| Why do Israelis continue to kill Palestinians?

Why do Israelis continue to kill Palestinians? ~ Alan HartRedress Information & Analysis.

The question “Why do you continue to kill people?” was asked by an exasperated and quietly angry Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the UN, during his diplomatic effort in the Middle East. Because Israel is doing virtually all of the killing, I think it is more than reasonable to assume that his rhetorical question was addressed primarily to Israel’s leaders. The answer to it can be very simply stated.

“Killing Palestinians comes as naturally to Zionism as pissing when the bladder is full”

Because it is committed to retaining the maximum amount of Palestinian land with the minimum number of Palestinians on it and therefore has no interest in peace on terms the Palestinians could accept, Zionism knows no other way of behaving. Killing Palestinians comes as naturally to it as pissing when the bladder is full.

Another part of the whole terrible truth as noted by Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy is that most of the brainwashed Jewish public in Israel is not remotely concerned by the death and destruction its war machine is inflicting on the Palestinian inhabitants of the Gaza Strip prison camp. One of Gideon’s most recent articles for Haaretz included the following revealing and chilling paragraph.

The website Walla! published talkback comments on an article about the four children killed on the Gaza beach.

 

Shani Moyal: “I couldn’t care less that Arab children were killed, too bad it wasn’t more. Well done to the IDF.”

 

Stav Sabah: “Really, these are great pictures. They make me so happy, I want to look at them again and again.”

 

Sharon Avishi: “Only four? Too bad. We hoped for more.”

Daniela Turgeman: “Great. We need to kill all the children.”

 

Chaya Hatnovich: “There isn’t a more beautiful picture than those of dead Arab children.”

 

Orna Peretz: “Why only four?”

 

Rachel Cohen: “I’m not for children dying in Gaza. I’m for everyone burning.”

 

Tami Mashan: “As many children as possible should die.”

 

If that’s not proof of how much many Israeli Jews have been dehumanized by occupation and the propaganda of their leaders I don’t know what is.

According to a report in the Times of Israel, Yasser Abbas, the son of President Mahmoud Abbas, has said that “Israel is behaving like the Nazis and the IDF is a Nazi army.”

One of my very dear Jewish friends has been of that opinion for some time. Who? The anti-Zionist Dr Hajo Meyer, the author of The End of Judaism: An Ethical Tradition Betrayed (by Zionism). He writes and speaks from the experience of having survived the Nazi holocaust in Auschwitz.

Zionist lobby stranglehold

If the situation today was not so tragic the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry and his European counterparts to bring about a ceasefire would be hysterically funny. They know what they should do: draft a binding UN Security Council resolutiondemanding an immediate end to the fighting and stating that rejection of the resolution would be punished with sanctions.

But they also know that in line with America’s policy of preventing the Zionist state from being called and held to account for its crimes, President Barack Obama would order such a resolution to be vetoed.

In my opinion, there is one thing Kerry could do to shake up and possibly change the dynamics of what is happening. He could resign and say in his resignation statement that it was impossible to pursue a foreign policy that served the best interests of all concerned, American interests especially, because of the stranglehold the Zionist lobby and its mad, so-called Christian fundamentalist allies have on Congress.

I think it is not impossible that such a thought has crossed Kerry’s mind but, of course, he won’t resign.

Note

When those who defend Israel’s actions with the statement that “We withdrew from Gaza years ago and look what happened”, the best response is, I think, something like the following. “Cut the bullshit. The siege of the Gaza Strip is occupation by remote control.”

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| #ziocolony: From kidnapping to collapse: The beginning of the end?

From kidnapping to collapse: The beginning of the end? ~ Jeff Halper, +972.

In the end, the unsustainability of warehousing Palestinians will force the hand of the international community. The Israeli government, so strong it does not know when to stop, will lead us to that moment.

 

The kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli youths in the West Bank has unleashed a military operation marking the end of the Israeli occupation. The term “occupation” designates a temporary military situation resolvable only through negotiations. If that is were case, then it could be argued that Israel’s occupation over the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza (not to mention the Golan Heights) lasted only a decade, during the dithering rule of Labor.

From 1977, when the Begin/Sharon government announced that “Judea and Samaria” would be considered integral parts of the Land/State of Israel, when it formally annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and began its campaign of systematically eliminating any two-state solution through massive settlement building, “occupation” gave way to something else. In fact, Israel denied it even had an occupation – that “something else” in Israeli parlance was merely the “administration” of a “disputed” territory.

 

Israeli army soldiers take part in the search operation for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, on June 17, 2014 in the West Bank town of Hebron. [File photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Hence the Fourth Geneva Convention did not apply, Israel had not violated any international laws forbidding Occupying Powers from unilaterally changing the status of Occupied Territories and the Palestinians, defined as Protected People for whose well-being Israel is accountable, were left unprotected. Indeed, after the death of Arafat in 2004, if not before, Israel ushered in yet another variation of occupation: joint Israeli-Palestinian occupation rooted in an American-trained Palestinian Authority militia acting as Israel’s policeman.

 

And so it is with the killing of the three that we are about to enter yet another new and terrible phase of post-occupation, warehousing, a step beyond apartheid. After their land has been expropriated and 96 percent of the Palestinians confined to dozens of tiny islands on less than 40 percent of the Occupied Territories – i.e., 40 percent of 22 percent of their homeland – after 30,000 of their homes have been demolished and an entire population exposed to impoverishment and, in Gaza, conditions bordering on starvation, after negotiations have ended permanently and settlements have reached their critical, irreversible mass, warehousing is about to begin. The good news is: as violent and oppressive as Israel’s campaign of warehousing is likely to be (though strong international pressure may avert the worst measures), it will lead in short order to the complete collapse of Israeli rule and, if we are ready with an inclusive alternative, will open the way to new possibilities of a just peace not available today.

The term “warehousing” comes out of the world of America’s prisons. The U.S. has 4.4 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of its prisoners. They are inmates, wards of the state, whose status is fixed and who have, for all purposes, disappeared. No one cares what happens to them (prison reform will not get you elected to Congress), and their rights are respected only in the breach. And when they “riot” – for we use non-political language to describe the doings of these less-than people – the prison guards have every right and duty to suppress them. No negotiations. They are not a “side,” just subjects to be managed, to be “warehoused,” forever if they prove to be recalcitrant.

This expresses precisely the way Israel views the Palestinians. It has never recognized the existence of the Palestinian people or their national rights of self-determination, and even in the brightest days of Oslo only recognized the PLO as a negotiating partner. Israel has never officially declared its acceptance of a two-state solution, certainly not one requiring it to withdraw completely from to the Green Line. Not considering them a genuine and equal “side” with whom to negotiate, it has merely made “generous offers” which they could either take or leave. Indeed, since the days of Ehud Barak Israel has claimed that it has no “partner for peace,” meaning that its policy decisions are made unilaterally.

The two-state solution buried forever under the settlement blocs, Israel is mopping up: the prison cells of Areas A and B have been prepared, and now the prison authorities have to convey to the prisoners the reality and hopelessness of their situation. Submit and you will live; resist and you will die. That is precisely the message of Operation Brother’s Keeper, which was only waiting for a pretext provided by the kidnapping.

Read +972′s full coverage of the kidnappings and their aftermath

Yet the powerless have one effective instrument at their disposal. They can say “no.” The Palestinian Authority comes close to being an occupying power in its own right. Israel’s take-over of Ramallah during its latest “operation” was carried out with the active cooperation of Palestinian security forces, and Palestinians often speak of living under two occupations. Whether it resigns or merely collapses under the weight of its own lack of credibility, it is hard to see how the PA can survive both the humiliation and the formal role of collaborator forced upon it by Israel, which it will be if it stays in power with no meaningful political process.

Palestinian security forces in Bethlehem. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Here is where the collapse comes in – and the final resolution of the conflict. With no PA to perpetuate the fiction of “two sides” engaged in negotiations, Israel will unilaterally annex the main settlement blocs, half the West Bank, but will ultimately be forced to reoccupy the Palestinian cities and Gaza. (Avigdor Liberman, Israel’s foreign minister, has been urging the conquest of Gaza since the kidnappings took place.) Or vice versa, it doesn’t matter. What we will be left with, finally, is open-ended warehousing, the raw, naked imprisonment of an entire people. Israel thinks that’s a good thing. It believes it can imprison a people and get away with it. It can “win.” Such is its faith in the protection afforded by the American Congress and its usefulness as one of the world’s major purveyors of arms and security.

But here is where Israel misreads the political map. If left solely to governments, Israel could certainly prevail, for they merely manage conflicts rather than resolve them. But the Palestinian issue has assumed the proportions of the anti-apartheid struggle. And as in that struggle, the international civil society of political and activist groups, human rights organizations, trade unions, churches, students, intellectuals and an ever-more critical public opinion has grown in strength to the point where governments cannot ignore it. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not merely a spat between two local groups; it has become a global conflict that disrupts and destabilizes the entire international system, the inflammable Middle East in particular. In the end, the unsustainability of warehousing Palestinians will force the hand of the international community.

When that happens in the not-too-distant future, possibilities for a truly just resolution of the conflict will emerge offering alternatives not available today – the possibility of a single democratic, bi-national state being at the fore. The Israeli government, so strong it does not know when to stop, will lead us to that moment. It will not be a partner in achieving a just peace, however. It will be up to us ultimately, the people, to formulate what a just resolution would be, and push it to fruition. The moment is coming. The question is, will we be ready to seize it?

Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He can be reached at jeff@icahd.org.

Related:
Analysis: The end of the ‘cheap occupation’ era
Our problem with selective sympathy for young victims
When the canons roar, the Israeli Left remains silent

ATM1 EarthSpeaks PalSol5

| Remembering the Nakba: Israeli group puts 1948 Palestine back on the map!

Remembering the Nakba: Israeli group puts 1948 Palestine back on the map ~  in Tel Aviv, theguardian.com.

Zochrot aims to educate Israeli Jews – through tours and a new phone app – about a history obscured by enmity and denial!

In a run-down office in the busy centre of Tel Aviv, a group of Israelis are finalising preparations for this year’s independence day holiday. But their conversation – switching between Arabic and Hebrew – centres not on celebrating the historic realisation of the Zionist dream in May 1948, but on the other side of the coin: the flight, expulsion and dispossession that Palestinians call their catastrophe – the Nakba.

Maps, leaflets and posters explain the work of Zochrot – Hebrew for “Remembering”. The organisation’s mission is to educate Israeli Jews about a history that has been obscured by enmity, propaganda and denial for much of the last 66 years.

Next week, Zochrot, whose activists include Jews and Palestinians, will connect the bitterly contested past with the hi-tech present. Its I-Nakba phone app will allow users to locate any Arab village that was abandoned during the 1948 war on an interactive map, learn about its history (including, in many cases, the Jewish presence that replaced it), and add photos, comments and data.

It is all part of a highly political and inevitably controversial effort to undo the decades-long erasure of landscape and memory – and, so the hope goes, to build a better future for the two peoples who share a divided land.

“There is an app for everything these days, and this one will show all the places that have been wiped off the map,” explains Raneen Jeries, Zochrot’s media director. “It means that Palestinians in Ein Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, say, can follow what happened to the village in Galilee that their family came from – and they will get a notification every time there’s an update. Its amazing.”

In a conflict famous for its irreconcilable national narratives, the basic facts are not disputed, though the figures are. Between November 1947, when the UN voted to partition British-ruled Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states, and mid-1949, when Israel emerged victorious against its enemies, 400-500 Arab villages and towns were depopulated and destroyed or occupied and renamed. Most of them were left in ruins.

Understanding has deepened since the late 1980s, when Israeli historians used newly opened state archives to revisit that fateful period. Key elements of this new history contradicted the old, official version and partially confirmed what Palestinians had always claimed – that many were expelled by Israeli forces rather than fled at the urging of Arab leaders.

Fierce debate still rages over whether this was done on an ad hoc basis by local military commanders or according to a masterplan for ethnic cleansing. The result either way was disastrous.

Zochrot’s focus on the hyper-sensitive question of the 750,000 Palestinians who became refugees has earned it the hostility of the vast majority of Israeli Jews who flatly reject any Palestinian right of return. Allowing these refugees – now, with their descendants, numbering seven million people – to return to Jaffa, Haifa or Acre, the argument goes, would destroy the Jewish majority, the raison d’etre of the Zionist project. (Israelis often also suggest an equivalence with the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees who lost homes and property after 1948 in Arab countries such as Iraq and Morocco – although their departure was encouraged and facilitated by the young state in the 1950s.)

“There are a lot of Israeli organisations that deal with the occupation of 1967, but Zochrot is the only one that is dealing with 1948,” said Liat Rosenberg, the NGO’s director. “It’s true that our influence is more or less negligible but nowadays there is no Israeli who does not at least know the word Nakba. It’s entered the Hebrew language, and that’s progress.”

Rosenberg and colleagues hold courses and prepare learning resources for teachers, skirting around attempts to outlaw any kind of Nakba commemoration. But the heart of Zochrot’s work is regular guided tours that are designed, like the gimmicky iPhone app, to put Palestine back on the map and to prepare the ground for the refugees’ return.

On a recent Saturday morning, a couple of dozen Jews and Arabs met at a petrol station on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem and followed a dirt track to al-Walaja, a village of 2,000 inhabitants that was attacked and depopulated in 1948. Zochrot’s Omar al-Ghubari pointed out the concrete foundations – all that remains – of a school and marked the spot with a metal sign in Arabic, Hebrew and English, before posing for photographs.

Among those following him was Shireen al-Araj, whose father was born in al-Walaja and fled to Beit Jallah across what until 1967 was the armistice line with Jordan. “I have never given up the idea of going back to al-Walaja,” she said. Araj is campaigning against the extension of the West Bank separation wall, part of what she and many Palestinians call a continuing Nakba.

Another participant was Tarik Ramahi, an American surgeon raised in Saudi Arabia by Palestinian refugee parents. Marina, a Jewish social worker, came with her boyfriend Tomer, an IT student. Wandering among the ruins, these unconventional daytrippers attracted some curious glances from Israelis picnicking on the terraces or bathing in the village spring – now named for a Jewish teenager murdered by Palestinians in the 1990s. Claire Oren, a teacher, had a heated argument with two off-duty soldiers who were unaware of al-Walaja’s past – or even of the extent of Israel’s continuing control of the West Bank.

Nearby Ein Karem – Zochrot’s most popular tour – is a different story. Abandoned by the Palestinians in July 1948 (it is near Deir Yassin, the scene of the period’s most notorious massacre), it boasts churches, a mosque and fine stone houses clustered around a valley that is choked with wild flowers in the spring. Its first post-war residents were poor Moroccan Jewish immigrants, but it was intensively gentrified in the 1970s and is now one of west Jerusalem’s most desirable neighbourhoods.

In 1967, Shlomo Abulafia, now a retired agronomist, moved into a two-room hovel that he and his wife, Meira, have transformed beyond recognition into a gracious Arab-style home set in a charming garden. Relatives of the original owners once visited from Jordan. Like other Israeli Jews who yearn for coexistence with the Palestinians, Abulafia believes it is vital to understand how the other side feels. He worries desperately about the future of his fractured homeland and about his children and grandchildren.

“The Nakba is history for us but a catastrophe for them,” he says. “What have we got to lose from recognising the Palestinians’ suffering? The two sides are moving further and further away from each other. People live in fear. There is a lot of denial here.”

Many other Arab villages disappeared without trace under kibbutz fields and orchards, city suburbs or forests planted by the Jewish National Fund. Arab Isdud became Israeli Ashdod. Saffuriya in Galilee is now Zippori, the town’s Hebrew name before the Arab conquest in the seventh century.

Zochrot’s bilingual guide book identifies traces of Arab Palestine all over the country – fragments of stone wall, clumps of prickly pears that served as fences, or the neglected tombs of Muslim holy men. The faculty club of Tel Aviv University used to be the finest house in Sheikh Muwannis, once on the northern edge of the expanding Jewish city. Nothing else is left. Manshiyeh, a suburb of Jaffa, lies beneath the seaside Charles Clore promenade.

Palestinians have long mourned their lost land, eulogising it – and in recent years documenting it – with obsessive care. Politically, the right of return remains a totemic demand even if PLO leaders have often said privately that they do not expect it to be implemented – except for symbolic numbers – if an independent Palestinian state is created alongside Israel and Jewish settlers uprooted from its territory. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, provoked uproar in 2012 when he said he would not expect to be able to return to his home town of Safed.

Older Israeli Jews like Meron Benvenisti, raised in British-ruled Palestine during the 1930s, have written nostalgically about the forgotten landscapes of their childhood.

“I also identify with the images of the destroyed villages,” said Danny Rubinstein, a Jerusalem-born author and journalist. “I do understand the Palestinians’ longing and I empathise with it. But I think that Zochrot is a mistake. The Palestinians know, or their leadership knows, that they have to forget Ramle and Lod and Jaffa. Abbas says he can’t go back to Safed. They have to give up the return as a national goal. If I was a Palestinian politician I would say that you don’t have to remember. You have to forget.”

Hopes for a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians are fading after the collapse of the latest US-brokered effort, and mutual empathy and understanding are in short supply. But Claire Oren, resting in a shady grove in what was once the centre of al-Walaja, thinks more knowledge might help. “Even if only one Israeli becomes a bit more aware of the Nakba and the Palestinian refugees, it is important,” she reflected. “The more Israelis who understand, the more likely we are to be able to prevent another catastrophe in this land.”

Nakba Key1 Nakba48a

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| Human Rights: Why Palestinians have a right to return home!

Why Palestinians have a right to return home ~ Mark LeVine, professor of history at UC Irvine, Al Jazeera. Last Modified: 23 Sep 2011

A thorough examination of the legal rights of all those displaced by the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Mark LeVine asked three leading scholars of the “refugee problem” – Karma Nabulsi (lecturer in international relations, Oxford University), Susan Akram (Boston University Law School and founder of the Asylum and Human Rights Clinic at Greater Boston Legal Services) and Ingrid Jaradat Gassner (Director of BADIL, Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights) – to address some of the key arguments surrounding the right of return. Some of the answers are quite detailed and technical, but given the importance of this debate, we have not edited them, so as to offer the most complete information possible on this issue.

There are approximately 6 million Palestinians who live outside the pre-1967 borders [EPA]

 

ML: Can you explain at its base what “right of return” means? Is is merely a political concept or is it an accepted legal concept as well? Is there one definition accepted by all Palestinians or is the term contested within Palestinian society?

Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

– Article 13(b) UDHR

KN: The right of return is a universal right that is binding under international law, enjoyed by every people regardless of where they come from. The idea of universal rights is an ancient one, but one of its first international expressions is found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was proclaimed by the United Nations in 1948 “as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”. One of the core rights set out in the UDHR is the right of return. Article 13(b) of the UDHR states: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” Palestinian refugees are entitled to this binding universal right, in the same way that all other refugees are, whether they come from Bosnia, Rwanda, South Africa or anywhere else.

In spite of ill-founded – and quite frankly racist – arguments concerned with denying this universal right to them, the United Nations has frequently insisted on its particular applicability to Palestinian refugees, who constitute the world’s largest refugee population. For instance, General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 2535, passed in 1969, recognises “that the problem of Palestine Arab refugees has arisen from the denial of their inalienable rights under the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. In the same vein, UNGA resolution 3236 reaffirms “the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return.”

UNGA Resolution 194

What is particular to the Palestinian case is the exceptional frequency with which the right of return was insisted upon, time and again, by the United Nations and the international community. UNGA Resolution 194 clearly resolves that “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible”. Israel’s admission as a member of the UN was made conditional on its acceptance and implementation of resolutions including UN Resolution 194; this demonstrates that without question, the UN and the international community saw Israel as fully responsible for the complete implementation of this right. This right was further reaffirmed by the UNGA on more than 135 occasions, clearly reflecting the consistent will of the international community on this matter.

The majority of the Palestinian people were forcibly displaced and uprooted from their homes and lands in 1948.”

– Karma Nabulsi

Of course, as well as being a universal right that is clearly applicable to Palestinian refugees on an individual basis, the right of return is conceptualised and understood by most contemporary international jurists as a collective right. The most recent expression of this can be found in Professor Guy Goodwin Gill’s recent opinion piece and further note of August and September 2011, on the issue of refugees’ representation at the UN. As one of the world’s leading international lawyer for refugee rights, he emphasised the commonly understood legal position that the Palestinians’ inalienable right of self determination and their right of return are both collective rights.

Broad consensus

Of course, the right of return is also a political and moral concept holding enormous importance for the Palestinian people. There is broad consensus that the right of return, along with the right of self-determination, is the foundation of the 63-year-old struggle of the Palestinian people. The majority of the Palestinian people were forcibly displaced and uprooted from their homes and lands in 1948 and modern Palestinian politics begins with the establishment of popular movements, parties, and associations concerned with claiming and struggling for the right of return. Dozens of these groupings, voluntarily founded and supported by thousands of refugees, had the term Al-Awda [“return”] in their name. The foundation document of every major Palestinian party, regardless of its ideology – ranging from Fatah’sBayan Harakatuna (1958) and the Declaration of the Foundation of the PFLP (1967) to the Hamas Charter (1988) – enshrines return as its first and foremost principle. Above all, the PLO’s Palestine National Covenant, the basis of all Palestinian law, defines the Palestinian people’s struggle as striving for the following objectives: “to retrieve its homeland, liberate and return to it and exercise the right to self-determination in it…” (Article 26).

The principle of return goes well beyond politics and extends to the realm of culture. The Palestinian artistic canon – comprising countless works, from the novels of Ghassan Kanafani to the paintings of Ismail Shamout – created and shaped what is commonly known as Thaqafat al-Awda [the “culture of return”]. In this cultural realm, as with the political one, the right of return is understood as return to the original homes, lands, cities and villages found in the entirety of historic, mandate Palestine.

The national Palestinian consensus on this matter cannot be doubted.

– Karma Nabulsi

Finally, Palestinians throughout the world have responded to the perceived threat to the right of return posed by the Oslo process by founding hundreds of civic associations concerned with defending this right wherever Palestinian refugees now live across the world, as well as active legal committees and resource centres, such asBadil. The unwavering commitment of refugees to this simple right has been illustrated time and again, most comprehensively in the Civitas Register of 2006– which engaged the mobilisation of thousands of Palestinian refugees in 26 countries, all reaffirming their unwavering commitment to this right. In short, the national Palestinian consensus on this matter cannot be doubted.

Contextualising

ML: Can you put the right of return into the context of the expected UN vote to recognise Palestine as a state?

KN: Palestinian legal advisors, associations, and movements have highlighted various concerns pertaining to the right of return that arise out of the September initiative at the UN as it is currently formulated. In particular, they have asserted the need for maintaining the PLO’s status as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people at the UN, and have warned of the dangers of replacing it with the state of Palestine as its representative in the seat. As I noted above, the legal aspects of these concerns have been discussed in detail in a significant opinion by Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill in his recent briefs on the subject.

The right of return per se is not threatened by the current initiative. It is, as highlighted earlier, an inalienable universal right enshrined in international law and held fast to by the Palestinian people. The concern is that changing the representative at the UN from the PLO to the State of Palestine would adversely affect the ability of Palestinian representatives at the UN to claim and advocate that right, and that all Palestinians [should] have their representation at the UN. The PLO is the national representative of the Palestinian people as a whole, representing those inside and outside the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories. Being confined to the 1967 boundaries, the State of Palestine (which is yet to attain actual sovereignty on the ground), cannot claim to represent the refugees, unlike the PLO.

Since the Oslo process began, the PLO has been consistently undermined.”

– Karma Nabulsi

This is not a question of names nor of titles. Indeed, the designation “Palestine” is currently used by our representatives at the UN. In its resolution 43/177, the UNGA acknowledged “the proclamation of the State of Palestine by the Palestine National Council on 15 November 1988” and it decided that, “effective as of 15 December 1988, the designation ‘Palestine’ should be used in place of the designation ‘Palestine Liberation Organisation’ in the United Nations system, without prejudice to the observer status and functions of the Palestine Liberation Organisation within the United Nations system…” Significantly, this wording ensured that the status of the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people was preserved and reaffirmed by the UN. This formulation can be preserved by the leadership, whether or not it chooses to seek an upgrade to our representative status at the UN.

In any case, recent events, including the September initiative, have raised the vital question of representation and democracy. Since the Oslo process began, the PLO has been consistently undermined, and political fragmentation has been imposed upon the Palestinian people through the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA). In theory and on paper, the Palestinian Authority is a subsidiary body of the PLO – and the West Bank and Gaza’s Legislative Council is incorporated into the Palestinian National Council (PNC) so there is one legislative body for all Palestinians, and all are equal politically under the law. In practice however, the PA is emerging as a parallel structure which excludes the refugees who constitute the majority of the Palestinian people. It is essential that this parallel structure not take the PLO seat at the UN, as the Palestinian refugees would be politically disenfranchised and legally and institutionally disempowered from making their claims to their rights at the only place that matters, the United Nations.
 

The PLO and the PNC

Furthermore, it is essential that the PLO and the PNC recover their legitimate role in Palestinian politics. Article 7(a) of the Fundamental Law of the PLO states: “The Palestine National Council is the highest authority of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, and it is the body that draws the policy of the PLO and its plans and programs.” Moreover, Article 5 of the Fundamental Law states that the PNC is to be directly elected by the Palestinian people. The electoral system, issued on 17 July 1965, states: “Every Palestinian has the right to vote in PNC elections if he/she is 18 years old, if his/her name has been recorded in the final electoral registers, if he/she is of sound mind, and has not been convicted of a crime against national honour.”

In line with these fundamental laws of the Palestinian people, there has been broad Palestinian mobilisation in recent months, and especially in the wake of the Arab Spring and in response to theSeptember initiative , to reclaim and democratise the PLO and the PNC . In particular, there is a growing movement for holding direct elections to the Palestine National Council, which is the highest Palestinian legislative body, and which represents all Palestinians, whether they are refugees or not. The PNC is the body that creates the national strategies, platforms and policies of the Palestinian people, which the PLO executive committee should implement. Only a rejuvenated, democratically elected PNC can lay the foundation for effective representation of Palestinian rights, including the right of return.

A young demonstrator bears the Arabic numerals ‘194’ on his forehead, referring both to Palestine becoming the 194th UN member and UNGA resolution 194 [EPA]

 

 

 

ML: When Palestinians demand that Israelis recognise the right of return it is not always clear whether what is being demanded of Israel is that it merely “recognise” that Palestinians have this right, without committing to actually letting hundreds of thousands – or millions – of Palestinians move into Israel, or whether Palestinians are demanding the actual implementation of this right? Is there agreement among Palestinians on this issue and if not, what are the main areas of debate?

 
KN
: Palestinians do not simply demand the recognition of their right to return, but also its implementation, its exercise, and its translation into reality. This is not merely a moral theoretical stance, but a lived and concrete one, agreed upon by both the Palestinian people and the many host countries in the Arab world which they currently live, including Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon and the Gulf. In accordance with international law, all refugees must be allowed to return. Whether they choose to exercise that right or not is a matter for each individual refugee to decide for themselves.

ML: If the broad consensus is to demand an implementation of the right, is there a general understanding of which and how many Palestinians would be expected to move within Israel’s 1967 border? Which groups would be prioritised?

IJG: The right to return is a right held by all Palestinians who were forced to leave their homes and properties, as well as their descendants. Two groups of Palestinians would exercise their right of return in what is today Israel: the so-called 1948 refugees who live outside Israel’s pre-June 1967 borders (approximately 6 million persons today), and Palestinians who have become internally displaced persons (IDP) since 1948 (approximately 300,000 persons today).

There is no understanding of how many Palestinian refugees and IDPs would actually decide to return to their homes and properties in Israel, because such understanding would require that these refugees and IDPs are offered an opportunity to make a free choice about whether or not they want to return, based on detailed information about the conditions of return, including the procedure for reclaiming their property and available support, and other options available for them. No such opportunity has ever been offered to Palestinian refugees or IDPs since 1948.

The question of whether certain groups would be prioritised during return is part of the numerous technical matters that could be agreed upon by the PLO and Israel in conjunction with the international agencies responsible, with the aim of ensuring a smooth and sustainable process of return and absorption.

ML: Would Palestinian returnees who became Israeli citizens also have Palestinian citizenship?

IJG: In a scenario where the right of return is implemented, all 1948 Palestinian refugees who decide exercise their right to return are entitled to Israeli citizenship. The question whether they should also be offered Palestinian citizenship is outside of the scope of the right to return. It is a sovereign matter of the state of Palestine, and its practical legal implications for Palestinians who opt for such dual citizenship would be subject to bilateral diplomatic agreements with Israel.

SA: Although it is true that citizenship is an internal matter for the Palestinian state, it does have ramifications for Palestinian refugees, Palestinians in the diaspora, and those who are Israeli citizens. There are many options for defining who is entitled to citizenship, each with its own set of ramifications. The main criteria for determining nationality are set out in the Nottebohm (Guatemala v Lichtenstein) case, which focuses on a “genuine link” between the individual and the territory. Palestine would have great latitude under international law in defining the scope of the link for its nationals, and what the criteria would be for obtaining or claiming citizenship.
 

Defining nationals

Consider some of the ramifications, however, of the state defining its “nationals” in one of the two main ways that states grant citizenship: by jus sanguinis, blood relationship, or by jus soli, birth on the territory. As to the first, Palestine might define as its nationals anyone whose parent, grandparent or great-grandparent was born on the territory of historic Palestine, or whose ethnic origin was Palestinian during any (defined) period. If these were the criteria, without more, the risk is that states in which Palestinians fitting that criteria reside could determine that they are Palestinian citizens, remove whatever temporary status they have in that state, and deport them to the Palestinian territory. In the worst-case scenario, if Palestinians who are citizens of other states are subject to laws disallowing dual citizenship, or disallowing dual citizenship with states that have a conscription law, they could also be deprived of their second-state citizenship and removed to Palestine. As a matter of international law, this would be legal, as no individual has a “right” to more than one citizenship.

The citizenship/nationality question also has a significant bearing on the refugee issue.

– Susan Akram

Consider some of the ramifications of the state defining its “nationals” as including those born in the territory of Palestine. Under international law, a successor state (or a new state) must grant citizenship to all habitual residents of the territory, and it cannot arbitrarily withhold citizenship or denationalise any segment of the population habitually residing on the territory (“arbitrary” is defined on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity or religion). If Palestine were to be consistent with international law, it may be required to confer citizenship on Israeli settlers, if they are considered “habitual residents of the territory” – this, however, is highly ambiguous when settlers already have Israeli citizenship, and the uncertainty of whether prolonged occupation and settler implantation can “ripen” into habitual residence.

The citizenship/nationality question also has a significant bearing on the refugee issue, as I will discuss further.

ML: Let’s look at some of the key Israeli objections to the right of return. First, Israelis argue that there is in fact no “right” of return because: 1) UN General Assembly Resolution 194 is non-binding since it’s only a GA and not a Security Council Resolution, and 2), the language of the resolution itself merely states that Palestinians “should be” allowed to return, rather than what they argue is the more forcible and legally binding “shall be” allowed to return. Indeed, the phrase “right of return” was, according to the documentary record, removed from an earlier draft of 194 – precisely because the GA would not pass a resolution with that language. In trying to counteract this claim, an article by Salman Abu Sitta argues that UNGAR 194 “has been affirmed by the international community 135 times in the period 1948-2000. There is nothing like it in UN history. This universal consensus elevates the weight of this resolution from a ‘recommendation‘ to an expression of the determined will of the international community”. But this language doesn’t actually challenge the argument that it’s non-binding. “Determined will” is not the same thing as international law, is it?

IJG: Israeli arguments of the above kind are flawed mainly because the right of return is not some “special right” claimed by Palestinians, but rather a universally recognised human right of all persons, irrespective of the reason why they have left their country. The right of return is not created by this or that UN resolution, but enshrined in numerous bodies of international law, including customary and treaty law. For refugees, who are persons who left their country involuntarily, this right is so widely respected and recognised as key to resolving refugee situations, that it is hardly ever questioned. Israeli efforts to argue that Palestinians are different have, therefore, no basis in international law. The language of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and the more than 100 UN resolutions which affirm the right to return of Palestinian refugees, including UN Security Council Resolution 237 of 1967 which affirms this right for the 1967 Palestinian refugees, must be understood in this context. The real problem is the lack of political will of powerful UN member states to enforce Israel’s respect of the right of return of Palestinians. Israel has used this kind of flawed argument in order to deflect debate about its own legal responsibility towards the Palestinian refugees.

SA: Argument one misconstrues the significance of General Assembly versus Security Council resolutions. The binding nature of any resolution from the UN depends, not on whether it is issued by the GA or the SC, but whether it rests on existing international law. The difference between GA and SC resolutions is a matter of the way powers are allocated within the UN organs. Only the SC can “enforce” a resolution through the use of armed intervention – the GA has no such power. That has nothing to do with the binding nature of international law, however, and if a GA resolution rests on binding principles of law, then whether those are enforced or not through the UN is a political, not a legal, issue.

Customary law

Palestinian refugees have an absolute right to return to their original places of origin and obtain full restitution.

– Susan Akram

Resolution 194 incorporated what was already customary international law in 1948, and has become an even stronger set of principles through widespread state practice to the present. Paragraph 11 of UNGA resolution 194 means that Palestinian refugees must be permitted to return to their precise homes and lands if they so choose. This is obligatory because only the return to one’s place of origin is required of a state, since no state is obliged to absorb or resettle a refugee in a place not of his origin. That was law in 1948, and remains the state of the law today. Paragraph 11’s requirements that Palestinian refugees have an absolute right to return to their original places of origin and obtain full restitution and compensation for properties taken or destroyed, were all binding legal principles at the time the resolution was drafted, and were meant to preclude political solutions that did not meet these legally required criteria for Palestinian refugees.

It is curious that states such as the United States now challenge the ‘legality’ of resolution 194. When the original draft of paragraph 11 was submitted to the General Assembly, the United States delegate confirmed that no new rights were being created. He commented that 194, paragraph 11, “endorsed a generally recognised principle and provided a means for implementing that principle”.

Quite aside from 194 being a specific source of the right of return for Palestinian refugees, the right of return in general represents a complex interrelated set of rights grounded in distinct bodies of treaty and customary international law. The right of return is found in the major treaties and rules protecting individuals and groups in times of armed conflict under humanitarian law and the laws of war; it is found in treaties and principles governing issues of nationality and state succession; and it is found in the core human rights conventions governing state obligations in both war and peacetime, particularly in refugee provisions.

State practice

Since 1948, the evidence is overwhelming that the right of return for refugees – as an aspect of nationality, humanitarian, human rights and, specifically, refugee law – has become one of the strongest of existing state obligations. The widespread incorporation of the principle in international treaties and regional instruments has been reinforced by incorporation in peace agreements and state practice in virtually every part of the globe. State practice reflects this in the millions of refugees that have returned to their countries and homes of origin on the basis of bilateral and tripartite agreements involving both states and specialised agencies such the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, without states questioning their right to do so.

As for Argument two, this is inaccurate. Resolution 194 requires that refugees be allowed to return immediately as a matter of right, and without preconditioning such return on a general peace agreement or other criteria. Earlier proposed language intended to weaken, rather than strengthen, the notion of absolute right to return, was rejected by the drafters. This is apparent in the drafting history, in which amendments to make return contingent, for example, on the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement, were rejected.

The UN Secretariat, answering the question: “What is the meaning of the term ‘at the earliest practicable date?’ reviewed the record of UN proceedings. The proceedings reflect that the UK draft resolution included the word “possible” rather than “practicable”. The Guatemalan delegation proposed the phrase “after the proclamation of peace between the contending parties in Palestine, including the Arab States…” In opposing this amendment, the UK delegate and the US delegates stated that proclamation of peace should not be prerequisites to the refugees’ right to return, as their return must be immediate and obligatory. As the US delegate stated: “these unfortunate people should not be made pawns in the negotiations for a final settlement”. The word, “practicable” was substituted for “possible”, and the Guatemalan amendment watering down the absolute and immediate right to return was rejected by 37 votes to 7. The UN Secretariat concluded that there could be no doubt that once the Armistice agreements were signed, the conditions of stability required the return of the refugees.

Population transfer has happened before, but almost all such forced migrations have been regarded as illegal [EPA]

ML: Another objection is that the international humanitarian law, such as the fourth Geneva Convention or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognise the right of people fleeing war to return to their homes after cessation of hostilities, were enacted after 1948 and referred to “international conflict” rather than intercommunal/civil war, and therefore do not cover Palestinian refugees from that war. Can a Palestinian be considered “denationalised” or possessing the right to return to “his own country” when he or she was not living in a recognised state in 1948?

IJG: Palestinian refugees can be considered to be “denationalised” and possessing the right to return to their “own country” because they held the citizenship of Palestine under the British Mandate. They were citizens of their country, and their country was to be led to independence by the British, in line with the mandate of the League of Nations. Israel is the “successor state” in part of British Mandate Palestine, and under international law governing state succession, Israel is obliged to permit return and grant citizenship to all Palestinians who had lived there previously and to respect their right to their property.

‘Israel’s ethnic cleansing’

Moreover, although drafting and enacting the fouth Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights coincided with Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine, a strong legal argument can be made for the applicability of their provisions, due to Israel’s continuing policy of forcible displacement of Palestinians, and because all wars in Palestine since 1948, including Israel’s occupation since 1967, are recognised as international armed conflicts by the United Nations. The drafting history of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, moreover, indicates that the language on “the right to leave and to return to one’s country” was adopted because the drafters were conscious of the coinciding tragedy in Palestine.

SA: These are actually separate arguments: 1) whether the Fourth Geneva Convention (GC IV) applies to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory (on several grounds); 2) whether Palestinians were ever “nationals” of “Palestine” for purposes of their citizenship/nationality status for application of the right of return. As to the first, Israel and a few Israeli academics have argued that GCIV is not applicable to the West Bank, East Jerusalem or Gaza because these were not territories under the sovereignty of any state, hence when they were captured by Israel, they were not captured from a recognised sovereign. They thus did not fall under GC IV provisions and should not be considered occupied territories.

This view has never been accepted by legal consensus and was firmly rejected by the International Court of Justice in its 2004 Advisory Opinion on the Wall. The High Contracting Parties to GC IV in December 2001 reaffirmed their position on this, stating that they “have always affirmed the … applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the territories occupied since 1967 by the state of Israel, including East Jerusalem”.

The law of state succession required that all persons who are habitual residents of a territory be granted citizenship/nationality in a successor state.

– Susan Akram

As to the second, this relates to the interpretation of two provisions, Art. 13(2) of the UDHR and Art. 12(4) of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states that everyone has the right to return to “his own country”. But the drafting history of these provisions shows that the phrase “one’s country” was chosen precisely to include those persons who are not nationals of that country de jure but fit the established criteria of the “genuine link” that, by that time, was the criteria for determining “nationality” under the Nottebohm case. The phrase “the country of which one is a national” was specifically rejected in favour of the phrase “one’s own country” for that very reason.

As noted above, the law of state succession required that all persons who are habitual residents of a territory be granted citizenship/nationality in a successor state, and that such successor state could not legally “denationalise” such habitual residents on arbitrary grounds. These principles have been incorporated into treaties to which Israel is a party, including the ICCPR and the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

ML: Israelis also argue, based on the 1952-67 UN Convention on Refugees, that the internationally accepted definition of a refugee does not include their descendents – or to refugees who have taken on another nationality (eg, Jordanian, British, or Canadian). Is this true?

IJG: The notion that the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol do not cover the descendants of refugees has no basis in these instruments and international law in general. In fact, UNHCR as the responsible agency, treats all descendants of refugees as refugees, until they have obtained voluntary durable solutions, including revolutionary repatriation (return), integration in host countries and resettlement in third countries.

Different refugees

SA: In addition to this, Palestinian refugees have a different status under international law than other refugees, by reason of their distinct definitions in the relevant treaties, resolutions and agency mandates. The first definition is that incorporated into UNGA resolution 194, which defines the population for whom the UNCCP was given responsibility and the obligation to find durable solutions. This is the definition incorporated into the “Palestinian clause” of the Refugee Convention, Article 1D, and which applies to the global population of Palestinian refugees, no matter where they were located. This definition is linked to paragraph 11 of resolution 194, which requires the durable solution of return, restitution and compensation, and maintains refugee status (regardless of generation) until that solution is accomplished. This definition is also incorporated into the second definition, meeting UNRWA’s eligibility guidelines.

UNRWA’s definitions of “refugee” and “displaced persons”, but with the additional criteria of “need”, that applies to the approximately 5 million UNRWA-registered refugees. This needs-based definition is also not generationally linked, but continues as long as the person remains a 194-defined refugee, who is in need of assistance. Because of the unique character of Palestinian refugees under international law, there is no generation-limitation to the status.

ML: They also argue, variously, that the right of refugees to return to their homes is an individual right, not a collective right. Moreover, the example of large scale population exchanges – Poland and the Soviet Union after World War II, India and Pakistan after Partition, Greece and Turkey after World War I – point to the international legitimacy of forcibly transferring people outside a new state, in order to ensure demographic coherence of that new state.

SA: As to your first point, in all of the provisions in which aspects of the right of return are found, no distinction is made between its applicability to individuals or groups.

As to your second point, although transfers of populations have taken place historically, they have been almost universally considered illegal under modern principles of international law. A concise statement of the state of the law on this issue is that of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities: “International law prohibits the transfer of persons, including the implantation of settlers, as a general principle.”

The governing principle is that the transfer of populations must be done with the consent of the population involved – because [these transfers are] subject to consent, this principle reinforces the prohibition against such transfer. Aside from the historical-factual question of whether there ever was a “population exchange”, any prior justification for population exchanges involving coerced movement of peoples was put to rest by the entry into force of the International Military Tribunal which established the Nuremburg Tribunal, and the Fourth Geneva Convention. These established forced movement of populations as a “grave breach” [of law]. Since then, the International Criminal Court has classified forced population transfers as a war crime.

Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden. He also is the author of Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam and the soon-to-be-published An Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989.

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Laying the foundation for Palestinian statehood ~ Redress Information & Analysis.

Palestinian statehood

By Ruth Tenne

Until now the Palestinian leadership has avoided taking any significant steps to build on the resounding endorsement Palestine received from the UN whose members voted by an overwhelming majority in November 2012 to accord it the status of non-member observer state.

However, following the collapse of the latest round of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), which was prompted by Israel’s reneging on an agreement to release Palestinian prisoners, the PA applied – and was accepted – to join 15 international conventions. These are:

1. The Four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and the First Additional Protocol.
2. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
3. The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
4. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in armed conflict.
5. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
6. The Hague Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annex: Regulations Concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land.
7. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
8. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
9. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
10. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
11. The United Nations Convention against Corruption.
12. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
13. The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.
14. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
15. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

According to the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Yasser Abed Rabbo, the decision to join the conventions is the first step towards joining all UN agencies.

Undoubtedly, being a state party to UN conventions and treaties would solidify the international stand of the state of Palestine by putting it on the world map. But this has to be preceded by enshrining the democratic principles of the UN conventions in a modern constitution or bill of rights to serve as the basis of a globally recognized modern Palestinian state. This would help Palestine pursue claims against Israel in international courts.

However, the main task in this respect is to bring Hamas under the umbrella of the PLO and make it a party to the signed conventions under an elected unity government. But the PLO will need to re-establish its legitimacy by holding long overdue parliamentary election in the West Bank and Gaza. According to the PLO’s internal regulations, the elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council are automatically members of the Palestine National Council, which in turn elects the PLO’s executive committee. Once elections take place inside the occupied state of Palestine, elections for the remaining delegates would take place in other locations where Palestinians live.

 

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights wassigned and ratified by Israel in 1992, and Israel also signed the Fourth Geneva Convention in 1951. Yet, Israel continues to breach with impunity the rights affirmed by both conventions.

 

The conventions to which the state of Palestine has acceded embody the principles of modern democratic states as enshrined by international law and the UN Charter.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights could be seen as most pertinent to laying the ground for Palestinian statehood. Article 1 of the convention states clearly that “all peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Clause 3 of that article refers to the right of non-self-governed territories by stating that “the States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the Unite Nations”.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was signed and ratified by Israel in 1992, and Israel also signed the Fourth Geneva Convention in 1951. Yet, Israel continues to breach with impunity the rights affirmed by both conventions. In view of the inaction of world leaders, it is incumbent on Palestinian leaders to prosecute Israel in the International Criminal Court. Pressure on President Abbas to take this crucial step is mounting both inside and outside Palestine (see my article, “The way ahead: taking Israel to the ICC”). Such a step requires Abbas to sign and ratify the Rome Statute on which the ICC is based, thereby enabling Palestine to access the ICC and prosecute Israel for war crimes.

However, Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute, which may prevent any legal investigation of crimes committed by it (see the part on Territorial Jurisdiction here). Furthermore, ratifying the Rome Statute and making it legally binding requires the assent of the Palestinian legislature in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Otherwise, Abbas’s signature of the Rome Statute may not have binding legal power.

Despite this, the signing of international treaties and conventions by President Abbas is likely to enhance the recognition of the Palestinian state as an observer and enforcer of human rights and lead to greater transparency and accountability of governance. Signing those treaties, including the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute, would be a significant step towards becoming a sovereign state that pursues independence through its own actions rather than being entirely dependent on actions by civil society groups.

Civil society groups such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement have their place. However, without reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas under the PLO umbrella, and without seeking justice through international courts, a sovereign Palestinian state free of Israel’s occupation would remain a remote prospect.

Postscript

This article was written just before the announcement of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza on 23 April. This, I believe, is a monumental historic event which will advance the long-held Palestinian yearning for self-determination and increase the prospect of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state becoming a reality.


Ruth Tenne is an Israeli human rights activist.

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| #BDS: Holocaust hullabaloo: British MP intimidated!

Holocaust hullabaloo: British MP intimidated ~ Stuart LittlewoodRedress Information & Analysis.

Or, how to make enemies of people who aren’t!

The head of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Karen Pollock, has once again succeeded in wringing an apology from a British MP for remarks about what happened to Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe and what is happening now to Palestinians in Israeli-occupied Gaza and the West Bank.

“Offensive” truth

During the same parliamentary debate in which Sir Gerald Kaufman gave Israel a severe rollicking, Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East, told the House of Commons – the lower chamber of the British parliament – that the suffering in Gaza was intolerable. Let readers judge whether there’s anything to apologise for in what she said:

The situation has been going on for nine years. Everyone, from all parties — this is not a party political issue — and every one of our foreign secretaries have said, “Yes, we think this is wrong, and we all believe in the two-state solution. Yes, we are friends of Israel, and we have told Israel that it should not be doing this.” But guess what? Nothing has happened…

 

What has struck me in all this is that the state of Israel was founded because of what happened to the millions and millions of Jews who suffered genocide. Their properties, homes and land — everything — were taken away, and they were deprived of rights. Of course, many millions perished. It is quite strange that some of the people who are running the state of Israel seem to be quite complacent and happy to allow the same to happen in Gaza.

 

The issue is not just about Gaza; let us think about the West Bank and Jerusalem as well. Many Palestinians are being turfed out of their homes in Jerusalem. The Israelis are the occupying power in the West Bank, where they have got rid of Palestinian homes and replaced them with hundreds of thousands of settlements, recognized by the United Nations as illegal… The policy pursued by the state of Israel is not helping to lead to a two-state solution. All it is doing is making Palestinians even more depressed and anxious. They think, “What hope is there for us?”, and they rightly ask, “What is the international community doing about this?” Let us face it: if what is happening to Gaza, done by Israel, were happening to any other nation, the whole world would be up in arms, and rightly so.”

Fair comment? Not according to Ms Pollock. The MP was immediately accused of making “offensive and inappropriate comparisons” about the Middle East, as reportedin the Guardian . “We expect our politicians to speak responsibly and sensitively about the past and about events today,” said Pollock. “These lazy and deliberate distortions have no place in British politics. Whilst current events in the Middle East understandably stir emotions, it is astonishing to think that anyone could visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, learn about the industrial nature of the Nazis’ murderous regime, even walk through a gas chamber – and then make these offensive and inappropriate comparisons.”

Readers will point out that some events in occupied Palestine not only “stir emotions”, as Ms Pollock downplays it, they are plain war crimes.

In the Jewish Chronicle, Labour Friends of Israel director Jennifer Gerber strongly condemned the comparisons between the holocaust and the situation in Gaza. “In her remarks, she [Qureshi] directly links Israeli policies towards the Palestinian people to the Nazis’ efforts to exterminate world Jewry. This is both deeply offensive to the memory of the holocaust and its millions of victims, but also wilfully ignorant of the actual situation in Gaza. We would ask Ms Qureshi to apologise for her remarks, and to cease using such upsetting and offensive comparisons.”

Ms Qureshi replied that she had not intended to draw a direct parallel and felt “personally hurt” that anyone could think so – especially as she had visited one of the most notorious death camps. “The debate was about the plight of the Palestinian people and in no way did I mean to equate events in Gaza with the holocaust. I apologise for any offence caused.” She does not seem to have withdrawn the remark, however.

Ordinary people won’t be told what to think or say

A year ago Liberal Democrat MP David Ward was in hot water for his “use of language” in condemning the Jewish state’s atrocities against the Palestinians while the horrors of their own suffering at the hands of the Nazis were still fresh in their memory. He wrote on his website a few days before Holocaust Memorial Day:

Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new state of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.

The sky promptly fell on him. Karen Pollock and Jon Benjamin, the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, launched a vicious attack with Pollock claiming that Ward “deliberately abused the memory of the holocaust” and his remarks were “sickening” and had no place in British politics.

Benjamin said he was outraged and shocked by Ward’s “offensive” comments. He complained: “For an MP to have made such comments on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day is even more distasteful…”

They demanded the party withdraw the whip. Such was the pressure that wobbly Liberal Democrat bosses appointed a team to lay down language rules, determine whether Ward was “salvageable” and then re-educate him.

After that, in Brighton, the Sussex Friends of Israel turned on MP Caroline Lucas. During a pro-Israel lobby day in parliament Lucas accused Israel of “blocking humanitarian aid” and “humiliating” the people of Gaza. Simon Cobbs, a founding member of the Sussex Friends of Israel, told the Algemeiner: “The problem we have with Caroline Lucas is that she’s taken a side over and above her own constituency needs.”

Ms Lucas’s remarks were perfectly valid and there was no way Cobbs could deny it. He should have put his point to the 80 per cent of Conservative MPs and MEPs who have signed up with Friends of Israel, an organization that flies the Israeli flag in the British parliament and promotes Israel’s interests. Such activities are not only “above the needs” but very probably detrimental to the interests of their constituencies.

Then Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell, speaking during a debate on the national schools curriculum, put a question to Education Secretary Michael Gove about world history lessons, saying: “On the assumption that the 20th century will include the holocaust, will he give me an assurance that the life of Palestinians since 1948 will be given equal attention?”

The idea that Israel’s murderous oppression of the Palestinians should be given the same prominence in British schools as the shoah did not go down well. “These remarks are a shocking piece of holocaust denigration,” said the Jewish Leadership Council’s chief executive, Jeremy Newmark. “There is simply no comparison between the two situations. It is worrying that so soon after the David Ward affair another MP thinks it is acceptable to play fast and loose with the language of the holocaust in this context.”

 

Governments may bow to Jewish/Israeli exceptionalism and politicians may be bullied into submission, but civil society won’t stand for it.

 

Prickly Ms Pollock also pounced on Russell: “To try to equate the events of the holocaust – the systematized mass murder of 6 million Jews – with the conflict in the Middle East is simply inaccurate as well as inappropriate.”

First of all, it isn’t a “conflict”. It’s a brutal occupation and blockade in which millions of innocent civilians have been dispossessed at gunpoint and put to flight, or collectively punished for decades by a military force armed to the teeth with high-tech weaponry. As for the atrocities carried out in Nazi-occupied Europe and Israeli-occupied Palestine, there is no equivalence in terms of scale. But some similarities are inescapable to those who go and see for themselves. The crucial message of the holocaust, that such cruelty must never be allowed to happen again, seems lost already.

Governments may bow to Jewish/Israeli exceptionalism and politicians may be bullied into submission, but civil society won’t stand for it. Ordinary people don’t like to be told what to think or say. They won’t allow honest debate to be shut down. They hold Israel to the same standards expected of all nations. And because Israel won’t respect international law, human rights and other norms, and because its leaders are never held to account for their monstrous crimes, civil society has taken matters into its own hands and turned to measures like boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

True, growing numbers of Jews bravely speak out and condemn Israel. But more need to do so, because no-one does a better job of abusing the memory of holocaust victims than the Zionist regime itself, which drove into exile some 700,000 Palestinians in 1947/48 and has had its boot on the necks of those remaining for the 65 years ever since. The advice of Yehoshafat Harkabi, a former Israeli military intelligence chief, is surely ringing in enough ears: “Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world.”

Ms Pollock, as a “guardian” of the holocaust enterprise, has a job to do in promoting the message and defending the memory against detractors. But why make enemies of those who are not? Instead, she might consider taking an educational trip into the occupied Palestinian territories. The holocaust teacher would benefit from becoming aNakba student for a few days and learning about the Israelis’ evil matrix of control, their theft of Palestinian resources, their strangulation of the Palestinian economy, their frequent air-strikes, the midnight raids of their snatch-squads, the decimation of Gaza’s fishing industry, their imprisonment of children, the obstacles they place in the way of university students and sportsmen and women, their blocking of food, medical and building supplies, the all-round misery and destruction they inflict on everyone, and much, much more.

Only then would she be in a position to advise MPs on comparisons and how appropriate or inappropriate they are.

holocaust_remembrance_day 1 holoblackmail1

 

| Before Their Diaspora: A photographic history of the Palestinians, 1876-1948!

Before Their Diaspora ~ A photographic history of the Palestinians, 1876-1948, by Walid Khalidi.

The Book

Before Their Diaspora is a visual journey into Palestine before 1948. Every important aspect of Palestinian society comes to life in the nearly 500 photographs, carefully selected from thousands available in private and public collections throughout the world. Descriptive, analytical texts, introduce each of the five historical periods into which the book is divided. Carefully researched, captions identify the time, place, personalities and context of each photograph. The first printing was in 1984. Learn more about the book.

 

Using the Website & Digital Book

An instructional video on how to use this website.

The Author

Born in Jerusalem, Walid Khalidi was educated at the University of London and Oxford University. He taught at Oxford, the American University of Beirut, and Harvard. Khalidi is the general secretary of the Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS) and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

 

Walid Khalidi on Before Their Diaspora

The author discusses the making of this book.

Special Thanks

The publication of the first printing of Before Their Diaspora in 1984 was made possible through the generous patronage of Mr Abdul Hamid Shoman, Chairman of the Board of Director, the Arab Bank (Amman, Jordan) and Mr Hassib Sabbagh, founder of the Diana Tamari Sabbagh Foundation (Beirut, Lebanon).

This electronic edition of Before Their Diaspora was made possible through the generosity of the Alami family to honor the memory of the late Mr Sami Y Alami, a leading Palestinian patriot, businessman, philanthropist and a long-time member of the board of trustees and the executive committee of the Institute for Palestine Studies.

Jerusalem: Allah’s Choice

“The choice of Allah of all his lands is Jerusalem . . . the dew which descends upon Jerusalem is a remedy from every sickness, because it is from the gardens of Paradise.”

This vast compound some thirty-four acres in area, known as the Haram aI-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), is situated in the Old City of Jerusalem, one of the three holiest cities of Islam (the other two being Mecca and Medina).

Jesus: Allah’s Word

“The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary … His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him … ” 

The Star of Bethlehem, Church of the Nativity. Islam is deeply imbued with Judeo-Christian beliefs and traditions. The prophet Muhammad is seen by Muslims as the last and “seal” (khatim) of a long line of earlier prophets.
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A Photographic History of the Palestinians:
Click HERE to visit this authentic new website then select “Ways to View“, then select “Digital Edition” to read the 331 page book. Has “full screen” and “zoom” features to enlarge the text and rarely-seen historical photos.


| Stealing Palestine: Interview with Richard Falk!

Stealing Palestine: interview with Richard Falk ~ Stuart LittlewoodRedress Information & Analysis.

Creeping annexation, ethnic cleansing and “the politics of fragmentation” inflicted by criminals who strut the world stage and thumb their noses at international law.

As the international conspiracy to rob Palestinians of their freedom and homeland is exposed a little more each day, observers and activists still puzzle over the duplicity of the United Nations in the decades-long illegal occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian territories, not to mention the true intent of Palestinian leaders. So when Richard Falk, Professor of International Law at Princeton and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Occupied Palestine, visited Norwich recently, I took the opportunity to put some questions to him.

“Peace process”

[Stuart Littlewood] Can we start with the so-called “peace process”, please? Does the resignation of the Palestinian negotiation team, and the reasons given, effectively end the already discredited “peace talks”? Should the Palestinians walk away or carry on playing a pointless game for another six months?

[Richard Falk] It is difficult to know how to assess the current suspension of peace talks. The Palestinian Authority (PA) seems always ready to bend to pressure, although with some outer limits. In this respect, the future of this phase of “peace talks” will be determined not in Ramallah, but in Washington and Tel Aviv. It should be evident 20 years after Oslo that the peace talks serve Israel’s interest in “creeping annexation” of the West Bank and ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem, while diminishing Palestinian prospects, and even harming the Palestinian image by disinformation that blames the Palestinian side for the breakdown of the process when and however it occurs. It would be a welcome sign of PA independence if they come forth and denounce this peace process for what it is.

The sad reality is that this is almost certain not to happen, and more likely than not the period of negotiations will be extended beyond the nine months set aside, on the entirely false claim that the parties are on the verge of resolving all their differences, and with a little patience, the prospects for a deal are quite bright.

[Question] The negotiators said they were resigning because of the “unprecedented escalation” of settlement building and because the Israeli government wasn’t serious about a two-state solution and had failed to fulfil commitments given before the present talks were resumed. I now read that [Palestinian negotiator Saeb] Erekat has already been back to Washington for more talks with Tzipi Livni (Israel’s lead negotiator), [US Secretary of State John] Kerry and US envoy [Martin] Indyk. Far from denouncing the process they are once again endorsing it, which makes your point.

In any case, how acceptable is it for a weak, demoralized and captive people like the Palestinians to be forced to the negotiation table with their brutal occupier under the auspices of a US administration seen by many people as too dishonest to play the part of peace broker?

[Answer] Even if the United States was acting in good faith, for which there is no evidence, its dual role as Israel’s unconditional ally and as intermediary would subvert the credibility of a negotiating process. In fact, the US government signals its partisanship by White House appointments of individuals overtly associated with the AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] lobbying group as special envoys to oversee the negotiations such as Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk. It is hard to imagine the fury in the West that would exist if the conditions were reversed, and the UN proposed a one-sided “peace process” biased in favour of the Palestinians. The unsatisfactory nature of the current framework of negotiations is further flawed by weighting the process in favour of Israel, which enjoys a position of hard power dominance.

Palestinians’ main grievances are all reinforced by an objective interpretation of international law

[Q] There can be no peace without justice, so is it right for final status “negotiations” to be held before competing claims are tested in the courts and the many outstanding rulings under international law and UN resolutions are implemented? In any case, shouldn’t a neutral UN peace commission be supervising the final settlement of this long struggle, rather than the US or the Quartet?

[A] Yes, if the priority were to attain a just and sustainable peace, a framework would be developed that had two characteristics: neutral as between the two sides and sensitive to the relevance of rights under international law. Such sensitivity would favour the Palestinians as their main grievances are all reinforced by an objective interpretation of international law, including in relation to settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, borders, water.

Mahmoud Abbas’s legitimacy

[Q] How much legitimacy does Palestinian President Abbas enjoy, having overstayed his term of office?

[A] This question of political legitimacy of President Abbas turns on the subjective mood of the Palestinian people. Because the PA is a political entity so vulnerable to pressures and manipulation, the status of its presiding leader seems to be widely seen as a secondary matter of limited significance. When President Abbas has articulated the case for Palestinian statehood during the last three years at the United Nations he gained considerable personal respect among most governments and for many Palestinians. He seems a leader caught between the realities of his compromised position and the occasional opportunities to express the national ambitions and support the rights of the Palestinian people. The division with Hamas, and the failure to find a formula to restore Palestinian unity in relation to the West, is a further source of weakness for PA claims to represent the Palestinian people as a whole. The failure to hold scheduled elections highlights the insufficiency of PA and Palestinian leadership.

Two-state solution

[Q] Do you believe a two-state solution is still feasible?

[A] No. I think Oslo has been dead for some years, primarily due to Israeli policies designed to encroach upon the remnant of Palestinian territorial and symbolic rights, especially by the continuously expanding settlement archipelago, the unlawful separation wall built on occupied territory, and the demographic manipulations in East Jerusalem. The pretence that Oslo plus the Roadmap point the only way to peace serves American and Israeli purposes in quieting growing complaints about the persistence of the conflict. It represents a diplomatic attempt to deflect criticism, and to divert attention from Palestinian grievances and a growing global solidarity movement.

[Q] The 1947 UN Partition was unworkable as well as immoral. Shouldn’t the whole territory [of historic Palestine] be returned to the melting pot and shared out more sensibly? Shouldn’t Jerusalem and Bethlehem become an international city, or corpus separatum, as the UN originally intended?

[A] For me the fundamental flaw with the partition proposals contained in GA [UN General Assembly] Resolution 181 was the failure to consult the people resident in Palestine at the time. A secondary flaw was the unfairness of awarding 55 per cent of the territory to the Jewish presence as represented by the Zionist movement, which in 1947 represented an estimated 7 per cent of Palestine’s population. This idea of determining the future of Palestine by outsiders, even if well intentioned, which seems not to have ever been the case, is incompatible with the historical trend toward resolving the future of peoples by way of the dynamics of self-determination. In Palestine’s case, at least from the issuance of the Balfour Declaration onwards, this effort to control the future of Palestine has been justly condemned as the last major example of “settler colonialism”. It is a particularly acute example as the settlers have no mother country to which to return, and take a poker player’s high risk posture of “all in”.

International Criminal Court

[Q]  Turning to the role of the International Criminal Court [ICC], this is an organ of the UN. So why doesn’t the ICC initiate its own prosecution of Israeli crimes based on UN reports and the mountain of evidence available to it, especially in view of Palestine’s upgraded status?

There is no authoritative explanation of ICC passivity in face of the Israeli criminal violation of fundamental Palestinian rights.

[A] There is no authoritative explanation of ICC passivity in face of the Israeli criminal violation of fundamental Palestinian rights. As a matter of speculation, it is plausible to assume an absence of political will on the part of the prosecutor’s office to initiate an investigation that would be deeply opposed by Israel and the United States. The ICC has been recently criticized for its Western bias, and its failure, for instance, to consider whether the United Kingdom and the United States violated the Rome Statute’s enumeration of international crimes by initiating and conducting the Iraq War. The African Union has complained about the seeming focus on the criminality of African leaders, and the bypassing of grievances directed at Western behaviour.

Responsibility to protect in Palestine

[Q] We hear you and others calling for intervention to prevent humanitarian catastrophes, e.g. the Gaza water crisis. Who exactly are you calling on? What is the chain of responsibility for intervening.

[A] There has been evolving within the UN and in international society more generally a sense that there is a “responsibility to protect” [R2P] peoples subject to severe threats of humanitarian catastrophes or natural disasters. Such sentiments are part of a process I have described as “moral globalization”.

In fact, R2P diplomacy has been discredited by being used as a geopolitical instrument, most dramatically as the normative foundation for the UN endorsement of the NATO 2011 military intervention in Libya. With respect to Libya the justification was protection against a feared massacre of civilians in the city of Benghazi, but the actual military operation from its outset seemed designed to achieve regime change in Tripoli. When it comes to Gaza where the present crisis has passed into a zone of desperation, the UN and world community are silent as if stone deaf to this deepening human crisis of survival.

So long as it is useful for Israel and Washington to treat Hamas as “a terrorist organization” the UN will be limited in its role to being a provider of a subsistence existence for the Gazan people…

[Q] We have just seen the UN intervening to bring fuel into Gaza as it teetered on the brink of a full-blown public health crisis. There are many such emergencies thanks to Israel’s continuing blockade. Why doesn’t the UN take over the supply of fuel full-time? And indeed the supply of medicines, drugs, medical equipment and spares?

[A] The tragic situation in Gaza cannot be understood without taking account of the political context, above all the split between Fatah and Hamas, and the Israeli posture toward Gaza after its “disengagement” in 2005 and the imposition of a punitive blockade in mid-2007 after Hamas took over the governance of Gaza. The UN has no capability to override geopolitical priorities, and so long as it is useful for Israel and Washington to treat Hamas as “a terrorist organization” the UN will be limited in its role to being a provider of a subsistence existence for the Gazan people, long victims of unlawful Israel policies of “collective punishment”, unconditionally prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

After the Egyptian coup of 3 July this year [reference to the mass popular uprising against the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Muhammad Morsi], the subsistence regime evolved in Gaza is itself in jeopardy. The tunnel network has been substantiallydestroyed by Egyptian military action and the Rafah crossing from Gaza to Egypt has been mainly closed, isolating the people, and creating emergency conditions due to fuel shortages that have made electricity available only in very limited amounts.

The results are horrifying: sewage in the streets, insufficient power to run machines needed to keep the terminally ill alive, fuel shortages that virtually preclude economic activity, and closed borders that seal the fate of 1.6 million Gazans. Long before this dramatic further deterioration of life circumstances, observers were calling Gaza the largest open air prison in the world.

Israeli theft of Palestinian water and gas

The wrongful appropriation by Israel of Palestine’s water, land and energy resources has been a massive crime against the Palestinian people…

[Q] What is the UN doing to protect Palestine’ s precious aquifers and offshore gas field from being plundered by the Israelis?

[A] Again, the UN has no independent capability, or ever will, to challenge Israel or to protect Palestinian rights. It is a case of geopolitical manipulation and Palestinian victimization. The wrongful appropriation by Israel of Palestine’s water, land and energy resources has been a massive crime against the Palestinian people that has been continuous with the occupation that commenced in 1967.

[Q] Why is the requirement, often repeated, to allow Palestinians free and unfettered movement in and out of Gaza not implemented? Gaza and the West Bank are supposed to be a contiguous territory but, for example, Palestinian students in Gaza are prevented from attending their excellent universities in the West Bank. And why are Gazan fishermen still restricted to a mere fraction of their territorial waters, despite agreements to the contrary, and regularly fired on? Why is Israel not prosecuted for acts of piracy in international waters against humanitarian traffic to Gaza?

Israeli military dominance, as politically reinforced by American geopolitical muscle, overrides all of these Palestinian claims of right… Such injustice and suffering can only be challenged by Palestinian resistance and international solidarity.

[A]  As earlier, the hard power realities of Israeli military dominance, as politically reinforced by American geopolitical muscle, overrides all of these Palestinian claims of right. In this respect, such injustice and suffering can only be challenged by Palestinian resistance and international solidarity. The specific abuses can and should be delimited to raise public awareness and contribute to the mobilization of support for the Palestinian struggle, but it is pointless to expect the UN to do more than its capabilities allow. The whole structure of the organization, combined with the method of funding, gives geopolitical pressures great leverage in relation to specific situations. The veto power given to the permanent members of the Security Council is a major expression of this weakness that was built into the constitutional structure of the UN from the moment of its establishment.

“Nuremberg Promise has not been kept”

[Q] People reading what you say here will be alarmed that US geopolitical power and Israeli military might can so easily override international and humanitarian law. After Nuremburg our legal institutions were strong enough to bring Nazi era criminals to book, but present-day war criminals walk free and thumb their noses. What hope is there for mankind and our brave new world if this is allowed to continue?

The bottom line is that we live in a world in which the primacy of hard power prevails in the relationship among states.

[A] The Nuremberg experience was based on “victors’ justice”, holding the defeated leaders after World War II criminally accountable, while exempting the crimes of the victors from accountability. There was a promise made at Nuremberg that in the future the rules by which the Germans were judged would be applicable to all who committed state crimes in the future. This Nuremberg Promise has not been kept. The political and military leaders of the main states enjoy impunity while the leaders of defeated countries (e.g. Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic) or sub-Saharan African countries are prosecuted by international tribunals. Double standards prevail, and it is questionable whether an international criminal law that punishes the weak and exempts the strong is to be treated as legitimate, even if those accused receive a fair trial and are convicted and punished only if they were guilty of grave misconduct.

The bottom line is that we live in a world in which the primacy of hard power prevails in the relationship among states. Geopolitical leverage enables Israel to defy the most basic principles of international law, and yet their leaders are not held accountable. There are only two paths available that challenge this result. National courts can be empowered by what is called “universal jurisdiction” to investigate, indict, prosecute, convict and punish anyone accused of state crime that can be personally delivered to the relevant court. In 1998 the Chilean dictator was detained in London after the Spanish government requested that [Augusto] Pinochet be extradited. After lengthy litigation it was found that Pinochet could be extradited for torture committed during part of his reign, but in the end he was sent back to Chile because of health reasons, and never faced trial in Spain. Yet such a possibility exists in relation to Israeli political and military leaders, and seems to have discouraged their travel to countries whose criminal law contains the authority to invoke universal jurisdiction.

The other possibility is by convening a peoples tribunal of the sort constituted in the past by the Bertrand Russell Foundation in Brussels and the Lelio Basso Foundation in Rome. The Russell Foundation sponsored four sessions devoted to various allegations of criminality attributed to the government of Israel. It produced convincing documentation of the charges, and issued judgements that called for civil society initiatives. Such a tribunal, although acting on evidence and in accord with the relevant provisions of international criminal law, possesses no formal authority and lacks implementing capabilities. Its role is limited to documenting the case against a government, and providing symbolic support to those who contend that there have been violations of international criminal law. Such outcomes may influence public opinion, and help change the balance of political forces by undermining the legitimacy of an established order of oppression as exists with respect to Israel’s relationship to the Palestinian people and the denial of their collective right of self-determination.

Palestinian disunity

[Q]  What are the chances as you see them for achieving unity between Fatah and Hamas, and how should the Palestinians play their cards in future?

The “politics of fragmentation” designed to undermine Palestinian unity… has been alarmingly successful.

[A] There is a near unanimous belief among Palestinians and their supporters that unity is needed to move the struggle forward. Such unity existed throughout the early decades of the Palestinian national movement, despite many ideological differences relating to tactics and goals, but within a shared resolve to achieve national liberation. The unifying image provided by Yasser Arafat’s uncontested leadership was also important.

Israel has pursued a policy I describe as “the politics of fragmentation” designed to undermine Palestinian unity, and it has been alarmingly successful. Oslo contributed to this end by dividing up the West Bank into Areas A, B and C, by splitting the administration of Gaza off from the rest of Palestine. The emergence of Hamas highlighted Palestinian fragmentation, a result welcomed by Israel even as it was condemned. Fatah appears to have been inhibited in reaching some kind of functional unity with Hamas by pressures to refrain from such moves mounted in Israel and the United States. So long as Hamas is treated as a terrorist organization, even in the face of its turn from armed struggle and entry into the political process back in 2006, there will be strong opposition to moves towards unity…

Deflection by defamation

[Q]  Finally, Richard, your robust defence of Palestinian rights has ruffled many feathers and led to demands from “the usual suspects” for your dismissal. Should the people you speak up for be concerned about this?

[A] The attacks on me, and others who have tried to bear witness to the directives of international law and political justice, are part of a deliberate campaign by Israel, and its cadres in civil society, to deflect attention from the substantive grievances of the Palestinian people. It is what I have described as “the politics of deflection”, go after the messenger so as to deflect attention from the message. The media have been largely compliant as have Israel’s powerful governmental friends, including the United Kingdom, US and Canadian governments. Of course, many NGOs and elements of the public push back against such tactics. In my case the defamatory efforts of UN Watch, in particular, have been unpleasant, but have not altered my effort to do the job of witnessing to the best of my ability and in accordance with the canons of truth telling.

Those of us living in comfort should not turn our gaze away from the children of Gaza this Christmas.

[Q] Thank you for being so generous with your time and sharing your assessment of the situation. But before you go, what sort of Christmas can the children of Gaza look forward to?

[A] We can only imagine the horror of Christmas this year in Gaza for young and old alike: from life amid raw sewage to freezing cold, scarcities, desolation and a sense that the world is elsewhere, indifferent to such acute suffering, such sustained injustice, such blind hate.

And yet also knowing many Gazans makes me believe that even in such dire circumstances there remains space for some laughter, and much love, and that such a spirit of resistance lives on among the children of this place haunted by the evils of our world. If present these days in Gaza it would likely make me feel a mystifying blend of sadness and inspiration.

At the very least, those of us living in comfort should not turn our gaze away from the children of Gaza this Christmas: we should demand empathy from our leaders and be as personally attentive as possible, whether by commentary, prayer, donations, a compassionate scream! We should not allow these days of celebration and renewal to pass this year without moments of reflection on selfish joys and cheerful carols, as contrasting with the miserable destiny bestowed upon the innocent and abused children of Gaza

Let us look the children of Gaza in the eye if we can. And if we can’t, as I could not, seize the moment to reflect on what it means to be (in)human during this holiday season.

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| Post-colonialism, post-apartheid: Peace Without Occupation!

Peace Without Occupation ~ Stephen Lendman.

For millions of occupied Palestinians, diaspora ones, and legions of global supporters, it remains a distant unfulfilled dream.

It’s been this way for decades. Rogue Israeli governance prevents responsible change. So does one-sided Washington support for its worst crimes.

Yuval Diskin is a retired high level Israeli official. He’s a former IDF commander. From May 2005 – May 2011, he headed Shin Bet.

It’s Israel’s General Security Service. It calls itself “the unseen shield.” It’s one of three main intelligence agencies.

The others are Aman (military intelligence) and Mossad (foreign intelligence). Shin Bet duties involve state security and related issues.

Diskin became outspoken in retirement. In January, he criticized Netanyahu. He called him “weak,” “wavering,” and “unreliable.”

He’s “possessed” by Iran, he said. He “shirk(s) responsibility.”

He represents “a crisis in leadership here, a crisis of values and total contempt for the public.”

“Maybe people will think I’m exaggerating, but I’m telling you. From close up it looks even worse.”

Diskin doesn’t trust him. He lacks “leadership qualities.” He has messianic ambitions.

“I have a very deep feeling that when it comes to Iran, Netanyahu is possessed by Menachem Begin, who attacked Iraq’s nuclear reactor, and by Olmert, who many claim is responsible for the attack on Syria’s (alleged) reactor,” said Diskin.

“Bibi wants to go down in history as the person who did something on this size a scale.”

“I have heard him belittle what his predecessors have done and assert that his mission on Iran is on a much grander scale.”

Post-Geneva, what perhaps he has in mind bears close watching. Diskin expressed concern for his children.

“When I see the current leadership, I am worried about what we’ll leave for them,” he added. Rogue leaders initiate rogue policies.

In July, Diskin’s Jerusalem Post op-ed headlined “Israel nears point of no return on two-state solution.”

Perhaps it’s “already crossed,” he said. He’s concerned about longterm occupation. It’s improperly addressed, he stressed.

“(T)his subject has a place in our essence, in our identity, in our souls, in our security, and in our perception of morality – as a society or nation that has come to rule another nation.”

Diskin remains outspoken. On December 4, he said:

“I want a homeland that does not require the occupation of another people to maintain itself.”

“(F)ailed negotiations are far graver for Israel’s future than the Iranian nuclear program.”

“We need an agreement now,” he stressed. He said so on the tenth anniversary of the so-called Geneva Initiative. More on that below.

Diskin wants to “know that our home here has clear borders, and that we’re putting the sanctity of people before the sanctity of land.”

He “want(s) a homeland that does not require the occupation of another people in order to maintain itself.”

“The Geneva Initiative is a solid foundation for a solution of two states for two peoples.” More on that below.

“The negotiations have worn thin. (It’s time) for a decision to be made.”

Netanyahu-led Likudnik extremists make achieving one impossible, he believes.

Diskin supports new Israeli governance. He wants peace-supporting officials in charge. Too many Jews live in Occupied Palestine, he said.

Settlement expansions defeat peaceful conflict resolution. Diskin wants Israel becoming a nation “prefer(ring) the sanctity of its people over the sanctity of its land.”

Longterm occupation is self-defeating. So is America’s role. One-sided Israeli support is longstanding policy. It continues unabated.

On Wednesday, an unidentified State Department official said Washington prepared new peace agreement terms. Current negotiations went nowhere so far.

Don’t expect resolution going forward. Not unless Palestinians unconditionally surrender. They did before. They may again. Israel demands no less.

On Thursday, Netanyahu was briefed on what Washington has in mind. According to the State Department, “many details and specifics” were included. (They’re) a piece of what will be a larger whole.”

It prioritizes Israeli security. Expect old wine in new bottles when more details are known. It’s been this way for decades. Don’t expect significant changes going forward.

An unnamed Palestinian rejected America’s proposal. It’s disingenuous on its face. It’ll prolong and maintain occupation harshness, he said. It benefits Israel at Palestine’s expense.

The 2003 Geneva Accord (also called the Geneva Initiative) sounded promising when announced. It was far less than met the eye.

Preamble language obscured what followed. Articles 1 through 17 alone mattered.

Israeli/Palestinian negotiators spent two years preparing it. Yossi Beilin, Yasser Abed Rabbo, and others on both sides were involved. They rigged one-sided pro-Israeli terms. They pretended fairness.

They didn’t obligate either side. On December 1, 2003, they were formally introduced in Geneva.

Broad international support followed. Then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rejected terms straightaway. Why tinker with one-sided Israeli rights. Why confuse things with Plan B.

In September 2009, an expanded Geneva Accord was released. It supplemented the original proposal. It solidified Israeli rights. It outlined one-sided implementation measures.

Final status issues were addressed. Palestinian rights were ignored. Israeli ones were recognized.

They got what they wanted with regard to borders, settlements, airspace, security, diaspora Palestinians right of return, water and other resources, as well as control over virtually all East Jerusalem.

Negotiators called for ending an era of conflict. Beginning a new one was prioritized. Both sides stressed basing it on “peace, cooperation, and good neighborly relations.”

High-minded rhetoric substituted for binding fairness.

Implementing agreed on terms meant ending claims on both sides.

Doing so would forfeit decades of land and resource theft, compensation for lost lives, and other long denied reparations. These and other major issues would be considered resolved. No further claims would follow.

Israel would recognize sovereign Palestine. At most it would be an unacceptable rump state. It would exist on isolated cantons.

All rights and obligations would be observed. They’re one way. Israel alone would benefit. Palestinians would lose out altogether.

Full diplomatic and consular relations would be established. Both sides would exchange ambassadors. They would do so within one month of mutual recognition.

Both Parties would commit not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs. They’d cooperate in areas of mutual interest. UN Charter provisions would be observed.

An implementation and Verification Group (IVG) would be established. It would consist of America, Russia, the EU, UN and other parties.

It would be involved in all aspects relating to implementation and resolving potential disputes. A Multinational Force (MF) would provide security.

Agreements involving America, supportive EU states, and subservient UN officials assure sacrificing Palestinian rights too important to lose.

MF security means repressive UN Blue Helmets. They’re imperial enforcers. They’d support Israeli interests. Palestinians would lose out in the process. Persecution would continue like now.

At the time, Yasser Arafat praised the “brave initiative that opens the door to peace.” Israel rejected it straightaway.

Washington’s endorsement concealed one-sided Israeli support. George Bush sided with Sharon. He stressed Israeli security priorities. He said waging war on terror must continue.

Dozens of global presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, and other officials endorsed agreed on terms wholeheartedly. Doing so was less than met the eye.

Agreed on terms excluded even-handed fairness. Israeli rights were recognized. So were Palestinian obligations.

Many Palestinians opposed agreed on terms. They called them Oslo 2.0. They said far too much was sacrificed for smoke and mirrors in return.

Most Israeli settlements were annexed. Land swap terms were vague. Ambiguity substituted for clarity.

Israel got near total control of Jerusalem. It got virtually everything it wanted. Diaspora Palestinians lost out altogether.

A corridor linking the West Bank and Gaza was mandated. A viable Palestinian state required it. Agreement terms placed it “under Israeli sovereignty.”

Doing so would assure closure or other harshness any time at Israel’s discretion. “Territorial integrity” and “political independence” were ill-defined.

So were other agreement terms. They recycled unfairness. Israel’s apartheid wall was ignored.

Wiggle room assured Israel would take full advantage. Palestinians would continue being easily exploited. Ill-defined rights meant denying them altogether.

Hardline Israelis claimed Palestinians got too much. They said agreed on terms didn’t go far enough. They wanted Palestinians totally denied. They wanted binding language assuring it.

Conflict resolution failed. It’s no nearer now than earlier. Two states were possible years ago. No longer. Israel controls over half the West Bank and much of East Jerusalem. More is added daily.

One state for all its people remains the only viable option. Nothing else works going forward. Achieving it requires strong international support.

Peace negotiations remain one-sided. They’re dead on arrival. Israel won’t relinquish territory it controls. It wants Palestine ruthlessly exploited. It rejects statehood.

It wants Palestinians living in isolated bantustans. It wants them on worthless scrubland. Israeli moderates and hardliners agree.

Land theft and ethnic cleansing remain official policy. Peaceful conflict resolution remains an unfulfilled dream. Occupation harshness persists.

Equal rights for all is a nonstarter. Israeli intransigence makes it impossible. It wants permanent legalized occupation. Palestinians want sovereign freedom.

Democratic legitimacy requires institutionalizing equal rights. It means treating Arabs and Jews alike. It demands rule of law principles be observed.

It requires ending decades of occupation, colonization and apartheid. It involves binding statutes mandating new policies. It requires enforcing them.

It requires commitment to do the right thing. It requires achieving what earlier proved impossible.

It requires proving a new day arrived. It’s been nowhere in sight up to now. It looks no better going forward.

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| PHOTOS: Palestinians destroy separation barrier in two West Bank villages!

PHOTOS: Palestinians destroy separation barrier in two West Bank villages ~ , +972.

During the early hours of Friday morning, Palestinians in two Palestinian villages took part in a direct action to destroy parts of the separation barrier. In Bir Nabala, located on the other side of Route 443, Palestinians used hammers to break open a hole in the wall, while Palestinians in Rafat (near the Ofer Military Prison) cut through 20 meters of the security fence bordering their village.

The army did not arrive during the action, and no mainstream media outlet invited.

| Pirate Israel’s gains from the death of Arafat cannot be ignored!

Israel’s gains from the death of Arafat cannot be ignored ~

Jonathan CookThe National, Abu Dhabi.

It seems there are still plenty of parties who would prefer that the death of the long-time Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat continues to be treated as a mystery rather than as an assassination.

It is hard, however, to avoid drawing the logical conclusion from the finding last week by Swiss scientists that the Palestinian leader’s body contained high levels of a radioactive isotope, polonium-210. An inconclusive and much more limited study by a Russian team published shortly immediately after the Swiss announcement also suggests Arafat died from poisoning.

It is time to state the obvious: Arafat was killed. And suspicion falls squarely on Israel.

Israel alone had the means, track record, stated intention and motive. Without Israel’s fingerprints on the murder weapon, it may be impossible to secure a conviction in a court of law, but there should be evidence enough to convict Israel in the court of world opinion.

Israel had access to polonium from its nuclear reactor in Dimona, and has a long record of carrying out political assassinations, some ostentatious and others covert, often using hard-to-trace chemical agents. There is also plenty of evidence that Israel wanted Arafat “removed”. In January 2002, Shaul Mofaz, Israel’s military chief of staff, was caught on a microphone whispering to Israel’s then prime minister, Ariel Sharon, about Arafat: “We have to get rid of him.”

With the Palestinian leader holed up for more than two years in his battered compound in Ramallah, surrounded by Israeli tanks, the debate in the Israel government centred on whether he should be exiled or killed.

In September 2003, the cabinet even issued a warning that Israel would “remove this obstacle in a manner, and at a time, of its choosing”. The then-deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, clarified that killing Arafat was “one of the options”.

What stayed Israel’s hand – and fuelled its equivocal tone – was Washington’s adamant opposition. After these threats, Colin Powell, the US former secretary of state, warned that a move against Arafat would trigger “rage throughout the Arab world”.

By April 2004, however, Mr Sharon declared he was no longer obligated by his earlier commitment to George Bush not to “harm Arafat physically”. “I am released from that pledge,” he said. The White House too indicated a weakening of its stance: an unnamed spokesman responded feebly that the US “opposed any such action”.

So what about motive? How did Israel gain from “removing” Arafat? To understand Israel’s thinking, one needs to return to another debate raging at that time, among Palestinians.

The Palestinian leadership was split into two camps, centred on Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, then Arafat’s heir apparent. The pair had starkly divergent strategies for dealing with Israel.

In Arafat’s view, Israel had reneged on commitments it made in the Oslo accords. He was therefore loath to invest exclusively in the peace process. He wanted a twin strategy: keeping open channels for talks while maintaining the option of armed resistance to pressure Israel. For this reason, he kept a tight personal grip on the Palestinian security forces.

Mr Abbas, on the other hand, believed that armed resistance was a gift to Israel, delegitimising the Palestinian struggle. He wanted to focus exclusively on negotiations and state-building, hoping to exert indirect pressure on Israel by proving to the international community that the Palestinians could be trusted with statehood. His priority was cooperating closely with the US and Israel in security matters.

Israel and the US strongly preferred Mr Abbas’s approach, even forcing Arafat for a time to reduce his own influence by appointing Mr Abbas to a newly created post of prime minister.

Israel’s primary concern was that, however much of a prisoner they made Arafat, he would remain a unifying figure for Palestinians. By refusing to renounce armed struggle, Arafat managed to contain – if only just – the mounting tensions between his own Fatah movement and its chief rival, Hamas.

With Arafat gone, and the conciliatory Mr Abbas installed in his place, those tensions erupted violently into the open – as Israel surely knew they would. That culminated in a split that tore apart the Palestinian national movement and led to a territorial schism between the Fatah-controlled West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza.

In Israel’s oft-used terminology, Arafat was the head of the “infrastructure of terror”. But Israel’s preference for Mr Abbas derived not from respect for him or from a belief that he could persuade Palestinians to accept a peace deal. Mr Sharon famously declared that Mr Abbas was no more impressive than a “plucked chicken”.

Israel’s interests in killing Arafat were evident after his death. Not only did the Palestinian national movement collapse, but the Palestinian leadership got drawn back into a series of futile peace talks, leaving Israel clear to concentrate on land grabs and settlement building. Contemplating the matter of whether Israel benefited from the loss of Arafat, Palestinian analyst Mouin Rabbani observed: “Hasn’t Abu Mazen’s [Abbas] exemplary commitment to Oslo over the years, and maintenance of security cooperation with Israel through thick and thin, already settled this question?”

Mr Abbas’ strategy may be facing its ultimate test now, as the Palestinian negotiating team once again tries to coax out of Israel the barest concessions on statehood at the risk of being blamed for the talks’ inevitable failure. The effort already looks deeply misguided.

While the negotiations have secured for the Palestinians only a handful of ageing political prisoners, Israel has so far announced in return a massive expansion of the settlements and the threatened eviction of some 15,000 Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.

It is doubtless a trade-off Arafat would have rued.

Jonathan Cook is an independent journalist based in Nazareth

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