Thursday, June 24, 2010

J. Weiner, A. Sharon & M. Morrison, Peacekeepers: Will They Advance Any Prospective Arab-Israeli Peace Agreement?

I . I n t r o d u c t i o n

The establishment of a peacekeeping force is widely accepted to be an essential part of any future Israeli-Palestinian peace. The final-status settlement proposed by the Clinton administration specified “security arrangements that would be built around an international presence.” In discussing the issue of security, American diplomat Dennis Ross, who was one of the American negotiators of the 1995 Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the 1997 Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron, and who served as President Clinton’s Middle East coordinator, has written: “The key lies in an international presence that can only be withdrawn by the agreement of both sides.”

Among the most prominent nongovernmental initiatives recommending the inclusion of peacekeeping forces are the “Geneva Accord” and the Bipartisan Statement on U.S. Middle East Peacemaking, entitled “A Last Chance for a Two-State Israel-Palestine Agreement,” drafted and signed by ten former senior U.S. government officials and presented to the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama (the “Bipartisan Statement”).

Although the need for a peacekeeping force appears to enjoy broad support, it should be noted that the “Road Map”5 proposed by the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations (together “the Quartet”) in 2003 does not suggest the inclusion of peacekeeping forces, although it does envisage a monitoring mechanism for its interim phases. Similarly, the 2002 “Arab Peace Initiative” does not include any mention of peacekeeping forces. Tellingly, however, former U.S. National Security Advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, both of whom were among the authors of the Bipartisan Statement, have pointed out the need for supplementing the initiative with a multinational peacekeeping force.
It is against this background that the authors set out to examine, from an Israeli perspective, the feasibility of establishing a form of multinational peacekeeping force as part of a future Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

For entire article click here

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A modest proposal for solving the kosher slaughter problem

One morning, when I was a child suffering from one or another of those children’s illnesses, our family doctor stopped by to see how I was faring before he left for a brief vacation. “Where are you going,” my mother asked. “Hunting,” the doctor replied. And in that lack of politically correct tact so typical of youth, I blurted out: “Jews don’t hunt!”

I was reminded of that recently, when I read of the decision of the New Zealand government to ban kosher slaughter – shehita – under the Animal Welfare Commercial Slaughter Code. I wondered if we, as Jews, should not be more understanding of New Zealand’s sincere desire to address the issue of cruelty to animals. The requirements of kosher slaughter are intended to minimize suffering. If stunning or some other method might reduce suffering even by a minute amount, should we not try to find ways to address that positively?

Clearly, New Zealand’s motives are pure. New Zealand is not Switzerland, where the hypocritical ban on shehita was prompted by historic anti-Semitism. Indeed, around the time the Swiss first set about outlawing kosher meat, they also began the process of creating forty-one federal hunting reserves so the compassionate Swiss could kill animals for sport.

But we are not concerned with the Swiss, but rather with New Zealand, which has admirably followed in the concerned footsteps of Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Spain.

Well, actually Spain should not be in the list at all. Spain only prohibits shehita of cattle. It would seem that Spanish sensibilities require that you first stun cattle before slaughter, unless you wish to torture the beasts in the corrida de toros.

As for Iceland, well, the Icelandic Hunting Club will be glad to help you hunt reindeer and seal, and boasts that its clients have achieved 100% success. Maybe Iceland isn’t a good example of a shehita ban that is not hypocritical. Maybe not Norway, either. In addition to offering the opportunity to hunt such big game as moose and reindeer, Norway offers the thrill of watching dogs chase deer to exhaustion.

I GUESS this leaves Sweden. Now, according to the official website, Sweden views hunting as “a wise, long-term use of renewable natural resources.”

Sweden recommends that people who wish to shoot moose first visit a moose-hunting training range. To ensure that a maimed animal does not suffer unnecessarily from a poorly placed shot, hunters of hoofed animals are required to have a trained tracker dog available on two-hour notice. After all, we wouldn’t want a wounded moose to suffer more than a few hours before it is dispatched by a conservation-minded hunter.

It would seem then that New Zealand stands alone in its sincere desire to prevent cruelty to animals by banning kosher slaughter. At least so one might suspect until one Googles “hunting New Zealand” and discovers “the ultimate New Zealand red stag trophy hunting experience.”

New Zealand Fish and Game describes game bird hunting as “one of the great social recreational sports where rewarding friendships are made and maintained for many years.” New Zealand sells hunting licences to adults over 18, to juniors between the ages of 12 and 18, and even offers hunting licenses for children under 12. It would seem that for the squeamish New Zealanders, kosher slaughter of chickens and cattle for food is more morally repugnant than taking children out for a day of fun and camaraderie, shooting animals with a bow and arrow so that they can hang antlers over their beds.

In looking at the laws and policies of the countries that ban kosher slaughter, one gets the feeling that there must be one of two underlying motivations: either anti-Semitism or a desire to regulate hunting and collect hunting license fees.

I am sure that all would loudly deny any anti-Semitic motive, even despite historical evidence to the contrary. That, of course, leaves only the desire to regulate hunting. And so I would like to suggest a proposal for solving the kosher slaughter problem.

I would recommend that Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Iceland and Norway recognize kosher slaughter as “Jewish ritual hunting.”

Spain can simply refer to kosher slaughterers as matadors.

By so doing, shehita will become an integral part of the sporting culture of each nation. It will contribute to the wise, long-term use of renewable natural resources and encourage camaraderie. Compassionately slaughtered kosher meat will become as socially acceptable as the venison cut from hunted deer, decorative antlers or the meat of bulls ritually tortured in the ring.

If this modest proposal will not mitigate suffering, at least it may serve to lessen hypocrisy.

Avinoam Sharon

The Jerusaelm Post 16 June 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Block Aid?

Strident demands to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza have been met with forceful arguments that lifting the blockade will endanger Israeli security. Both sides appear to assume that the end of Israel’s naval blockade will open the seaways and permit the free passage of goods to Gaza. While one side believes that this will bring unimpeded humanitarian relief to the residents of Gaza, the other believes that it will lead to the unhindered passage of advanced weaponry to the Hamas. The truth of the assumptions and assertions of both sides appears to be obvious. But upon examination, the assumptions and assertions turn out to be entirely false.

What would happen if the blockade were to be lifted?

The question of importing goods to Gaza was addressed in Annex I of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement between Israel and the PLO, signed in Washington in September 1995. According to Article XIV (4) of that Agreement:

Pending construction of a port, arrangements for entry and exit of vessels passengers and goods by sea, as well as licenses for vessels and crews sailing on international voyages in transit to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, shall be through Israeli ports in accordance with the relevant rules and regulations applicable in Israel and in accordance with the provisions of Annex V.

In other words, in accordance with the Interim Agreement, vessels, passengers and goods cannot enter Gaza directly. Vessels bound for Gaza must anchor at an Israeli port. Goods cannot be imported directly into Gaza, and people cannot sail directly to the Gaza coast. All must enter Gaza through the Israeli land crossings.

In 2005, following Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, Israel declared its willingness to consider the establishment of a Gaza seaport, in accordance with arrangements to be agreed upon. In November 2005, the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority reached an Agreement on Movement and Access from and to Gaza. The agreement included provisions for the commencement of construction of the Gaza port. The agreement was conditioned upon the preparatory work of a U.S. led tripartite committee to develop security and other relevant arrangements for the port prior to its opening.

In January 2006, elections were held for the Palestinian Legislative Council. Hamas won a majority in those elections. Upon coming to power, Hamas rejected the agreements made between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, including the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. This led to the imposition of economic sanctions by Israel and the Quartet (United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations), and of course, put an end to the envisaged opening of a Gaza port. The lifting of those sanctions was conditioned upon the renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of the previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Following the 2007 “Battle of Gaza”, in which the Hamas violently took control of Gaza, the sanctions on the Palestinian Authority were eased, while a blockade was imposed upon Gaza.

So, what would happen if the blockade were lifted? Nothing. At least, nothing would change in regard to the passage of vessels, people and goods to Gaza by sea. Such passage would still be prohibited, as it was prior to the blockade. The Hamas rejection of the agreements that would allow for a change in regard to movement of goods to and from Gaza would remain. Israel and the Quartet would still not recognize the legitimacy of the Hamas government, as declared by the Quartet as recently as September 2009 in its call for “the re-unification of Gaza and the West Bank under the legitimate Palestinian Authority”. In the current situation, with or without a declared blockade, the sea lanes to Gaza are closed. Vessels, persons and goods bound for Gaza must pass through Israeli ports and land crossings.

Blockade or no blockade, the territorial waters off the Gaza coast will still be patrolled and controlled by the Israeli Navy, as provided in Annex I of the Interim Agreement. Foreign vessels will still be prohibited from approaching closer than twelve nautical miles from the coast, as provided by the Agreement. The Israeli Navy will continue to exercise its authority, under the Agreement, to sail unimpeded in the waters off Gaza, and to “take any measures necessary against vessels suspected of being used for terrorist activities or for smuggling arms, ammunition, drugs, goods, or for any other illegal activity.” In other words, any foreign vessel approaching the Gaza coast performs an “illegal activity” regardless of whether it is carrying missiles, peace activists or humanitarian aid, and the Israeli Navy has the legal authority to stop it even in the absence of the blockade. That the Hamas – having usurped the legitimate power of the Palestinian Authority – may object does not change matters.

Ultimately, the legality of the blockade is not in question, nor is the lawfulness of its purpose. Arguing about the name or specific framework for imposing a maritime cordon on Gaza would seem rather a bootless exercise in practical terms. While the issue of what should or should not be permitted to cross the Israeli and Egyptian land crossings into Gaza is one that should be open to debate and reappraisal, calls for an end to the blockade are duplicitous at best.

Avinoam Sharon