Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Massive Gap between Private Pragmatism and Public Rejectionism in Palestinian Society

From our friends at Beyond Images comes an excellent analysis of the Palestinian society at large in relation to its preparedness for a peace agreement with Israel

According to the Palestine Papers, PA negotiators were privately willing to accept that Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem (apart from Maale Adumim) could stay in place as part of a two-state solution.

Yet, to the world at large, those self-same negotiators and their supporters worldwide ceaselessly condemn those suburbs as "illegal settlements in occupied Arab East Jerusalem".

According to the Palestine Papers, PA negotiators privately explored only very limited 'rights of return' for Palestinian refugees into Israel. Yet, to the world at large, those self-same Palestinian negotiators ceaselessly proclaim the 'right of return' of all Palestinian people into Israel under UN Resolution 194 and are not willing to consider any compromise on this "inalienable right".

The fact that Palestinian negotiators were privately willing to consider compromise solutions in these areas is not news. To people who have followed the negotiations closely, this has been known for 10 years. But the Palestine Papers reveal the massive gap between private pragmatism and public rejectionism in Palestinian society.

Palestinian negotiators who considered those compromises are frantically denying having made them. They are claiming that they have been falsely accused by al-Jazeera. And they are claiming that they strongly uphold Palestinian rights, and the papers have been tampered with, or taken completely out of context.

Many commentators argue that the Palestine Papers show that the Israelis have a partner for peace. This is too simplistic. All they show is that in private, some 'moderate' Palestinians have begun to realise they must be pragmatic, not ideological. But what they really show is that Palestinian society has not publicly begun to absorb or internalise the changes which will be needed for practical coexistence.

Herb Keinon, diplomatic editor of the Jerusalem Post, points out that the Palestinian reaction "on the street" in the West Bank has been muted (Jerusalem Post, Friday 28 January). He sees this as a glimmer of hope - maybe the people out of sheer weariness with conflict, realise that the behind-the-scenes compromises their negotiators explored are indeed the only way forward. But this is a glimmer of hope, at best.

Key message: Palestinians may be weary of conflict. But they are not ready for the changes in public attitude which will be needed to for a two-state solution to become a reality. Private pragmatism needs to become publicly mainstream for peace to have any chance at all.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Where are the Genuine Human Rights Organisations?

The rhetoric bandied around by the "high and mighty" operating in the human rights field knows no bounds when Israel is concerned. Fiction becomes fact and the roles of justice and injustice are reversed.Why do these hunan rights organisations not focus on the REAL issues instead of the fictional ones.

Below are a number of links to matters concerning the role of women in Palestinian society. Just why is this matter hidden under the carpet?

Gaza's Women: Who Is Defending Their Rights? Khaled Abu Tomeh December 2010 “Hamas to women: Don't laugh and talk in public”. Palestinian Media Watch “PA TV highlights problem of devaluing girls and women in Palestinian society” PMW “PA: Women and the sick used as smugglers by Hamas “ PMW Miscellaneous examples PMW

Friday, January 21, 2011

Israel's Relationship to the Palestinians - A Jordanian View

Mudar Zahran is a Jordanian of Palestinian heritage, he attended Southern New Hampshire University, graduatng with two masters. He has served as a strategist for the American Embassy in Amman, reporting to it and the American Embassy in Baghdad until recently. During his time there, Zahran covered major political issues for the embassy. His work has been reported to senior officials in DC, including the Department of State, Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Treasury and DHS.

Zahran writes for several Arab media outlets and has been basically banned from many for his approach towards taboo issues in the Middle East, nonetheless, his articles are available on the Arab Times, the most read Arab newspaper online, and they are highly circulated on Arab internet media. Zahran writes op-eds for the Jerusalem Post. Zahran has also served as an economist and a researcher respectively at the Japanese and the Australian Embassies in Amman. He is considered an insider on Jordanian and Iraqi politic. Zahran is currently a researcher at the University of Bedfordshire, where he will secure a Ph.d in 2011.

One of his latest reports concerns Israel and presents a surprising acknowledgement of what Israel has been saying the whole time but, regretably, the international media ignore these facts.

Israel’s relationship to the Palestinians has always been globally approached with standardized heavy criticism made to Israel. The main charges waved in Israel’s face have always been “the Disapropriate use of force” and “discrimination”.

Israel’s critics, either willingly or out of ignorance, choose to overlook the way many Arab countries mistreat Palestinians. Some Arab countries are almost never blamed for what they have been doing to the Palestinians for decades. Such selective recognition of facts by Israel’s critics is bizarre when weighed by truth instead of myths.

In December of 2008, Israel launched operation “cast lead” against Hamas which was launching rockets on Southern Israel on a daily basis. This operation has resulted in the death of more than 1,400 Palestinians, many said to be civilians; an absolute tragedy, nonetheless, those criticizing Israel fail to recognize that the number of causalities is small comparing to Gaza’s population of 1.5 million, considering the high density of Gaza’s population per square kilometre, the number suggests the Israeli forces were very cautious in carrying out their attacks, despite the fact that they were chasing a moving target, Hamas militants. If Israeli forces were targeting Palestinian civilians, the number of the dead would have reached tens of thousands.

On comparison; in 1976, Lebanese militiamen butchered 2,000 Palestinians; almost wiping out the entire population of Tell al-Zaatar refugee camp within days. This was revisited again in 1982 in Sabra and Shatelah massacre; where, in less than four days, Lebanese militiamen killed thousands of women and children who posed no threat as most Palestinian fighters had left then to Tunisia. Two years ago, al-Jazeera satellite network aired rare footage of Palestinians running to Israeli soldiers for refuge from the massacre.

Furthermore, most Arab atrocities against Palestinians have included documented rape cases, even of children, while not a single rape case has been reported against Israeli forces in more than sixty years of operations.

Arab governments’ oppression of the Palestinians does not stop at bloodshed and wholesale slaughters, in fact the more troubling aspects of the way they treat Palestinians is in the systematic long-range exclusion and discrimination. In Arab countries where Palestinians make up a good percentage of the population; they are depraved of all basic necessities, starting with education, down to basic healthcare. Even at countries that have granted the Palestinians citizenships; the Palestinians stand helpless and banned from every potential to improve their livelihoods.

Israel, on the other hand, has always allowed Palestinians to work there and to get paid in Western standards, and even had allowed them generous access to healthcare. In fact, Israel has also welcomed Palestinians as visitors, patients and even as investors, this generosity was only limited when Hamas started bombing Israeli civilians with no signs of an end in sight.

The complexity Israel has with Palestinians revolves around security rather than ideological issues; Israel does not have an aim to enslave the Palestinians for life or purposely degrade their humanity. While many Arab countries have designed their systems to discriminate and humiliate the Palestinians, squeezing them into illiteracy and poverty while milking them for tax money.

This has become most visible recently with calls in some Arab countries to revoke citizenships of all Palestinians there and actually to force them to seek local guarantors to obtain residency, thus enslaving them for life.

This comes as a deeper shock for Palestinians when they see Israeli Arabs, with many of them describing themselves as “Palestinians in Israel”; those are full citizens of Israel with access to all privileges. Israeli Arabs are fully represented inside the Knesset while Palestinians, in their Arab homeland, are allowed only symbolic presence in parliaments, even at countries where they are the majority. And while some Arab countries selectively withdraw citizenships from Palestinians, many Arab Knesset members do not hesitate to speak against Israel with no fear of losing their citizenships or entitlements.

Still, while the world is most vocal about Israeli military operations, it fails to recognize that Israel has been dealing with non-stop unrest on its soil since the breakout of the Intifada in 1987. Has that Intifada taken place in any Arab country; it would have ended within the first couple of weeks with an Arab army killing more than ten thousands Palestinians, most being civilians. Examples of this are countless and in all Arab countries hosting Palestinians; yet the world seems to think this reality is too overrated to recognize.

Today, with peace negotiations up and running, some Arab governments seem to want to butcher the Palestinians again on the altar of dictatorship by worsening their living conditions and making their lives more miserable, just to secure a better negotiating position or merely a seat at the negotiations table. Not to mention that many of those actually would rather see the negotiations fail in order to keep more international aid money flowing to them for “hosting” the Palestinians.

Quoting a commentator on one of my articles; “the Palestinians, do obviously need a break from their sworn Arab friends”, and perhaps they can reconnect to them when they have learned a lesson or two from their Israeli “enemies”.
Meanwhile, the world will remain silent about the Palestinians’ suffering at the hands of some of their “brothers”, as it’s too occupied with Israel.

Monday, January 17, 2011

First Israeli Arab Woman Becomes a Plastic Surgeon

Another first for the Rambam hospital in Haifa - click on the title to link to a video of this story

For Dr. Rania Elkhatib, the first Israeli Arab woman to become a plastic surgeon in Israel, the job at Rambam Medical Center is a chance to be an emissary for her community.

The first Israeli Arab woman to become a plastic surgeon, Dr Rania Elkhatib works at the Rambam Medical Center, the largest hospital in northern Israel.

After studying medicine at the Technion -- Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and then specializing in general surgery, the 28-year-old doctor decided to focus on plastic surgery: "... It was important to me because in our community plastic surgery isn't very advanced and it's not well accepted so I feel a bit like an emissary for my community, to go into this field and take it forward," she says.

Situated in Haifa, Rambam is the referral center for 11 district hospitals. Its plastic surgeons treat a number of conditions, ranging from burns, war injuries and cleft palates to breast and facial reconstruction for cancer patients.

Thirty percent of doctors at Rambam are women, and the representation of Arab physicians is proportionate to the numbers in the population in the north.

While the hospital is committed to providing equal opportunities, Prof. Yehuda Ullmann, head of the plastic surgery department, stresses that doctors are chosen purely on merit: "Plastic surgery residency is the most wanted residency in medicine not just in Israel but all over the world, and she was elected not because she's Arab, not because she's a woman, because she is Dr. Elkhatib and she is good and she is a very good doctor over here so we are lucky to have her here."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

An Egyptian's scientist's journey from wariness to warmth

By Avigayil Kadesh – for full report see

When Dr. Ahmed Moustafa announced his intention to conduct medical research in Israel during the summer of 2008, his family feared for his life and his friends feared for his sanity.

But the Cairo University graduate, who has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from the University of Louisiana, was eager to accept an invitation from Jerusalem's
Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Medicine and Al-Quds University to enhance his study of Parkinson's disease.

"Some of my friends in Egypt advised me not to embark on such an 'unethical' trip," Moustafa recently wrote on the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East website. "For many in Egypt, setting foot in Israel is unthinkable. But the Palestinian professors whom I consulted did not voice such criticism; they encouraged me to visit Israel. My friends in the United States did not make such criticisms either, and I realized that many Americans and Europeans who visit Israel hold different views on Israeli politics, yet they discuss their opinions openly with Israelis."

Wariness due to ignorance

Now 33, Moustafa is doing post-doctoral work at Rutgers University in New Jersey – he explains that widespread wariness regarding Israel is not due to educational indoctrination in Egypt, but rather the result of unflattering newspaper reports and cartoons as well as a lack of exposure to anything Israeli.

"I’ve read recently that they tried to show an Israeli movie in Egypt, but it was not allowed," he relates. "If people could see the 'other side' of Israel, its books and movies and science, I think that might make a difference. Now I talk to everyone about my time in Israel," including those friends back home who had discouraged him from going.

He recalls being on his guard when he first arrived, a bit taken aback by the sight of Israeli soldiers on the streets. But after a short while he realized there was nothing to fear and much to be learned about Israel and its Jewish and Arab citizens.

Surprised by Arabic street signs

"The Arabic street signs everywhere surprised me," he relates. "I thought Arabic would be something they’d stay away from, but every sign has Hebrew, Arabic and English. And I met many Jewish people of Arab origin there. I did not know about that before."

Believing strongly that Arab countries need more scientific interaction with the outside world, including Israel, Moustafa has been trying to encourage Arab colleagues to join the ranks of world-class scientists and graduate students from Italy, the United States, Germany, Canada, Japan and many other countries who learn, visit and lecture at Israeli universities and attend scientific conferences in Israel.

Not there yet

"It is sad that neighboring countries do not participate in these activities," he says. "There is no doubt that Israeli science institutions and Israeli researchers would welcome having Arab researchers visit and collaborate with them. It is an overall win-win game for both sides, if not more beneficial for Arab researchers."

If there is one overall message he'd like to get out to his fellow Arab scientists, it is this: "Separate politics from science and give Israel a try. See for yourself."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Art of Co-Existence

On the first day of 2011, young artists from the Leo Baeck school in Haifa and local elementary schools of different faiths – Bahai, Christian, Druze, Jews and Moslem- designed, painted and mounted their own unique tiles for the "Let the Sun Rise" Ceramic Peace Wall at Bet Hagefen in the Wadi Nisnass neibourhood of Haifa. The Wall is a tableau of hope, representing the children’s interpretation of the multicultural beauty of Haifa. This ongoing project is being led by Haifa Arab artist Abed Abdi.

This is one of the beauties of Haifa, the constantly untold story of co-existence.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Israel brings treatment and training to Kenya

In just three weeks, a team of Israeli aid workers completed construction of a hospital emergency room - the only facility of its kind - in Kisumu, Kenya.

Sick and injured Kenyans can receive quality emergency care at Kisumu East District Hospital in Kenya’s third-largest city, now that a team of 10 Israeli engineers has completed construction of the hospital’s first, fully-equipped emergency room.

Planned and built under the auspices of MASHAV (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Agency for International Development Cooperation), the ER will provide not only regional emergency treatment, but also regional medical training.

"There is no other such facility in a region of six million people,” says MASHAV director Haim Divon, who traveled to the East African republic at the beginning of November for a ceremony to inaugurate the ER.

Beyond building the state-of-the-art facility and donating all necessary supplies, MASHAV sent specialists to train local medical professionals in emergency medicine to raise the level of care available in the city and its periphery.

Sick and injured Kenyans can now receive quality emergency care thanks to Israel's MASHAV (Photo: MFA)

The project was initiated by MASHAV’s medical adviser, Dr. Yossi Baratz, who served as the agency’s representative in Kenya from 2003 to 2006. Baratz is in charge of MASHAV’s numerous public health missions, the newest of which include setting up a dialysis center in Micronesia and establishing an intensive care unit in Haiti.

The work was carried out - in a record three weeks’ time - by engineering and medical teams from the largest health organization in Israel and one of the most progressive public health associations in the world. MASHAV invested about a quarter of a million dollars, not including ongoing support and capacity building.

Israel and Kenya have enjoyed close and friendly relations since the 1950s, when MASHAV set up ophthalmology "camps" there as one of its first endeavors. "We have a special sentiment for Kenya because it was one of the first countries we established diplomatic relations with.

This model to be replicated in Uganda and Tanzania

Kisumu is best known today as the region encompassing the village where US President Barack Obama’s father was born. But long before most people had ever heard of this area, Israel was helping to improve its citizens’ quality of life.
During a visit last year from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, local officials expressed their interest in upgrading the services of the district hospital. Baratz determined that an ER and provision of emergency medical training would be a good starting point.

Divon, who has visited Kenya many times in an official capacity, promises that MASHAV will next help to train emergency medical responders. "When Kenya’s minister of health was in Israel recently, he expressed interest in our Magen David Adom system, [Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross]. In Kenya, they don’t have adequate medical knowledge or facilities to treat victims at the site of accidents, so ambulances are mainly just for transport. In our system, the ambulance squad is already administering emergency care and this is a concept they want to adopt," he explains.

Divon cites "respect and appreciation," as the benefit Israel derives from such projects. "The mayor, the minister of health and all the other officials pour praise on us and salute Israel and our embassy. This opens doors. When our ambassador calls, they will pick up the phone because they see him as relevant to the development of Kenya. That is the immediate dividend we receive."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Just What is the Mossad Capable Of?

Newspapers reported last month that a shark that killed and maimed tourists on its Red Sea port may have been intentionally released by Israeli agents in order to sabotage the Egypt's tourist industry.

Now a vulture that strayed into Saudi Arabian territory has now been “arrested” on suspicion of being a Mossad spy.

The bird was found in a rural area of the country wearing a transmitter and a leg bracelet bearing the words "Tel Aviv University", according to the reports.

Although these tags indicate that the bird was part of a long-term research project into migration patterns, residents and local reporters told Saudi Arabia's Al-Weeam newspaper that the matter seemed to be a "Zionist plot."

And as usual, the accusations spread through the Arab media like wildfire claiming that the "Zionists" had trained these birds for espionage.

Melanie Phillips, the British journalist has said and written recently, “what is striking is the extent to which a patently false and in many cases demonstrably absurd account has been absorbed uncritically and assumed to be true.”