ROUNDUP: Two Key American Leaders Figuring Prominently in Pro-Palestinian Support• New Israeli ‘Minister of Chaos’ Cracks Down on West Bank• Palestinian Critics Outraged at Palestinian Authority Attendance at Aqaba Summit
By: John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer
Our roundup this week honors former President Jimmy Carter, 98 years old, who is now living at home in a medical hospice. His post-presidency attack on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians got him in some trouble. Another American supporter of Palestinians who deserves attention is Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders. He has called for cutting billions of U.S. dollars over Israel’s “racist moves.” Following these revered leaders, a third, less savory personality, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is presented; he has supported Jewish terrorists and is now Israel’s Minister of Public Safety for all Israelis and Palestinians. Finally, there is a brief note on Palestinian fury over the Palestinian Authority over its attendance at the recent Aqaba Summit with Israel.
In Honor of Jimmy Carter—An American President who understood the plight of the Palestinian People
Former President Jimmy Carter, 98 years old, is now living at home in a medical hospice. One of Carter’s hallmarks was identifying Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank as ‘apartheid.’ Famously or infamously for some, Carter authored Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Apartheid in Israel is like a curse word. Deriving from an Afrikaans word, which means ‘separation,’ it is tied to South Africa’s practice during 1948-1994 when the government designated specific areas of the country “for whites only.” Black people were forced to relocation to remote, designated areas. Subsequently, after reconsideration, Carter softened his strict definition of apartheid.
Carter’s influence in support of Palestinians included:
• A counterweight to the one-sided anti-Palestinian perception held by Americans
• He underscored the disregard by the then-new Jewish state of the Palestinians who lived in the region at the time of Israel’s creation
• Carter corrected his statement that Israel’s “imprisonment wall’ erected between itself and the West Bank was not “racist” but, rather, part of Israel’s land acquisition plan.
In his book, according to a BookBrowse review, Carter highlighted “the humiliations of everyday life for the Palestinians under Israeli occupation, the confiscation of farm produce, unfair competition from Israeli goods, the withholding of foreign donations, leveling of houses without legal recourse,” among others. Carter noted that Israel was in clear violation of key U.N. resolutions. The book was flawed in some ways, but in it, Carter clearly drew the early attention of Americans to the plight of the Palestinians. His own Christian evangelism confused some of the critical issues involving Israel’s domination of the area on religious grounds. However, there is no former American president who so passionately shared the plight of Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupation.
Democrat Bernie Sanders a key voice in support of Palestinian Rights
As a key Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Bernie Sanders has called for cutting billions of U.S. dollars over Israel’s “racist moves.” Sanders feels that Israel has humiliated the Biden government over its recent anti-Palestinian actions. Coincidental moves by Israel’s extremist government to strip the judiciary’s authority and to take yet more Palestinian land for Jewish settlements have led to further erosion of the American pro-Israel consensus. Sanders used this fading consensus to call for cutting aid and reaffirming his support for Palestinians.
Speaking on CBS Face the Nation, according to news source Mondoweiss, Sanders made the following points aimed at the new right-wing government:
• He is concerned “about what Netanyahu is doing and some of his allies in government and what may happen to the Palestinian people”
• The U.S. billions of dollars in aid to Israel should have some “strings” attached and demand, “you cannot run a racist government”
• To the government, he said, in part, “You cannot demean the Palestinian people there. You just can’t do it and then come to America and ask for money.”
Sanders also noted last week that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government chastened the Biden administration by “moving forward with further Jewish colonization plans for the West Bank after Biden had pleaded with it not to do so.” He also claimed that even after Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had admonished the government during his visit to Israel to stop its settlement activity, Israel’s far right-wing government did the exact opposite. Sanders noted that tools to curb such anti-Palestinian action included U.S. funding levels and U.S. defense of Israel in international forums.
New Israeli ‘Minister of Chaos’ cracks down on West Bank
Our third “personality” is the antithesis of both Jimmy Carter and Bernie Sanders. He is Itamar Ben-Gvir, newly appointed Minister of National Security. A lawyer by training, Ben-Gvir is a member of the Knesset and leader of Otzma Yehudi a far-right Zionist religious party. A settler in the Israeli military-occupied West Bank, he has supported Jewish terrorists over the years and was convicted of supporting terrorist rabbi Kahane, head of an extremist religious ideology. Now, Ben-Gvir is head of Israeli security for all Israelis and Palestinians. The New Yorker magazine appropriately labeled him ‘Minister of Chaos.’
Ben-Gvir has already begun his reign of terror in the West Bank, some of it sparked by Palestinian gunmen who’d murdered settlers. Washington expressed concern about “the levels of violence in Judea and Samaria and across Israel,” according to the Jewish News Syndicate. The newly minted Minister speaks the language of a militant, such as, “Our warriors give their lives to protect all of us and for that we owe them thanks.” A result of his zeal and thirst for vengeance was Israeli settlers going on a rampage after a Palestinian gunman had killed two settlers.
This kind of language, much less the accompanying vigilante behavior of settlers, underscores how the new government intends to crack down on the Palestinians during its tenure.
–The Guardian reported the following result of settler violence in the northern West Bank:
–Settlers torched dozens of cars and homes, leaving large fires burning in the town of Hawara, just south of Nablus.
–One video of the scene recorded a group of Jewish settlers praying in front of a burning building.
–A prominent Israeli cabinet minister and settler leader in charge of West Bank policy, Bezlel Smotrich, had called for Israeli to “strike without mercy,” calling for a “more heavy-handed response,” acting in such “a way that conveys that the master of the house has gone crazy.”
A brief note on Palestinian Critics’ Fury with the Palestinian Authority over its attendance at the Aqaba Summit with Israel
The Aqaba Summit was described by news source Medialine as a “one-day meeting under the auspices of the United States … to halt a surge in deadly violence in the occupied West Bank, especially ahead of the holy month of Ramadan.” High-level officials of both the PA and Israeli governments, excluding their respective presidents, showed up at the Jordanian Red Sea resort of Aqaba for a meeting intended to reduce violence between Israel and the Palestinians. It was organized by the U.S. Department of State.
The goal of the meeting was reasonable. It intended to “boost Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation and solidify understandings that already have been reached regarding the steps that the two sides would take in order to de-escalate tensions.” Palestinian critics say the summit only concerns technical and official security coordination and does nothing for people on the street except to further control them. Issues meaningful to Palestinians such as freedom of movement and the elimination of Israel’s practice of destroying Palestinians’ homes, were not on the agenda. The Summit underscored the PA’s fading power to effect meaningful change for its constituents.
–Book Review of former President Jimmy Carter’s Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, BookBrowse Review Team, 2007
–“Sanders calls for cutting U.S. ‘billions’ to Israel over ‘racist’ moves,” Mondoweiss, 2/20/2023
–“Ben-Gvir hails Israeli ‘heroes’ for eliminating Palestinian terrorists during Nablus op,” Jewish News Syndicate, 2/23/2023
–“Israeli settlers rampage after Palestinian gunman kills two,” The Guardian, 2/27/2023
–“Palestinians Are Furious with PA Decision to Attend Aqaba Summit with Israel,” Medialine, 2/26/2023
John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID and the World Bank in 65 countries.
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