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Archive for November 2011

“There Has Not Been a Peace Process; There Has Been an Annexation Process”: Norman Finkelstein Discusses the Israel-Palestine Conflict

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Originally published for Aslan Media: 17/11/2011 and features on Norman Finkelstein’s personal website.

 

Though several YouTube clips portray him as a radical, many of Dr. Norman Finkelstein’s ideas and resolutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict are so reasonable that it is no wonder his opponents try to silence and/or discredit him (in fact, an acquaintance of mine complained he wasn’t radical enough!). Speakers can easily be put-down as “extremist” or “anti-Semitic” when their ideas are radically out of the norm. But with Finkelstein these labels go down like a lead balloon.

As part of his speaking tour of the UK, Finkelstein’s lecture in Manchester, England in early November was originally intended to be held at the University of Manchester. However, students from Manchester Action Palestine, who organised the event, had to move the lecture off-campus to the Friends Meeting House in the city centre after pressure from the JSOC (Jewish Society), who wanted to limit attendees of the event to students only. The JSOC alleged that the safety of Jewish students would be endangered if the public were allowed in, even though they had made clear their own intention to attend and hold a protest.

The lecture was not dedicated to mentioning Israel’s war crimes because, as Finkelstein said, it is “common knowledge now.” Even liberal Jews in the United States cannot turn a blind eye to the policies of the state of Israel because information is much more widely available today, as opposed to twenty years ago when even Amnesty International (up until the First Intifada) would not say a critical word about Israel. Rather, the evening was dedicated to how we can solve, or at least attempt to solve, the Israel-Palestine conflict. Finkelstein also answered questions on a variety of other Middle East issues ranging from a possible war with Iran (“Obama has made it clear he wants to be re-elected. He won’t allow it to happen” ) to Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul (“he is like a broken clock that’s right twice a day. He’s a nut” ).

According to a recent BBC World Service poll, Israel is always perceived as having a negative influence in the world, along with Iran, North Korea and Pakistan. Every country they polled supported the Palestinian statehood. Because of this shift in public opinion Finkelstein said, the US, as well as several other countries, recognise now that the price is ‘much higher’ when it uses its veto (e.g. in the recent UNESCO vote).

Likening the peace process to the song “The wheels on the bus go round and round” (due to its endless and repetitive nature), Finkelstein said people are tired of the whole conflict. “In a century from now people are going to be bewildered – why didn’t they solve this conflict? Now people are waiting to hear: how do we propose to resolve it?”

Finkelstein does not believe in radical change but in profound movements taking years to finally achieve their goals, such as the suffragette movement, or the movement to end slavery. “You’re not going to reach people unless there’s already a consensus,” he said. “If you don’t build with the consensus you’re not creating a movement you’re building a cult. Politics is about what people are ready to do: what are they ready to do here about the Israel Palestine conflict?”

He also criticised the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) organisation for not having a clear strategy or goal, describing them as “purposefully ambiguous.” People aren’t stupid; they will ask what the goal is, he noted. (We are seeing this with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations). A tactic, he said, “has to be in conformity with means and ends. If they are incompatible, they won’t work”.

Though Finkelstein does not believe in nation states, he believes that it is possible to create a map to resolve the conflict. He has rejected the one-state solution. According to some polls, he said, 83% of settlers say “compensate us and we will relocate.”

This is where he differs with his contemporaries. Ramzy Baroud, Editor-in-Chief of the Palestine Chronicle, who also visited Manchester in March of this year, believes that a two-state “solution” will “create a demographic nightmare for Palestinians, which equals to their continued subjugation.” In a recent talk – “Back to Basics in Palestine: Time for Unity, Synergy and Mobilization” – Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa said: “People often ask me, which proposal do I support, the one state or the two state. It seems those are the only two proposals in people’s mind. That it has to be one or the other and we end up struggling for one or the other. We waste precious time and energy debating the merits of one over the other… The fundamental problem with both of these proposals is that they are concentrating on the political construct, and of statehood. And I think that is the wrong approach.”

They all agree that there is no real will on Israel’s part, and not enough pressure from the international community, to actually bring about peace and actual solutions. “There has not been a peace process; there has been an annexation process,” Finkelstein stated. “The annexation process needs the peace process; it feeds off it.”

Now that the international community is more aware and there is overwhelming support for a Palestinian state, it is becoming more and more difficult for certain states (including the UK and US) to continue to ignore the will of the people and to use their vetoes at the UN to block peace. People judge outcomes not words, and so far all we’re hearing are empty words.

Finkelstein concluded with Edward Said’s favourite quote, by Caribbean poet Aime Cesaire, “There is room for everyone at the rendezvous of victory”.

Indeed there is.

Written by Iram Ramzan

November 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Save the Family Home: petition to prevent Manchester-based family from eviction

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Original story was first published on Digital Journal : 08/11/2011

 

Around 30 people gathered outside the Crown Prosecution Service in Manchester on Tuesday to hand in a petition which generated over 10,000 signatures to prevent a family from being evicted from their home in Longsight, Manchester.

The “Save the Family Home” campaign was set up after the Farooqi family of five adults and two children, including an eight month old baby, were told they could be made homeless as a result of the father’s conviction.

The father, Munir Farooqi, was found guilty of terrorism charges, which he is appealing. Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and the CPS want to seize his home in Longsight, Manchester, saying it was used for terrorism. This is the first time that such a move has been attempted under section 23A of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows forfeiture of property in terrorism cases. If granted, the order would enable the property to be sold and the proceeds placed into the Magistrates’ Court.

Harris Farooqi, who also faced terror charges but was found not guilty, said the signatures were a ‘small drop in the ocean’. “When a person commits no crime, he always wins”, he said after the petition was handed in to the CPS. “It’s been a miscarriage of justice and we will prove that very soon”.

Sarah Ayub, of Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPACUK), said their aim was to ‘stand up’ for the Farooqi family but made it clear that the petition had nothing to do with Munir Farooqi’s conviction, but was a stand against collective punishment.

GMP believe that Munir Farooqi had had carried out most of his terrorism-related offences at the family home. Fatima Katergi, of south Manchester, said she disagreed with their proposal.

She said: “I think it’s important that we support people from our community. It could be anyone . It’s not about being a Muslim, it’s not a Muslim issue”.

Martin Hopwood of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) said his organisation had helped with the distribution of petitions around several mosques in Greater Manchester and they had received good responses.

“I’m glad to have done my fair share”, he said. “I think it’s a great tragedy, first of all, and I think it’s a crime against humanity”.

Rhetta Moran, from RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research), a Manchester-based human rights organisation, said that if the court decided to seize the home, it could set a precedent.

It now remains for a court to decide whether to allow the property to be seized.The case is expected to be heard in March next year, so the family will not know its fate until then.

Another meeting is expected to be held this Friday with the Counter Terrorism Unit in Longsight, Greater Manchester.

 

Written by Iram Ramzan

November 8, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Arab Spring turns into Arab Winter: Syrian and Yemeni opposition call for intervention

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Written by Iram Ramzan

November 5, 2011 at 9:20 pm

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