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Saturday, May 21, 2011

U.S. stymies Palestinian progress, reiterates “principle”

During Friday’s panel discussion covering the Obama performance on the Middle East, particularly concerning Palestine, Democracy Now co-host Juan Gonzalez pulled notes from the recent past U.S. president’s remarks on Palestine and compared a copy/paste in the current president’s Thursday speech at the U.S. State Department
Editing by Carolyn Bennett

Restating status quo

“There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. …”
“We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”  

“[An] agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people.”
“[W]hile the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear:  a viable Palestine, a secure Israel.” 

“… [N]egotiations must ensure that Israel has secure, recognized and defensible borders. And they must ensure that the state of Palestine is viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent.”
“The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves and reach their full potential in a sovereign and contiguous state.”

On Friday’s Democracy Now panel, activists Norman Finkelstein and Noura Erakat set forth an unambiguous response to the U.S. government’s years-old mantra cast as “progressive principle,” showing up the U.S. Government’s continuing mission to keep the conflict going, stymie progress of the Palestinian people, and indeed to further weaken states, peoples and institutions of the greater Middle-East region.



“… [W]hile the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear:  a viable Palestine, a secure Israel. … These principles provide a foundation for negotiations.  Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state. Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met.  … [However] these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain:  the future of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees.”


“President Obama said that Jerusalem is a separate issue. He calls it an issue that remains but that is not the law.

“The International Court of Justice [at the UN] ruled that the whole of the West Bank, as they put it, comma, including Arab Jerusalem, is occupied Palestinian territory. If you say you want to return to the June 1967 border, how can you exclude Jerusalem?
Jerusalem has the exact same status under international law as the West Bank and Gaza.
In the words of the International Court, it is occupied Palestinian territory.
To talk about a Palestinian state without East Jerusalem is to talk about an Indian reservation or a Bantustan [Any of several all-black enclaves formerly in the Republic of South Africa that had a limited degree of self-government]. There cannot be a state without Jerusalem as its capital.

Entrenched partisan/sectarianism
tap dance, threaten, straw man, condescend
mischaracterize, camouflage consistent failure in U.S. leadership


“For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.… Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table.…

… [T]he recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel:  How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?  In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question….”

Attorney, activist NOURA ERAKAT:

“… That the U.S. has siphoned this discussion and isolated it, so that it created a tension between human rights, international law and politics, is precisely what has undermined the Palestinian platform to achieve any semblance of self-determination. … Returning to this multilateral platform, where might doesn’t equal right but there is a point of departure — and that point of departure is international law — is a positive step.…”

Capturing a relentlessly intentionally regressive status quo


In a resolution called ‘Peaceful Settlement of the Palestine Question,’ the United Nations every year in November outlines “the principles for resolving the conflict. We don’t need Mr. Obama to conjure up new principles any more than we needed President Bush to conjure them up. We have the platform or the basic principles based on international law. Those principles have been ratified every year not only by the UN General Assembly but also by all 22 members of the Arab League and by the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.”


“[A]ny solution requires Obama not to map out and reiterate these same principles over and over. What the U.S. needs to do is to apply pressure to end the settlement expansion, to dismantle them, to dismantle the wall pursuant to the ICJ [International Court of Justice] decision, to hold Israel accountable for Operation Cast Lead, to remove Israel’s forces from the Jordan Valley. And then we can discuss these other matters on principle.”

Sources and notes

“Did Obama’s Mideast Speech Signal U.S. Shift on Israel-Palestine? Democracy Now! Roundtable” [on the panel Norman Finkelstein, author of several books on the Israel-Palestine conflict, including This Time We Went Too Far: Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion; Noura Erakat, Palestinian human rights attorney, activist and adjunct professor of international human rights law in the Middle East at Georgetown University; legal advocacy coordinator for the Badil Center for Palestinian Refugee and Residency Rights and co-founder of Jadaliyya Ezine], May 20, 2011, http://www.democracynow.org/2011/5/20/did_obamas_mideast_speech_signal_us

“Remarks by the President on the Middle East and North Africa,” State Department, Office of the Press Secretary, Washington, D.C., Immediate Release May 19, 2011, The White House, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/05/19/remarks-president-middle-east-and-north-africa

BADIL, http://www.badil.org/
Established in January 1998 based on recommendations issued by a series of popular refugee conferences in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights is an independent, community-based non-profit organization mandated to defend and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees and IDPs [internally displaced persons]. . BADIL is registered with the Palestinian Authority and is legally owned by the refugee community represented by a General Assembly composed of activists in Palestinian national institutions and refugee community organizations.

The vision, missions, programs and relationships of BADIL are defined by members’ Palestinian identity and the principles of international law — in particular international human rights law.

BADIL Membership, Networks & Coalitions
Consultative status with UN ECOSOC; framework partnership agreement with UNHCR;  member of the global Palestine Right-of-Return Coalition, al-Awda Right-to-Return Coalition (USA), BDS Campaign National Committee, HIC-Habitat International Coalition (Cairo); CRIN-Child Rights Information Network (UK); ICVA-International Council of Voluntary Agencies (Geneva); ICNP-International Coordinating Network on Palestine; OPGAI-Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative; and PNGO-Palestinian NGO Network http://www.badil.org/en/about-badil; BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights, Bethlehem, West Bank, Palestine

Noura Erakat
Legal Advocacy Coordinator for the Badil Center for Palestinian Refugee and Residency Rights, Noura Erakat is university professor, a Palestinian human rights attorney and activist. She has served as Legal Counsel for a Congressional Subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives, chaired by Ohio/U.S. Representative Dennis J. Kucinich. She has helped to initiate and organize several national formations including Arab Women Arising for Justice (AMWAJ) and the U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN).

Erakat spent an academic semester in 2010 in Beirut, Lebanon where she worked with a human rights attorney on a several issues including administrative detention of Iraqi refugees. Her publications include ‘Litigating the Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Politicization of U.S. Federal Courts’ in the Berkeley Law Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Law and ‘Arabiya Made Invisible: Between the Marginalization of Agency and the Silencing of Dissent’ in a Syracuse Press anthology.

Erakat holds law and undergraduate degrees from the University of California-Berkeley and has  worked and studied in Israel and Palestine: she interned at Adalah: The Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, studied at Hebrew University, and volunteered in Palestinian refugee camps throughout the West Bank and Lebanon. She is also a published poet, photographer and playwright (her two plays include Pulse of the Intfada and Visiting Palestine), http://www.speakoutnow.org/userdata_display.php?modin=50&uid=194

Norman G. Finkelstein
Independent scholar Norman G. Finkelstein authored Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history ( 2005, expanded paperback edition, 2008); The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering (2000, expanded paperback edition, 2003); Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (1995, expanded paperback edition, 2003); A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen thesis and historical truth (with Ruth Bettina Birn) (1998); The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A personal account of the intifada years (1996); A Farewell to Israel: The coming break-up of American Zionism (2009)

For many years, Finkelstein taught political theory and the Israel-Palestine conflict. He holds a doctorate from the Princeton University Department of Politics, http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/biography/


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