Israel and Pakistan:Strange Bedfellows or Natural Allies?
Contrary to public rhetoric, Israel and Pakistan have more similarities than differences. As states created to safeguard religious minorities, both are facing stiff challenges from the conservative circles who demand a greater share in power. Both came into existence because of the strong conviction that a separate sovereign political entity would be the only means of safeguarding the interests and welfare of the religious minorities. After independence, both have evolved a similar world view on important foreign policy and security issues. For long, anti-Zionism has been popular in Pakistan, and if and when Pakistan establishes formal diplomatic relations with Israel, both sides would look at the similar paths that they had tread and their shared legacy and common interests. Therefore, when the political realities so demand, Israel and Pakistan will underscore their common minority nationalism based on religion, their identical demand for a national home for minorities and their similar security and foreign policy considerations.
(Source : idsa-india.org)
Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea by Faisal Devji.
Faisal Devji‘s latest book is a provocative, fascinating and ultimately brilliant exploration of the origins of Pakistan, comparing its birth in 1947 with that of Israel in 1948. At first such a comparison may seem strange, even counter-intuitive – after all the two countries are distinguished from each other by religion, language, culture and geography, and only bound together by mutual enmity – yet over the course of this work Devji makes a compelling case that there are some profound and unique similarities between the two forms of nationalism which eventually led to the founding of each country during the 1947-1948 period.
There are, of course, some straightforward historical similarities between the two countries – both ‘nations’ emerged from the ashes of the British Empire and both states came into being, painfully, via partition. Language provides another point of comparison – in Pakistan Urdu, which Devji notes was ‘not the mother tongue in any of the regions that became Pakistan’ was nonetheless chosen as the official state language; similarly in Israel, Hebrew was chosen despite it hardly existing at the time as a living colloquial language. Both states came into being due to population transfer, something that was extraordinarily bloody in the case of Pakistan at the time of partition; and in the case of Israel, is something which remains so controversial in the Arab world it is known as the ‘Nakba’ or catastrophe.
But Devji’s analysis goes much deeper than this. Put simply, Devji makes the argument that Pakistan and Israel are the only two countries in the world for which religion forms the sole basis of their ‘imagined communities’. For Devji this point explains why in the build up to achieving statehood neither national movement’s primary focus of imagination concerned borders; instead religious identity was crucial. For Pakistan all the subcontinent’s Muslims could claim citizenship; for Israel all the world’s Jews could do the same. As Devji remarks in the first chapter:
“From an Eretz Israel that can include large chunks of Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, to a Pakistan that would add to its territory not simply the whole of Kashmir, but also bits of the Indian provinces of Punjab, Gujarat and Andara Pradesh, these countries have never possessed a stable form even in their own imaginations.”
As Devji relates, founding the national identity on religious-cultural identity explains to some extent the strange, dislocated role that territory plays for each state. For Pakistan, early iterations of what it might look like included a range of pocket territories across the subcontinent, wherever Muslims were in majority; the same is largely true for the 1947 UN partition plan which divided Mandate Palestine into a number of scattered Jewish and Arab tracts. Furthermore, when Pakistan came into being in 1947, it was divided geographically between two pieces of territory, East and West Pakistan, which in 1971 split once more to become present day Pakistan and Bangladesh. But as Devji relates, the loss for Pakistan of ‘more than half its population and nearly as much of its territory’ did not lead to a fundamental crisis of the national imagination. Similarly, in the case of Israel no territorial ‘facts on the ground’, such as the expansion of Israeli-held territories beyond the 1947 UN plan following the wars of 1948 and 1967, the subsequent return to Egypt of the Sinai following the 1978 Camp David Accords, and of course the fact that present day-Israel effectively has no defined borders between it and any future Palestinian state, have altered the fundamental idea of Israeli nationality. Interestingly, Devji notes that there was not much enthusiasm, and some strong opposition, to the idea of Pakistan from Arab Muslim representatives, who feared the consequences of partition in India for the future of Palestine, something that is richly illustrated by the fact that in 1947 Muslim League representatives argued forcefully at the UN in favour of India’s partition so that a Muslim state could come into being; yet in 1948 the same representatives were in the awkward position of arguing forcefully against partition in Palestine so that a Jewish state could come into being.
(Source : blogs.lse.ac.uk)
Ariel Sharon’s Legacy is Deeply Disturbing
It mattered little to Sharon that Israel’s transfer of its civilians into Palestinian territories was—and is—a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and a potential war crime. It mattered even less that the settlement regime and Israel’s military rule in these areas subjects Palestinians to severe discrimination and a mountain of restrictions that makes life miserable.
Part and parcel of this settlement expansion plan was Sharon’s construction of the Israeli separation barrier, which today stands as a monument to human rights violations. Sharon’s government approved its construction in 2002, ostensibly to prevent Palestinian attacks that killed 640 Israeli civilians during his term. But the real motivation for the barrier, as countless studies have documented, was to build a wall around the Israeli settlements, deep into the West Bank, cutting off thousands of Palestinians from the rest of the West Bank.
Worse, he avoided prosecution for the killings of civilians in which he was implicated: a fact that deserves not eulogy, but infamy.
Ban and Kerry couldn’t very well mention it, but history will remember Sharon for his role in the massacres of civilians by Lebanese militias in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982. From September 16 to 18, the militias killed at least 700 people, and perhaps more than 2,000, including infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly, some of whose bodies were found to have been mutilated.
Israel also made sure that no one else could bring Sharon to justice, either. In 2001, survivors from Sabra and Shatila brought a case in Belgium requesting Sharon be prosecuted under Belgium’s “universal jurisdiction” law. Political pressure from the United States and Israel — it “was like nothing I have ever seen,” said a colleague who closely followed the issue at the time — led Belgium’s parliament to amend the law in April 2003, and to repeal it in August. Belgium’s highest court dropped the case against Sharon that September.
Many in Israel are now highlighting Sharon’s record as a warrior and bold political leader. But it is worth pausing to consider his record as a man who brought devastation and destruction to the lives of thousands of Palestinians, without ever facing justice for his crimes, and whose policies undermined efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Western media never fails to call it terrorism if Palestinians kill Israelis. But when someone like Ariel Sharon kills thousands of Palestinians, it’s not called murder. It’s called controversies. Killing Arabs is controversy, not murder.
Largest Dutch pension fund boycotts Israeli banks over settlement ties
PGGM told the banks its opinion was based on an advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2004, which said that settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are illegal and violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. That article states that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
PGGM is the Netherlands’ largest pension management company and one of the leading such companies in the world, with some 150 billion euros of pension money under management. Last year, as it reviewed its investment policy for 2014, it considered divesting from several banks and companies worldwide in accordance with its policy of “social responsibility.” At the end of this review, it concluded that it would be impossible to create a firewall between its investments in Israeli banks and the banks’ activities in the territories.
Over the past few weeks, Dutch firms have engaged in a wave of boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israeli firms. Last month, the Dutch water company Vitens announced that it was suspending cooperationwith Israel’s national water company, Mekorot, given the latter’s operations in West Bank settlements. A few weeks earlier, another Dutch company canceled a contract to build a sewage treatment plant that it had signed with Jerusalem’s water company, Hagihon, because the plant was to be located over the Green Line.
The Foreign Ministry is very worried by the trend in the Netherlands. Officials in Jerusalem believe the background to this recent wave of boycotts is a new policy adopted by the Dutch government under which it encourages commercial enterprises to avoid any business dealings with the settlements. But in PGGM’s case, the pension company decided to boycott even Israeli banks with only indirect ties to the settlements.
Obama and Kerry spark speculation by outlining Israeli-Palestinian deal
If you piece together the details and principles that were set forth matter-of-factly by Obama and much more forcefully by Kerry, and if you mix in a bit of reading between the lines, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Israel and the Palestinians are engaged in negotiating a “framework agreement” that will include elements of a final status agreement but will be carried out in stages.
And that there will be an interim period in which Israel maintains security control of some of the West Bank. And that the United States will play a major role in providing security along the border with Jordan. And that there will be a declaration of principles that will be based on various peace formulas discussed in the recent past, from the Clinton Parameters of 2000 and onwards.
And, most significantly, that Israel is well aware that the reference points for such a declaration will include the 1967 borders, a Palestinian presence in Jerusalem and a mutual recognition of each other’s “homeland.”
(Source : haaretz.com)
On Balance, A Good Deal For Israel
Are the Israelis simply opposed to any deal?
The short answer is no. Most Israelis would far prefer a deal that would truly constrain Iranian progress to a military strike, certainly one that Israel had to carry out on its own. And yet the Israeli leadership, especially under Netanyahu, is wary of any deal short of their maximum demands, a full dismantling of Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
Moreover, Israel sees itself as the necessary “bad cop” in these negotiations, tasked with bettering the terms of any deal, even at the cost of appearing intransigent. Israel in this view provides the radical flank for the world powers, allowing them to harden their stance. Israel’s frequent warnings of a potential attack on Iran’s nuclear sites might be viewed through this lens as well, as I argued here. What the Saudis do privately and through thinly-veiled diplomatic steps, Israel must undertake publicly, many feel.
Indeed, one might argue that the barrage of unfettered Israeli criticism two weeks ago may have helped shape the outcome today; that without Israel’s alarm, France and other may not have rallied to toughen the terms. Whether or not this is the case — and this depends on the precise details of the negotiations, about which we do not know much at present — Israel might have opted to declare victory today.
(Source : brookings.edu)
"This [Israel] is a state of apartheid. It’s taken me less than a week to lose impartiality. In doing so, I may as well be throwing stones at tanks."
— Three-time Academy Award winner, Daniel Day-Lewis.
Israel does not want peace, it wants piece. Piece of land.
EU to bar all member states from funding Israeli settlements
An EU directive will bar all 28 member states from dealings with Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, including annexed Arab east Jerusalem, sparking attacks from Israeli officials Tuesday.
The directive, due to be published on Friday and take effect from 2014, forbids EU member states from funding or dealing with Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, according to Israeli media.
(Source : english.al-akhbar.com)
All talk in the Middle East
For Israel and the US, negotiations with the Palestinians have never been about achieving a resolution of the conflict, which can only happen on terms all Israeli governments have rejected. Rather, their primary function has been to reduce international pressure on Israel without it having to make political concessions.
Negotiations began in the early 1990s as a response to the first Palestinian intifada, which dramatically increased the costs of occupation for Israel. The 1993 Oslo Accord, which launched the peace process, was the product of secret discussions that subverted the official negotiations being conducted at the time. Whereas official Palestinian representatives, riding the wave of the intifada, demanded the fulfilment of Palestinian rights under international law, the Oslo Accord and the peace process it initiated neglected even to demand the dismantling of Israeli settlements. The result was predictable: over the next decade, as Israeli and Palestinian diplomats talked, Israeli settlers built - nearly doubling in number. “By creating a calm environment”, they “were able to complete” their work.
Israeli governments have consistently embraced negotiations as a relief valve for international pressure to end the occupation, provided that they are not based on international law, reach no decisive conclusion and can be extended unto eternity. As Israeli journalist and former politician Yossi Sarid recalls, “they used to say about [Prime Minister] Yitzhak Shamir that he conducted peace negotiations with our neighbours as long as they never ended”. “There are no sacred dates”, insisted former Israeli Prime Minister and architect of the Oslo peace process Yitzhak Rabin. Looking back over twenty years of these negotiations, former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami found himself unable to “escape the conclusion” that “the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has become one of the most spectacular deceptions in modern diplomatic history”. Purportedly aiming to resolve the conflict, its primary function has been to reduce the costs of sustaining it.
This understanding of the peace process is the only way to make sense of the current situation, in which an Israeli government that explicitly rejects a two-state settlement is pushing for negotiations, against the resistance of a Palestinian leadership that officially accepts it. International opposition to Israeli rejectionism is increasing. Europe grows impatient in the face of protracted diplomatic stagnation: a recent open-letter signed by 19 former senior European officials stated frankly that the Oslo peace process “has nothing more to offer” and urged a “new approach”, while a non-binding 2012 EU Heads of Missions report went so far as to propose sanctions on Israeli settlements. Israeli officials have sought to restart direct negotiations, in order to pre-empt the threat of international measures. Thus, in a stormy Knesset debate, Avigdor Lieberman urged opponents of a two-state settlement to support a revived diplomatic process, in the interests of “conflict management”. “If we do not initiate”, he warned, “there will be others who will put plans on the table”.
(Source : mondediplo.com)
Palestinian children tortured, used as shields by Israel: U.N.
A United Nations human rights body accused Israeli forces on Thursday of mistreating Palestinian children, including by torturing those in custody and using others as human shields.
Palestinian children in the Gaza and the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, are routinely denied registration of their birth and access to health care, decent schools and clean water, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said.
"Palestinian children arrested by (Israeli) military and police are systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture, are interrogated in Hebrew, a language they did not understand, and sign confessions in Hebrew in order to be released," it said in a report.
Most Palestinian children arrested are accused of having thrown stones, an offence which can carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, the committee said. Israeli soldiers had testified to the often arbitrary nature of the arrests, it said.
The watchdog’s 18 independent experts examined Israel’s record of compliance with a 1990 treaty as part of its regular review of a pact signed by all nations except Somalia and the United States. An Israeli delegation attended the session.
The U.N. committee regretted Israel’s “persistent refusal” to respond to requests for information on children in the Palestinian territories and occupied Syrian Golan Heights since the last review in 2002.
"Hundreds of Palestinian children have been killed and thousands injured over the reporting period as a result of the state party military operations, especially in Gaza where the state party proceeded to (conduct) air and naval strikes on densely populated areas with a significant presence of children, thus disregarding the principles of proportionality and distinction," the report said.
During the 10-year period, an estimated 7,000 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17, but some as young as nine, had been arrested, interrogated and detained, the U.N. report said.
Many are brought in leg chains and shackles before military courts, while youths are held in solitary confinement, sometimes for months, the report said.
It voiced deep concern at the “continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants”, saying 14 such cases had been reported between January 2010 and March 2013 alone.
Israeli soldiers had used Palestinian children to enter potentially dangerous buildings before them and to stand in front of military vehicles to deter stone-throwing, it said.
"Almost all those using children as human shields and informants have remained unpunished and the soldiers convicted for having forced at gunpoint a nine-year-old child to search bags suspected of containing explosives only received a suspended sentence of three months and were demoted," it said.
Israel’s “illegal long-standing occupation” of Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan Heights, continued expansion of “unlawful” Jewish settlements, construction of the Wall into the West Bank, land confiscation and destruction of homes and livelihoods “constitute severe and continuous violations of the rights of Palestinian children and their families”, it said.
Five reasons why Hawking is right to boycott
The Israeli government and various lobby groups use events such as the “Presidential Conference” to whitewash Israel’s crimes past and present, a tactic sometimes referred to as “rebranding”. As a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official put it after the 2009 Gaza massacre, it is the kind of approach that means sending “well-known novelists and writers overseas, theatre companies, [and] exhibits” in order to “show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war”. “Brand Israel" is all about creating a positive image for a country that is the target of human rights campaigners the world over - as if technological innovations or high-profile conferences can hide the reality of occupation and ethnic cleansing.
(Source : aljazeera.com)