Al-Qa’ida in Islamic Maghreb and Arabian Peninsula Statement on the U.S.-led coalition against IS


Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

Intro and Analysis

This new joint statement from al-Qa’ida’s affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic Maghreb (AQAP and AQIM)- which seems unprecedented- comes in opposition to the U.S.-led international coalition to fight against the Islamic State (IS), characterizing instead as war against Islam and Muslims. Several things to note in analysis:

a)- This statement does not mean AQAP and AQIM are getting closer to IS or warming to the idea of pledging allegiance to IS. Indeed, they have firmly rejected IS’ Caliphate declaration, and have maintained their loyalty to al-Qa’ida Central (AQC). For comparison, note that members and supporters of Jamaat Ansar al-Islam- an Iraqi jihadi group (with a Syrian branch) which like al-Qa’ida does not accept IS’ claim to be a state or caliphate- have also denounced the U.S. airstrikes etc. targeting IS as constituting war against Islam, and like al-Qa’ida would want an ideal situation where all jihadis having the end-goal of a Caliphate unite against a common enemy, while rejecting IS’ assumption of supreme authority. Thus Abu Bakr al-Iraqi of Jamaat Ansar al-Islam, who previously praised IS’ beheading of James Foley while condemning IS’ massacre of the Sha’itat rebellion against its rule in Deir az-Zor province:

“America in its war against Islam will rely on two components:

1st. Its allies outside of Syria and Iraq who will provide it their military bases, financial support, and increase the stranglehold on the two lands.

2nd. Its allies inside Syria and Iraq and they are:

1. The Safavid Iraqi army.
2. The secular Kurdish army [Peshmerga]
3. The so-called ‘moderate Syrian opposition.’
4. Some of the mercenary gangs of the Sahwa of money and slaves of the dollar.” 

Others outside the transnational jihadist circles have also not hesitated to characterize the U.S.-led initiatives as war on Islam, most notably the Islamic Army in/of Iraq, which by admission of sources from within the group and its supporters is having problems with IS in Iraq. Nonetheless, the group’s spokesman Ibrahim al-Shammary affirmed the following:

“On the anniversary of 11 September [9/11], America is forming an international alliance while claiming that it is for the war on terrorism. Oh Muslims, be wary and heed the strongest warning, for you are the intended target.” 

These kinds of statements have wider implications for outside hopes of building an internal Sunni coalition within Iraq to fight against IS beyond those already working with the central government. Interestingly, the joint AQIM-AQAP statement is dated 11 September: just as AQC in its propaganda portrayed post-9/11 as part of a new initiative of war on Islam, so too AQIM and AQAP, like Ibrahim al-Shammary, attach significance to the building of the anti-IS coalition by Obama as coinciding with the 13th anniversary of 9/11.

In short though, it is the internal Iraq insurgent dynamic that is of greater analytical interest, while AQ-affiliates denouncing the U.S. actions as war on Islam is fairly predictable. One might argue that a recent purported statement from Katiba Uqba ibn Nafi [KUN]- a joint AQIM-Ansar al-Shari’a Tunisia project- in support of IS as a Caliphate project reflects an international jihadi trend getting behind IS in the face of the U.S.-led alliance against IS, but I share Daveed Gartenstein-Ross’ skepticism of the authenticity of this statement for some reasons of my own. First, Ansar al-Shari’a Tunisia’s official Twitter news feed, which advertises KUN social media output, has not shared this statement, and second, its only source appears to be in pro-IS circles: besides this, other problems exist with the statement, such as a lack of date on it.

[Update: However, it is also to be noted that the opening of the statement refers to "Kairouan support for the state of the Islamic State"- thus, as Gartenstein-Ross notes, this statement could be genuine and just from a Kairouan province contingent of Katiba Uqba ibn Nafi- which has produced a number of IS alumni- rather than on behalf of the whole battalion as the statement might misleadingly imply at first sight, because 'Kairouan' is also used to refer to Tunisia as a whole].

The problem for IS in trying to get new allies for its Caliphate is that its fighting other rebels- including Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria- and brutality towards Muslim dissenters and opponents within its dominion often blunts any potential sympathy for its actual project in the face of U.S. airstrikes etc.

b)- The joint statement refers to IS but without prefixing jamaat ['group'] to IS’ name to indicate rejection of IS’ claim to be a state/caliphate. This is an interesting contrast with the standard al-Qa’ida approach (also echoed by Jabhat al-Nusra), which had previously accepted IS’ prior incarnation of the Islamic State of Iraq as a legitimate emirate in its own right, despite lacking control at the time of substantial contiguous territory and the workings of an actual state. Nonetheless, I would urge that one should not make too much of this and it most likely just reflects the broader official anti-fitna stance of this statement urging for unity in the face of the U.S.-led coalition (including an end to infighting and name-calling), thus I suspect AQAP and AQIM simply do not wish to bring up the fundamental AQC-IS dispute at this point.

c)- The tribute to Ahrar al-Sham in the wake of the massacre of its leadership comes as no surprise, to be noted in conjunction with Jamaat Ansar al-Islam’s tribute to the group. This reflects the high regard in which global jihadism generally holds Ahrar al-Sham and the group’s status as the link between this ideological trend and Islamist projects focused on the national framework (cf. Jaysh al-Mujahideen Iraq- a Salafi nationalist, revolutionary and anti-Shi’a insurgent group- also extended tribute to the fallen leaders of Ahrar al-Sham).

Below is a translation by me of the statement.

Joint Statement (11 September: Statement No. 1)
Situation: Support for Muslims over the alliance of Crusaders and Apostates.


The suffering of our people in Iraq and al-Sham has not been absent from our minds, and what they have offered from bodily sacrifices. Nor have the negative consequences- which have followed on for the people of al-Sham from the infighting of the mujahideen- been absent from our minds. Nor has the sadness of the arenas of jihad for the loss of its best leaders and sons from infighting- in which the beneficiary has been the people of the Zionists [Israel], the Cross worshippers, the Rafidites [Shi'a], the Nusayris [Alawites] and their followers- been absent from our minds.

Then there is America- the head of disbelief- and the symbol of the enemy and tyranny, rearing its head again, enlisting behind it allies from the Crusaders and their apostate collaborators, leading the Crusader attempt to wage war on Islam and Muslims, to increase the misfortunes of the Ummah, under the pretext of striking the Islamic State and annihilate it- so they have claimed!! We ask God to render them disappointed, defeated and slaughtered.

As for this oppressive Crusader effort, we can only stand with Islam and Muslims, against Crusader America and its alliance (Jewish-Crusader-Safavid-Apostate) that is the true enemy of the Ummah and the Path and the first to wage war on Shari’a, so we declare this stance of ours to please God, to support our mujahideen brothers over the disbelievers, and defend our Muslim people wherever they are. Thus we say:

. Our mujahideen brothers in Iraq and al-Sham…stop infighting among yourselves and stand as one rank in the face of the initiative by America and its Satanic alliance lying in wait against us all to break us again and again. Counter the unity of the nations of disbelief against you by your unity against them, in accordance with the speech of the Almighty: “And fight the polytheists as a whole just as they fight you as a whole, and know that God is with those aware of Him” [...]

. Oh mujahideen and ansar [helpers/supporters], stop name-calling and hurling of insults, and turn your truth-telling pens and cutting swords on the head of disbelief- America- and its oppressive, aggressive alliance.

. To all who bear arms in the face of the tyrant Bashar and his shabiha, it is you that America will seek to finance with its double-dealing and deception, that you may deviate from your path and only be banners in its hand realizing its interests.

. To our people- the Ahl al-Sunna [Sunnis] in Iraq and al-Sham, do not forget America’s crimes against your lands, and do not forget its stance in the line of your battles, and its poisonous daggers remain planted in your chests, so do not let its trickery deceive you, or enter into its alliance, or become among its soldiers against your mujahideen sons. 

. We call on our Muslim Ummah to support our people in Iraq and al-Sham, and support them with what is precious and costly, and stand in their rank against America, the head of disbelief, the source of evil and the symbol of corruption and oppression.

. We call on our Muslim Ummah to disavow the calls of the apostate rulers and their collaborators in error and leading astray to support the disbelieving Americans against the mujahideen, just as we call on them to stop their conscripted sons from participating in this oppressive enemy war that aims in truth to preserve American Crusader hegemony over our Muslim Ummah and protect the state of the people of Zionists [Israel].

. We call on our people in the Arabian Peninsula in particular and in all the states in this Satanic alliance in general to stand against their collaborationist governments and prevent them- by all lawful means- from continuing this war on Islam under the pretext of waging war on terrorism.

. As for you, oh allies of disbelief and evil, take heed of what will afflict you, for black days await you. For these leaders of yours today are sinking and are afraid to confront the knights of Islam. And indeed you hav tested the swords of the soldiers of Islam and the assault of the heroes of Iraq and al-Sham, so God brought you to defeat and degradation at their hands, and your armies were defeated bearing the consequences of failure.

. We conclude these calls by reminding the Islamic Ummah of the words of the renewer of time and vanquisher of the Americans- Sheikh Osama [bin Laden] (may God have mercy on him and make good his soil): “Consult no one in [fighting] the Americans.”

To conclude this statement, we offer our sincere condolences to the mujahideen of the group Ahrar al-Sham…and we ask God to have mercy on their martyrs and remunerate us and them in their misfortune and render us better from it, just as we offer to our people in al-Sham in general and the families of martyrs in particular our sincere condolences and we ask God the Almighty, the High to connect with their hearts and pour out endurance on them.

God, provide for this Ummah a just situation in which the people who obey you are made mighty and the people of your misfortune are laid low. God, give victory to our mujahideen brothers in Iraq and al-Sham and in every place.God, ruin America and whoever of its allies and those taking its side against the mujahideen.


Qa’ida al-Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula and in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb.

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Rabbi in Ohio U. controversy leads group that denies there’s an occupation


One of the leading figures in the controversy over Ohio University Senate president Megan Marzec’s blood-bucket challenge for Gaza is Rabbi Danielle Leshaw, the executive director of the Hillel on campus. Leshaw wrote that Marzec’s dramatic statement for Gaza and in support of BDS made Jewish students on campus feel “unsafe” and she should step down.

I saw Leshaw at J Street last year and was impressed by her speech criticizing Birthright, saying Jewish students need to see the occupation in all its gory. She teaches her own children about the occupation, in the hope that “damn separation wall” will come down.

I don’t want my kids… [b]elieving that the land of Israel is our sole birthright and nobody else has ever laid claim to these sacred spaces. I want my kids to grow up believing that they can dismantle that damn separation wall.

During the recent Gaza slaughter she wrote:

Will we ever end this occupation? It all feels hopeless right now.

But Leshaw is the administrator of a pro-Israel group on campus called Bobcats for Israel, four members of which were arrested last week during a demonstration against Megan Marzec at the Senate. Leshaw tweeted often in solidarity with the arrested students. During their action, she did so in rah-rah terms: “The filibuster has begun. And it’s not going to stop.” Later from the courthouse, as she helped with their defense.




Now look at the logo of Bobcats for Israel. You will see there is no occupation: the “Israel” these students are for includes Gaza and the West Bank and the Golan Heights. And don’t forget East Jerusalem. Where do they draw the line? At the Jordan. If you think this is just a symbol– it’s a very conscious symbol of a rightwing settler Israel. That map is painful for Palestinians, because it removes Palestine entirely. Some would call that map racist.

It’s hard to see how Leshaw can reconcile her opposition to the occupation with her leadership of a group that denies it exists.

Leshaw is getting support to take on Marzec from the Jewish establishment: Eric Fingerhut, the national head of Hillel, has celebrated her. He and Leshaw represent the rigid orthodoxy that the dissident Jewish group Open Hillel is taking on in its conference next month– which will feature appearances by Rebecca Vilkomerson of JVP, Sa’ed Atshan, Rashid Khalidi, Peter Beinart, David Harris-Gershon, Shaul Magid and Judith Butler. Several of the speakers support BDS. They’ll have a real conversation about the issue. And Open Hillel’s invitation to Students for Justice in Palestine to attend the conference means it doesn’t want red lines on what it can and can’t talk about. I bet that everyone at the Open Hillel conference would condemn the Bobcats for Israel symbol.

Leshaw has been challenged in her claim to represent Jewish student opinion. One former student blasted Leshaw for “the audacity to attempt to speak for all Jews on campus” and in support of ethnic cleansing. Another alum, educator Matthew Farmer wrote, “In her position as a leader, I worry @RabbiDanielle’s letter to @ThePost [saying Marzec made Jews feel "unsafe"] marginalizes and silences Jewish students who support Megan or BDS.”

Leshaw wrote later on twitter: “I speak for the majority of J. students at OU b/c that’s part of my job description. Sorry if that bothers you.” I bet a majority of Jewish students at OU are opposed to the occupation, and to the Israel group’s denial of it.

The elephant in the room, in Marin County


What does this picture say to you? Zoe Goorman made it for an action held outside Marin County’s Dining for Democrats Gala in Corte Madera, California, last Saturday night. And it represents the kind of actions going on at a local level all across the country by citizens fed up with their municipalities tax dollars being funneled to support Israel’s inhumane occupation of Palestine.

How’d she get the idea? Organizer Esther Riley read about the upcoming VIP gala in the local fish wrap and sent out an action alert last week.

The Democratic Party says it’s for human rights, so why do our elected officials help to suppress Palestinian rights? Why do Democrats keep funding Israel’s wars and the occupation instead of using economic leverage to get Israel to grant equality to everyone under its control? Why do Democrats send military aid to Israel while cutting our own military budget? Why did [Northern California Congressman] Jared Huffman vote to put us in debt for another $225 million to give Israel spare parts for Iron Dome when there were millions of unexpended dollars in the Iron Dome account and when another $351 million was slated to be put into that account on October 1? And why give money to save Jewish lives but not Palestinian lives? Why is [state assemblyman] Marc Levine willing to suppress free speech on California campuses for the sake of “campus climate”?–do the feelings of Zionists over here matter more than the feelings of Palestinians living under occupation and military assault? Why is Israel the elephant in the room that no one can talk about?

Good questions! Goorman spent all Saturday afternoon making this incredible sign and met up with other local activist who responded to the call. But Goorman says she didn’t think people “got it”. What do you think? I get it! I love her elephant. She sent out an email to some friends asking what words could be added to her sign to make it clearer, but I don’t think it needs anything else. Here’s an idea Esther Riley sent to me this morning:

A variation of the poster that Zoe did could be a back view of an elephant inside the voting room of Congress with the word “Israel” written on its rear end. The elephant could be drawn with it trunk up so that it would not be mistaken for another animal and perhaps less mistaken as the symbol of the GOP, which is usually a side view.

I don’t think it matters that the elephant also represents Republicans. The elephant in the room in American politics– the elephant so many people don’t mention or criticize for fear of being labeled anti Semitic– that’s Israel. I hope Goorman’s sign catches on. The next time you attend a local event in your town, don’t just talk about the elephant in the room, make it a symbol.

(Hat tip Karen Platt)



Yale president’s office was involved from the gitgo in blowup over Yale chaplain’s letter


Good news: Journalists are writing up the Rev. Bruce Shipman case at Yale in a sympathetic manner. Was it really necessary for the Episcopal chaplain to lose his job at the school because of a three-sentence letter to the New York Times saying Israel’s “carnage” in Gaza is a factor in growing anti-Semitism in Europe? After that letter came out August 26 (full text at the link) Shipman says he experienced an “avalanche” of criticism and hate mail almost instantaneously, and that calls for his termination went to the Yale President’s office from angry alumni– calls that were promptly conveyed to him by the university chaplain, per one of these news accounts.

The two pieces of reporting raise questions about whether a prestige university can field a debate over Israel/Palestine without requiring red lines that prevent open discussion. And Shipman says straightforwardly, “I will not be silenced.”

Elizabeth Dias at Time Magazine spoke to Shipman, and he cited other great controversial causes as models for him. And notice the importance of donors:

For Shipman, the controversy raises a number of “troubling questions” about free speech on campus. In addition to the hate mail, Shipman says he has also received letters of support from people thanking him for taking a courageous stand for Palestinian rights. University chaplains, he adds, have a long history advocating unpopular cultural positions. William Sloane Coffin Jr., a chaplain at Yale during the 1960s, gained fame for practicing civil disobedience in prostest of the U.S. war in Vietnam. Clergy today, he continues, need to know what protections they do and don’t have when it comes to taking unpopular positions. “I think of abolitionism and the role the church played in that, I think of the civil rights movement, I think of the anti-war movement and the role the chaplains played in that, often incurring the wrath of big givers and donors of the university, but they were protected and they were respected,” he says. “That seems not to be the case now.”

As to what’s next for him, Shipman isn’t yet sure, but he doesn’t plan on remaining silent. “I think the truth must be brought out and it must be discussed on campus by people of goodwill without labeling anti-Semitic anyone who raises these questions,” he says. “Surely this debate should take place on the campuses of the leading universities across the country. If not there, where?”

The same themes are present in Deborah Straszheim’s excellent report on the case in The Day, in Connecticut. My headline comes from this account:

Within two hours of the publication of the letter [on August 26], which included a line at the end identifying him as the Episcopal chaplain at Yale, Shipman said, “there was an avalanche of hate mail calling me every name imaginable, and an anti-Semite, (saying) I was a disgrace to my calling and I ought not to be in any public office.”
He received an email from Yale University Chaplain Sharon M.D. Kugler, who also lives in Groton, saying she was certain he had no clue how her office and its work had been affected by what he’d done.
“Confused students, angry alumni, staff and random people from across the country have been in touch with me and with President (Peter) Salovey’s office all day,” she wrote in the Aug. 26 email. “Some calling for your termination and others calling for mine. Even our Hindu Life Advisor who shares your last name has had to field some very inflamed emails.”…

Shipman is talking about official pressure here. Kugler was obviously incensed. And President Salovey’s office wasn’t just twiddling its thumbs. Yale quickly sought to distance itself. “Yale pointed out that Shipman was not on staff but was rather employed by the Episcopal Church.” But the controversy raged.

Shipman said the executive committee of the Board of Governors of the Episcopal Church of Yale called a special meeting on Sept. 2 to discuss his letter.

“The executive committee made it clear that I should resign or be fired,” Shipman said. Members said his actions damaged the church’s relations with the university and generated bad publicity, he said….

But he’s not backing down on his witnessing for Palestine (Shipman has been there several times):

“They have got to move together to share the land,” he said. “They both have compelling claims to the land. You hear the stories and you weep. And the stories are real and true, the suffering is real, and there’s got to be some hope. Otherwise, you’re locked in this tragic struggle for the land that seems to be to the death.”
He said he didn’t think he had to discuss his views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the chaplain first before airing them.
“If it can’t be discussed in good faith on a university campus, why not?” Shipman said. He said he’s not anti-Semitic and he should be able to discuss the conflict without being labeled. “That is the last thing that I am, and I will not be silenced.”

I believe this controversy stems from the fear on the part of the lobby that criticism of Israel is moving from the grassroots to the inside, and that lines must be drawn at prestigious institutions. It’s clear that Shipman’s letter was a 9 on the Richter scale at Yale within a couple of hours and that Yale was being called on to excommunicate him in a hurry. The Episcopal Church did so within days. And tomorrow night a Yale program on anti-Semitism at the school will be holding a panel on Shipman’s letter and the piece it responded to without Shipman’s inclusion. It is very much like Steve Walt’s bastinado at Harvard — within hours of the publication of the groundbreaking Israel lobby paper in 2006, there were demands that Harvard’s name be taken off the paper, that leading funders withdraw their gifts, that Walt lose his chaired professorship and deanship. Walt said last spring:

[I]t’s made it impossible for me to serve in the U.S. government, because it would be just too politically controversial. Even if someone wanted me, say, to work on U.S. policy in Asia, it would just be not worth it. I’m not so valuable that a president or a secretary of state would want to deal with the political fallout. It has probably had some impact on my upward mobility in academia – if I wanted to be a dean or something like that. -

The great thing is that Walt didn’t go away, but worked harder at elaborating his ideas, and Shipman isn’t either.

US and Canada strengthen economic relationship with Israel following attack on Gaza


Since Operation Protective Edge began in Gaza in early July, Israel has strengthened economic relationships with its closest allies. Within days of the air campaign starting, the U.S. and Israel penned a mutual recognition customs agreement which will lift screening barriers and tariffs. Then on Monday Israel cinched a similar Declaration of Intent from Canada, while focusing on the threat of ISIS, Hamas and Hezbollah.

“We share the same moral values and unfortunately now we can all see that we share the same threat,” said Finance Minister Yair Lapid to his Canadian counterpart Steven Blaney in a Tel Aviv meeting on the Authorized Economic Operator Program, “Israel is faced with Hamas in the south, Hezbollah in the north and now ISIS advancing from the east,” he continued.

“We are dependent on the strength of our military and the strength of our economy to withstand these threats,” said Lapid in the statement released by the finance minister’s media adviser. Lapid’s remarks focused on the future status of the Gaza Strip under deliberation now through multilateral talks where Israel wants a de-militarized Gaza on the agenda. Lapid’s presentation at the announcement of the trade agreement today is a signal he is looking to shore up support. Indeed the bulk of Lapid’s remarks were not on economics, but Gaza:

“We must move to find a solution for Gaza based on a regional framework, through a regional summit which includes all the key partners including Canada. For progress to be made we must ensure that rehabilitation occurs alongside demilitarization. We are strengthened and encouraged by the support of our allies, and in particularly with Canada which stands steadfast by our side”

Since 2010 the Authorized Economic Operator Program has aimed to increase the sale of Israeli goods abroad through accords between custom agencies. In 2013 Canada, Israel and the U.S. signed a work plan to promote, “faster and easier import procedures and inspections upon the arrival of their goods,” said the Israeli Ministry of Finance.

Achieving a hudna and ten years of calm in Israel/Palestine


Eretz Israel is not an empty country … On no account must we injure the rights of the inhabitants.  Only “Ghetto Dreamers” … can imagine that Eretz Israel will be given to the Jews with the added right of dispossessing the current inhabitants of the country. This is not the mission of Zionism. Had Zionism to aspire to inherit the place of these inhabitants—it would be nothing but a dangerous utopia and an empty, damaging and reactionary dream …

David Ben-Gurion, 1918.

The father of his country wrote these words early on in the project of Israel—still in its dreamy, pre-natal state—responding to the hardline mitteleuropa sensibility of conquest, which had overtaken the rhetoric of his fellow Zionists.  Years later, in the 1930’s, he would still speak of the fraternal kinship between his Arab “neighbours” and “brethren,” and the Jews, and their common destiny.  But decades of conflict, and the pressures of a public life, would erode his idea of comity with the Arabs, and he ended up an enthusiastic supporter of the settler movement.  A case of “as goes the Man, so goes the Nation,” you might say.

Today, that “reactionary dream” is fully upon us, and Israel’s political establishment is seduced by dangerous utopianism—the logical outcome, perhaps, of a nation founded in dispossession, now at the limits of what it can achieve by force.

The time is long past to ask, “What does Israel want?”  We don’t need utopian answers from millenarians believing in divine right—no prophetic rhetoric, thank you, from a pre-modern twilight of gods and covenants.  Rather, we need practical, 21st Century answers.  If Israel wants the Palestinians to vanish—some quickly, others dispossessed in slow motion increments over years—then let her say that to the world.  This month’s seizure of 1,000 acres of West Bank Palestinian land by the state—intended to link settler blocs in a chain to Israel—echoes another of Ben-Gurion’s famous pronouncements, “It doesn’t matter what the goyim say, but what the Jews do.”

Quite so—amid the vast wreckage of another pointless campaign against the captive Gazans, and the resulting international condemnation by, well, the goyim, we Jews just keep doing what we have done since 1948: destroying the Palestinians.   A fifty-day operation—shooting fish in a barrel, as we say here in the ‘States—leaves 2,100 dead, over 500 of them children; 10,000 injured; as many as 300,000 displaced, and perhaps some 60,000 Gazans now permanently homeless.   As the school year begins for a quarter-million Gaza students, dozens of school buildings lie in ruins, or double as shelters for displaced families.  The economic and industrial output of the Strip is reduced to ashes; hospitals, mosques and apartment towers are destroyed; vital infrastructure for an at-risk population is shattered.  This is what we Jews do, apparently, with regularity.

Are we to believe all this was over the ineffectual, largely symbolic rocket fire?  And what of 2009?  And 2012?   The pattern suggests otherwise—no matter how much Israel “explains” each of its attacks as “responsive” to this or that, the strategic agenda remains consistent since 1967: the ghettoizing of Gaza and its unruly residents, while the West Bank is slowly digested.  It enforces and continues the dispossession from the founding of the state, and cannot be viewed in isolation or out of context.

It’s fashionable in the West to ask why the Palestinians don’t just stay down on the canvas, and save themselves a beating—polite discourse shakes its head at the sight of a fighter who doesn’t know when he’s lost, and tactfully looks away.  Yet Israel’s periodic poundings confirm that they are not beaten—the very fact of continued resistance is an affront to Israel’s totalitarian control, and the Gazans fight back anyway they can, out-gunned and bloodied.

The disproportionality of the destruction visited on Gaza—which some estimate may take ten years and many billions of dollars to repair—signals a new moral low for Israel in its biennial bloodletting.   This was about much more than rockets— it says, through the lesson of brute force, the ghetto will be pacified.   Sound familiar?   Israel’s military campaign against a mostly defenseless, urbanized population is a continuation of removal by other means.  Its total war on the material facts of Palestinian life—physical, civil, generational—is meant to reduce any hope of statehood likewise to rubble.  The message to the world is, “watch what we Jews do.”

But what do the Palestinians want, in practical terms?  The answer is easy: they want what other people want—to live free, with self-determination, and respect.   As a 21 year old college student in Gaza—who has just survived her third bombardment and invasion, losing her home—tells me, “I’m not Fatah or Hamas, but I support the resistance, because at least we have our dignity.”

First and foremost, the Palestinians want an immediate end to the blockade of Gaza: no more closed borders by Egypt and Israel; no more denial of the land, sea and air.  Gaza shall have an airport, a seaport and land crossings; the West Bank will have freedom of movement and open crossings with Jordan.  The Palestinians will compete in the global marketplace.  This fundamental right is not subject to negotiation. Israel may have her reasonable assurances about what constitutes free traffic and trade, but the blockade must end.  Hamas has recently agreed to the Palestinian Authority’s sole control of crossings—and Israel will, one day, sit down and work this out with PA representatives who are from the resistance group.  Why pretend otherwise?

There will be no disarmament of the Palestinians—they have a right to maintain self-defense forces like any other people.  When every two years, your neighbor kills some 2,000 of your citizens, why on earth would you agree to disarmament?  Instead of insisting on the impractical, perhaps Israel should focus on fostering an environment in which the gun is no longer reached for, but one in which justice replaces conflict.

The settlements must be removed, under terms and conditions to be negotiated in the future.   Every acre, every dunam, every olive tree alienated by housing code, administrative law, military occupation—whatever elegant ruse Israel chooses to cloak its thievery—must end today.  Settlements are illegal.  Israel’s leaders made this monster—let them dismantle it.  Ultimately, there is no other way to peace.

Finally, Israel should accept a long-term hudna, or cease-fire, if the resistance groups offer it—ten years of a “time out” might permit the breathing room needed for a new generation of Israelis to push aside her obdurate, reactionary leadership, clear the ideological dead-wood, and let light in on a dark land; while likewise permitting a new generation of Palestinian leaders to determine perhaps not what it wants, but what it needs. Should Israel end the blockade, commit to self-determination for the Palestinians, and non-interference in their affairs, a decade without violence could be secured for both sides.  No one can guarantee an end to all inter-communal violence—be it a Baruch Goldstein, or a West Bank teenager bent on vengeance.  But the institutionalization of violence—Israel’s policy objective of “mowing the lawn,” for example—must end.    Hamas has guaranteed other lengthy periods of relative stability, during which violence was all but eliminated, and it can do so again, provided Israel has the courage to recognize fundamental Palestinian rights.   As another Baruch—the Jewish philosopher Spinoza—once famously wrote, “There can be no hope without fear.”

It would appear to almost all observers that the two-state solution has one foot in the grave. Only the complete removal of the IDF and all settlers from the West Bank might revive it.  Anything short of that points the way toward a single state—maybe not next year, but someday. Extremist ideology, colonial ambition and outright racism is ascendant in Israel, at the precise moment when realism needs to prevail.  “Fortress Israel” cannot survive in a permanent combat stance, against its neighbors and brethren, the Palestinians.

It is true that the long-term hudna would leave key issues unresolved.  It is not meant to address final borders, the right of return, or other core disputes.  A hudna is not meant to tackle “recognition” or compel a change in Hamas’ charter.  Yet it makes a necessary first step towards détente—to use an old word from the Cold War: another seemingly intractable conflict between two enemies vowing mutual destruction which, in the end, turned out to be unrealistic.

It’s time for the US to stop fuelling the conflict in Israel and Gaza

  Posted on 16 September 2014 by Sunjeev Bery, Advocacy Director, Middle East North Africa, Amnesty International – USA As the UN General Assembly begins its meeting today in New York City, Amnesty International is delivering 187,563 signatures to the … Continue reading