At Palestine Note, Joshka Wessels writes:
“Fahmi Manasra walks to the spring he remembers from his childhood. He was a young boy when he moved from Dheisheh refugee camp to the paradise of Wadi Fukin some 30 years ago. At the time, he felt like he was in heaven. He had wished to share this same feeling with his children but the spring is empty. Today, the spring and its reservoir are completely dried up. Nothing is left of the spring. Fahmi’s paradise is lost. The cause ? Construction of an expanding illegal Israeli settlement that is taking up land, drying up the springs and contaminating the soil.”
“During the years after the second intifada, it became clear that the increased settlement construction was severely damaging the environment. This alarmed both the Palestinian farmers and Israeli activists to take action. The environmental NGO “Friends of the Earth Middle East”, a unique organization with offices in Tel Aviv, Bethlehem and Amman, helped out with scientific research. The studies showed the large scale environmental impact by settlement activities.
A big shock came when people from Tsur Hadassah and Wadi Fukin were presented with the proposed plans for the Israeli separation wall. The building plans proposed a route that will cut the valley in two parts and destroy the environment even further. The village will become a prison, encircled by the wall and the settlement of Bitar Illit.
Alarmed by the developments, the Israeli activists and Palestinian farmers filed a case at the Israeli courts. They approached Israeli human rights lawyer, Michael Sfard, who also represents the Rachel Corrie case. Based on environmental grounds, they argued that the wall should not be build and settlement activity should stop. The process was lengthy. It included a petition in Tsur Hadassah and many rejections of the case. The group did not give up and went to the High Court and finally last year managed to get some positive verdict. The building of the Wall has now been frozen based on environmental grounds. How long this freeze will last is unclear. But the fact that they were successful in stopping the Wall gives some little hope.”
Read it all.
Eco Peace in the Middle East – an event
Thursday 24 March 2011
7pm- Reception; 7:30pm- Lecture and Discussion
The Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London, W1G 0AE
Fee: £7 in advance (book here)/ £10 on the door
Environment has no borders. The rain falls on Jerusalem, Amman and Ramalla; the desert expands northwards in Israel, Palestine and Jordan and the impacts of climate change will be felt by all people in the region.
The responsibility for cultivating the already fragile ecosystem in the Middle East lies with all the people who inhabit the region. The Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian co-Directors of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) will share with us their unique partnership and set out the environmental challenges the region faces.
EcoPeace / FoEME is a unique organisation that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists since 1994. Its primary objective is the promotion of cooperative efforts to protect the shared environmental heritage across the region of the Middle East. In so doing, it seeks to advance both sustainable regional development and bring about the creation of necessary conditions for a lasting peace in the region.
New Israel Fund has helped support FoEME’s efforts to rehabilitate the lower Jordan River system, which has had its annual flow reduced by about 90% and lost its rich and diverse ecosystems. With New Israel Fund help, FoEME launched a campaign to raise awareness of the situation, and has prepared a Strategic Action Plan targeting Israeli decision makers who can implement the necessary changes.
See you there.
Good Water Neighbours and a Model Water Agreement – see FoEME’s May 09 newsletter.
Gershon Baskin is a former parliamentary candidate for the Israel Green Movement / Meimad and co-director and founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI). He recently revealed that he had been involved in back-channel negotiations with Hamas before Kadima opted for an Israeli incursion into Gaza. He persistently puts up political alternatives to military activity.
In this Open Democracy piece he makes the case for the Arab peace initiative, for which he is a strong advocate, and explains the intensely security-minded world view which is preventing ordinary Israelis from engaging with it.
“Since the initiative has been widely overlooked by Israeli politicians it is certainly worthwhile pointing out its primary advantages and reasons why Israel should accept it quickly before it is no longer relevant. The Arab Peace Initiative was accepted unanimously by all of the member states of the Arab League in March 2002. On the day that it was presented thirty people were killed and 140 injured – 20 seriously – in a suicide bombing in the Park Hotel in the coastal city of Netanya, in the midst of a Passover holiday seder with 250 guests. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. This attack was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back that led to the ‘Defensive Shield’ Israeli offensive leading in turn to the full re-occupation of the West Bank and the placing of Palestinian President Arafat under siege in the muqata’ in Ramallah. The Israeli mindset, at that time when suicide bombing were a daily event and under the leadership of Prime Minister Sharon was hardly in any mood to consider an Arab peace initiative.
But the initiative was once again unanimously ratified at the meeting of the League of Arab States in Khartoum in May 2006 and again in 2007 in Riyadh.”
This piece is good at articulating the circumstances but is as challenged by the task of “bridging this gap in consciousness” as the peace camp is in general. From the middle of the piece:
“This [Arab peace initiative] is almost too good to be true and had it been presented 20 years ago, it might have been received much more positively in Israel. But today, there is no peace camp in Israel anymore. Israeli society has lost its faith in peace. Israelis no longer dream of getting into their car and having humus for lunch in Damascus. Israelis do not want to visit Cairo or Amman and do not particularly care if Jordanians or Egyptians come to visit Israel. If President Mubarak and King Abdallah II don’t want to come to Jerusalem, so be it. Israelis no longer believe that giving up territory will bring peace. The general Israeli interpretation of the ‘territory for peace’ scheme is that we withdrew from areas in the West Bank and created the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat which then attacked us with weapons that we provided for them. In Gaza, which Israel left entirely – withdrawing both settlements and military, we got qassam rockets in exchange. Whether this reflects what really happened and why is not relevant. This is the way that the overwhelming majority of Israelis understand that reality. So, in this context, the Arab Peace Initiative is not particularly attractive.”
How to go about building a sense of hope and commitment to pursuing a peaceful solution in a population which perceives existential danger? Put up a different narrative of opportunity and hope.
Read Gershon Baskin’s piece.
A substantial piece in the Jerusalem Post by Michael Green who blogs at Green Prophet (and incidentally grew up down the road from where I now live).
“His motives for leaving are explicitly political: “We have to make peace with the Palestinians and to do that we have to leave. I understand that our place isn’t here.”
Raz and others want their homes in the West Bank to be handed over to the Palestinian Authority in the framework of a peace agreement, but aren’t prepared to rely on a peace process which has yielded meager results in the last 15 years. “We’re already living in two states, the State of Israel and a dictatorial state in the territories,” he says.
Izzy echoes a similar view: “I feel like I’m in the state of Palestine when I travel to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. It’s not nice for me to say that.”
“You won’t find a place like this in Tel Aviv or Kfar Saba,” Raz says proudly of his seven-room house, which originally cost him $130,000.
“It’s the greatest place on Earth. I live on top of a mountain and see goats each day,” says Roi Raz. “But I want to leave because it could be the solution to this conflict; it’s a bone stuck in our throats.”
Read the whole thing.
This is a few days old now, but it is worth knowing. Gershon Baskin is the CEO of the Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information a candidate for the Israel Green Movement-Meimad party. On the eve of the Israeli elections he revealed that he had been involved with secret government-approved back-channel talks, to which Hamas eventually consented two weeks before the war, about renewing the ceasefire.
His is a voice for political negotiation rather than military action – and a Green Movement voice.
Anxiety about the environment cuts across all local and national conflict, and environmentalists in the Middle East understand that it is simply not possible to isolate each other. Such a sense of a shared existence is the bedrock of a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
At the Arava Institute of Environmental Studies in Israel’s Negev Desert, Palestinian, Israeli, Jordanian and American Environmental Studies students consider coexistence and ask “Where do we go from here“? These students give some of the most powerful arguments for peace that I have read in a while.
“The recent violence in Gaza and southern Israel has weighed heavily on the students here – possibly the only place in Israel where Palestinian and Israeli students continue to look each other in the eye day-to-day and ponder their common present and future. Needless to say, their studies, as in the rest of Israel and Palestine, have been disrupted directly and indirectly by tragic current events. But here, uniquely, we are trying to use the event to strengthen our collective vision, rather than further divide.
Within the context of our pre-scheduled lecture on regional environmental policy (with guest lecturer, Green Movement-Meimad candidate Dr. Shmuel Brenner), I asked the students three questions regarding their vision of the future for the region, and how we we get from where we are now to where we want to be.”
Read the whole thing on Greener Israel, the unofficial blog of Israel’s new political party, the Israel Green Movement – Meimad.