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In recent talks with interfaith leaders and with Jewish leaders, Secretary of State John Kerry and Ambassador Martin Indyk, his lead negotiator for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations outlined, according to John Judis at The New Republic, the framework that Secretary Kerry is going to propose to Israeli and Palestinian negotiators for a two-states-for-two-peoples peace settlement. For those of us who support such a peace settlement, or who simply want President and Obama and Secretary Kerry to succeed, it's not to early to begin mobilizing. Some of the  elements, according to Judis, are:

  • Israel recognizes Palestine as the nation of the Palestinian people; Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation of the Jewish people.
  • Through land swaps, 75-80% of Israeli settlers will remain in place.
  • Palestinian refugees would receive some sort of compensation; so would Jewish refugees who fled, and in many cases were forced to flee, Arab countries after 1947.
  • A security zone along the Jordan River would be established, consisting of electrified fences and unmanned aerial vehicles. For a specified, limited time, Israeli forces could be part of the force policing the zone.
  • Both sides may accept the framework with reservations; the United States will give its views on how the reserved issues should be resolved.


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A joint effort of Cincinnati Temple Sholom and Elementz: a place for hip hop and respect.

h/t Shiraz Socialist


Ha'aretz reports Israel accepts Greek deal to bring cargo to Gaza.

The Greek government yesterday proposed a compromise over the Gaza aid flotilla to both Jerusalem and the organizers of the operation, under which UN-supervised Greek diplomats would transport the humanitarian aid on the boats to the Gaza Strip.

Israel, Haaretz reported, accepted the Greek offer.

The offer calls for loading the aid onto ships owned by the Greek government and bringing it to Gaza through accepted channels, as requested two weeks ago by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The ships would dock either in Ashdod or the Egyptian port of el-Arish, and the goods transported to Gaza under Greek and UN supervision.

"[F]lotilla organizers had not responded by press time" for this Haaretz story.

Now, however, Haaretz reports Greek coast guard seizes Canadian ship bound for Gaza, thus spurning the Greek offer.

In related news, the Associated Press reports that Turkish authorities have determined that the Irish vessel was not damaged by sabotage.  Flotilla leaders, echoed by some here, have alleged Israeli sabotage.

Selcuk Unal, a spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, said authorities had determined that there was no act of sabotage on an Irish vessel in the flotilla that docked in the Turkish port of Gocek on the Aegean Sea.

In addressing the needs of residents of the Gaza Strip, primary emphasis should be placed on

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USTOGAZA confirms that their ship, "The Audacity of Hope," is returning to port in Greece, having been blocked by the Greek Coast Guard from participating in the flotilla to Gaza.  The Greek Government issued a statement earlier today prohibiting departures to Gaza:

Pursuant to a decision by the Minister of Citizen Protection Mr. C. Papoutsis, the departure of ships with Greek and foreign flags from Greek ports to the maritime area of Gaza has been prohibited today. By orders of the Hellenic Coast Guard Head Quarters to all local Hellenic Coast Guard Authorities, all appropriate measures are taken for the implementation of the said decision.

Yediot Ahronot (crediting Aviel Magnezi) reports that the Greek Coast Guard stopped the U.S. vessel " some 25 minutes after its unauthorized departure."

Haaretz reports (crediting Amira Hass, Barak Ravid, and Reuters) that Greek authorities have blocked a Canadian ship, named Tahrir, as well.  "[P]ort authority officials boarded the ship demanding its license. Activists handed over the documentation[.]"

[I]n light of Greece's decision to block all ships heading to the strip, the flotilla has been delayed further.

Tweets from passengers on the U.S. ship report a confrontation with the Greek Coast Guard; the Captain's refusal to return to report; threats of nonviolent resistance, followed by a decision to turn back when Greek commandos threatened to board.

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Gulf News, among others, reports:

The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) probing the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri on Thursday issued its long-awaited indictment and accused four Hezbollah members of the murder,

The Tribunal reportedly has given Lebanon thirty days within which to respond.  Meanwhile, "[a] delegation from the tribunal reportedly is on its way to Syria, to hand over inidictments of Syrian officials."

Hariri, along with twenty-one others, was murdered on February 14, 2005, when explosives blew up his motorcade in Beirut.

In its 2005 obituary for Rafik Hariri, the BBC reported:

Unlike many key figures in Levantine politics, Hariri did not come from a political family or powerful clan. Rather, he was born in 1944 to a poor Sunni Muslim family in the southern port of Sidon. After training as a teacher, he went abroad to seek his fortune, following a path well-trodden by many of his countrymen. He found employment in a construction firm in Saudi Arabia, eventually establishing his own firm, Saudi Oger. He became the personal contractor for Prince Fahd, who went on to become king of Saudi Arabia, and amassed a fortune that propelled him into the US magazine Forbes as one of the richest 100 men in the world.

The Guardian notes that the indictments had been "keenly anticipated for two years."

News of the warrants drew applause from the recently ousted government in Beirut, known as the 14 March alliance, but silence from Hezbollah and its allies

According to a German Press Agency report published by Haaretz:

Former Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of Rafik Hariri, lauded the indictments handed to Hezbollah officials by the UN-backed tribunal probing Hariri's 2005 assassination, calling it a "historic moment."   The handover of the indictments to Lebanese prosecutor general Saeed Mirza was made during a meeting with three judges from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which has given Lebanon 30 days to respond.

The Guardian reports that the four accused "are believed to be Hezbollah's current chief operations officer, Moustafa Badreddine, another senior official, Salim Ayyash, and two lower-profile members of the group, Assad Sabra and Hassan Aneiyssi. . . . Badreddine is one of Hezbollah's founding members and a former close confidant of the group's feared military commander, Imad Mughniyeh[.]"

The issuing of the warrants has placed enormous pressure on the new prime minister, Najib Miqati, whose Hezbollah-dominated cabinet has demanded he disavow the tribunal and cut Lebanon's share of funding for it. Just as vehement is the opposition's insistence that he continue to comply with the court.
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Sat Jun 18, 2011 at 11:23 AM PDT

A letter to President Obama

by another American

Ron Kampeas, of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, calls our attention to the recent release of a January 2011 letter to President Obama concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict from (what Kampeas calls) a group of retired poo-bahs.  Referring to President Obama's May 19 speech at the State Department on the Arab Spring and Israel-Palestinian conflict, Kampeas entitles his blog entry Nice speech, but where are the consequences?

Released through the New York Review of Books, the letter proposes a six-part framework for a permanent status agreement (reproduced below).  On behalf of the authors, former Representative Lee Hamilton, a Democrat who chaired the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and was vice chair of the 9/11 Commission, "welcome[d] the President’s declaration in his speech of May 19 that . . . resolution of the Israel–Palestine conflict [is] 'more urgent than ever.'”    While the signers of the letter agree with President Obama that "no peace can be imposed on the parties," they also submit that " there is little prospect of them ever reaching an agreement if their negotiations are not framed by a set of reasonable principles of fairness and international legality."  Additionally, they strongly maintain that the President should have included a "reference to consequences.   We believe the cost-benefit calculations of neither party will be changed without that understanding."  (Emphasis added).

The letter is signed by former David L. Boren, a former Democratic Senator and current president of the University of Oklahoma; Zbigniew Brzezinski National Security Adviser to Jimmy Carter; Frank C. Carlucci, a former Republican Secretary of Defense; Ret. Adm. William J. Fallon, former commander of American forces in the Middle East; Chuck Hagel, a former Republican Senator from Oklahoma; Lee H. Hamilton, Gary Hart, a former Democratic Senator from Colorado; Rita E. Hauser, an international lawyer, old-time Republican, and philanthropist; Carla Hills, U.S. Trade Representative under the first President Bush; Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, a former Republican Senator from Kansas; Ret. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Thomas R. Pickering, former career ambassador, including to the United Nations and Israel, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; Paul Volcker; and James D. Wolfensohn, President Clinton's choice for President of the World Bank, and subsequently Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement for the Quartet on the Middle East.

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Berkelely economics professor Brad DeLong directs our attention to the answer: Write an academic paper on The Medieval Origins of Anti-Semitic Violence in Nazi Germany.  That worked for Nico Voigtländer, an Assistant Professor at the Anderson School of Management at UCLA, and Hans-Joachim Voth, Professor of Economics and Economic History at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain.

Professor Voth explains.  First, Slate discussed the authors' finding:

Communities that murdered their Jewish populations during the 14th-century Black Death pogroms were more likely to demonstrate a violent hatred of Jews nearly 600 years later. A culture of intolerance can be very persistent indeed.

Next, well let's go directly to Vothspeak:

I have been called many things...
but not a Jew. Nico Voigtländer and I wrote a paper on the persistence of anti-Semitism which is getting a bit of press. Now a pro-Palestinian website has decided that writing about pogroms is a sure sign of us being both Zionists and Jews. Needless to say, I am rather flattered that someone should think me a member of a tribe that has consistently produced more outstanding intellectuals and artists than any other group I can think of. And equally needless to say... neither Nico nor I are in fact Jewish. We just think that extreme hatred and an inclination to group violence are really interesting issues and deserve to be studied seriously, in a historical context, and that anti-Semitism is a particularly important example in this regard.
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Greg Sargent reports on a recent Pew Research public opinion poll under the heading, Americans ignoring conservative falsehoods about Obama and Israel.

A plurality (50%) says Barack Obama is striking the right balance in the Middle East situation, while 21% say he favors the Palestinians too much. There has also been no change in these views over the past year; in April 2010, 47% said Obama struck the right balance and 21% said he favored the Palestinians too much.

(Sargent's emphasis.)

Other highlights from the poll are:

* Of those respondents who sympathize with either "Israel" or "the Palestinians," 81% sympathize with Israel; 19%  sympathize with the Palestinians.  In April 2010, the ratio was 75% to 25%.

* Of those voicing an opinion, 66% believe President Obama has struck "about the right balance" between Israel and the Palestinians; 8% believe he favors Israel too much; and 28% believe he favors the Palestinians too much.  In April 2010, the ratios were 63% to 9% to 28%.

Significantly, Pew Research tells Greg Sargent "that a plurality of those who are more sympathetic with Israel also say Obama has the balance right.  Of those who are more sympathetic to Israel, 49 percent say he strikes the right balance, versus only 38 percent who say he favors the Palestinians too much."

A description of the survey methodology is here.

According to Pew, the public's sympathies between Israel and the Palestinians "have fluctuated only modestly since the late 1970s; in 1993, the proportion sympathizing more with the Palestinians reached 21%, the highest percentage over this period."  The 1993 survey data are dated September 1993 (pdf) (Q.45).  The date suggests to me that American sympathy with the Palestinians was greatest when, because of the Oslo Agreement, Palestinians were viewed as recognizing Israel and eager to make peace with Israel.  The agreement was announced in mid-August; on September 13th there was a public signing ceremony at the White House, at which President Clinton arranged a handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.

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The New York Times (kudos to reporter Jesse McKinley) has just reported a shocking reminder of the formerly pervasiveness nature of racism in America.  The Mormon Island Cemetary in El Dorado Hills, California, contains tombstones for thirty-six anonymous dead.  Until recently, "grave markers shared a single, shocking label: 'Moved from Nigger Hill Cemetery.'"  Worse,

were the words that followed, announcing that the headstones were placed “by U.S. Government” in 1954.

Only this week were the markers removed.

“There’s no acceptable explanation,” said John Knight, a county supervisor who said he had learned of the markers only this year. “It’s not indicative of the county. It’s just one of those oversights that a lot of people didn’t know about it.” There is an explanation, albeit a tortured one. In the early 1950s, the United States Army Corps of Engineers was charged with relocating hundreds of graves from cemeteries due to be submerged by the creation of Folsom Lake, formed by a newly constructed dam about 25 miles northeast of Sacramento. And one of those was a Gold Rush-era town known as Negro Hill.

But somewhere during the process of moving the buried, the name of the town’s cemetery was changed on the grave markers. And while no one knows exactly who made the switch, the recent effort to replace the headstones left current members of the corps red-faced over the actions of their Cold War counterparts.

Despite the embarrassment, it took more than ten years to remove the offensive markers.  "Michael Harris, the director of the Negro Hill Burial Ground Project, who would like to see a bigger effort made to identify the dead, . . . says he first encountered the gravestones in 1998, and he has been trying to build support for changing them ever since."  A former president of the El Dorado County Pioneer Cemeteries Commission said she had known about the markers since the 1990s.

Although California's "budget woes" are mentioned in the article in connection with difficulties encountered, the state has not been continuously short of funds since 1998.  And the total project cost, in 2011 dollars, is said to be only $18,000.  Ironically, new markers will be placed in July using prisoner labor donated by the California Prison Industry Authority.

The past isn't really past.


The Palestinian Ma'an News Agency reports: 14 Palestinians killed in Syria camp.

Angered over the failure of camp leaders to organize demonstrations marking the Naksa, the anniversary of Israel's occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and Golan Heights, an estimated 100,000 mourners were said to have attacked the headquarters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command.

          * * *

Militants with the PRFL-GC reportedly opened fire on the crowd, who were taken to a local camp hospital for treatment. The report cited hospital staff saying 14 were pronounced dead.  During the clash, mourners reportedly set fire into the PFLP-GC headquarters, and demanded condemned the group for its use of weapons against the crowd.  

Here is video of one of the protesters being shot in the head.  (Viewer discretion is advised.)

The Palestine Press Agency reports popular chanting against "Khaled Mashaal and other political leaders based in Damascus, accusing them of being agents of the Syrian regime which is facing a popular revolution about a month ago."  (google translation from Arabic to English)  Yediot Ahronot, citing "the Arab-language Syrian website 'Bokra,'" also reports that "Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal was among those caught in the fray, as well as Popular Front General Command (PFLP-GC) Head Ahmed Jibril and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine politburo member Maher al-Taher."


Should President Obama be supported in pursuing his goal of a two states for two peoples peace settlement between Israel and Palestine?

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Wed Jun 01, 2011 at 12:05 PM PDT

Is this the best they can do?

by another American

Would a decision by the United Nations General Assembly to recognize a State of Palestine within the territory occupied by Jordan and Egypt prior to the June 1967 war be illegal?  This is the claim made in a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon emanating from the Jerulasem Center for Public Affairs.  Because the letter received apparently favorable mention in this comment to volleyboy1's thoughtful diary, Palestinians go to the U.N. - Ok.. So What Next?, and because the letter is so poorly reasoned, I decided to analyze it in public.  As readers will see, although the letter purports to be a legal argument, many of the reasons advanced are not a legal argument, and the reasons that have the form of a legal argument are wrong.

By way of brief background, the president of the center is Dore Gold, a confidante of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who served during Netanyahu's first term as prime minister as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations.

In what follows, block quotations are from the letter, unblocked text is my own analysis, and double block quotations are from other sources.

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In his speeches last week at the State Department and to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), President Obama made clear his belief that the status quo in the Israel-Palestine conflict is "unsustainable."

At the State Department:

[I]t is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.


And yet, no matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option.  The status quo is unsustainable.

The President also made clear the basic outline of the goal: "two states for two peoples."  As he said at the State Department:

[W]hat America and the international community can do is state frankly what everyone knows: a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

President Obama also made clear, rightly in my opinion, the need to recognize that the important territorial aspect of peace negotiations will start on the basis of the 1949 armistice 'Green Line,' which formed the pre-1967 'border,' and then involve swaps of land between Israel and Palestine.  This principle has formed the basis of American policy at least since President Clinton (and emphatically including the G.W. Bush).  At the end of the day (this is my opinion), the result will be that major settlement blocks (containing the majority of the settlers), such as Gush Etzion, and Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem will be part of Israel, and Palestine will gain an equal amount of territory.

But President Obama has a problem, and its name is Hamas.  And so do we.

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