity to see fruition of peace. 60 Years have gone by and the policies of leadership on both sides has not resulted in peace, security and hope. It is time to refresh the thinking. Mike Ghouse

AJCongress: Carter Meetings with Hamas Undermines Peace Process, Rewards Terrorism
April 22, 2008 — The American Jewish Congress today denounced last week’s meetings between former President Jimmy Carter and leaders of the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas.

“By meeting with Hamas leaders, President Carter offered the terrorist group an unearned legitimacy and in so doing undermined the entire premise of international diplomacy on the Israel-Palestinian issue,” said AJCongress President Richard S. Gordon.

“The same conditions that applied to U.S. diplomatic contact with the Palestine Liberation Organization should be in effect with respect to Hamas as well,” Mr. Gordon said. These prerequisites have been stated in a new format by the Quartet representing America, Russia the European Union and the United Nations, as preconditions for the resumption of aid to any jurisdiction under Hamas control. To receive aid, a Palestinian government must renounce violence, recognize Israel and respect peace deals previously agreed to. “If these condition apply to aid,” Mr. Gordon said, “how much more so to high level diplomatic contacts?”

Mr. Gordon said that in launching his own personal diplomatic efforts President Carter appears to represent more than just his own views. “Jimmy Carter is not just a well known American figure; he is a former president of the United States and Nobel Peace Prize winner for his role in the 1979 Egyptian-Israel peace treaty,” Mr. Gordon pointed out. “So when he meets with Hamas leaders he is conferring on them a legitimacy they do not deserve.” As soon as his intention to hold talks with Hamas was announced, the State Department strongly but unsuccessfully discouraged Mr. Carter from attending these meetings.

Moreover, Mr. Gordon said, “Mr. Carter does not make American foreign policy anymore. He had his chance while he was president, over a quarter of a century ago. Instead of furthering the cause of peace, he is undermining it by adding his name and reputation to an organization known for murder, terror and bombing innocent civilians. Former presidents need to hold themselves up to a higher standard. Former President Carter’s actions are well below the standard we should expect from our former presidents.”

In defense of the trip, President Carter points to the “new” statement by Hamas that they support the establishment of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, in exchange for which they would agree to a ten year long cease fire.

“For one thing, there’s nothing new here,” said Mr. Gordon. “Hamas has already stated this position several times in the past. For another, Hamas is asking Israel to trade all of the disputed territories in exchange for ten years of quiet, after which Hamas would presumably continue the armed struggle to disestablish the State of Israel.”

“How do we know this? The most recent attempt to present Hamas in moderate terms acceptable for polite company with Western peace makers was the April 17 Washington Post column by the Hamas government foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar. The title, ‘No Peace Without Hamas’ is meant to suggest that there could be peace with Hamas’ involvement.”

Mr. al-Zahar who met with President Carter, praised the former president. “Now, finally, we have the welcome tonic of Carter saying what any independent, uncorrupted thinker should conclude: that no ‘peace plan,’ ‘road map’ or ‘legacy’ can succeed unless we are sitting at the negotiating table and without any preconditions.”

The AJCongress president said that “Even in this masquerade of moderation, Mr. al-Zahar could not restrain himself from insisting that time is on the side of those who want to destroy Israel, not live alongside it in a state of their own.” In his Washington Post column, Mr. al-Zahar wrote that ‘Our fight to redress the material crimes of 1948 is scarcely begun.’ The material crimes of 1948 is code for the establishment of Israel.

Mr. Gordon concluded, “President Carter’s foolishness has not served the cause of peace which can only be based on foundations that do not require Israel to disappear. The message is not ‘No peace without Hamas,’ but rather ‘No Peace With Hamas.’ Can Hamas change? We do not know. But we do know that giving them access for free encourages them to hold to their current extremist positions.”

The American Jewish Congress is a membership association of Jewish Americans, organized to defend Jewish interests at home and abroad, through public policy advocacy, in the courts, Congress, the executive branch and state and local governments. It also works overseas with others who are similarly engaged.

Carter: Hamas is willing

Carter: Hamas is willing to accept Israel as its neighbor
By KARIN LAUB – 6 hours ago

JERUSALEM (AP) — Former President Carter said Monday that Hamas — the Islamic militant group that has called for the destruction of Israel — is prepared to accept the right of the Jewish state to "live as a neighbor next door in peace."

But Carter warned that there would not be peace if Israel and the U.S. continue to shut out Hamas and its main backer, Syria.

The Democratic former president spoke in Jerusalem after meeting last week with top Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal, and his deputy in Syria. It capped a nine-day visit to the Mideast aimed at breaking the deadlock between Israel and Hamas militants who rule the Gaza Strip.

"They (Hamas) said that they would accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, if approved by Palestinians and that they would accept the right of Israel to live as a neighbor next door in peace," Carter said.

In Damascus, Mashaal confirmed that Hamas would be satisfied with a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders — implicitly accepting that Israel would exist alongside that state. But Mashaal stressed the group would never outright recognize the Jewish state.

"We agree to a (Palestinian) state on pre-67 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital with genuine sovereignty without settlements but without recognizing Israel," Mashaal told reporters.

He appeared to be referring to east Jerusalem, since Israel held west Jerusalem before 1967. After the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, Israel declared the entire city of Jerusalem as its capital.

The borders they referred to were the frontiers that existed before Israel captured large swaths of Arab lands in the 1967 Mideast war — including the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza.

In the past, Hamas officials have said they would establish a "peace in stages" if Israel were to withdraw to the borders it held before 1967. But it has been evasive about how it sees the final borders of a Palestinian state and has not abandoned its official call for Israel's destruction.

Israel, which evacuated Gaza in 2005, has accepted the idea of a Palestinian state there and in much of the West Bank. But it has resisted Palestinian demands that it return to its 1967 frontiers.

Carter urged Israel to engage in direct negotiations with Hamas, saying failure to do so was hampering peace efforts.

"We do not believe that peace is likely and certainly that peace is not sustainable unless a way is found to bring Hamas into the discussions in some way," he said. "The present strategy of excluding Hamas and excluding Syria is just not working."

Israel considers Hamas to be a terrorist group and has shunned Carter because of his meetings with Mashaal and other Hamas figures. Hamas has been behind dozens of suicide bombings and other attacks that have killed some 250 Israelis.

Syria harbors Hamas' exiled leadership in its capital, Damascus, and supports the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas who warred with Israel in the summer of 2006. The U.S. considers both Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist organizations.

In Washington, the State Department dismissed Carter's assessment of his meetings, saying there was no indication Hamas wanted peace with Israel.

"What is clear to us is that there certainly is no change in Hamas' position," said deputy spokesman Tom Casey. "It does not recognize Israel's right to exist, it has not eschewed or walked away from terrorism and violence, nor has it said it will honor any of the previous agreements that have been made with the Israeli government."

Though the State Department said it advised Carter not to meet with Hamas, Casey said it was open to hearing from him about his talks. "I am sure if he would like to offer any thoughts to us we would certainly be happy to hear them," Casey said.

Carter said Hamas promised it wouldn't undermine Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' efforts to reach a peace deal with Israel, as long as the Palestinian people approved it in a referendum. In such a scenario, he said Hamas would not oppose a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

Carter said Hamas officials, including Mashaal, agreed to this in a written statement.

But Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri in Gaza said Hamas' readiness to put a peace deal to a referendum "does not mean that Hamas is going to accept the result of the referendum."

Such a referendum, he said, would have to be voted on by Palestinians living all over the world. They number about 9.3 million, including some 4 million living in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.

Israel says Carter's talks embolden Palestinian extremists and hurt Palestinian moderates as they try to make peace with the Jewish state. Abbas, who rules only the West Bank, is in a bitter rivalry with Hamas.

"The problem is not that I met with Hamas in Syria," Carter said Monday. "The problem is that Israel and the United States refuse to meet with someone who must be involved."

Carter said Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking has "regressed" since a U.S.-hosted Mideast conference in November. He faulted Israel for continuing to build on disputed land the Palestinians want for a future state and for its network of roadblocks that severely hamper Palestinians traveling in the West Bank.

"The prison around Gaza has been tightened," he said, referring to Israel's blockade of the territory since the Hamas takeover.

Israel has been negotiating directly with Abbas, who heads a moderate government based in the West Bank. Abbas lost control of the Gaza Strip last June, when Hamas violently seized control of that territory.

Carter said Hamas rejected his specific proposal for a monthlong unilateral cease-fire.

On Monday, a 4-year-old Israeli boy was slightly wounded by shrapnel when a rocket fired from Gaza exploded in a village just outside Gaza, police said.

But Carter said Hamas has promised to let a captured Israeli soldier send a letter to his parents.

Direct communication between Israel and Hamas could facilitate the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who has been held in Gaza for nearly two years.

Israel agrees in principle to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Schalit, but after back-and-forth talks through Egyptian intermediaries, has approved only 71 of the specific prisoners that Hamas wants freed, he said.

Associated Press Writer Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria contributed to this report.


Carter Peace initiatives

Article follows my comments;

Why can't the US listen to its wiser statesmen? Why do we have to stand against the world and make enemies instead of friends?

The Bush and Olmert adminstrations continue with their thoughtless dirty games. They want to talk about peace, but not with the party who the peace is going to affect? That is downright chicanery.

The acts of both these administrations are not reflective of majority of their population. The few extremists are shoving it down the throats of the people.

I wrote a similar note way back in November, prior to the Annapolis conference. http://peace-palestine-israel.blogspot.com/2007/11/peace-in-israel-palestine.html
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Jimmy Carter Was Right to Meet with Hamas

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on April 21, 2008, Printed on April 22, 2008
Former President Jimmy Carter, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for what the prize committee described as his "untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts," is touring the Middle East, as a private citizen, in a bid to revive interest in a moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. He's doing so at a time when their decades-long conflict is growing in intensity and distrust on both sides is running high.

As a result, Carter is once again under fire from conservatives. Last week, Republican Rep. Sue Myrick (NC) went so far as to call for the former president's passport to be revoked on Fox News.

Carter's crime was to sit-down with leaders of Hamas last week to explore the possibility of waging peace in the Middle East. For many Israel-hawks, it wasn't a first offense; Carter is guilty of viewing the Palestinians as human beings and for condemning human rights abuses on both sides of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. "Any side that kills innocent people is guilty of terrorism," he told an audience at Cairo's American University after his sit-down with members of Hamas.

Carter rejects the short-sighted idea that negotiating with one's enemies legitimizes or rewards them for their actions. According to the same logic, when a police department sends a hostage negotiator to talk down a gun-toting lunatic who's barricaded himself in a house somewhere, that department would be guilty of "legitimizing" armed lunatics. It's a ludicrous idea on its face, but one that's essentially embraced by much of the American foreign policy establishment when it comes to the international arena.

It's an ideological construct that defies both common sense and the "best practices" that have been developed in the field of conflict resolution -- best practices that were borne of hard experience. What Carter seems to understand, and his detractors appear unable to grasp, is that there is absolutely no chance of establishing and implementing a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians without offering Hamas a seat at the negotiating table.

One of the most obvious lessons from the international community's efforts at conflict resolution is that getting signatures on a peace deal is only half the battle (if that much). Implementing peace treaties is much more difficult, and recent history is littered with wreckage of agreements that didn't hold.

One of the ways to almost guarantee that a peace agreement will be impossible to implement is to negotiate it without bringing all of the combatants to the table. Israel and Fatah (the faction of Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Palestinian Authority) can negotiate a deal, but if Hamas isn't invested in it, then they'll have no incentive to comply with its terms.

One doesn't need to have warm feelings towards Hamas to recognize this reality. The idea that one can choose one's negotiating partner, as opposed to negotiating with all of the parties to a conflict, is a fantasy. The fact that Hamas won a decisive victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections and is the legitimate voice of a majority of the Palestinian people reduces the notion to a bit of right-wing idealism that's thoroughly divorced from historic experience.

Carter, whose recent book Palestine: Peace not Apartheidbrokered a lasting peace deal between Israel and an Arab state. His work at Camp David in the 1970s not only led to a sustainable peace deal between Israel and Egypt, it set a precedent that was followed by other Arab states and eventually an offer by all of the Arab states for full recognition of Israeli sovereignty in exchange for Israel's return to its pre-1967 borders. In other words, not only has Carter contributed to the region's stability, he's also done more to improve Israel's security than all of his neoconservative naysayers combined. ruffled many right-wing feathers, remains the only American president to have actually

A common refrain among American and Israeli hawks is that Hamas must recognize Israel's legitimacy before they can get a seat at the table. While that sounds reasonable on its face, in reality it's asking Hamas to accept a key Israeli demand before negotiations begin. Meanwhile, Israel continues to build new settlements in the Occupied Territories, and continues its brutal siege of the Gaza strip. In other words, the position held by much of the Washington establishment is that Palestinians must make concessions before negotiations begin, but Israel is free to continue creating "facts on the ground," even when it's in violation of international law. It's a pipedream to believe such a position can lead to anything more than extended bloodshed.

Of course, what separates Carter from his detractors may be that he has a genuine desire for establishing peace in the Middle East, while many "pro-Israel" hawks favor (an impossible) military solution to the conflict, with Israel crushing the Palestinians into oblivion.

If that is their position, they should be upfront about it and admit that they oppose a negotiated settlement to the conflict rather than lashing out blindly at anyone who is serious about making peace.

Joshua Holland is an AlterNet staff writer.

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/82936/

Friday, April 18, 2008

Palestinians versus Tibetans

Palestinians versus Tibetans - a double standard
By Gideon Levy

Tags: Israel

Israelis have no moral right to fight the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The president of the Israeli Friends of the Tibetan People, the psychologist Nahi Alon, who was involved in the murder of two Palestinians in Gaza in 1967 - as was revealed in Haaretz Magazine last weekend - chose to make his private "atonement" by fighting to free Tibet, of all places. He is not alone among Israelis calling to stop the occupation - but not ours. No small number of other good Israelis have recently joined the wave of global protest that broke out over the Olympics, set to take place in Beijing this summer. It is easy; it engenders no controversy - who would not be in favor of liberating Tibet? But that is not the fight that Israeli human rights supporters should be waging.

To fight for Tibet, Israel needs no courage, because there is no price to pay. On the contrary, this is part of a fashionable global trend, almost as much as the fight against global warming or the poaching of sea lions.

These fights are just, and must be undertaken. But in Israel they are deluxe fights, which are unthinkable. When one comes to the fight with hands that are collectively, and sometimes individually, so unclean, it is impossible to protest a Chinese occupation.

Citizens of a country that maintains a military subjugation in its backyard that is no less cruel than that of the Chinese, and by some parameters even more so, and against which there is practically no more protest here, have no justification in denouncing another occupation. Citizens of a country that is entirely tainted by the occupation - a national, ongoing project that involves all sectors of the population to some extent, directly or indirectly - cannot wash their hands and fight another occupation, when a half-hour from their homes, horrors no less terrible are taking place for which they have much greater responsibility.

The world has fallen in love with Tibet. How easy it is to do so. The picturesque figure of the Dalai Lama and the non-violent struggle he leads with his scarlet-robed monks is truly captivating. Indeed, the world has smothered the leader with awards and recognition, from the Nobel Peace Prize to an honorary doctorate at Ben-Gurion University.

The Palestinians are not as nice as the Tibetans in the eyes of the world. But the Palestinian people deserve exactly the same rights as the occupied Tibetan people, even if their leaders are less enchanting, they have no scarlet robes and their fight is more violent. There is absolutely no connection between rights and the means of protest, and from that perspective, there is no difference between a Tibetan and a Palestinian - they both deserve the exact same freedom.

Moreover, in the first years of the Israeli occupation, most Palestinians accepted it submissively, with practically no violence. What did they get as a result? Nothing. The world and Israel cloaked themselves in apathy and callousness. Only when planes started being hijacked in the 1970s did the world begin to notice that a Palestinian problem even existed. In contrast, the Tibetan struggle also was tainted with violence in the past, and it is reasonable to assume that violence will increase if the Tibetans do not attain their goal.

There is also no point in asking which occupation is crueler, the Chinese or the Israeli. The competition is harsh and bitter. The Chinese killed and imprisoned more Tibetans, in Lhasa there is less freedom of expression than in Nablus, but in general, the extent of Israeli repression in the territories is much greater today than Chinese repression in Tibet.

Nowhere in the world today is there a region more besieged and confined than Gaza. And what is the result? The world calls to boycott the occupier in the case of China, while absurdly, with regard to the Palestinians, the world is boycotting the occupied entity, or at least its elected leadership, and not the occupier. This, it seems, has no parallel in history.

Internationally speaking, the situation of the Palestinians is ostensibly better, since while all governments recognize Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, no government in the world recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Palestinian territories. Practically speaking, this does not help the Palestinians much: Contemporary bon ton is to support the struggle for Tibet, only Tibet. The Palestinians have not even one Richard Gere to serve as a mouthpiece. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is boycotting the Olympic games but paid an official visit to Israel, where she spoke not one word about the shameful conditions in Gaza under Israeli occupation. Is there any other way to describe this, except a double standard?

In a more just world, no occupation would exist - neither the Chinese nor the Israeli. But until that time, the Israelis have to look inward at their own home and protest what is being done there in front of the Israeli Defense Ministry, before they present themselves with colorful signs outside the Chinese Embassy.

JPN: Palestinians versus Tibetans

2008-04-16 Recent world-wide protests have drawn critical media attention to the Chinese occupation of Tibet. While such attention is both important and overdue, it does raise questions about moral responsibility and political double standards.

We can put it this way: if the media were genuinely concerned to report on human right violations, they would show the Palestinians, Chechnyans, etc the same sort of sympathy they show for Tibet. The fact that their sympathy is so systematically selective suggests that it is not human rights violations that provoke their concern - and leads naturally to the question of what does. In the second article below, Uri Avnery explores the question of selective sympathy, and the factors that lead the media to fall in love with the Tibetans (who have also resorted to terrorism on occasion) while condemning the Palestinians.

Clearly, Avnery argues, the protests against Tibet accord with Washington's diplomatic interests in the region, its desire - driven largely by economic rivalry - to keep China at arm's length. In this climate, the US media is encouraged (or allowed) to be sympathetic to China's victims in a way that is not permissible in the case of the victims of America's steadfast ally, Israel.

This is by no means to detract from the urgency and justice of the cause of the Tibetan people under occupation, or the motives of the activists working to publicize their plight. It is only to say that human rights are universal and we should be wary of who is driving some of these bandwagons.

On the other hand, there are good reasons for concerned citizens to pay more attention to some causes. Clearly, we have a greater responsibility to protest policies carried on by our own governments - policies that we stand a chance of being able to change. For this reason, both Israelis and Americans (and particularly American Jews) have a special responsibility to protest the occupation of Palestine. Since our governments are conducting (and in the case of Americans, bankrolling) this occupation, we are the ones who can force our elected leaders to stop. We have a privileged position in these issues that we do not have in the case, for instance, of the Tibetan struggle. In the first article below, Gideon Levy explores the question of Israelis who are silent on Palestine but vocal on Tibet. The same questions can be extended to Americans in the cases of both Palestine and Iraq.

Again and by all means: free Tibet! But this outpouring of selective outrage rings false in countries supporting human rights violations elsewhere.

Judith Norman
Jewish Peace News http://www.jewishpeacenews.net