Sunday, May 31, 2009

Israel-Palestine Conflict: A New Peace Proposal From Yesh Prabhu

The negotiation for peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict now being conducted by the Obama administration has encountered its first major obstacle: Israel's determination to continue the expansion of settlements in the West Bank. After returning to Israel from Washington, Mr. Netanyahu announced that he will not freeze the building of settlements in the occupied territories. And today, two senior members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said that Israel would continue to build more settlements.

Forty years of negotiation for peace has ended in the devastation of the Gaza War. Relying only on negotiations to achieve peace is not likely to succeed. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton tried their best to resolve the conflict through elaborate negotiations. I believe that there is a much better way to achieve peace in the Middle East. It involves only three simple steps:

1. President Obama should declare that his administration recognizes Palestine bounded by the 1966 (pre-1967) border, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

2. President Obama should ask both the United Nations Security Council and the UN General Assembly to vote for the creation of Palestine and declare that the UN recognizes Palestine bounded by the 1966 border. The UN should ask all occupying foreign powers to vacate Palestine. The Israelis who wish to continue to live in Palestine must apply for permission from the Palestinian government to live there as immigrants. After five years the Israeli settlers could become eligible for Palestinian citizenship just as immigrants to the US become eligible for American citizenship after five years’ residency.

3. The UN should ask Israel to relocate the wall Israel has built encroaching Palestinian ancestral land to its internationally recognized borders (1966 or Pre-1967).

Other nations from around the world can start recognizing Palestine, and send their ambassadors to East Jerusalem. Let the US be the first nation to recognize the free and independent Palestine.

I know that there are ten thousand and one suggestions and peace plans for the Middle East on the Internet from various organizations and columnists and politicians for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. I know also that the chance of President Obama’s reading about my “Peace Plan” is infinitesimally small. But who can predict? Lightning does strike occasionally, when least expected.

I hope that President Obama will succeed in his efforts to resolve the conflict. Peace in that region is desperately needed. King Abdullah of Jordan has predicted that if Israelis and Palestinians do not sign a peace treaty soon, a major war will erupt in the region in 12 to 18 months. And President Obama seems to concur with that statement.
Yesh Prabhu, Plainsboro, NJ

Thursday, May 21, 2009

For Israel, the Bitter Fruits Of the Gaza War: Mr. David Miliband, British Foreign Secretary, Calls for the creation of Palestine now.

When the Israelis planned the Gaza War with the approval of the USA and connivance of Egypt, they hoped that all the death and destruction and the horror of the war the Palestinians will soon endure will compel the Palestinians to blame their suffering on the Hamas, and so boot the Hamas away. And the Israelis also hoped that even if they did not eradicate the Hamas completely, at least they will render it much weaker. But they accomplished quite the opposite: the Hamas emerged stronger than ever.

The Iraq War, too, has had startling and unexpected effects on people and nations around the world. The bombs dropped on the sleeping civilians in Baghdad during the “Shock and Awe” war destroyed Iraq’s bridges, power plants, military buildings and its infra-structure, of course; but like a boomerang, the war has come back to haunt the US, and it has sullied its reputation. Even the UK, a secondary participant in this war, has felt the war’s devastating effect. The Iraq War has sullied its reputation also, which prompted Mr. David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary, to declare that, “It is well to be clear about how Britain is viewed as a consequence of its decision to back George Bush.” And he said that it reinforces a prejudiced view created by British history.

The Gaza War was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”. Mr. Miliband was utterly shocked at what he saw in Gaza. The scale of the destruction wreaked by the Israelis has truly horrified him. UK’s strong support for Israel, almost as unwavering as US’s support for Israel was until very recently, is now gone. Using clear, succinct words, Mr. Miliband has called for the creation of a Palestinian state without further delay: “Urgent action on progress towards a two-state solution is needed to prevent a fatal and final blow to the scope for compromise,” Mr. Miliband has said. “It requires the new Israeli Government to freeze settlements and accept a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders.”

In the United States, President Obama, too, has called for the creation of a Palestinian state, bounded by the internationally recognized pre-1967 borders, without delay.

If the support for Israel is dwindling around the world, it’s the result of the Gaza War. In Spain, the Netherlands and the UK, support for Israel is at an all time low. The UN Human Rights Council’s investigation of the War Crimes perpetrated in Gaza - the investigation team headed by Judge Richard Goldstone of South Africa - is progressing. Who would have guessed, only a year ago, that the UK and the US governments would be so critical of Israel’s actions? This is not what the Israelis had hoped to accomplish. Israel is seeing now the astonishing and bitter fruits of the Gaza War. Isn’t it true that you reap what you sow?
Yesh Prabhu, Plainsboro, NJ

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A step in the right direction: The UN team headed by Judge Richard Goldstone is preparing to visit Gaza to investigate alleged war crimes

The UN team headed by Judge Richard Goldstone is preparing to visit Gaza to investigate alleged war crimes of Israel Defense Forces troops and Hamas during the Gaza War (December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009). In a resolution adopted in January, the Human Rights Council gave the UN inquiry team a mandate to investigate the war crimes, as people around the world demanded that the alleged war crimes must be investigated. Several human rights organizations from around the world, including some from Israel, and many prominent people – including several Nobel Peace Prize laureates such as Bishop Desmond Tutu (1984), President Jimmy Carter (2002), and Mairead Maguire (1976) had called for an investigation.

Of particular concern is Israel’s use of white phosphorus bombs on civilians in densely populated areas of Gaza; the use of phosphorus bombs in densely populated areas is forbidden under War Laws.

Judge Richard Goldstone’s team includes Pakistani human rights lawyer Hina Jilani, and retired Irish colonel Desmond Travers, and British international law professor Christine Chinkin. The team held its first closed-door meetings in Geneva this week. Israel has said that it will not cooperate with the United Nations inquiry.

Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, and Reuters reported on May 09, 09 that Ms. Navi Pillay , the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that of special concern was an incident in which IDF bombed a house in Gaza, killing 30 Palestinian civilians.

This incident has been extensively covered by several newspapers, and the BBC and Aljazeera TV. Four days after the house was bombed, the International Red Cross found several toddlers lying amidst their dead mothers and several decaying corpses; the toddlers were hungry and starving, and too weak to walk because they were without food and water. The Israelis had prevented the rescue workers from entering the house to give the surviving children aid, and this, understandably, lead to demand from people shocked and horrified by the incident that such acts must be investigated to determine whether they constitute war crimes.
Yesh Prabhu, Plainsboro, NJ

Friday, May 1, 2009

A lit candle for peace, on this gloomy day

This morning at dawn, the sky which is normally pale blue here in Plainsboro, was cloudy, dark and gloomy. But I did not mind the gloomy sky; in fact I welcomed the clouds with a joyous heart, because dark clouds carry in them the seeds of rain, and often shower us with the precious gift of water so essential for life on earth.

With a cup of coffee in hand, when I accessed one of my favorite websites:, I was thrilled to see a letter written by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, to President Obama. It was an open letter to President Obama. I was thrilled because, in it she has written about the plight of the Palestinians using words and phrases that I so often use, and she has made the points that I have so often made. President Jimmy Carter, too, has written extensively about the plight of the Palestinians and Israel’s apartheid. Mairead Maguire has written quite eloquently and elegantly also, without using the “beaurocratese” that politicians so often use. Reading her letter was like seeing a candle lit on a windowsill on a gloomy day. I thought readers of this blog site might wish to read her letter.

Here is the letter that she wrote:

An Open Letter to Barack Obama from the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire
Stand Up to Israeli Apartheid

I found your book ‘Dreams from my Father’ a moving and inspiring story of your own struggle to find your identity and purpose in life. You found it for sure, and today carry the hopes and dreams of so many people in our world. We pray for you and your family. We wish you all good health and happiness. You carry so much responsibility. We hope you will change the policies of USA (both domestic and Foreign) to people centred policies, based on the values and ethics which you try to live out in your life.

Reading your book I was inspired by your involvement (during Sophomore year at University) in the South African anti-apartheid Divestment campaign. Your own words - ‘I found myself drawn into a larger role – contacting representatives of the African National Congress to speak on campus, drafting strategy, I noticed that people had begun to listen to my opinions.’, encouraged me to share with you the following opinions, and experiences, of many of the people I met during my most recent visit to Palestine/Israel.

Earlier this month, I attended the 4th Bil’in International Conference on Popular Nonviolent Resistance held in Bil’in, near Ramallah, in the Israeli occupied Terrority of Palestine. Here, all the Palestinian people are asking of you, President Obama, is to listen to their opinions and use your position to help end the racist, apartheid policies of Israel, which continue to cause so much pain and suffering to them. Each week, for the past four years, the villagers (after prayers in the Mosque) walk to the Wall which has annexed much of their land, and cuts them off from their farms and olive groves, and their ability to make a living for their families. As you know, under International Law the Apartheid wall is illegal but Israel continues to ignore International Laws (and some 62 UN resolutions) and annex more land from the Palestinians, all the while demolishing Palestinian homes, building illegal settlements both in East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, and laying Siege to the Gaza strip (l and a half million people), thus breaking the Geneva Conventions and committing crimes against humanity.

To visit Palestine is to walk with a people whose lives are being made unbearable by Israeli Policies of ethnic cleansing. Each year when I visit I ask myself ‘how can the Palestinians bear so much suffering and still have hope?’ The Philosopher Karl Jung says ‘Go into your grief for there your soul will grow’. Being privileged to walk alongside the Palestinian people, one sees so much soul. Many are materially poor having been made refugees and often pauperised by Israeli occupation and siege, but their dignity, courage, and persistent resistance to injustice is awesome to witness. It reminds me of the magnificence of the human spirit and, I feel humbled to be welcomed as a friend of the people of Bilin, Ramallah, Gaza, and Palestine. I wish that you President Obama would go and walk with them as you walked in spirit with the people of South Africa in their great and inspirational anti-apartheid movement.

Walking every week in the peaceful protest to the Apartheid wall, are Israeli activists and Internationals. It takes great courage to come from Israel to the occupied terrorities and oppose your own Government’s Policies and I pay tribute to the Israeli peace activists who continue to do so, often at the cost of punishment by the Israeli Government. Yet, they come, and here is the hope that not all Israelis support their Government’s racist and apartheid policies of siege, occupation and militarization of both Israel and Palestinian villages and towns. I also pay tribute to the Internationals who put their lives daily on the line to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians. Last month in the Village of Nilin, one young man from your own country of America, Tristan Anderson, was targeted by Israeli soldiers, and hit in the head with a gas canister. He is currently in intensive care, and we all hope he will recover.

At the Bilin Conference an Israeli asked me ‘how can we touch the hearts of the Israeli people’ so they can change their Government’s policies?’ I believe there is so much fear amongst the Israeli’s of ethnic annialiation but this fear can be dissolved by the politics of the heart. Israel should not be afraid of the Palestinians or Arab world. They are not the enemy and this can be borne witness to by the Israelis who come to stay in this village and who are taken care of, with such love, by the Bilin villagers. The Israeli people must make friends with the Palestinians and indeed the whole Arab world, and take seriously the peace agreement offered by the Arab countries. There will never be a military or armed struggle solution to the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict, as it is a political problem with a political solution. What is lacking is a real political will, on behalf of the Israeli Government, to enter seriously into all inclusive unconditional talks.
During the peaceful protest to the wall, we were assaulted by the Israeli soldiers with teargas, and rubber bullets. Many of us were overcome with the teargas and others seriously hurt with steel tipped rubber bullets. On 17th April, 2009, at this wall, one of the protesters, Bassem Abu-Rahma, was hit in the chest with a teargas metal container and killed. He was a young man from the village much loved by all and his death caused great pain and anger particularly amongst his peer group. I marvelled at the skill of the Village Leaders and Muslim women, who kept reminding the young men that they must keep their protest peaceful, but the atmosphere felt like a pressure cooker with the lid about to blow. How much longer must this injustice to Palestinian people be allowed to continue unchallenged by your administration? If you do not insist upon Israel Upholding its International responsibility immediately, this anger will grow and the daily humiliation of Palestine, by Israeli injustice and soldiers will push more people towards retaliatory violence. (As one of our great Irish poets W.B. Yeats wrote ‘too long a sacrifice makes a stone of the heart’).

I appeal to you President Obama, to change USA Policies and stop supporting through military aid, etc, Israelis occupation of Palestine, and to move immediately to help lift the siege of Gaza and say to Israel ‘enough is enough’.

In the meantime I support the Bilin committee’s strategy of BDS in an attempt to get their freedom and rights. You, as a supporter and activist for South Africa’s BDS campaign know it succeeded in ending Apartheid as Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Tutu often reminds us. Such a strategy can work for Palestine too. Some South Africans Anti Apartheid leaders when visiting Israel have said it is much worse than the days of Apartheid in their country. However, I believe President Obama, you can do so much more than those of us who support the BDS campaign. You can bring your experience in your own struggle for peace and freedom to help solve this problem.

Love and hope gives us all courage and belief that peace and freedom is possible.
God bless you and your family.

Mairead Maguire won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976.