Friday, August 10, 2012

The Palestine Romney doesn’t know
By Zahi KhouriPublished: August 9
Zahi Khouri is a Palestinian American businessman and founder of PalestinianNational Beverage Co.
This article was was first published by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. It can be accessed at  

The e-mail by which it was sent had the following note:
During his recent visit to Israel, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney offended Palestinians around the world on July 30 by suggesting that cultural differences explain why the Israelis are more economically successful than Palestinians. We highly recommend today’sWashington Post op-ed, “The Palestine Romney Doesn’t Know,” by Palestinian- American businessman and Washington Report subscriber Zahi Khouri

Here is the article:
I am a proud American. I am a hardworking businessman and job creator. I am a faithful Christian.
And I am Palestinian.
Much as my multiple identities might drive Mitt Romney to head scratching, it is he who needs a lesson in, to borrow his recent words, “culture and a few other things.”
Were he to spend a day with me in the Holy Land, I could take him to the Jerusalem neighborhood where my family home has stood for five centuries. I could show him the orange trees in Jaffa that my family helped introduce to the world in the 1930s.
That’s right: Jaffa oranges are a Palestinian, not Israeli, trademark. Yet like so many “cultural” markers claimed by the self-professed Jewish state, even the fruit trees my people have tended for centuries have been expropriated.
Romney might be duped into thinking that oranges, falafel and hummus — staples of Palestinian cuisine for generations — are Israeli products. But how dare he claim that a state built at the expense of another people’s history and accomplishments is guided by “the hand of providence”?
Israel did not make the desert bloom. Instead, thanks to a deal struck with the British viceroys of Mandate Palestine, it made away with a land, a set of institutions and, indeed, a culture that was not its own.
It did so at the expense of my people. Like more than three-quarters of Palestine’s population, my family was forced to leave this land after Israel’s creation in 1948. Even though we had to abandon our successful businesses and centuries-old homes, however, we did not become the “uncultured” victims that Romney’s caricature suggests.
Most of us went to other Arab countries, where Palestinians became known for our business acumen and management know-how, and helped to build nascent private and public sectors. Ask our fellow Arabs in Lebanon, Jordan or elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region and they will tell you: Palestinian culture, with its premium on education and hard work, has been a force for hope, development and prosperity.
Despite their circumstances, Palestinians living under Israel’s brutal occupation share the same culture and proudly claim the same remarkable achievements. I, for one, returned to Palestine in 1993 to launch the first Coca-Cola bottling plant in the West Bank. It was granted a Best Country Bottling Operation award in May by Coca-Cola, a testament to my colleagues’ ingenuity and determination. But these traits alone cannot overcome the stifling effects of Israel’s occupation.
If Romney got one thing right, it’s that Israelis far outdo Palestinians in net wealth. In fact, his estimates of the disparity were too conservative: Israel’s per capita gross domestic product is roughly $32,000 to the Palestinians’ $1,500.
Remarkably, that $1,500 figure is roughly half of what Palestinians claimed in 1993, when the Oslo accords were signed. In other words, the U.S.-sponsored peace process has made us poorer.
How is that possible?
Palestinians have no say in our economic development. Every resource — water, land, soil, minerals, airspace, humans — is controlled and commandeered by Israel, which then deigns to sell us back a small portion.
In the West Bank, for example, Israeli settlers consume on average 4.3 times the amount of water as Palestinians. In the Jordan Valley alone, some 9,000 settlers in Israeli agricultural settlements use one-quarter the amount of water consumed by the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank, about 2.5 million people.
Palestinians have no control over our borders. This means we cannot import or export without being subject to discriminatory measures by our occupier. It also means that, without Israeli permission, we cannot hire experts to enhance our employees’ skills or send employees for overseas training.
Worse, we are restricted within the territories ostensibly under our “control.” At any given time, there are more than 500 Israeli checkpoints, roadblocks and other barriers to movement within the occupied West Bank — an area smaller than Delaware — hindering Palestinians and their goods from moving between their own towns and cities and the outside world.
Palestinian development of all kinds is severely hindered by the Israeli occupation. Yet Palestinians have not given up. Palestine has one of the highest literacy rates in the Arab world. Our youth continue to graduate from our universities, opening businesses and gaining skills. Our private sector innovates and grows.
All of this is happening on the 22 percent of historic Palestine that is the West Bank and Gaza. If Romney had any historical perspective, he would dispose of his racist judgments about Palestinian culture and instead imagine our potential without Israel’s imposed hindrances

Sunday, August 5, 2012

History On A Billboard – Fanaticism On The Ground
An Analysis by Lawrence Davidson
August 1, 2012

Editor’s note: History on New York billboards! Times are a changing. The unbelievable is beginning to happen.
Mr. Henry Clifford, a Connecticut resident, chairman of the area’s local Committee for Peace in Israel/Palestine, purchased billboard space so as to educate readers to what really is happening under the Israeli regime of occupation so generously supported by U.S. dollars. 

The billboards appear on train platforms and are aimed at the elite in the New York suburbs coming into Manhatten.

The lesson comes in the form of four aligned maps showing the absorption of Palestinian land by Israel from 1946 to the present, along with a declaration that “4.7 million Palestinians are classified by the U.N. as refugees.” 

What appears below is Copyright © 2010 tothepointanalyses. and is reproduced here courtesy of the author.

It was first published at

Part I – History On A Billboard
For the past few weeks, those taking local trains from New York City’s wealthier suburbs into Manhattan have encountered a succinct billboard history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The lesson comes in the form of four aligned maps showing the absorption of Palestinian land by Israel from 1946 to the present, along with a declaration that “4.7 million Palestinians are classified by the U.N. as refugees.”  In all respects, the ad is historically correct.
This was made possible thanks to the efforts of Mr. Henry Clifford, chairman of the area’s local Committee for Peace in Israel/Palestine, who purchased the billboard space so as to educate readers to what really is happening under the Israeli regime of occupation so generously supported by U.S. dollars.
Immediately the ads were labeled “anti-Semitic” by area rabbis and Jewish community leaders.  Here is the reasoning of Dovid Efune, “editor of the Manhattan-based Jewish newspaper, The Algemeiner.”
“This is anti-Semitic because when people think of the Jews they think of the Jewish state.  Jews have seen this happen many times.  It always starts with messaging that says Jews are committing a crime.”
Three things are to be said about Mr. Efune’s reaction: 1) On the one hand, he seems not to care that the map display and UN statistic are real and accurate and what that means for the lives of millions of people.  2) On the other, and no doubt quite inadvertently, he does infer that what the ad reveals is criminal behavior.   3) Finally, if there is any truth to the assertion that “when people think of the Jews they think of the Jewish state” it is because Zionist propagandists have, for over 64 years, incessantly insisted on that identification.  Those Jews who have publically denied the connection have been abused and libeled.  So, to the extent that Jews in general are identified with Israel’s “committing a crime,” you can thank the Zionists for that.
Rabbi Joshua Davidson (no relation of this blogger), senior Rabbi of Temple Beth El in northern Westchester, N.Y.,  says the map ad presents “a distorted and skewed view of a complicated conflict.” Actually, that is untrue.  The ad simply puts forth historical truth.  In addition, the conflict really is not as complex as Zionists say it is.  It is the consequence of a rather straightforward, post-World War I,  imperialist land grab that, in the case of Palestine, is on-going even now.  It was and continues to be justified by religious mythology on the one hand and the history of anti-Semitic persecution on the other.  The land grab was originally abetted by the British imperial politicians, some of whom imagined that they were helping to fulfill biblical prophecy, and others who saw a Jewish homeland in Palestine as a way of solving the “Jewish problem” in Europe.  The Palestinians, being seen as inferior natives, were then and are now still, pushed aside.
Part II – Fanaticism On The Ground
Rabbi Davidson might object to such simplicity, but Dani Dayan would not.  Dayan is the leader of the “Yesha Council of Jewish Communities” a leading organization espousing Israeli settlement of the West Bank.  Unlike Rabbi Davidson,  Dayan does not seek refuge in historical complexity.  He lays it on the line in a recent New York Times Op-ed.
“Arabs called for Israel’s annihilation in 1967, and Israel legitimately seized the disputed territories, and the right of Israelis to call them home today, is therefore unassailable.”
Unfortunately, the days when conquest automatically resulted in a transfer of sovereignty ended with World War II.  The primary rationale for the creation of the United Nations and the expansion of international law was to prevent just the sort of behavior Dayan describes.
Also, like the statement of Dovid Efune, Dayan’s argument is logically confused.  He is claiming that the hyperbolic rhetoric of Arab leaders in the run-up to the 1967 war somehow frees Israel from its obligations as a signatory to such international treaties as the 4th Geneva Convention.  Article 49(3) of that treaty prohibits an occupying power from “transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”  Successive Israeli governments, both of the left and the right, have energetically violated that law by transferring civilians into these conquered lands.  Dani Dayan now proudly points out there are some 350,000 of these illegal squatters (the number goes up by 200,000 if we include the Israeli transfers into Jerusalem).  And, because this now constitutes the new “status quo,” Mr. Dayan proclaims that Israelis have the “right…to call” such territories “home.”  Where did he get that right? From his god?  From very ancient history? From the fact he walks about the area with an Uzi submachine gun strapped over his shoulder?    There is certainly no basis for it in international law.
Dayan presents these illegally accomplished facts on the ground as “irreversible” and the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “unattainable.”   He challenges his readers to understand the “realpolitik” truth of his position.  And, according to Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Palestinian Human Rights, it is hard to “doubt the force of Dayan’s reasoning on this central issue.”  Well, if not the settler leader’s reasoning, which is faulty, then certainly one cannot doubt Israel’s physical possession of increasing amounts of Palestinian land.  Apparently, the governments of the world have capitulated to Dani Dayan and vigilante squatters.   Hamas, which would gladly defy them,  is confined, also with international blessings, to Gaza, the world’s largest outdoor prison.  Thus, there is no military presence on the ground that can gainsay Mr. Dayan. So what does this imply, that might makes right?  Is that Mr. Dayan’s version of Israel acting as a “light unto the nations”?  Apparently so.
Part III – The Need for Outside Pressure
However, Dani Dayan and his settler movement have not written the final act in this tragedy.  Even if we take note of his present position in the West Bank, and also admit that the “peace process” is a pitiful fraud, it is premature for Dayan to proclaim that he has won the struggle and we must all accept his “status quo.”  Colonialist ventures can be defeated in more than one way.  The “usual” way is through prolonged and bloody armed struggle.  Thanks to the world-class military machine the United States has helped Israel create and maintain this is not a likely path to success.  But such regimes have also been forced to transform themselves into more equitable, more democratic, and less repressive ones through concerted outside pressure.   And such pressure is now as real and growing as Dayan’s squatter movement.
A major effort at outside pressure is the worldwide BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign against Israel.   Ilan Pappe, an Israeli born professor at Exeter University in England, notes that this “campaign’s elasticity has made it into a broad process powerful enough to produce a new public mood and atmosphere….”  As someone who has spent the last 35 years espousing the Palestinian cause, I can testify to the truth of that statement, even here in the United States.
It might very well be that Israel is here to stay.  But that does not mean that it will always be the racist, oppressive society it is now.   Consistently applied outside pressure, growing in scope and strength, can wear down support for ideologues such as Dani Dayan and his backers both in and outside of today’s Israel.  It can, slowly but surely, convince ordinary Israelis that they have a choice: go along with their expansionist leaders and face increasing international isolation or, as Pappe puts it, cooperate willingly in “finding a formula for joint living” – that is creating a better society that is tolerant and mindful of the need for justice, first and foremost for Israel’s victims, the Palestinian people.  Also a nation that can be trusted to honor their obligations under international law.
Part IV – The Fate of International Law
It should be clearly understood that it is not just Israel’s future or that of the Palestinians that is at stake here.  All of us have to ask what value we place on international law.  What value do we place on a world that recognizes the primacy of law born sane human reason,  rather than religious mythology, apocalyptic fantasies, and tribal nationalism? It is all wrapped up together; as goes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so goes the viability of international law.
It is ironic that in the aftermath of the Holocaust international law was strengthened and now, as is so simply demonstrated on Mr. Clifford’s billboards,  it is the Israelis who choose to cast it aside.  If we allow this to happen, the world becomes more dangerous for all of us.

 About the author:Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester PA. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history.