Background Reading

The “Idea of Israel” and “My Promised Land”

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The separation wall on the West Bank that divides Palestinians and Israelis. (photo: Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty)

The moral consequences of the triumph of Zionism: Ilan Pappé and Ari Shavit view Israel from different vantage points, but they agree the status quo between Israel and the Palestinians can’t be sustained.

By Avi Shlaim / The Guardian
May 14, 2014

[Ed. note: In anticipation of Ilan Pappé’s visit to Seattle next month, we are touching on some of the Israeli “new historians.” This 2014 piece from The Guardian reviews Pappé’s book, The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge, and Ari Sahvit’s, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.]


Chaim Weizmann, the first president of the state of Israel, famously said that it is by its treatment of the Palestinians that his country will be judged. Yet, when judged by this criterion, Zionism is not just an unqualified failure but a tragedy of historic proportions. Zionism did achieve its central goal but at a terrible price: the displacement and dispossession of the Palestinians — what the Arabs call the Nakba, the catastrophe.


Zionism achieved its greatest triumph with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. The Zionist idea and its principal political progeny are the subject of deeply divergent interpretations, not least inside the Jewish state itself. No other aspect of Zionism, however, is more controversial than its attitude towards the indigenous population of the land of its dreams. Chaim Weizmann, the first president of the state of Israel, famously said that it is by its treatment of the Palestinians that his country will be judged. Yet, when judged by this criterion, Zionism is not just an unqualified failure but a tragedy of historic proportions. Zionism did achieve its central goal but at a terrible price: the displacement and dispossession of the Palestinians — what the Arabs call the Nakba, the catastrophe.

The authors of these two books are both Israelis, but they approach their subject from radically different ideological vantage points. Ilan Pappé is a scholar and a pro-Palestinian political activist. He is one of the most prominent Israeli political dissidents living in exile, having moved from the University of Haifa to the University of Exeter. He is also one of the few Israeli students of the conflict who write about the Palestinian side with real knowledge and empathy.

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Blood and Sand

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Benny Morris, professor of history at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, speaking in Oslo, Oct 6, 2014. (photo: Med Israel for fred)

A revisionist Israeli historian revisits his country’s origins.

By David Remnick / The New Yorker
May 5, 2008

[Ed. note: In anticipation of Ilan Pappé’s visit to Seattle next month, we are touching on some of the Israeli “new historians.” This 2008 piece from the New Yorker reviews Benny Morris’s book, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War, which provides an in-depth analysis of the origins of Israel. Morris’s early work, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001, was the seminal work among the “new historians,” and is arguably one of the best histories of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.]


In “1948,” the assembled compendium of aspiration, folly, aggression, hypocrisy, deception, bigotry, violence, suffering, and achievement is so comprehensive and multilayered that no reader can emerge without a feeling of unease — which is to say, a sense of the moral and historical intricacy of the conflict.


For thirteen centuries, between 1200 B.C. and the second century A.D., the Jews lived in, and often ruled, the land of Israel. The population was clustered mainly in Judaea, Samaria, and Galilee. The Jews’ dominion was long but not eternal. The Romans invaded and, after suppressing revolts in A.D. 66-73 and 132-135, killed or expelled much of the Jewish population and renamed the land Palaestina, for the Philistines who had lived along the southern seacoast. After the conquest, some Jews stayed behind, and the faith of the Hebrews remained a religio licita, a tolerated religion, throughout the Roman Empire.

By the nineteenth century, Palestine had been ruled by Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Christian Crusaders, and Ottoman Turks. When Mark Twain visited in 1867, his imagination soaked with the Biblical imagery of milk and honey, he discovered to his surprise “a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land . . . desolate and unlovely.” Jericho was “accursed,” Jerusalem “a pauper village.” Twain’s passages on Palestine in “The Innocents Abroad” have, over the decades, been exploited by propagandists to echo Lord Shaftesbury’s notion that, before the return of the Jews to Zion, Palestine was a land without a people for a people without a land. Twain and Shaftesbury, as it turned out, were hardly alone in failing to recognize a substantial Arab population in the Judaean hills and beyond.

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APN Statement at UN Security Council

Americans for Peace Now Statement Delivered at the United Nations Security Council

By Lara Friedman / Americans for Peace Now
October 14, 2016


The full statement can be viewed as a pdf here.
Watch the full testimony here.
View the post-meeting press conference here.


Distinguished members of the Security Council,

As a representative of Americans for Peace Now — an organization that is committed to Israel’s existence and its future — it is not easy for me to speak before this body today.

It is not easy because while this forum will focus in large part on human rights violations by Israel, there are states represented here whose own human rights records are abysmal. There are even states in this forum that still do not recognize the existence of Israel, 70 years after that nation’s birth and despite its membership in the UN’s General Assembly.

It is also not easy for me to speak here today because of the deteriorating political climate in Israel as far as democracy is concerned. For some time now we have been witnessing an ugly campaign against courageous Israeli human rights and civil society NGOs — carried out by reactionary groups in Israel and by the Israeli government itself. Campaigns that target the legitimacy of NGOs like our Israeli sister organization, Shalom Achshav — Peace Now.

These groups are being targeted because their work reveals facts that some prefer to hide — facts that challenge the official Israeli government narrative.

Yet, I am here today because this institution is too important to boycott or ignore. The Security Council is the most important international body in existence today.

It would be irresponsible to miss an opportunity to argue our cause in front of it. It would be unpardonable to allow ourselves to be silenced by the cynicism of some of this body’s member states, whose hatred of Israel may blind them to Israel’s legitimate needs and fears. And it would be inexcusable to allow ourselves to be silenced by the disapproval of some who today equate speaking unpleasant truths about Israeli policies with national betrayal.

I am here today because the cause that we work for every day is too important to allow anyone to silence us.

[Continue reading here . . . ]

Islam in the Public Square

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On Saturday, October 29, 2016, local area leaders and concerned citizens gathered at Town Hall Seattle for an event, Islam in the Public Square, to examine the dynamics that have led to the gap in understanding about Islam in America. We discussed the many issues clouding the image of Islam and Muslims in America, sought to build understanding and tolerance across ethnic and faith lines, and looked into ways all of us can confront and overcome the misunderstandings and fears that divide us. Together, as one Seattle community, we explored ways to work together for peace and justice.

Our humble thanks to the many people and organizations whose contributions of time, effort, and resources made this event such a success.

Below are the events, with links to transcripts, video, and photos.


Introduction & Welcome

Opening Prayer
“Amsa ul husna”
[See video here]

Introduction
Randolph Urmston, Attorney (moderator)
[See video here]

Welcome
Rt. Rev. Gregory Rickel, VIII Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Olympia
[See video and text here]


Keynote Presentations
“Understanding Islam and Our Muslim Neighbor”

From a Clash of Ignorance to a Dialogue of Civilizations!
Mohamed Jawad Khaki, Founder, Ithna-asheri Muslim Association of the Northwest (IMAN)
[See video and text here]

Video: The Clash of Ignorance
Shafique Virani / TEDxUTSC
[See video here]

Trust in One Another, a Key to a Peaceful Society
Mahmood Khadeer, Founder, Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS)
[See video and text here]

How to Change a Million Minds in 15 Minutes
Varisha Khan, Senior, University of Washington, major in Political Science and Journalism
[See video and text here]

How the “Private Good” of Religion Becomes a “Public Good” for Society
Mark Markuly, PhD, Dean and Professor of Theology and Ministry, Seattle University School of Theology
[See video and text here]


Breakout Session & Call to Prayer

[See video here]


Panel Discussion

[See video here]

Video: American Muslims, Fact or Fiction
Unity Productions Foundation
[See video here]


Table Responses

[See video here]


 Photographs

[See photographs here]


 Event Sponsors

You Can’t Say We Didn’t Know

Some Perspectives on Israel, Palestine, and the Conflict

Episcopal Bishop’s Committee for Israel/Palestine
Diocese of Olympia
October 2016


In preparation for the 2016 Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, the Bishop’s Committee for Israel/Palestine prepared a book of essays, You Can’t Say We Didn’t Know: Some Perspectives on Israel, Palestine, and the Conflict.

These essays are presented here for the general reader. Each author takes full responsibility for what has been written. The material has been thoughtfully researched, and is offered in the spirit of seeking peace through understanding.

We humbly thank you for your interest in learning more about Israel and Palestine, and pray for our guidance toward a peaceful resolution. (more…)

World Food Programme in Palestine

World Food Programme Country Brief, State of Palestine
September 2016

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© WFP/Eman Mohammed


The Numbers:

  • 1.6 million food-insecure Palestinians in need of food assistance
  • 745,000 non-refugees in need of food assistance
  • 65,000 internally displaced persons (IDP’s) in Gaza following the 2014 war

Decades of occupation coupled with severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods have undermined the living conditions and reduced access to livelihoods for Palestinians. Food insecurity is mostly due to a lack of economic access: food prices are mainly driven by Israel and out of reach for many poor households — the GDP per capita in Palestine (USD 4,700) is six times less than that of Israel (USD 30,000).

The impact of the 2014 conflict in Gaza continues to be devastating to the Palestinian people and economy. Against this backdrop, more than 27 percent of the population — or 1.6 million people — suffers from food insecurity. In Gaza, one in two is food insecure, and one in three is severely affected.

As poor and vulnerable Palestinians spend more than half of their income on food, WFP’s assistance is critical to meet their food needs. This prevents further deteriorations in food security and livelihood status, and prevents negative coping mechanisms. WFP targets 600,000 of the most vulnerable, food insecure non-refugees in Palestine who have been affected by the ongoing conflict and occupation, a fiscal crisis and a steady decline in living standards. WFP has been present in Palestine since 1991.

[Read more here . . . ]

[Download the country brief here. . . ]


The Clash of Ignorance

Labels like “Islam” and “the West” serve only to confuse us about a disorderly reality.

This classic article by Edward W. Said, originally published in The Nation on October 4, 2011, is worthy of a fresh reading.


Samuel Huntington’s article “The Clash of Civilizations?” appeared in the Summer 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs, where it immediately attracted a surprising amount of attention and reaction. Because the article was intended to supply Americans with an original thesis about “a new phase” in world politics after the end of the cold war, Huntington’s terms of argument seemed compellingly large, bold, even visionary. He very clearly had his eye on rivals in the policy-making ranks, theorists such as Francis Fukuyama and his “end of history” ideas, as well as the legions who had celebrated the onset of globalism, tribalism and the dissipation of the state. But they, he allowed, had understood only some aspects of this new period. He was about to announce the “crucial, indeed a central, aspect” of what “global politics is likely to be in the coming years.” Unhesitatingly he pressed on:

“It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.”

Most of the argument in the pages that followed relied on a vague notion of something Huntington called “civilization identity” and “the interactions among seven or eight [sic] major civilizations,” of which the conflict between two of them, Islam and the West, gets the lion’s share of his attention. In this belligerent kind of thought, he relies heavily on a 1990 article by the veteran Orientalist Bernard Lewis, whose ideological colors are manifest in its title, “The Roots of Muslim Rage.” In both articles, the personification of enormous entities called “the West” and “Islam” is recklessly affirmed, as if hugely complicated matters like identity and culture existed in a cartoonlike world where Popeye and Bluto bash each other mercilessly, with one always more virtuous pugilist getting the upper hand over his adversary. Certainly neither Huntington nor Lewis has much time to spare for the internal dynamics and plurality of every civilization, or for the fact that the major contest in most modern cultures concerns the definition or interpretation of each culture, or for the unattractive possibility that a great deal of demagogy and downright ignorance is involved in presuming to speak for a whole religion or civilization. No, the West is the West, and Islam Islam.

Continue reading the entire article here.