Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Annapolis Summit

On the eve of Bush's promised peace conference in Annapolis and the anniversary of the UN General Assembly Resolution dividing mandatory Palestine (November 29, 1947) provides the occasion for some significant publications.

Leading Palestinian Pollster Analyzes Palestinian Opinion Regarding Annapolis Meeting And Peace, Carnegie Endowment for International Peacem November 7, 2007.

The political implications of the Hamas electoral victory from the Islamist perspective," Conflicts Forum, November 2007. pdf 23pp

Uri Avnery, Omelettes and eggs, Gush Shalom.

Syria will attend Annapolis summit, IMEMC, November 26, 2007.

The political implications of the Hamas electoral victory from the Islamist perspective," Conflicts Forum, November 2007. pdf 23pp

Islamists and Islamic movements, most of whom rejoiced at the Hamas win, do not all agree that elections, or democracy, provides a credible way forward. Some Islamists oppose democracy for ideological reasons, believing it incompatible with Islam, while others believe it to be a futile exercise: the only democracy allowed to work in Muslim lands, they contend, is the one that is guaranteed to install Western clients into office. It did not take the sceptics long to feel vindicated. There is no better proof of what they claim than the Palestinian experience that saw the Palestinian people getting punished for voting for Hamas with a strict regime of sanctions. They point also to the Algerian experience of the late 1980s and early 1990s -- which saw the Algerian army, with the support of France, intervene and cancel the voting process. The consequence was a civil war that cost the lives of more than one hundred thousand Algerians.


Over the past few years, Hamas has proved capable of accurately gauging the public mood in Palestine as well as among Diaspora Palestinians.


Anti-democracy movements such as Al-Qaeda and Hizb Al-Tahrir intensified their criticism, accusing Hamas of Machiavellianism and even of selling out and of betraying the Palestinian cause.


Indeed, the European enlightenment was born out of a gradual process of secularization that severely restricted the role of religion in the public sphere. With varying degrees, religion in the West has been prohibited from engaging in political life. Western powers that colonized much of the Muslim lands had sought, from the middle of the nineteenth century onwards, to mould Muslim societies in the shape of their own models when it came to the role that religion played in the lives of the people. It was in such a climate that secularism entered the intellectual debate in the Arab world, and from then on a new cultural model began to be quietly introduced by enthusiasts and admirers of the West, or more forcefully imposed by the colonial authorities.

The early Arab debate on secularism centred mainly on the relationship between religion and state, and on matching European successes in science, technology and governance. The decline of Islamic civilisation prompted a number of Arab intellectuals, including some already exposed to European culture and impressed by the accomplishments of Europe, to call for radical reform based on limiting the role of religion and religious institutions in the running or administration of life. Invariably, post-independence regimes in the Muslim world, and more specifically in the Arab region, inherited the determination to maintain the divide and perpetuate the separation.18

Yakan sums up the problem as follows: “Since the West and the Zionist lobby brought down the Caliphate, regardless of how weak it was or how committed to Islam it was, the Sykes-Picot arrangement -- fearing the Islamic world -- aimed to separate politics from religion and substitute nationalism in order to replace Islam. What was intended was to confine Islam to the practice of worship, religious rituals, and the administration of cemeteries.”19 Yakan is convinced, and is now joined in this conviction by an increasing number of Islamists – Ikhwan and non-Ikhwan alike -- that so long as the West is able to intervene in and influence politics in the Muslim world, it would seem highly unlikely that democracy might ever be granted the opportunity to work.


In addition to stressing that democracy emanates from the unacceptable ideology of excluding religion from public life and of awarding sovereignty to the people, HT is of the conviction that democracy eventually does not achieve what its advocates claim it would. In the West, as is the case in America and Britain (it is argued), elected members of parliament do not represent the majority of the people, but represent business interests. It would therefore be misleading, and even an act of falsification, to claim that parliaments in democratic countries represent the majority of the public. This is notwithstanding the assertion that majority rule is considered un-Islamic because it could lead, as has happened in the West, to legalizing forbidden matters such as riba (usury) and liwat (sodomy). The concept of public liberties, it is claimed, is the worst thing the democratic system has come up with; it transforms the human community into herds of animals. Examples from public life in the West, cited to prove that democracy eventually leads to a decline in morality and to exploitation of the majority by the minority, include individualism, disintegration of the family, promiscuity, homosexuality, capitalism, and exploitation.20

Read the whole monograph.

ATFP Briefing Summaries: Leading Palestinian Pollster Analyzes Palestinian Opinion Regarding Annapolis Meeting And Peace Dr. Khalil Shikaki
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
November 7, 2007

The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) held a briefing on November 7, 2007 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 'Prospects for Peace: The Pulse of the Palestinian Street,' featuring Dr. Khalil Shikaki. Dr. Shikaki is an Associate Professor of Political Science, and Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (Ramallah) and a senior fellow at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University.

Dr. Shikaki analyzed the Palestinian public's attitudes towards the upcoming Annapolis meeting and its possible outcomes. He identified three components that Palestinians considered important to be included in a document that would result from the meeting and launch a post-Annapolis process leading to statehood. These were that the borders of a future Palestinian state would be based on the 1967 lines with a one-to-one land swap where negotiated, a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem with sovereignty over the holy places, and a solution for the refugees based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

Shikaki said that the Palestinians believed that Israeli reluctance to deal with these three permanent status issues was the main obstacle towards achieving this goal. In addition, though there was an understanding that Israeli reluctance stemmed from skepticism over Palestinian ability to implement Roadmap responsibilities, Palestinians believed that a formal agreement on the principles of a final-status agreement was essential for Palestinians to be able to implement Phase 1 of the Roadmap thereby overcoming Israeli skepticism.

Surveys conducted by Shikaki showed that 2/3 to 3/4 of Palestinians supported a two-state solution with a majority supporting the idea of Israel as a 'Jewish state' and even a state with provisional borders, but only if the three core components were met.


In the Q&A session that followed, Shikaki addressed the Palestinian refugee issue, outlining the parameters of a solution that would both satisfy this core Palestinian narrative without threatening the nature of the Israeli state. The results of Shikaki surveys of Palestinian refugees showed that, given a choice, a majority of Palestinian refugees would not choose to return to what is now Israel thereby losing their Palestinian identity and their right to self-determination. Most would choose to return to a new Palestinian state, accept third-country citizenship or move to the 'swapped areas' with Israel. However, the key to a successful resolution to this issue was Israel's recognition of the Palestinians' 'fundamental' right to return to their homes and the giving of the refugees a 'free choice to do so.' Once this was granted, surveys had shown a great deal of flexibility on the modalities of an agreement. 'Without recognition of this right for Palestinians,' Shikaki stressed, 'there would be no end of conflict.'

Read the whole briefing.

Uri Avnery
Omelettes into Eggs

I WAS awakened from deep sleep by the noise. There was a commotion outside, which was getting louder by the minute. The shout of excited people. An eruption of joy.

I stuck my nose outside the door of my Haifa hotel room. I was told enthusiastically that the United Nations General Assembly had just decided to partition the country.

I went back into my room and closed the door behind me. I had no desire to join the celebrations.

November 29, 1947 - a day that changed our lives forever.

At this historic moment, how could I feel lonely, alienated and most of all - sad?

I was sad because I love all of this country - Nablus and Hebron no less than Tel-Aviv and Rosh-Pina.

I was sad because I knew that blood, much blood, would be shed.

But it was mainly a question of my political outlook.

I was 24 years old. Two years before, I and a group of friends had set up a political-ideological group that aroused intense anger in the Yishuv (the Hebrew population in Palestine). Our ideas, which provoked a very strong reaction, were regarded as a dangerous heresy.

The "Young Palestine Circle" ("Eretz-Yisrael Hatz'ira" in Hebrew) published occasional issues of a magazine called "ba-Ma'avak" ("In the Struggle"), and was therefore generally known as "the ba-Ma'avak Group") advocating a revolutionary new ideology, whose main points were:

- We, the young generation that had grown up in this country, were a new nation.

- Our language and culture meant we should be called the Hebrew Nation.

- Zionism gave birth to this nation, and had thereby fulfilled its mission.

- From here on, Zionism has no further role to play. It is a hindrance to the free development of the new nation, and should be dismantled, like the scaffolding after a house is built.

- The new Hebrew nation is indeed a part of the Jewish people - as the new Australian nation, for example, is a part of the Anglo-Saxon people - but has a separate identity, its own interests and a new culture.

- The Hebrew nation belongs to the country, and is a natural ally of the Arab national movement. Both national movements are rooted in the country and its history, from the ancient Semitic civilization to the present.

- The new Hebrew nation does not belong to Europe and the "West", but to awakening Asia and the Semitic Region - a term we invented in order to distance ourselves from the European-colonial term "Middle East".

- The new Hebrew nation must integrate itself in the region, as a full and equal partner. Together with all the nations of the Semitic Region, it strives for the liberation of the region from the colonial empires.

WITH THIS world view, we naturally opposed the partition of the country.

Read the whole article.

Syria will attend Annapolis summit, IMEMC, November 26, 2007

After wavering back and forth several times over whether or not to attend the Annapolis Summit this week in the U.S., Syrian officials confirmed Sunday that a delegate will be attending the talks. The decision came, apparently, when the agenda for Tuesday’s talks were announced to invitees, including Syria, and the Golan Heights issue was on the agenda.

Read the rest.

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