Peace in our Time?

September 25, 2007

Disrupting the separation policy

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 11:45 am

By Amira Hass

A woman chatting idly in Ramallah on Sunday said dismissively: “The High Court of Justice’s decision to move the separation fence in Bil’in proves nothing about the effectiveness of the popular Palestinian-Israeli struggle. Israel needs it to portray itself as a democracy.”

Her frustration is understandable. The lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians are disrupted by a fence whose route elsewhere is no less “disproportionate” than it was in Bil’in. After two and a half years of weekly demonstrations by Palestinians, left-wing Israelis and foreign activists – demonstrations that were brutally dispersed, with numerous protesters being injured or arrested – the fence was moved a mere 1.7 kilometers. And the same High Court that moved the fence also legitimized the Jewish neighborhood that had already been built on Bil’in’s private land.

The gap between the huge effort and the meager results is characteristic of the activities of all Israeli groups that work against the occupation. Last Friday morning, the eve of Yom Kippur, Machsom Watch activists had to spend hours making frantic telephone calls and using their connections with high-ranking officials to enable three sick people to traverse the Qalandiyah checkpoint and reach Jerusalem for urgent treatment. Media reports had promised that despite the hermetic closure, humanitarian cases would be allowed through the checkpoints, but by noon, most of those cases had given up and returned home.

In other cases, Machsom Watch’s female volunteers try to alert commanders when soldiers are harassing people passing through the checkpoints. Months of correspondence and requests, reports in Haaretz and monitoring by B’Tselem resulted in two commanders being removed from the Taysir checkpoint. This did not stop a soldier from harassing people at that checkpoint a few months later, nor did it prevent similar abusive conduct at other checkpoints. Needless to say, the checkpoint and roadblock policy continues, despite the reek of apartheid it emits.

But those frustrated by the limited impact of Israeli anti-occupation activity are ignoring two of its salient characteristics. First, by helping to return one dunam of land to one individual, enabling farmers to complete an olive harvest without harassment and attacks by settlers, shortening the waiting time at a checkpoint or releasing a patient or a minor from detention without trial, life is made a bit less difficult for particular individuals at a given moment. This results from the activity of people who, by exploiting their immunity as Jewish Israelis, challenge the occupation bureaucracy.

Moreover, this immediate personal relief is interwoven into a more fundamental, longer-term Israeli-Palestinian struggle against the occupation. Since the 1990s, Israel has endeavored to separate the two peoples. It has restricted opportunities to meet and get to know one another outside the master-serf framework, VIP meetings or luxurious overseas peace showcases from which the term “occupation” is completely absent.

Because of this separation, the Palestinians know only settlers and soldiers – in other words, only those whose conduct and roles in the system justify the Palestinians’ conclusion that it is impossible to reach a just agreement and peace with Israel. This separation also reinforces Israelis’ racist – or at best, patronizing – attitudes toward the Palestinians.

The anarchists, Machsom Watch, Yesh Din, Rabbis for Human Rights, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Physicians for Human Rights and other activist groups – few as their members may be – disrupt the separation policy and its ills. They remind the Palestinians that there are other Israelis, so perhaps there is still hope. And in their immediate environment, they expose Israelis to facts and experiences that make it difficult for them to keep wallowing in their voluntary ignorance and disregarding the dangers that our oppressive regime poses over the Palestinians.

www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=906923

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The Tide is Turning

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 5:51 am

Opinion/Editorial
The tide is turning
Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, The Electronic Intifada, Sep 24, 2007

Israelis and Palestinians protest in Tel Aviv against Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, 5 August 2006. (Matthew Cassel)

The years 2007 and 2008 are landmark ones for those campaigning against occupation and for the Palestinian right to self-determination. Forty years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was nonviolently marked around the world in June; next year, peaceful demonstrations will observe the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel during which approximately 700,000 Palestinians were forced from or fled their land — an event that Palestinians call the Nakba, or “catastrophe.”

Next year’s worldwide campaigns will reinforce grassroots initiatives, reaffirm the numerous UN resolutions which reaffirm the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, and call for the establishment of civil society networks.

As for Israeli civilians, since 1967, as many as one million have voted with their feet and left Israel, and some say the rate of those refusing to serve in the Israeli army is as high as 50 percent and that 30 percent of Israeli pilots refuse to bomb the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This occupation is unsustainable and Israeli civilians are losing faith in militarism. It has to end, and we must work out viable alternatives for living together peacefully, in full recognition of our mutual rights, not least the fundamental human right to self-determination.

Central issues such as acknowledgment by Israel of responsibility for the refugees must be addressed. Not least for the sake of Israeli “closure” and an end to the exceptional nature of Israel, which prevents it from participating as a normal state in this Parliament of Man, which is the UN.

Regarding Israel’s cozy relationship with the US, which just announced a $30 billion military aid package for Israel, journalist and filmmaker John Pilger recently observed, “No other country on earth enjoys such immunity, allowing it to act without sanction, as Israel. No other country has such a record of lawlessness: not one of the world’s tyrannies comes close. International treaties, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified by Iran, are ignored by Israel. There is nothing like it in UN history.”

In fact, in direct negation of UN recognition of Israeli statehood, Israel has ignored over 60 UN Security Council resolutions.

However, as Pilger also points out, the tide is turning. “The swell of a boycott is growing inexorably, as if an important marker has been passed, reminiscent of the boycotts that led to sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Both Mandela and Desmond Tutu have drawn this parallel; so have South African cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils and other illustrious Jewish members of the liberation struggle.”

In Palestine this year, Kasrils said the situation there is 100 times worse than it was in apartheid South Africa. UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, and (in a parliamentary debate) British Member of Parliament Clare Short, have both said that human rights conditions in the EU trade agreement should be invoked and Israel’s trading preferences suspended. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, John Dugard, speaks of crimes against humanity, as the occupation is characterized by elements of colonialism and apartheid.

After five years of working with diplomats, politicians and aid workers in Israel and Palestine, I see on an individual basis enormous personal support and empathy for the Palestinian cause because the picture of injustice is clear. But we stand at the edge of a dangerous chasm, a widening gulf between realpolitik and policies of peace and democracy.

To compel diplomats or politicians to change policy, we must build grassroots movements like the anti-apartheid movement in the ’80s or civil rights in the ’60s.

In Palestine there are daily home demolitions, arrests, settler violence, the building of the wall on Palestinian land, expropriations, tree uprootings, detentions, closures, checkpoints and military raids. Israeli society is dysfunctional, and Palestinian society powerlessly disenfranchised, so outside help and solidarity are vital. Only this will send the message to Israel and its sponsor the United States that the crimes of occupation are intolerable and must end.

For the sake of both Israel and the Palestinians, we must save Israel from itself. Living in South Africa under apartheid, I saw boycott efforts encourage public awareness, apply pressure and state disapproval for the government’s racist policies. Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has said boycotts “will not change positions in a day, but they will send a clear message to the Israeli public that these positions are racist and unacceptable … They would have to choose.”

We must halt the Israeli government’s suicidal policies. This means lobbying those in power (especially in Washington, but also Europe) and insisting they visit Palestine with critical guides to see what’s really going on.

The Israeli government and the neoconservative Bush administration are not acting for peace and it’s up to us as citizens of the world to voice our disapproval. We are fighting a spiritual battle that we shall, insha’allah, eventually win. Together.

Angela Godfrey-Goldstein is Action Advocacy Officer of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, a peace and human rights organization based in Jerusalem.

This commentary is adapted from a speech given by the author at the EU Parliament on 30 August 2007 at a United Nations civil society conference for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

September 23, 2007

Carter Centre Press Release: Prospects Dim for Middle East Peace

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 3:06 pm

Israeli Actions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank:
Prospects Dim for Middle East Peace

21 September 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In a statement issued today (see below): The Carter Center deplores the decision taken Wednesday by Israel to declare the Gaza Strip a hostile territory and its threat to cut off provision of essential services such as electricity and fuel to the civilian population. The Center strongly believes that such actions would defy Israel’s obligations toward the civilian population under international humanitarian and human rights laws, and urges Israel to rescind this decision.

While The Carter Center recognizes Israel’s right to defend its citizens and condemns the continued indiscriminate firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip, as an occupying power, Israel is expressly prohibited under international law from collectively punishing the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, Israel is obligated to “take all the measures in [its] power” to ensure public order and civil life of the Palestinian civilian population. Israeli threats to cut off the supply of electricity and fuel to Gaza contradict these legal obligations and would have devastating humanitarian consequences.

“The people of Gaza have been reduced to conditions of poverty, malnutrition, and imprisonment that should be considered totally unacceptable by the civilized world,” said Carter Center Field Office Director Scott Custer. “The deliberate Israeli policy to reduce the Palestinians to penury does not meet the standards required by international humanitarian and human rights law of Israel as an occupying power.”

The latest crisis in Gaza underscores the escalating costs of failing even to seek a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. A peaceful solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict will only be possible if all Palestinians unite behind a single peace initiative. The Carter Center calls on the two major parties, Fateh and Hamas, to repair the breach that occurred with Hamas’ illegal takeover of the Gaza Strip. At the same time, The Carter Center calls on the international community to support efforts for national reconciliation. The Carter Center believes that the forthcoming international meeting in Washington D.C. ultimately will be successful only if a strong majority of the Palestinian people supports the outcome and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are reunited under a single governmental authority.

Finally, The Carter Center calls for renewed attention to the greatest obstacle to a viable two state solution, namely continued expansion and consolidation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, protected by increasing internal checkpoints and the encroachment of a separation barrier. The infrastructure of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is fast becoming permanent, making a two-state solution and viable independent state in Palestine nearly impossible. As U.S. government aid is needed for Israel to continue the expansion of settlements and related infrastructure projects, it bears a special responsibility for undermining the prospects of lasting peace.

The Carter Center reopened its field office in May 2007 in the Palestinian territories in support of peace for Israel, justice for the Palestinians, and the emergence of a viable, democratic Palestinian state. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter led missions to observe Palestinian elections held in 1996, 2005, and 2006.

The Carter Center long has been committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinian people and the advancement of democracy and human rights in Palestine. The Center maintains a field presence to closely monitor political developments on the ground, publish periodic reports on critical issues of democratic development in the territories, and work with local partners on human rights and democracy activities.

Scott Custer, Carter Center Ramallah field office director, is formerly chief of the International Law Division, at the U.N. Relief and Works Agency Headquarters in Gaza.

September 22, 2007

None Dare Call It Genocide

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 10:20 pm

by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

How comfy we are all in the United States, as we engage in living-room debates about the US occupation of Iraq, whether “we” are bringing them freedom and whether their freedom is really worth the sacrifice of so many of our men and women. We talk about whether war aims have really been achieved, how to exit gracefully, or whether we need a hyper-surge to finish this whole business once and for all.

But there’s one thing Americans don’t talk about: the lives of Iraqis, or, rather, the deaths of Iraqis. It’s interesting because we live in an age of extreme multiculturalism and global concern. We adore international aid workers, go on mission trips abroad, weep for the plight of those suffering from hunger and disease, volunteer in efforts to bring plumbing to Ecuador, mosquito nets to Rwanda, clean water to Malawi, human rights to Togo, and medicine to Bangladesh.

But when “we” cause the calamity, suddenly there is silence. There is something odd, suspicious, even disloyal about a person who would harp on the deaths of Iraqis since the US invasion in 2003. Maybe a person who would weep for Iraq is really a terrorist sympathizer. After all, most of the deaths resulted from “sectarian violence,” and who can stop crazed Islamic sects from killing each other. Better each other than us, right?

Well, it’s about time that we think about the numbers, even though the US military has decided that body counts are not worth their time. Opinion Research Business, a highly reputable polling firm in the UK, has just completed a detailed and rigorous survey of Iraqis. In the past, the company’s results have been touted by the Bush administration whenever the data looks favorable to the US cause. But their latest report received virtually no attention in the US.

Here is the grisly bottom line: more than one million people have been murdered in Iraq since the US invasion, according to the ORB. Yes, other estimates are lower, but you have to be impressed by what they have found. It seems very credible.

In Baghdad, where the US presence is most pronounced, nearly half of households report having lost a family member to a killing of some sort. Half the deaths are from gunshot wounds, one-fifth from car bombs, and one-tenth from aerial bombs. The total number of dead exceeds the hugely well-publicized Rwandan genocide in 1994.

You are welcome to inspect the detailed data.

Aside from the astonishing detail, what jumps out at me is the number of dead who are neither Sunni nor Shia. It is also striking how the further geographically you move from US troop activity, the more peaceful the area is. Americans think they are bringing freedom to Iraq, but the data indicate that we are only bringing suffering and death.

If you have ever lost a family member, you know that life is never the same again. It causes every manner of religious, social, and marital trauma. It’s bad enough to lose a family member to some disease. But to a cold-blooded killing or a car bomb or an airplane bomb? That instills a sense of fury and motivation to retribution.

So we are speaking of some 1.2 million people who have been killed in this way, and that does not count the numbers that were killed during the invasion itself for the crime of having attempted to oppose invading foreign troops, or the 500,000 children and old people killed by the US-UN anti-civilian sanctions in the 10 previous years.

And let’s not flatter ourselves into thinking that these are nothing but ragheads killing each other for no good reason. Just this past weekend, there is an example in point. Some of the legendary contractors for the State Department were driving through the Sunni neighborhood of Mansour in Baghdad. They were driving their SUVs when witnesses reported an explosion of fire that lasted 20 minutes. The SUVs drove off, leaving at least nine people dead on the road. Why? No one knows. Sure there will be investigations. There have already been apologies. The company in question has had its license to practice occupation revoked by the Iraqi government. For how long, no one knows. But these are merely symbolic gestures. There will be no justice, and no forgetting.

To the extent anyone pays attention to this stuff, they only hear the words of the State Department spokesman: “The bottom line is that the secretary wants to make sure that we do everything we possibly can to avoid the loss of innocent life.”

In light of the one million plus figure, such statements come off as evil jokes. The US has unleashed bloodshed in Iraq that is rarely known even in countries we think of as violent and torn by civil strife. It is amazing to think that this has occurred in what was only recently a liberal and civilized country by the region’s standards. This was a country that had a problem with immigration, particularly among the well-educated and talented classes. They went to Iraq because it was the closest Arab proxy to Western-style society that one could find in the area.

It was the US that turned this country into a killing field. Why won’t we face this? Why won’t we take responsibility? The reason has to do with this mysterious thing called nationalism, which makes an ideological religion of the nation’s wars. We are god-like liberators. They are devil-like terrorists. No amount of data or contrary information seems to make a dent in this irreligious faith. So it is in every country and in all times. Here is the intellectual blindness that war generates.

Such blindness is always inexcusable, but perhaps more understandable in a time when information was severely restricted, when technological limits actually prohibited us from knowing the whole truth at the time. What excuse do we have today? Our blindness is not technological but ideological. We are the good guys, right? Every nation believes that about itself, but freedom is well served by the few who dare to think critically.

An essential postulate of the Western idea, or so we tell ourselves, is the universal and ultimate value of human life. And indeed it is true. No person or group of people is without value – not even those whom our own government chooses to label the enemy.

September 18, 2007

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail] is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, editor of LewRockwell.com, and author of Speaking of Liberty.

Copyright © 2007 LewRockwell.com
Lew Rockwell Archives

September 15, 2007

Paper delivered at UN Conference at the EU Parliament, Brussels on 30th August 2007

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 2:42 pm

  FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE OCCUPATION:  BUILDING ON ACTION TAKEN BY CIVIL SOCIETY & MOVING FORWARD; CONNECTING WITH WORLDWIDE PEACE & SOCIAL MOVEMENTS

Angela Godfrey-Goldstein

This year and next are landmarks for Israelis, Palestinians and internationals campaigning against Occupation, advocating for a viable, sovereign Palestinian state, at peace with Israel, or other options if a viable 2-state option (as opposed to the Bantustan version currently on offer) is seen to be no longer attainable.  40 Years of Occupation was marked around the world in June with non-violent events which will continue by marking 60 years since the establishment of the state and the Nakba.  Within ICAHD, my organisation, we launched a one and a half million dollar campaign to rebuild 300 homes demolished by Israel, including full page adverts in The New York Times and the Guardian, to mark our 40-60 Campaign, (funded by Americans, including holocaust survivors and Orthodox Jews) to expose Israeli policies of discrimination, whilst working to end the Occupation.

The 40 Years of Occupation was marked around the world in June with a multitude of events, gleaning much media attention. Next year’s worldwide campaigns will continue the Bilbao Declaration which invokes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN resolutions and calls for the establishment of civil society networks. Similarly, the Florence Declaration underlines the role of civil society, and seeks to reinforce the Arab League Peace Plan.  There is also the Avaaz.org internet lobby, a spin-off of MoveOn and in UK War on Want, ICAHD UK and many others in the Enough! coalition are blazing the way for civil society, too.  In Israel, as many as a million Israeli civilians have voted with their feet and left the country, while some say the real refusal rate of youth to serve in the IDF may be as high as 50%.  Grey refusal in the Air Force is also very high, said to be 30%.

John Pilger wrote recently:

“The ethnic cleansing of Palestine is as much America’s crusade as Israel’s. On 16th August, the Bush administration announced an unprecedented $30bn military “aid package” for Israel, the world’s fourth biggest military power, an air power greater than Britain, a nuclear power greater than France. No other country on earth enjoys such immunity, allowing it to act without sanction, as Israel. No other country has such a record of lawlessness: not one of the world’s tyrannies comes close. International treaties, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified by Iran, are ignored by Israel. There is nothing like it in UN history.”  I’d add that Israel has ignored over 60 UNSC resolutions, in direct negation of United Nations’ recognition of Israeli statehood.

“But [says Pilger] something is changing. Perhaps last summer’s panoramic horror beamed from Lebanon on to the world’s TV screens provided the catalyst. Or perhaps cynicism of Bush and Blair and the incessant use of the inanity, “terror”, together with the day-by-day dissemination of a fabricated insecurity in all our lives, has finally brought the attention of the international community outside the rogue states, Britain and the US, back to one of its principal sources, Israel.”

“The swell of a boycott is growing inexorably, as if an important marker has been passed, reminiscent of the boycotts that led to sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Both Mandela and Desmond Tutu have drawn this parallel; so has South African cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils and other illustrious Jewish members of the liberation struggle.”  [end quote]

Ronnie Kasrils said, in fact, on visiting Palestine this year, that it is 100 times worse there than apartheid South Africa.  And UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, has said that human rights conditions in the EU trade agreement should be invoked and Israel’s trading preferences suspended.  This was echoed by Clare Short, with us today, in a June 26th debate in the British Parliament.  

Also in early July, the Dutch government warned a Rotterdam-based company to stop work on the construction of the 700 kilometre-long “separation barrier” or “apartheid wall”, as its construction was ruled illegal by the ICJ in 2004.  In America major churches such as the Presbyterians have ongoing processes of Mission Responsibility Through Investment: MRTI in place, which lead to divestment.

I would say that those who read the facts on the ground, the infrastructure, and the money trail, and the political declarations or meaningful silences or constructive ambiguity (or even warnings of the next intifada brewing if November produces yet another slap in the face to the Palestinians) – are less than optimistic.

International civil society, as represented at this meeting and at Social Forum meetings, consisting of peace and human rights groups, faith-based groups, trade unions, universities and intellectuals, and all those ordinary people of the world in solidarity with the Palestinian people and the Israeli peace camp, is the key to liberation. When even the Peace NGOs Forum run by the Peres Centre for Peace holds a conference in Florence to engage with international civil society because it sees it as the only effective counterweight, one sees a growing realisation that only civil society can bear this singular burden of democracy, not least to empower politicians at forums such as this – the United Nations and the European Parliament.

I see, after five years of working with diplomats, politicians and aid workers in Israel and Palestine, that on an individual basis there’s enormous personal support and empathy for the Palestinian cause.  Because they see it.  They “get” it.  But actually diplomats have no power. They are the ‘hollow men’ and their own governments are unable and unwilling, often for economic or domestic reasons, to translate diplomatic empathy into policy.  Thus the gulf between realpolitik and policies of peace or real democracy.  Between the peoples of the world and the power bases.  Between those millions who took to the streets against the Occupation of Iraq or those who went to war, willy-nilly defying warnings.

I recall Ophir Pines-Paz, when Minister of Internal Affairs, insisting at a conference in Jerusalem about the city’s future (attended by the “left”): “Give me a hard time.  I need to hear from you so I can offset pressure I get from other lobbies.”  Similarly, in Florence, in June this year, Romano Prodi told the Peace NGOs that he can’t pressure George Bush or interfere in Israeli domestic policy, but said “Italian civil society can help you a lot with this.”  In other words, only if we build a successful grassroots, civil society struggle, similar to that of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the 80s or Civil Rights in the 60s, will the diplomats and politicians become sufficiently compelled to change policy.

So much happens so fast on a daily basis (home demolitions, arrests, settler violence, Wall infrastructure, tree uprootings, detentions, military raids, 50% of Palestinian farmers now on food aid in model farming communities, and a general breakdown of Palestinian civil society, to name but a few), and Israeli and Palestinian society are so dysfunctional that outside help is vital. We need to build on action taken, connect with worldwide peace and social movements and develop them together.  The real international peace movement, which mobilizes against wars and occupation, in Iraq, Lebanon or the OPT, is the only alternative.  But campaigners must know the facts on the ground and subtleties, or else become unfocused, simplistic or simply hate-filled. And they must be able to counter the rhetoric of the right wing, which doesn’t recognise the Palestinians, and never has – whilst demanding of Hamas full recognition of borderless Israel as a Jewish state (invoking, with chutzpah, United Nations benchmarks!).

I see the Israeli extreme Right as a more dangerous enemy of peace than the Palestinians, most of whom want peace.  Recently the IDF escorted us into Hebron for a demonstration through the Palestinian part of Hebron, rather than through militant strongholds of Kiryat Arba and settlements ruthlessly judaising Hebron’s Old City, which they considered far more dangerous to our safety.  Indeed it was Hebron American Israeli Kach-supporter settler Dr. Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of 29 Palestinians in the Cave of the Patriarchs, the Ibrahimi Mosque, which persuaded Hamas to turn its armed struggle against civilians, and start the wave of bus and café suicide bombings which so traumatised Israelis, preventing them from feeling responsibility for Palestinian suffering.  Hamas is threatening now to end its ceasefire. Let us see then if the Wall can really work or if – as Jamal has shown – it isn’t really just a huge land and water grab, a tool for massive population transfer.  The Right has no peace plan. At a recent 3-day Conference in Jerusalem to discuss the future of the Jewish people, peace was not even on the Agenda.  So much for their Jewish values.

We need now to co-ordinate a global campaign aimed to put pressure on Israel to end its politics of occupation and colonization and divide-and-rule tactics by sanctioning its systematic violations of international law and United Nations resolutions. We must save Israel from itself, for the sake of the majority of average peaceful Israelis and Palestinians.

As one who lived for five years in South Africa under apartheid, I heard the anti-boycott choruses from apartheid supporters, so I take such words with a large pinch of cynical salt.  Boycott is a fundamentally useful way of encouraging public awareness, putting pressure and expressing disapproval.  No, it is not okay.  No, the world has benchmarks of human rights and international law.  Occupation, colonialism and apartheid are unacceptable in the 21st century.  Some say boycotts “will not change positions in a day, but they will send a clear message to the Israeli public that these positions are racist and unacceptable … They would have to choose.”

In my organisation we have gone unsuccessfully to the Supreme Court to fight a demolition order on our peace centre, Beit Arabiya, located in a Palestinian home demolished by Israel four times.  So we’re now examining with the Chilean judge who brought Pinochet to trial, the possibility of using universal jurisdiction to sue those we say are committing war crimes by demolishing people’s homes (for nothing to do with security).  Similarly, the UN has been served with an Urgent Action Appeal on behalf of 3,000 Jahalin Bedouin – refugees being moved off land they’ve lived on since being forced off their own lands in the early ’50s; a population transfer being enforced by military order simply because they live in the path of the Wall being built illegally around the settlement city of Maale Adumim, whose infrastructure is designed to prevent a viable Palestine from ever arising. Another Urgent Action Appeal has just been delivered as to the North Jordan Valley for more population transfer there. 

I believe there are a number of actions that can be taken:

1.    Present the issue of settlements to the ICJ for its ruling under international law.

2.    Ensure the recommendations of the ICJ are implemented regarding the Wall, by calling the international community to boycott the Occupation, sanction Israel and divest;

3.    Work on a comprehensive registry of Palestinian damages, in the knowledge that transitional justice will one day kick in as it always does;

4.    If Israel doesn’t take serious steps towards real peace, Eurovision, the European Cup, the Olympic Games and other high profile events must be targeted, and the academic boycott increasingly kick in. 

5.    When even Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni uses the words “viable Palestine” we have to agree what real viability entails

6.    Never forget the centrality of the Right of Return and Israel’s responsibility for the refugees (which must also be acknowledged for the sake of Israeli closure, psychological health and reconciliation).

Because the crimes against humanity which UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard says are being committed — the Occupation has elements of colonialism and apartheid in it, according to him — are unacceptable, even if governments turn a blind eye or lack the political will to take principled stands.  The emperor is naked and only international civil society is free to say so.  Which emperor?  All the emperors.  (If Madeleine Albright could put her foot down and freeze settlements, why doesn’t Ms. Rice?)  Indeed, civil society has a duty to exercise and underwrite freedom and democracy or risk losing them, in the face of neo-conservative values and the neocons’ predilection for imperialistic wars – fought by Israel as their proxy in the Middle East.

Pressure works.  So, sadly, we have to ratchet up the pressure, so that Israel’s government won’t continue down the suicidal road on which it’s embarked.  This means lobbying those in power.  Insisting that they visit Palestine with critical guides (not just the IDF or Jewish lobby) to see what is contentious.  We need to ensure they visit the living conditions of Bedouin citizens living in the Negev without water, electricity, roads, health services or any conditions provided to other citizens living next door.  It means writing Op-Eds or letters and getting them placed, even in local newspapers.  Phoning-in to local or national radio to report on visits and actions and activisms and campaigns.  Boycotting Israeli products.  Insisting on the benchmarks of international law and human rights.  Promoting photographic exhibitions particularly amongst students so they can see what the hell is going on. 

And it demands of us to strategise and to prioritise.  Are we now embarked on an anti-apartheid campaign? Are we still going for the 2-state solution or can we discuss alternatives?  If the 2-state solution is already dead and buried and irrelevant because of those facts on the ground, what are the alternatives?  How do we fight the so-called security infrastructure being built on E-1 — the nail in the coffin of the 2-state solution – already two huge police stations dominate it.  Can we strategise effectively?  Where do we stand on Gaza and its prison-like sub-human conditions, the blockade it suffers, the poisonous water supply, the naval patrols preventing fishing, while Israeli officials talk of it being free?  We must surely fund the Free Gaza campaign.

The Israeli government and the Bush Administration will not move forwards for real peace.  Time and serious commitment are of the essence, as are truth, and true hearts.  Peace – real peace – is long overdue.  This is no time to cling for security to the line of least resistance, for feeling comfortable. We are in a state of psychological warfare, fighting for peace.  A spiritual battle that we shall, insha’allah, eventually win.  Together.  Thank you.

August 14, 2007

Freegaza.org

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 8:30 am

Update August 12, 2007
Interview with Hedy Epstein and Greta Berlin by Silvia Cattori (English & French)“Mit dem Schiff nach Gaza” junge Welt (Germany)“Hamas Shows Gaza to Foreign Reporters” by Steven Gutkin (Associated Press)“I pacifisti: sbarcheremo a Gaza” il manifesto (Italia)“Gaza: a gas for Blair?” By Arthur Neslen (Guardian)Video Link: Israel and the Easiest Targets (12:49) by IfAmericansKnew
2007: Forty Years On

2007 marks the 40-year anniversary of the Six Day War, in which the Israeli army took military control of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem… This situation has continued to the current day despite Israel being in violation of international humanitarian law and over 60 UN resolutions.” – Enough! Occupation
Mission Statement
We want to break the siege of Gaza. We want to raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip and pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation. We want to uphold Palestine’s right to welcome internationals as visitors, human rights observers, humanitarian aid workers, journalists, or otherwise.
Who are we?
We are these human rights observers, aid workers, and journalists. We have years of experience volunteering in Gaza and the West Bank at the invitation of Palestinians. But now, because of the increasing stranglehold of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, many of us find it almost impossible to enter Gaza, and an increasing number have been refused entry to Israel and the West Bank as well. Despite the great need for our work, the Israeli Government will not allow us in to do it.

Photo © Joe Carr
We are of all ages and backgrounds. Back home, we are teachers, medics, musicians, secretaries, parents, grandparents, lawyers, students, activists, actors, playwrites, politicians, singer-songwriters, web designers, international training consultants, and even a former Hollywood film industry worker and an aviator. We are South African, Australian, American, English, Israeli, Palestinian, and more.
What are we going to do?
We’ve tried to enter Palestine by land. We’ve tried to arrive by air. Now we’re getting serious. We’re taking a ship.

http://www.freegaza.org/

www.freegaza.org

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 8:29 am

http://www.freegaza.org/   

logo11.jpg

Project Description: The Free Gaza Movement

This movement is an international nonviolent resistance project to challenge Israel’s siege of Gaza.  Israel claims that Gaza is no longer occupied, yet Israeli forces control Gaza by land, sea and air.  We’ll enter Gaza from international waters at the invitation of Palestinian NGOs but without Israeli authorization, thereby recognizing Palestinian control over their own borders.

The Mission

1.  To open Gaza to unrestricted international access, i.e. Palestinian sovereignty

2.  To demonstrate that Israel still occupies Gaza, despite its claims to the contrary

3.  To show international solidarity with the people of Gaza and the rest of Palestine

4.  To demonstrate the potential of nonviolent resistance methods

The Plan

Up to 100 international volunteers will sail from Cyprus to Gaza in 2 to 6 seagoing vessels of 12 to 60 passengers each.  The prospective date is September 15, but will depend upon funding, logistics, weather and other factors.  The journey will take approximately 24 hours.

Contingencies

If Israel respects Palestinian sovereignty, we’ll arrive without incident.  Some of us will fish at sea with Palestinian fishermen, while others will travel back and forth to test the passage for as long as permitted.  If stopped, we’ll nonviolently resist.  We are prepared to stay at sea if necessary, and/or resist arrest and confiscation of our vessels.  We doubt that Israel will attack, but we will be equipped with medical personnel and equipment, life rafts and flotation vests.  More likely, Israel will prefer sabotage.  We’re prepared with alternate vessels and plans.

The Passengers

Aboard will be Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, Europeans, Africans and Asians. There will be rabbis, imams, Christian and Buddhist clerics, British MPs, entertainment celebrities, and internationally known journalists. Nakba and Holocaust survivors are also joining the project.  All will undergo a training program and be selected according to the interests of the mission, such as the mix of persons and expertise; no one is assured of a place on board.  Others will form the Cyprus support team and may board later vessels.

The Organizers

We are experienced human rights volunteers and organizers, including Huwaida Arraf, Greta Berlin, Sylvia Cattori, Uri Davis, Hedy Epstein, Kathy Kelly, Paul Larudee, Alison Weir, and more than 30 others from 13 countries.  We have consulted with other organizations such as Greenpeace, who have experience with such projects, especially with encounters at sea.

The Vessels

Commercial fishing boats and cruise vessels powered by diesel and sail will be used.  Volunteer vessels are also welcome.  All will have standard GPS, plus radio and communications equipment for international navigation. They’ll also have refrigeration and cooking facilities for their size and passenger load. The larger vessels will carry fuel for both the voyage and an extended period at sea.

Security

If Israel wishes to harm our mission, we expect them to try to plant arms on board. Therefore, before boarding, all participants, vessels and supplies will undergo a security check by qualified personnel from an internationally recognized NGO to verify that no dangerous items are brought aboard.  Since we will not be entering Israeli territory, we will not allow Israeli authorities to perform such inspections. 

Supplies and equipment

Passengers will take basic necessities and electronic devices.  Journalists, technicians and crew may also bring tools and equipment. Larger vessels will have at least one satellite phone with high-speed data transfer.  Provisions, including food, water and medical supplies, will be laid aboard for an extended period at sea.  We will also carry relief supplies to the people of Gaza, but this isn’t a primary part of our mission.

Captains and crew

Although we prefer competent volunteers who take principled risks, we are unlikely to recruit the personnel we need by such means.  We will therefore hire captains and crew, to whom we will fully disclose the risks involved, so they understand and consent to the mission. Engineers will also be required to inspect and prepare the vessels.

Costs

We have considered vessel donation, lease and purchase. However, we prefer purchase, to have complete control and avoid cancellation by others.  Terms are a down payment plus installments to be made either by reselling the vessels after the mission or by using them for nonprofit revenue.  Other costs will be crew, equipment, supplies, fuel, docking and agent fees.  The estimated cost is $300K, half from donations and half from loans.  We can succeed on a smaller scale for as little as $150K, but it entails fewer backups and greater risk.

Further information

Organizational endorsements and financial support are needed and highly appreciated. We’re also available to speak to interested groups.  Tax-exempt donations may be sent to our fiscal sponsor, the Palestinian Children’s Welfare Fund at PCWF – Gaza Human Rights, 201 W. Stassney #201, Austin, TX 78745, USA.  Non-exempt donations may be made to our PayPal account through our website at http://www.freegaza.org.

Clare Short speaking in UK Parliament on Middle East Peace Process

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 7:59 am

Westminster Hall

26th June 2007

Middle East Peace Process

Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood) (Ind Lab): I tabled this debate because I visited recently the Palestinian occupied territories with a delegation organised by War on Want. It consisted of War on Want staff, myself, and Rodney Bickerstaffe, the former general secretary of Unison. I am grateful for the opportunity to report on our findings, and I hope that the Minister will take account of them.

I have previously visited the west bank and Gaza on a number occasions in the late 1980s and early 1990s, at the time of the first intifada-a Palestinian uprising involving peaceful disobedience or, at worst, children throwing stones at soldiers. Despite the injuries inflicted on children by the Israeli army, the intifada was full of hope, and it led to the negotiation of the Oslo peace accord and the return of Yasser Arafat to Palestine. I was hopeful at that time that a two-state peace-Israel and Palestine-was possible, that the new Palestinian state would be based on 1967 boundaries with East Jerusalem as its capital, and that there would be a negotiated settlement on Palestinian right of return. Those are the three essential components of a negotiated peace. I was hopeful; but it is now impossible to believe that there will be such a peace. Instead, I fear that unless we change policy, we face the prospect of years and possibly decades of bloodshed and conflict.

I have followed developments in the middle east carefully over many years, and I was well aware before my recent visit how bad things are for the Palestinian people. Nevertheless, I was deeply shocked by Israel’s blatant, brutal and systematic annexation of land, demolition of Palestinian homes, and deliberate creation of an apartheid system by which the Palestinians are enclosed in four bantustans, surrounded by a wall, with massive checkpoints that control all Palestinian movements in and out of the ghettos.

The Israelis are clearly and systematically attempting to take the maximum amount of land with the minimum number of Palestinians. As things stand, Israel has taken 85 per cent. of historical Palestine, leaving the remaining 15 per cent. for Palestinian ghettos. More shocking than that is that the international community, including the UK and the EU, does nothing to require Israel to abide by international law, despite all the claims made about European support for human rights and international law.

During its visit, the delegation spent a day with the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which is the agency responsible for humanitarian emergencies. It briefed us on the way in which the wall, the closures, the settlements and the separate system of settler roads were imprisoning the Palestinians. It published a map in the Financial Times to mark the 40th anniversary of the occupation, which is available for all to see.

The delegation spent the second day of its visit with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, an organisation that I greatly admire. The committee took us on a tour of East Jerusalem and showed us how the combination of formal and informal settlements, and systematic house demolition, was encircling East Jerusalem and how that constrained, displaced and ethnically cleansed the Palestinian population. When we were with ICAHD, we witnessed a house demolition. A massive machine with “Volvo” emblazoned on its side destroyed a substantial house that was built by a Palestinian family on their own land and in territory that belongs to the Palestinians under international law-formally, it is occupied territory.

Women relatives of the occupants quietly wept at the side of the road. Later, a young man was held back by his friends-he wanted to throw himself at the soldiers who were protecting the demolition, to do something about the destruction of his family home. The representative of ICAHD, a young Israeli, said that the demolition was, of course, a war crime. The point about that is that under the Geneva convention, an occupying power is not entitled to impose new laws or to settle in occupied territory. Houses are being demolished because Palestinians do not have permits to build, even on their own land. However, Israel is not entitled to introduce such a permit system. It never gives a permit to build a house, or after a house has been built. When Palestinian families expand, they must live somewhere, but Israel will never issue a permit because of its determination to drive Palestinians out of East Jerusalem.

According to ICAHD, Israel has demolished 18,000 Palestinian homes in the way I described since 1967. Each demolition was a war crime. More shocking than that is the fact that no action is taken to force Israel to adhere to international law. Later, the delegation visited a family whose house had been demolished and rebuilt by volunteers from ICAHD-Israelis and Palestinians worked together to rebuild a home for a Palestinian family. ICAHD is committed to acts of peaceful civil disobedience in order that international law is upheld. The family said how grateful they were to once again have a home. A Palestinian who works for ICAHD said that his house had been demolished four times. He said that most Palestinian homes in Jerusalem were subject to demolition orders, so everyone lives with the fear and insecurity that when they arrive home, they might find that their home has been destroyed. He said that when the Israelis arrive to demolish a person’s house, they give them 15 minutes in which to collect their family and belongings.

Normally, people refuse to co-operate. The ICAHD worker told me that in such a situation, the demolition people use tear gas. He told me that he stood there, with his wife fainting and his children crying while their property was being thrown out of their house on to the ground. He said that it made him feel like a useless man who could not even protect his family in their home, and that three possible courses of action passed through his mind. First, full of hate and anger, he thought about obtaining a suicide vest and destroying his own life and that of others. Secondly, he thought about whether he could get out of Palestine and Jerusalem, being unable to bear the pressure being put on him and his family, but that would be to co-operate in the ethnic-cleansing that he opposed. Thirdly-he said that this kept him sane-he said he thought about working for ICAHD to rebuild the demolished homes in peaceful civil disobedience.

I understand that ICAHD has given a pledge to rebuild all the demolished homes in this, the 40th year of the occupation, and that-poignantly-an American holocaust survivor is funding the work. I hope that all people of good will will support ICAHD financially and politically in that endeavour. Importantly, the organisation brings radical Israelis and Palestinians together and creates a space for hope in an otherwise hopeless situation.

The delegation’s third day was hosted by the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, which is War on Want’s partner in Palestine. We were briefed about how the closures have destroyed the Palestinian economy-that has subsequently been underlined by a World Bank report-and also how more and more Palestinians are forced to work for the Israeli settlements to produce agricultural products and other goods that are exported largely to the European market, to which trade agreements give Israel privileged access. Illegal settlements using Palestinians as cheap labour is another element of the new apartheid system in which the EU and the UK fully collude.

The delegation went to visit the Jordan valley with a representative of the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign. The situation there is truly terrible. All fertile land near the river has been confiscated by Israel, supposedly for security purposes under the Oslo peace accords. In the remaining territory, there are occasionally settlements, some of only one person, which lead to Palestinian families being removed from their land for security reasons. There are acres of plastic greenhouses that are organised and worked by settlers and which are strategically located over water sources. They grow organic herbs and other agricultural produce for the European market and yet, when we visited a totally impoverished nearby Palestinian village, we found that there was no school and, that day, no water-the one tap in the village gave no water. The impoverished Palestinians must buy water by the bucket from the settlers.

We visited farming families whose relatives had lived on the land in the Jordan valley for generations to grow crops, herd sheep and goats, and to make cheese. They were being threatened and moved constantly as new settlements of only one or a few people brought in the army, which claimed that they had to move for security reasons. We stopped to talk to another family who had a compound at the side of the road. A house bought for their son and his family on their own land had been demolished, and their aubergine crop was rotting in a heap in front of the house because they could not get it to market.

There is terrible poverty and abuse of human rights in the Jordan valley. The people there are being grossly neglected. I appeal to the Minister, the Department for International Development and all the humanitarian and non-governmental organisations to do more in the Jordan valley-it is in a terrible situation, and more could be done to bring instant relief.

My conclusion is pessimistic, and the prospect of a two-state solution is being destroyed. Instead, we are allowing a new, brutal apartheid regime to be created with the Palestinians being confined to ghettoes and used as cheap labour by the settlers. The Hamas takeover in Gaza is not the cause of the problem, but the consequence of it. The refusal of the UK and the EU to provide aid to the Palestinian Authority following the Hamas election victory has helped to create the problem. The arming of Fatah by US and Israeli forces to enable it to fight Hamas in Gaza made the takeover inevitable. Now it seems that efforts are to be made to offer money and inducements to President Abbas to accept the monstrous ghettoes as the promised Palestinian state. As Uri Avnery, the great Israeli peace campaigner, said, they want him to act as a quisling, and that will not bring peace.

In conclusion, the situation in the Palestinian territories is deeply distressing and depressing, and the Government and the EU are colluding in that oppression and the building of a new apartheid regime. In particular, Israel has privileged access to the EU market under a trade treaty that, like all EU trade treaties, contains human rights conditions. I hope that the Minister will explain why those conditions are not invoked to insist on Israeli compliance with international law. That is a big lever, and Israel would be frightened of losing access to the EU market. I wish that we would make use of that for everyone’s benefit.

I fear continuing bloodshed and suffering, and further destabilisation of the middle east. The situation in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories is fuelling the anger of the Muslim world, which is acting as a recruiting sergeant for the ugly ideology of Osama bin Laden and those who advocate similar ideas.

It is in the interests of the people of Israel, the Palestinians and the wider middle east that there should be a two-state solution to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but that possibility is being thrown away by Israel, which is determined constantly to expand its borders in total breach of international law. The UK and the EU are, sadly, colluding in that, and the consequences are causing terrible suffering, and endangering the future. I truly hope that our new Prime Minister will reconsider that policy, and that the Opposition parties will reconsider and bring pressure to bear to bring the situation back from the brink and to ensure that the centrepiece of UK policy is a just peace and Israeli compliance with international law.

The Minister for the Middle East (Dr. Kim Howells): I thank the right hon. Lady for initiating this debate and for her comments. I also thank her for her eye-witness account of the illegal activities of the Israeli defence forces and others in demolishing houses along the route of the wall, the barrier or fence, where it incorporates Palestinian land illegally. I agree entirely with the right hon. Lady that that not only breaks international law but generates huge resentment, not just in Palestine but throughout the region. We have constantly urged the Israelis not to do that, and it is ironic that lawyers in Israel have given Palestinians their redress only about the route of the wall. Sometimes that route has been altered as a consequence of legal action that Palestinians have taken, especially in and around Jerusalem.

The right hon. Lady’s point about generating sympathy for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda is prescient, and we ignore such warnings at our peril. I take her message about the Jordan valley needing the attention of the Department for International Development. I, too, was shocked when I saw the extent to which so much of the Palestinian economy on the west bank has collapsed. I shall come to Gaza in a moment.

This is one of those times in history when, from an appalling tragedy of Palestinians killing Palestinians in Gaza, one hopes that the Israelis and everyone else will take a real step forward, remove the barriers on the west bank, and allow people to trade properly. The right hon. Lady referred to a crop of aubergines that were rotting in the field, and we have heard such stories so many times.

I understand, as I am sure can everyone, why Israel has built barriers, and I know why it has built the wall. On my last visit but one, I went to see some old lefties-I do not know how to describe them-in a kibbutz up on the old Jerusalem road. Very reluctantly, they told me that life had become easier since the barrier was built because they were not worried about their kids going out, as suicide bombers were finding it much harder to come in from Nablus and other towns. I tried to argue then, and I argue now, that they will find ways of getting in and killing innocent citizens, because resentment will continue to build up unless the core issue is tackled.

Clare Short: I simply want to say that, ugly and regrettable as the wall is, if it were on the 1967 boundary it would be one thing, but it is taking great swathes of Palestinian land and dividing communities from their land. That was found to be illegal by the International Court of Justice, and there is no excuse for it.

Dr. Howells: The right hon. Lady is absolutely correct. I was quite shocked even to discuss with Labour Ministers in Israel some time ago their unwillingness to build tunnels, for example, to join cantons together. It is hard to believe that a viable state, albeit small, could emerge from such a geographical configuration. It is difficult to see how it could work. We must keep pressing the Israelis.

I do not agree with the right hon. Lady about sanctions-she did not refer to sanctions, but I have heard people talk about them. She referred to withdrawal of the preferential trade agreement with the EU. It is a fair subject for debate, although I am sceptical about making such moves, but that is my subjective assessment. It is a subject that should be discussed, and it is widely discussed throughout Europe. I tend to feel that there is already so much tension and there are so many difficulties that I am not sure that that would advance the cause of peace.

If the right hon. Lady will allow me, I shall say something about Gaza, because we share her deep concern about what has happened there. It is a tragedy, and it underlines the urgent need to maintain international engagement and the current political processes.

We are also concerned, as is the right hon. Lady, about the welfare of Alan Johnston, the BBC journalist, whose family must be going through the most dreadful time. We condemn the release of the latest video, which can only add further distress to his family and friends. We urge his captors, as I know does the right hon. Lady, to release him immediately. There should be a general release of captives on both sides- Corporal Shalit, the soldiers who were kidnapped by Hezbollah, the councillors and elected parliamentary representatives of the Palestinian people. Now is the time to make such moves, and I hope that after the disaster in Gaza there will be a sense that this historic opportunity should not be missed, and that misery should not be heaped on the existing misery.

I also extend our thanks to the Egyptian Government for initiating the meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday between President Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan, whom I had the privilege of speaking with just last week. He brought to the situation a sharp series of observations, which the right hon. Lady complemented today, and he understands the gravity of the situation. If the west bank statelet-that group of cantons-fails, one wonders where the conflict will spread to next. Jordan, with its huge Palestinian population, would be in grave danger, and King Abdullah is well aware of that. He was at Sharm el-Sheikh, as were Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas.

We welcome Prime Minister Olmert’s statement that he will work, with President Abbas as a true partner, towards the establishment of a two-state solution and the implementation of the road map. There are some positive aspects, but I agree with the right hon. Lady that it is a pretty bleak picture. It is as bleak as I can ever remember it, but the decision by Prime Minister Olmert to transfer the withheld revenues is probably a positive step forward, and we look forward to the implementation of the commitments to increase freedom of movement and expand trade connections in the west bank. Such actions are not rocket science; they can easily be done and they could make a big difference, if only to that family about whom the right hon. Lady spoke, with their crop of aubergines.

Such actions are vital to the Palestinian people, and they have helped to improve the humanitarian and economic situation, which is critical. We welcome Prime Minister Olmert’s pledge to ensure the continued supply of humanitarian aid to Gaza. As the right hon. Lady knows, we have earmarked funding for that project. It does not address the central issue that she has raised today, but there is an immediate humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which the international community must address. It is important that the international community works together to help all Palestinian people.

President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad’s Government have our full support, and we share their aim of restoring security and improving the economic and humanitarian situation. We continue to work with all people, including President Abbas, who are dedicated to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The right hon. Lady did not mention this point, because time is always limited in such debates, but President Abbas, among others, has said that there ought to be an international peacekeeping force in Gaza certainly, if not on the west bank. I can see the right hon. Lady shaking her head, and one cannot imagine who would donate the troops to such a force. They would have to fight their way in, there would be bloodshed and mayhem on a huge scale, and quite frankly, I cannot see the idea coming off.

To reinforce what the right hon. Lady said, we must understand the gravity of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, address it and at the same time, urge Israel as
hard as we possibly can to think again about its policy of incorporating Palestinian villages and land within the confines of that wall. As she said, the Israelis have a perfect right to defend themselves, and if they want to build a wall, it is up to them, but it ought to be along the agreed frontier-such as it is-that was defined in 1967. It ought not to encroach on Palestinian territory. 

It is important that we receive such reports in the House. In so many ways, that is what such debates are for-so that we are reminded constantly of the reality of what can sometimes look like great, strategic trends and events on the world stage. However, for the family whom the right hon. Lady described so vividly, the reality is that their lives have been shattered. Many other families’ lives have been, too. I have always considered myself to be a friend of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people. I was brought up in a home in which the dreams of everybody who was interested in the subject were about people living alongside each other peacefully, not even in separate states.

I shall not apportion blame; I have been around too long for that. I have seen the successive invasions of Israel, and what the Israelis have done in an attempt to head off what they perceive as threats to the Israeli heartland, which has usually meant extending territory. My message to the Israelis is simple; if they are to live in peace side by side with their neighbours, the Israelis must help them become viable states with economies that can live in a competitive world. They need the education, skills, infrastructure and wherewithal to do all that, but most important, they need the self-respect and dignity that we enjoy as members of sovereign states.

Clare Short: May I press the Minister to reconsider his view on Israeli access to the EU market? If we invoked the human rights conditionality in that treaty, we would have a lever with which to press Israel to do what he calls for. Does not our failure to use that leverage mean that we are colluding in the breach of international law? Will he reconsider his position on that point?

Dr. Howells: I certainly do not believe that we are colluding in any shape or form. I was going to come to that point, but with respect to the right hon. Lady, “colluding” is certainly the wrong word to use. I know that she chose that word very carefully, but I do not think that it is the right one. I can speak only subjectively from my meeting with other European Ministers. She, too, met her counterparts from the EU and other nations many times. There is at one extreme a sense of hopelessness, which she also described today in a very grim analysis of the situation. I am at the other extreme. I keep telling myself that we have material to work with, and that it is a very small part of the world. What is Gaza? Ten miles wide, and at the most, 35 to 40 miles long. It has a wonderful beach on the Mediterranean, and I remember vividly the first time I ever walked on it, thinking, “Why is this a poor part of the world? Why haven’t people here got any jobs?” It seemed mad to me.

The right hon. Lady expressed the hope that my right hon. Friend the new Prime Minister would take the issue by the scruff of the neck and try to do something with it. She knows that he has been very interested for a very long time in trying to work with the Israelis and the Arab countries in the area to do something about that economy and that infrastructure. I disagree with her about the effect of that general sense of good will towards Israel and Palestine-the desire throughout Europe that there should be a good outcome, and peace and prosperity in the future. In the end, we disagree about whether applying a screw to the Israelis on the question of human rights compliance would achieve a great deal.

We should at every possible opportunity engage the Israelis on human rights and on compliance with their undertakings, which, as a consequence, enable them to enjoy access to the European market. We should talk to them about that, but I have a feeling that there are already far too many strictures on all sides to add another one. It would just create more tension, and we should try to build on what we have, aim for the high ground and figure out how we can get there by engaging with both sides.

NOT ONLY TERRITORY, BUT VIABILITY

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 7:49 am

Jeff Halper

August, 2007

On paper, the headlines sounded promising, even stirring. Prime Minister Olmert, they said, told PA Chairman Abbas in Jericho he would push for establishment of a Palestinian state as “fast as possible” on “the equivalent to 100% of the territories conquered in 1967.” The Palestinians, it was said, would cede just 5% of the West Bank in return for territorial swaps, so Israel would withdraw from 95.6 % of the combined West Bank and Gaza -a figure not including East Jerusalem, which Israel does not consider occupied.  It looked like another “generous offer,” one the Palestinians could not refuse. The problem was, it was too generous for Israel to accept. Some hours after Haaretz’ report, the PM’s Office denied the proposal’s existence. “We do not know of any plan as described in [Ha’aretz’] article,” said the PMO. “We would like to clarify that such a plan has not been considered, nor is it being raised for discussion in any forum.”

So much for that. Yet the proposal is useful to examine as a “best case” scenario. It appears to relinquish almost all the occupied territory to the Palestinians: the maximum that Israel could apparently offer. If it was nothing more than a sophisticated attempt to expand Israeli control to the Jordan River, with no chance of ending the conflict, it provides the best illustration of the futility of basing any peace process on mere transfer of territory rather than viability. The devil, as we know, is in the details.

At issue isn’t a Palestinian state on the equivalent of 100% of the Territories (which, of course, is only 22% of historic Palestine). The issue, as the Road Map specifies, is whether a Palestinian state is truly sovereign and viable; but even the 5% that Israel would retain under the purported plan prevents such a state’s establishment. What makes the difference between a just and lasting peace or apartheid?

Sovereignty: The basis for negotiations, says Olmert, “continues to be the Road Map, which is acceptable to both sides.” True in general, but with major caveats. Phase II of the Road Map is a Palestinian nightmare, and they have constantly pressed for its removal. It calls for establishment of a “transitional” state with “provisional borders.” If all is quiet, they fear, and Israel proclaims a Palestinian state and the end of Occupation, who could guarantee the process would continue to Phase III, where thorny final status details must be negotiated and a real Palestinian state emerge? Their fears are justified – and here’s the “catch.” Israel considers its “14 reservations” integral parts of the Road Map. Reservation #5 states: “The provisional state will have provisional borders and certain aspects of sovereignty, be fully demilitarized…, be without the authority to undertake defense alliances or military cooperation, and Israeli control over the entry and exit of all persons and cargo, as well as of its air space and electromagnetic spectrum.”

Try to square that reservation with the notion of Palestinian sovereignty. Tzipi Livni worked for months on “The Israeli Initiative for a Two-State Solution” based precisely on replacing Phase I (which calls for a freeze on settlement building) with this problematic Phase II. Rice says the Bush Administration will work towards a provisional Palestine, leaving “the details” to the next Administration.

A state has no sovereignty without borders. Added to problems of provisionality, does Olmert intend to grant Palestine unsupervised borders with Jordan? If Israel insists on border control, or the Jordan River is part of the 5% the Palestinians must cede, there is no Palestinian state even if they receive all the territory.   

Viability: Israel could relinquish 95% of the West Bank, yet totally control a Palestinian Bantustan, with no viable economy. If it insists on border control, denying free movement of goods and people, Palestine could not be viable. If that 5% includes a corridor across the West Bank, or Israel keeps Ma’aleh Adumim settlement with its “E-1” corridor to Jerusalem, (destroying territorial contiguity of Palestine), it is non-viable. If it includes Israeli control of all the water resources, it is non-viable. If Jerusalem isn’t fully integrated into Palestine politically, geographically and economically – and I would bet the core of East Jerusalem falls outside the 95% – then Palestine is non-viable. The World Bank suggests Jerusalem accounts for 40% of the Palestinian economy because of tourism, its largest industry.

Meanwhile, Israel’s repeated advancement of territorial-based plans all have the same aim: to perpetuate the settlements, Israeli “greater” Jerusalem and control of the entire land. Until that matrix of control is broken and a real Palestinian state can emerge – if that’s still possible given Israeli “facts on the ground” – we will have to monitor carefully each proposal, to ascertain if it can end the conflict or merely substitute a sophisticated regime of apartheid. Israel’s ongoing settlement construction and commitment to retaining strategic parts of the West Bank and “greater” Jerusalem unfortunately justify a healthy suspicion of Israel’s intentions.

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

Brit Tzedek Letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice

Filed under: Blogroll, Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Peace Now, Saudi, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 7:45 am

Due to the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza as well as the welcome increase in US engagement in Middle East diplomacy, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom has sent the following letter to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday, August 10, 2007.

Related articles are listed below.

Dear Secretary Rice:

On behalf of the 36,000 supporters of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, we write to commend your progress towards the planned international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to express several concerns we hope you will consider as you move forward. Brit Tzedek v’Shalom is a grassroots organization that educates and mobilizes American Jews in support of a negotiated two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The U.S.-led international conference, announced by President Bush in his speech on July 16th and set for this fall, represents a significant step forward on the path to the creation of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. We are optimistic that by involving regional and international players, in particular Saudi Arabia, and by building upon the Arab League Peace Initiative, real progress can be made towards that goal. We welcome your recent statements that the conference will be more than a mere “photo op,” and urge you to ensure the seriousness of its content by including discussion of the most fundamental issues regarding the conflict: borders, settlements, refugees, and Jerusalem.

We further welcome your renewed support for the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas, by ending the boycott of the P.A. and resuming sorely needed economic, humanitarian and development aid to the Palestinian people. Yet, we are deeply concerned by the U.S. policy, which you reiterated on your most recent trip to the region, to ignore and isolate Hamas. This deepens the divide between Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, undermining the legitimacy and viability of peace negotiations and raising greater risk of attacks on Israel.

Brit Tzedek is gravely concerned by the continued closings of border crossings in and out of Gaza, which exacerbate already desperate economic and humanitarian conditions for a population at risk of becoming virtually 100% aid dependent. The international community has already acknowledged that the hopelessness and despair produced by such conditions, creates a climate ideal for the support of extremist groups. Therefore, in the name of ensuring humanitarian treatment of the Palestinian people, please consider a policy of minimal, pragmatic contact with those Palestinians in control of the Gaza side of these border crossings who may be affiliated with Hamas. Without such contact, we fear a dangerous resurgence of attacks against Israelis and renewed factional violence in Gaza. This approach has also been suggested by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Efraim Halevy, former chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency.

We recognize the complexity of your mission and the many challenges that lie ahead. We thank you for consideration of our message which reflects the input and insights of our national Jewish leadership and grassroots volunteers from communities across America dedicated to the well-being and security of Israel and the United States.

Sincerely,
Marcia Freedman
President

Related Articles

Hamas boycott criticised in UK by Ben Hall and Daniel Dombey. Financial Times. August 12, 2007.
George W. Bush’s Flawed Peace Plan by Shlomo Ben-Ami. Daily Star. August 9, 2007.
Getting Hamas Strategy Right by David Dreilinger and IPF Staff. Israel Policy Forum. August 9, 2007.
UN: Gaza faces economic disaster by Associated Press. Jerusalem Post. August 9, 2007.
Final Status Negotiations Now by MJ Rosenberg. IPF Friday. July 20, 2007.

Brit Tzedek v’Shalom,
The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite 707
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Fax: (312) 341-1206
info@btvshalom.org
http://www.btvshalom.org/

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