Friday, April 15, 2011

Assassinating Hope

From the translation of an op-ed in El Imparcial, a new prestigious Spanish digital daily, April 2011, by Ely Karmon, PhD, Senior Research Scholar, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) and The Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzlyia, Israel:

...On April 4, 2011, the Israeli-Arab actor-director and pro-Palestinian political activist Juliano Mer-Khamis was shot dead by a hooded assassin outside The Freedom Theatre, which he founded in a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Jenin. The theatre provides children and youth of the refugee camp with opportunities to develop creative skills, self-knowledge and confidence as a model for social change.

Juliano, son of a Jewish mother and a Christian-Palestinian father, both communists, was a unique cultural and activist figure. He opened the Freedom Theater in 2006 in partnership with UNESCO. UNESCO head, Irina Bokova, condemned the assassination and described Mer-Khamis as “a social committed artist” and “an ardent defender of peaceful co-existence.”

...In a “scenario” prophesized by Juliano a year ago in a documentary movie, he said he will finish by a bullet shot in his head by a young Islamist Palestinian angry of him corrupting the “Islamic youth” and his presence in the Jenin refugee camp with his blonde Finnish wife! A suspected Hamas assassin was arrested by the Palestinian security forces.

After the Hamas violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 a boost of Islamization and radicalization process began. School girls are instructed to wear head covers and full-length robes otherwise they risk to be suspended. The High Judicial Council instructs female lawyers to come to court wearing Islamic dress. On Hamas Television Channel all female announcers wear veils. Hamas forbids mixed gender swimming at sea and mixed gender ceremonies.

Under Hamas rule several Salafi groups proliferated in Gaza and opened an all-out war against internet coffee shops, shops that sell women lingerie, but also against Palestinian Christians. They attacked the YMCA library, the Rahabat Al Wardia School run by nuns, and the Beit Lahiya UN School.

The uprisings in the Arab world have raised the hope for a democratization process and a brighter future for the beleaguered Arab masses, after decades of autocratic rule. But at the same time, the specter of organized Islamist movements taking control of Egypt and Tunisia, Syria or Libya and imposing a strict Islamist way of life à-la-Iran or Taliban, poses a great question mark on the revolutionary outcomes of the uprisings.
In Tunisia, the assassination of a priest, anti-Semitic incidents, a series of Islamist attacks against prostitution houses have shaken the public. Several weeks ago some 15,000 people demonstrated against Tunisia's Islamist movement, calling for religious tolerance.

In Egypt, Sheik Mohamed Hussein Yacoub, a prominent Cairo cleric, generated outrage by claiming the country belongs “to the observant” and “those who object could emigrate to North America.“ Salafi activists in Upper Egypt cut a teacher’s ear accusing him of renting an apartment to prostitutes. In the oasis of Fayoum Salafists destroyed places selling beer. Dozens of Salafis staged a protest in Cairo, accusing the church of abducting Camilla Shehata, a Coptic priest's wife who some believe converted to Islam and is being held against her will. Elsewhere in Egypt, Coptic Christians evacuated 340 female students from their university dorms to church-affiliated sanctuaries over concerns for their safety.

Jordanian Salafists were taking advantage of the atmosphere of openness witnessed these days to demand Islamic law be imposed on the state and called for jihad as the "way to liberate Muslim lands from autocrats."

The emblematic assassination of a renowned, ardent, secular pro-Palestinian artist bodes badly for the future of the Palestinian society, for the prospects of a peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians and if exemplary for the trends in the “new” Arab world, for the future of this region and its relation with the outside world.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Israel must not succumb to false alarms

From an article published 12 April 2011, by Moshe Arens:

The important thing is to stay calm, not press the panic button, and not listen to those familiar faces who reappear every now and then with a new-old initiative suggesting that Israel announce it is prepared to withdraw to the '67 borders.'

...our defense minister...has already sounded the alarm.

According to him, Israel will be hit by a political tsunami in September. His warning bell is being echoed by many who demand the government launch a daring initiative before it is too late, before the tsunami hits us. But they have a pleasant surprise awaiting them: Israel will still be here in September....

States have never been created by UN declarations and never will be. For those who have forgotten, Israel was not created by UN resolution 181 in November 1947, but by David Ben-Gurion's declaration of Israeli independence on May 15, 1948 and by the IDF's ability to take and control the areas of the new state.

A UN declaration, whether at the Security Council or the General Assembly, recognizing a Palestinian state within the borders of the April 1949 armistice lines with Jordan, with Jerusalem as its capital, will be no more effective than Security Council resolution 1701, which prohibited Hezbollah from military operations in southern Lebanon, or General Assembly resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism.

If this latest declaration is actually passed, it will merely serve as another reminder of the impotence of the United Nations and its irrelevance when it comes to dealing with international conflicts. The U.S. government must surely be aware of this.

All this brouhaha about the coming tsunami skirts the fundamental issues preventing an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Namely, that such an agreement must constitute the end of the conflict, and that the Palestinian signatories to the agreement must be capable of assuring that no acts of terror will be launched from territories that Israel turns over as part of the agreement.

The current Palestinian spokesman, or president if you like, Mahmoud Abbas, is not capable of satisfying either of these conditions. At best, he represents only half of the Palestinians, and regardless of what commitments he undertakes, Hamas and other Islamic jihadists will have plenty of additional claims on Israel even after Abbas signs an agreement. His control over areas in Judea and Samaria is limited at best, and he certainly cannot be relied on to prevent acts of terror against Israel from those areas Israel would withdraw from.

Until the Palestinians get their act together, there seems little chance of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. That is the sad truth, and no amount of theatrics by Abbas, and maneuvering by the Quartet, the United States and the United Nations, or all of them in concert, will change that. That is what Israeli spokesmen should be explaining to everyone - friends, do-gooders and enemies alike.

And one other point must be made: What they call the 1967 borders are in fact the armistice lines that were agreed on with Jordan in April 1949, an agreement that was violated by Jordan in June 1967. There is nothing sacrosanct about these lines, while many things have changed in the intervening 62 years that cannot be wished away.

The important thing is to stay calm, not press the panic button, and not listen to those familiar faces who reappear every now and then with a new-old initiative suggesting that Israel announce it is prepared to withdraw to the "'67 borders." And to not make any hasty, half-baked statements under the illusion that they will appease those applying pressure on Israel.

At this point, their minds are made up. And such statements will only come to haunt us in the future when the time becomes ripe for proper negotiations with the Palestinians. Only when it is clear that the Israeli government is standing firm on its positions will the pressure on Israel be relaxed.