Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sam Bahour's letter to Commissioners to the 220th General Assembly of the PC (U.S.A.)

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network through their web site as well as Twitter are promoting a letter from an Arab business man, Sam Bahour, encouraging the 220 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to vote to divest from several companies doing business with Israel. The letter, “RE: Divesting from Caterpillar, Inc., Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard,” is addressed to commissioners to the GA.

So who is Sam Bahour? El Shabaka of which he is affiliated has a profile which includes:
Sam Bahour does business consulting as Applied Information Management (AIM), specializing in business development with a niche focus on the information technology sector and start-ups. He helped establish PALTEL and the PLAZA Shopping Center. Until recently, he served on the board of trustees of Birzeit University and was the University’s treasurer. He is also a Director at the Arab Islamic Bank and the community foundation Dalia Association. Bahour is co-editor of HOMELAND: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians (Olive Branch Press).
Although born in the United States Bahour is totally pro-Palestinian; there doesn’t seem to be any place for the Jewish State of Israel in his outlook. In an article in The Guardian, “Palestine is the key to Arab Democracy,” Bahour uses the two Palestinian intifadas against Israel as a good example for the Egyptians in their uprising against the totalitarian government of Egypt. As a writer, on the CIF (the Guardian’s Comment is Free) Watch Site puts it in their article, “Translating the Guardian’s Sam Bahour:”
Even when taking into account Bahour’s affiliation with ‘Al Shabaka’ – an organisation which opposes the Palestinian Authority’s negotiations with Israel – one still has to wonder how a born and raised American can be in possession of such warped ideas that he can present the targeted killing of over a thousand Israelis as a ‘popular uprising’ with democracy carved on its standard.
The writer, who writes under the pseudo name, Israelnurse, goes on to state:
Let’s be quite honest here – and we need to, because Bahour is being anything but – those who died in suicide bombings on buses, in restaurants and in shopping centres did so because they were, or were thought to be, Jews. That was their only ‘sin’, but they had been dehumanised and delegitimized to such an extent by the society from which their murderers came that their deaths became a source of pride for that society, which to this day names streets, schools and children’s summer camps after suicide bombers and other terrorists.

Bahour wants readers to identify with those who, like him, refuse to negotiate and compromise and will settle for nothing less than ‘justice’, however much violence it takes to get it. He therefore cynically exploits the real grievances of the Egyptian people in order to throw up a smoke-screen he names democracy, and of course there is no better buzz word around at present.
Bahour has even written a fantasy piece, Press Release World is Waiting For, in which he imagines that “Foreign Minister Shimon Peres committed suicide today in his New York hotel room following a speech that he gave at a gala dinner of the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is the pro-Israeli lobby in the U.S.” The fantasy holds all of the desires that Bahour holds for a peace that is not negotiated but enforced by hard tactics. And that is what is wrong with his letter to commissioners.

While Bahour insists in his letter that investment in Palestine will not work without divestment of those companies named in item 15-11, “MRTI Report on Engagements with Corporations Involved in Israel, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank,” the report, “Stagnation or Revival? Palestinian Economic Prospects” published by the World Bank in March of 2012 shows a much more complex situation. It does place Israel’s restrictions as part of the problem but also sees need for the Palestinian government to commit to various programs. The authors write about the West Bank:
Ultimately, sustainable economic growth and an end to the fiscal crisis will require unleashing of the Palestinian private sector’s potential. This in turn necessitates a lifting of Israeli restrictions on access to land, water, a range of raw materials, and export markets. But it also requires that the Palestinian Authority improves the business environment and attracts needed investment through such measures as expanding land registration in the West Bank; reforming the current collection of laws governing business; and building its own capacity to regulate the economy and ensure competition.
And about Gaza:
Gaza experienced double-digit growth, demonstrating continued recovery. The high growth in Gaza reflects, in part, the low base from which it is starting – the average Gazan today remains worse off than s/he was in the late nineties. But it can also be attributed to a combination of aid inflows and easing of restrictions by Israel, in particular on entry of building materials for infrastructure projects implemented by international organizations. In addition to increased movement of materials through the tunnels from Egypt, this has led to a construction boom in Gaza. However, the state of Gaza infrastructure is such that massive investments in key sectors such as water and wastewater, electricity, and solid waste remain desperately needed. Such investments would generate short-term employment but also promote longer term growth and job creation. These investments would not fulfill their potential, however, in the absence of a lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza.
It should be seen from all of this that investment in Palestine along side continued negotiations is the best policy in the troubled Israel and Palestine disputes. One hopes that Commissioners to the 220th PCUSA General Assembly will ignore Bahour’s letter and encourage investment as a means of productive peace making.

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