“The Israelis are Coming! The Israelis are Coming!”

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

San Francisco–July 28th–Before your narrator begins his tale, he would like to unequivocally state that he supports the now overwhelmingly Islamic Palestinian (sub-) nationality within their seized State.  Your reporter like the grand majority of the people there and most of us support a two-State solution, but time is ticking, and the ball is in Tel Aviv’ court.  The issue has gained an increasing pungency with the bid of the Palestinians for recognition of their statehood status at the United Nation (U.N.’s) headquarters in New York City this coming September.

J Street, who invited your scribe to this event, is pro-Israel with a progressive vision, but at the same time is strongly in favor of a two-State solution.  (Of course, our reasoning is different their “whys” rom ours, but they are not so far away from our aspirations that we could not negotiate with them towards a middle ground.)   J Street was the sponsor of this evening as part of their national (U.S.)tours targeted at their Jewish-American constituency of (retired) political officials, diplomats, and (that even included four) military generals, who disapprove of their current government’s out-of-hand rejection of the (U.S.) Obama’s Administration proposals to base future negotiations  between the two contentious  sides over the pre-1967 borders with agreed swaps.   In the sponsor’s words:  “…increased tensions in the region [which is] undergoing rapid transformation [i.e., the ‘Arab Spring’]…is a critical time” for Israel, too.

I am urging my colleague in the Southland (that’s what we call Southern California from the North to balance my reporting with hers dedicated to the Palestinian perspective) whose cause she has so fervently espoused! 

The (former) Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Ilan Baruch, resigned from his nation’s Foreign Service early from his post as the Ambassador there.  (Formerly, he was Tel Aviv’ representative in Manila.) His action was prompted because of his inability to argue his nation’s policies to an international audience with whom his homeland was becoming ever more isolated and looked down upon as a pariah entity.

Ambassador Baruch served in the Israeli Foreign Ministry for more than thirty years.  Besides his exalted duties as Israel’s (former) Ambassador to the Philippines and South Africa, he worked in their embassies in London, Copenhagen and Singapore.   He, also, led the Bureau for Middle Eastern Economic Affairs and was the Deputy Head of the Peace Process within the Middle East Department and founded and served as first Director of the Palestinian Autonomy Division within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in which position he became acquainted and worked with the (now) President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.  They bounded as life-long friends.  They make regular personal contact over the phone, and Ilan recently visited him at his home (fifteen minutes away!).  Such integral relationships are central to resolution of the enmeshed friction between these two neighbors.

Baruck is one of most conspicuous of the high-ranking former members within previous Israeli Administrations who have come forward in opposition to the Netanyahu regime’s policies – especially in regards to the peace process.

His Excellency’s presentation, which was largely fielding questions, took part at a Synagogue within this Pacific-rim City.

J Streets’ Northwest’s Regional Director, Gordon Gladstone, began by stating that 57% of American Jews support the two-State resolution.  Strategic opinion holds to Obama’s proposals to negotiate along the lines of the pre-1967 boundaries with agreed land swaps are defensible (counter to their Prime Minister [PM’s] protests). 

Baruch noted that to be an Ambassador did not allow you to express your own opinion within hearing:  It is “…a total project” in and of itself.  His rather dramatic public resignation was made as a matter of principle.  Therefore, he emphasized that his words at the end of last month in no way represented the positions of his PM’s government.  His views are from the opposing side of the Israeli Establishment and their Society, but they represent a good deal of Civil Society’s unvoiced body political there opining.  

The contemporary Hebrew State is more complex than is apparent to its observers in the West. 

Baruch unequivocally uttered that “I am not with government [now], but have created governmental policy in the past.”  Unfortunately, the last several Israeli regimes “have been right-wing …[reflections] of their societies [electorates].”  The present, alas, does represent the will of the people, but often they merely have become e a voice for the Settlers at that. 

To a Jewish-American audience, he reiterates that so much of West Jerusalem’s security resides within their relationship with the United States.  Your relator’s audience would be pleased to hear that he believes much of this relationship is eroding away (because of his admin’s mismanagement).

The principle of “Land for Peace” means [succinctly]the end of…the Occupation…with Occupation we cannot achieve peace,” but Netanyahu disagrees.  Thus, there is no trust by the other side (us) to negotiate.  

The Netanyahu reign demands Israel remain as a Jewish State.  Also, the Palestinians look upon the West Bank and Gaza together as one (potential) State wherein Tel Aviv perceives them as separate.  This could become an issue with the current or similar-minded future Hebrew governments.     

In questioning, he fell into the standard Israeli (and American) position that the Gazans were at fault for the token scud attacks upon Israeli soil from the micro-“State’s” territory that led to Israel’s disproportionate reaction of Operation Cast Iron (December 2008-Januay 2009) when in fact it was instituted by non-State actors that Gaza City could not or would not control.  This refusal to acknowledge a popular uprising there and blame the State(s) instead (that they had set up as supposed puppets nonetheless) and punish their innocent citizens for the actions of others that their elected governments were not able to contain, must cease if there is ever to be peace.   He, then, asserted that the principle of “Land for Peace” cannot work without commitment, (but, conversely, commitment has been so poorly lacking by those series of Tel Aviv’ right-wing governments that he mentioned previously above).

It is sheer ideology that is driving Netanyahu.  The Prime Minister knows what the right thing to do is, but he does not possess the courage to do it!

The Ambassador believes that (Palestine)Statehood will be vetoed (by the American States, but that is only if it goes directly to the Security Council before the General Assembly [GA].  There are complicated legal questions if the Palestinian bid is accepted by the one and not the other.)  There is a long-standing legal differentiation between a “disputed” and an “occupied” territory that is being argued domestically within Israel herself at the moment.

Baruch pointed out that Kadima, a Centrist/Liberal (Party) within their Knesset (Parliament), towards whom he appears to lean, and who holds the largest block of seats there.  Yet they were forced from the present coalition – still, they have the greatest chance of forming a future Israeli government, deems that it is necessary to allow a neighboring State of Palestine to be formed as soon as possible.

In summation, Palestinians – largely Islamic with a vibrant Christian minority therein – have common interest with liberal political elements within Israel herself as well with a majority in the American Jewish community and others over the West. 

The American government should be cultivating these elements within the  Israeli military and their Civil Society to pressure their Middle Eastern “ally” to accept President Barrack Hussein Obama’s Administration’s proposals for bi-lateral dialog towards peace.  Influential former members of past Tel Aviv governments support our hopes and aspirations for peace in our mutual Abrahamic homeland. 

Not all Israelis or Jews are our enemies.  We should, subsequently, embrace those whom we can as friends and allies, and ask how we can work together for our common good!

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Libya Rebels Retake Village South of Tripoli

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Peter Graff

2011-07-13T203734Z_1071071745_GM1E77E0CWJ01_RTRMADP_3_LIBYA

Rebels walk to take positions next to a main road leading to Al-Quwalish in the western mountains of Libya during an offensive by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi July 13, 2011. Forces loyal to Gaddafi on Wednesday retook a village south of the capital seized by rebels a week ago, a set-back to rebel plans for a march on Tripoli. The loss of the village of Al-Qawalish, about 60 miles from the capital, underlined the faltering pattern of the rebel advances that has led some of the rebels’ Western backers to push for a political solution to the conflict instead.    

REUTERS/Ammar Awad

ZINTAN, Libya (Reuters) – Rebel fighters said on Wednesday they had retaken a village south of the capital they lost to forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi earlier in the day, boosting rebel plans for a march on Tripoli.

The retaking of Al-Qawalish, about 100 km (60 miles) from Tripoli, came at the end of a day of bitter fighting that killed five rebels and wounded 15, according to rebel sources and hospital officials.

The back-and-forth fighting underlined the fragile nature of the rebels’ advances in the west that has led some of their Western backers to push for a political solution to the conflict.

Rebel spokesman Abdurahman Alzintani said pro-Gaddafi forces had been pushed back to where they were before they took the village earlier on Wednesday, or perhaps even further.

“It is the same, maybe one or two hills further,” he told Reuters.

A Libyan government soldier taken prisoner by the rebels said that pro-Gaddafi forces were massing nearby, potentially setting the stage for renewed fighting soon, according to a Reuters team in the western town of Zintan.

The counter-attack to retake Al-Qawalish was carried out by hundreds of rebels in pick-up trucks, who fanned out into the hills about 10 km (6 miles) north of the village, under fire from mortars launched by government troops.

Rebel forces want to use Al-Qawalish as a staging post to take the nearby town of Garyan, which controls access to the main highway heading north to Tripoli.

On the other main battle front, near the western city of Misrata, a burst of missile and mortar fire killed five rebels and wounded 17, hospital spokesman Khaled Abu Talghah said.

“This is just a normal day’s work for Gaddafi,” he said.

The conflict in Libya started out as a rebellion against Gaddafi’s 41-year-rule. It has now turned into the bloodiest of the “Arab Spring” uprisings convulsing the region and has embroiled Western powers in a prolonged conflict they had hoped would swiftly force Gaddafi out of power.

The Libyan leader is refusing to quit and the rebels have been unable to make a decisive breakthrough toward the capital despite support from Western warplanes.

Libya charged the head of NATO with war crimes for killing innocent civilians and bombarding civilian targets in Libya.

Libyan General Prosecutor Mohammed Zekri al Mahjoubi described NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as a war criminal during a news conference in Tripoli on Wednesday.

DEAL ‘TAKING SHAPE’

France said on Tuesday a political way out of the conflict was being looked at and that Gaddafi’s emissaries had been in contact with NATO members to say he was ready to leave power.

“A political solution is more than ever indispensable and is beginning to take shape,” French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said in Paris.

But it was not obvious how negotiations could persuade Gaddafi to quit, especially at a time when the Western alliance ranged against him is showing signs of wavering.

A report on Libya’s official JANA news agency described statements by Western officials about Gaddafi potentially stepping down or leaving the country as “elusive dreams.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is under pressure to find a quick solution. He gambled by taking a personal role in supporting the rebels, but is now anxious to avoid costly military operations running into the start of campaigning for the April 2012 presidential election.

Washington expressed doubts about peace overtures from Gaddafi emissaries. A State Department spokeswoman said the “messages are contradictory” and there is no clear evidence “Gaddafi is prepared to understand that its time for him to go.”

Revealing fresh strains inside NATO about the cost and duration of the Libyan operation, British Defense Minister Liam Fox said other alliance members were not pulling their weight and described some states’ contributions as “pathetic.”

“The United States is willing to spend on defense, Britain is willing to spend on defense and deploy. Far too (many) of our European partners inside NATO are still trying to get a free ride, and they should regard Libya as a wake-up call,” Fox said in London.

The rebel National Transitional Council, based in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, received a diplomatic boost on Wednesday when Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands recognized the council as Libyans’ legitimate representative.

The Benelux countries joined more than 20 nations that have already granted the council recognition.

At a meeting in Brussels, the European Union executive offered Libyan rebels help with democratic reforms once the war was over and said their Benghazi-based council was gaining credibility.

(Additional reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers, Nick Carey in Misrata, Justyna Pawlak and Christopher Le Coq in Brussels, John Irish in Paris, Souhail Karam in Rabat, Mohammed Abbas in London; Writing by Christian Lowe and Giles Elgood; Editing by Robert Woodward)

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Libyan Rebels Push Towards Tripoli on Two Fronts

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Peter Graff

2011-07-06T212010Z_307909548_GM1E7770F1801_RTRMADP_3_LIBYA

A Libyan boy flashing a victory sign attends a rally against Muammar Gaddafi in Misrata July 6, 2011.  

REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

AL-QAWALISH, Libya (Reuters) – Rebel fighters seized a village south of the Libyan capital and another group advanced toward Tripoli from the east on Wednesday in the biggest push in weeks toward Muammar Gaddafi’s main stronghold.

Rebels firing their rifles into the air in celebration poured into the village of Al-Qawalish, 100 km (60 miles) southwest of Tripoli, after a six-hour battle with pro-Gaddafi forces who had been holding the town.

Rushing through an abandoned checkpoint where government troops had left tents and half-eaten bread in their rush to get away, the rebels ripped down pro-Gaddafi flags.

Farther north, rebels pushed westward from the city of Misrata to within 13 km of the center of the town of Zlitan, where large numbers of pro-Gaddafi forces are based.

But they came under artillery fire. Doctors at the al-Hekma hospital in Misrata said 14 fighters had been killed on Wednesday and about 50 were injured.

The advances came amid reports that Gaddafi — under pressure from a five-month uprising against his rule, sanctions and a NATO bombing campaign — was seeking a deal under which he would step down.

His government has denied any such negotiations are underway, and NATO’s chief said he had no confirmation that Gaddafi was looking for a deal to relinquish power.

A Libyan official told Reuters on Wednesday there were signs a solution to the conflict could be found by the start of August, though he did not say what that solution might involve.

In the rebel-held cities of Benghazi and Misrata, thousands demonstrated against Gadaffi, waving European and rebel flags and calling for the end of his four-decade rule.

The rebel advances followed weeks of largely static fighting. Heavily armed Gaddafi forces still lie between the rebels and Tripoli, and previous rebel advances have either bogged down or quickly turned into retreats.

But with Al-Qawalish now in rebel hands, they can advance northeast to the larger town of Garyan, which controls the main highway leading into Tripoli. Libyan state television reported on Wednesday that NATO hit targets in Garyan as well fuel tanks in the town of Brega, 200 km (130 miles) west of Benghazi.

The previous big advance in the region was last month, when rebels pushed 20 km (12 miles) north from their base in the Western Mountains to the town of Bir al-Ghanam.

Misrata Push

At the frontline on the outskirts of Zlitan, a unit of fighters had built a sand-bank behind which they could shelter while firing at government troops. There were still sounds of intermittent shelling as night fell.

Unit commander Tarek Mardi, a 36-year-old former banker, said pro-Gaddafi forces had tried to push his fighters back but they had held their ground.

“Why isn’t NATO doing its job, where are the Apaches?” he asked, referring to the attack helicopters the alliance had deployed to Libya. “We are protecting our people, our country. We want to save our land from Gaddafi. He is a criminal.”

More than 100,000 rebel supporters spilled into the streets of Benghazi waving European and rebel flags and chanting slogans against the Libyan leader.

Gaddafi, who has ruled oil producer Libya for 41 years, says the rebels are armed criminals and al Qaeda militants. He has described the NATO campaign as an act of colonial aggression aimed at stealing Libya’s oil.

Deal Talk

A Russian newspaper this week quoted what it described as a high-level source as saying Gaddafi is sounding out the possibility of stepping down on condition there was a political role for one of his sons.

A Libyan government spokesman denied that report, saying Gaddafi’s future was not up for negotiation.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim told Reuters in Tripoli that a solution to the conflict could be found before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins early in August.

“There are signals that the crisis will find a solution in the coming weeks. We will do whatever possible so that our people will spend Ramadan in peace,” he said.

“Currently the key hurdle to a solution is the NATO military campaign, and we hope that our friends in the African Union organization will do whatever possible to convince it to stop its aggression against our people.”

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he had no confirmed information that Gaddafi had sounded out the possibility of stepping down.

“But it is quite clear that the end state must be that he leaves power,” Rasmussen told a news conference in Brussels.

(Additional reporting by Nick Carey in Misrata, Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers, Lamine Chikhi in Tripoli, David Brunnstrom in Brussels, Maria Golovnina in Benghazi, Joseph Nasr in Berlin and Moscow bureau; Writing by Christian Lowe and David Dolan; Editing by Diana Abdallah)

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Lunch with the “Devil”

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Jerusalem—May 19th—Your scribe has cultivated a collegial relationship with a progressive American Jewish group, J-Street, who advocate a strong Israel next to a viable independent Palestinian State.  They wish to be able to communicate with American Muslims as natural allies, too, towards concluding a mutual peace throughout the Levant. 

On the date above, Jeremy Ben-Ami of J-Street in Washington invited me to be on a Conference call with Major General Nat Sharoni (retired) of the IDF (Israeli Defense Force); now Director of the  Council for Peace and Security and with  Taras Hassan, a ranking member of Tel Aviv’ Justice (sic!) department.

Your essayist’s stance is close to theirs, curiously enough.  Therefore, although not Jewish by religion, I support their position, and, thus, consider myself as a “fellow traveler.”

Admittedly, it is a “Disaster,” though, that the Jewish State (20% of its population are not Jews) was established in this profusely populated region in the Middle East even though Stalin, only as an example of another possible alternative, had a functioning (Jewish nation) within Central Asia at the time of the latter State’s establishment (1948) built upon the Foundation of the British (Palestinian Arab) Mandate.

If you remember your writer’s study of the Hindu M.K. Gandhi upon the founding of Israel which was published on these pages a bit over a year ago, your researcher was of the opinion that, if the Zionist faction, would have seriously contemplated Gandhi’s propositions, Israel could have emerged as an admirable multi-sectarian( Middle Eastern) entity.

Just last week (May 16th – 21st), as your columnist, was preparing this week’s column, your reviewer received a request out of the University of Bethlehem by a group of impressive Palestinian intellectuals to sign onto a call for a one-State solution.  Your commentator did not, even though I had proposed a Constitutional schema to resolve such an eventuality last year in reply to a memo to the Chair of an assemblage who desired such a resolution to the conflict.    

It is true a one-State solution would destroy Tel Aviv as the Center of a Jewish State.  Instead Israel-Palestine would revert back to the acceptable cultural constitution of the multi-sectarian Ottoman Province and the similar structural mix of the later pre-Partition British Mandate.  

Such leading personalities as Judge Richard Goldstone himself, the lead author of the Goldstone Report on the IDF (Israeli Defense Force’s) aggression against Gaza, and Richard Falk, the former U.N (United Nations’) Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories during the incursion (Operation Cast Lead) from the middle of December 2008 until end of January 2009, believe that a One State solution is the only possible endgame, unfortunately, due to the Settlers’ illegal theft of land from its rightful residents.  Also, a similar posture — based upon dissimilar rationale — is held by leading Palestinian thinkers as, curiously, by some right-wing Jewish individuals.  (The latter consider it to be the only way they could – in any way — ultimately be able to hold onto those settlements.)

This past week the Libyan Civil War, further, raged while NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) continued its ferocious intervention.  In Yemen one of the major tribes is in open revolt against the government.    Syria is close, too, to an out and out civil conflict.  The rest of the lands around the Southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea are at different levels of upheavals or crises.

The Key to the success or failure of the Arab “Spring” lies here within non-Arab Jerusalem.  Whatever reaction Israel might make, very well will determine the success or failure of the “Spring,” and this past week has been a momentous one for the United States, Israel and Palestine (the “Occupied Territories”). 

The U.S. President’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, resigned while on the Palestinian side their two violently competing parties, Fatah and Hamas, reconciled to the trepidation of Tel Aviv.  The Israeli Prime Minister Netanayhu came to Washington to address the combined houses of Congress after the U.S. President made an important address on Holy Land peace, also.  The conversation, which will be described in future sections of this extended article, occurred shortly after the latter’s speech.

That middle week of last month was an important period for those from the three above mentioned countries – individuals within them who are striving for a bi-national conclusion to the Arab-Israeli conundrum of the past sixty-three years.  Furthermore, all progressive peoples in these three lands are preparing for this September’s upcoming scheduled crucial vote in the United Nations (U.N.) for Palestinian independence.

Within the Hebrew-speaking populace a twofold homeland outcome is becoming ever more accepted and apparent.     

The American President Barrack Hussein Obama proposed an amazingly even-handed practical basis for negotiation, but the Hebrew Prime Minister instantly — with a politically tactless rebuff – insulted the President’s proffered rational peace principles.   In effect, the latter man rejected any possible proactive participation toward solving the problem; and, thereby, any possibility of a peaceable co-existence between the two populations soon.  In essence, Netanyahu ensured that no motion towards the cessation of hostilities will be made while the current government in Tel Aviv remains.  Furthermore, it is unlikely that there will be a better time than now to begin to reconcile the two sides with the most even-handed American Presidency in Washington since the Nakba (of 1948). 

It was a bad week for all who desire peace.  Most of all, it was a bad meeting for the Israelis for it will guarantee that their “Eternal War” will continue which can only conclude in an unimaginable violent end to their national ambitions at its current pace.  Fortunately, there are high ranking dissidents in the Jewish State whose propositions would be more acceptable to the Palestinian parties, and in future segments of this study you will be able to listen to those.   

The Obama Administration’s central plan to begin the dialogue was that the borders for a new State of Palestine would be based on the pre-1967 borders.  Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repudiation of that request was that those borders were indefensible for Israel, but some of his best military advisors disagree with him, and your reporter will bring influential high-ranking Israelis’ arguments against their P.M. (Prime Minister) in future sections of this extended article.

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Obama to Hold Global Summit if Latest Middle East Talks Fail

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Catrina Stewart in Jerusalem

2010-05-05T172601Z_01_BTRE6441CFM00_RTROPTP_3_POLITICS-US-USA-COURT

File:  U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden smile as they are pictured with bipartisan members of the U.S. Senate in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, April 21, 2010.

REUTERS/Jason Reed 

Barack Obama could call a world summit by the end of the year to pave the way for a Palestinian state should hoped-for peace talks bring no breakthrough in coming months.

The US President is understood to have informed European leaders of his plan to break an Israeli-Palestinian deadlock if negotiations have not borne fruit by September or October, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz cited unidentified Israeli officials as saying.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday told reporters that special envoy George Mitchell would be returning to the Middle East next week, when she said that proximity talks – the first since peace talks stalled in January 2008 – would begin again. The planned return to the negotiating table was delayed last month after a row over Israeli plans to build new homes in East Jerusalem.

If those talks are again knocked off course, a broader summit will become more likely. The four members of the Middle East Quartet negotiating group – the US, the UN, the EU and Russia – would be expected to play a leading role in the summit to present a united front, the paper said. The summit would address core issues, including Jerusalem and final borders.

The bold move reflects Mr Obama’s resolve to find a solution to the decades-old conflict that has eluded his predecessors and raises the possibility that Washington might seek to impose its own settlement on the parties, a prospect viewed with hostility by Israeli politicians.

Mr Obama has placed negotiations at the forefront of his political agenda while acknowledging that a continued stalemate threatens the US’s own security interests.

After months of intense US diplomacy in the region, the indirect “proximity” talks represent the best chance of a breakthrough in the peace process.

While a final settlement has appeared tantalisingly close in the past, few Palestinians believe that a solution can be reached without outside help, and Israelis repeatedly insist they have no partner for peace.

“Leaving the peacemaking hostage to agreements between both sides is not a good idea,” said Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority. “The international community has to play a larger role.”

Earlier this month, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Mr Obama to impose a peace solution, a plea that will have worried Israeli officials, who insist that a negotiated solution between the two parties is the only way out of the impasse.

Mr Obama’s efforts to bring both sides to talks have stalled over the critical issue of Jewish settlements in Arab-dominated East Jerusalem, which Israel captured and later annexed after the Six-Day War in 1967. Palestinians covet East Jerusalem as the future capital of an independent Palestinian state.

Mr Abbas backed out of talks in early March after Israel announced plans to build 1,600 Jewish homes in East Jerusalem during a visit by the US Vice-President Joe Biden. The resulting row plunged relations between Israel and the US, its closest ally, to their lowest point in recent memory.

A US State Department official declined to confirm back-up plans for a global summit, saying: “Peace must be made by the parties and cannot be imposed from the outside. Our focus remains on seeing the discussions that are under way lead to formal negotiations that will address all of the complex issues.”

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Muslim Observer Writer Takes Part in Conference

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

The Muslim Observer’s Dr. Geoffrey Cook took part in a conference sponsored by the South Asia Studies Association this past weekend. The two day event was titled: “South Asia and the West: Entwined, Entangled, and Engaged” and took place on the campus of the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.
Dr, Veena Howard of the University of Oregon was the other presenter. Professor Dean McHenry of the Claremont Graduate school was the moderator.

Both scholars spoke on India’s M K Gandhi, his philosophy and his teachings and influence. Dr. Howard was the first speaker.

Dr. Howard’s specialities are comparative religion and Hindu thought. She is associated with the University of Oregon and Lane Community College in Eugene. She has delivered papers at other symposia including the Peace and Justice Studies Association and the Darma Association of North America.

She began by describing the eclectic sources of the philosophy of M K Gandhi. Yet, the philosophy he espoused and taught was his own. His passive resistance or satyagraha can be easily misunderstood if examined through the filter of Western values. Here it would imply a do nothing approach even in the face of injustice and oppression. Quite the contrary, Gandhi mobilized the masses including groups within India that were normally marginalized. He did this with “soul force”

His call to vows of chastity, simplicity and fearlessness resounded within the religious traditions of his country. They empowered rather than deprived his followers.He believed that Truth was the only perfect description of God.

“The soul is supreme”, said Gandhi and compared the soul to a to a superior steel sword. He appealed to the Indian collective and urged the people to pit their strength against evil through inner force.

Dr. Cook told his audience that Gandhi was as concerned with the welfare of Muslims in India as he was with Hindus. He wrote about Palestine from the 1920’s through the 1940’s. He also favored a caliphate in Turkey.

Gandhi’s opposition was not to Jews living in Palestine. He believed that friendship between Jews and Arab Muslims was possible – indeed the perfect solution -, and history would seem to support it. He opposed the assertion by Zionists of sovereign rights and the imposition of governance by them. His opposition was to Zionism as a political branch of Judaism and supported only by a small percentage of Jews. Making allowances for the time in which he lived, his bias was toward a one state solution (though the term was not in popular use then).

Dr. Cook spoke of his meeting with Dr. Richard Falk, the United Nations Human Rights Rapporteur for the (Israeli) Occupied Territories. Dr. Falk was denied entry into Israel despite his standing. He favors a one state solution for the Israeli conflict, a point which Dr. Cook disputes. Dr. Cook suggested to Dr. Falk that he read Gandhi’s central essay

Dr, Cook described M K Gandhi as having a mind that was “a curious mixture of the practical and the impractical”. He developed his methodologies on non violence in South Africa. His commitment to truth and to justice would permeate his thoughts and his proposals.

Gandhi sympathized with Jews, but his devotion to truth and justice would not permit him to sanction Zionist entry into Palestine under “British bayonets”. He regarded Palestine as a British possession in the same way that his own country of India was a British possession.

Dr. Cook spoke of how much different the world might be today had we listened to Gandhi; how much freer from the conflicts that seem to be endless, in South East Asia and in the oPt particularly.

A question and answer session followed the two presentations.

12-16

Al-Quds Univ. to Cut Ties with Israeli Academia

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Maan News Agency

AlQuds U Jerusalem – Ma’an – Al-Quds University will cease all forms of academic cooperation with Israeli academic institutions soon, the school’s board determined on Sunday.

“In cooperation with all sides and under an accepted timetable,” the university will phase out programs and cooperation, the university board said in a statement.

It added that, “If the two-state solution is as far away today as it was ten years ago, there is no justification for continued academic cooperation based on reaching that solution.”

“And there is no justification for continued official and non-official cooperation in other fields, foremost security coordination between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel,” the board noted.

“Ending academic cooperation is aimed at, first of all, pressuring Israel to abide by a solution that ends the occupation, a solution that has been needed for far too long and that the international community has stopped demanding,” the board said.

It also noted that the decision came “in response to the prior Israeli onslaught [on Gaza]; the acts and policies of Israeli governments over the past ten years, including settlement construction in East Jerusalem, the tightening of the siege on the occupied territories and thwarting any negotiated peace process that will lead to an independent Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel.”

It also affirmed the necessity for all those involved, including government organizations, civil society groups, domestic and international, to focus on a just and prompt solution for the Palestinian cause. The statement insisted that all parties involved press for a solution according to “international legitimacy and Arab and international efforts.”

The board called for the international community to pressure the Israeli government to comply with international legitimacy and call for taking legal and political action for Israel’s “dangerous crimes and violations in Gaza,” as well as Israel’s “illegal acts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

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