Jo-Ann Mort

Jo-Ann Mort writes frequently about Israel and the Palestinians for The American Prospect and elsewhere, including as a regular contributor at TPM Cafe. She is the co-author of Our Hearts Invented a Place: Can Kibbutzim Survive in Today's Israel?

Recent Articles

Trapped in the Iron Cage

The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood by Rashid Khalidi (Beacon Press, 281 pages) Both a rapid-talking native New Yorker and the scion of an established Jerusalem Arab family, Rashid Khalidi is widely considered one of today's preeminent historians of the Palestinians. In his important new book, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (Beacon Press), he examines the failure of Palestinian attempts to establish their own state. He slams the "weak and ineffective" Palestinian leadership from the pre-Israel era up to the present day, while also remaining highly critical of Israeli and U.S. policy in the region. Khalidi holds the Edward Said Chair at the Middle East Institute at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. He was an advisor to the Palestinian delegation to the 1991 Madrid Conference that preceded the Oslo Accords, but is nevertheless quite critical of the peace process's ramifications. In two...

In But Not of Israel

Five days into Israel's war with Hezbollah, I visited the Umm El-Fahm Gallery in the town whose name it bore. Umm El-Fahm, the largest Muslim community in Israel, with a population of 43,000, anchors the largely Arab Triangle area on the coastal plain just south of Haifa. Outside the gallery, Israeli planes were bombing Lebanon and Hezbollah rockets were detonating nearby. Inside the gallery, Yehudit Bar-Shalom, a ceramicist from nearby Kibbutz Magal, was speaking. "I felt I was in a dream due to the hospitality of the gallery," she told me. "In all this chaos we are living in, you can do it differently," she told Said Abu-Shakra, a respected artist and the gallery's co-founder. Bar-Shalom reached across the table to Abu-Shakra. "I love you," she said. Abu-Shakra runs the gallery with the assistance of town leaders and Arab and Jewish arts professionals from across Israel. About one-third of its funding comes from outside the town, including grants from the Israeli and British...

Casualty of War

Zahi Khoury, a leading Palestinian businessman and chairman of the National Beverage Company, has two maps on a wall in his Ramallah office suite -- one for Gaza and one for the West Bank, with markings showing 150 Israeli checkpoints and 800 roadblocks, according to his logistics adviser. The maps help Khoury's staff figure out how to distribute their products throughout the region. (The person accompanying me in Ramallah when I visited this past July was also a locally based businessman. He told me that every large Palestinian company has a logistics expert on payroll to deal with issues caused by the Israeli occupation.) It's tough doing business in the West Bank and Gaza. Increasingly, chaos and desperation are taking the reins, and there is enough blame for this to go around. The Hamas election has proven a disaster for the Palestinians, not only because of the international diplomatic and economic isolation it provoked, but also because of the continued warfare among and between...

An Accountability Moment

The war between Israel and Hezbollah raised serious questions about Israel's military preparedness and strategy. Calls for the resignation of the military chief of staff, Dan Halutz, abound. It's likely that the Israeli military will clean up its act quickly (although perhaps with a new chief of staff) since there's nearly universal agreement in Israel that a smart and ready Israel Defense Force (IDF) is vital to the country's survival. But whether the political class that oversees the military can survive the war's fallout is another question entirely. Ehud Olmert's Kadima Party was organized with one political purpose: to manage a unilateral withdrawal of much of the West Bank. Its Knesset faction includes a few stray politicians from Labor who rode in on the centrist wave of Israeli popular opinion, but it's mostly culled from the right-wing Likud bloc. When Ariel Sharon -- Kadima's founder -- was in power, the party didn't have a written platform; after Sharon's stroke forced him...

The French Connection

What a difference a war makes. The Bush administration, long dismissive of multilateral diplomatic moves, especially with "Old Europe," worked closely with France to bring a diplomatic resolution to the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Now, it looks like these efforts may pay off, with an initial agreement at the U.N. for the U.S.-French sponsored resolution, and acceptance by the warring parties. If the U.N. agreement holds, this will be due in no small part to Israel's acceptance of the U.S./French document, which partly stems from the Israeli government's realization that they need to move in another direction if they are going to achieve their aim of squelching Hezbollah. The Israeli street began to turn last week, with the Peace Now movement beginning demonstrations against the war for the first time. The movement's leaders had overwhelmingly supported Israel's initial response -- to defend the country's international borders. But the growing sense of optimism that a diplomatic...

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