Gershon Baskin is the founder of IPCRI – Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, and served as its co-director until January 2012. He is a long-time veteran of both Israeli peace NGOs and second track diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinians, and has many key contacts on both sides. This gives him a particularly well-informed grasp of current events.
In July 2006, after Gilad Schalit’s abduction in Gaza he began unofficially, without governmental authorization or support, to open a back channel with Hamas. Baskin was involved in the ultimately successful efforts leading up to Shalit’s release for more than five years
Baskin holds a Ph.D. in International relations from the University of Greenwich.
All of this makes his insight into how to resolve issues particularly valuable. As this week of escalated violence in Israel and the West Bank came to a close, Baskin posted some of his thoughts to his Facebook page. The Foundation for Middle East Peace reprints them here with his permission.
It is thoroughly unacceptable that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is funding projects outside the Green Line. As with any other organization that uses charitable donations, it should not be allowed to maintain its tax exempt status and fund settlement projects.
But that’s a bigger fight. No doubt, many donors to the JNF are very comfortable with, or even enthusiastic supporters of funding settlements. But many others are simply responding to very familiar, innocuous-looking and, one would even say, traditional JNF call to “plant tress in Israel.” If nothing else, the JNF is morally obliged to let people know that their donations might not be funding projects in Israel, but could also be funding projects in the settlements.
If the JNF won’t do the right thing and make this clear (and they won’t–in fact, they go to considerable effort to keep it quiet, as the video points out), then it is up to Jews of conscience to do it for them. Please share this video, let people know it’s worth a minute or two to watch it. And after you do, please take action here.
In recent weeks, an upsurge in violence in Jerusalem has brought the embattled city back into the headlines. According to Danny Seidemann, founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem and one of the leading experts on the city, this violence, boiling at a level unseen in Jerusalem since 1967, actually began over a year ago, and it is not just another spoke in the “cycle of violence.”
“Usually there’s a tendency to overstate the instability of Jerusalem,” Seidemann said at a meeting of journalists and analysts in Washington this week. “But Jerusalem is normally a far more stable city than its reputation. What we are seeing now are significant developments that go well beyond tomorrow’s headlines.”
Seidemann described a dangerous confluence of factors, with the political stalemate creating an atmosphere of despair in which the conflict, which has always been political, will finally become the religious conflict that many have believed, until now incorrectly, that it is. The current conflict centered on the Temple Mount is only the tip of the iceberg. According to Seidemann, “The entire fabric of this conflict has changed.” Read more at FMEP’s site
In what has almost become an annual ritual, an upsurge in violence has again put Jerusalem on edge. Originally centered on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount area in Jerusalem’s Old City, the clashes have now spread beyond, into the West Bank. Read more at Facts On the Ground
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his appearance at the United Nations General Assembly today, one day after a speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Nothing of substance is going to change as a result of these speeches. But Netanyahu’s in particular offered a good picture of the current state of affairs and why they are what they are.
Netanyahu’s speech was clearly aimed not at the international audience he was addressing, but at constituent
audiences in Israel and the United States. Indeed, his very cadence was rehearsed to allow for bursts of applause of the kind he’s grown accustomed to in Congress. After a few of those silent pauses, a small portion of the audience recognized the need to fill them with polite applause, but for the most part, Netanyahu’s speech was received with stony silence. Read more at the FMEP blog.