Tuesday, 1 February 2011

the middle east edition

well, i've had a nice quiet weekend, doing not much at all. i really needed it after the hectic 2 weeks that had gone before, and a busy week again this week. i'm not much in the mood for writing today either, so thought i'd put in some links to events happening in the middle east.

first this one from gwynne dyer on the palestinian papers:

What the leaked documents show is that the Palestinian negotiators were willing to make huge concessions on territory and other issues in return for Israeli recognition of an independent Palestinian state. They were well-meaning people playing a very bad hand as best they could, but the publication of these documents will destroy them politically.

The spirit in which they approached the talks is exemplified in the first document in the trove, a memo on Palestinian negotiating strategy dated September 1999. It urges the negotiators to heed the advice of the Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find that you get what you need.”

According to the documents, in the past three years the Palestinians have offered to accept all of Israel’s illegal settlements around Jerusalem except one (Har Homa) as permanent parts of the Jewish state. Israel annexed all of East Jerusalem after it conquered it in the 1967 war, but international law forbids that and no other country sees the annexation as legal.

The negotiators also offered to restrict the “right of return” of the millions of Palestinians descended from those who were driven from their homes in what is now Israel in 1948 to a mere 100,000 returnees over 10 years. They even offered to put the most sacred site in Jerusalem, the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, under the control of a joint committee. (It is currently administered by an Islamic foundation.)

Even these concessions were not enough to persuade the Israelis to accept a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders of the West Bank (including those parts of East Jerusalem still inhabited by Palestinians) and the Gaza Strip. They were enough, however, to make the negotiators reviled in almost every Palestinian home if they were ever revealed—and now they have been.

scoop has extensive links to revelations from the released papers: here are the links from day 1, day 2, day 3 & day 4. i haven't had the time to go through these myself, but given that there are 16,000 papers, there is a wealth of information. at the least, these papers put paid to the claim that palestinians haven't been prepared to fully commit to a peaceful solution. the negotiators were willing to move on the most fundamental issues, but of course it was never enough.

mr dyer is right that the release of these papers will result in very negative outcomes for the palestinian authority. more than that, it will be the palestinian people that suffer now that the "peace process" has been revealed for the sham that it was. a solution that provides justice now seems further away than ever. there is more here, here, and here.

the release of the papers has been overshadowed by news about regime change in tunisia and continuing protests in egypt. i've watched some of the al-jazeera coverage from the live-streaming on their website. i don't have anything insightful to offer that hasn't been said anywhere else. i've just been watching in hope that there will be meaningful change in these countries that spreads across the middle east.

the protest have at their base issues of social justice - employment, better distribution of wealth, stamping out of corruption. these are difficult issues to solve in the current global environment, particularly when the economic problems are a result of factors outside of these countries. i'll be happy to see the current ruling elites in the middle east taken down, but the real culprits are those who created the financial crisis, who continue to receive their millions of dollars in bonuses and who have escaped any kind of accountability.

my real hope is that the wave of protests are successful in egypt, spread across other middle eastern countries, and then empower the peoples in the western world to demand the kind of accountability and reform that will bring about the global change that is required for a global solution to economic and social inequity. well, dreams are free aren't they.

finally, i wanted to link to these photographs of egyptian women protesters on my own blog as well. one of my greatest fears of regime change is that the new regime will try to restrict opportunities for these women. that would be an incredible tragedy when they have shown so much courage and put their own lives in danger to fight for a better country. i pray that things work out well for them, and for all the people in most troubled region of the world.

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