Life is Belief & Struggle - Ahmed Shawqi

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Costs of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict or how Sara Netanyahu's household recycling fund can bring improvements to the Israeli GNP

The Rand Corporation recently released a report called The Costs of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

It has been making the rounds from Forward to the Jewish Press. I decided to take a quick read, and got half way through it and was struck by air of ‘lost in wonderland’ which haunts the writers of this report for most of its 273 pages. The question of ‘how much, who pays, and for how long’; is never fully addressed in the study.  It touts ‘end financial benefits’ to both the Israeli and Palestinian communities if a two-state solution is established while ignoring the one timeless fact of state sovereignty; nothing is free.

In 2005, the Rand Group released a study on the viability of a Palestinian State and estimated that the International community would need to invest over $33 billion USD over 10 years before a Palestinian State could potentially be a viable, rather than, just another failed mid-east state.  Who knows, what the price tag would bottom-line costs would be ten years later? 
When the 2005 study was released, the Gaza Strip was not Hamastan  nor had infrastructure had  been ravaged by three military engagements with the IDf.  Relations with the Egyptians had not  deteriorated to their current state with no signs of rapprochement in sight. Who pays, and how much is never fully explored. Maybe we can make the Greeks pay!

The recent Rand study makes a number or erroneous assumptions which bear little resemblance to the current facts on the ground. Such as, the Rand Report presumes there will be a full reconciliation between West Bank and Hamas leadership.  Currently, there has been a seven year separation with no true reconciliation for the foreseeable future. Just as recently as last summer, West Bank Palestinian dictator, Mahmoud Abbas, had to circumvent an attempt against his rule by Hamas members.  Nor is there any accounting for the greater infrastructure spending needed to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip from its current dilapidated state. 

This airy-fairy magical reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah is vital for the Rand report’s most positive scenarios; two-statement peace agreement solution, a coordinated or unilateral withdrawal by the Israelis. In all Rand’s ‘best-case’ scenarios the report assumes that there will be magical territory congruity between the West Bank and Hamastan with no thought given to the practicalities of ‘how this is to be achieved’. I am sure, Fatah would really like to know.

The search and development for natural gas outside of the Gaza Strip, and the development of a deep sea port is absolutely vital and necessary to making Palestinian state viable, without this, the Palestinian state will be just another failed mid-East state in the community of nations. 

The Rand report does not, for even a moment, entertain the possibility, in the event of a unilateral uncoordinated withdrawal from the West Bank that the Israelis may chose not to carry on economic trade with their Palestinian neighbors. It would not be the first experience Israelis have had with undesirable neighbors... Even with a ‘peace’ agreement duly signed by all parties does not mean Israelis would chose to participate with closer ties, either economic or social with their neighbors. The Israelis will continue to thrive in the event of a divorce, but the Palestinian economy would collapse. And the Rand rolls the dice heavily on a complete reconciliation rather a divorce absolute.  

Another presumption of the Rand report is that the Allenby- King Hussein  border bridge between Jordan and the West Bank will be under full Palestinian control, which given the history of PLO in Jordan, I would suggest runs completely contrary to Jordanian security needs – or even taking into account the recent ‘coldness’ that has entered into Jordanian-Palestinian relationship. 

 And let’s talk about the settlements. The Rand report suggests anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 Israeli-Jews would have to be evicted from their homes and relocated. It suggests the International community, in the interests of peace, should pick up at least 75% of the tab for evicting Israeli Jews from their homes.

The report never mentions the ‘actual’ cost or what that figure would look like but there is baseline to start.  The estimates for the disengagement from the Gaza Strip were around US$2 Billion for just under 9,000 Jews. So if we do the math, and take the lowest baseline figures for eviction that makes around 60,000 Jews, and it will cost approximately US$34 Billion. According to the Rand formula, the international community should be on the hook for approximately 75% to the tune of around US$25.5 Billion. Where the Israelis are going to up with an extra US$8.5 Billion is beyond my ability to project. Who knows, maybe Rand is counting on hitting up Sara Netanyahu's household fund for recycling of plastics and bottles for the Israeli contribution. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Jew and a Democrat

 At the Jerusalem Post Annual conference in New York City, US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew got heckled, boo’d, and in a less civilized era and place, he might have run the risk of being tarred, feathered and  run-off the stage.  

The Jerusalem Post carried an editorial moaning the less than positive reception Lew met in the audience and attempted to build a case for by listing Lew’s record as a tireless advocate for Israelis in his long public service career, but seriously, when you come before Kol Yisrael, as the Court Jew for one of the mostly openly anti-Israeli American Administrations; what do you expect would happen? 

 Unfortunately some are unable to distinguish between a close friend of Israel and the temporary impasse over the Iran issue. The animosity and anger directed toward Lew by a minority of the conference audience reflected not only the passion raised by the issue, but the blindness and misguided hatred that rigid ideology can bring to the table.

To trivialize and characterize the division between Kol Yisrael and the Obama White house as just a difference of opinion regarding the handling of the Iranian Nuclear program is to deny reality. The last six years of Obama Administration has been one of the most openly hostile US Administrations in the history of American relations to Israel.  

The real issue facing the American Diaspora, is that there will soon come a time, when they will forced to choose between being a Jew or a Democrat. And when that day comes, it will have nothing to do with the Republicans or the Palestinians. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

About that bump in the road on the way to Damacus

The Times of Israel carried an article written by a Christian Gay Palestinian who claims to come from one of the more prominent Hamas families in the West Bank. He calls himself John Calvin now and has been studying at a bible college in Alberta. He wants to stay in Canada, but the government has ruled he is inadmissible.

What I think is rather fascinating about John Calvin's is not his 'personal narrative. After all Son of Hamas has been rather well publicized and Calvin's narrative mirrors Mosab Yousef's remarkably so. What fascinates me is his conversion to Christianity. In his own words.
From as early as I can remember, I was taught that Islam was the one true faith, that violence was the only answer, and that the Jews were our enemies. These were facts, as real and obvious as the fact that the sky is blue. These were “facts” and deep down I wasn’t sure if I believed them.

I know that lots of people lose their faith and change their minds when and where they least expect it. In Christianity, we talk about “the road to Damascus,” referencing Saul’s conversion in a part of the world that for much of my life was almost on my doorstep. My moment arrived in an Israeli jail, after I was arrested for illegally crossing the border, escaping from yet another argument with my family and the violence of my father. I was looking for answers to questions when and where I least expected them.

It was in an Israeli jail where the doubts I had about everything I had ever been taught were finally silenced. Another man, a Palestinian man, hurt me in a way I could never have imagined, in a way that just isn’t talked about in our society. If that was unexpected, that was nothing compared to what came next. The Israelis who worked in the prison – “the Jews” – looked after me and took care of me, making sure the story never got out to those who would use it against me. The Palestinians I had been taught to die for had hurt and abandoned me while the Israelis I had been taught to kill acted with compassion and helped me heal.

Shortly after this I began my journey of conversion, opening my eyes and heart to a religion that denounced violence and hatred.
This is the first time I read this, I showed it to a number of my work collegues and asked if they didn't notice something extraordinary about his conversion. They did not get what I thought was obviously outrageous and bizarre but their were Christians, and its a 'feel good' story about 'Christians'. None of the commenters at The Times of Israel have brought it up in the comments either, but then again, more than half were written by Christians who were having issues with the 'gay' part of his Christian narrative and could see little beyond that. 

Why I find his 'conversion' so bizarre is that it came about because Israelis - Jews treated him with compassion and empathy, so consequently, he decided to become a Christian. What's next? If a Muslim treats a Jew kindly, the Jew becomes a Hindu? This doesn't make any psychological sense, and it has to be the first public conversion to Christianity, which on the surface, came about because of acts of chesed performed by Jews.  And to honour the Christians, he takes the name of a man who was no friend to the Jews of his time.

I suspect, if this Son of Hamas (2) narrative wins a reprieve from deportation from Canada, it will become an increasingly common narrative heard in immigration hearings throughout the West.

Tallit Tales

Yair Lapid, leader of the Israeli party, Yesh Atid, came to a New York Conservative synagogue to give a speech. All of which isn't that remarkable or even unusual. Israelis, whether- religious, political, academics, come all the  time to synagogues in North America to give speeches.I have sat through many of these speeches.

What got me was the picture of Lapid  in the synagogue - I mean, really who wears a tallit like this?

I have never seen anyone wear a tallit like this.  I have been in Orthodox, Charedim, Yemenite, Perian and Conservative shuls, and no one, not even even the few women in Conservative shul who do wear a tallit would wear it like Lapid does.

I am tempted to say he must have thought he was talking to Reform Jews, except I am not even sure they put on tallit...but if they do, do they really wear it like this?

Monday, June 1, 2015

How Bruce Jenner taught my daughter to accept her hebrew name.

I owe Bruce Jenner.

My daughter has always hated her hebrew name and favoured her 'Angleet' name.  As of today, she will now only be known as Tzipporah or Tzippy for short.

 Todah Bruce, I mean Caitlyn.