Israel/Palestine: the Prince, the President, the Activist, the Pope and the Writer

December 4, 2018


In June the Duke of Cambridge – the first senior member of the royal family to make an official visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories – was asked by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin to take a “message of peace” to the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Rivlin has made a point of reaching out to Israel’s Arab minority, saying that they form a “bridge to peaceful coexistence” with the Palestinians. He is a popular figure who enjoys cross-party support though his outspoken opinions have led to a series of disputes with key figures in the Israeli government.

He said to Prince William: “I would like you to send him a message of peace. And tell him it is about time that we have to find together a way to build confidence.

“To build confidence as a first step to bring to an understanding that we have to bring to an end the tragedy between us that goes along for more than 120 years.” 

William said in a speech at the British embassy in Tel Aviv: “Never has hope and reconciliation been more needed. I know I share a desire with all of you, and with your neighbours, for a just and lasting peace.”

Uri Avnery, who died in October, was described in a Haaretz obituary as one of the first Israelis to extend a hand to the Arab minority.

He co-founded Gush Shalom (Hebrew for the Peace Bloc), a pressure group and published an English-language version of the column titled “Who the Hell Are We?” The group advocates the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war, and describes itself as “the hard core of the Israeli peace movement.”

After fighting as a commando in Israel’s 1948 war of independence and being seriously wounded, he emerged with a conviction that the new Jewish state was part of the Middle East, not the West, and needed to live in peace with its Arab neighbours.

He was one of the first proponents of the “two-state solution”, with Israel and Palestine existing side by side with open borders and Jerusalem as their joint capital, which would become the basis of peace negotiations decades later: “The war totally convinced me there’s a Palestinian people, and that peace must be forged first and foremost with them. To achieve that goal, a Palestinian nation-state had to be established.”

In July 1982, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, he crossed the front lines in besieged Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel’s arch-enemy. It was allegedly the first time that Arafat had met an Israeli. They talked for more than two hours, filmed by a German television crew. Avnery joked that the unmarried PLO leader could solve the Middle East conflict in an instant by marrying an Israeli woman.

He then returned to Israel to face the inevitable accusations of treason. Even his mother disowned him, cutting him out of her will and complaining: “He did not take care of me and instead went off to visit the murderer Yasser Arafat.”

  • He exposed atrocities by Israeli soldiers.
  • After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war Avnery urged Israel to withdraw from the territories it had gained and set up a Palestinian state.
  • In 1975 he co-founded the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.
  • He acted as a “human shield” to prevent the Israel military shelling Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah during the second Intifada.
  • In 1965 Avnery created a political party in response to a defamation law that appeared to target HaOlam HaZeh. He won a seat in the Knesset that year and held it four years later, but the party disintegrated. He wrote a book about his tenure called 1 against 119: Uri Avnery in the Knesset.
  • Later Avnery developed secret relationships with some Palestinian officials and served on occasion as an unofficial back channel between them and the Israeli government.
  • He was one of a handful of Israelis to attend Arafat’s funeral in 2004.
  • He supported negotiations with the militant Palestinian organisation Hamas and a boycott of goods produced in Israel’s West Bank settlements.

His estate is bequeathed to peace activism.

Pope Francis welcomed the Palestinian leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, to a private audience in the Vatican on December 3rd.

In a statement released after their meeting, the Vatican said the two leaders focused on “efforts to reactivate the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, and to reach a two-state solution, hoping for a renewed commitment on the part of the international community to meet the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”

They exchanged gifts and discussed the status of Jerusalem, underlining “the importance of recognizing and preserving its identity and the universal value of the holy city for the three Abrahamic religions.

Writer Amos Oz was one of the first Israelis to advocate a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict after the Six-Day War.

In 1978, he was one of the founders of Peace Now. He is opposed to Israeli settlement activity and was among the first to praise the Oslo Accords and talks with the PLO. His thoughtful book How to cure a fanatic is a collection of Amos Oz’s lectures on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Read more here.

He advocates the two-state solution, which he sees as the best answer to what is effectively a “real-estate dispute”

“The Palestinians are in Palestine because Palestine is the homeland and the only homeland of the Palestinian people. In the same way in which Holland is the homeland of the Dutch, or Sweden the homeland of the Swedes.

“The Israeli Jews are in Israel because there is no other country in the world which the Jews, as a people, as a nation, could ever call home. As individuals, yes, but not as a people, not as a nation.”

He draws a parallel between the experience of the Palestinian people and the experience of the Jews, stressing that both claims to Palestine are justified and right. Accordingly he concludes “What we need is a painful compromise.”

 

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30,000 Israeli Jews and Arabs gather to oppose their government’s policies

August 2, 2017

At the end of May, Peace Now reported that 30,000 Israelis (above) raised their voices against 50 years of occupation and in support of a two state solution.

Peace Now is a movement of Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens who see the pursuit of peace, compromise and reconciliation with the Palestinians on the one hand and with the Arab states on the other, as necessary to guarantee Israel’s future security and its identity as a state.

30,000 Jews and Arabs, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, old and young, arrived from all across Israel to show that many support a two state solution, oppose the government’s policies and seek to end the occupation, which is hurting Palestinians and deteriorating Israel’s democracy.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in Jewish-only colonies, which are deemed illegal by international law, throughout occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.

However, two months later, there was an incident at Abu Rajabs’ family home, in the southern occupied West Bank, raising tensions in the city. The clearest account is given by IMEMC News here.

In 2012, Israeli settler colonizers took over the top two floors of the home, forcing the Abu Rajab family to huddle into the lowest level of their home. The home has been the subject of a long-standing legal case, with settlers claiming that they legally purchased the property. The Abu Rajab family rejects that claim, and Israel’s civil administration has said the settlers have been unable to provide proof of that purchase.

Since that time, the Abu Rajab family has been continually harassed, including having their entrance and exit to the home blocked, being beaten and threatened, having soldiers occupy their home and assist the settler colonizers in their takeover, and having one of the sons of the Abu Rajab family abducted and put into prison without charge for years. Throughout 2015, Israeli settlers camped outside the home for months, harassing the Abu Rajab family and preventing them from leaving.

This video shows one altercation, but it is unclear what is happening. The most disturbunig shots were of a large crowd of y oung israels repeatedly calpp9ng and cheering..

IMEMC News reports that the family had filed six different complaints with the Israeli court system, which eventually ruled in their favour and ordered the settlers to evacuate.

Now, in 2017, the family finds themselves once again filing a complaint with the Israeli police, as the settlers have returned to force them from their home in violation of international and Israeli law.

Peace Now has called on the Israeli government to evict the settlers from the home.

Will the Israeli court see that their decision is upheld and implemented?


Tel Aviv rally: is the wind of change in Israel-Palestine gathering pace?

October 25, 2015

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Masses of those who look for peace and more evenly distributed prosperity, now able to share their news and their views online, are responding politically to the messages of Tsipras, Corbyn, Trudeau and Sanders.

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Hours ago, it was reported from Tel Aviv that thousands of Israelis rallied on Saturday for fresh Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Activist group Peace Now — which organised the rally along with the left-wing Meretz party and others — estimated there were some 6,000 people attending. Daniel Dojon told AFP he came “because the situation is crazy. I am not talking about safety but the lack of (political) progress, the lack of hope. Israeli politicians are becoming more and more extreme.”

israel rabinOn the eve of the 20th anniversary of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, demonstrators chanted “Jews and Arabs don’t want to hate each other” and “Israel, Palestine, two states for two peoples”. They gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, where the Nobel peace laureate was shot on November 4, 1995 by a right-wing Israeli radical, Yigal Amir, who was opposed to the peace process and is now serving a life sentence. According to the Hebrew calendar the anniversary falls now, rather than in November.

Today, President Reuven Rivlin will host a candle-lighting tribute in Rabin’s memory and on Monday there will be a state memorial ceremony alongside his grave in the national cemetery on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl.

“The path that was stopped in 1995 is very much the path that needs to be taken today,” Peace Now spokeswoman Anat Ben Nun told AFP

She said that Saturday night’s protest was aimed at the policies of the incumbent right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On the same day, in Amman, John Kerry met Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan in Amman. He announced round-the-clock video monitoring and Israel’s agreement to reaffirm Jordan’s historic role as custodian of the religious complex, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and as the Noble Sanctuary – Haram al-Sharif – to Muslims. “. . . we’ve agreed that this is a first step to creating some space in order to allow us to resume those steps and that dialogue,” he said.

israel kerry jordanJordanian King Abdullah II, right, met U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan, Oct. 24 2015.

Though decorated for service in Vietnam, Kerry joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War organization and appeared in the Fulbright Hearings before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs where he stated United States war policy in Vietnam to be the cause of war crimes. In 1971, when the veterans gathered in Washington Mall for a week-long demonstration, he joined others in throwing ribbons and medals over a fence erected to prevent them from getting close to the front of the US Capitol.

A person standing near him recalled that he said, “There is no violent reason for this; I’m doing this for peace and justice and to try to help this country wake up once and for all.”

Amen!


The brave, beleaguered Israeli peace movement

July 22, 2014

John Reed in Ashkelon reports that, as of Monday, more than 500 Palestinians in Gaza had been killed in Israeli shelling from the land, air and sea.

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Above (FT): Civilians take cover in a Southern Israeli air raid shelter as several rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip

 children palestine

Above: Palestinians have nowhere to hide

Members of Israel’s Peace Now and its pro-peace activist camp are increasingly being shouted down or physically attacked

At a demonstration in a ‘mixed city’ Haifa, counter demonstrators beat participants, including the city’s Israeli-Arab deputy mayor, a family physician, Dr. Suhail Assad and his son, chanting “Death to Arabs”. More detail in Israel’s daily, Haaretz.

On another march in Jerusalem on Sunday evening organised by parents at Hand in Hand, a bilingual school for Israeli and Arab children, participants were heckled by passers-by, one of whom shouted “Go to Gaza”.

In Tel Aviv last week, about 250 Jewish protesters video were set upon, punched and pushed by a well-organised group of rightwingers in an attack that left several people with bruises, black eyes, or other injuries. Another, which mustered about 1,000 people, was attacked by rightwing activists, who threw eggs and plastic bottles.

missile downed iron dome shield

The Iron Dome exploded an incoming rocket overhead as the two groups fought in what one participant called a “surreal” moment.