News & Articles

Little hope for talks among Israelis and Palestinians

Moment of optimism?

Yitzhak Rabin (L), Bill Clinton (C) and Yasser Arafat (R) - file pic 13 Sept 1993

It ought to feel like a moment of optimism in the long and tortured history of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, but somehow it does not.

It is always easier to see the problems than the opportunities in this part of the Middle East of course – but this time around it is hard to find anyone who thinks a dramatic breakthrough is within reach.

The talk all along has been more of avoiding a breakdown than hoping for a breakthrough.

And that was before Israel’s Construction Minister Uri Ariel announced the final go-ahead for new building in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank.

Palestinians were outraged. These are precisely the kind of projects on the land which Israel captured in the war of 1967 which they regard as a deliberate attempt to choke off the chance for them to build their own state. Most countries view such building as a clear breach of international law, although Israel does not.

Many Palestinians saw the timing of the announcement as a cynical attempt to scupper the talks, but even before then it looked as though the resumption of negotiations came about mainly – if not entirely – as the result of pressure from the United States and not through any strong impetus towards talks on either side.

This was not always the way.

Controversial concession

It is almost exactly 20 years since the then US President Bill Clinton brought the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin together with the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to sign an agreement based on extraordinary secret negotiations in the Norwegian capital Oslo.

The president called it “the dawn of a new era for the Middle East and the entire world” and issued a stirring call for their achievement to act as a catalyst for the rest of the peace process.

The truth is that today’s negotiators are taking a few steps down a road along which their predecessors travelled rather further.

Back then, the prisoner releases were larger too.

In the heady days of the mid-1990s Israel released, in stages, 4,000 Palestinian prisoners.

This time around it proposes to release 104 over a nine-month period with the first 26 set free in the middle of this week.

Palestinians see the gesture as inadequate, arguing that it relates only to a small group of men, some of whom were anyway nearing the end of their sentences. And they feel they should have been consulted about who was released.

But many Israelis see the release as far too big a concession.

One cabinet minister has warned it could be interpreted as a sign of weakness in the Middle East but the strongest opposition has come from families of Israeli victims of political violence.

Oded Karamani’s brother Ronen, for example, was murdered in 1990.

He was abducted by a Palestinian gang and was missing for three agonising days. When his body was found his hands had been tied behind his back. He had been repeatedly stabbed while he was helpless until he died.

Oded showed us the family albums that record every detail of the smiling Ronen’s short life.

“My parents,” he told me, “from the outside you can see that they’re alive – they have children and grandchildren – but inside from the second it happened they’ve been dead.”

His message is simple: “Don’t let [the Palestinian prisoners] out to educate another generation of terrorists,” he said. “I’m begging our government… please don’t let them out.”

The prisoner issue is a central one for both sides and all the core issues of justice and identity and history and morality are bound up in it.

To many Palestinians, the prisoners are heroes – fighters in a just cause.

I went to Ramallah to meet one of the men freed during the Oslo prisoner releases.

Abdel al-Anani works for Palestinian prisoners’ rights these days – he was convicted of ordering the death of someone accused of being an Israeli informer.

He wants peace, he told me. As he put it: “In the end it’s the Israelis and the Palestinians who are going to live side by side. If they don’t realise this, the whole conflict will keep going and the peace process will fail.”

And he argued that making peace required difficult decisions: “Just as there is a price for war, when there is bloodshed and people, there is a price for peace too.”

It does not feel in the Middle East as though the moment has come when either of the two sides is preparing to make the full payment for a final peace. Anyone who knows the region can rattle off the familiar list of issues from the status of Jerusalem and Israel’s right to live in security to settlement construction and the rights of Palestinian refugees.

There are still plenty of issues that divide the two sides – but they are at least now talking about them.

PROFILE by the Jewish Telegraph

PROFILE Commando Elon fights Israel’s new PR battle  

                          WHEN I spoke to Israeli-born journalist and ex-commando Elon Perry this week, he had just been to Downing Street, where he had been fighting Israel’s case.             

But Elon has not always been so pro-Israel.

When he was a student, he blamed his grandfather David Ifrah for taking his family away from a wealthy life in Morocco to Netivot, where – a mile from the Gaza border – Elon’s childhood was constantly traumatised by terror attacks.

Ifrah, who was the mayor and judge of the Moroccan town of Azilal, was one of King Mohammed V’s closest advisers.

When in 1955, for Zionist reasons, Ifrah decided to take his family to Israel, the king voiced his displeasure.

Elon, who was born two years later in Netivot, recalled the story.

“The king was offended,” he said. “He called my grandfather to come to him immediately.

“My grandfather left everything on Shabbat and walked six miles to the king. But my grandfather still took his daughter, my mother, Zohara, who was only about 20, her new husband and their baby to Israel.

“My father was very upset because he had leather factories in Morocco. They had a good life there with maids and big houses. They lived in a villa on the beach, a very successful life.”

All that was in sharp contrast to life in Netivot, where, from the age of three, Elon spent all his childhood and youth under fire.

He said: “We always experienced terrorist attacks from tanks and bombs. My father, who was a border guard on the dangerous Gaza border, tackled a terrorist with his bare hands at the back of our house. He was a very brave man.”

But young Elon was not so brave.

“I remember all the time bombs, terror attacks and shelters,” he said.

“That was my childhood. I was traumatised as a child. I used to wet my bed and cry a lot. The same happened to all our generation. Some of our class didn’t make it. They became crazy or sick. One committed suicide.

“We couldn’t even go out to play football. We were always attacked.”

To escape from the trauma, Elon drummed in a rock band from the age of 12 to 18. After excelling in high school, he decided to take his revenge on the terrorists, who had traumatised his childhood, by joining the elite Golani commando unit, which played a crucial role in squashing the First Intifada and during the war in Lebanon of 1982.

Elon said: “I joined the commando elite to take revenge. During my army service I became a man.

“We never said no to any operation. We did the most dangerous things in Lebanon and Gaza, really dangerous stuff that you see in movies. We always volunteered for really crazy stuff.

“The motivation was so high. I got wounded twice. My respiratory system was damaged by explosives in Lebanon.”

Working as an Israeli journalist and running his own TV production company, Elon continued to serve for 25 years in the IDF reserves.

It was during his reserve duty in Gaza that Elon became aware of Israel’s extremely poor public relations.

He recalled: “When I was a soldier serving in Gaza, we had been ordered to take shelter in the back of a hospital.

“We saw Palestinian kids covered in blood rushing into the hospital from an ambulance. At the back of the hospital the children took off their T-shirts which had been covered in ketchup.”

Elon reported the incident to his government’s public relations department, but they did nothing about it. However Italian journalists took up the story as did Elon, who broadcast and wrote about it.

Later at a press conference, Elon asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu why Israel did not invest in better public relations.

The PM’s answer was: “It won’t help. They will hate us anyway.”

Elon calls this attitude “arrogant”.

He said: “The Palestinians are winning the war because of the lack of Israeli propaganda which stems from arrogance.

“The Palestinians are stubborn. I don’t think they want peace. It’s better for them to keep their jobs and to be seen as victims. The Palestinians look good in the eyes of the world who like to embrace victims.

“They know how to do it very well. They can win more that way.”

He predicted: “This conflict will continue for another generation. I see that the conflict is going to increase with a lot of rockets and the continuance of bloodshed and conflict.

“Maybe the next generation will think differently.”

Five years ago Elon moved to London when he married Gillian Walnes, founder and director of the Anne Frank Trust.

In London, Elon devotes himself on a voluntary basis to improving Israel’s image, giving lectures on the situation all around the UK and meeting top politicians behind the scenes to improve Israel’s image.

He said: “I am now meeting people in Downing Street. To me it is an achievement to have come here anonymously, not knowing anybody and now meeting and working with these people, like Education Secretary Michael Gove.”

Elon is now planning an official visit to his ancestral home of Morocco courtesy of the Moroccan consul, whom he met at the Downing Street Chanucah party.

Elon also runs tours of Israel all Israel’s crucial battlefields for teenagers.

He said: “It is a good way for young Jews to get to know Israel. They love to hear a story from a soldier who was on the battlefield.”

Elon will talk at Liverpool Limmud on Sunday on ‘Jerusalem Burning: 100 Years of Arab-Israel Conflict’.

              

 

            

Jewish Telegraph

PROFILE Commando Elon fights Israel’s new PR battle  

                          WHEN I spoke to Israeli-born journalist and ex-commando Elon Perry this week, he had just been fighting Israel’s case.             

But Elon has not always been so pro-Israel.

When he was a student, he blamed his grandfather David Ifrah for taking his family away from a wealthy life in Morocco to Netivot, where – a mile from the Gaza border – Elon’s childhood was constantly traumatised by terror attacks.

Ifrah, who was the mayor and judge of the Moroccan town of Azilal, was one of King Mohammed V’s closest advisers.

When in 1955, for Zionist reasons, Ifrah decided to take his family to Israel, the king voiced his displeasure.

Elon, who was born two years later in Netivot, recalled the story.

“The king was offended,” he said. “He called my grandfather to come to him immediately.

“My grandfather left everything on Shabbat and walked six miles to the king. But my grandfather still took his daughter, my mother, Zohara, who was only about 20, her new husband and their baby to Israel.

“My father was very upset because he had leather factories in Morocco. They had a good life there with maids and big houses. They lived in a villa on the beach, a very successful life.”

All that was in sharp contrast to life in Netivot, where, from the age of three, Elon spent all his childhood and youth under fire.

He said: “We always experienced terrorist attacks from tanks and bombs. My father, who was a border guard on the dangerous Gaza border, tackled a terrorist with his bare hands at the back of our house. He was a very brave man.”

But young Elon was not so brave.

“I remember all the time bombs, terror attacks and shelters,” he said.

“That was my childhood. I was traumatised as a child. I used to wet my bed and cry a lot. The same happened to all our generation. Some of our class didn’t make it. They became crazy or sick. One committed suicide.

“We couldn’t even go out to play football. We were always attacked.”

To escape from the trauma, Elon drummed in a rock band from the age of 12 to 18. After excelling in high school, he decided to take his revenge on the terrorists, who had traumatised his childhood, by joining the elite Golani commando unit, which played a crucial role in squashing the First Intifada and during the war in Lebanon of 1982.

Elon said: “I joined the commando elite to take revenge. During my army service I became a man.

“We never said no to any operation. We did the most dangerous things in Lebanon and Gaza, really dangerous stuff that you see in movies. We always volunteered for really crazy stuff.

“The motivation was so high. I got wounded twice. My respiratory system was damaged by explosives in Lebanon.”

Working as an Israeli journalist and running his own TV production company, Elon continued to serve for 25 years in the IDF reserves.

It was during his reserve duty in Gaza that Elon became aware of Israel’s extremely poor public relations.

He recalled: “When I was a soldier serving in Gaza, we had been ordered to take shelter in the back of a hospital.

“We saw Palestinian kids covered in blood rushing into the hospital from an ambulance. At the back of the hospital the children took off their T-shirts which had been covered in ketchup.”

Elon reported the incident to his government’s public relations department, but they did nothing about it. However Italian journalists took up the story as did Elon, who broadcast and wrote about it.

Later at a press conference, Elon asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu why Israel did not invest in better public relations.

The PM’s answer was: “It won’t help. They will hate us anyway.”

Elon calls this attitude “arrogant”.

He said: “The Palestinians are winning the war because of the lack of Israeli propaganda which stems from arrogance.

“The Palestinians are stubborn. I don’t think they want peace. It’s better for them to keep their jobs and to be seen as victims. The Palestinians look good in the eyes of the world who like to embrace victims.

“They know how to do it very well. They can win more that way.”

He predicted: “This conflict will continue for another generation. I see that the conflict is going to increase with a lot of rockets and the continuance of bloodshed and conflict.

“Maybe the next generation will think differently.”

Five years ago Elon moved to London when he married Gillian Walnes, founder and director of the Anne Frank Trust.

In London, Elon devotes himself on a voluntary basis to improving Israel’s image, giving lectures on the situation all around the UK and meeting people of opposite views to improve Israel’s image.

Elon is now planning an official visit to his ancestral home of Morocco courtesy of the Moroccan consul, whom he met at a Chanucah party.

Elon also runs tours of Israel all Israel’s crucial battlefields for adults and teenagers.

He said: “It is a good way for young Jews to get to know Israel. They love to hear a story from a soldier who was on the battlefield.”

Elon will talk at Liverpool Limmud on Sunday on ‘Jerusalem Burning: 100 Years of Arab-Israel Conflict’.

Israel Boycott

Main > News > News from America

NY Jewish Museum Cancels Lecture by Israel Boycott Advocate

Decision to invite Judith Butler, noted academic and extreme anti-Israel activist, sparked controversy and anger.
AAFont Size

By Tova Dvorin

First Publish: 2/21/2014, 3:18 PM
Anti-Israel demonstration in Istanbul

Anti-Israel demonstration in Istanbul
Reuters

Anti-Israel activist Judith Butler’s scheduled speaking event at the New York Jewish Museum has been cancelled, according to the Forward.

Butler, a literary professor and sociolinguistics expert, is a high-profile supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. While the scheduled event was due to be about Franz Kafka – not the Jewish state – the museum faced a strong backlash over the choice of speaker, initiated by public relations executive Ronn Torrosian’s op-ed on Arutz Sheva and continued by mainstream Jewish groups.

More than a typical run-of-the-mill BDS advocate, Butler has raised particular ire for supporting Hamas and Hezbollah as “legitimate social groups,” according to a 2012 Ha’aretz article. Butler also has participated in the United States Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, according to that report, as well as Canadian Israel Apartheid week.

“The hosting of [BDS] advocate Judith Butler by The Jewish Museum is a slap in the face to every Jew,” Richard Allen, head of JCC Watch, told JNS.org.

The academic last made major headlines in 2012, when the city of Frankfurt awarded her the prestigious Theodore Adorno award. The move offended both Israeli and Jewish organizations alike, many of which noted that Frankfurt is a sister city of Tel Aviv and that as such, giving an award to a supporter of terrorism was considered highly inappropriate.

Butler responded in a Der Spiegel article shortly after the award was given by claiming that Israel does not represent the entire Jewish people.

The Jewish museum did not comment on Butler’s specific politics in its decision to cancel the event, but noted that the controversy overshadowed the literary nature of the lecture.

“While her political views were not a factor in her participation, the debates about her politics have become a distraction, making it impossible to present the conversation about Kafka as intended,” the museum said in a statement. Butler confirmed that the talks were cancelled and expressed regret over the move.

Reconsidering the two-state solution

By Yolande Knell BBC News, Jerusalem

A “two-state solution” to the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is the declared goal of their leaders and many international diplomats and politicians.

It is the snappy shorthand for a final settlement that would see the creation of an independent state of Palestine on pre-1967 ceasefire lines in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem living peacefully alongside Israel.

The United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union, Russia and the United States routinely restate their commitment to the concept, and US President Barack Obama is sure to do so once again as he visits Jerusalem and Ramallah this week.

But many experts, as well as ordinary Israelis and Palestinians, now believe the two-state option should be abandoned or at least reconsidered.

Twenty years after the breakthrough Oslo Accords there is no sign of a final agreement.

Continue reading

Nelson Mandela

In 1990, Nelson Mandela was invited to come to the United States to receive the hero’s welcome he so richly deserved. There was a planned a ticker tape parade in New York City, congratulatory rallies, meetings with important political figures and extensive media coverage. However, because of his warm relationships with Gaddafi and Arafat and statements he made about Israel as an occupier of the Palestinian homeland, there was concern among some leaders in the Black community, that his visit to New York City would not get the whole hearted participation from the Jewish Community it warranted.

Continue reading