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Author Archives: Jonathan Cook
Israelis have grown content living in a large bubble of denial. Netanyahu and his ministers are making every effort to reinforce that bubble, just as they have tried to shield Israelis from the fact that they live in the Middle East, not Europe, by building walls on every side – both physical and bureaucratic – to exclude Palestinians, Arab neighbours, foreign workers and asylum seekers.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rarely been so politically embattled. His travails indicate the Israeli right’s inability to respond to a shifting political landscape, both in the region and globally. U.S.-led negotiations may not lead to an agreement, but they will mark a historic turning-point nonetheless. The delegitimisation of Israel is truly under way, and the party doing most of the damage is the Israeli leadership itself.
The Israeli government is hurling insults at U.S. officials and working visibly to thwart a peace process on which the Obama administration had staked its credibility. The recent diplomatic fracas over Moshe Ya’alon’s comments have added to the bad blood built up between these two allies during Netanyahu’s term. The feud is not only over Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians but on the related matter of US handling of what Israel considers its strategic environment in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Liberals can sound pretty pathetic when their back is to the wall, and liberal Zionists even more so. A case in point is Eric Alterman.
Successive Israeli governments have carefully engineered the structure of Israeli society to ensure that Jewish and Palestinian citizens, the latter comprising a fifth of the population, are kept in separate linguistic, cultural, educational and emotional worlds. The reasoning is not hard to discern. The last thing Israeli leaders want is for Jewish and Palestinian citizens to develop shared interests, forge friendships and act in solidarity. That would start to erode the rationale for a Jewish state, especially one premised on the supposed need of the Jews to defend themselves from a hostile world – “the villa in the jungle”, as former prime minister Ehud Barak once characterised Israel.
Two months ago officials from Israel and Texas made an unexpected announcement, unveiling an ambitious plan to build in Israel the first branch of an American university, at a probable cost of $100 million. Jonathan Cook reports from Nazareth that Israel hopes to accomplish several things from the venture: silence international criticism over the country’s high level of inequality; drive a wedge further between Palestinian Christians and Muslims; stymie efforts by Palestinians in Israel to win educational autonomy; and strike a powerful blow against mounting pressure from the movement for an academic and cultural boycott.
In recent days, US and European diplomats have been engaged in a frenzy of activity on the Israeli-Palestinian front. In a last desperate effort to break the logjam in negotiations, Washington plans to unveil its so-called “framework proposal” for the creation of a Palestinian state next month. The outlines of the US vision of an agreement are coming into focus, and as many expected the picture looks bleak for the Palestinians.
As United States envoys shuttle back and forth in search of a peace formula to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a matter supposedly settled decades ago is smouldering back into life. In what was billed as a “day of rage” last month, thousands of Palestinians took to the streets to protest against a plan to uproot tens of thousands of Bedouin from their ancestral lands inside Israel, in the Negev (Naqab). The stakes are high, not least because Israel views this battle as a continuation of the 1948 war that established a Jewish state on the ruins of Palestine.
It is important to recognize Mandela’s huge achievement in helping to bring down South African apartheid. But it’s also important to acknowledge that Mandela was rehabilitated into an “elder statesman” in return for South Africa being rapidly transformed into an outpost of neoliberalism, prioritising the kind of economic apartheid most of us in the west are getting a strong dose of now.
Jonathan Cook responds to critics about his opposition to launching yet another “humanitarian intervention” in Syria.
It seems there are still plenty of parties who would prefer that Arafat’s death continues to be treated as a mystery rather than as an assassination. It is hard, however, to avoid drawing the logical conclusion from the finding last week by Swiss scientists that the Palestinian leader’s body contained high levels of a radioactive isotope, polonium-210. It is time to state the obvious: Arafat was killed. And suspicion falls squarely on Israel. Israel alone had the means, track record, stated intention and motive. Without Israel’s fingerprints on the murder weapon, it may not be quite enough to secure a conviction in a court of law, but it should be evidence enough to convict Israel in the court of world opinion.
The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace process is easy to forget about: there’s been barely a peep about it since the revival of talks was greeted with great fanfare back in July. But last week, it flitted briefly back on to the radar when the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, met Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome. Whatever Netanyahu told Kerry in private, few believe the Israeli prime minister is really ready to seek peace. Earlier this month he set out in public his hardline vision for the talks: no peace until the Palestinians recognize the “Jewish state” and give up on the right of return.
Uri Avnery has achieved many great things as a journalist and a peace activist. Nonetheless, it is important to challenge the many fallacious claims Avnery makes to bolster the arguments in his latest article, dismissing the growing comparisons being made between Israel and apartheid South Africa.
A recent World Bank report highlights how Israel is gradually whittling away the foundations on which the Palestinians can build an independent economic life and a viable state. The report’s focus is on the nearly two-thirds of the West Bank, known as Area C, that is exclusively under Israeli control–and which contains almost all the resources a Palestinian state will need to exploit.
The furor over the recent chemical weapons attack in Syria has overshadowed disturbing events to the south, as Egypt’s generals wage a quiet war of attrition against the Hamas leadership in Gaza. And, as ever, Israel is far from an innocent bystander. Above, an empty tunnel connecting Egypt and Gaza.
President Obama may have drawn his seemingly regretted “red line” around Syria’s chemical weapons, but it was neither he nor the international community that turned the spotlight on their use. That task fell to Israel. Israel still desperately wants its chief foe, Iran, crushed. And if it can find a way to lever the US into doing its dirty work, it will exploit the opening – regardless of whether such action ramps up the suffering in Syria.
In recent weeks Israel has been intensifying a campaign to summarily evict Palestinian farming communities from their ancestral lands to replace them with Jewish newcomers. Israeli human rights lawyers, tired of the international community’s formulaic criticisms, say it is time to be more forthright. They call these “ethnic cleansing” zones – intended to drive off Palestinians irrespective of the provisions of international law and whether or not the Palestinians in question hold Israeli citizenship.
One incident of racism, though small in relation to the decades of massive, institutionalised discrimination exercised by Israel against its Palestinian Arab citizens, has triggered an uncharacteristic bout of Israeli soul-searching. When Superland, a large amusement park near Tel Aviv, refused to accept a booking from an Arab school the story went viral on social media and Israel government ministers led an outpouring of revulsion. But while Netanyahu and his allies on the far right were castigating Superland for its racism, they were busy backing a grossly discriminatory piece of legislation the Haaretz newspaper called “one of the most dangerous” measures ever to come before the parliament.
Has Israel been sending out contradictory signals about its position on Syria to sow confusion, or is it simply confused itself? The answer can be deduced in the unappealing outcomes before Israel whoever emerges triumphant. Israel stands to lose strategically if either Assad or the opposition wins decisively.
Benjamin Netanyahu, has paid grudging lip service over the past four years to the goal of Palestinian statehood. But his real agenda was always transparent: not statehood, but what he termed “economic peace”. After 20 years of pursuing Palestinian statehood implied in the Oslo Accords, the US indicated last week it was switching horses and adopting Netanyahu’s plan. So far the PA has been quietly dismissive of the Kerry plan, but the real danger for the Palestinians, as they remember only too well from the 2000 Camp David talks, is that they are being set up as the fall guy. Should they refuse to sign up to the latest version of economic peace, Israel and the US will be only too ready to blame them for their intransigence.
Faced with a diplomatic impasse between Israel and the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, John Kerry extracted from the Arab League an agreement to dust off a decade-old regional plan, the Arab Peace Initiative. The new Arab overture, like its antecedent, barely raised a flicker of interest from Israel. This response serves as a rejoinder to one of the conflict’s most enduring myths. Even before 1967, Israel presented itself as eager for acceptance from the Arab states. This fiction, which continues to shape western perceptions.
Israeli and Palestinian officials have been in Washington laying the ground for President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank next month. Obama apparently intends to start his second term with an effort to engage with Israel and the Palestinians that is almost as certain to prove an exercise in futility.
By establishing Bab al-Shams, activists visibly demonstrated the apartheid nature of Israel’s rule in the occupied territories. Following Saturday’s Israeli raid on the village, organizer Mohammed Khatib said, “In establishing Bab al-Shams, we declare that we have had enough of demanding our rights from the occupier — from now on we shall seize them ourselves.” That, of course, is Benjamin Netanyahu’s great fear.
Israel’s large Palestinian minority is often spoken of in terms of the threat it poses to the Jewish majority. Palestinian citizens’ reproductive rate constitutes a “demographic timebomb”, while their main political program – Israel’s reform into “a state of all its citizens” – is proof for most Israeli Jews that their compatriots are really a “fifth column”. But who would imagine that Israeli Jews could be so intimidated by the innocuous Christmas tree?
Washington Post’s refusal to push story about Murdoch trying to buy the US presidency reveals the Matrix-like control of our corporate media over the discourse