Tuesday, January 20, 2015

[ePalestine] VICE NEWS: Palestinian Leaders Are Taking Their Quest for Statehood Global — Consequences Be Damned


Palestinian Leaders Are Taking Their Quest for Statehood Global — Consequences Be Damned
By Alice Speri
January 19, 2015

"If we use violence we're punished, if we use international law we're punished, if we try to hold Israel accountable we're punished," Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American businessman based in Ramallah, told VICE News. "I'm not exactly sure what Israel expects the Palestinians to do under occupation. But we would hope that the international community at least holds Israel accountable not to punish the Palestinians for doing diplomatic work — not only for the Palestinians' sake but also for the sake of the integrity of the international system of governance."


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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

[ePalestine] Rethinking the Politics of Israel/Palestine - Partition and its Alternatives


This JUST RELEASED volume was published by:


Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D) (The S&D Group is the leading centre-left political group in the European Parliament and the second largest, with 191 members from all 28 EU countries.)



BRUNO KREISKY FORUM for International Dialogue

Where now for Israel & Palestine?

This volume brings together the voices and views of leading Palestinian, Israeli-Jewish, and European intellectuals, politicians, and activists who propose alternative approaches and "out of the box" thinking on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

More specifically, this unique volume aims to contribute to the emerging efforts of re-examining the current strategies and paradigms through proposing and exploring new perspectives, visionary discourses, and alternatives to partition in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Put differently, it seeks to enrich European public discourse with original and refreshing views and alternative paradigms to settling this lingering conflict.

Gianni Pittella | Gertraud Auer Borea d'Olmo | Bashir Bashir | Azar Dakwar
Hannes Swoboda | Raef Zreik | Dmitry Shumsky | Inbal Arnon
Leila Farsakh | Avraham Burg | Yonathan Mendel | Sam Bahour | Tony Klug | Noam Sheizaf | Salam Fayyad


or download PDF version here.

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Saturday, January 03, 2015

[ePalestine] The Rock of our Existence (By Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery) - A MUST READ

January 3, 2015

The Rock of our Existence

Uri Avnery - Gush Shalom

Demonstration at a-Ram checkpoint, 2002

Opening speech at the Kinneret College conference on the connection between Archeology and Ideology.[*]

FIRST OF ALL, let me thank you for inviting me to address this important conference. I am neither a professor nor a doctor. Indeed, the highest academic title I ever achieved was SEC (Seventh Elementary Class).

But like many members of my generation, from early youth I took a profound interest in archeology.

I shall try to explain why.

WHEN ASKING themselves about my connection with archeology, some of you will think about Moshe Dayan.

After the June 1967 war, Dayan was a national – even international – idol. He was also known for his obsession with archeology. My magazine, "Haolam Hazeh", investigated his activities and found that they were highly destructive. He started digging alone and collecting artifacts all over the country. Since the primary aim of archeology is not simply to discover artifacts but also to date them, and thus to put together a picture of the consecutive history of the site, Dayan's uncontrolled digging created havoc. The fact that he used army resources only worsened matters.

Then we discovered that not only did Dayan expropriate the artifacts which he found (which by law belonged to the state) and stock them at his home, but he had also become an international dealer, getting rich by selling articles "from the personal collection of Moshe Dayan".

Publishing these facts and speaking about them in the Knesset bestowed on me a singular distinction. At the time, a public opinion institute identified every year the "most hated person" in Israel. That year, I attained that honor.

HOWEVER, THE important question does not concern Dayan's morals but a much more profound matter: Why were Dayan and so many of us at the time concerned with archeology, a science considered by many people as a rather dreary business?

It held for us a profound fascination.

That Zionist generation was the first one born in the country (though I myself was born in Germany). For their parents, Palestine was an abstract homeland, a land they had dreamed about in the synagogues of Poland and Ukraine. For their native-born sons and daughters it was a natural homeland.

They were yearning for roots. They trekked to every corner, spent nights around a campfire, came to know every hill and valley.

For them, the Talmud and all the religious texts were a bore. The Talmud and other scriptures had sustained the Jews in the Diaspora for centuries, but evoked no interest here. The new generation embraced the Hebrew Bible with unbounded enthusiasm, not as a religious book (almost all of us were atheists) but as an unequalled masterpiece of Hebrew literature. Since they were also the first generation for whom the rejuvenated Hebrew was their mother tongue, they fell in love with the lively, concrete Biblical Hebrew language. The much more sophisticated, abstract language of the Talmud and other later books repelled them.

The Biblical events had taken place in the country they knew. The Biblical battles had been fought in the valleys they knew, the kings had been crowned and buried in the localities they knew intimately.

They had looked at night at the stars of Megiddo, where the Egyptians had fought the first recorded battle in history (and where, according to the Christian New Testament, the last battle – the battle of Armageddon – will take place). They stood on Mount Carmel, where the prophet Elias had slaughtered the priests of Baal. They had visited Hebron, where Abraham had been buried by his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, fathers of the Arabs and the Jews.

THIS PASSIONATE attachment to the country was by no means preordained. Indeed, Palestine played no role in the birth of modern political Zionism.

As I have mentioned before, the founding father, Theodor Herzl, did not think about Palestine when he invented what became known as Zionism. He hated Palestine and its climate. Especially he hated Jerusalem, which to him was a foul and dirty town.

In the first draft of his idea, which was addressed to the Rothschild family, the land of his dream was Patagonia, in Argentina. There, in recent times, a genocide had taken place, and the land was almost empty.

It was only the sentiments of the Jewish masses in Eastern Europe that compelled Herzl to redirect his efforts towards Palestine. In his founding book, Der Judenstaat ("the Jewish State"), the relevant chapter is less than a page long and entitled "Palestine or Argentina". The Arab population is not mentioned at all.

ONCE THE Zionist movement directed its thoughts towards Palestine, the ancient history of this country became a hot issue.

The Zionist claim to Palestine was solely based on the Biblical history of the Exodus, the conquest of Canaan, the kingdoms of Saul, David and Solomon and the events of those times. Since almost all the founding fathers were avowed atheists, they could hardly base themselves on the "fact" the God had personally promised the land to the seed of Abraham.

So, with the coming of the Zionists to Palestine, a frantic archeological search started. The country was combed for real, scientific proof that the Biblical story was not just a bunch of myths, but real honest-to-God history. (Pun intended.) Christian Zionists came even earlier.

There started a veritable attack on archeological sites. The upper layers of Ottoman and Mamelukes, Arabs and Crusaders, Byzantines and Romans and Greeks and Persians were uncovered and removed in order to lay bare the ancient layer of the Children of Israel and to prove the Bible right.

Huge efforts were made. David Ben-Gurion, a self-appointed Biblical scholar, led the effort. The Chief of Staff of the army, Yigael Yadin, the son of an archeologist, and himself a professional archeologist, searched ancient sites to prove that the Conquest of Canaan really happened. Alas, no proof.

When remnants of the bones of Bar Kochba's fighters were discovered in Judean desert caves, they were buried on Ben-Gurion's orders in a big military ceremony. The uncontested fact that Bar Kochba had caused perhaps the greatest catastrophe in Jewish history was glossed over.

AND THE result?

Incredible as it sounds, four generations of devoted archeologists, with a burning conviction and huge resources, did produce exactly:


From the beginning of the effort to this very day, not a single piece of evidence of the ancient history was found. Not a single indication that the exodus from Egypt, the basis of Jewish history, ever happened. Nor of the 40 years of wandering in the desert. No evidence of the conquest of Canaan, as described at length in the Book of Joshua. The mighty King David, whose kingdom extended - according to the Bible - from the Sinai peninsula to the north of Syria, did not leave a trace. (Lately an inscription with the name David was discovered, but with no indication that this David was a king.)

Israel appears for the first time in sound archeological findings in Assyrian inscriptions, which describe a coalition of local kingdoms which tried to stop the Assyrian advance into Syria. Among others, King Ahab of Israel is mentioned as the chief of a considerable military contingent. Ahab, who ruled today's Samaria (in the north of the occupied West Bank) from 871 BC until 852 BC was not beloved by God, though the Bible describes him as a war hero. He marks the beginning of the entry of Israel into proven history.

ALL THESE are negative pieces of evidence suggesting that the early Biblical story is invented. Since practically no trace whatsoever of the early Biblical story has been found, does this prove that it is all fiction?

Perhaps not. But real proof does exist.

Egyptology is a scientific discipline that is separate from Palestinian archeology. But Egyptology proves conclusively that the Biblical history until King Ahab is indeed fiction.

Up to now, many tens of thousands of Egyptian documents have been deciphered, and the work is still going on. After the Hyksos from Asia invaded Egypt in 1730 BC, the Pharaohs of Egypt took very great pains to watch the happenings in Palestine and Syria. Year after year, Egyptian spies, traders and soldiers reported in great detail on events in every town of Canaan. Not a single item has been found, telling of anything remotely resembling Biblical events. (A single mention of "Israel" on an Egyptian stele is believed to refer to a small territory in the south of Palestine.)

Even if one would like to believe that the Bible only exaggerates real events, the fact is that not even a tiny mention of the exodus, the conquest of Canaan or King David has been found.

They just did not happen.

IS THIS important? Yes and no.

The Bible is not real history. It is a monumental religious and literary document, that has inspired untold millions throughout the centuries. It has formed the minds of many generation of Jews, Christians and Muslims.

But history is something else. History tells us what really happened. Archeology is a tool of history, an invaluable tool for the understanding of what took place.

These are two different disciplines, and never the twain shall meet. For the religious, the Bible is a matter of belief. For non-believers, the Hebrew Bible is a great work of art, perhaps the greatest of all. Archeology is something entirely different: a matter of sober, proven facts.

Israeli schools teach the Bible as real history. This means that Israeli children learn only its chapters, true or fictitious. When I once complained about this in a Knesset speech, demanding that the full history of the country throughout the ages be taught, including the chapters of the Crusades and the Mamelukes, the then minister of education started to call me "the Mameluke".

I still believe that every child in this country, Israeli and Palestinian, should learn its full history, from the earliest days to this day, with all its layers. It is the basis of peace, the real Rock Of Our Existence.

[*] Full title of the Kinneret College conference: "The Rock of our Existence – the connection between Archeology and Ideology"

SOURCE: http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1420212779/


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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

[ePalestine] Open Letter to the Editors of the New York Times

Open Letter to the Editors of the New York Times

By Sam Bahour
December 31, 2014

A view of Gaza City

Re “Gaza Is Nowhere” (By Roger Cohen, Dec. 30, 2014):

I started writing this as a Letter to the Editor, but my anger could not be conveyed in only 150 words, so I am posting this open letter instead:

Readers expect greater accuracy from New York Times columnists.

How dare Mr. Roger Cohen suggest that Gaza, a part of my homeland, is “nowhere!”

If Mr. Cohen is at a loss to know where Gaza lies, allow me to guide him. The Gaza Strip, as well as Gaza City, were both part and parcel of Historic Palestine, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Following the colossal injustice that resulted in the displacement of more than half of the Palestinian people, and then the creation of what we know today as the state of Israel, and the subsequent military occupation of the remaining Palestinian lands of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Gaza Strip become part and parcel of an Israeli-militarily-occupied territory. It is this military occupation under which many of my friends and colleagues were born and live to this day.

Despite the bitter life Gazan Palestinians face, they know exactly where they are and who they are. To Mr. Cohen’s possible disappointment, I will not sugar-coat reality with euphemisms or attempt to bury the international community’s disgraceful failures by dwelling on internal Palestinian political dynamics.

What Mr. Cohen terms a “high-tech Israeli facility,” is, in reality, an Israeli military garrison and checkpoint that is equipped with U.S. technology aimed to keep Palestinians locked into the world’s largest open-air prison called Gaza.

The Palestinian road worker who impressed Mr. Cohen is not “among the more productively employed of Gaza’s 1.8 million citizens.” The Gaza community is alive, albeit not well. If he had taken the time to look again without his biased lens, he would have seen an entire society struggling to be productive in a reality where electricity is a luxury, clean water is a distant thought, and having the ability to travel freely is a foreign concept to yet another generation of Palestinians.

Mr. Cohen claims that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is “the only dust-free environment” in Gaza. Spare me, please. Has he forgotten that Gaza has been on the receiving end of three major Israeli military operations within the past six years, which left scores dead and wounded and the rest traumatized for life. If he had only taken the time to visit Palestinian homes he would have found other “dust-free environments,” if dust was of such major concern to him. He would have experienced the generosity of a people battered for decades yet miraculously finding a way to go on educating their war-affected children, sustaining themselves economically, continuing to love, and stubbornly maintaining hope for a better tomorrow, even as they are forced to live in imposed darkness. Indeed, as retired Palestinian diplomat Afif Safieh has famously said, Palestinians have been “unreasonably reasonable” given what has fallen upon them.

To add insult to injury, Mr. Cohen assumes the role of spokesperson for Palestinians, claiming the utmost urgent matter in Palestinian lives is the need “to end the lockdown of Gaza.” Lockdown, Mr. Cohen, is a move used to keep prisoners in their cells. Ending the lockdown is allowing the prisoners to interact among themselves and visit the prison yard. Thank you Mr. Cohen, but no thank you. We have the right to be free from the prison imposed on us by Israel and bankrolled by your country. Our utmost urgent matter is that Israel end its nearly five-decade-long military occupation and allow Palestinians to return to their homes, after which we will take care of ourselves.

I can go on, but you are not interested in Palestine or Palestinians. Your career requires you to feed the stereotypes about my home, me, and my people, and for that, you are part of the problem, not the solution. That, Mr. Cohen, is what is truly “shameful.”

Sam Bahour
Al-Bireh/Ramallah, Palestine


Mr. Cohen's Twitter reply on Jan. 3, 2015:



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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

[ePalestine] NYT: The Embattled Dream of Palestine (Unpublished Letter to Editor)

My unpublished NYT Letter to the Editor in reply to:


To the Editor:

Re "The Embattled Dream of Palestine" (By The Editorial Board, Dec. 19, 2014):

Readers expect greater accuracy from NYT's editorials.

To deem Palestinian's frustration with nearly 50 years of Israeli military occupation as, "resentment of Israeli rule that leads to unrest" is a pale attempt to dilute the horrific reality on the ground. Employing such language outright ignores the fact that, except for Israel (the occupying force) the entire world (U.S. included) has deemed the state of affairs as a "military occupation."

Likewise, when the Editorial claims that, "successive Israeli governments, including that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have long negotiated on the basis of a two-state solution," one is led to believe that fact checking has lost its role in journalism. Not only has Prime Minister Netanyahu made multiple, recent public statements defying any notion of a solution based on two states, his party, Likud, has yet to insert its support for two states into its political platform.

Another deep flaw in this piece is stating that Israel "withdrew from Gaza in 2005." They did nothing of the sort. Even Israel itself did not call it "withdraw," but rather "Unilateral Disengagement." The international community has made it clear, over and over, that Gaza today is just as militarily occupied as Ramallah or East Jerusalem.

Sam Bahour
Policy Advisor, Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network


Dear ePalestine friends,

Happy New Year and, if you can, please support these efforts:



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Saturday, December 20, 2014

[ePalestine] Newsweek: Gaza: One War, One Family. Five Children, Four Dead


In Newsweek, of all places. OK, it's the European edition, but still. The tide is surely on the rise. Most of the world may have already forgotten the over 2,220 human beings slaughtered in 51 days this past summer, but we have not.

Thank you Sarah Helm for reminding us what journalism was meant to be, a tool to speak truth to power.

By Sarah HelmDecember 12, 2014
Gaza: One War, One Family. Five Children, Four Dead

Thanks also to Philip Weiss from http://mondoweiss.net for writing on this.


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Monday, December 15, 2014

[ePalestine] What I am supporting

Dear friends,

I take this opportunity to wish you all a happy holiday season and a Happy New Year, despite all.

It is this time of year that is also tagged as the month of giving. I, like you, am bombarded with funding requests during the end of every year. Some are agitated by this, I am not. Civil society, one that is not coerced by the powers that be, can only do its work with public support. There are scores of people doing good things around the world that deserve our support. If they do not ask, they cannot be funded, and thus will be handicapped in their work. I take every request in stride and do my part where I can.

In addition to being asked to support various efforts, I am also frequently asked, every year, to suggest things people can support. Many generous friends on this list have targeted their donations to campaigns (I actually support real people, but the requests arrive in your inbox as a campaign) which I have supported over the years and to them I am eternally grateful and humbled.

This year, I am sharing with you more than a single focal point for support because, in reality, I, like you, support many efforts in one way or another. Thus, I share with you here what I am currently supporting and ask that you consider these efforts for your generous end-of-year support. Of course, this is not a comprehensive list.

1. CULTURE: My firm's current CSR campaign to help a professional Palestinian woman actress conduct a feasibility study for the establishment of a Theatrical Museum of Palestinian Oral History. We have already raised $850 toward this project and $6,350 more is needed to start the study. The details are here: http://aim.ps/aim-csr.html.

2. PALESTINIAN EDUCATION: Hashem Abushama is an amazing Palestinian student from a refugee camp near Hebron who is studying in the US and seeking a partial scholarship. Hashem is an impressive young man. In January, he will share the stage with my daughter Areen as they go on a speaking tour to the Jewish American communities in Boston and New York. He did not wait for funds to drop out of the sky to secure his education; he acted and setup a crowdfunding appeal. See: http://www.gofundme.com/supportmyeducation.

3. MENTAL HEALTH: The Palestinian Medical Education Initiative (PMEI) is a dynamic team of mental health professionals who are transfixed on establishing a proper mental health sector in Palestine. I serve on the Board of PMEI. Led by the amazing duo, Palestinian Dr. Samah Jabr and American Dr. Michael Morse, this effort is at a crucial turning point and is about to realize the fruits of years of planning. Your help is needed given this much needed sector is, regretfully, stigmatized in our society. PMEI will change that perception over time, no doubt. Donate here: http://pmedonline.org/.

4. JEWISH EDUCATION: Encounter is dedicated to strengthening the capacity of Jewish American leaders to be constructive agents of change in transforming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have the utmost respect for this professional team of Jewish educators and the outstanding work they do on the ground--actually at ground zero of the occupation. Learn more and donate here: http://www.encounterprograms.org/donate.

5. BUSINESS: I went on a speaking tour in Chicago last year that was organized by a retired American businessman, Ed Thompson. After the tour, Ed asked me to join him in establishing Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy (AVPE). We co-founded this effort earlier this year on the simple premise that Positive Investment in Palestine breeds hope for a better future for Palestinians through tangible economic opportunity. Our U.S. nonprofit (soon to be a 501(c)(3)) organization encourages lasting economic partnerships between Americans and Palestinians. A high-powered board of professionals has been assembled and we are already deep into putting our plans into action. Soon the donate page will have the needed info to donate, but for now we need your support in finding American businesses and trade associations that we can reach out to regarding doing business in Palestine. Note: this effort is not about doing business with our military occupiers, but rather it is about direct relations between American business and Palestinian business. Find AVPE here: http://www.a4vpe.org.

6. PALESTINIAN POLICY VOICE: We are sick and tired of others speaking for us. Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network, is an independent, non-partisan, and non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and foster public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law. I serve on Al-Shabaka's board. Read and support our work here: http://www.al-shabaka.org/about/donate.

7. COMMUNITY FOUNDATION: Dalia Association is a community foundation that was established in 2007 by members of the Palestinian community, including individuals from the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, Israel, and the Diaspora. Dalia believes that Palestinians have a right to control our own development. Our mission is to mobilize and properly utilize resources necessary to empower a vibrant and accountable civil society. As a co-founder and board member, I invite you to join us in any way you can, materially or otherwise. Find Dalia here: http://www.dalia.ps (Note the site is undergoing a repair and will be up within 24 hours).

Two points I would like to make in closing:

- Some will look at this list and say, what a long list, how can Sam expect someone to support all of these efforts. I do not. I respect people's ability to choose what suits them best, be it from this list or helping your next door neighbor. I am not marketing a product here; I am sharing with you my civic duty toward society and inviting you to join me.

- Secondly, you may be thinking, where's Gaza in Sam's list. Rest assured Gaza is there, embedded in each and every one of the items listed above.

Lastly, for those of you in Youngstown or who know Martha Katz, I ask that you direct your prayers for her wellbeing as she struggles to regain her health at St. Elizabeth Hospital.

I wish all a safe and prosperous new year.

Happy Holidays,

Sam Bahour
Mobile: +970-(0)599-378-278
E-mail: sbahour@gmail.com
Website: www.AIM.ps
Blog: www.ePalestine.com


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