Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 25th, 2012

Slow and steady transfer policies of Palestinians in Israel: To where again?

Over the past several weeks the veil has fallen off almost completely on the firm decision of Israel to completely transfer Palestinians in the occupied territories. If you want to understand what’s really going on, here are a few things you need to read.

Stephen M. Walt published in Foreign Policy this July 12, 2012 under “What’s going on in Israel?“:

“One of the more enduring myths in the perennial debate on the Israel-Palestine conflict is the claim that:

1.  Israel has always been interested in a fair and just peace,

2. and that the only thing standing in the way of a deal is the Palestinians’ commitment to Israel’s destruction.

This notion has been endlessly recycled by Israeli diplomats and by Israel’s defenders in the United States and elsewhere.

Fair-minded analysts of the conflict have long known that this pernicious narrative was bogus. They knew that:

1.  Former Yitzhak Rabin PM (who signed the Oslo Accords) never favored creating a viable Palestinian State (indeed, he explicitly said that a future Palestinian entity would be “less than a state.”)

2. The Palestinians’ errors notwithstanding, they also understood that former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offers at Camp David in 2000 — though more generous than his predecessors’ — still fell well short of a genuine two-State deal.

But the idea that Israel sought peace above all else but lacked a genuine “partner for peace” has remained an enduring “explanation” for Oslo’s failure.

Over the past several weeks, however, the veil has fallen off almost completely. If you want to understand what’s really going on, here are a few things you need to read.

Start with Akiva Eldar’s cover article in The National Interest, entitled “Israel’s New Politics and the Fate of Palestine.” Eldar is the chief political columnist for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, and his article provides a succinct account for why the two-State vision is at best on life support and is unlikely to be resuscitated. Money quotation:

“The Palestinian leadership, as far back as 1988, made a strategic decision favoring the two-state solution, presented in the Algiers declaration of the Palestinian National Council. The Arab League, for its part, voted in favor of a peace initiative that would recognize the state of Israel and set the terms for a comprehensive Middle East settlement.

Meanwhile, various bodies of the international community reasserted partition of the land as their formal policy. But Israel, which signed the Oslo accords nearly two decades ago, has been moving in a different direction.”

Eldar goes on to describe in detail the demographic and political trends that have made the two-State solution an increasingly remote prospect, undermining Israeli democracy in the process and leading to a deepening policy of “separation.”

Eldar avoids the politically loaded term apartheid, but here is how he describes the current reality:

“To exercise control over the land without giving up its Jewish identity, Israel has embraced various policies of “separation”. Israel has separate legal systems for traditional Israeli territory and for the territory it occupies:

1. Israel divides those who reside in occupied lands based on ethnic identity;

2.  it has retained control over occupied lands but evaded responsibility for the people living there;

3. and it has created a conceptual distinction between its democratic principles and its actual practices in the occupied territories.

These separations have allowed Israel to manage the occupation for 45 years while maintaining its identity and international status. No other state in the twenty-first century has been able to get away with this, but it works for Israel, which has little incentive to change it.”

It works, of course, because the Israel lobby makes it virtually impossible for U.S. leaders to put any meaningful pressure on Israel to change its behavior, much of which is now antithetical to core American values. (This is another bogus argument: It is the US policies which encourage apartheid system in Israel…and denying a homeland for the Palestinians…since 1967)

To grasp what Eldar is talking about, check out former Netanyahu aide Michael Freund’s June 20 column from the Jerusalem Post, entitled “Kiss the Green Line Goodbye.” 

Unlike Eldar’s requiem for the end of the two-state vision, Freund’s column is a proud declaration that the settlement project has succeeded in making “greater Israel” a permanent reality.

Freund wrote:  “…The Green Line (the 1967 borders) is dead and buried. . . it is no longer of any relevance, politically or otherwise. You had better get used to Judea and Samaria because the Jewish people are here to stay.” This is not a wild-eyed assertion by some extremist settler, by the way, but a revealing glimpse at an increasingly mainstream view.

To see the on-the-ground consequences of these developments:

1. Check out Nir Hasson’s piece on how residents of East Jerusalem (illegally annexed by Israel following the 1967 war) face increasingly erratic water supplies.

2. And give a listen or a read to NPR reporter Lourdes Garcia-Navarro’s report on how home demolitions in East Jerusalem have increased dramatically over the past year, with about 1100 people — half of them children — displaced.

Israeli officials claim that this is merely an appropriate response to “illegal” construction, but as a recent U.N. report documents, over 90% of Palestinian applications for building permits are denied, even as Israel continues to build housing settlements for Jews in various east Jerusalem neighborhoods.

What is going on is slow-motion ethnic cleansing. Instead of driving Palestinians out by force — as was done in 1948 and 1967 — the goal is simply to make life increasingly untenable over time, so that they will gradually leave their ancestral homelands of their own accord.

Finally, make sure you read up on the recent Levy Commission report — excerpted here. (A good place to start is Matt Duss’s summary here.)

This commission, appointed by Netanyahu PM, has concluded that:

1.  Israel’s presence in the West Bank isn’t really an “occupation,” so the 4th Geneva Convention regarding protection of the local population doesn’t apply.

2. It sees no legal barrier to Israel transferring as many of its citizens as it wants into the territory,

3.  and it therefore recommends that the government retroactively authorize dozens of illegal settlements.

Never mind that no other country in the world — including the United States — agrees with this dubious legal interpretation, and neither does the United Nations or any other recognized juridical body outside Israel.

Needless to say, anyone who has visited the West Bank and seen the “matrix of control” imposed there will quickly understand that the Commission’s members were smoking something, and even a staunch defender of Israel like Jeffrey Goldberg had problems with the commission’s Alice-in-Wonderland line of argument.

A wide array of commentators (including the New York Times editorial board and former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer) have already denounced these claims, albeit in a typically qualified fashion. The Times’ expresses the hope that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will “drive U.S. concerns home” when she visits Israel this month. As if that’s going to do any good at this point.

The veil slipped a long time ago, and now it has been torn away almost completely. But once you grasp what’s really happening here, you have to completely rethink your views about who the real friends of Israel are and who are the ones threatening its future.

Israel’s true friends may or may not be emotionally committed to it, but they are the ones who understand that the settlement enterprise has been a disaster and that only concerted and principled action by the United States, the EU, and others can avert this future train wreck.

Israel’s true friends are the ones who understand that it is Israel’s actions in Lebanon, in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Dubai, in Iran, etc. that are slowly squandering the legitimacy and support it once enjoyed, including support within the diaspora.

When Israel ends up tied with North Korea (!) in a 2012 BBC survey on which countries have the “most negative” global influence (and ahead of only Iran and Pakistan), you know there’s a problem.

Israel’s true friends are also among those who fear that Israel’s conduct and the smear tactics employed by some of its defenders have no place in American political life, and might eventually cost it the support it has long enjoyed here in the United States.

By contrast, Israel’s loudest defenders (and those in the middle who are cowed by them) are the ones whose short-sighted focus has allowed the occupation to persist and deepen over time. Their unthinking loyalty has helped squander genuine opportunities for peace, empowered extremists on both sides, and prolonged a long and bitter conflict.

The question to ask is simple: Where do they think this is headed?

And the same principle applies to American interests and U.S. policy.

Given the current “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel, America’s standing in the region and in the world is inevitably tarnished as long as Israel persists on the course described in the articles cited above.

This situation forces U.S. leaders to adopt contorted and hypocritical positions on human rights, non-proliferation, democracy promotion, and the legitimacy of military force.

It makes U.S. leaders look impotent whenever they repeatedly term Israel’s actions “regrettable” or an “obstacle to peace” but then do nothing about them.

It forces US politicians of both parties to devote an inordinate amount of attention to one small country, to the neglect of many others.

Worst of all, U.S. policy ends up undermining the reasonable people in Israel and the Arab world — including moderate Palestinians — those who are genuinely interested in a peaceful solution and to coexistence among the people of the region.

Instead, we unwittingly aid the various extremists who gain power from the prolonged stalemate and the sowing of hatred. This bipartisan practice may not be the most dysfunctional policy in the history of U.S. foreign policy, but it’s got to be damned close.

Note: And why Israel thinks that this is an ideal period to execute its long dream of vacating the “Land of Israel” from goyim?

1. Israel is spreading this bogus assumption that all the Arab people who deposed their dictator regimes will be focusing on their internal instabilities and seeking financial resources to keep the little people satisfied…As if there are no direct interrelationship between the difficulties of the Arab people and the creation of the State of Israel…

2. That as long as Saudi Arabia has classified Iran as the main enemy and care less about the Palestinian problems, then there could be no major roadblocks into vacating the land from the goyim…As if Saudi Arabia ever cared about the Palestinian problem…

3. That for the last two years, the Obama administration has relegated Palestine to the bottom of the list of Hot Issues to tend to…

4. That even if Obama is re-elected President, he will be impotent to exercise any pressures on Israel because the Senate and Congress are in the hands of the Republicans…

Only in the USA: Can be pro-all-kinds of deaths, and claim to be pro-life.
Mind you that the US global market share of weapon export is two-third ($65 bn).
In the last decades, 60,000 Mexican civilians were the victims of gang related wars, and almost all the weapons of these drug gangs are imported from the USA.
And the drones attacks, signed by Obama, are killing far more civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen…than “potential Qaeda leaders”
And there are over 200 million pieces of weapons in the hands of the US citizens…
And in the last decades, over 12,000 citizens in the US were killed from bullet wounds, compared to just 2 Japanese
And the Constitution allowed owning guns for defending the new Republic from outside interference. Who is invading the USA?
And the gun lobby is the largest organization in the US, and pouring money to every political candidate willing to play the passive part in restricting gun ownership and gun control laws.

John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, wrote in his prison diary:

“Not that I wouldn’t kill a man if I had to. For the right reasons, of course. It would have to be for the right reasons.

So what is it, that would or should or could be considered Just Cause to kill a man?

What if he threatened the welfare of a Nation, the Common Weal, as it were. What if his actions were so bold and so lecherous as to change the future course of a great Country for the worse? Endanger its citizenry. Destroy the marketplace and our ability to function at the top of the bill on the world’s stage.

What if one man — or a small handful of men – put a Country at such risk?…”

Part 2. The Second story of how social media changed

If you wish to read part 1:

Second story: China Earthquake and Obama campaign…

Last May, the Sichuan province in China had a 7.9 magnitude earthquake.  Massive destruction in a wide area, as the Richter Scale has it. And the earthquake was reported as it was happening. People were texting from their phones. They were taking photos of buildings.They were taking videos of buildings shaking. 

They were uploading it to QQ, China’s largest Internet service. They were Twittering it. And as the quake was happening, the news was reported. And because of the social connections, Chinese students coming elsewhere, and going to school, or businesses in the rest of the world opening offices in China — there were people listening all over the world, hearing this news. 

The BBC got their first wind of the Chinese quake from Twitter.Twitter announced the existence of the quake several minutes before the US Geological Survey had anything up online for anybody to read.

The last time China had a quake of that magnitude it took them three months to admit that it had happened.

China authorities might have liked to have done that here, rather than seeing these pictures go up online. But they weren’t given that choice, because their own citizens beat them to the punch. Even the government learned of the earthquake from their own citizens, rather than from the Xinhua News Agency. And this stuff rippled like wildfire.

For a while, 9 of the top 10 most clicked links on Twitter (the global short messaging service) were about the quake. People collating information, pointing people to news sources,pointing people to the US geological survey. The 10th one was kittens on a treadmill, but that’s the Internet for you.

But 9 of the 10 in those first hours were about the earthquake. And within half a day donation sites were up, and donations were pouring in from all around the world. This was an incredible, coordinated global response.

And the Chinese, in one of their periods of media openness, decided that they were going to let it go, that they were going to let this citizen reporting fly. And then this happened.

People began to figure out, in the Sichuan Provence, that the reason so many school buildings had collapsed during this school day,  is that corrupt officials had taken bribes to allow those building to be built to less than code. And so they started, the citizen journalists started reporting that as well. And there was an incredible picture.

You may have seen this picture on the front page of the New York Times. A local official literally prostrated himself in the street, in front of these protesters, in order to get them to go away. Essentially to say: “We will do anything to placate you, just please stop protesting in public.”

But these are people who have been radicalized:  thanks to the one child policy, they have lost everyone in their next generation. Someone who has seen the death of a single child now has nothing to lose. And so the protest kept going. And finally the Chinese cracked down. That was enough of citizen media. And so they began to arrest the protesters. They began to shut down the media that the protests were happening on.

China is probably the most successful manager of Internet censorship in the world, using something that is widely described as the Great Firewall of China. And the Great Firewall of China is a set of observation points that assume four parameters:

1. that media is produced by professionals;

2. it mostly comes in from the outside world;

3.  it comes in relatively sparse chunks, and

4. it comes in relatively slow.

And because of those four characteristics they are able to filter it as it comes into the country. But like the Maginot Linethe great firewall of China was facing in the wrong direction for this challenge: Not one of those four things was true in this environment. 

1. The media were produced locally.

2. It was produced by amateurs. 

3. It was produced quickly.

4. And it was produced at such an incredible abundance that there was no way to filter it as it appeared. 

And so, now the Chinese government, who for a dozen years, has quite successfully filtered the web, is now in the position of having to decide whether to allow or shut down entire services, because the transformation to amateur media is so enormous that they can’t deal with it any other way.

And in fact that is happening this week. On the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen they just, two days ago, announced that they were simply shutting down access to Twitter, because there was no way to filter it other than that. 

They had to turn the spigot entirely off. Now these changes don’t just affect people who want to censor messages. They also affect people who want to send messages because this is really a transformation of the ecosystem as a whole, not just a particular strategy.

The classic media problem, in the 20th century is, how does an organization have a message that they want to get out to a group of people distributed at the edges of a network. What was the twentieth century answer? 

Bundle up the message. Send the same message to everybody. National message. Targeted individuals. Relatively sparse number of producers. Very expensive to do, so there is not a lot of competition. This is how you reach people. All of that is over.

We are increasingly in a landscape where media is global, social, ubiquitous and cheap. Now most organizations that are trying to send messages to the outside world, to the distributed collection of the audience, are now used to this change. The audience can talk back. And that’s a little freaky. But you can get used to it after a while, as people do.

But that’s not the really crazy change that we’re living in the middle of. The really crazy change is here: it’s the fact that they are no longer disconnected from each other, the fact that former consumers are now producers, the fact that the audience can talk directly to one another.

Because there is a lot more amateurs than professionals,and because the size of the network, the complexity of the network is actually the square of the number of participants, meaning that the network, when it grows large, grows very, very large.

As recently at last decade, most of the media that was available for public consumption was produced by professionals. Those days are over, never to return. It is the green lines now, that are the source of the free content, which brings me to my last story. We saw some of the most imaginative use of social media during the Obama campaign.

For example, in the Obama campaign they put up,  And millions of citizens rushed in to participate, and to try to figure out how to help. An incredible conversation sprung up there. And then, this time last year, Obama announced that he was going to change his vote on FISA, The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Obama had said, in January, that he would not sign a bill that granted telecom immunity for possibly warrantless spying on American persons. By the summer, in the middle of the general campaign, Obama said: “I’ve thought about the issue more. I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to vote for this bill.” And many of his own supporters on his own site went very publicly berserk.

It was Senator Obama when they created it. They changed the name later. “Please get FISA right.” Within days of this group being created, it was the fastest growing group on; within weeks of its being created it was the largest group. Obama had to issue a press release. He had to issue a reply. And he said essentially:

“I have considered the issue. I understand where you are coming from. But having considered it all, I’m still going to vote the way I’m going to vote. But I wanted to reach out to you and say, I understand that you disagree with me, and I’m going to take my lumps on this one.”

This didn’t please anybody. But then a funny thing happened in the conversation. People in that group realized that Obama had never shut them down. Nobody in the Obama campaign had ever tried to hide the group or make it harder to join, to deny its existence, to delete it, to take to off the site. They had understood that their role with was to convene their supporters but not to control their supporters.

And that is the kind of discipline that it takes to make really mature use of this media. Media, the media landscape that we knew, as familiar as it was, as easy conceptually as it was to deal with the idea that professionals broadcast messages to amateurs, is increasingly slipping away.

In a world where media is global, social, ubiquitous and cheap, in a world of media where the former audience are now increasingly full participants, in that world, media is less and less often about crafting a single message to be consumed by individuals. It is more and more often a way of creating an environment for convening and supporting groups.

And the choice we face, I mean anybody who has a message they want to have heard anywhere in the world, isn’t whether or not that is the media environment we want to operate in. That’s the media environment we’ve got. The question we all face now is, “How can we make best use of this media? Even though it means changing the way we’ve always done it.”




September 2012

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