Peace in our Time?

March 28, 2007

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 10:23 am



TALKING ABOUT ISRAEL
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
March 18, 2007

Democrats are railing at just about everything President Bush does, with one prominent exception: Mr. Bush’s crushing embrace of Israel.

There is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicans about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians. And that silence harms America, Middle East peace prospects and Israel itself.

Within Israel, you hear vitriolic debates in politics and the news media about the use of force and the occupation of Palestinian territories. Yet no major American candidate is willing today to be half as critical of hard-line Israeli government policies as, say, Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper.

Three years ago, Israel’s minister of justice spoke publicly of photos of an elderly Palestinian woman beside the ruins of her home, after it had been destroyed by the Israeli army. He said that they reminded him of his own grandmother, who had been dispossessed by the Nazis. Can you imagine an American cabinet secretary ever saying such a thing? (more…)

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PEACE NOW DEMO TODAY SAYS YES TO SAUDI INITIATIVE

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Palestine, Peace, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 8:28 am

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March 25, 2007

ALL HAIL ISRAEL

Filed under: Blogroll, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 10:35 am

HOMAGE TO FEAR AND FAWNING
Thursday, March 22, 2007

by William A. Cook, a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California, (published on MWC News and crossposted on Ben Heine-Cartoons with the title All Hail Israel).

Like all patriotic Americans, I spend a portion of each weekend browsing through the “official” web sites of the Presidential candidates preparing myself for the 2008 run off between Republicans and Democrats, Republicrats for short. I now aggregate all of them because all pay homage, indeed a groveling obsequiousness, to AIPAC and to the Olmert/Leiberman regime in Israel. Such fawning is born of fear, as former congressmen Paul Findley, Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard can testify, fear that comes with crossing a powerful force, a force that can threaten the candidate’s standing in the polls. Yossi Beilin, former Labor Party Minister under Ehud Barak recognized this force: “They (AIPAC) have the threat of voting out (congressional) representatives. I never liked this leverage. It’s counterproductive.”

Yet it’s clear that the American Congress’ unrestrained support for the Sharon/Olmert regimes over the past six years, coupled to the Bush administration’s total capitulation to Israel’s dominance in Palestine, has created an untenable situation for America in the eyes of the world. America’s bondage to Israel is the overriding issue that can release America from its position as the target for the world’s hatred, yet all candidates but two grovel before AIPAC and the Olmert/Leiberman regime.

Why is bondage to Israel a concern? Because those who attack America, including Bin Laden, have told Americans that it is a concern; because our 9/11 Commission told us in Without Precedent that the dominant reason given to them for actions against America was our absolute and continued support for Israel; because Maershimer and Walt, in their report on AIPAC influence in our congress, presented to America an inventory of evidence that establishes America’s allegiance to Israel and the consequences of such allegiance; because Haaretz, the leading Israeli newspaper, has admonished Israelis and Americans that the perception in the Arab world and in the EU of America’s total commitment to Israel is unwise and will erupt in a blowback against Israel itself; because virtually every nation in the world understands what Americans cannot seem to digest, that support for a country that has systematically persecuted another people without letup for 60 years, has made America a pariah nation subject to the frustration, anger, and outright hatred of those who condemn the injustice inflicted on the Palestinians.

Why continue such unrestrained bondage to Israel? Why indeed. Why shackle America to a nation that has defied UN resolutions year after year (over 160 UNGA and 60 UNSC) since 1948 that calls for it to act humanely to the Palestinians, to return stolen land to the Palestinians, to recognize international law and the right to return of refugees driven from their homes? Why shackle America to a country that defies international law by occupying the land of other nations and peoples? Why shackle America to a nation that refuses to sign a mid-east nuclear non-proliferation agreement, develops its own arsenal of nuclear bombs (estimated at 200-400), then, with all brazen chutzpah, condemns its neighbor for developing such a weapon? Why shackle America to a nation that cries before the world its right to defend itself when it refuses to negotiate with its neighbors the borders of its own state as it occupies land belonging to others, then condemns the Palestinians for refusing to recognize what it has yet to declare publicly, where Israel begins and ends?

Why shackle America to a state that constructs a Wall that imprisons another people, using their land and stealing their water and farm land in the process, a Wall not unlike the Berlin Wall that America found so repulsive, a Wall that has been condemned by the International Court of Justice as inhumane and illegal? Why shackle America to a state that imprisons 10,000 people without charge and tortures many without regard or adherence to international law or the Geneva Conventions? Why shackle America to a state that contains in its government a vowed racist, Avigdor Leiberman, who leads his party and now the state to ethnically cleanse the indigenous population by transfer or slow starvation? Why shackle America to a nation that accepts as normal behavior the assassination of individuals on the say so of the Prime Minister or his subordinates denying them the rights provided by law in a civilized society, the right to be charged, to confront the evidence and/or the accuser, and trial by peers? Why shackle America to a state that determines for itself that the will of the people whom they oppress by occupation cannot democratically elect those who would govern them, deny the right of the government to exist, and then steal the tax funds that belong to that government? Why shackle America to the tax burden required to provide this state with 3 to 5 billion dollars per year for military and infrastructure development when it uses these tax dollars to construct illegal housing for immigrants to that nation, to build apartheid roads over stolen land, and to construct the heinous Wall that entombs the Palestinians?

Why indeed. Yet with only two exceptions, all candidates running for president in 2008 have obsequiously crawled before AIPAC to declare his or her unqualified allegiance to the Israeli state thus negating before they could take office the chance to bring peace to the mid-east. Anyone paying attention for the past twenty years or more understands that Israel alone can bring peace to Palestine, and Israel does not want peace as long as it believes it can continue to create conditions on the ground that confiscate more and more Palestinian land (read Jeff Halper’s “Matrix of Control” or Why Israel won’t Make Peace”). Why, then, should our candidates fall on their knees fawning before AIPAC and Olmert? Consider this observation by the editors of Haaretz:

“The conclusion that Israel can draw from the anti-Israel feeling expressed in the article (Mearsheimer and Walt article) is that it will not be immune for eternity. America’s unhesitating support for Israel and its willingness to restrain itself over all of Israel’s mistakes can be interpreted as conflicting with America’s essential interests and are liable to prove burdensome. (more…)

March 18, 2007

Gideon Levy: How to swallow the frog(man) ?

Filed under: Blogroll, Palestine, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 11:52 pm

  Ami Ayalon is the next thing. A poll published at the weekend shows that about 50 percent of Israelis want him as defense minister. They are torn between a yearning for politicians who failed and political rookies about whom they know very little. Ayalon is “clean” and “direct,” another one of the kind we love so much, promising to both have the cake and eat it, a man of peace and also Mr. Security. The hope that Ayalon is spreading is therefore another hope that will end up disappointing. The support for him is indicative of the vacuum created here.

An examination of his statements and views in recent years yields a confusing picture, if not to say a confused one. Someone who said a few years ago that he would not venture into politics is a candidate for prime minister. Someone who said in an interview with Maariv about three years ago that “the left must not come to power,” and that “the left will not succeed in reaching an accord with the Palestinians. Only the Likud can evacuate settlements.” He told Haaretz in an interview a year ago: “I will evacuate 60,000 settlers.” Someone who said of himself that “he awoke in great pain from a dream” continues to think that the settlers “won for the state,” and testifies that he has “an attitude of profound appreciation” toward them, defining them as “the pioneers of Zionism.” Someone who only a year ago stated that Amir Peretz is “unequivocally” worthy of being prime minister, that he has all of the attributes for national leadership and “an exceptional ability to withstand pressure,” and then became his bitter enemy, even before the war .But immediately after, Peretz did not choose him to be a minister – like the lowliest of opportunists. This man of peace, who did not make a loud and explicit call to respond to the challenge of peace that Syria placed at our doorstep, advocates keeping the settlement blocs and supports the separation fence.

And what is his position on negotiating with the new Palestinian unity government? He responded, through his media adviser: “We should aspire to conduct negotiations with Abu Mazen, who is the elected representative of the Palestinian public” – as if Hamas is not the “elected representative of the Palestinian public.” For such positions, we have Ehud Olmert.

Ayalon was opposed to having his party quit the government when it was expanded to include Avigdor Lieberman, the person who once suggested appointing Ayalon as director of the Institute for the Study of Seas and Lakes. He did not oppose the recent war in Lebanon from the outset, only the ground operation. Always thinking small, he also supported the diplomatic plan of Tzipi Livni. This is the alternative, the white hope. As someone who says of himself that he is a certified animal trainer, Ayalon wants not only to train marine mammals, but also the Palestinians. At the same time, he is one of the two initiators of The People’s Voice, of which nothing remains. (more…)

March 14, 2007

CERD and home demolitions (following ICAHD’s submission)

Filed under: Blogroll, Palestine, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 10:06 pm

35. The Committee notes with concern the application in the Occupied Palestinian Territories of different laws, policies and practices to Palestinians on the one hand, and to Israelis on the other hand. It is concerned, in particular, by information about unequal distribution of water resources to the detriment of Palestinians, about the disproportionate targeting of Palestinians in house demolitions and about the application of different criminal laws leading to prolonged detention and harsher punishments for Palestinians for the same offences. (articles 2, 3 and 5)

The State party should ensure equal access to water resources to all without any discrimination. The Committee also reiterates its call for a halt to the demolition of Arab properties particular in East Jerusalem and for respect for property rights irrespective of the ethnic or national origin of the owner. Although different legal regimes may apply to Israeli citizens living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Palestinians the State party should ensure that the same crime is judged equally not taking into consideration the citizenship of the perpetrator.

http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/CERD.C.ISR.CO.13.pdf

CERD: Badil’s Statement

Filed under: Blogroll, Palestine, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 10:03 pm

http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/CERD.C.ISR.CO.13.pdf

THE UN ANTI-RACISM COMMITTEE QUESTIONS ISRAEL’S POLICY OF APARTHEID IN ISRAEL AND THE OPT AND CALLS FOR EQUALITY IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE RIGHT OF RETURN

By Badil Staff

On 22-23 February 2007, after nearly 10 years of evading its responsibility, Israel finally met with the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to discuss its report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. A number of Palestinian, Israeli and international NGOs attended, including Adalah, ACRI, Al Haq, Amnesty International, Badil, B’Tselem, Habitat Coalition International, National Lawyers Guild and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.

Summarized below are some of the issues raised by the members of the Committee during their discussion with the Israeli delegation and in their Concluding Observations.*

The Jewish and democratic state and the Law of Return
A number of Committee members asked the Israeli delegation to explain the preferential treatment for Jewish nationals and the extraterritorial application of the concept of Jewish nationality through the Law of Return. The Israeli delegation said that the Law of Return did not discriminate between Jewish nationals and “others” because “the distinction took place before acquiring Israeli citizenship” and that once citizenship had been granted, “the rights of all citizens were equal.” Moreover, it said that the right of return did not discriminate against “non-Jews or others” because they could acquire citizenship under the 1952 Citizenship Law. In its Concluding Observations, CERD called upon Israel to ensure that “the definition of Israel as a Jewish nation state does not result, in any systemic distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin in the enjoyment of human rights” and urged Israel “to assure equality in the right to return to one’s country and in the possession of property.” The Committee finally said they would welcome “more information on how the State party envisages the development of the national identity of all its citizens.”(1)

The right to equality in Israel
The Israeli delegation defined Israel as a pluralistic society where the Jewish and democratic nature of the State live in harmony. The Country Rapporteur, Morten Kjaerum, asked about the right to equality in Israel because neither the law of return, the citizenship law nor the basic law: human dignity and freedom, include a clause on the prohibition of discrimination or on the right to equality. The Israeli delegation responded that based on its Declaration of Independence, Israel aimed to ensure the “complete equality of social and political rights irrespective of religion, race or sex; to guarantee freedom of religion…” The rapporteur however concluded that “relying on jurisprudence of the Supreme Court according to which the principle of equality was derived from the Basic Law on dignity was not sufficient.”(2) CERD recommended that Israel “ensure that the prohibition of racial discrimination and the principle of equality be enacted as general norms of high status in domestic law.” It further recommended “that the State party increase its efforts to ensure the equal enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by Arab Israeli citizens, in particular their right to work, health and education.”(3)

Para-statal institutions and access to land
The Country Rapporteur on Israel, Morten Kjaerum, asked Israel to explain the mandate of bodies related to the state, namely, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), World Zionist Organization (WZO) and the Israeli Land Administration (ILA) and how the principle of non-discrimination applies to them. In its Concluding Observations, the Committee said it is “concerned by information according to which these institutions manage land, housing and services exclusively for the Jewish population” and “urge[d] the State party to ensure that these bodies are bound by the principle of non-discrimination in the exercise of their functions.”(4)

Bedouin in the Naqab
One expert asked the Israeli delegation if the state recognized the traditional patterns of landholding of the Bedouin while another expert wondered about the classification as illegal or unrecognized villages of a whole collective group. The Israeli delegation said that the state has adopted a policy of encouraging the Bedouin to move to planned towns because it was unable to provide all services to isolated and scattered communities. Israel said it provides land free of charge and compensation to the Bedouin for those who move into the planned towns. The Committee concluded that “the lack of basic services provided to the Bedouins may in practice force them to relocate to the planned towns” and recommended “that the State party enquire into possible alternatives to the relocation of inhabitants of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev/Naqab to planned towns, in particular through the recognition of these villages and the recognition of the rights of the Bedouins to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources traditionally owned or otherwise inhabited or used by them.”(5)

Other discriminatory practices
CERD also questioned the Israeli delegation as to whether the right balance had been struck between security laws and human rights, particularly in the case of family reunification and recommended the revocation of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) and called upon Israel to “reconsider its policy with a view to facilitating family reunification on a non-discriminatory basis.”(6)

Redress against racial discrimination
Israel did no respond to questions regarding the lack of investigation and law enforcement in response to complaints filed by Palestinians citizens of Israel. CERD recommended that Israel “guarantee the right of every person within its jurisdiction to an effective remedy against the perpetrators of acts of racial discrimination, or acts committed with racist motives, without discrimination of any kind, whether such acts are committed by private individuals or State officials, as well as the right to seek just and adequate reparation for the damage suffered.”(7)

Apartheid and segregation in both Israel and the OPT
The Committee looked at the applicability of Article 3 of the ICERD to both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.(8)

Article 3 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination stipulates: “States Parties particularly condemn racial segregation and apartheid and undertake to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of this nature in territories under their jurisdiction.”

A Committee member defined apartheid or policies of segregation as a deliberate system based on an ideology of superiority resulting in institutional and structural racial segregation, which is racist in intent and in effect.

Segregation and separation in Israel
In regards to Israel, the expert questioned the Israeli delegation as to the reason for practices of segregation and the use of the terms “Jewish sector” and “Arab sector” in the Israeli state report. The member further requested the Israeli delegation to explain the state’s understanding of the concepts of segregation and separateness, a request to which the state did not clearly respond. The Committee recommended to Israel to “assess the extent to which the maintenance of separate Arab and Jewish “sectors” may amount to racial segregation” and called upon the state to “develop and implement policies and projects aimed at avoiding separation of communities, in particular in the areas of housing and education.”(9)

Access to state land in Israel
CERD also applied article 3 to issues of access to state land by Palestinian citizens of Israel and recommended that “all measures are taken to ensure that State land is allocated without discrimination, direct or indirect, based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.”(10)

Apartheid-like practices in the OPT
CERD applied article 3 to violations of human rights generated by the construction of the Wall and its associated regime, severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians and the dual legal system being applied to Israelis and Palestinians in the OPT.

Legal systems in the OPT
Israel said that two legal regimes are applicable to Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank: Palestinians are subject to “the law of the West Bank” while Israeli citizens or visitors are subject to both criminal law applicable in the West Bank and Israeli law. In their Concluding Observations, the Committee expressed concerned “at the State party’s assertion that it can legitimately distinguish between Israelis and Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories on the basis of citizenship” and called upon Israel to ensure that “Palestinians enjoy full rights under the Convention without discrimination based on citizenship and national origin.” CERD called upon Israel to “ensure that restrictions on freedom of movement are not systematic but only of temporary and exceptional nature, are not applied in a discriminatory manner, and do not lead to segregation of communities.”(11)

The Wall and its associated regime in the occupied West Bank
Expert Committee members asked Israel whether it had undertaken any studies on the impact of the Wall on affected communities and whether it had taken steps to implement the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Israel said that the Court did not conclude that the Wall was discriminatory and said that in terms of freedom of movement “the distinction between a citizen and a non-citizen[…]was not a form of discrimination under the Convention.” It also said that neither Israel nor the Quartet had accepted the Court’s ruling. It concluded by saying that the Israeli Supreme Court reserved the right to “judge separately whether each and every segment of the fence was legal under international law.”(12) CERD urged Israel to “cease the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including in and around East Jerusalem, dismantle the structure therein situated and make reparation for all damage caused by the construction of the wall.”(13)

Colonization
Committee members also highlighted the impact of Jewish colonies in the OPT as seriously affecting the human rights of Palestinians, particularly in the city of Hebron. CERD reaffirmed that the colonies in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and that other “actions that change the demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territories are also of concern as violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.” The Committee also recommended to Israel to increase its efforts to protect Palestinians against settler violence and ensure that redress is offered to the victims.(14)
(more…)

March 12, 2007

Gideon Levy: Netanyahu and Meshal forever

Filed under: Blogroll, Palestine, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 11:03 am

www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=835457

Last update – 09:34 11/03/2007
Netanyahu and Meshal forever
By Gideon Levy

A great surprise: The overwhelming majority of Israelis support a one-state solution. After years in which the binational solution was anathema, it has suddenly become apparent that this is the preferred solution. You don’t believe it? Look at the opinion polls. Benjamin Netanyahu is again leading them. You don’t believe Netanyahu advocates this solution? Listen to his words. Once again, Netanyahu “does not find” a Palestinian partner. The conclusion: Wait and do nothing.

Netanyahu is not alone. Judging by their inaction, the prime minister and the foreign minister are also unable to find a partner; it is furthermore doubtful whether the Labor Party will find one. There are heaps and heaps of preconditions – one time it is the democratization of the Palestinians and another time it is their recognition of Israel; one time it is a halt to terror and another time it is a revision of their covenant; one time it is “no” to Arafat, then “no” to Mahmoud Abbas (the “fledgling”) and now it is “no” to the unity government.

And the result is plain to see. One state, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, is coalescing before our very eyes. Because what are Netanyahu and his ilk offering? To sit and do nothing, which simply translates into a binational state. Most Israelis declare that they are in favor of two states? This is a hollow statement – after all, they prefer Netanyahu.

In fact, this is the real “big bang”: The political map of Israel has been upended. There is no longer right and left, no more hawks and doves. The center, the right and the margins of the left are united. From now on, one should say: Israel is divided between supporters of one state, the overwhelming majority, and supporters of two states, a negligible minority.

Whoever does not work immediately for the formation of two states is pushing for one state. There is no other solution, no third way. Anyone who supports the settlement enterprise is a devotee of the greater Land of Israel.

“Tibi or Bibi?” It is more correct to say: “Netanyahu and Khaled Meshal forever.” Both are proponents of a one-state solution and their dispute is only over the nature of this state – one favors an apartheid state and the other an Islamic state. Only the extreme left advocates a single democratic state.

All of the talk about the questions concerning the future of Israel is misleading. While Netanyahu is running on his favorite ticket, the danger of a holocaust emanating from Iran, a more acute question mark hovers over the declared character of Israel: Has it not already become a binational state? It will soon be divided into two equal halves, and later there will be an Arab majority. What is Israel if not a binational state? And what are 3.5 million Palestinians, who have already lived under Israeli occupation for 40 years, if not subjects of a state that has existed with the occupation for twice as many years as it has existed without it?

No, the occupation is not temporary, nor is the current nature of the state.

Enough empty talk about “a Jewish state.” There is no such thing. The fact that the Palestinians live under unequal conditions does not make them subjects of another entity. On the contrary, the state’s control of their lives is immeasurably greater than its control over its Jewish citizens.

“What good will it do – the time that is slipping like sand between the fingers, without taking any action,” Netanyahu asked in an interview with Haaretz, published on Friday, in which he was described as someone who has “shifted to the center.” But of course the “moderate” Netanyahu was referring to Iran, defiantly ignoring the really crucial hourglass. In another moment, the Palestinians will be a majority here, and then what? A minority that continues to abuse a majority? Non-citizens forever? South Africa has already taught us how this culminates.

This grown child must now be called by its name – Netanyahu, Yisrael Beiteinu, the National Religious Party, the settlers, Kadima and all those who reject negotiation should now be called “fans of the binational state.” If it becomes a just state, perhaps this is good news. But is this really what the majority wants?

——————————————————————————–

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=835457

March 11, 2007

Egypt’s Sinai Question – ICG Report

Filed under: Blogroll, Middle East, Palestine, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 11:04 pm

[http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4635&l=1]



Cairo/Brussels, 30 January 2007:

Terrorism in the Sinai is unlikely to be completely eradicated unless the Egyptian government tackles the underlying political and socio–economic dimensions at the heart of the peninsula’s disquiet.

Egypt’s Sinai Question,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the region in the wake of five terrorist attacks between October 2004 and April 2006. The Egyptian government’s reaction to the bombings has been essentially confined to the security sphere: tracking down and eliminating the perpetrators but ignoring the deeper causes of discontent.

“The emergence of a terrorist movement where none previously existed is symptomatic of major tensions and conflicts in Sinai and of its problematic relationship to the Egyptian nation–state”, says Hugh Roberts, Crisis Group’s North Africa Director. “These factors must be addressed effectively, if the terrorist movement is to be definitively eliminated”.

Sinai has long been, at best, a semi–detached region. The population is different from that of the rest of the country and does not identify with its Pharaonic heritage. A substantial minority is of Palestinian extraction, extremely conscious of that identity and ties to the populations of Gaza and the West Bank. The rest, labelled “Bedouin”, are very aware of their historic origins in Arabia and belonging to tribes which often have branches in Israel, Palestine and Jordan. Also, Sinai’s geo–political situation – it comprises the whole of Egypt’s frontier with Israel and with the Palestinian enclave of Gaza – makes it of enormous strategic significance to both Egypt and Israel and extremely sensitive to developments in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

The government has not sought to integrate Sinai’s population into the nation through a far–sighted program responding to their needs. Instead, it has promoted settlement of Nile Valley migrants, whom it has favoured, while it has done little to encourage participation of Sinai residents in national political life.

Thus, beneath the terrorism problem is a serious and enduring “Sinai question”, which the Egyptian political class has yet to address. Doing so will not be easy. Since it is partly rooted in wider Middle East crises, above all the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, a definitive solution depends on their resolution. But it also requires full integration and participation of Sinai’s people in national political life.

“While a comprehensive solution to the Sinai question cannot be expected soon, the government can and should alter its discriminatory development strategy”, says Robert Malley, Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director. “A new, properly funded plan, produced in consultation with credible local representatives, could transform attitudes to the state by addressing Sinai’s grievances”.

Egypt’s Sinai Question
Middle East/North Africa Report N°61
30 January 2007

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Terrorism returned to Egypt in 2004 after an absence of seven years with successive attacks and the emergence of a heretofore unknown movement in Sinai. The government’s reaction essentially has been confined to the security sphere: tracking down and eliminating the terrorists. Egyptian and international NGOs have focused on the human rights violations which have been prominent in police procedures. The media have been preoccupied with whether al-Qaeda was responsible. Both the state’s response and wider public discussion have been confined to the surface of events and have ignored the socio-economic, cultural and political problems which are at the heart of Sinai’s disquiet. The emergence of a terrorist movement where none previously existed is symptomatic of major tensions and conflicts in Sinai and, above all, of its problematic relationship to the Egyptian nation-state. Unless these factors are addressed effectively, there is no reason to assume the terrorist movement can be eliminated.

Sinai has long been, at best, a semi-detached region, its Egyptian identity far from wholly assured. Under Israeli occupation from 1967 to 1982, it has remained under a special security regime mandated by the 1979 peace treaty, which significantly qualifies Egypt’s freedom of military action. Its geo-political situation – it comprises the whole of Egypt’s frontier with Israel and with the Palestinian enclave of Gaza – makes it of enormous strategic significance to both Egypt and Israel and sensitive to developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The population of approximately 360,000 – some 300,000 in the north, 60,000 in the south – is different from the rest of the country. A substantial minority is of Palestinian extraction, even if often Egyptian-born; the rest, labelled “Bedouin”, are longstanding natives of the peninsula. The Palestinian element is extremely conscious of its identity and ties to the populations of Gaza and the West Bank. The Bedouin (only a small minority are still tent-dwelling nomads) also possess a distinct identity. Very aware of their historic origins in Arabia and belonging to tribes which often have extensive branches in Israel, Palestine and Jordan, they, like the Palestinians, are naturally oriented eastward rather than toward the rest of Egypt. Neither Palestinians nor Bedouins have any share or interest in the Pharaonic heritage common to the populations (Muslim and Christian) of the Nile Valley.

These identity differences have been aggravated by socio-economic development promoted by the authorities since 1982. The government has not sought to integrate Sinai’s populations into the nation through a far-sighted program responding to their needs and mobilising their active involvement. Instead, it has promoted the settlement of Nile Valley migrants, whom it has systematically favoured, while discriminating against the local populations in jobs and housing in the north and in the rapid development of tourist enclaves (for Egyptians as well as internationals) in the south. These developments have offered scant opportunities to locals and often have been at their expense (notably with regard to land rights), provoking deep resentment. The government has done little or nothing to encourage participation of Sinai residents in national political life, used divide and rule tactics in orchestrating the meagre local representation allowed, and promoted the Pharaonic heritage at the expense of Sinai’s Bedouin traditions.

Thus, beneath the terrorism problem is a more serious and enduring “Sinai question” which the political class has yet to address. Doing so will not be easy. Since this question is partly rooted in wider Middle East crises, above all the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a definitive solution depends on their resolution. But the solution also requires the full integration and participation of Sinai’s populations in national political life, which means it is also dependent on significant political reforms in the country as a whole, which are not at present on the horizon.

 

While a comprehensive solution of the Sinai question cannot be expected soon, the government can and should alter a development strategy that is deeply discriminatory and largely ineffective at meeting local needs. A new, properly funded plan, produced in consultation with credible local representatives and involving all elements of the population in implementation, could transform attitudes to the state by addressing Sinai’s grievances.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the Egyptian Government:

1. Prepare, in consultation with community leaders, the private sector and donors, a comprehensive social and economic development plan for Sinai which:

(a) deals with the region as a whole;

(b) takes account of the socio-economic interdependence of the north and south; and

(c) eliminates all criteria and procedures that discriminate against the local population.

2. Promote the participation of local communities and their genuine political representatives in development decision-making for Sinai.

3. Facilitate and encourage the building of local capacities (e.g. local associations) by simplifying political and administrative rules and targeting government grants and loans to equip such associations.

4. Provide Bedouin communities with the tools to formulate and implement local development projects, notably by organising training courses.

5. Acknowledge Sinai’s distinct cultural and linguistic traditions as part of Egypt’s national heritage and fund projects that preserve them.

To the Egyptian Political Parties:

6. Establish or, where already present, develop and extend a presence in the region by recruiting members from the local populations and providing orderly channels for expression of their particular needs and grievances.

To Egypt’s International Partners:

7. Recognise the danger that the Sinai question, if untreated, may pose to Egypt’s stability in the medium term and encourage and assist the authorities in the conception, financing and implementation of a new special development plan for the region.

Cairo/Brussels, 30 January 2007

March 6, 2007

Home Demolition in A-Tur

Filed under: Blogroll, Palestine, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 8:41 am

tn_israel-enero-2007-033.jpg

Home demolitions are taking place NOW in A-Tur near the A-Zaim checkpoint and Maavar Zeitim (Terminal crossing), just above the Eastern Ringroad as it comes in to the tunnel from Maale Adumim.  The home is a 2-storey building.

We expect there to be more than one demolition today:  near the current demolition site is the A-Ghalia family home which we anticipate will also be smashed, very near homes recently demolished next to the tunnel road.  Attached are photographs from the demolition there a few weeks ago of a neighbouring home.

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We will be glad if diplomats who have never witnessed a demolition will find time to go and see more families made homeless and forced to live in tents in this weather while the humanitarian crisis caused by demolition increases. 

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Israel has demolished over 18,000 homes in the OPT since 1967 and although people build without licences, they only do so because licences are virtually impossible to obtain and exorbitantly expensive (tens of thousands of dollars).  Over half of East Jerusalem is zoned as “open green space” and 34% is zoned for Jewish settlers.  East Jerusalem landowners pay rates and taxes, and yet receive almost no services from the municipality, except the omnipresent bulldozers.  Significantly, the army ceased punitive home demolitions two years ago as it found them counter-productive – i.e. they are increasing the chances of attacks and stoking the fire of hatred. 

18,000 buildings represents probably over 200,000 Palestinians made homeless over 40 years in a slow, relentless policy of deliberate displacement and “judaisation” of East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank.  This is a humanitarian crisis far outreaching earthquakes or mudslides which hit the headlines.

And the world looks on.  This is not news, it is cliche and history.  We will be lucky if we can get any media or press to attend.   The statistics will go out in our next report.  And the world looks on.

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All photographs by Virginia Paradinas, ICAHD intern.

March 1, 2007

Negev desert nomads on the move again to make way for Israel’s barrier

Filed under: Blogroll, Palestine, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 10:14 pm

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,329729527-103681,00.html

Security fence and spread of Jewish settlement risks way of life for thousands

Rory McCarthy in Azariya
Wednesday February 28, 2007
Guardian
 

The bulldozers came for Hamid Salim Hassan’s house just after dawn. Before the demolition began, the Bedouin family scrambled to gather what they could: a fridge, a pile of carpets, some plastic chairs, a canister of cooking gas and a metal bed frame.

Now, with their house a wreck of smashed concrete and broken plastic pipes, Mr Hassan and his family are living in a canvas tent on a neighbour’s land. Their possessions are piled outside, along with boxes of supplies, including washing-up liquid, toothpaste, corned beef, wheat flour and tomato paste, provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

His tent is small but it affords Mr Hassan a compelling view of the future. Stretched out before him are the hilltops of the West Bank where he and his family, all Bedouin shepherds who fled Israel in 1948, used to live and graze their sheep. Standing there now is Ma’ale Adumim, one of the largest Jewish settlements which is illegal under international law. Snaking up the hillside towards his tent is the West Bank barrier, also ruled unlawful in advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice. When complete, the steel and barbed wire barrier, which here will be 50m wide and include a ditch and patrol roads, will surround Ma’ale Adumim, attaching it to a greater Jerusalem.

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For the 3,000 Bedouin living here, most from the Jahalin tribe, this presents an imminent crisis. “They came and destroyed my house to protect their wall,” said Mr Hassan, 62. “They really don’t have enough land already that they had to come and destroy my house? We’ve lost everything.”

Earlier this month the Israeli military destroyed seven huts and tents belonging to Bedouin living near a settlement in Hebron, in the southern West Bank. Another group of Bedouin living further east in the Jordan Valley have been given two months to leave their homes near an Israeli military base and a Jewish settlement.

In each case the Israeli authorities argue the homes have been built without permits, but Palestinians say they are notoriously hard to obtain.

Bedouin culture has been eroded as a result. Refugees from the Negev desert in Israel who crossed after 1948, their grazing land has been squeezed by the growth of Palestinian towns, the rapid emergence of large Jewish settlements and lately the vast concrete and steel barrier. Most Bedouin live on land that under the Oslo accords was supposed to be unpopulated farmland where Israel has civilian and military control. Today most live in primitive shacks, many no longer keep animal herds and they have little in the way of formal land ownership documents. They have become one of the most vulnerable Palestinian communities.

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Open and free

Mr Hassan, 62, was born in Be’er Sheva, in what is now Israel. His family crossed during the 1948-9 war and moved to land near Azariya, the biblical town of Bethany, near Jerusalem. For years they continued their semi-nomadic existence, grazing their large flock of sheep on the hillside. In 1975 a group of 23 Jewish families founded the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, which has grown into a town of 35,000 people. Mr Hassan and other Bedouin were forced off the land. Most set up shacks on another hilltop. Ten years ago Mr Hassan found the money to buy a plot of land and built a house, giving up his Bedouin existence. “Life changes,” he said. “We had no other choice.” His seven children, including his daughters, went to school and college, integrating into a new urban life.

Other Bedouin have also changed and work as construction labourers, many even employed in Ma’ale Adumim, building the settlement that has taken the land they once lived on.

“In the past people envied our lifestyle. The land was open and free. There were sheep and we were rich,” said his brother Saeed Hassan Salim, 50. “The occupation put us out of business. The Bedouin life is slipping away.” He now lives in a small shack that stands directly in the path of the barrier and is almost certain to be demolished soon.

“It seems the whole presence in this area is about to disappear,” said Jeremy Milgrom, 53, a rabbi and human rights activist who has worked with the Bedouin here for 15 years and is mapping their remaining communities. “We are asking why it is this has to happen. Why did the government assume the prerogative that they can absolutely redesign the entire landscape and eliminate the Bedouin?”

The Israeli military’s civil administration, which runs the West Bank, says the Bedouin were being offered alternatives. “They came and illegally put up their houses and tents. So we are working against this illegal construction,” said its spokesman Captain Tsidki Maman. “We are helping them to find a place where it will be OK for them to settle.”

The areas under consideration are all on the other side of the barrier from the Jewish settlements. Capt Maman rejected the Bedouin argument that they have lived on the land for years. “The Bedouin are travelling all the time. They can’t say they’ve been here for decades. It’s not like this,” he said.

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In the late 1990s there was a similar move against the Bedouin around Ma’ale Adumim and several of their homes were demolished. But supported by Shlomo Lecker, an Israeli lawyer, the Bedouin were given a deal under which they would move to a new area, with plots of land, building permits and up to 40,000 shekels (then £7,000) per family. Around 50 families took up the offer, and now live in an area known as the Jebel. However, the deal was not without its problems: the houses are within a few hundred metres of Jerusalem’s main rubbish dump and on land that other Palestinians claim as their own.

Power and water

The prospect of another move is being hotly debated within the Bedouin community. For some it is an opportunity to upgrade to houses with electricity and running water. Others say they would rather move into Palestinian towns like Azariya but lack the money, while others still want to stay on their land and cling to what is left of their traditional lifestyle.

Mr Lecker, the lawyer, said in reality they will have little choice but to move. “They are being forced. They don’t have another option,” he said. “All these shacks are built without permits and there is a lot of pressure on them.”

Israel defends the barrier on the grounds of security, saying it has drastically reduced the number of suicide bombings. But Mr Lecker said: “There is absolutely no reason to build the wall there. This is to do with taking a huge chunk of land and making it part of a wider Jerusalem. It is the idea of taking the land without the people. Why not give them rights in Israel – identity cards, electricity and water? The land comes with the people and if you take the land and push out the people then what do you call it?”

Backstory

Bedouin shepherds have lived a nomadic or semi-nomadic life in the Negev desert for centuries. After the 1948-9 war, when Israel was created, many were forced out or fled. Around 140,000 now live in the Negev, in Israel. Some serve in the Israeli military but around half live in villages not recognised by the state where they lack basic services and building permits. Those that fled Israel crossed to Jordan, Egypt or the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank. In the West Bank, around 3,000 members of the Jahalin tribe live next to land taken by the Jewish settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. In the 1990s several Bedouin families were moved to make way for the settlement. Now other homes are being demolished, to make way for the West Bank barrier.

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