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The Nowhere State

Richard Falk, recently retired as the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the mess in Israel-Palestine (latter not part of his title!), has written a summing up of recent efforts. Will not fit with everyone's views, but worth a read just to inform ourselves. "Why the Peace Talks Failed--And Should Not be Resumed."

He is also retired from Princeton, University of California, etc. Was Professor of International Law. A Wikepedia Bio.

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Here is one reason why "peace talks" with Hamas (among others) will never go anywhere. 

The Charter of Allah: The Platform of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas)

“In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate You are the best community that has been raised up for mankind. Ye enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency; and ye believe in Allah. And if the People of the Scripture had believed, it had been better for them. Some of them are believers; but most of them are evil-doers. [italics and bold added by me] They will not harm you save a trifling hurt, and if they fight against you they will turn and flee. And afterward they will not be helped. Ignominy shall be their portion wheresoever they are found save [where they grasp] a rope from Allah and a rope from man. They have incurred anger from their Lord, and wretchedness is laid upon them. That is because they used to disbelieve the revelations of Allah, and slew the Prophets wrongfully. That is because they were rebellious and used to transgress.” Surat Al-Imran (III), verses 109-111 Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors. The Islamic World is burning. It is incumbent upon each one of us to pour some water, little as it may be, with a view of extinguishing as much of the fire as he can, without awaiting action by the others.


Perhaps if Hamas were to retool it's platform to something more conducive to peace.  Just a thought.

Why do you think a retooling would be conducive? Hamas has agreed to accept the PA's position recognizing Israel in their new joint venture. Netanyahu is against the new venture between the two. Before that, we saw their separate entities as an impediment to peace. There is no pleasing Netanyahu.

Whatever barriers you see to peace making, Bob, you could a least concede that the Netanyahu government is at least as much opposed as you seem to think Hamas is.

We can rehearse our personal views of the situation till the cows come home, and evermore go out the same door whence in we came.  Perhaps responses to Falk's post - if not leading to breakthroughs in world peace - would at least help us understand the actual conditions.  I daresay he has a much more complete picture of the situiation there than does any of us, so listening to him seems worthwhile.   One may differ profoundly with Professor Falk, but anyone who has met him recognizes that he thirsts for peace and justice as deeply as any peson alive.  

That a bright and worldy man who has dedicated his professional llfe to the notion that people can and should converse about their views of he world as a productive route toward peace thinks that the negotiations should cease is very discouraging, even frightening conclusion. 

How do we respond to Falk?

Mark L.


We begin to organize and mobilize around boycotts; around raising the issues of apartheid in current Israeli policies. we being to confront the bias and compromises that exist between most in Congress and the IAPAC.

Both parties have to be called on the current bias toward Israel that is partially paid for by hefty campaign donations from American Jewish associations. 

BUT - more and more, these issues are finally being aired on national news - that needs to continue and expand. 

Facts - Hamas has and was a terroist organization (per certain governments, etc.)  Why this is complex are the other facts - any objective history of the 1940's - 80s would show that every side has committed terroism (in fact, some Israeli prime ministers were notorious leaders of terroist organizations).  Why is it  that only Palestinians or Arabs or Muslims continue to be marked by this history and Israel is given a pass?

Catholic universties could play a role in raising the bar and giving this type of conversation a significant boost - that also goes for the USCCB.  Recently, the president of Loyola Chicago manipulated the news and overruled a decision by the student president...the news on this was actually incorrect.......and it was a complex issue because Loyola has an interest in keeping and maintaining certain large donor parties happy - and, like most in the US after decades, they have a biased view of this whole situation and thus pressure leaders to maintain the status quo.

Actually, the US since 1948 have had a history on both sides - unfortunately, the brief pushback by Eisenhower in 1956 was negated by subsequent presidents who swung ever more to the Israeli side (without any type of honest or objective discussion).
Can remember when I was in 7-8th grade - Kennedy commissioned a White Paper on Vietnam - something similar needs to be done now in the US.


All good points, Bill. The complexity introduced by the other facts you name is essential to understanding why the status quo is unjust. I am encouraged by even small signs that the younger generation is not swallowing this story whole. Nevertheless, there is still a tremendous bias in American public life toward the Israeli government's version of the truth in the middle east. Academic institutions have caved in shamefully to pressure to suppress any speakers who might contradict Israel's narrative, in which they are of course blameless. Not to mention politicians, who fall all over themselves to see who can pander most to AIPAC. The recent exclusion of J-Street from AIPAC was a sad testimony to the strength of that (false) narrative as a litmus test. 

Since Hamas' official and publicly stated judgement about Jews is that "...most of them are evil-doers.", it is difficult to see how any agreement Hamas them would be worth an empty milk carton.  Until and unless Hamas and other muslim groups revise their beliefs about Jews (and Christians as well), they are simply not to be trusted.  This is not rocket science.

Hey, Bob - you hear the same type of remarks from the other side - it is the old and outdated blame game and, of course, Israel is the Golden City on the Hill.  You ought to read the history of South Africa - the same tatics and language were used by the Rhodesians to justify their apartheid and blame, even hunt down, the ANC.

Would suggest that you drill down and study the real issues - go meet the people; do a walking tour of the Gaza Strip.  Without some type of power balance, there will never be dialogue.  Your comment is a non-starter, reveals only biases, and continues a thread based upon either fear or ignorance.


The sentence I quoted from the Hamas platform was not a "remark", it was part of a formal philosophical/political statement of purpose.  It is meant as a declaration of what Hamas members are expected to adopt as their own, if they have not already, as a basis for dealing with Jews.  It is not presented as a subject of debate or discussion, but as a position from which Hamas members should conduct operations, including political operations, with Jews in order to gain power.

Bob - so what?   And the US has supported Israel with somewhere in the neighborhood of 30+ UN Security Council vetoes in order to allow Israel to not have to comply with universally accepted and confirmed measures towards peace.

What if someone put all of those on a list - these are *part of a formal philosophical/political statement of purpose*.  It is meant as a declaration of what Israel expects and has been doing.  It is the basis for dealing with not only Palestinians but the Arab nations and the world. These actual votes are not presented as a subject of debate or discussion (thus, US vetoes), *but as a postion from which Israel conducts operations, including political operations, with others in order to continue their power*.

As, I said, your statement means absolutely nothing.

Read Richard Falk's essay.  Couldn't agree more.

Face it, the geopolitics of the situation demands that the current situation of the Israeli apartheid regime will continue indefinitely.  At least until there is a majority in Israel that will install a government with a mandate to achieve a just peace for all parties.  That's not going to happen in the short term.

The only thing that could challenge that political equation which now dominates the region is for the US to disentangle itself from the web of assurances and alliances that  require the US to support the state of Israel militarily and economically no matter how repugnant Israeli policy.  Not going to happen for a whole host of political and security realities for the US, both because of internal politics and for global strategic interests.

The Palestinians' only hope to regain their national integrity is to adopt the tactics of the ANC in its decades long struggle against South African apartheid.  If Nelson Mandela could wait out the racists of his day and time on Robben Island, then so could equally noble and revolutionary leaders in the West Bank and Gaza.

I wish the world didn't work that way.  But this is the reality that we all have given consent.


So be it.

Jim Jenkins:

Seeing as how you characterize Israel as an "apartheid" state, exactly the same as how South Africa was, I am trying to understand reconciling that charcterization with Israel being the only functioning democracy (Iraq and Afghanistan are crumbling) in the region.  In Israel, non Jews and Christians have the same voting rights as Jews; and when you look at the savage behavior of the other nations in the near east, I can fully understand Israel's reluctance to get drawn into any kind of political entanglement, unless there are some iron-clad stipulations.  We certainly don't want replays of the school girl kidnapping and village burning going on in the near east.

@ Bob Schwartz:  Apartheid South Africa was also a democracy of sorts, I suppose, but just for the Afrikaners and other whites.

I would suggest that you travel to Gaza for your next vacation.  Let us know if the [savagery] you see is only committed by "other nations in the near east"?

Sadly, Israel can build walls, fences and anti-missle systems so high that they pierce the clouds, but that will not make them any safer.

Peace and reconciliation is the only answer. 

Bob Schwartz,

Voting rights? Depends on who is counted. 

7,659,000 people living in Israeli territory have voting rights, while 2,128,115 people have no voting rights. Altogether, one in every 4.5 people is denied political representation; this one person is almost always Palestinian. If Gaza is included, the number of unrepresented climbs to 3,820,372, or roughly one in every three people.

Meanwhile violence of Israeli Jewish fanatics against Christians and Arabs is on the rise within Israel:

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is concerned for their flock: "We feel neither safe nor protected."


Is it just me or is dotCommonweal avoiding a blog discussion about last Sunday's Nicholas Kristof's, Maureen Dowd's, and Frank Bruni's brillant op-eds?

I've given up reading the three of them--all utterly predictable. If you want a blog discussion, I'll post what you have to say...and not respond until there are 100 comments! How's that for a deal?

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