Days before Israel announced that it was going ahead with 4,000 new illegal settlement units in the West Bank, U.S. ambassador Thomas Nides, who was reportedly briefed on the plans, said “I really respect this government… they really want to do the right thing. I’m thrilled to work with them. Everything I do is about strengthening a democratic Jewish state. As for Palestinians, they should believe in their heart that there’s still an opportunity for a two-state solution.”

Where is that opportunity you speak of Mr. Ambassador?

Palestinians were left to ponder that question when the Israeli High Court recently greenlighted the forcible expulsion of yet another 1,200 Palestinians from the southern occupied West Bank. According to B’Tselem, the Israeli Human Rights Organization, “After 20 years of legal proceedings, Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the forcible transfer of hundreds of Palestinians from their homes for the clear purpose of taking over their lands in the service of Jewish interests is legal. If carried out, it would constitute a violation of international law which prohibits Israel as an occupying power from transferring members of the occupied population from their existing communities against their will.”

Mr. Ambassador, Palestinians are left to wonder, too, about your own government’s recent attempt to redefine UNRWA, a United Nations Agency for Palestinian relief, which, if successful, would destroy any possibility of a just solution. UNRWA’s mission, which has been in effect since 1949, has done more than provide urgent support for millions of refugees. It has also been a political platform that protected and preserved the rights of generations of Palestinians.

Though UNRWA was not established as a political or legal platform per se, the context of its mandate was largely political, since Palestinians became refugees as a result of military and political events – the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people by Israel and the latter’s refusal to respect the Right of Return for Palestinians as enshrined in UN resolution 194 (III) of December 11, 1948.

UNRWA provides educational, health and other support for 5.6 million Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. At an annual budget of $1.6 billion, this support cannot be easily replaced.

In June 2018, Jared Kushner, son-in-law, and advisor to former US President Donald Trump, visited Amman, Jordan, where he tried to persuade Jordan’s King Abdullah to remove the refugee status from 2 million Palestinians currently living in that country. When this attempt failed, the Trump administration ended its financial support of UNRWA.  As the organization’s main funder, (30 percent of URWA’s money comes from the US alone) Trump’s decision was devastating.

The Biden Administration resumed funding in April 2021, but a little caveat in Washington’s move was largely kept secret. Washington only agreed to fund UNRWA after the latter agreed to sign a two-year plan, known as Framework for Cooperation. In essence, the plan effectively turned UNRWA into a platform for Israeli and American policies in Palestine, whereby the UN body consents to the US – thus Israeli – demands to ensure that no aid would reach any Palestinian refugee who has received military training or had engaged in any acts of terrorism as defined by Israel.

By entering into an agreement with the US Department of State, UNRWA has effectively transformed itself from a humanitarian agency that provides relief for Palestinian refugees to a security agency furthering the security and political agenda of the US, and ultimately Israel, thereby altering the entire mandate granted to UNRWA 73 years ago by the international community. Under pressure, the Europe parliament also passed an amendment that would condition EU support of UNRWA on the editing and rewriting of Palestinian school textbooks that supposedly incite violence against Israel. Instead of focusing solely on shutting down UNRWA, the US, Israel and their supporters are working to rewrite its original mandate to protect Israeli, American and western interests in Palestine. In light of these developments, Mr. Ambassador, how can Palestinians still believe in their hearts that there will be a just two-state solution?

Cathy Sultan’s books, including Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides, are available for purchase on Amazon.


Over the last three months, we have listened to a barrage of political pundits, military personnel and elected officials all of whom pontificate on the reasons for Russia’s outrageous behavior. I’ like to play devil’s advocate, something my readers know I’m rather fond of doing, and offer some alternative points of view. To be clear, understanding why Russia invaded is not condoning the invasion but understanding historical facts is essential if we are to understand Russia’s motivation, however misguided.

All wars are horrific. In my opinion, they should never be fought. I say this as someone who lived in a war zone, under constant bombing, for eight years. My family and I fled our home eleven times. I am intimately familiar with the horrors of war. During those eight years, I was convinced that wise leaders would come to their senses and resolve the crisis but like now I see no wise leaders stepping up or even calling for a cease-fire much less convening the warring factions for negotiations. In an effort to better understand this crisis, let’s begin with some of the critical history that is ignored by Western media because it contradicts their official narrative. 

On February 9, 1990, then US Secretary of State James Baker gave his famous “not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO expansion when he met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. His was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials throughout the process of German unification in 1990 and into 1991. These assurances were documented in declassified US, German, Soviet, British and French documents posted December 12, 2017, by the National the National Security Archive at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher opened the session with a major speech at Tutzing, in Babaria, on German unification. The US Embassy in Bonn informed Washington that Genscher made it clear “That that the changes in Eastern Europe and the German unification process must not lead to an ‘impairment of Soviet security interests.’ Therefore, NATO should rule out ‘an expansion of its territory toward the east, moving it closer to the Soviet borders’.” The Bonn cable also noted Genscher’s proposal to leave the East German territory out of NATO military structures even in a unified Germany in NATO. These documents reinforce former CIA Director Robert Gate’s criticism of “pressing ahead with expansion of NATO eastward when Gorbachev and others were led to believe that wouldn’t happen.”

Fast forward to 2008 when, during the Bucharest summit, George W. Bush fatefully badgered reluctant leaders into pledging future NATO membership to Ukraine. William Burns, US Ambassador to Russia at the time, and now the US’s current CIA Director, sent a memo to then Secretary of State Condolezza Rice that included this warning: Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all red lines for the Russian elite, not just Putin. In more than two and a half years of conversations with key Russian players, from knuckle-draggers in the dark recesses of the Kremlin to Putin’s sharpest liberal critics, I have yet to find anyone who views that bringing Ukraine into NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.” Burns added that it was “hard to overstate the strategic consequences” of offering Ukraine NATO membership, a move, he predicted, that would “create fertile soil for Russian meddling in Crimea and eastern Ukraine”

If we were to consider the starting point of this current crisis to be 1990, or 2008 with the Bucharest Agreement, or the 2014 US-orchestrated coup in Ukraine that removed a pro-Russian elected president and embedded neo-Nazi groups into every level of the Ukrainian government, or when Ukraine became a de facto member of NATO, thereby crossing a red line for Russia, one could conceivably view the Russian invasion differently.

The Minsk Protocols after the 2014 coup were an attempt at a peaceful settlement after some 13,000 pro-Russian citizens in eastern Ukraine were killed. In the Protocols, Kiev agreed to grant autonomy to Donbas via a constitutional amendment and begin a dialogue with the people of Donetsk and Lugansk in the Donbas region. Moscow signed the Minsk Agreement and recognized the Donbas as an integral autonomous part of Ukraine. Kiev to date has refused to sign the agreement.

According to the Los Alamos Study Group, one of the most respected and best informed anti-nuclear war groups in the world, the greatest danger in this conflict lies in the difference in motives between the parties. Russia seeks security while the US and its NATO allies are using Ukraine to destroy that security, and as Henry Kissinger said in 2015 with the aim “to break Russia.”

At the root of the Ukraine crisis is a specific strategy known as the Wolfowitz Doctrine, named after Paul Wolfowitz, who, as Under Secretary of Defense in the George H.W. Bush administration, was one of the authors of a 1992 neo conservative manifesto aimed at ensuring American dominance of world affairs following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Our first objective,” stated the document, “is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival to the United States, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere. This is a dominant consideration underlying a regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”

The Wolfowitz Doctrine triggered the post-Cold War use of NATO as an instrument of aggression against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. It declared that diplomacy was dead, and that American power should rule by violence where necessary.

Understanding why Russia invaded is not condoning the invasion but it is important to understand that Russia views US and NATO actions as an existential danger to its very existence. The sincerity of that view is evident in the grave risks Russia is taking in this invasion which, again, we need not justify nor condone, but should at least acknowledge, whether we agree or not. Failure by the US and NATO over the course of decades to respect Russia’s position, and to provide a humane and reasonable provision for Russia’s security needs is the main cause of the present conflict.

Russia’s capital demand is that Ukraine not be allowed to join NATO. This view is supported by none other than Henry Kissinger in his recent opinion piece in the Washington Post which I consider important enough to quote in its entirety.

“The Ukrainian issue is posed as a showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. If Ukraine is to survive and thrive it must not be either the West’s or the East’s outpost against the other. Rather, it should function as a bridge between them.

“The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries. (Ukraine became a de facto Moscow protectorate back in 1654.)  Some of the most important battles for the empire were fought on Ukrainian soil.” (Ukraine became a province of the Russian empire when Catherine the Great deposed the Ukrainian commander-in-Chief in 1764.)

“The Black Sea Fleet, Russia’s means of projecting power in the Mediterranean, is based on a long-term lease in Sevastopol in Crimea. The Ukrainians live in a country with a complex history and a polyglot composition and have only been independent for 23 years. The western part was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1939 when Stalin and Hitler divided up the spoils. Crimea, 60 percent of whose population is Russian, became part of Ukraine only in 1954 when Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian by birth, awarded it as part of the 300th celebration of a Russian agreement with the Cossacks. The west is largely Catholic or Greek Catholic, the east largely Russian Orthodox. The west speaks Ukrainian; the east speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other would lead eventually to civil war or breakup.

“To treat Ukraine as part of an East-West confrontation will scuttle for decades any prospect to bring Russia and the West, especially Russia and Europe, into a cooperative international system. Russia will not be able to impose a military solution without isolating itself at a time when many of its borders are already precarious. For the West, the demonization of Putin is not a policy, it is an alibi for the absence of one.

“Putin should come to realize that whatever his grievances, a policy of miliary impositions would produce another Cold War. For its part, the United States needs to avoid treating Russia as an aberrant to be patiently taught rules of conduct established by Washington. Putin is a serious strategist on the premises of Russian history. Understanding US values and psychology is not his strong suit. Nor has understanding Russian history and psychology been a strong point of US policymakers.”

Kissinger, then, offers several possible outcomes.

Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations, including with Europe.

Ukraine should not join NATO, a position I took seven years ago.

It is incompatible with the rules of the existing world order for Russia to annex Crimea. But it should be possible to put Crimea’s relationship to Ukraine in a less fraught basis. To that end, Russia would recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea. Ukraine should reinforce Crimea’s autonomy in elections held in the presence of international observers. The process would include removing any ambiguities about the status of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol.

Our Monroe Doctrine, signed in 1923, explicitly states that the Western Hemisphere is our backyard, and no major power will ever be allowed into our area of influence. Recall the Bay of Pigs incident when Russia installed nuclear weapons in Cuba. The West went ballistics and rightly so, but President Kennedy and Khrushchev, with the help of wise diplomacy, were able to resolve the crisis. Russia removed its nuclear weapons from Cuba and the US removed its ballistic missiles from Turkey. If Russia were to install missiles in Cuba, or on our Canadian or Mexican border, we would be doing the same thing Putin is doing now in Ukraine. Think about that.



In April 2021, Human Rights Watch, one of the global leaders in documenting and combating human rights abuses around the world released a 215-page report entitled “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crime of Apartheid and Persecution.” It found that Israel was responsible for committing crimes against humanity of apartheid in the entire territory under its control, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. This echoed the findings of the leading Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, which released a similar report accusing Israel of apartheid.

In February 2022, Amnesty International issued its own comprehensive 250-page report entitled, “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crimes against Humanity.” Their report sets out how massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfer, drastic movement restrictions, torture, and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians are all components of a system which amounts to apartheid under international law. This system is maintained by violations which constitute apartheid as defined in the Rome Statute and Apartheid Convention.

Amnesty International is calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hold Israeli authorities accountable for committing the crime of apartheid against Palestinians. The investigation details how Israel enforces a system of oppression and domination against the Palestinian people wherever it has control over their rights. This includes Palestinians living in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), as well as displaced refugees in other countries.

According to Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, “There is no possible justification for a system built around the institutionalized and prolonged racist oppression of millions of people. Apartheid has no place in our world, and states which choose to make allowances for Israel will find themselves on the wrong side of history. Governments who continue to supply Israel with arms and shield it from accountability at the UN are supporting a system of apartheid, undermining the international legal order, and exacerbating the suffering of the Palestinian people. The international community must face up to the reality of Israel’s apartheid and pursue the many avenues to justice which, to date, remain shamefully unexplored.”

Amnesty is calling for the UN Security Council to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel. This should cover all weapons and munitions as well as law enforcement equipment, given the thousands of Palestinian civilians who have been unlawfully killed by Israeli forces. The Security Council should also impose targeted sanctions, such as asset freezes, against Israeli officials most implicated in the crime of apartheid.

Amnesty’s report shows that successive Israeli governments have considered Palestinians a demographic threat, and imposed measures to control and decrease their presence and access to land in Israel and the OPT. These demographic aims are well illustrated by official plans to “Judaize” areas of Israel and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which continue to put thousands of Palestinians at risk of forcible transfer. The report demonstrates that Israeli authorities treat Palestinians as an inferior racial group who are defined by their non-Jewish, Arab status. This racial discrimination is cemented in laws which affect Palestinians across Israel and the OPT. For example, Palestinian citizens of Israel are denied a nationality, establishing a legal differentiation from Jewish Israelis. In the West Bank and Gaza, where Israel has controlled the population registry since 1967, Palestinians have no citizenship and most are considered stateless, requiring ID cards from the Israeli military to live and work in the territories.

Palestinian refugees and their descendants, who were displaced in the 1947-49 and 1967 conflicts, continue to be denied the right to return to their former places of residence. Israel’s exclusion of refugees is a flagrant violation of international law which has left millions in a perpetual limbo of forced displacement.

Palestinians in annexed East Jerusalem are granted permanent residence instead of citizenship – though this status is permanent in name only. Since 1967, more than 14,000 Palestinians have had their residency revoked at the discretion of the Ministry of the Interior.

Since 1948 Israeli authorities have adopted various policies to “Judaize” the Negev in southern Israel, including designating large areas as nature reserves or military firing zones, and setting targets for increasing the Jewish population. This has had devastating consequences for the tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouins who live in the region.

Thirty-five Bedouin villages, home to about 68,000 people, are currently “unrecognized” by Israel, which means they are cut off from the national electricity and water supply and targeted for repeated demolitions. As the villages have no official status, their residents also face restrictions on political participation and are excluded from the healthcare and education systems.

The Biden administration and members of congress from both sides of the aisle have condemned Amnesty’s report. State Department spokesman Ned Price rejected the idea that Israel is an apartheid state. “The department’s own reports have never used such terminology. We are committed to promoting respect for human rights in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. We have an enduring partnership with Israel. We discuss a wide range of issues with our Israeli counterparts, including those related to human rights.”

In a follow-up question, AP’s Matt Lee asked Price why the Biden administration is so dismissive of Amnesty’s report. “Why is it that all criticism of Israel is almost always rejected by the U.S., and yet accepted, welcomed, and endorsed when it comes to criticism of other countries with which you have significant policy differences like Syria and China?”

Price responded: “This is about our vehement disagreement with a certain finding in a report by an outside group.” Comments from Congressional members ran along similar lines,  claiming “the biased report is steeped in antisemitism and is part of Amnesty’s long campaign to criminalize and delegitimize the world’s only Jewish state.”

Cathy Sultan’s book Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides can be found on Amazon.


Why is there still a virtual media blackout of the Obama administration’s role in facilitating arms shipments to Syria and using so-called “moderate rebels” to try to defeat Assad when Obama’s then Vice President Biden admitted the truth when he delivered a speech to a Harvard audience in September 2014?

“There are no moderate rebels,” Biden said. “Instead, the US and its allies poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Those supplies went to al Nusra, and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from all parts of the world.” 

Not only did Biden have to apologize for his remarks the White House issued a separate statement insisting that the vice president did not intend to imply that any US allies had intentionally facilitated terrorists.

Just as the uprising in Syria began to unfold in 2011, Jake Sullivan, then national security advisor to Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and the current national security advisor to the Biden administration, famously bragged, “Al Qaeda is on our side in Syria.” Tony Blinken, then deputy national security advisor to Obama, and now Biden’s Secretary of State, said on CNN’s State of the Union in 2014 that “The answer to both Assad and to ISIS is the moderate opposition. They need to be built up so that they can be a counterweight to Assad. In the near term, they also need to be built up so they can work on the ground to help deal with ISIS.”

The US’s regime change campaign, undertaken a decade after al Qaeda attacked the US on 9/11, helped a then sworn US enemy establish what is currently being called the largest safe-haven for al Qaeda-linked insurgents in Idlib in northwest Syria.

In a scene from An Ambassador to Syria, two of the many protagonists in Cathy Sultan’s latest and third novel in her Syria Quartet, Bashar Assad and US Ambassador to Syria Robert Jenkins, discuss this.

“Your government’s been at it here for the last seventy years” Assad said, “attempting coups and assassinations, and they have yet to succeed. Why do you think this time will be any different?”

“I wouldn’t know, sir,” Jenkins replied.

Bashar finally spread his arms wide and asked, “In the end, what is it your government wants, Mr. Ambassador? Al Qaeda sitting in the presidential palace?”

In a later conversation between the two men, Ambassador Jenkins explains that the US policy in Syria mirrored the same one the US used in Iraq, creating conflicting polarities within Iraq—Shiites versus Sunnis—as a distraction from the US occupation. In Syria, we reversed the process. Sunni death squads going after Alawite infidels and other minorities.”

“I’ve known for years that Syria’s been in the crosshairs of multiple US administrations, but what could I have done to halt their agenda?”

“Not a damn thing. Sadly, this isn’t even about you or Syria per se. It’s a proxy war with Iran and by extension, Russia, your strategic partner. The US thinks that by undermining you, they can inflict a damaging blow to both countries.”

Hayat al Tahrir al Sham, formerly known as al Nusra group, now controls Idlib province. The group is headed by Mohammad Jolani known region-wide for his use of beheadings, rape and kidnappings, not unlike his cohort Abu Bakr Baghdadi in Raqqa. Under the Aegis of NATO member state Turkey, powerful elements from Brussels to Washington are currently engaged in a simultaneous push to remove Jolani and his HTS from the US State Department’s list of designated terrorist groups. The US hoped a name change from al Nusra to Hayat al Tahrir al Sham would open the door for international acceptance of Jolani’s de facto government in Idlib which regime change advocates in Washington view as an important piece of leverage they hope to use against the Syrian government.

“And all the while,” Bashar said, “your president claimed he was willing to work with me to resolve the conflict. If he’d been serious about normal relations, like he said, and gotten rid of those awful war hawks who’d wiggled their way into his administration, I think we could have had a decent, honest discussion and avoided a lot of pain and suffering of my people.” “Unfortunately, Bashar, war hawks manage to exert pressure on every administration. They’re influential people with powerful backers who have a vested interest in promoting wars across the Middle East and elsewhere.



The standard of justice must be one for all peoples of the world. International law was meant to be universally applied as a yardstick by which to judge the conduct of all states and non-actors equally.

The International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague, was established to be that yardstick. The ICC is an independent, permanent war crimes tribunal that succeeded earlier ad hoc U.N. courts which tackled the 1990s Rwandan genocide and the Yugoslav conflict. Its mission is to prosecute individuals, not countries, when a member state is unwilling or unable and is meant to be universally applied.

The disparity between Western countries opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on the one hand, and their support of Israel’s decades-long violent rule over Palestinians illustrates how Western so-called democracies view international law not as requiring universal compliance but as a cudgel to be used against their enemies.        

Three months after Russia invaded Ukraine, ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan QC paid a visit to Ukraine where he said: “We stand ready to work with all relevant national authorities to obtain information, build a collective effort to establish the truth and ensure that individuals accused of international crimes are held accountable in a court of law.”

Seven years after the 2014 Gaza war, when Israeli armed forces swept into the Gaza Strip, a heavily urbanized enclave where 1.7 million Palestinians live in open-air prison conditions, surrounded air, sea and land by the Israeli miliary, the ICC is still examining whether Israeli forces committed war crimes. According to the U.N.’s Independent Commission of Inquiry, 2,251 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians lost their lives and 11,231 Palestinians were injured, ten percent of whom suffered permanent disability. Eighteen thousand housing units were destroyed, and 73 medical facilities were damaged. Between July 7 and August 26, the Israeli Defense Forces carried out more than 6,000 airstrikes across Gaza. As a result of the 4,000 rockets and mortars Hamas rockets fired into Israel, six civilians were killed along with 67 Israeli soldiers; 1,600 were wounded.

Israel and Gaza each accuse the other of war crimes. While Israel stands accused of using disproportionate force against Palestinian civilians, the ICC believes offenses, which constitute war crimes, were committed by both sides.

Since 2014, Israel has refused to cooperate with the inquiry, accusing the ICC of anti-Semitic bias. Like its closest ally, the US, Israel rejected membership in the court. Then Prime Minister Netanyahu claimed the court was singling out the State of Israel, even though both Hamas and Israel were cited for possible war crimes. However, according to ICC prosecutor Bensouda, there were signs all along that there would be no cooperation whatsoever from one side and the court would have to look for a way to deal with their intransigence. Prosecutor Bensouda said her team met regularly with Israeli and Palestinian officials to create transparency and gave both sides a fair opportunity to present their positions but Israel refused to cooperate.

The Palestinians are calling on Prosecutor Karim Khan to visit Palestine as soon as possible, just as he recently visited Ukraine. Since he assumed his role as Prosecutor, Khan has made no comment on the Palestinian investigation, even after Israel imposed terror group designations on the Palestinian human rights groups who cooperated closely with the ICC in its war crimes probe into the 2014 war in Gaza.


A first! The Israeli government used drones to drop tear gas on worshippers in and around the Al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan service the weekend of April 15th.

Israel’s foreign ministry attempted to spin the police raid on al-Aqsa as an effort to protect freedom of worship from “violent rioters desecrating the site and endangering the public,” but scores of videos show instead Israeli police entering the mosque with not only tear gas, stun grenades and rubber coated bullets but also purposely smashing the mosque’s stain glass windows. Palestinians rightly fear that without international condemnation of such actions, and without holding the Israeli government accountable, Israel will continue to seize every opportunity at their disposal to carry out similar provocations at the al-Aqsa Mosque.

For years Israeli governments have denied Muslims’ claims that Israel is aiming to turn the Temple Mount into a place of worship sacred to Jews only, to remove the Muslims from it or to divide the site. There is historical precedent for the upending of the status quo of a major Muslim holy site. After an American-born Jewish settler massacred 29 worshippers in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994, Israeli forces partitioned the holy site and shuttered the formerly bustling adjacent Old City, essentially handing over the Old City of Hebron to Jewish settlers, many of whom are American, and destroying Palestinian livelihood.

The Temple Mount is in a part of Jerusalem that Israel annexed in 1967. To date, only the Trump administration has acknowledged Israeli’s sovereignty over the site. Even if annexation were to be acknowledged by the world body, arrangements on the Temple Mount are subject to Israel’s promise to Jordan, as written in their 1994 peace treaty, as well as to later agreements designed to cool down this burning-hot religious issue which in the recent past has erupted with the frequency of wildfires.

After the Six-Day War in 1967, then Defense Minister Moshe Dayan decided that the administration of the Temple Mount would remain in the hands of the Jordanian religious trust, the Wafq. In 2014, then Prime Minister Netanyahu ratified the so-called Kerry Agreements, including Israel’s recognition of Jordan’s special role in safeguarding the holy sites at the compound, and promised to continue to implement the principle that Muslims can pray on the Mount, while non-Muslims can visit, but not pray. However, Trump’s “deal of the century” plan included an important contradiction that stipulated “people of every faith should be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, in a manner that is fully respectful to their religion.”

The attempts by Israeli setterts who call themselves the Temple Mount “faithful” to breach the Mount, and their dream of not only praying on the Mount but also rebuilding their Temple there, a project that of necessity would require the demolition of the mosque, demonstrates the sovereignty issue as the main pretext for the current crisis. The “faithful” see themselves as a spearhead that can force their government to take over control of the Mount just as they succeeded in doing when they annexed the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, and in establishing settlement satellites that have created a parallel state, a state of the settlers, that has shaped the face of Israel today. For them, without the Temple Mount, Israel cannot be a purely Jewish state. For them, even if a religious war erupts, and even if Israel’s relations with its old and new Arab friends are severed, or if sanctions are imposed on Israel and the entire Muslim world condemns Israel for allowing this to happen, absolute control of the Temple Mount would be worth the price.

Israel shrugs off repeated police raids on al Aqsa as Islamic paranoia but for Muslims when messianic leaders are part of the Israeli Knesset a war the al Aqsa/Temple Mount is possible. According to Zvi Bar’el, in his opinion piece in Haaretz, the seizure of Palestinian property around the mosque compound and Israeli construction around the holy site makes for a realistic prediction that a war over the holy site is only a question of time.

Cathy Sultan’s book Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides is available on Amazon.


What if, in Cathy Sultan’s latest book An Ambassador to Syria, it was the mission of the new U.S. Ambassador to dismantle the Syrian State. What if the issue was not even Syria but about dealing a crippling blow to Iran and Hezbollah, and Syria, their linchpin, needed to be taken out, even if such actions were to trigger a wider conflict.

John Bolton, serving at the time under George W. Bush, had already designated Syria as one of a handful of rogue states that, like Iraq, could expect to eventually become a U.S. target. By the time Bashar Assad became fully aware of the US plan, he was powerless to do anything about it. But there he was, the new U.S. Ambassador, Robert Jenkins, an American patriot, confident in his mission, ready to see it through for the destruction of Syria was an integral part of preserving American hegemony across the Middle East.

Why would the CIA continue to repeat its regime change efforts? This was a question President Assad asked of the new ambassador because that same intelligence agency had been at it for the last seventy years, attempting coups and assassinations, and never succeeding. Why did they think this time would be any different? Even President Obama commissioned a report on the CIA’s track record on covert activity and concluded such efforts seldom worked and yet, he went ahead and approved their operation in Syria. Why?

Using lies as a point of war is unconscionable yet wars are premised on lies, and the Syrian conflict a prime example. Truth is war’s first casualty. It’s naïve to think otherwise. No doubt, the propensity for lying has expanded because of the internet. It is Pandora’s box, and it may seem an invaluable instrument, but it is a curse, and we won’t continue to evolve if we can’t control our penchant for lying.  We’ve already seen what happened in Iraq. The lies about Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Wasn’t that enough of a debacle to know that regime change in Syria wouldn’t work especially with a president who was well liked by his people and who had the full support of his army?  And yet, from day one of the uprising in March 2011, the key narrative was Bashar Assad, a brutal dictator killing his own people in a peaceful, popular revolution and he needed to be taken down. When Bashar blamed the presence of foreign fighters, his accusations were rejected as propaganda. And the reforms he had initiated?  Dismissed as “too late” and “window-dressing.” Eighty-eight soldiers had been killed in the first month of protests. Who cared? Weren’t they the same Syrian soldiers who had been killing innocent civilians? Journalists, whether from The New York Times, The Washington Post, the major U.S. channels, were complicit, too, as Ambassador Jenkins knew they would be, all pretty much relying on the same sources—the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department—reporting, as if on cue, their government’s script—Assad killing his own people.

Years earlier, according to WikiLeaks, the U.S. State Department had already been funneling millions of dollars to the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based dissident organization, which broadcast anti-government news into Syria. When questioned about this, a State Department spokesperson said the Syrian government would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change. So what if he did?

Additional cables released by WikiLeaks revealed that as early as 1996, under Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, Israel had hatched a plan to overthrow Assad by engineering sectarian strife in the country and isolating Syria from its strongest regional ally, Iran. Leaked emails belonging to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton seem to confirm Israel’s current role in covertly creating the conflict and securing the involvement of the U.S. According to Clinton, bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon for Israel’s security, such a plan would also ease Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear deterrence to Iran.

In light of such revelations, made fifteen years before the actual uprising, wouldn’t it be natural, then, for Bashar Assad to assume, when the protests began, that this was a deliberate plan by the US to trigger social chaos, to discredit his government, and ultimately dismantle the Syrian state.

Cathy Sultan’s new book An Ambassador to Syria is available for purchase on Amazon


 I would not have thought to associate ice cream with the violation of Palestinian rights but Ben & Jerry’s did when they recently announced they would no longer sell their products in Israeli settlements on the West Bank or in Occupied East Jerusalem because such practices were inconsistent with their values.

In purely business terms, this means Ben & Jerry’s will not renew the license of its Israeli partner when it expires at the end of this year. In terms of political import, their decision is huge. Right now, the world needs an honest, principled confrontation with apartheid Israel and its illegal occupation of Palestinian land, and Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have just pushed us a few steps closer to one.

This is also a big boost for the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement (BDS), the strength and influence of which is now perfectly evident if we use Israel’s reaction to the Ben & Jerry announcement. The apartheid state is in panic mode since the peddler of ice cream took its courageous stand. This tells us all we need to know about BDS’s accumulating power.

It is fair to compare BDS with the anti-apartheid campaigns against South Africa of the 70s and 80s. The U.S. government supported white South Africa against the black majority just as today the same government supports the Israeli government against Palestinian human rights. As proof of that, thirty U.S. states have passed anti-BDS laws. Many cities, towns and counties have also done the same. Courts in four of those states have ruled such laws unconstitutional but all states need to be challenged as these laws violate our right to free speech and assembly.

In response to Ben & Jerry’s announcement, Ned Price, the spokesperson at the U.S. State Department, said, “We firmly reject the BDS movement which unfairly singles out Israel.” Senators Marco Rubio and Joe Manchin just reintroduced anti-BDS movement legislation that got nowhere when they first brought it up for a vote a couple of years ago.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also weighed in saying, “Over thirty states in the U.S. have passed anti-BDS legislation in recent years. I plan on asking each of them to enforce these laws against Ben & Jerry’s. They will not treat the State of Israel like this without a response.”

 Not to be outdone, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, sent letters to thirty-five governors asking them to pressure Ben & Jerry’s to reverse course. “We view this decision very severely as it is the de facto adoption of anti-Semitic practices and advancement of the delegitimization of the Jewish state and the de-humanization of the Jewish people.”

Such arrogance! “The Jewish State” has all on its own, and unimpeded by the U.S. government, systematically dehumanized Palestinians for the last seven decades.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called Unilever, the ice cream maker’s parent company and threatened “severe consequences” if its subsidiary held to its position.

American officials, in both parties, play to the American Jewish vote and the Israel lobby and nothing gets in the way of their pandering. President Biden stands in opposition to BDS, for the sole purpose of appeasing Israel even though those anti-BDS laws, when contested in those four states, were found to be in violation of the right to free speech and assembly. Doesn’t this mean that the president of the United States supports Israel in violation of U.S. laws?

The immediate question is whether Ben & Jerry’s will hold to their commitment or fold under what is already emerging as intense pressure intended to inflict commercial damage. Airbnb stepped back from a similar commitment a few years ago. The larger question is whether other companies will follow now that Ben & Jerry’s has brought the BDS campaign squarely into the global corporate sector.

Times are changing and the political winds are shifting especially after the tragic events of last May in Jerusalem and Gaza and Israel proper which stirred up the entire world. The assumption that all Jews must support Israel and that any criticism against Israel is anti-Semitic are tired tropes which have worn thin in public opinion around the world.

This is not about Jews. This is about Israel. The concept of a Jewish only state as conceived by Netanyahu has done to Judaism what evangelical Christians have done to the Christian heritage and what fanatical jihadists have done to the greatness of Islam.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have simply said “No, enough!” as we all must. 

Cathy Sultan’s book Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides can be found on Amazon.



He died three days before our fifty-fourth wedding anniversary. We did not know exactly when he would leave us but we knew given the diagnosis of ALS that the end would come sooner rather than later, given his age at the time of onset. We had mutually agreed we would try to remain in good health until our nineties, but it was written otherwise.  As deaths go, his was peaceful and dignified, appropriate for such a quiet, gentle presence of a man. He fell into unconsciousness six days before he died, his wife and two children by his side. Hospice assured us he could still hear so we talked to him constantly and family and friends came and relatives from afar called and there was a constant energy of love and blessings and remembering, all spoken in Arabic or French or English, or all three, depending on who was doing the talking. He was a lover of French poetry, a grand master, in fact. He could make friends shed a tear or break into a smile or laugh out loud when, in his lovely French accent, he recited his favorite verses from Moliere or Baudelaire or Verlaine. And when he could no longer talk, it was these same friends who sat at his bedside and recited his favorite poems back to him.

He was no ordinary man and ours was no ordinary marriage. It was full of memorable adventures and joys but it was the challenges of living in a war zone that tested our commitment and made us, as a couple, stronger, more resilient, more respectful of one another. And if each of us did our part to keep our family safe, it was this quiet man who was the true hero. When the battles came to Badaro Street, he armed himself with a sawed-off gun and stood behind the barricades alongside his neighbors to protect our neighborhood from enemy incursions. After a heavy night of shelling, he would leave home early morning, willing to risk sniper fire and mortar shells, to reach his hospital in time to see his patients or mend the wounded or, in some cases, send their mangled bodies to the morgue. After eight years of civil war with no end in sight, this honorable man made the gut-wrenching decision to leave his country, move his family back to the states and begin a new practice so he could provide for them. For the next twenty-two years, he served his new community honorably and proudly contributed to its well-being.

When he arrived in the states in 1964 to begin his training, he was betrothed and never intended to fall in love with a woman with hazel green eyes, but he did, and how lucky I was, for it was through his love that I developed a Beirut heart, and although I have lost the love of my life, my heart will remain forever loyal to a city I love but that is now struggling for its own survival.

Cathy Sultan’s book A Beirut Heart: One Woman’s War can be found on Amazon


Since my first visit to Israel/Palestine in March 2002, I have returned five additional times, including a visit to Gaza in November 2012. In those fourteen years, the more things changed the more they stayed the same. Realistic solutions were proposed. Regional players offered concessions. A neutral party with international respect could have led the negotiations and brokered an agreement. Instead, the U.S. acted as Israel’s lawyer demanding impossible concessions from one party and not the other.

Since Ariel Sharon unilaterally withdrew some 8,000 Israeli settlers from Gaza in 2005, Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into an open-air prison for daring to vote in Hamas over a corrupt-riddled Fatah in elections forced upon the Palestinian Authority in January 2006 by the Bush Administration. Since Oslo, the PA has been charged with crushing Palestinian resistance in order to make the Palestinian Occupied Territories safe for continued Israeli occupation. Hamas’ success, therefore, was as much an expresson of the determination of Palestinians in all the occupied territories to resist Israel’s efforts to force their surrender as it was a rejection of Fatah’s willingness to act as Israel’s agent. Hamas’ victory reduced the conflict to its most fundamental elements: there is occupation and there is legitimate resistance.

I am a firm believer in “people power.” We have the capacity to serve as the principal agents of change. This attitude goes against the grain of so-called “political realism” which is based on battlefield results. The power of the American people has been hijacked by the executive branch of the U.S. government and by myths perpetuated by the Israeli government. In the case of a people under a brutal military occupation, how does a popular upswing in democratic thinking begin to take place? How do the majority of peace-seeking individuals regain their voices? The answer is a simple one. Collectively, we actively and virorously participate in the process of legitimacy. We become informed on issues related to this crisis, however complicated they may seem, oftentimes going outside main stream media sources to find unbiased reporting. We hold our politicians accountable for their actions. As citizens of the international community, these are our obligations; no one is exempt. We have everything to gain. Peace, after all, is the cornerstone of world stability and a viable future, and it begins with a recogniton that all Palestinians, whether in the occupied West Bank, occupied East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or Gaza have the legitimate right under international law to resist an ilegal Israeli military occupation that has lasted for decades.

The current conflict shows that Palestinians, undivided, have moved on from a two-state paradigm to a demand for equal rights. Our Congressional leaders should heed this new political reality. The Palestinians who can most shape the future are now in the streets and squares, speaking to one another and the world directly, and making clear that the ’67 green line that divided Israel and the occupied territories was an instrument of division, not liberation. We must stand with them and support their effort to live as liberated people with equal rights.

This is an exerpt from the third edition of Cathy Sultan’s Israeli and Palestinian Voices book available on Amazon and in your local bookstores.