Middle Eastern tours

Condoleeza Rice is desperate. A few weeks back she flew into London to press Gordon on the need to step up troops in Afghanistan. Don’t know if that’s why they sent Harry, who knows!? It’s the Washington Post’s view (3/3/2008) that interested me today indicating that the scene is shifting in Middle Eastern affairs, with the U.S. seemingly being moved out in the cold.
Egypt get U.S. aid, but as the Post points out it wasn’t Washington that called Cairo, it was Tehran. And there hasn’t been contact down that route for decades. No one has ever believed the Bush has any real interest in dealing with the key to peace in the region and everything that has happened since Annapolis, a PR job, points to moves backwards.

This is an e-mail I received today from Jewish Voice for Peace.
“It is hard to know where to begin talking about Gaza. We are awash in reports, information, photographs, even video of the onslaught on Gaza – the stepped up air and ground assault by Israeli forces onto the most crowded strip of land on earth. More than 100 Palestinians have been killed in the last few days, some half of them unarmed civilians and many of them children, including a number of babies. Hundreds have been wounded and are now being treated in a medical system that was on the verge of collapse long before these latest attacks (and among other targets, the head office of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, along with the main pharmacy and an ambulance, was destroyed by Israel on Feb. 28th. A 5 month old baby died in the same attack.).
It’s true that parts of southern Israel are suffering rocket attacks now; one Israeli was killed last week and several have been injured in the last few days. As we JPN editors have written before, these (and all) Israeli citizens are being held hostage to their government’s irresponsible and obviously dangerous refusal to come to the one resolution that could end the rocket fire: a mutual ceasefire and an end to Israel’s siege on Gaza.
Israel, backed and guided by the U.S., still refuses to negotiate with Hamas. (See JPN post “The Makings of War” from 2/23/2008 on the U.S.’s adamant position that Israel break Hamas.) Israel has stepped-up attacks on Gaza and threatens worse: on Feb. 29, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai promised the Palestinians a shoah/holocaust of their own. Racheli Gai writes that “the word “shoah” is not used in Hebrew exclusively in reference to the Nazi holocaust. However, this is the primary and dominant meaning of the word, so any use of it brings forth connotations of the holocaust/genocide. If we add to it the fact that it was used by a public figure, a military man threatening horrendous action against the people of Gaza, there is no way to ignore the presence of the ominous connotations.” Mitchell Plitnick also discusses Vilnai’s use of the word “shoah” in his new blog post.
But the calls for an end to the siege and direct negotiations with Hamas are getting stronger and stronger. See below for:
**1) An urgent petition, a joint Palestinian and Israeli effort, calling for an immediate ceasefire and offering a shared understanding and vision.. Palestinian and Israeli civil societies are vibrant and vital. If you are Israeli or Palestinian, please sign the petition. If you are not – and the organizers have explicitly asked that people who are not do not sign the petition – please spread this word to amplify this critical voice.
**2) The majority of Israelis – 64% – support direct negotiations with Hamas towards a ceasefire. See below for the poll report.
**3) Hamas has repeatedly offered Israel a longterm ceasefire. Most recently, on February 23rd, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Hamas will consider any initiative that will bring about a ceasefire. Israel has repeatedly rejected Hamas’s offers. Below is an op-ed published two weeks ago in Ha’aretz by a senior Hamas advisor reiterating the ceasefire offer.
**4) Uri Avnery’s latest column is an extremely useful FAQ regarding negotiations with Hamas. As always, his analysis is sharp and his memory long. Editor’s note: Though Avnery writes that Arafat was murdered, there isn’t agreement that this was in fact what happened.
**5) And what about Abbas? See Ramzy Baroud’s article, below, on the increasingly narrow space that Abbas has created for himself.
**6) Last, the prominent American Jewish newspaper The Forward recognizes that negotiations with Hamas are a legitimate, necessary pursuit.
The calls are coming from many directions; now we must make them louder, loud enough to push the U.S. and Israel to end the siege and the bombardment now. ”

Sarah Anne Minkin

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