Today is Land Day in Israel/Palestine, a memorial day commemorating the March 30, 1976 deaths of six Palestinian-Israelis, killed while protesting Israel’s practice of expropriating Palestinian-Israeli land.
Since then, Palestinians both inside and outside of Israel-proper have marked March 30 as a day on which to protest not just issues concerning land within Israel’s internationally-recognized borders, but also Israel’s generally discriminatory practices toward its Palestinian citizens, and the occupation/settlements.
So far (1:45 pm, CST) one protester, Mahmoud Zaqout, has been killed in Gaza, but at least one other person has been critically injured by Israeli fire, so it’s likely that the number of dead will rise by at least one. Many others have been injured and/or detained.
Such a day seems a particularly good day to run Billy Bragg’s “The World Turned Upside Down,” about a 17th century land protest.
Diplomacy: the art of stating the obvious and getting immunity for it.
Observation: The Bush administration leaked sensitive information to journalists to start wars. The Obama administration leaks sensitive information to journalists to stop them.
Two reports today about Iran’s nuclear program and the possibility of an Israeli military strike have analysts in Israel accusing the Obama administration leaking information to pressure Israel not to bomb Iran and for Iran to reach a compromise in upcoming nuclear talks.
The first report in Foreign Policy quotes anonymous American officials saying that Israel has been given access to airbases by Iran’s northern neighbor Azerbaijan from which Israel could launch air strikes or at least drones and search and rescue aircraft.
The second report from Bloomberg, based on a leaked congressional report, said that Iran’s nuclear facilities are so dispersed that it is “unclear what the ultimate effect of a strike would be…” A strike could delay Iran as little as six months, a former official told the researchers.
“It seems like a big campaign to prevent Israel from attacking,” analyst Yoel Guzansky at the Institute for National Security Studies told ABC News. “I think the [Obama] administration is really worried Jerusalem will attack and attack soon. They’re trying hard to prevent it in so many ways.”
For years now, I’ve written some version of the following words:
“All 22 members of the Arab League, including the Palestinian Authority, offered a comprehensive peace in exchange for a two state solution not once, but twice: in 2002 and 2007. Both times, Israel entirely ignored the offer.”
I wrote these words in good faith, but it turns out I was wrong. Wrong matters.
Late Monday night, while he was speaking to the annual J Street conference, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said this: “Those who say that Israel did not address itself to the Arab Peace Initiative do not speak the truth. Israel was prepared to negotiate within the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative.”
I took note but was busy transcribing the speech for a client, so couldn’t do anything at the moment. By the time Olmert was done, JTA’s Washington bureau chief Ron Kampeas had tweeted:
I tweeted back a question asking for clarification, and he very kindly obliged — and lo, it turns out that at the Annapolis Peace Conference in November 2007, then-Prime Minister Olmert said in his address:
I am familiar with the Arab peace initiative, which was born in Riyadh, affirmed in Beirut [in 2002] and recently reaffirmed by you in Riyadh. I value this initiative, acknowledge its importance and highly appreciate its contribution. I have no doubt that it will be referred to in the course of the negotiations between us and the Palestinian leadership.
So first of all: I was wrong.
In Monday’s HaAretz, leading Israeli political columnist (and national treasure) Akiva Eldar wrote about a dicey Palestinian decision to call on the UN to investigate Israel’s West Bank settlements (about which I wrote here, if you’re looking for a brief primer) — his point boiled down to: Such a gambit is simply not likely to pay off for the Palestinians, and then what?
However, on his way to making that point, he also happened to sum up, almost incidentally, the last decade or more of Israeli behavior on the West Bank, which in turn boils down to: They do whatever the hell they want, no matter what.
And thus my regular column at The Daily Beast/Zion Square begins! I’ll be running a post every other Friday, starting today (in addition to the occasional one-off piece, such as the one that ran on launch day).
You’ll find the top of today’s entry below — I suspect it will win me few friends, but there it is. One doesn’t get into the poorly-paying having-opinions-about-Israel/Palestine biz in order to win friends.
To read the whole thing, I encourage you to click here — and just like I did last week, I really mean it: Please click! (And of course: FB, Tweet, Stumble, Pin, Digg, etc, and so on. Tell your friends! Is what I’m saying here). I would surely take it as a kindness.
You Don’t Make Peace With Your Friends
I was at the grocery store on Arlozorov Street one bright spring morning in 1997. Tel Aviv was gearing up for Purim, so I likely had hamentaschen in the cart, certainly challah and probably milk. I was, no doubt, staring into the middle distance when I began to notice a certain agitation animating the store’s elderly security guard. He crossed the store and began to speak in urgent tones with his manager, radio in hand.
In Israel, these are signs that “mashehu kara,” something’s happened – and by “something” folks mean: an attack, rockets, Israeli death at Arab hands.
The security guard, it transpired, had heard news of another suicide bombing – but this one was literally around the corner from my apartment. On that spring day, three young mothers, out for coffee, were killed at the now-infamous Apropos Restaurant.
Peter Beinart (who is now, loosely speaking, my boss), has raised a kerfluffle, something of a habit of his (see his 2010 essay, The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment, as well as the blog he edits at which I’m a columnist, Zion Square). He did this most recently on Sunday, by suggesting in the New York Times that supporters of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should boycott Israel’s West Bank settlements.
“Oh noes!” cried Israel’s ambassador to the US, and various prominent Jewish thinkers, “Beinart is radical! And boycotting Jews! And boycotting Jews [and here I quote Jeffrey Goldberg] is distasteful, for obvious historical reasons!” I’m not at all sure what historical reasons these may be, as Jews have rather a history of disagreeing with each other and acting on those disagreements, and “radical”? A man who attends an Orthodox synagogue and declares himself a pro-Israel Zionist? Words are, once again, drifting free of their moorings, but that’s par for the course in these arguments.
The simple truth is that a boycott of Israel’s settlements has been around for awhile. I’ve been boycotting settlement products since before I left Israel, in 1998. Peace Now called for a boycott last July, and many Israelis think that’s a dandy idea. But Peter has real buzz, between his about-to-be-released book, and the aforementioned blog project — so, you know: Cue the drama!
See update, below.
I often find that I use Twitter as my rough draft for a full-fledged post — the outrage (or delight – occasionally there’s delight) begins, and my thoughts start to come together in that forum, and then I wind up over here, writing it all in a more coherent (and less 140-character dependent) form.
Such was the case over the weekend, as news broke of renewed hostilities on the Gaza-Israel border, and I began to tweet.
The whole thing started when Israel assassinated Zuhir al-Qaisi, the leader of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees (a militant group more extremist than Hamas) in an airstrike near Gaza City on Friday. Israel claims that al-Qaisi was in the process of planning another attack like the one last August for which it holds the PRC responsible, an attack in which eight Israelis were murdered outside of Eilat (Israel’s southern-most point).
The problems with just that first paragraph are myriad, however, starting with the fact that extra-judicial assassinations are illegal and immoral. Even if one presumes al-Qaisi’s guilt, his assistant was also killed in that initial attack. Moreover, I, for one, have learned not to immediately trust any government that drops information like “so-and-so was about to kill us, that’s why we had to take him out” — governments have very, very good reasons to lie about these things, and, if Israel was in fact lying this time, it had an especially good reason to do so: Those involved in last August’s Eilat attack didn’t actually come from Gaza, where al-Qaisi and the PRC are located. The terrorists came from the Sinai.
My column at The Daily Beast‘s new Zion Square blog will run every other Friday, starting next Friday.
However, I had already sent them a different post, on a topic they asked us all to write about: My relationship with the word “Zionism.” The plan has been to scatter those posts along the way, over the next week or two.
And lo! They decided to run mine today, on the very day that the blog went live! O_O (I’m reduced to emoticons at this point).
Here’s the top of that post:
Peter Beinart, columnist at The Daily Beast (Newsweek’s online presence) and author of The Icarus Syndrome and the up-coming The Crisis of Zionism (and, not incidentally, of a cri de couer entitled “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment” that set the American Jewish world on its ear when the New York Review of Books ran it in June 2010, in that it told the truth that no one wanted to talk about) is launching a new group blog, called Zion Square, to be hosted on The Daily Beast.
I’m one of the columnists.
This is very cool. This is very, very cool, and in many ways, is the very thing I’ve been trying to achieve since I started writing op/eds in 2002, post-graduate school.
And I was hardly even talking about it, though it’s been in the works for a month or so, because as an old school reporter, I know that your story isn’t safe until it’s on someone’s doorstep (or, in this case, computer monitor) and why on earth would I want to jinx this? So, you know: Mum = the word!
But Tablet Magazine ran a piece about the project today, and, well – if it’s online, it must be true, right? Here’s what they said: