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PALESTINE is still the issue
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 1:21 am    Post subject: Reply to topic


The essence of the conflict

Ghassan Khatib, bitterlemons.org, Nov 25, 2008

Israeli soldiers prevent Palestinians from passing through Beit Iba checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus.
In the 41 years of Israeli occupation over the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, Israel has entertained a range of strategies and approaches for dealing with the Palestinians and the Palestinian territories. This has included strategies that were based on territorial compromise and functional compromise.

From time to time, however, the promotion of an economic approach as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian relations has been mooted. The recent unveiling of Binyamin Netanyahu's "alternative" approach for Israel to use vis-a-vis the Palestinians thus reminds us of several new-old proposals.

There is no doubt that there are many aspects to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including an economic factor. However, neglecting the other aspects and concentrating on the economy would lead Palestinian-Israeli relations down the same path of deterioration and violence that Israel's other approaches have always resulted in.

While it is true that there is a quite clear correlation between Palestinian economic deterioration and extremism, radicalization and violence, the years of occupation and the experiences of both sides have shown that there are other more important factors to the conflict.

Netanyahu's recent statements indicate that his response to the failures of the current Israeli strategy under the Kadima leadership and that of Ariel Sharon before Kadima will be to reduce Palestinian economic hardships and improve Palestinian standards of living in a way that will neutralize hostile attitudes and practices toward Israel and the occupation.

In other words, fill Palestinian stomachs and avoid violence.

In fact, Israel tried this approach in the early 1970s. Then, the rate of unemployment among Palestinians became almost equal to the rate of unemployment in Israel and the per capita income in the Palestinian territories was higher than that in most neighboring Arab countries.

This was in addition to a relative freedom of movement in both Israel and the Palestinian territories, so much so that that the young generation lost track of where the green line was.

That period also witnessed an unprecedented political and social growth that saw the establishment and flourishing of many mass-based organizations and unparalleled growth in the popularity and activities of local and grassroots political organizations as well as the local branches of the political factions represented in the PLO.

The common denominators of the political and social concerns at that time were the Palestinian aims of achieving self-determination, end of occupation and freedom. At the same time, Palestinians under occupation insisted on identifying with Palestinians around the world, a solidarity expressed through a declared loyalty to the Palestinian political leadership that at the time was outside the territories.

These widely popular positions and demands surfaced in successive waves of popular uprisings and were reflected in the results of local elections in 1976. The insistence of the Palestinian people to end the occupation and achieve independence ultimately culminated in the first intifada of 1987. That finally caused the Israeli leadership to conclude that there had to be a solution based on ending the occupation, at least partially, and that such a solution needed to be reached by political means rather than by force.

Israel later tried a completely different approach with Sharon's unilateral strategy, which was based on determining the future of the Palestinian territories and Palestinian-Israeli relations by force without the need for negotiations or agreements. That approach included the withdrawal from Gaza, the erection of the illegal wall in and around the West Bank and the consolidation of settlements in the West Bank, especially in and around Jerusalem. The failure of this approach, symbolized most radically when Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, renewed the debate in Israel over the best approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Ehud Olmert's era was a reflection of this confusion. Netanyahu, who appears the strongest candidate to win next year's elections, thus needed to present a different strategy. But instead of learning the lessons of all the previous and failed approaches, he is trying to revive this old-new trick of an economic solution.

Israel should have learned by now that the essence of the conflict is the occupation. The one thing that all past Israeli approaches have had in common is a desire to maintain Israeli control over all or part of the occupied territories. But there will be no end to the conflict without an end to occupation in a way that allows Palestinians to enjoy their natural rights of independence, self-determination and statehood. Until then, Israel can continue to go through the range of its same old policies. These only generate reasons for hostility, hatred and violence.

Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is vice-president of Birzeit University and a former Palestinian Authority minister of planning. He holds a PhD in Middle East politics from the University of Durham.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 1:23 am    Post subject: Reply to topic


U.S. should take lead in peace process

Omar Dajani and Ezzedine Choukri-Fishere, The Houston Chronicle, Nov 16, 2008

Jacob Walles, U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, meets with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Maan Images)

President-elect Barack Obama, you wisely declared that you would make finding a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict a priority from your first day in office. If you capitalize on the enthusiasm your election has generated in the Middle East and exercise balanced and bold leadership, you will do much both to advance the cause of peace and to restore the United States' prestige in the region.

Rest assured, however, that your resolve will be tested. "Experienced" advisers will point out that the issues are complex, the leaders are weak and divided, and the costs of failure are formidable. They will urge you to take small steps and let the parties lead. The United States, they will argue, should support bilateral talks from the sidelines, but cannot want peace more than the parties themselves.

As former advisers to two of the governments in the region, and having participated in developing the Road Map peace plan, we assure you that is exactly the wrong approach. It is because the parties are weak that American leadership is indispensable. It is because bilateral negotiations yield only hollow communiques that you should use your political capital to forge consensus on substance. And it is because the issues are complex that small achievements - fleeting cease-fires, relocated checkpoints - are as politically costly as big ones. The Bush administration wasted six years before learning these lessons. You need not repeat its mistakes.

Aim high. The region will not hesitate to supply your administration with a series of crises that demand urgent attention - breakdowns in talks, escalations in violence, right-wing electoral triumphs, settlement expansion and the like. These crises cannot be ignored. But you must not allow managing the conflict to distract you from the crucial task of resolving it. Each passing day, Israel's occupation produces despair and facts on the ground that make the conflict ever more difficult to solve.

What is needed is a substantive framework for comprehensive peace, endowed with international support and ready for the parties' acceptance. Like the Road Map, you should develop this framework in consultation with the parties and international partners. But unlike the Road Map, it should specify a destination, defining the central terms of a settlement with sufficient precision to prevent interminable haggling over interpretation and sufficient formality to make rejection too politically costly for any serious party to contemplate.

Build commitment, then capacity. Among the foundations of President Bush's failed Arab-Israeli policy was the notion that capacity must precede commitment, that Palestine become Switzerland before peace negotiations commence. You have pointed out the folly of such thinking in Iraq, arguing that an American commitment to early withdrawal would give Iraqis an incentive to put their house in order.

That is no less true for the Mideast peace process. Some portray the rejectionism of Hamas and Israel's right wing as an insurmountable obstacle to peace. It isn't. There is no peace for them to reject. However, a U.S.-backed framework for peace would oblige all parties to face the moment of truth in a way that a commitment to continue negotiations simply cannot. It would also do more to advance Palestinian governance and security reform than another decade of technical assistance.

Forge partnerships, but don't lose the courage to lead. You will need to build strong alliances on four different fronts. Within the United States, you must reach out to the growing segment of the American Jewish community that understands how crucial peace is for Israel's security. Within the international community, you should turn to the Quartet and Security Council for both legitimacy and cover. You should seek advice from Palestinian and other Arab partners at least as often as you dispense it. And you should cultivate support for peace across the Israeli political spectrum so that no prime minister feels she/he is out on a limb at the moment of truth. Assembling a policy team that is diverse in perspective and experience is a good starting point toward building these partnerships.

Precisely because compromise is costly, however, don't be surprised if peace partners abandon you. Be prepared for ingratitude and even hostility. At those times, Mr. President, you must not hesitate to lead. And if you are fair, independent, and solidly prepared, the Middle East will follow.

Dajani, a former legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team, teaches law at the University of the Pacific. Choukri-Fishere, a former adviser to the Egyptian foreign minister, teaches international relations at the American University in Cairo. Both served on the United Nations peace team in Jerusalem between 2001 and 2004.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 1:24 am    Post subject: Reply to topic


Gaza power cut blamed on blockade

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The power plant received enough fuel for one day

The only power plant in the Gaza Strip has been closed by energy authorities because they say Israel will not allow the urgent delivery of spare parts.

Officials said the plant had been damaged by frequent shutdowns because of fuel shortages and needed repairs.

The closure means that about 500,000 people - one-third of Gaza's population - are without electricity.

Israel says the tightening of the Gaza blockade is a legitimate response to attacks by Palestinian militants.

During a temporary lifting of the blockade for humanitarian aid on Monday, Israeli authorities also allowed a delivery of fuel to the power plant, for the first time since the blockade was intensified on 4 November.

EU officials said the fuel delivery would be enough to keep the power plant running for a day.

Officials say the power plant shutdown was the cumulative result of months of being unable to receive replacement parts.

"Despite deliveries of fuel on Monday, the power plant stopped functioning because of breakdowns in the production units," the assistant director of the authority, Kanaan Obeid, told AFP.

Israel "refuses to allow in the necessary parts and the plant cannot restart without them," he added.

Humanitarian concern

There have been frequent power cuts in Gaza City over recent weeks because of severe fuel shortages.

Israel closed the crossings after a rocket was fired at Israel late on Monday.

In the past, Israeli officials have accused Hamas of cynically exaggerating the impact of border closures to garner sympathy, says the BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Jerusalem.

But the United Nations relief agency in Gaza (Unrwa) has warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis unless the crossings are opened.

The militants said their rocket attacks, which caused minor damage but no serious injuries, were in retaliation for an Israeli army raid into Gaza.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 1:26 am    Post subject: Reply to topic


UN General Assembly president calls for boycott of Israel

After his controversial embrace with Iran's Ahmadinejad, UN General Assembly president sparks Jerusalem's ire once more after calling for international boycott on Israel

Yitzhak Benhorin

WASHINGTON - Israel filed a formal complaint with the United Nations on Tuesday over statements made by UN General Assembly President, Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua, who called for an international boycott of Israel after accusing it of being an apartheid regime. D'Escoto went on to decry the

'Our Greatest Failure'

UN: Support Palestinians' rights to self-determination, statehood / Deutsche Presse-Agentur

'It has been 60 years since some 800,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes becoming refugees and an uprooted and marginalized people,' General Assembly president says, adding that the fact that Palestinians still have no state represents UN's 'single greatest failure'

The plight of the Palestinians, describing the failure to create a Palestinian state as "the single greatest failure in the history of the United Nations."

The United Nations is currently marking its annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which is set on the anniversary of the 1947 date it adopted Resolution 181, calling for the partition of the land under British control into two states – Jewish and Arab.

Over the course of two days the General Assembly will host a series of anti-Israel venues, including exhibits on Palestinian suffering and films comparing Israel to the Nazi regime.

The pinnacle of the event will come in the form of a marathon of discussions, to culminate with the passing of six resolutions against Israel. These include ones calling for the return of the Golan Heights to Syria and the division of Jerusalem.

In his address on Monday d'Escoto said: "Although different, what is being done against the Palestinian people seems to me to be a version of the highest policy of apartheid." D'Escoto said the fact that Palestinians still had no statehood represents the "single greatest failure" of the UN.

The General Assembly president called on international institutions to boycott Israel and sever its financial ties to the world, and for the imposing of sanctions against Jerusalem.

Until last year Israel had usually chosen to abstain from taking part in the annual solidarity day. And so Tuesday saw Ambassador Gabriella Shalev take the podium and ask her colleagues how the day the UN voted on the establishment of the State of Israel had become a day of mourning and grief.

Shalev slammed the UN as being disconnected from reality, calling it an organization "that does not
represent or reflect what is truly happening. The real things happen outside the UN."

Shalev lamented the anti-Israel tone of the United Nations at a time when it is engaged in peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, and said if the discussions were to focus on the Middle East they should also touch on Iran's repeated threats to destroy Israel, Syria's armament of terrorists, Hamas' rocket attacks on Israeli towns and Hizbullah's growing strength.

"We will not allow this lowest common denominator, of bashing Israel, to dictate these discussions," the ambassador said.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 1:30 am    Post subject: Reply to topic


Israeli activists video police headbutting Palestinian woman

(Video) B'Tselem footage shows helmeted S.W.A.T. team member headbutting woman who was protesting against demolition east Jerusalem home three weeks ago. Police say incident under investigation
Ali Waked and Reuters

VIDEO - Israeli human rights group B'Tselem on Monday released a video showing a helmeted Israeli S.W.A.T. team member headbutting a Palestinian woman who was protesting against the demolition of a home in east Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood three weeks ago.

B'Tselem said the incident was filmed by one of its researchers during Israel's November 5 demolition of homes built by Palestinians without permission from the Jerusalem Municipality.


Headbutting incident in east Jerusalem (Video courtesy of B'Tselem)

The video was sent to the police's Internal Affairs Unit, which confirmed that a complaint was filed and that the incident was being investigated.

B'Tselem has demanded that the attacking officer be prosecuted to the full extent of the law to "send out a message that police violence will not be tolerated".

In July, activists from the human rights group filmed two Israeli soldiers shooting a bound Palestinian with a rubber bullet. The soldiers were later charged by the army.

Efrat Weiss contributed to the report
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 1:31 am    Post subject: Reply to topic


Retaking Gaza would cost Israel dear

Omar Karmi, Foreign Correspondent

Last Updated: November 25. 2008 2:17AM UAE / November 24. 2008 10:17PM GMT

Palestinians wait for a tradesman to fix their old Primus stoves that burn diesel fuel in Gaza. Adel Hana / AP Photo
RAMALLAH // The cost to Israel of reoccupying Gaza would be US$4.24 million (Dh15.5m) a day, the Israeli army has calculated.

The number has come as part of a general plan drawn up a year ago by the military to reoccupy Gaza and was reported yesterday by Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.

The figure covers only expenses related to maintaining a large civilian population under army control and does not include the cost of deploying forces in the Gaza Strip.

The total cost would hence be much larger and provides a strong disincentive for any Israeli government to take on a major military operation in the Gaza Strip.

Tension in and around Gaza has eased in recent days after nearly three weeks of hostilities that saw more than a dozen Palestinians killed. On Sunday, Hamas said it had agreed with other Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip to end the rocket fire at Israeli targets that came in response to an Israeli army incursion into Gaza on Nov 4.

Yesterday, Israel allowed a shipment of humanitarian goods to enter Gaza, only the second such shipment in the past three weeks. Gaza has suffered rolling blackouts as a result of a lack of fuel to the impoverished strip’s only power station, and journalists have been barred access to Gaza since the beginning of this recent round of hostilities.

The tensions had caused many to question whether the ceasefire agreed between Palestinian factions and Israel in June was about to unravel. Both Israeli and Hamas officials had said they were committed to the truce.

The publication of the cost of a major operation in Gaza would seem to strengthen the hand of those in Israel advocating continued calm, understood to include both Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, and Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff, even if the army also considers that it would be able to reoccupy the Gaza Strip should it be ordered to do so.

“The report shows that to reoccupy Gaza will be very expensive,” said Yossi Alpher, an Israeli analyst. “If you are thinking of reoccupying Gaza, this is a particularly bad sign, because the government doesn’t have the money to do it in this global financial climate.”

Hamas too would seem to be interested in continued calm. The internal Palestinian dialogue still awaits resolution, while a new US administration in January and the Israeli elections in early February potentially offer changes to the political climate.
“The Palestinian factions and Israel are both interested in maintaining the ceasefire,” said Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas official. “And I believe Egypt is also working hard to mediate continued calm.”

The June ceasefire, however, expires on Dec 10, and in the current climate it is not clear if either Israel or Hamas can agree to officially extend the truce beyond that date. Israeli politicians will be loathe to be seen as offering Hamas any concessions in the run-up to general elections, while Hamas will want an Israeli guarantee that the crossings into Gaza will be open for more than humanitarian goods.

The Gazan economy has stagnated as a result of the Israeli closures, with an estimated 90 per cent of industry having shut down. While smuggling tunnels under the border to Egypt has seen both essential and luxury goods reach Gaza, they offer no viable alternative.

“I don’t see how Hamas can formally extend the ceasefire and save face,” Mr Alpher said. “And I wouldn’t expect Barak to change his policy on crossings.”

Mr Alpher said he suspected the ceasefire would be extended. Moreover, he said negotiations over Gilad Shalit, a captured Israeli soldier held in Gaza, and Palestinian-Palestinian talks and Egyptian pressure could all play a role in mitigating the circumstances.

Mr Hamad also said the ceasefire would be extended, though he said the opening of crossings into Gaza would be crucial to affect what he described as a political and military “stalemate”. Nor would he discount the possibility of a major Israeli military operation, though he said Israel would pay a much higher price than that projected in the Israeli army’s calculations.

“I don’t exclude the possibility that Israel is planning a major operation in Gaza,” Mr Hamad said. “But I think politically the calculation in Israel is that the cost is simply too large. The military factions in Gaza have more experience and better logistics and I don’t think the money is the only thing holding Israel back.”
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply to topic


Foreign press in Israel fight Gaza entry ban

By STEVE WEIZMAN – 1 day ago

JERUSALEM (AP) — International journalists based in Israel appealed to the country's Supreme Court on Monday to overturn a government decision barring foreign correspondents from entering the Gaza Strip.

The Foreign Press Association filed the court petition against the military's Gaza commander, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit after the government failed to heed a letter signed by heads of the world's largest news organizations calling for the ban to be lifted.

The court petition charged the media ban constitutes "a grave and mortal blow against freedom of the press and other basic rights and gives the unpleasant feeling that the state of Israel has something to hide." It requested an urgent hearing.

The Tel Aviv-based Foreign Press Association represents foreign correspondents working in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Israel has long restricted movement across its border with Gaza, but it closed the area to all but essential supplies on Nov. 5 after an upsurge in Palestinian rocket fire. For the first time, that included a blanket ban on foreign reporters entering the territory.

The government routinely prevents Israeli journalists from entering Gaza because of fears for their safety, but up to now foreign reporters had been permitted in, even during times of heavy fighting.

Since the ban, coverage in Gaza has been largely left to local Palestinian staff and a handful of foreign journalists who entered before the ban took effect, including two Associated Press reporters.

Israel's Defense Ministry says foreign journalists will be allowed in only once Gaza militants stop shooting.

The letter protesting the ban, signed by The AP, Reuters, the New York Times, the BBC, CNN and other major news organizations, was sent last week to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

In responding to the letter, Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror said Israel was displeased with international media coverage, which he said inflated Palestinian suffering and did not make clear that Israel's measures were in response to Palestinian violence.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 1:35 am    Post subject: Reply to topic


Gazans despair over blockade

Aleem Maqbool
BBC News, Ramallah

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Many Gazans are dependent on food aid

"People in Gaza are waiting in lines for almost everything, and that's if they're lucky enough to find something to wait for," says Bassam Nasser, 39.

An aid worker in Gaza City, he, like so many others there, including the UN relief agency, says living conditions are the worst he has ever seen in the strip.

"People queue for two or three hours for bread, but sometimes there's no cooking gas or flour, so no bread.

"People wait in line for UN food handouts, but sometimes there aren't any. The suffering is reaching every aspect of life."

As well as working for an American development agency, Mr Nasser is a Gazan, and a father.

"I've got three young children. It's difficult to explain to them that it's not my fault we don't have electricity and that it's not in my control."

'Severely stretched'

Since June 2007, Israel has allowed little more than basic humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip.

Many there hoped that policy would change, five months ago, when Hamas and Israel agreed to a truce.

Gazans describe life under blockade

But while there were some increases in the amount of aid allowed in, Israel's strict restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza largely remained.

Two weeks ago, an already fragile humanitarian situation resulting from the mounting effects of months of shortages, saw a dramatic downturn.

The fighting resumed, with an Israeli army incursion into Gaza and a retaliatory barrage of militant rocket fire. With that, Israel all-but shut the Gaza Strip.

Although there are some goods being smuggled into Gaza through tunnels from Egypt, little else is reaching the territory.

Serious fuel shortages have led to widespread power cuts across Gaza City. That, in turn, has caused problems in pumping water to homes, and sewage to treatment plants.

Israel is preventing many aid workers, and all journalists from entering Gaza too, so our interviews have had to be conducted over the telephone. It's so hard to see where the hope is, and so hard to stop these conditions breeding more hatred

Bassam Nasser, aid worker, Gaza

"I never thought we would see days like this," says Monther Shublak, head of Gaza's water authority.

"The water system was severely stretched even before this crisis, but now, things are much worse.

"For the last four days, around 40% of people in Gaza City have had no access to running water in their homes at all."

"People ask me 'When will we get water?' I simply can't answer them," Mr Shublak says.

"But we are putting all of our resources into sewage pumping. The health consequences of that system totally failing are too worrying to think about, but it could happen unless things change."

Alongside attacks by its military, Israel's government says its Gaza closure strategy aims to deter Palestinian militants from firing rockets across the border at Israeli towns.

It also wants to choke Hamas, the Islamist faction in charge of Gaza, an enemy Israel sees as one of its most deadly.

But the rockets keep being launched and Hamas shows few signs of losing its grip on power.

Question of blame

There is much discussion among Palestinians as to why this sudden increase in pressure on Gaza is happening now.

Some say Israel is preparing for a big invasion; others feel there is an element of political posturing ahead of an Israeli general election in February.

Guide: Gaza under blockade

Many will tell you that they feel a time of deep division in Palestinian society is being taken advantage of.

Few take Israel's explanation, that it is only protecting its citizens from the horror of rocket attacks, at face value.

"Isn't it enough that their army kills the people who fire rockets?" asks Mr Nasser.

"We are not responsible, so why are we all being punished? It makes no sense."

He talks of the long-term impact on children in Gaza, including his own, aged six, five and two.

"It's getting harder for us to answer our childrens' questions about the situation, without instilling hatred in their minds about the people responsible for our suffering," he says.

He does not just mean the Israeli government.

"People here see everyone as responsible for their miserable lives. They see Israel closing Gaza, but they also see people around the world doing nothing.

"They see Hamas making things worse by using the blockade as an excuse not to be accountable, and they do whatever they like.

"People see the silence of the PA, [the Fatah-dominated Palestinian government in the West Bank] and blame them too," he says.

"It's so hard to see where the hope is, and so hard to stop these conditions breeding more hatred."
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 28, 2008 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic

Shministim. Have you heard of them? I have? just now. And once I heard about them, I had to do something.

The Shministim? all about ages 16, 17, 18 and in the 12th grade ? are a new breed of conscientious objectors in Israel and right now they are taking a stand. They believe in a better, more peaceful future for themselves and for Israelis and Palestinians, and they are refusing to join the Israeli army. They're in jail, holding strong against immense pressure from family, friends and the Israeli government. They need our support and they need it today.

The Shministim have asked Jewish Voice for Peace to reach out to people like us to let the Israeli government know we are watching, and that we support their courage. They're hoping to receive hundreds of thousands of postcards to be delivered to the Israeli Minister of Defense on December 18th, when they will hold a massive rally and press conference. They're hoping to stand strong on the steps of this majestic building - and on the steps of history - representing not only the thousands of refuseniks who came before them, not only the many young people to whom they are an example of a better world, but also to represent us. They have asked you, me, and every person who strives for peace to be on those steps with them, on that day. I will be there.

Will you join me? It?s simple. Sign a letter. Click here: http://www.december18th.org/


*From:* Howard Zinn, Jewish Voice for Peace

/A special note from our good friend Howard Zinn./

I've been thinking a lot about courage.

Right now, while I'm snug and fed this Thanksgiving holiday in the
comfort of my home, halfway around the world a group of teenagers is
sitting in a jail cell today, demonstrating the very definition of
courage and sacrifice. It's frustrating. Humbling. *And I'm damn glad to
have the chance to do something big about it*.

See that fresh-faced, bold young woman on the right? Her name is /Raz
Bar-David Varon/. She's an 18-year-old Israeli who just graduated from
12^th grade. And as I write this, she's sitting in jail in Tel Aviv
because she refuses to join the Israeli army.

In my day we called them the "refuseniks" and here in the U.S. they're
"conscientious objectors." In Israel, they're still in high school and
they are the Shministim. Get used to that word because I'm going to ask
you to know it, to say it, to use it. You see, *Raz Bar-David Varon and
another dozen or so Shministim have asked Jewish Voice for Peace for our
help and this is one request we can't refuse.*

The Shministim - all about ages 17, 18, 19 and in the 12^th grade - are
taking a stand. They believe in a better, more peaceful future for
themselves and for Israelis /and/ Palestinians, and they are refusing to
join the Israeli army. They're in jail, holding strong against immense
pressure from family, friends and the Israeli government. *They need our
support and they need it today. *

They have asked people like us to let the Israeli government know we are
watching, and that we support their courage. They're hoping to receive
hundreds of thousands of postcards to be delivered to the Israeli
Minister of Defense on December 18^th , when they will hold a huge rally
and press conference. They're hoping to stand strong on the steps of
this majestic building - and on the steps of history - representing not
only the thousands of refusers who came before them, not only the many
young people to whom they are an example of a better world, but also to
represent */us/*. They have asked you, me, and every person who strives
for peace to be on those steps with them, on that day. *I will be

Will you join me? It's simple. *Sign a letter now* http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=6wp3ijFux6tL7S2eshNO%2FcIOiG7RpIfa
at http://december18th.org/ .* And don't stop there - ask your loved
ones to join you. During this week of giving thanks, signing a letter is
the least we can do to give thanks for the courageous among us.

Raz is a Shministit. Raz is Courage. And with our support of her today,
you and I are Shministim too.

Thank you - and go *sign that letter*

Howard Zinn
On 27/11/2008, A S wrote:
Yes, I've heard of them before. They are high school students who have notified the Israeli government of their refusal to engage in mandatory military service. They have concluded that humiliating and killing Palestinian civilians will not bring Israel peace and they refuse to be a part of it. The Israeli government is trying to make an example of them by giving them short prison sentences on a monthly basis, hoping to break down their resolve and to discourage others from joining them. They deserve our support and I've signed the petition.
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