This article could be illegal in Arkansas

The Arkansas state capitol building. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)
It should go without saying that no editorial, op-ed or news article should be “illegal,” particularly one talking about core constitutional protections for free speech and our free press.

By Gabe Rottman | Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press | Jul 2, 2019

Not only does [the Arkansas law] put a thumb on the scale of public debate — a newspaper that signs the certification is free to publish editorials or any other content opposing an Israel boycott — but it also forces newspapers that might otherwise remain silent on a public controversy to take a side.

In August 2017, the Arkansas legislature passed a law requiring any state contractor to sign a form pledging it will not participate in a boycott of Israel. The only options for a contractor that does not want to sign are to give up contracting with the state or to discount prices by 20 percent. The law is so broad it could outlaw the publication of this article in the state. Here’s why.

The Arkansas Times, an alternative newsweekly in Little Rock, has for years contracted to run advertisements for Pulaski Technical College, a state school. The Times has never commented on an Israeli boycott, but it refused to sign the certification for fear it would interfere with its perceived editorial independence. Pulaski Technical College withdrew its advertising.

The Arkansas Times sued, arguing the law violates the First Amendment, particularly because the Arkansas legislature passed the law not because of any rash of Israeli boycotts in the state, but to target one particular global boycott movement, the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” campaign, or “BDS.”

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Jared Kushner’s plan for Palestine is even crazier than you thought

Kevin Lamarque /Reuters)
Kushner’s “economic peace” plan repeatedly claims that occupied Palestine can model itself after Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. That’s certainly ambitious — but also ignorant, absurd and even dangerous.

By Teresita Cruz-del Rosario and Victor Kattan | Haaretz | Jul 4, 2019

The lessons of these Asian economic success stories is fairly straightforward: sovereignty was key to transforming these states into Asian economic power houses embedded in strong states that could drive development policies.

Jared Kushner’s glossy “economic peace” plan has been widely, although not universally, panned.

Critics have attacked the plan from innumerable angles: from the photographs used to promote it, culled from USAID programs whose funding had been ended by the Trump administration, to the recycling of old, largely discredited ideas, associated with previous Israeli and US plans that promoted economic development before a political plan.

None of these peace plans, including those that prioritized economic development ahead of a political program, have worked.

One key claim of the plan, largely overlooked by critics, are Kushner’s case studies, which are repeatedly referenced throughout the document: Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.

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What “Holy Land” tours miss

(photo: SJ Travel Photo and Video / Shutterstock)
Congratulations, I want to say. You have managed to visit the Holy Land without meeting an Arab.

By Jessica Moore | Sojourners | Jun 27, 2019

This tourist avoids seeing a checkpoint in action, with lines of Palestinian men, women, and children standing on the side, legs spread, waiting for a soldier to check them. Avoids facing the miles of thick concrete security wall, snaking in between crumbling Arab villages and gleaming Jewish settlements. Avoids seeing the barb-wired watch towers, with teenagers — who have lived their whole lives behind the wall — kick a soccer ball below.

As a Palestinian Christian who grew up in Jerusalem, I have a hard time knowing where, if anywhere, my narrative fits among the pictures evangelical Christians paint of Israel. I was reminded of this recently when an acquaintance of mine did a “holy land tour,” and posted travel updates that showed up on my social media stream.

Seeing others post pictures in the same spots where I walked home from school, went on a field trip, or stopped for bread on the way back from church, is like watching someone’s first-date encounter with your old friend. But as the pictures roll by, something else begins to gather in my chest. Rage.

One more person visiting my homeland and also not visiting my homeland.

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Trump should scrap his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan and focus on Gaza

Palestinians in Gaza City protest against the US-sponsored Middle East economic conference in Bahrain on Jun 26. (photo: Mohammed Abed / AFP / Getty Images)
The White House’s fantasy proposal is bound to fail.

By Hady Amr, Ilan Goldenberg and Natan Sachs | Foreign Policy | Jun 28, 2019

If the Trump administration wants to help Palestinians and Israelis, it should shelve its fantasy plan, which the Palestinian leadership has already rejected, and instead focus on something much more tangible — addressing the ongoing Gaza-Israel conflict.

Over the weekend, the White House released its multibillion-dollar plan for the Palestinian economy as part of President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century,” which his administration has billed as a broader program for Middle East peace. Jared Kushner — Trump’s son-in-law, senior advisor, and point person on Israeli-Palestinian issues — spent two days in Bahrain this week at a White House-led conference trying to generate international support for this approach.

The conference faced tremendous challenges: With the United States and Iran on the brink of a potential conflict, convening in Bahrain, which hosts a major US naval base, cast the event in the shadow of US-Iran tensions. No Palestinian government officials attended, and nearly all Palestinian businesspeople skipped the event as well because the Trump administration has alienated them. And the Israeli government was largely absorbed with a new round of elections set for September. The event did not seem to generate much interest in Trump’s plan or bring the sides even an inch closer to anything resembling a deal.

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“Some suburb of hell” — America’s new concentration camps

Children’s shoes and a cuddly toy left at the Tornillo Port of Entry after a protest by several US mayors against the Trump adminstration’s family separation policy, near El Paso, Texas, Jun 21, 2018. (photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images)
Every country thinks it can do detention better when it starts these projects. But no good way to conduct mass indefinite detention has yet been devised; the system always degrades.

By Andrew Pitzer | The New York Review of Books | Jun 21, 2019

Concentration camps . . . don’t typically result from the theft of land, as happened with Native Americans, or owning human beings in a system of forced labor, as in the slave trade. Exile, theft, and forced labor can come later, but in the beginning, detention itself is usually the point of concentration camps. By the end of the Nineteenth Century, the mass production of barbed wire and machines guns made this kind of detention possible and practical in ways it never had been before.

On Monday, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez referred to US border detention facilities as “concentration camps,” spurring a backlash in which critics accused her of demeaning the memory of those who died in the Holocaust. Debates raged over a label for what is happening along the southern border and grew louder as the week rolled on. But even this back-and-forth over naming the camps has been a recurrent feature in the mass detention of civilians ever since its inception, a history that long predates the Holocaust.

At the heart of such policy is a question: What does a country owe desperate people whom it does not consider to be its citizens? The twentieth century posed this question to the world just as the shadow of global conflict threatened for the second time in less than three decades. The dominant response was silence, and the doctrine of absolute national sovereignty meant that what a state did to people under its control, within its borders, was nobody else’s business. After the harrowing toll of the Holocaust with the murder of millions, the world revisited its answer, deciding that perhaps something was owed to those in mortal danger. From the Fourth Geneva Convention protecting civilians in 1949 to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the international community established humanitarian obligations toward the most vulnerable that apply, at least in theory, to all nations.

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In Bahrain, Gaza Is pitched as a “hot IPO” — Palestinians aren’t buying it

Bahrain News Agency, via Associated Press)
The economic plan itself was conspicuous in its omission of any mention of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

By David Halbfinger | The New York Times | Jun 26, 2019

The point is not talking about pie-in-the-sky projects. These projects, if you take the word ‘Palestinian’ out of them, any developing country can do well. Some of them have been talked about for 25 years now. Why haven’t they materialized? What’s stopping them? The Israeli military occupation. It’s the elephant they left out of the circus when they went to Bahrain.
— Palestinian-American business consultant Sam Bahour

Judged on its own terms, the White House-led conference on improving the lives of Palestinians, staged this week in Bahrain as the first step toward a long-promised American peace plan, was a smashing success.

It proved that the Israel-Palestinian conflict “actually is a solvable problem, economically,” Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, declared proudly — though that proposition was never actually in doubt.

It put the conflict back near the top of the international agenda, at least for a day and a half. And it may have also created a powerful new constituency for a resolution, by bringing together billionaire fund managers and the heads of banks and multinational corporations like AT&T, who seemed to be grappling with the subject for the first time.

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ACLU: Anti-BDS laws are discriminatory

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led, global movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. (photo: Gili Getz)
While businesses DO NOT have the right to refuse service to consumers because of who they are, consumers DO have a First Amendment right to withhold their patronage to express their political beliefs.

By Brian Hauss | If Americans Knew | Feb 24, 2019

To be clear: Anti-BDS laws are not designed to prevent discrimination. In fact, they’re designed to discriminate against disfavored political expression, which is why two federal courts and several prominent First Amendment scholars have agreed that these laws violate the First Amendment.

A number of states recently passed laws that require state contractors — including teachers, lawyers, newspapers and journalists, and even students who want to judge high school debate tournaments — to certify that they are not participating in politically motivated boycotts against Israel. Dozens of states have considered such “anti-BDS” laws, and a bipartisan group of 73 senators recently passed a bill — the Combating BDS Act — that would encourage states to adopt such laws.

The ACLU takes no position on boycotts of Israel or any foreign country, but we have long defended the right to boycott, which is protected under the First Amendment. That’s why we challenged anti-boycott laws in Kansas, Arizona, Arkansas, and Texas, and strongly opposed the Combating BDS Act in Congress.

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Jared Kushner’s economic “peace” plan is an embarrassment

Senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner speaks on stage as US ambassador to Israel David Friedman looks on during the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018 in Jerusalem. (photo: Lior Mizrahi / Getty Images)
The constituencies for peace do not currently exist and offering a mirage of $50 billion will not bridge the incredulity gap that has been created through decades of failure.

By Joel Braunold | Forward | Jun 24, 2019

Programs that were actually delivering economic wins for Israelis and Palestinians alike had not just been terminated, but their images were then used as a sales pitch for similar programs [in the Kushner plan] with higher price tags and no Palestinian buy-in.

In the fall of 2014, I sat around a table in the State Department with forty representatives of Israeli and Palestinian civil society and the peace team of then Secretary John Kerry. After failing to get his framework agreement released as the proximity talks between the parties had broken down, we were there to ask why there had been no focus on bottom up peace-building during the attempt.

The senior advisors told the room that there was no bandwidth or budget for a focus on civil society efforts, and the team had been laser focused on security arrangements and a $4 billion economic package.

I was thinking of that meeting this weekend when the White House released its economic pitch deck promising $50 billion investments as the economic aspect of the “ultimate deal.” Despite Jared Kushner and the whole team claiming they were rejecting failed frameworks, here was another massive-scale infrastructure push, only this time without any input from the Palestinian business community or governing authority.

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Palestinians want freedom, not Trump administration bribes

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington last week. (photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)
Instead of offering Palestinians permanent subjugation, the United States and the international community should pressure Israel to permit Palestinians their right to an independent sovereign state.

By Mohammad Shtayyeh | The Washington Post | Jun 24, 2019

Is it any wonder . . . that Palestinians are extremely skeptical of Kushner’s new economic plan? It is little more than a regurgitation of old ideas such as economic peace, advocated by the Israeli right, whereby Palestinians are expected to give up demands for freedom in exchange for investment and other economic inducements.

The Trump administration on Saturday unveiled the economic portion of its long-awaited diplomatic plan for Palestine and Israel. The release preceded a two-day “economic workshop” in Bahrain beginning Tuesday that is intended to drum up regional support for the proposal.

Unfortunately, what has been revealed confirms our belief at the Palestinian Authority that the plan, which is being drafted by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and other Trump administration officials, is simply a repackaging of a stale, discredited concept known as “economic peace” long advocated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a longtime friend of the Kushner family.

While short on specifics and totally lacking a political component, the plan calls for a $50 billion investment fund for the Palestinian economy and that of neighboring Arab states, and a $5 billion transportation corridor between the occupied West Bank and Gaza. What Kushner and his colleagues don’t seem to realize is that Palestinians don’t need or want handouts. We need freedom and our rights and for Israel to end its domination over our lives and economy.

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Why Jordan’s identity can’t be bought

Protesters march with signs showing the Dome of the Rock and reading in Arabic, left to right, “Jerusalem is not for sale” and “Do not give up rights” in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Friday. (photo: Khalil Mazraawi / AFP / Getty Images)
The deal of the century promises billions of dollars — and a future of regional instability.

By Sean Yom and Katrina Sammour | The Washington Post | Jun 24, 2019

So long as the alternative homeland scenario [relocating Palestinians to Jordan] is a potential outcome of what happens Tuesday, the kingdom could face an existential crisis of national identity. Thus, the deal of the century may ultimately wreck two states — the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

Pressured by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration, Jordan is attending Tuesday’s U.S.-sponsored peace conference in Bahrain. It does so with gritted teeth, because this may herald an existential crisis that will upend its stability in the coming years. Despite neither Israel nor the Palestinians sending official delegations, the multilateral summit is the economic kickoff to the “deal of the century.” It will promise tens of billions of dollars to the Palestinian territories and Arab neighbors, including Jordan, as incentive to accept a plan that will foreclose Palestinian statehood. Suffering a financial tailspin, Jordan would normally jump for more foreign aid, with foreign debt almost matching all economic output, and unemployment at nearly 20 percent.

The problem, however, is one of national identity, or lack thereof — and more aid cannot buy Jordan one. Jordanians fear that the deal of the century means making their kingdom an “alternative homeland” for Palestinians, who will enter through mass resettlement or a confederation with whatever part of the West Bank that Israel does not want. This Jordan-is-Palestine proposal originated among the American and Israeli right wing in the 1980s with a simplistic logic: If Israel does not want the Palestinians, give them to Jordan. This is also the nightmare uniting Jordanians in collective resistance. The question of “who is Jordanian” has always been difficult to answer, given the kingdom’s short history, societal diversity and openness to refugees. But while Jordanians may not agree on what Jordan is, they know what it is not — Palestinian territories.

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