The timing could not be more truthful. Just hours after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ended a peacekeeping mission to Israel-Palestine and declared her opposition to Israeli settlement expansion, Israel announced plans to build 1,400 new settler homes in the West Bank.
Last week Secretary Rice gave a press conference with failing Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas where she claimed, “I think it’s all moving in the right direction.” Rice said that a peace deal ending in Palestinian statehood “is a goal we can reach.”
As a bone to those Palestinians who are rightfully skeptical after decades of broken promises, Rice stated her opposition to Israel’s construction of new housing in contested territory.
“Settlement activity should stop — expansion should stop,” Rice declared.
Israeli officials responded with a direct contradiction of the highest American foreign policy official’s statements. Jerusalem’s city hall announced it would, according to The Associated Press, “build 600 new apartments in Pisgat Zeev, a Jewish neighborhood in the eastern sector of the city. Soon after, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish party said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised to build 800 additional homes in one of Israel’s largest West Bank settlements, Betar Illit.”
Speaking of occupation…
In a bold and unexpected move, U.S. Congressmen have threatened boycott over an egregious occupation, citing the killing of protestors and the suffering of refugees. Hollywood stars and ordinary Americans alike are shocked by the denials of freedom and raw exercise of power in the name of “security.” Yes, this is all terrible and worth fighting against when China is the occupier. When it’s Israel or us, though, it’s okay.
Fitna from a film…
The internet-released short film “Fitna,” by flamboyant, right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders came out last week. It was intended to provoke resentment against Islam by comparing the Qur’an to the “Mein Kampf” and painting all Muslims as violent.
It has backfired.
Beyond the predictable shock and outrage aired by Muslims and many governments around the world, some of the most damaging criticisms come from fellow Europeans and even the American press.
Some reasonable voices in the West have come out strongly against this nonsensical attempt at incitement. Churches in the Netherlands have “condemned it in strong terms. The image this film conjures up is one-sided and provocative,” the Dutch Council of Churches said in a statement.
As U.S.-based columnist Bridget Johnson wrote, “Geert Wilders won’t win an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short anytime soon.”
The mini-film is so careless and loose with the facts it makes even the silliest mistakes. For example, it showed the picture of Salah Edin, the Moroccan-Dutch hip-hop artist, instead of Mohammad Bouyeri, the man who murdered Theo Van Gogh.
The film is so plain bad, based on nothing but attempted shock value, even those who would normally sympathize with some of Wilders’ goals criticized it.
Most interestingly, the now famous cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, the one who depicted the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban, is going to sue the maker of “Fitna” for using his image without permission. Westergaard said the image was not intended to disrespect all of Islam, just Muslims who use violence. Even Irshad Manji found it worthless. “Worse,” she wrote in the Washington Post, it is “easily dismissed by those who deserve to be held accountable for their silences about violence and human rights abuses committed under the banner of Islam.” The author bent on reforming Islam saw it as a missed opportunity.
Will Youmans is a writer for The Arab American News.