Outsourcing US Foreign Policy

- by Fred Schlomka -

President Trump must be really desperate. The administration’s ‘Peace to Prosperity Workshop’, scheduled for 25th June in Bahrain, seems to be lacking in willing participants and so they are resorting to desperate measures, including outsourcing the organising of the Workshop to a private company. The recent flood of random ‘personal’ invitations to the event is an obvious fishing attempt to find  naive, ignorant, or opportunistic participants to prop up the farce.

My office received no less than seven invitations. Two addressed to senior staffers, including myself, and the other five addressed to our generic email addresses. Yet the letters were from Secretary Steven Mnunchin’s official email address at the Treasury Department. What’s going on?

The letters arrived with no schedule of activities and claimed that it was a “personal and non-transferable invitation” – yet one was addressed to info@. . . . !  The invite offered “high-level panel discussions”. “workshops”, and “collaborative working sessions”, but contained no details regarding any structured framework, or who the presenters and panel members were to be. No schedule of activities were offered for this event which is to be held in less than a month from now.

This effort appears to be outsourced and organised by the New York-based public relations and event management company, Richard Attias Associates.

The letter claims that the event’s goal is to “ . . . unleash economic growth, boost human capital, and enhance governance and the business investment environment for the Palestinians and the broader Middle East.”  It is anyone’s guess how they expect this to happen without the support and participation of the Palestinian government.

Anyone with the least familiarity regarding the situation in Israel/Palestine knows that the necessary first step is recognition of an independent State of Palestine,  or the absorption of Palestinian Territories into the state of Israel with equal rights for all the residents. If freedom and self-determination have been necessary conditions for economic growth in other countries, why not in Palestine? Isn’t that a basic tenet of free enterprise and capitalism long promoted by the United States? Palestinians have the necessary know-how, a highly educated population, and sufficient entrepreneurial skills to drive the engine of economic growth once conditions of freedom have been achieved.

The US administration is either extremely disorganised, or desperate to find appropriate fig leaves for what, by all accounts, is likely to be a farce. My Palestinian colleagues in the PA and the business sector are not going to the workshop, yet these are the very people who would need to be the partners for any proposed investment or economic development in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian Authority has likewise refused to attend. So where does that leave Mnunchin, Kushner and the rest of the Trump gang trying to steamroller Palestinians into their ‘economic peace plan’. Been there. Done that. It doesn’t work.

There are two words that best describe the necessary conditions for peace – Sovereignty and Freedom. Neither will be offered to the Palestinians in the upcoming unveiling of the so-called peace plan.

I responded to the fishing letter and asked for more details of the proposed  ‘Peace to Prosperity Workshop’, and promptly received an email response asking for a telephone call. The email response was CCed to several high level associates at the White House and the Treasury Department. So I took the phone call from a young lady at Richard Attias Associates and got the impression that several other people were listening in. I was read a template pitch about the event but without much new information. However it was apparent that they had done some homework and knew a bit about Green Olive. After probing a bit, but receiving little of substance I informed them that I would consult with my colleagues and get back to them. I did not. It was obvious from this phone call, and other indicators about the event, that its purpose was to sideline the Palestinian people in deciding their own future, a continuation of decades-long US policies.

Expecting the Arab population of the West Bank and Gaza to roll over and accept the status quo in return for a few crumbs off the table is naïve at best. Of course there will be a handful of greedy collaborators in the PA and private businesspeople who will accept whatever handouts are offered, but the bulk of the Palestinian people, and their leaders, will resist any attempt to formalise the Apartheid nature of the regime in the West Bank/Judea & Samaria, and Gaza. Despite any proposed economic improvement, the upcoming plan promises to retain the present system of reservations or enclaves for Arabs, known as Area ‘A’, while their Jewish neighbors in nearby communities have citizenship and freedom of movement.

The next step by Palestinians may well be increasing demands for equal rights within the state of Israel. If the Israeli Jewish people, represented by their government, refuse to allow the dignity of true independence, and insist on relegating Palestinians to a status like Native Americans in the USA, then we deserve everything that’s coming – more war – more civil strife – annexation – Apartheid – and ultimately a single state emerging from the chaos. Those of us at the forefront of social and political change in Israel/Palestine may need to bunker down for a while, as freedom lovers had to do in the USA in the late 19th/early 20th century. It was a century-long struggle in America for Women’s rights, Native American rights, African-American rights, and others (not yet concluded). So too as Israelis and Palestinians, my colleagues and I have the responsibility to continue the struggle until our just demands are realised.

No farcical ‘Peace to Prosperity Workshop’ will divert us from this goal. Many in Israel and the US call us ‘traitors to the Jewish people’, ‘self-hating Jews’ and the like. However we are proudly Jewish, living in the land of our tribal heritage, and only wanting our Palestinian neighbors to live as equals with the Jewish population, in every meaning of the word.

So I call on the Trump Administration to cease and desist their support for Israeli oppression, and demand that each and every person living between the River and the Sea, be awarded equal rights – whether one state or two is almost irrelevant at this point. If the principals of equality, dignity, and freedom are agreed by all sides, then there is no doubt that we can sort out the rest of the issues, and our future will become a boundless possibility of prosperity and stability.

First the political solution, then the economic development. In that order. This upcoming workshop in Bahrain is a waste of time.
Fred Schlomka is an American/Israeli businessman, and Managing Partner of the Green Olive Collective, a company of Palestinian and Israeli Working Partners providing tours and educational services in Israel and Palestine.


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Palestinian cities are ghost towns between settlements, on Google Maps

 The notorious, massive Qalandiya checkpoint lies in the center area surrounded by three roundabouts. Qalandiya is the scene of relentless ethnic control, murders by the IDF, violently suppressed protests, and a major cause of the impossibility of normal civilian life and movement. On GoogleMaps, the checkpoint does not exist.

- by Tom Suàrez, of Mondoweiss -

In Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith happens upon an old newspaper clipping that proves that Big Brother had framed three men for crimes against the state. All past evidence contradicting the regime’s ever-changing “truth” was supposed to have been destroyed, but this one scrap had been missed. Winston finished the job — though to his ultimate demise, destroying the evidence could not erase the knowledge from his mind.

What Orwell could not have foreseen was a world in which Big Brother did not need to destroy evidence, a world in which evidence did not exist in physical form and could be changed at will without a trace. All “copies” of a virtual newspaper would instantly update to every new “truth”. Thought-criminals might, of course, have saved a copy of the previous virtual file, or even a screen-grab, but all these were nothing but numbers on media. What proof of whose sets of digits were the true ones, when there is no physical, forensic trail? True, false, faked, real, new, old, past, present, cause, effect, and even time-stamps and digital signatures, are ultimately nothing more than sets of ones and zeros with no distinction, because — to rewrite another Orwell novel — all numbers are created equal, none more equal than others. Whoever controls the virtual printing press that creates and rewrites reality as needed, wears the Wagnerian ring of the Nibelung — is granted the power to rule the world.

Welcome to the present. Welcome, for example, to Google Maps.

A search for “Palestine” on Google Maps brings up the region with only Israel as a country name.In this general view, the only place that appears within the West Bank or Gaza is the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.
Google Maps has done to Palestine what Big Brother was unable to do to Winston’s newspaper clipping. An indigenous civilization has long thrived on land you want to steal? No problem — poof, we’ve erased it. It’s gone. Not just on the screen where we hit ‘delete’, but on everybody’s screen —including the wayward scrap that Winston Smith stumbled across.

Google’s attempt to de-exist Palestine has been well-reported*, along with its “explanation” that no country by that name exists. But even that vacuous excuse fails to address its refusal to chart access to any place in Palestine except illegal settlements — that is, its blocking cartographic information from Palestinians as a tool of ethnic control.

Google Maps has turned Palestinian towns and cities into ghosts. They appear (unlike the term Palestine, Google cannot pretend they don’t exist), yet according to the technology Goliath they do not exist as places one can actually get to. They float in a different dimension. If you want to go between West Bank towns, even major cities such as Jericho, Bethlehem, or Hebron, Google will reply Sorry, we could not calculate driving directions from

But if West Bank settlers want to visit other West Bank settlements, Google is at their service.

Despite Israel’s diversionary flaunting of Abu Dis as a proposed capital of a future Palestinian state, Google can’t figure out how to get there from neighboring Jerusalem (left). But if you want to go to the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim nearby Abu Dis, the fog suddenly clears. Even if you’re starting off from London, the only question is whether you want the northern route or the southern route (right).

Abu Dis is a busy Palestinian university town neighboring Jerusalem; Technology giant Google, however, “can’t find a way there”, not from anyplace. But nearby Abu Dis lies the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumin, which is no problem for Google no matter where you’re starting off — even if it’s from London or Cape Town.

Bethlehem and Hebron are an easy half-hour drive apart, assuming no interference from the IDF on behalf of the several Israeli settlements dotting the way. Google, however, is stymied.
Nor can Google figure out how to get to Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank — not even from Bethlehem, twenty-two km north on Route 60. When I had to drive from Ben-Gurion Airport to Hebron, I had to lie to Big Brother: I punched in one of the Hebron-area Israeli settlements instead. This Google mapped out with pleasure, and when I got to familiar Route 60, I turned off my telescreen.

Google “can’t find a way” to Jericho, an iconic city in human civilization (left). Nonetheless, it instantly finds three routes to the nearby Israeli settlement of Beit HaArava (right)

Jericho has been continually inhabited since millennia before the Biblical realm whose name was taken by the modern state on whose behalf Google is conducting these cartographic lies. But although Google feigns ignorance on how to get to Jericho, it will gladly direct you to nearby Beit HaArava settlement. Google, indeed, would rather take you from Israel to countries with whom Israel is at war, rather than to Palestine. Lebanon? Syria? Or maybe a holiday in sunny Riyadh? Easy.

Israel used its friends in the US government to attempt to control another aspect of the mapping of Palestine-Israel: satellite detail. In 1997, a year before Google was founded, Senators Jon Kyl and Jeff Bingaman successfully authored an Amendment to the Military Defense National Defense Authorization Act that restricted the detail of publicly available satellite views of the land under Israeli control.[1] But this Act can only control US companies, and its effectiveness waned as cartographers not bound by US law offered satellite images in greater detail.

Printed maps must still be destroyed the old way. When HarperCollins produced a (printed) book for the Middle East market with a map which did not label Israel, the uproar was palpable; the publisher was accused of antisemitism and of wishing to “wipe Israel off the map”, understanding the phrase’s connotation far beyond the cartographic. The books were pulped.[2]

But onscreen maps do not need to be pulped, and even the same map is not static. Information and nomenclature may appear or disappear on some pecking order as the view is zoomed in or out. When the word “Israel” did not appear on an onscreen Air France flight map, the Jerusalem Post headline similarly read “Air France wipes Israel off of the map…literally”.[3] Although Air France’s routes includes Tel Aviv, it was accused of engaging in BDS. The airline apologized and fixed the issue, explaining (plausibly) that the omission had been the result of “map scale and display problem”. Some Middle Eastern airlines’ maps continue to omit Israel, whether as a political statement or prioritizing onscreen space if the airline does not fly to Israel.[4]

Although Google has positioned itself as most people’s default cartographer, there are alternatives. Here is how other major mapping services fare at writing, from a London IP address, a cleared cache, and Firefox. All these label Israel with or without searching for it, whereas none of these indicate “Palestine” or “Palestinian Territories” without entering it as a search term, and only one — MapQuest — indicates Palestine even when it is entered as a search term.
  • Google Maps: Palestine comes up on a search? No. Labels Palestine? No. Directions to Palestinian locales? No.
  • MapQuest: Palestine comes up on a search? Yes. Labels Palestine? Yes, as “State of Palestine”(!). Directions to Palestinian locales? Yes, many, if not comprehensive.
  • Bing: Palestine comes up on a search? No. Labels Palestine? No. Directions to Palestinian locales? Yes.
  • Rand McNally: Palestine comes up on a search? No. Labels Palestine? No. Directions to Palestinian locales? No.
  • Waze (Israeli-developed, now owned by Google): Palestine comes up on a search? No. Labels Palestine? No. Directions to Palestinian locales? Extremely limited.
  • HereWeGo: Palestine comes up on a search? No. Labels Palestine? No. Directions to Palestinian locales? Limited.
Although MapQuest is the best here, if our simple criterion is: Does the map treat Palestine without prejudice as compared with its coverage of other well-populated areas, especially neighboring ones? … all fail.

Of the major online map services tested, only MapQuest recognized “Palestine” — indeed as a state (above screen-grab is unedited). Yet Israel still wins the cartographic wars on MapQuest: If one simply goes to the region “neutrally”, without search terms, only Israel is labelled.
Google’s anomaly, and clue to its madness, is Gaza. While it hardly needs to be said that Google refuses to connect Gaza with the outside world, Google is perfectly willing to direct the people caught within that “prison”. The obvious reason is that there are of course no Israeli settlements in Gaza at present. And so Google will map out driving routes between major Gaza cities, such as Gaza City on the north and Rafah on the south, or between smaller places like Al Qarara and Nuseirat Camp.

Since Gaza is under Israeli siege rather than active Israeli colonization, Google directions works within the strip.

The enormous benefits brought, and still to be brought, by digital technology and the internet are at least as profound as those of the advent of printing six centuries ago, and arguably more so. This new revolution brings with it changes to human society that we cannot yet fully grasp; but at the very least, as we observe ourselves in real time, we should call out its obvious abuses, its exploitation for immoral ends.

Maps are by definition charged creatures — there is no such thing as a “neutral” map. All maps reflect the collective cultural, historical, scientific, thematic, and aesthetic biases of their makers. There are however maps whose intent is to present their subjects “fairly” within the world in which they exist and the purpose they were created to serve. Google Map’s treatment of Palestine is, rather, cartographic thuggery, the use of its dominant platform as a weapon for Israeli aggression, subjugation, and ethnic cleansing.

This article was first published on Mondoweiss.com and was republished with permission. You can read the original here, where you can also see sources and recommended additional readings on the subject.

Tom Suárez’ writing on map history has figured into today’s map wars: his 1999 book “Early Mapping of Southeast Asia” (Charles E. Tuttle) was among the evidence (Annex 528) used by Philippine negotiators in their successful UN suit against China’s attempt to claimed sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly islands.


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Ottoman clocktowers

- by Alexander Jones -

Sultan Abdul Hamid II became the ruler of the Ottoman Empire on the 31st of August, 1876. 25 years later, to celebrate his silver jubilee, 144 clock towers were built in important cities throughout the empire. Celebratory towers were built from Tipoli (modern day Libya) to Damascus (modern day Syria), which still stand alongside older Ottoman clock towers already built in places like Belgrade, Baghdad and of course Istanbul. Of those built the early 1900s, 72 clock towers fell outside the borders of the modern-day Turkey and 7 are in modern day Israel-Palestine.

Jaffa clock tower and neo-classical Ottoman sayara
Most of the towers sit atop or alongside the saraya, an Ottoman administrative building which stood at the centre of most important cities and was a combination of castle, palace, government building, regional headquarters, barracks and even sometimes an inn. The most famous of all the clock towers is undoubtedly in Jaffa. Today it stands in front of the saraya, in a large square known to everyone as 'clock tower square'. Tour guides often repeat an apocryphal tale which claims that a Jewish clock maker, variously either Yossef Moial or Mortiz Schoenberg, provided the time pieces after getting fed up with constantly being asked what time it was by residents who didn't have a personal watch. The name specifically doesn't really matter - what is important is that it proves the existence of civic minded Jewish residents in pre-Balfour Palestine. The tower was heavily restored in the 1960s, when the stained glass was added, and again in 2001 when the tughra (a monogram serving as the sultan's official seal that incorporates his name, his titles, his father’s name and blessings) was replaced by 3 glass versions and the remaining marble one restored.

In Safed you can see the clock tower built into the saraya itself - as the foot of the tower and one of the corners of the building are one and the same. In the main square of the old city of Nablus, the clock tower has recently been restored and is directly opposite the Victory Mosque and the Ottoman saraya. Visitors to Acre (Akko) will see the tower atop the central caravanserai known as Khan al-Umdan. Haifa's clock tower has been altered and now only one face still tells the time, but it is nevertheless still standing in the centre of the city despite several wars and numerous bombings. The saraya in Nazareth has a stubby tower on top, with holes suitable for clocks, but even the Israeli Antiquities Authority say they are unsure if it was ever used to tell the time.

The clock tower in Jerusalem, before it was demolished
The final tower was destroyed in 1922. It was built into the walls of the old city of Jerusalem, at the Jaffa Gate. During British modernisation of this key access point from West Jerusalem, the elegant clock tower was demolished. There was also apparently a good deal of Oriental romanticism behind this decision, as legend has it many of the British felt that it looked too European and ruined the ascetic of the holy city's skyline.

Which brings us to the most interesting point. Just what do these towers tell us about turn of the century Ottoman Empire? In the West there is a prevailing idea that this was a time when the Ottomans were nothing more than the 'Sick Man of Europe'. While it is undoubtedly true that the Empire was in a period of decline, and ceased to exist altogether in World War One, this is a highly Eurocentric outlook. The 19th century saw reforms know as tanzimat enacted, while under Abdul Hamid II and especially in the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire underwent a period of modernisation with a completely revised education system and the implementation of the Empire's first telegraph and railway systems. While things did not always move in one direction, and a privilege was as likely to be revoked as granted, when viewed from the East the Ottomans of this era were very much seen as the bridge to Europe and new ways of life.

In 1892 the first railway in the Middle East opened, linking Jaffa to Jerusalem, using the know-how of a French company. Meanwhile the Ottoman alliance with Germany brought scientific and military reform. It was this modernisation which created the need for accurate time keeping in the first place. Prior to the arrival of the trains, time keeping was done in the mosques using often quite sophisticated sun and moon observations. Prayer times would be announced from the minaret but this level of accuracy could never match the need of a modern railway system.

So although the Ottoman Empire in 1900 may look like a dying beast to Western eyes, to those here in the Middle East the clock towers were symbolic of a massive, Ottoman-led wave of modernisation. And you can see many of the clock towers on our tours! We have Jaffa-Tel Aviv walking tours starting beside the clock tower every Sunday, Monday and Friday. You can see the Nablus tower every Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and the Nazareth tower on Sundays and Wednesdays.


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