Friday, March 5, 2010

Pieces of peace for your weekend

To hold you over for the weekend, I have three very special links for you. As the next 10 days are sure to be extraordinarily busy, I intend to keep the posts up and am looking to keep a quota (for the time being) of 15 posts per month. That way, I won't spam your Google Readers (which you absolutely should be using for its sheer convenience), but you'll also get all the timely news and analysis on the peace process in the Holy Land that I know you crave. Also, don't forget to follow Holy Land Peace on Reader and Twitter.

Now, the content:

Josh Ruebner (great articles are always written by Josh's, right) at the Huffington Post takes Obama to task for promising to cut funding for programs that do not work or that America cannot afford while approving another $3 billion in aid to Israel in the 2011 budget. Ruebner makes a great point that although the Arms Export Control Act stipulates that military aid be used only for "internal security" or "legitimate self defense," American weapons are being used against the provisions of the law. While it is a good article, and I certainly enjoy that he lists that $3 billion could be used to, "provide more than 364,000 low-income households with affordable housing vouchers, or to retrain 498,000 workers for green jobs, or to provide early reading programs to 887,000 at-risk students, or to provide access to primary health care services for more than 24 million uninsured Americans," I think he misses the low-hanging fruit of why American military aid to Israel must be subjected to tighter restrictions. If every American administration has refused to accept the legitimacy of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, why are U.S. weapons allowed to be used to expand and protect these illegal and unrecognized colonies that steal and annex Palestinian land? It certainly would seem logical to conclude that protecting conquered and illegitimate lands with American weapons does not fall under "internal security" (as the West Bank is outside Israel proper) or "legitimate self defense" (as Israel lacks legitimacy in the areas it is using American weapons to defend). I, like Ruebner believe the U.S. has a moral and security obligation to drastically reduce Israeli, Egyptian, and Saudi military aid until the parties act begin to act in ways that actually benefit American interests. Large portions of these budgets should be transferred to implementing programs that will aid human rights, women's rights, spur economic development, and increase political participation, instead of arming to the teeth dictatorial or aggressive regimes in the region. I have no problem with defensive military assistance (such as missile defense systems) for our partners in the Middle East, as long as they are willing to work with us on finding a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Such a reorganization of American foreign assistance to the Middle East would be extremely helpful in defusing violent confrontations and ushering in greater regional collaboration and respect for human rights. Just to make it very clear, Israel's $30 billion package over ten years is the equivalent of cutting a check in the amount of $2500 to every man, woman, and child in Israel. With a recession, massive debt, and a plethora of domestic problems, are we really getting good value for our money?

Next, if you've ever looked at a map of Israel and the West Bank, some may say, "the West Bank does not look all that small, what's the issue?" Mel Frykberg points out that the settlement infrastructure and Area C arrangements exclude Palestinians from a full 40% of the territory of the West Bank, and the scattered nature of the areas Palestinians are allowed to move and live greatly hampers Palestinian economic development. Frykberg also mentions a figure I have not encountered before, but which is immensely illustrative of the Israeli demand that Palestinians live in an environment vastly different and far more oppressive than Israeli settlers. The Israeli Civil Administration (the Israeli governing authority in the West Bank) plans for Palestinian areas envisions a situations where Palestinian villages must live with a population density 11 times that of Israeli villages, and Palestinian cities will be twice as dense as their Israeli counterparts, all due to restrictions meant to keep Palestinian population centers from expanding.

Finally, William Parry reminds us that when asked, "Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?" we are to reply, "In an Israeli prison." He reports on the Israeli effort to crush the Palestinian popular movement against the occupation, Israel's biggest threat to the status quo.

Send me some articles, leave some comments, enjoy the weekend!

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