Big News From The Foundation for Middle East Peace

Today, I have some news to share with you: the Foundation for Middle East Peace now has a new website!fmep small

For decades, FMEP has been at the forefront of Israel and Palestine advocacy. With the launch of our new website, the organization’s online presence now takes on a 2015 look and approach to technology and social media integration.

We have been working on this project for months and couldn’t be more excited about the end result. The new site is designed to optimize user experience, curate the latest news and resources and provide easily-accessible information about the key issues of the conflict and ideas for a peaceful resolution. Continue reading

Image of Hate

The photo you see to the left was found by Jewish Voice for Peace on the Facebook page (since removed) of a group that named itself

"Hating Arabs Isn't revenge--it's values." Hashtag reads Israel Demands Revenge!"

“Hating Arabs Isn’t revenge–it’s values.” Hashtag reads Israel Demands Revenge!”

“Am Yisrael Doreshet Nekama,” in English, “The People of Israel Demand Revenge.” The hashtag on the sign is similar, though with an important difference–the word “Am” is removed and it is “Israel Demands Revenge.”

The photo has since gone viral, though not as its creators may have hoped. It has become a Twitter and Facebook symbol for Israeli racism. For me, personally, it is important that the hashtag removes the word “Am” because “Am Yisrael” commonly means the Jewish People, while “Israel” alone more commonly refers to the country.

But what’s really important that people understand in the image is the driving force behind Israeli policy. Yes, these girls or young women may not yet even be old enough to vote or to serve in the IDF. But it doesn’t take a very hard look to understand that they are not fanatical settlers. These are not orthodox young women, and just judging by their appearance and dress (which, it should be noted, is not conclusive), they are probably quite secular, mainstream Israelis, very much of the Tel Aviv culture.  Continue reading

Americans for Peace Now: Statement on PCUSA Divestment

In this case, I felt APN’s statement captured a realistic, nuanced and reasoned view so well, I thought it appropriate to reprint it APNhere in full. The original can be found here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 23, 2014

APN Statement on PC (USA) Divestment Decision

Washington, DC – Following the decision by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest from three U.S. companies whose products, they argue, are used to support Israeli occupation, Americans for Peace Now today issued the following statement: Continue reading

Why Israeli-Palestinian Talks Will Fail, Again

This article originally appeared at LobeLog

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the outset of a meeting focused on the Middle East peace process in Bethlehem, West Bank, on November 6, 2013. US Dept. of State/Public Domain

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the outset of a meeting focused on the Middle East peace process in Bethlehem, West Bank, on November 6, 2013. US Dept. of State/Public Domain

 

There is an odd sort of atmosphere today around the soon-to-fail Israel-Palestine talks. A dramatic gesture by the United States, presenting its own security plans to both Israel and the Palestinians, has engendered mostly yawns. Yet the events of recent days have clarified the likely results of these talks, despite the ongoing secrecy around them.

Secretary of State John Kerry has apparently proposed that Israel agree to abandon the Jordan Valley (constituting some 20% of the West Bank and situated in Area C, which falls under complete Israeli control under the current arrangement) in stages over an extended period of time and subject to the “good behavior” of the Palestinians. The current plan seems to be that Israeli forces would remain in the Jordan Valley for ten years while Palestinian forces are “trained.”

Not surprisingly, the Palestinians, including PA President Mahmoud Abbas disapprove of this idea. But they do so in lukewarm terms, not wanting to offend Kerry, with the hope that when the April deadline for the current round of talks rolls around that the Palestinian side will not, as it was in 2000, be portrayed as the party who refused peace. Still, as former US President Jimmy Carter once told me, a continued Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley is unacceptable to the Palestinians. Indeed, it is impossible to say that an occupation has ended when the occupying army is still there. That should be obvious. Continue reading

Europe Urged to Step into Breach of Failed Mideast Peace

via IPS News

The Oslo peace process has failed and Europe must take stronger leadership in the Middle East, according to a distinguished group of former European leaders that is pushing for a stronger and more independent European stance on the Israeli occupation.

And some United States analysts believe the European Union’s current leadership may heed the call.

A recent letter from the European Eminent Persons Group (EEPG) to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, is deeply critical of both the EU’s and the United States’ approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict and calls for specific steps to try to save the two-state solution.

The letter was signed by 19 prominent Europeans – amongst them seven former foreign ministers, four former prime ministers and one former president – from 11 European countries, including the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Latvia.

“We have watched with increasing disappointment over the past five years the failure of the parties to start any kind of productive discussion, and of the international community under American and/or European leadership to promote such discussion,” the letter said.

Specifically critical of the U.S.’s role, the letter also stated that President Barack Obama “…gave no indication [in his recent speech in Jerusalem] of action to break the deep stagnation, nor any sign that he sought something other than the re-start of talks between West Bank and Israeli leaders under the Oslo Process, which lost its momentum long ago.”

The EEPG criticised what they referred to as “the erasing of the 1967 lines as the basis for a two-state (solution).” They called for changes in EU policy and some specific steps to promote peace.

They called, among other points, for an explicit recognition that the Palestinian Territories are under occupation, imposing on Israel the legal obligations of that status; a clear statement that all Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 border be recognised as illegal and only that border can be a starting point for negotiations; and that the EU should actively support Palestinian reunification.

The notable leaders also called for “a reconsideration of the funding arrangements for Palestine, in order to avoid the Palestinian Authority’s present dependence on sources of funding which serve to freeze rather than promote the peace process,” an acknowledgment that the often praised “economic improvement” in the West Bank has been built on international donations and is not sustainable.

The timing of the letter, sent just after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s most recent trip to the Middle East, was a clear statement that the EEPG does not believe the current round of U.S. diplomacy is likely to achieve significant progress. The letter has received only moderate publicity, yet EEPG’s co-chair, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, believes that the recommendations of the Group can get the long-dormant peace process back on track.

“We have had an acknowledgement from Ashton’s office to say that a response is being prepared,” Greenstock told IPS. “The letter recommends a strategic change, which is a big ask. The first step must be to start a more realistic debate about the poor results from recent policy.  We then hope that our recommendations will get a good hearing.”

Greenstock also expressed confidence that EU leadership can not only contribute to reviving diplomacy but can also help the United States realign its policies toward a more productive track.

“The EEPG recognises that a U.S. role is indispensable,” he said. “But the current American stance is unproductive.  We believe the Europeans can at least lead on exploring some alternatives, which could in the end be helpful to Washington.”

Hard-line pro-Israel voices have long insisted that only the United States should be mediating between Israel and the Palestinians. Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and leading neo-conservative pundit, sharply criticised the letter in his blog.

“This letter is a useful reminder of European attitudes, at least at the level of the Eminent: Blame Israel, treat the Palestinians as children, wring your hands over the terrible way the Americans conduct diplomacy,” Abrams wrote.

“The Israelis will treat this letter with the derision it deserves, and the Palestinians will understand that because this kind of thing reduces European influence with Israel, the EU just can’t deliver much. Indeed it cannot, and the bias, poor reasoning, and refusal to face facts in this letter all suggest that that won’t be changing any time soon.”

But Paul Pillar, a professor in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Programme who spent 28 years as a CIA analyst, thinks Washington might welcome a European initiative along the lines suggested by the EEPG.

“I don’t think that European activism along this line would cause a great deal of heartburn, political or otherwise, in the White House,” Pillar told IPS. “Of course for the United States to take the sorts of positions mentioned in the letter would be anathema to the Israel lobby, and thus the United States will not take them.

“But it would be hard for the Israeli government or anyone else to argue that merely acquiescing in European initiatives is equivalent to the United States taking the same initiatives itself. If the EU were to get out in front in the way recommended by the EEPG, President Obama would say to Netanyahu and others – consistent with what he has said in the past, ‘I have Israel’s back and always will.

“But as I have warned, without peace we are likely to see other countries doing more and more things that challenge the Israeli position.’”

Chas Freeman, former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and former president of the Middle East Policy Council, believes the EU has lost patience with U.S. policy in the Middle East and that Israel will soon need to contend with an EU that is more demanding than it has been in the recent past.

“The international community has long since lost confidence in American diplomacy in the Middle East,” Freeman told IPS. “Europe is not an exception, as shown in trends in voting at the United Nations.  The ‘peace process’ was once the emblem of U.S. sincerity and devotion to the rule of law; it is now seen as the evidence of American diplomatic ineptitude, subservience to domestic special interests, and political hypocrisy. Europe no longer follows American dictates.

“The EU has its own divided mind. Israel must make its own case to Europeans now.  That will not be easy.”

Greenstock believes the urgency of the moment can lead to firm European action. Asked why the EEPG members are taking bolder stances now than when they were in office, he said: “When most of the signatories were in office, there was still some hope that Oslo-Madrid could produce a result. Time and a lack of recent effective action has changed that.  Almost every observer now thinks that the prospects for a two-state solution are fading.  Hence the urgency.”