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  • February 11, 2013

    International Business Times

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    A fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington and the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, Bennis told IBTimes UK that the [Israeli] elections were waged on issues around social questions such as social equality and recruitment of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the army.

    "There seems not to be a significant divide between rich and poor on whether to maintain the occupation. It is a given that it should be continued," she said. 

    . . .

    Bennis also explained why the recent UN report on Israeli settlements was "a huge step forward".

    "The finding about settlements and the fact that they deemed it as an ongoing violation is key because it . . . calls on Israel to stop settlement activity but goes further and says that the settlers must be removed - no one has ever said that before."

    . . . "How a right is implemented is thoroughly negotiable," she said. "But rights are not negotiable. Recognition of the right has to come first and then you can negotiate how it can be implemented."

  • January 30, 2013

    Between The Lines

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    PHYLLIS BENNIS: I think the best way to understand the Israeli elections is as a victory for the status quo in Israel.

    . . . The irony of all of this, Scott, is that none of this signals any change in the far-right position of the Israeli government that's been true for so long, through Labor governments, Likud governments, coalition governments -- of oppression of the Palestinians, settlement expansion, the siege of Gaza -- none of that is on the agenda.

    SCOTT HARRIS: Is there any indication that Obama's administration will pursue more aggressively what they didn't pursue in the last 4 years, which is to push Bibi Netanyahu not to be such an obstacle to the peace process?

    PHYLLIS BENNIS: What President Obama could've done, which ironically he was accused of in 2010 . . . was exercise real pressure.

    . . . Real pressure would have looked like a demand from the Obama administration: "Stop building illegal settlements!" and if Israel said "No," then he would respond with, "OK . . . You know that $30 billion in taxpayer money we've been sending directly to your military? You can kiss that goodbye."

    That's what real pressure looks like.

  • January 27, 2013

    The Real News Network

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    BENNIS: Well, it certainly is nothing new and different for Palestinians to talk about the need for Israeli accountability for potential violations of international law and war crimes. This has been on the agenda for some years now. And the question has been: when can Palestine become a member of the International Criminal Court so it can begin the process of trying to hold Israel accountable for those war crimes, for those violations?

    . . . DESVARIEUX: Okay. What do you make of the timing of this announcement, especially in the wake of Israeli election?

    BENNIS: Well, I think that the timing was driven less by the elections . . . But it was kind of putting that new government, the potential new government that will still be led by Bibi Netanyahu, on notice of their intention to go to the International Criminal Court.

    I think the real motivating factor in terms of timing had to do with the growing crisis in the West Bank in particular and the fact that the PA had lost so much of its authority and credibility in recent years but had reclaimed much of that through the UN initiative last fall . . . And one of the real reasons why was precisely this question of a way to bring Israel to account, to hold Israel to account in the International Criminal Court. So this is a way of maintaining that credibility by answering the demand of Palestinians themselves to move forward, to hold Israel accountable in a way that it's never been held accountable before.

  • January 18, 2013

    The Real News Network

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    BENNIS: This is coming on to the second anniversary now of the Arab Spring. And I'm one of maybe only a few left that are still calling it a spring, because I think that despite the horrors that are right now facing people, . . . what we're seeing . . . throughout the Arab world, has been a just incredible rising of peoples claiming their citizenship in a way that they just have never done for the last 40 or 50 years.

    . . . [Granted,] In Syria . . . it's a very messy situation in which . . . the original opposition movement, [those secular, democratic, committed to nonviolence], Their voices have been silenced by the sound of the guns.

    . . . [And] Libya, of course, remains completely chaotic, without a viable government that's capable of providing security for the people of Libya . . .

    [But:] the optimism has to come back when we look at Egypt. [Despite] . . . significant losses for the secular and democratic components of the opposition forces . . . I still think that what we're seeing in Egypt is a very exciting moment that over the long and even medium term is going to transform that country into a place where people claim their rights as citizens of their country and not subjects of a U.S.-backed dictatorship, as they were for so many years.

    . . . I think that the secular opposition, the Christian opposition, the Muslim opposition, who just doesn't want as big a role for religion in the government, all . . . are coming together. And I think they're showing themselves to be an important player in society.

  • December 30, 2012

    The Real News Network

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    JAY: Now, it's kind of interesting that Hagel was even floated [as next Secretary of Defense]. It does suggest that this is where Obama's thinking is. . . . Obama sort of has been more realistic that U.S. policy has to take into account Iran as a serious player in the region and you'd better deal with them. 

    . . . Is the floating of Hagel an actual attempt to say this next term, this is going to be—we're going to get serious now, 'cause otherwise why do it?

    BENNIS: It is certainly possible that it's an indication and is being floated by the Obama White House precisely to assess where is public opinion on these questions of war with Iran, speeding up the withdrawal from Afghanistan, perhaps, but I don't think we know that. . . what we know for sure is that the far-right elements in the Republican Party, in the Israel lobby, are so much against him that the need to challenge that opposition, if you will, becomes one of the most important points.

    JAY: . . . my fear about the Hagel balloon is that what he's there for, he's there deliberately as a balloon that can burst, 'cause Obama actually wants somebody else, but if he can get Hagel floated and then throw him under the bus, it's going to be hard for the Republicans to go after the second person.

    BENNIS: . . . of [the] not-great choices, Chuck Hagel emerges as probably the best there is, and in the context where he's being attacked so viciously by these powerful right-wing elements in the pro-Israel lobby and among the neocons. The idea that President Obama might actually cave in to that pressure would be a terrible thing to watch.

    . . . the fact that they were willing to throw [Susan Rice] under the bus is not a good sign. It ended up, I think, making President Obama himself look quite weak. He didn't fight for his candidate. He didn't fight for who he wants to be the member of his cabinet. If he does the same thing with Chuck Hagel, I think it will weaken him even further.

  • December 13, 2012

    Daytona Times

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    We, as African-Americans, simply could not remain silent when word broke of the Israeli bombings of Gaza. Along with Cornel West and others, we circulated a petition condemning the aggression and demanding an end to the occupation.

    While most of the mainstream media immediately jumped to the defense of Israel, the African-American political establishment remained silent about the entire episode.

    We cannot cede our voices on foreign policy to others. African-Americans have a moral and economic stake in the outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The United States sends 8.5 million tax dollars a day to Israel. Both former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and past South African President Nelson Mandela, among others, compare the occupation of Palestine with South African apartheid.

  • November 30, 2012

    Truthout

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    The international sort of institutional importance is not that it's going to change anything about the Palestinians' presence at the UN. They still will not be members of the UN and they still will not be able to vote or to introduce resolutions. . . .

    The significance of that is that it gives them the opportunity to use that status of a state to do other things, most notably, to sign the Rome Treaty creating the International Criminal Court, and thus become a member of the International Criminal Court. . . .  there's at least the possibility that they could initiate an effort to bring criminal charges against Israeli officials, military and political, and potentially even U.S. officials . . . [T]hat's a long way off, it's not going to happen anytime soon, but it's an interesting step towards that.

    The other significant reason has nothing to do with the UN and everything to do with internal Palestinian politics . . . the stature of the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, has been diminishing in recent years . . . This was about maintaining whatever shreds of credibility he's got left.

  • November 21, 2012

    The Real News Network

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    PHYLLIS BENNIS: I was struck by the statement a day or two ago by the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, when he talked about the role of the United States in all this. And he said, and I quote, "This effort could not have been concluded without the generous and consistent support of the American administration, led by President Obama," end quote. That's a rather extraordinary thing to say, because on the one hand, it sounds like an introduction to a speaker or something like that. On the other hand, it's an admission of complicity, that he's saying the U.S. made it all possible.

    . . . The reality is, right now, Paul, what we're dealing with is a scenario where the U.S. ordinarily is prepared to call the shots in the Middle East. But suddenly there's a new Middle East. The U.S. doesn't have the same options that it once did. . . . ironically, right now the countries that the U.S. most needs to act as U.S. interlocutors in the region, Turkey and Egypt, are arguably Hamas's closest allies. . . . So what does this say about the normalization of Hamas in the region? It's a very different scenario.

  • November 21, 2012

    Between The Lines

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    PHYLLIS BENNIS: History starts with when you start the clock. You could start . . . with the assassination of Ahmed Jaabari . . . after a fragile ceasefire. . . . You could start at any point.

    All of this takes place in the context of occupation . . . which in international law means there is external control by a foreign government, not x number of soldiers on the ground. . . .

    Gaza remains occupied. It's a different form of occupation, it's in the form of a siege rather than in the form of a physical soldier occupation, but it's occupation nonetheless, and unless we understand it in that context, it's going to happen again -- even when we get a ceasefire.

    PHYLLIS BENNIS: South African anti-apartheid activists describe Gaza . . . as an open-air prison. And it raises the question of whether it's even a separate war crime, one that hasn't ever been codified in international law, to deny people the right to seek refuge. When you deny people the right to flee, and then they're killed, it's almost like another kind of war crime that needs to be codified and people held accountable for that as well.

  • November 19, 2012

    The Real News Network

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    DESVARIEUX: So, Phyllis, tell us: what's your take on what just happened recently in Gaza?

    BENNIS: Well, I think that what we're looking at is a huge escalation on the part of Israel against Gaza, very reminiscent in a number of ways of the Operation Cast Lead of 2008, 2009, also beginning shortly after the election-the first election, that time-of President Obama, and before the inauguration in both cases.

    In this case we saw this huge escalation after a two-day ceasefire negotiated by Egypt had largely held. Israel responded to that ceasefire by carrying out an assassination of the Gazan leader, Ahmed Jaabari, who among other things was indeed a leader of the military wing of Hamas, but in recent years had also been the top negotiator with Israel for, among other things, the prisoner exchange . . .

    On the other hand, we're seeing a major question of how we decide who's responding to whom. History, you know, Jessica, is determined by when you start the clock. And in this case what we're hearing pretty much across the board from the mainstream media in the United States is Israel responded to Palestinian rockets, Palestinians have been firing rockets, Palestinians are firing rockets, and Israel responded.

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