Palestine 1948 at the University of Virginia

On Saturday, I was delighted to attend the first two sessions of a half-day conference held at the University of Virginia on the topic ‘1948 in Palestine.’ The main speakers at those sessions were Susan Akram of Boston University Law School and Rochelle Davis of Georgetown University.
Both those sessions were really thought-provoking. Susan Akram presented a smart and thoughtful set of comments based on the recent essay in Jadaliyya in which she compared the international-law strategy pursued by the PLO over the years highly unfavorably with that pursued by SWAPO and its allies in an earlier era. Bill the spouse was the commentator for that. Rochelle Davis then gave a lovely presentation based on her recent book about “Palestinian Village Histories”, and someone from UVA Jewish Studies called Gabriel Finder was the commentator for that one.
What was equally notable to the high quality of both of these discussions was, for me, simply the fact of the open-ness of this corner of American academe to discussing this whole issue of 1948 in such an open-minded way.
These days, dealing with the still-unresolved issues of 1948 is moving back to being an inescapably central part of the whole quest to find a workable and equality-based formula for the longterm coexistence of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, whether in two states or one. For several years in an earlier era– perhaps up to 1999 or 2000; or possibly, even later than that?– it seemed to many people around the world that dealing only with the issues of 1967 (primarily, ending the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza that Israel initiated in that year) would be sufficient and/or workable, while the issues from 1948 (primarily, the question of that large portion of Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed from the area-that-became-Israel that year) could somehow be sidestepped, swept under the rug, or finessed in one way or another.
For many Israelis, however, even trying to discuss the question of the Palestinian refugees as being bearers of rights is still seen as anathema, or as an attempt to “delegitimize Israel”, or whatever… and the same is true of the many pro-Israeli watchdogs and discourse-suppression organizations in the U.S. media and the U.S. academy.
That’s why I found it particularly refreshing to hear of this symposium, which was organized by Alon Confino, a distinguished Israeli-American professor in the UVA history department. I wish I had the time to write more about the discussions. (Maybe they’ll be published some day by Confino and his department?) In the meantime, though, I urge JWN readers to go read Susan Akram’s piece on Jadaliyya and Rochelle Davis’s book…

Israel’s ‘J14’: New potential for Jewish-Palestinian solidarity

As I have chronicled here and elsewhere many times, over the past decade the once-vibrant movement of Israelis actively working for an end to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza had become increasingly moribund.
Yes, a small number of brave Jewish-Israeli souls participated in the weekly protests in Bil’in, Nabi Saleh, or (more recently) Sheikh Jarrah. A small number continued to undertake other conscience-driven acts to try to challenge the occupation. But the mass movement of anti-occupation activists that one saw in the 1980s and early 1990s dwindled throughout the late 1990s and was then effectively killed off by Ehud Barak in late 2000.
Since then, feeling much more secure behind their Wall (along with all the horrendous battery of associated population-control measures) and also completely insulated from bearing the financial costs of administering the occupation, since the EU and U.S. governments between them have been financing it non-stop since 1994, most of the Jewish-Israeli public seemed to retreat into a form of disengagement that was marked by apathy (at best) or outright anti-Palestinian racism, at worst.
But now, there is something new in the streets of Tel Aviv– and of Jerusalem and a score of other Israeli cities. Directly inspired by the Arab popular movements of Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, lower-income Israelis from a broad range of different “ethnic” sectors have taken to the streets in the ‘J14’ movement to demand affordable housing. And despite the attempts of some of J14’s early organizers to keep the agenda “non-political”, the Palestinian issue has now entered the heart of the movement in a most revealing way: not via any big endorsement by J14 participants of a slogan to “end the occupation” but by the endorsement by many of them of the principle of Palestinian-Jewish solidarity within Israel.
The sight of that huge, Tahrir Square-inspired, bilingual banner in downtown Tel Aviv is amazing! But the political implications of the J14 movement are also huge– and could become a lot huger.
Veteran Jewish-Israeli anti-occupation activist Haggai Matar reported this telling vignette from Saturday’s very large J14 rally in Tel Aviv (translation Dimi Reider):

    Odeh Bisharat, the first Arab to address the mass rallies, greeted the enormous audience before him and reminded them that the struggle for social justice has always been the struggle of the Arab community, which has suffered from inequality, discrimination, state-level racism and house demolitions in Ramle, Lod, Jaffa and Al-Araqib. Not only was this met with ovation from a huge crowd of well over a hundred thousand people, but the masses actually chanted: “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.” And later, in a short clip of interviews from protest camps across the country, Jews and Arabs spoke, and a number of them, including even one religious Jew, repeatedly said that “it’s time for this state to be a state for all its citizens.” A state for all its citizens. As a broad, popular demand. Who would have believed it.

“A state for all its citizens” has been, of course, a key organizing demand for that 20% of Israel’s citizens who are Palestinian indigenes, throughout the decades. It is, of course, a key principle of democracy anywhere. But until now, Israel’s leaders and far too many of its Jewish citizens have insisted that Israel should be, instead, “the state of the Jewish people”– including all Jewish people, anywhere in the world, any of whom is welcomed and supported to immigrate to Israel and is given citizenship immediately upon doing so.
The 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel (PCOI’s) are the descendants of the survivors of the widespread ethnic cleansings that the Jewish/Israeli forces undertook during the Nakba of 1947-48. They are a community has suffered numerous waves and forms of repression since then– including campaigns of expropriation of their lands and properties that continue to this day. The Israeli authorities (and too many of Israel’s acolytes in the western media) have tried to deny the PCOI’s Palestinian heritage, referring to them either in general terms as “Israeli Arabs” or segmenting them into “Israeli Bedouins”, “Israeli Druze”, etc. But by ethnicity and heritage they are as Palestinian as any other Palestinians. Indeed, they are the close cousins of the Palestinian refugees now scattered around the whole world, since by definition the vast majority those refugee families are descended from Palestinians who were expelled from the area that became Israel in 1948.
The PCOI’s and the Palestinian refugees have a lot more in common, too. In particular, at the political level, neither group ever had much love for the whole Oslo process– and they still, to this day, don’t have much love for the two-state outcome between Palestinians and Israelis. Both groups form “natural” constituencies for a one-state outcome. The PCOI’s, in addition, are distinct because they have lived alongside Jewish Israelis for the past 63 years. They know them very well–for good and ill. They constitute the largest community of non-Jewish speakers of Hebrew in the world, since the Israeli school system forces them to learn a lot of subjects in Hebrew (and also force-feeds them a lot of Jewish history, while requiring little study of the history of their own people in the region.) They thus form a natural spearhead for the movement to re-imagine and rebuild the political order in the region as one that sees a single, unitary and democratic state in the whole of Palestine/Israel: A state, moreover, that honors and protects the language and culture of both of its constituent peoples, equally. (Also, a state that finally allows the millions of exiled Palestinians to exercise their long-denied right of return.)
Of course, we do not know yet where this latest J14 movement in Israel will lead. It may fizzle out completely. It may (as some participants have warned) become “captured” by the forces of the Jewish ethnonationalist right wing in Israel. Or it may mark the beginning of a completely new kind of social movement in Israel that is marked by Palestinian-Jewish solidarity against the forces of the repressive, Likudist status quo.
There has been some speculation that Netnyahu and his cronies in government (Lieberman and Barak) may seek to distract attention from J14’s demands by launching a new military adventure. Already over recent days, Israeli warplanes have resumed their earlier patterns of terrorizing and bombing Gaza. (Read Eva Bartlett’s searing on-the-ground account of this, here.)
Lieberman has also been mouthing off some very escalatory warnings about “bloodshed ahead” if the PLO leaders take their case for an independent state to the UN in September.
But there are some signs, too, that Netanyahu may be trying another tactic to defuse the pressures coming from J14: Winning the release of five-year Israeli POW Gilad Shalit from Gaza. Netanyahu’s negotiator on this matter, Amos Gilead, arrived in Cairo on Sunday for talks.
Conclusion of a deal that wins Shalit’s release would almost certainly have some very interesting political fallout on the Palestinian side. Netanyahu’s essential negotiation is with Hamas, which has been holding Shalit since it took over Gaza completely in June 2007; and the terms would almost certainly include the release of several hundred of the 7,000 or so Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli jails. This would strengthen Hamas politically, perhaps by a considerable amount. The Hamas-Fateh reconciliation process announced with some fanfare on May 3 has been moving ahead only very slowly and fitfully since then. Meanwhile, Fateh has continued to be riven by internal factionalism– most recently, when an internal movement commission of enquiry reported publicly that longtime Fateh strongman (and darling of the western governments) Mohamed Dahlan “had a hand” in the death by poisoning of movement icon Yasser Arafat, in 2004.
Fateh has been closely embraced and given generous financial support by the U.S. and its allies since 1994, and has come to play within the Palestinian national movement something like the role that Renamo played in Mozambique, UNITA in Angola, (or Inkatha in apartheid South Africa.) But it has been visible withering on the vine in recent years, for many reasons but most significantly because of the complete failure of its leaders’ strategy of relying wholly on the goodwill of Washington (rather than, for example, any mass-based organizing strategy) to achieve its goal of an independent Palestinian state, established alongside Israel in just 23% of historic Palestine.
A clear Hamas “victory” in the negotiations over Shalit might toll the death-bell for Fateh as an effective political force.
… But who knows what Netanyahu has in mind? All that is clear is that the J14 movement brings the potential for some real political change to both Jews and Palestinians in Israel/Palestine.

Tweeting the new Palestinian convergence?

I was just, um, tweeting (@helenacobban, not @justworldnews… ) about the fact that Twitter, especially, gives a lot of new flexibility and capabilities to Palestinian activists who by the nature of their situation are chopped, diced, and spread out between a number of different national jurisdictions.
We saw the amazing capability of Twitter (and especially it’s fabulous hashtag function) during the mobilizations inside Tunisia, inside Egypt, inside Bahrain, etc. But all those were mobilizations within single countries/jurisdictions. The Palestinians, by contracts, have been deliberately scattered and chopped up by Israel, over the decades, into tens of different jurisdictions where they all operate under very different circumstances. There are the Palestinians resident in Occupied East Jerusalem, the residents of the rest of the West Bank, the residents of Gaza, the refugees in Jordan, the refugees in Syria, in Lebanon, in Egypt, in Gulf countries, in North Africa, many countries in Europe– and indeed, all around the world. And we should not forget the ethnic Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, who have large numbers of their own claims against the Israeli government, including many claims for the right to return to their own original properties, the right to political and socioeconomic equality, etc.
Right now, Palestinians in many of these jurisdictions are organizing activities around the 64th anniversary of their Nakba, which coincided with– or to be more accurate, temporally bracketed– Israel’s gaining of its Independence in 1948. So there are now three main hashtags operating there: #may15, #nakba, and #pror (Palestinian right of return.)
Different groups of Palestinians– and also, crucially, of supportive citizens in the states in which large numbers of Palestinian refugees live– are organizing different kinds of activities this weekend. Today, there are Egyptians (and perhaps also palestinians?) going to the #Rafah border post from #Tahrir Square. But if you check out the #Rafah entries, you’ll see the Egyptian army has been trying with some success to prevent or considerably tamp down that action. Tomorrow, there is a large mobilization planned for Lebanon. My great author @ramizurayk– whose book went up for sale on Amazon today!– is going to be livetweeting that. There have been actions in Jordan and inside 1948 Israel, and others are planned for London and numerous other spots around the world.
Different actions, yet their narratives can all be linked together through hashtags!
The hashtags also enable organizers to coordinate their actions with great speed and agility, as was evident during the height of the anti-Mubarak movement in #Tahrir Square.
… So what I was tweeting earlier this afternoon, was an observation on the contrast between this situation and the situation back in the mid-1970s, when I first went to Beirut. At that point, it was extremely hard for Palestinians to get news from one Arab country to another. The situation of the Palestinians inside Israel itself seemed as though it came from another planet… This was significant not just for political organizers, but for every single Palestinian family. Every single Palestinian family has been split up in one intimate and wounding way or another by the many catastrophes they’ve been subjected to since the 1940s– and also by the slow but relentless grinding of the ‘ethnic-cleansing-by-administrative-fiat’ that Israel has pursued unceasingly in all the territories that it controls.
The internet has changed all that, in ways that were unimaginable back in the 1970s. A large proportion of Palestinian grandparents around the world– like the rest of us– can now “see” their new grandchildren via internet-based video-phones. Palestinians can be electronically “present” at important family gatherings along with their far-flung close family members. They can learn significant background news about who’s doing what, and where, in the family. They can “tour” the homes and properties of sisters and cousins in other jurisdictions. They can keep alive a revived sense of the family and village lives that once seemed to have been just about smashed.
Back in the 1970s, Israel completely dominated transnational communication in the Middle East. I remember those long strings of wrenching audio messages that Kol Israel would regularly air– Palestinians from one jurisdiction sending hastily recorded messages of big family news over the Israeli airwaves (which were all there was!) to family members in other jurisdictions. The messages were hurried, unprofessional, heartwrenching if you thought about they represented. They would always end on a hurried note of palpably false good cheer: “Kullna tayibin, al-hamdulillah”– “We’re all okay, thank God”. I never really asked what the mechanism was whereby they got recorded and queued for broadcast. I imagine the ICRC probably played a role.
How far we have come. Now, Ali Abunimah (@avinunu), who may be in Jordan today (not sure) can Tweet something about what he’s involved in doing, and @tarekshalaby, who’s in Egypt, can read it and react in near-real time. Check it all out Twitter, it really seems to me, is where it’s all at these days.
Hosni Mubarak and Zein Elabidine Ben Ali probably hated what Twitter did to them. Now, I wonder what it’ll end up doing to the Israeli government’s ability to maintain control over the actions of all its neighbors? It will sure be interesting to see…

‘Arab Spring’ heads for Palestine

It looks as if the civilian mass organizing that has been a feature of the ‘Arab Spring’ in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and elsewhere is now heading seriously for Palestine. In the AS’s early weeks, several Western commentators made a point of writing both that the AS itself hadn’t really happened much inside the OPTs, and that the content of the way the AS was being undertaken in all those other Arab countries was tightly focused on domestic affairs and somehow “proved” that the Arab masses didn’t care about Palestine any more.
And then, there was the Carl Gershmann (NED)- financed, Astroturf-like “movement” in Gaza whose actions seemed designed above all to embarrass and undermine Hamas.
Now, it looks as if the civilian mass organizing is occurring within the Palestinian body politic, and among the Palestinians’ brothers and sisters who are citizens of other Arab states, in a new and significant way. This organizing is going on inside and outside the OPTs– including in Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon— and the main theme in it (as articulated by the activists in Lebanon) is “The people demand the return to Palestine.” (Ash-sha3b yurid al-aw3da ila filas6een.)
This is a bit of a riff on the main– and stunningly successful!– slogan of the popular movements in Tunisia and Egypt: “The people demand the overthrow of the regime.” In both Jordan and Lebanon there are many hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whose internationally recognized (Univ. Dec. of Human Rts., etc) right to return to the land of their birth has has been prevented by Israel from 1948 until this day. Indeed, over recent decades, successive Israeli governments have refused even to allow the Palestinians to place their refugees’ “right of return” on the negotiating agenda in any meaningful way: Not only they can’t implement the return; they are not even allowed to talk about it!
For the 7-8 million Palestinians around the world who are currently prevented by Israel from returning to the land that they or their immediate forebears were exiled/”cleansed” from in 1948, the right of return has always been a central focus of longing and political activism. The PLO grew up in the Palestinian diaspora, and was organized centrally around the demand of the right of return. But with the 1993 Oslo Accord, PLO leaders Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and Co. traded their support of that demand for something that turned out to be no better than a mess of potage: their own personal “return”– but to Ramallah, not to Jerusalem; and that of a small number of their chosen followers. And the “right”– always heavily circumscribed, and sometimes simply quashed/rescinded, by Israel– to administer a few municipal-type things in and around Ramallah.
The demands and very burning needs of the Palestinian refugees whose support had boosted Arafat, Abbas, and Co. to political prominence were simply jettisoned. As were the demands and burning needs of the broad networks of Palestinians within the OPTs whose steadfast support for the exiled PLO leaders always successfully blocked the plans the U.S. and Israel had to groom an “alternative leadership” from within the OPTs. But once Arafat and Co. returned to Ramallah, they clamped down fast and hard on the till-then semi-autonomous networks of civilian activists that had run the First Palestinian Intifada (1987-93.)
And let us remember that that intifada– and the early weeks of the Second Intifada, in Sept.- Oct. of 2000, which like the First Initfada (uprising) were also overwhelmingly nonviolent and marked by the lengthy and widespread reliance on civilian mass organizing, though by the end of 2000, Israel’s terrible and lethal counter-violence successfully drove many of the shabab into the big tactical mistake of using their own violence, too.
Many of the young, pro-democracy activists in Egypt and Tunisia have said that the civilian mass organizing they saw the OPTs Palestinian engaging in during the First and second Intifadas was an inspiration for their own activism… And now, that kind of civilian mass organizing seems to be coming in a big way to the Palestinians of the immediate diaspora– acting in alliance with their sisters and brothers from the Arab states that have hosted them nigh these many decades. As I chronicled in great detail in the study of the PLO that I published in 1984 with Cambridge U.P., the earliest impulses of those who formed the guerrilla groups that took over (and became) the PLO in 1968-69 were all for armed action against Israel. It was the Palestinians of the OPTs who really pioneered civilian mass organizing.
Anyway, what is happening now is significant, and it may well end up being huge. Citizens of the Arab states that have seen the flowering of the Arab Spring never– as Tom Friedman and others claimed– “forgot” or turned their backs on the Palestinian issue… And now, with the promise that arose as a result of the recent Fateh-Hamas agreement, there is to be a democratization of the PLO’s internal governance, carried out among the entire Palestinian national community, worldwide. Stay tuned.

Quick notes on Fateh-Hamas reconciliation of April 27

As I tweeted yesterday, the reconciliation announced in Cairo yesterday— which still needs a lot of fleshing out– is the second great result of the Egyptian people’s historic overthrow of the Mubarak-Suleiman regime. Until February 11, Omar Suleiman had been assiduous in (1) monopolizing the whole diplomatic space allotted to “seeking” this reconciliation, and (2) blocking its attainment.
In both these steps, we can note, he was mirroring the behavior his Washington friends have pursued more broadly toward the attainment of a final-status Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement: (1) monopolize, (2) block. You might argue– as I have, many times, at both these levels– that if you can’t sh*t you should get off the pot. But in both these cases, staying glued to the pot so no-one else gets a chance to do the job is just as important as the not-doing of the job.
But the heroic and disciplined Egyptian people knocked Sulaiman off his pot… and now, six weeks later, we have a first important step toward what could well be a Fateh-Hamas reconciliation that serves the interests of the long-battered Palestinian people a lot better than the extremely damaging U.S.- and Israeli-engineered division that has wracked the Palestinian movement since late January 2006.
See these great photos from an anti-Israeli popular demonstration in Cairo just yesterday. H/t Arabawy.
The rough score-sheet for the effects of the Arab uprisings up till now on the always-permeable internal politics of the forcibly dispersed Palestinian people is roughly as follows:

    1. Overthrow of the Mubarak-Suleiman regime: devastatingly bad for Fateh and very good for Hamas.
    2. Serious weakening of Bashar al-Asad regime in Syria: Fairly bad for Hamas in the short term, given the location of the movement’s pan-Palestinian headquarters there and its longterm alliance with the Asad regime. However, note the following: (a) the strongest opposition force in Syria, as in Mubarak-era Egypt, is the MB, which also has longstanding links with Hamas; (b) the Syrian public is strongly pro-Palestinian; (c) Hamas anyway has a widely networked and very resilient leadership and succession-planning structure, that it has developed over the course of many years. If they get knocked out of Damascus, they could go to, um, Cairo or El-Arish! (d) even if ‘a’ and ‘b’ were not true, if Hamas were to ‘lose’ Syria and ‘gain’ Egypt, it would still be a tremendous net plus for them;
    3. Chaotic and violent events in Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain: These have some effects on the Fateh-Hamas balance, but none that are as sizeable or immediate as the effects of developments in Egypt and Syria.

What is true, as a general rule in the region is that the kind of sordid backroom deals that regimes like Mubarak’s, that of successive Jordanian monarchs, or others have struck with Israel in the past– that is, arrangements to quash Palestinian movements that go far beyond the formal requirements of the peace treaties– have become considerably harder for these Arab parties to uphold, given the long overdue and very welcome emergence of strong movements calling for transparency and accountability from Arab governments.
Now, it is also true that amidst these regionwide developments there are some very disturbing currents, including (obviously) the rush toward western military action in Libya and the support that action has garnered from many Gulf Arab states; the emergence of a vicious new wave of anti-Shiite sectarianism– not only in Bahrain and Yemen, but broadly throughout the region, including (in its anti-Alawi guise), in Syria. This is an aspect of the emergence of a new kind of specifically “Sunni” power in the region that fills me with dread. Goodness, have we not seen quite enough of the terrible effects of Sunni-Shiite sectarian hatred in Iraq and Lebanon over recent years??
For their part, the leaders of Hamas (though not all of the rank-and-file members of the movement) are part of a determinedly tolerant current within the broader “Sunni Islamist” stream. Hamas leaders are eager to work with Christians inside and outside the Palestinian community; and they have a long history of working closely alongside Hizbullah (and the Iranian government), which must surely have affected the view they have of Muslims who are Shiites. Hamas people whom I’ve interviewed have always warned strongly against allowing any kind of paranoia about the machinations of an alleged “Shiite Crescent” to insert a fatal wedge into the Palestinian or broader Arab national movements. That kind of paranoia, I certainly have heard expressed and endorsed by high-ranking people in Fateh– as in Jordan, Mubarak’s Egypt, etc.
Anyway, the region is still in a high degree of dynamism. This will certainly have a big effect on the internal politics of Palestine.
Here in Washington, DC, I see various of the rabidly pro-Israel members of Congress have been screaming their hearts out about how any affiliation with Hamas would render the Fateh leaders completely ineligible for any further U.S. aid. Ha. good luck with that. If the U.S. Congress cuts off the “aid” (including $$ and political support) to the Ramallah-based P.A. completely, then the P.A. will almost immediately collapse– and so will the “Dayton Forces”, which have been policing the various little pieces of Ramallastan in the service of the Israelis for the past few years. What then for U.S. policy?
The White House, interestingly enough, seems to have a slightly more nuanced view. I haven’t had time to find the whole of the statement that NSC spokesperson Tommy Vietor made yesterday, about the reconciliation news from Cairo. (If any readers can contribute the original source of this document, please put it in the comments.) But what truly intrigued me was the headline the pro-Hamas PIC put on this report of Vietor’s statement: “US meets Palestinian unity deal with guarded optimism.”
What on earth– ?
The portions of Vietor’s words that PIC quoted were as follows:

    ”Hamas … is a terrorist organization which targets civilians,” said Veitore.
    “As we have said before, the United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace,” he said. ”To play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles and renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
    “We have seen the press reports and are seeking more information,” he added.

To me, this doesn’t warrant the headline the editors put onto their news report. On the other hand, Vietor’s words are light-years less hostile and hysterical than those of people like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen or Gary Ackerman.
The fact that the PIC has depicted them, in its headline, in this extremely rosy way– “guarded optimism”???– is what intrigues. Are the Hamas ideologues trying to prepare the way for a new overture to the Obama administration?

Bayard Rustin understood Palestinians

I just came across this great, short piece of writing, quoting the African-American, gay, Quaker activist Bayard Rustin:

    In 1968, American civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin wrote, “We would be mistaken to think that the only desires of young Negroes today are to have a job, to have a decent house, to be well educated, to have medical care. All these things are very important, but deeper and more profound is the feeling of young Negroes today—through all classes, from the lumpenproletariat to the working poor, the working classes, the middle classes, and the intelligentsia—that the time has come when they should have power, a voice in the solution of problems which affect them.”

This observation is absolutely central if anyone wants to understand the situation and aspiration of Palestinians today. This point has been eloquently made by Laila El-Haddad– both in her recent book Gaza Mom, which my company had the honor of publishing, and in her appearance on Tuesday at this great Capitol Hill briefing (which, as it happens, I had the honor of chairing.)
As Laila says, “What the Palestinians in Gaza are suffering from is not restrictions on their food, it is restrictions on their freedom!”
Interestingly, I got that Bayard Rustin quote not directly from my own reading but from this late-January blog post by the great Egyptian blogger Baheyya. Bayard Rustin to me, via Tahrir Square. Neat, huh?

D. Levy: Also too little, too late?

Daniel Levy is an engaging and energetic young Brit-Israeli who first made a name for himself helping to organize those– as it turned out ill-fated, and perhaps all along misguided?– “Geneva Accords” and who in recent years has been making quite a splash at Washington DC’s New America Foundation. His values and worldview are generally excellent. He has been honest and courageous in describing various aspects of the Palestine Question as they really are (and let me tell you, in the often completely toxic, AIPAC-dominated echo chamber of Washington DC, that is something that takes real courage.)
Today, Daniel has an article in Haaretz in which he argues correctly that in the wake of the Revolution in Egypt,

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Israel security official in 2007, ‘Sooner or later we’ll have to deal with Hamas’

The Norwegian daily Aftenposten has been posting a lot of new Wikileaks material. In there is this cable from 26 July, 2007– just a few weeks after the elected Hamas leaders of Gaza rebuffed a U.S.-backed coup attempt led by Fateh strongman Mohamed Dahlan. It’s a record by a U.S. diplo in Tel Aviv of a meeting that GWB aide Fran Fragos Townsend had with Israeli National Security Council officials on July 12.
The main Israeli interlocutor was Brigadier General Danny Arditi, a counterterrorism advisor to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In the cable:

    Arditi said that sooner or later the GOI [Government of Israel] would have to deal with Hamas.

In the meantime, however, Arditi and Townsend were in agreement that they wanted to continue the long, slow strangling of Gaza that had continued since Hamas’s electoral victory in January 2006– and that continues to this day.
The reporting diplomat also wrote:

    Arditis presentation represented an attempt by the Government of Israel (GOI) to find a way forward in dealing with Hamas-controlled Gaza, but NSC officials admitted that the GOI does not yet have a coherent policy. The Gaza/West Bank split appears simple on the surface, said an aide to Arditi, but carries many inherent contradictions. “This is not the first time we have tried to help Fatah,” he noted. NSC officials told Townsend that the Israeli Cabinet remains concerned about Hamas influence in the West Bank, and many are skeptical about the ability of Abbas and Fayyad to “turn back the wheel.”

IDF (IOF) lies about Bil’in tear-gas killing

Careful Israeli reporter and eye-witness Noam Sheizaf skilfully deconstructs all the lies the IDF/IOF told about last Saturday’s death from poison gas of Jawaher Abu Rahmeh of the West bank town of Bil’in.
As with the IOF’s killing of eight unarmed Turkish citizens and one unarmed Turkish-American when Israeli naval commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara in international waters last May, once again the Israeli military feels obliged to slander the dead and claim that 36-year-old Ms. Abu Rahmeh was not in fact a victim of Israeli state violence. In a briefing given exclusively to a handful of rightwing Israeli bloggers, the head of Israel’s “Central Command” tried to claim she probably died of cancer. Heck, he even brought up the “possibility” that she had been the victim of an honor killing by members of her own family…
Big thanks to Noam and all the other eye-witnesses and investigators who have pieced together and published the true facts about this killing.

M. Paraipan: Another informative Hamas-leader interview

Following up on the interview she conducted with Hamas Secretary-General Khaled Meshaal in Damascus in early November, Romanian researcher Manuela Paraipan conducted another one in Beirut recently with Hamas’s representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan. Her institution in Bucharest, MEPEI, has published this one in two parts (1, 2). Between them, they add more richness and granularity to the picture we already have of how the leaders of this interesting, durable, and popular Palestinian organization think about the challenges they face and how they plan to continue facing them.
On “durable and popular”, let us remember that ever since Hamas won the PA’s parliamentary elections of January 26, 2006 (my contemporaneous commentary on that is here), it has been subjected to a war of political extermination by both Israel and the U.S. Yes, the world’s biggest military power and its local sidekick defied all the norms of global “democracy” to try to crush Hamas– right after it had won a resounding victory in an election recognized by all local and international observers as “free and fair”… But, and this is the important thing to note, Hamas survived that lengthy and frequently bloody campaign and is probably stronger, politically, among the Palestinian people worldwide and inside the OPTs than it was five years ago.
So, back to Hamdan, and his conversation with Ms. Paraipan. Here are what I see as the highlights of it:

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