Archive for the International conferences Category

Beit Sahour: a microcosm of Israeli colonization

Posted in Activism, Everyday life in the West Bank, History, IDF, International conferences, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, War crimes on 20/04/2010 by 3071km

Source: The Electronic Intifada, 19 April 2010

Recent construction in the Har Homa settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Forced by Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, the US president delivers a “rare rebuke” of an ally. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begins “construction of a new housing project in East Jerusalem” despite the risk of drawing “fierce, and possibly violent, Palestinian protest, along with international denunciations,” as reported by The New York Times. While this may sound like a news summary from the last month, these are in fact news reports from 1997, as Israel began work on Har Homa colony.

A number of commentators have pointed out a sense of déjà-vu about Netanyahu’s current premiership. But while today’s gaze is fixed on colonies like Ramat Shlomo — home to the 1,600 new housing units announced during US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit — or right-wing settler expansion in Sheikh Jarrah, little has been said about what has since happened to Har Homa, the colony which caused a stir during Netanyahu’s previous time in office.

Har Homa’s impact on the Palestinian community has been devastating, with the town of Beit Sahour now dominated by the ever-expanding settlement. While many are aware of Beit Sahour’s famous nonviolent resistance during the first Palestinian intifada (1987-1993), less well-known is how Israeli rule continues to choke the town. Har Homa has been instrumental in that respect, and it plays a role in the latest settler-driven attempts to take over more land at Ush al-Ghrab, the site of a vacated Israeli military base. Located on the edge of Beit Sahour, the Israeli military has returned to the site while right-wing settlers campaign for the area to become the new settlement of Shdema.

A strategic colony

After 1967, Israel moved quickly to unilaterally and illegally expand the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, expropriating land from West Bank villages in order to do so. As reported in the Israeli daily Haaretz on 13 February, Beit Sahour lost 1,200 of its 7,000 dunams (a dunam is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters), or 17 percent of its total land. Moreover, a May 2009 report by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) entitled “Shrinking Space: Urban contraction and rural fragmentation in the Bethlehem governorate,” found that the Bethlehem governorate, which includes Beit Sahour, lost around 10 square kilometers to Israel’s land confiscation.

In his book, City of Stone: The Hidden History of Jerusalem, Meron Benvenisti, the ex-deputy mayor of Jerusalem, stated that for Israel the “determining consideration” in the “delineation of the borders” of occupied East Jerusalem was “‘a maximum of vacant space with a minimum of Arabs.” He argues that this logically led planners to Palestinian land “on the outskirts of the city and surrounding it” (154-55). Further land loss would follow — meaning that the amount of non-built-up land available for Beit Sahour for development and growth has been reduced to around 600 dunams.

Israel’s creation of the Har Homa colony in the 1990s and its ongoing expansion has been instrumental not just in the direct expropriation of land from Beit Sahour residents, but also in restricting the community’s ability to naturally expand. According to Separate and Unequal: The inside story of Israeli rule in East Jerusalem by Amir S. Cheshin, Bill Hutman and Avi Melamed, the allocation of land for the establishment of Har Homa — a third of which was owned by Palestinians from Beit Sahour and nearby Um Taba — was “never connected with the planning of the neighborhood.” Instead, the goal was to “expropriate as much undeveloped land as possible in the area, to prevent Palestinians from building.” In particular, Israel was “concerned that Palestinian construction would eventually link up Palestinian villages in southern Jerusalem with the nearby West Bank towns of Beit Sahour and Bethlehem” (p. 58).

Separate and Unequal also reveals that in April 1992, a senior official close to then-mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek wrote to then housing minister Ariel Sharon, explaining how the land confiscated for Har Homa would “‘straighten the line’ of the Jerusalem municipal border.” The letter explained that the “immediate battle” was over connecting the Jewish settlements of Gilo, East Talpiot and Givat Hamatos. Otherwise, it warned that Beit Sahour and the nearby Palestinian town of Sur Baher would be connected (p. 59).

Indeed, Har Homa has continued to expand over the years, with further residential units being added. Currently, a new expansion of hundreds of homes referred to as “Har Homa C” is awaiting implementation, having been submitted for public review in 2008.

Settler graffiti in Ush al-Ghrab.

The same strategy to connect Israeli settlements and deny Palestinian villages the ability to expand is now being applied in Ush al-Ghrab. Establishing a settlement at Ush al-Ghrab will serve to consolidate Israel’s Judaization of the area between Jerusalem and the Bethlehem-Beit Jala-Beit Sahour urban triangle and prevent the possibility of Palestinian territorial contiguity.

Nor is the strategy a secret.Haaretz reported on 4 February that Herzl Yechezel, the leader of the Har Homa “local committee,” spoke at a settlers’ ceremony about the importance of contiguity of Shdema, and Har Homa in order to prevent “the spread of Arab construction.” Yechezel has previously described Har Homa “as a thorn” sitting between Palestinian villages and towns.

An apartheid regime

The loss of land and establishment of settlements has been “complemented” by Israel’s wall in the occupied West Bank, checkpoints and bypass road 356. This matrix of control has further defined the boundaries of this Palestinian enclave. According OCHA’s “Shrinking Space” report, the path of Israel’s wall has placed olive groves belonging to Palestinians from Beit Sahour on the “wrong side.” It stated that these groves are “now only accessible through two gates” that are opened “for limited periods during the annual olive harvest.” According to an 11 April 2009 Reuters report, Israel’s wall has also meant that residents in a Beit Sahour housing project — having narrowly avoided outright demolitions — will be completely encircled, thus “forcing residents to enter and leave via a gate controlled by Israelis.”

Like the wall, bypass road 356 is designed to contain the growth of Beit Sahour. The road connects Har Homa and occupied East Jerusalem with the Israeli settlement of Teqoa in the southeast. Opened in 2007, the road stretches for 19 kilometers in the Bethlehem governorate and onwards to Israeli settlements in the southern West Bank near Hebron. As Nate Wright described in a 7 October article for the Middle East Report, bypass road 356 is “effectively demarcating the city limits” of Beit Sahour while strengthening the eastern Gush Etzion settlements. Therefore, it is imposing limitations on “prospects for growth and the larger socio-economic future of the Bethlehem area.”

Beit Sahour is emblematic of the situation across the occupied Palestinian territories. According to a May 2008 report by OCHA entitled ”Lack of Permit: Demolitions and Resultant Displacement in Area C,” two-thirds of the Bethlehem governorate remains designated as “Area C” under the Oslo accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Under total Israeli control, Palestinian construction and development is almost completely impossible in “Area C.” Moreover, “Area C” accounts for over 60 percent of the occupied West Bank’s territory.

While settlement expansion — or creation — announcements make the news for a few weeks, before being forgotten, the impact of Israeli colonization continues devastate Palestinian communities. Diplomatic gestures mean nothing for towns like Beit Sahour, struggling to breathe under an apartheid regime that forces Palestinians into increasingly small, unsustainable pockets of land, policies intended to make normal life — and a continued Palestinian presence — untenable.

Images by Ben White.

Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer whose articles have appeared in the Guardian’s “Comment is free,” The Electronic Intifada, the New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide(Pluto Press). He can be contacted at ben A T benwhite D O T org D O T uk.

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Israel’s manufactured outrage over a presidential palace

Posted in History, International community, International conferences, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process on 20/04/2010 by 3071km

Source:The Electronic Intifada, 15 April 2010

Israel has gone out of its way in recent months to goad the Palestinians into confrontation. (Anne Paq/ActiveStills)

The headlines were ablaze last week after the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced that it would build the new presidential compound on a street named after Yahya Ayyash. Ayyash, whose nickname was “The Engineer,” was a Hamas military commander who orchestrated several attacks against Israeli civilian targets in the mid-1990s in response to the 1994 massacre of Palestinian worshipers at Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque by an Israeli-American settler named Baruch Goldstein. In 1996, Ayyash was assassinated by Israel in Gaza City.

“This is a shocking incitement to terrorism by the Palestinian Authority,” boomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement. “Arch-terrorist Ayyash,” as Netanyahu called him, had “murdered hundreds of innocent Israeli men, women and children,” and so building the presidential compound on this street was an act of “wild incitement by the Palestinians for terror and against peace.” The United States reacted with strong support for the Israeli position. “Honoring terrorists who have murdered innocent civilians, either by official statements or by the dedication of public places, hurts peace efforts and must end,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

The hysterical reaction of the Israeli government, and US support for it, is hardly surprising. Of note however is the double-standard exhibited by Israel and its patron, the US. The assumption throughout is that Israel’s actions are just, defensive and in pursuit of peace for all. Conversely, Palestinian actions are aggressive and evil, and worthy of worldwide condemnation. The strength of this narrative allows the US and Israeli governments to make the construction of a new government building on a street whose name Israel disproves of into a major incident, worthy of outrage and international condemnation, while grotesque Israeli crimes and far more flagrant provocations go unquestioned.

Jerusalem Post editorial headlined “Glorifying Terrorism” exemplifies this point. The “inescapable message is that such crimes are the PA’s ideal,” the editorial stated, since it “acclaims malevolence instead of denouncing it.” The Jerusalem Post declared that the act was “an affront to the very notion of coexistence,” and yet another example of the PA’s “consistent policy” of “deception” and “insincerity” which has undermined “the Oslo promise.” “Our misfortune,” The Jerusalem Post lamented, “is that the world’s outrage is very selective and very misplaced.”

That such manufactured outrage could be delivered without a hint of irony is startling in light of recent events. This includes a series of internationally-condemned deliberate Israeli provocations — supported by Washington — in reaction to the UN-commissioned Goldstone report.

Investigated and published in the wake of Israel’s invasion of Gaza last winter, the Goldstone report documents the deliberate targeting of civilians, including the “systematically reckless” use of white phosphorous, showering densely-populated and impoverished refugee camps with the burning chemical, resulting in horrific burns and death. It also describes deliberate Israeli attacks on mosques, hospitals, schools, ambulances, UN facilities and indiscriminate bombardment of crowded slums. “You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants, burning them,” one Israeli soldier said of the attack, which killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and left thousands more injured, mutilated and homeless.

In a shocking example of “acclaiming malevolence instead of denouncing it,” the US and Israel have attacked the report relentlessly and attempted to marginalize it, and Israel has refused to even conduct a credible investigation into its findings. While concerned citizens in cities around the world took to the streets to express their anger at the horrific atrocities documented in the report, the US called it “unbalanced” and “flawed” and moved to block its consideration at the UN, promising to veto any action in the Security Council if necessary. Likewise, Israeli President Shimon Peres referred to the report as “a mockery.” The US and Israel then pressured PA President Mahmoud Abbas to defer action on the report in the General Assembly (though overwhelming popular pressure later forced him to reverse that position).

Israel has gone out of its way in recent months to goad the Palestinians into confrontation, including naming two places deep in the West Bank “Israeli Heritage Sites,” sparking days of protests. Israel has also escalated its provocations around the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam. Along with the Dome of the Rock, the mosque sits inside the Haram al-Sharif, which is known as the Temple Mount to Jews. In addition to repeatedly deploying soldiers around the compound, Israel has announced that it will expand the Jewish prayer area at the Western Wall, despite a Jerusalem court’s decision that such a move would violate the status quoagreement that has governed Jerusalem’s holy sites since Israel seized the Old City in the June 1967 War.

A further escalation was the reopening of the “Hurva,” a Jewish synagogue just a few hundred meters from the al-Aqsa Mosque. With growing numbers of Jewish fundamentalists insisting that they be allowed to pray inside the Haram al-Sharif, many of whom advocate demolishing the al-Aqsa Mosque and building a third Jewish temple in its place, the reopening was universally condemned in the Muslim and Arab world. It was also reported in the Israeli press that according to a 300-year-old rabbinical prophecy, the reopening of the synagogue foretold the construction of the third temple in the place now occupied by the al-Aqsa Mosque. Yet when Palestinian leaders called for a “day of rage” in response to these provocations, the US sharply criticized them for overreacting. Yet only weeks later, Israel opened another synagogue in East Jerusalem 100 meters closer to the Haram, and Washington was silent.

Despite all this, the Israeli and American governments jointly denounce the Palestinians’ choice of which street on which to construct a new presidential palace as “wild incitement.” Are the Palestinians allowed to be outraged when Israel names streets, every inch of which lie on land that was taken from them, after the commanders that masterminded and executed the cleansing of 70 percent of Palestinian Arabs in 1948? What would the consequences be if Mahmoud Abbas started referring to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who presided over a campaign that “punished and terrorized” the 1.5 million residents of Gaza last winter as an “arch-terrorist”?

Given recent Israeli provocations, and the American response to them, the operative principle is clear: the Israelis are justly defending their democracy, while the Palestinians are savage, uncompromising terrorists. Those fighting for justice and peace in the Middle East must relentlessly confront this narrative, spreading truth and awareness, the only basis on which the conflict can finally come to an end.

Stephen Maher is an MA candidate at American University School of International Service who has lived in the West Bank, and is currently writing his Masters’ thesis, “The New Nakba: Oslo and the End of Palestine,” on the Israel-Palestine conflict. His work has appeared in Extra!, The Electronic Intifada, ZNet and other publications.

Azam has a real story to tell

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Everyday life in the West Bank, Fatah, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Gaza war crimes investigation, History, IDF, International community, International conferences, Israel, Israel politics, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Pictures, Siege, War crimes, West Bank on 11/04/2010 by 3071km

Azam is looking for unknown ways to get back to his family in Gaza

Azam  has a long and sad story! He left Gaza during the last war as his wife got an American nationality, but unfortunately, after the end of the war he was not allowed by the Israeli to get back to Gaza again with his family! of course, the Stories of the Palestinians suffering will not end here.

here you are his story as he sent it to us two days ago!

On the Borders

by Azzam Almosallami

I still remember that scream of the child on the borders. The sun was fiery, and the mother was wiping the perspiration drops off her forehead. The cadaverous features had drawn at the family faces as a result of the big fatigue of travel .
Despite the severe hard situation that the family was facing, the love
among the family members was mitigating the pain of suffering. The child was playing cherubically between his father and mother, as if the kindness of his parents was protecting him from the stress of travel. The child was transforming between his parents like a small charming bird learning flight among the branches of trees.
The land was barren on the borders- there! you would not see more than some terrestrial and arid plants, and some of the standing army working next to, or inside a caravan. The parents were sitting on hard chairs made by iron. The seats were uncomfortable, so they were always wriggling on them.
I was listening to some catchwords that the family was talking about.
I heard the child telling his mother, “mom… ! when we reach our home, I’ll ride my bicycle that I am keeping in my room, Also I’ll drop my dolls and toys that I’m keeping in a box on the top of my cupboard.”
They were really appearing like they were longing to reach their small paradise… their home!
After 4-hour-hard waiting, two policemen of the borders came to the family with their passports. They told the father abrasively, ” hey man!… you can’t cross the borders to your home, you have no permission, but your family have a permission. So, you must go back where you have come. ” The family shocked! and the panic catches on their hearts because of these horrible news. How they will not be joined with each other to their lovely home! The mother hardly gasped, and asked the police ” how the child and I can cross these lonely borders without our man!… how you could have a pluckiness to separate between a father and his family.” The police replied harshly, ” if you don’t like to be far away from your husband, you can join him and go back to where you have come.” The father thought for a while, and then he decided to face this mysterious situation alone. He convinced his wife to go back with their cherubic child to their warmer home, and he will try to join them after a while.
The policemen took the family out the caravan, and there, two police cars were waiting them. they pulled the father to one car, and the mother and the child to the other car. The child turned his face, peeking through his father, and when he found himself faraway for the father, he could flee from the hard catch of the policeman, and ran away into his father’s warm cuddle. The child’s arms tightened ardently around the father’s thigh, hardly catching his trousers. The policeman followed the child, trying to pull him far away from the father. The child screamed with reddish eyes and warm tears, ” I want my dad…! ”
The policeman brutish catch was much stronger than the childish catch, and then he could flee the child, hustling him toward the car. The mother of the cleaved heart, was wiping the hot tears through her bloody eyes, and swabbing drops of mucus on her lips by a handkerchief wetted by a severe wail.
The child could flee again from the policeman brutish catch, and suddenly he transformed into a stronger fighter. He catches a stone and threw it toward the policeman to trickling blood into his cheek. The wrathful policeman catch the child brutally, to hustling him and the mother into the car.
I still remember those bloody eyes, and hot tears of the child and the mother through the car’s windows. I still remember those small hands of the child which were climbing on the window’s glass. They were saying a lot about the prejudice that some people are facing on the borders.
When the child reached home, he took his toys, dolls and bicycle and sold them. And by money, he bought a gun. The child decided not to be a child!

Blair: Gaza’s great betrayer

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, History, International community, International conferences, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Peace process, Siege, War crimes on 05/02/2010 by 3071km

Tony Blair visiting Gaza, June 2009

Tony Blair in June 2009 speaking at a press conference in Gaza calling for a quick reconstruction. Photograph: Hatem Moussa/AP

Date Published:  3 February 2010

Source: The Guardian

It’s more than a year since Israel launched its immoral attack on Gaza and Palestinians are still living on the verge of a humanitarian disaster. So what has Tony Blair done to further peace in the region? Virtually nothing, argues the historian Avi Shlaim

The savage attack Israel ­unleashed against Gaza on 27 December 2008 was both immoral and unjustified. Immoral in the use of force against civilians for political purposes. Unjustified because Israel had a political alternative to the use of force. The home-made Qassam rockets fired by Hamas militants from Gaza on Israeli towns were only the ­excuse, not the reason for Operation Cast Lead. In June 2008, Egypt had ­brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement. ­Contrary to Israeli propaganda, this was a success: the average number of rockets fired monthly from Gaza dropped from 179 to three. Yet on 4 November Israel violated the ceasefire by launching a raid into Gaza, killing six Hamas fighters. When Hamas ­retaliated, Israel seized the renewed rocket attacks as the ­excuse for launching its insane offensive. If all Israel wanted was to protect its citizens from Qassam rockets, it only needed to ­observe the ceasefire.

While the war failed in its primary aim of regime change in Gaza, it left ­behind a trail of death, devastation, ­destruction and indescribable human suffering. Israel lost 13 people, three in so-called friendly fire. The Palestinian death toll was 1,387, including 773 civilians (115 women and 300 children), and more than 5,300 people were injured. The ­entire population of 1.5 million was left traumatised. Across the Gaza Strip, 3,530 homes were completely ­destroyed, 2,850 severely damaged and 11,000 suffered structural damage.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, tending to the needs of four million Palestinian ­refugees, stated that Gaza had been “bombed back, not to the Stone Age, but to the mud age”; its inhabitants ­reduced to building homes from mud after the fierce 22-day offensive.

War crimes were committed and possibly even crimes against humanity, documented in horrific detail in Judge Richard Goldstone’s report for the UN human rights council. The report ­condemned both Israel and Hamas, but reserved its strongest criticism for Israel, accusing it of deliberately targeting and terrorising civilians in Gaza. The British government did not take part in the vote on the report, sending a signal to the hawks in Israel that they can continue to disregard the laws of war. Gordon Brown’s 2007 appointment as a patron of the Jewish National Fund UK presumably played a part in the adoption of this ­pusillanimous position.

One year on, the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated areas on earth, continues to teeter on the verge of a humanitarian disaster. Israel’s ­illegal blockade of Gaza, in force since June 2007, restricts the flow not only of arms but also food, fuel and medical supplies to well below the minimum necessary for normal, everyday life. Reconstruction work has hardly begun because of the Israeli ban on bringing in cement and other building materials to Gaza. Thousands of families still live in the ruins of their former homes. Hospitals, health facilities, schools, government buildings and mosques cannot be rebuilt. Nor can the basic ­infrastructure of the Gaza Strip, including Gaza City’s sewage disposal plant. Today, 80% of Gaza’s population ­remain dependent on food aid, 43% are unemployed, and 70% live on less than $1 a day.

Meanwhile, the so-called peace process cannot be revived because ­Israel refuses to freeze settlement ­expansion on the West Bank. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently agreed to a temporary freeze of 10 months, but this does not apply to the 3,000 pre-approved housing units to be built on the West Bank or to any part of Greater Jerusalem. It’s like two men negotiating the division of a pizza while one continues to gobble it up.

Politically, the disjunction between words and deeds persists. Appeals to the Israeli government to lift or relax the blockade of Gaza were not backed up by effective pressure or the threat of sanctions. In fact, the only effective pressure was applied by the US on the Egyptian government – to seal its border with Gaza. Egypt has its own reason for complying: Hamas is ideologically ­allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic opposition to the Egyptian regime. The tunnels under the border separating Egypt from the Gaza Strip bring food and material relief to the people under siege. Yet, under US ­supervision and with the help of US army engineers, Egypt is building an 18-metre-deep underground steel wall to disrupt the tunnels and tighten the blockade.

The wall of shame, as Egyptians call it, will complete the transformation of Gaza into an open-air prison. It is the cruellest example of the concerted ­Israeli-Egyptian-US policy to isolate and prevent Hamas from leading the Palestinian struggle for self-determi­nation. Hamas is habitually dismissed by its enemies as a purely terrorist ­organisation. Yet no one can deny that it won a fair and free election in the West Bank as well as Gaza in January 2006. Moreover, once Hamas gained power through the ballot box, its ­leaders adopted a more pragmatic stand ­towards Israel than that enshrined in its charter, repeatedly expressing its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire. But there was no one to talk to on the Israeli side.

Israel adamantly refused to recognise the Hamas-led government. The US and the European Union ­followed, ­resorting to economic ­sanctions in a vain attempt to turn the people against their elected leaders. This cannot ­possibly bring ­security or stability ­because it is based on the denial of the most ­elementary human rights of the people of Gaza and the collective political rights of the ­Palestinian people. Through its special relationship with the US and its staunch support for ­Israel, the ­British government is implicated in this shameful policy.

At present the British public is ­preoccupied with Tony Blair and the war in Iraq. What is often ­overlooked is that this was only one aspect of a disastrous British policy towards the Middle East, inaugurated by Blair, and which shows no sign of changing under his successor.

One of Blair’s arguments used to ­justify the Iraq war was that it would help bring justice to the long-suffering Palestinians. In his House of Commons speech on 18 March 2003, he promised that action against Iraq would form part of a broader engagement with the problems of the Middle East. He even declared that resolving the Israeli-­Palestinian dispute was as important to Middle East peace as removing Saddam Hussein from power.

Yet by focusing international ­attention on Iraq, the war further ­marginalised the Palestinian question. To be fair, Blair persuaded the Quartet (a group consisting of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia) to issue the Roadmap in 2003, which called for the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel by the end of 2005. But President George Bush was not genuinely committed and only adopted it under pressure from his ­allies. Ariel Sharon, Israel’s hard-line prime minister at the time, wrecked the plan by continuing to expand Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Could Blair really not have realised that for Bush the special relationship that ­counted was the one with Israel? Every time Bush had to choose between Blair and Sharon, he chose Sharon.

Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August 2005 was not a contribution to the Roadmap but an attempt to unilaterally redraw the borders of Greater Israel and part of a plan to ­entrench the occupation there. Yet in return for the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, Sharon extracted from the US a written agreement to Israel’s ­retention of the major settlement blocs on the West Bank. Bush’s support amounted to an abrupt reversal of US policy since 1967, which regarded the settlements as illegal and as an obstacle to peace. Blair publicly endorsed the pact, probably to preserve a united ­Anglo-American front at any price. It was the most egregious British ­betrayal of the Palestinians since the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

In July 2006, at the height of the savage Israeli onslaught on Lebanon, Blair opposed a security council ­resolution for an immediate and ­unconditional ceasefire: he wanted to give Israel an opportunity to destroy Hezbollah, the radical Shi’ite religious-political movement. One year later, in June 2007, he resigned from office. That day he was appointed the Quartet’s special envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. His main sponsor was Bush and his blatant partisanship on behalf of Israel was probably considered a qualification. His appointment ­coincided with the collapse of the ­Palestinian national unity government, the reassertion of Fatah rule in the West Bank and the violent seizure of power by Hamas in Gaza.

Blair’s main tasks were to mobilise international assistance for the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, to promote good governance and the rule of law in the Palestinian territories, and to further Palestinian economic development. His broader mission, was “to promote an end to the conflict in conformity with the Roadmap”.

On taking up his appointment, Blair said that: “The absolute priority is to try to give effect to what is now the consensus across the international community – that the only way of bringing stability and peace to the ­Middle East is a two-state solution.” His appointment was received with great satisfaction by the Israelis and with utter dismay by the Arabs.

In his two and a half years as special envoy, Blair has achieved remarkably little. True, Blair helped persuade the Israelis to reduce the number of West Bank checkpoints from 630 to 590; he helped to create employment oppor­tunities; and he may have contributed to a slight improvement in living ­standards in Palestine. But the Americans remained fixated on security rather than on economic development, and their policy remains skewed in favour of ­Israel. Barack Obama made a promising start as ­president by insisting on a complete settlement freeze on the West Bank, but was compelled to back down, ­dashing many of our high hopes.

One reason for Blair’s disappointing results is that he wears too many hats and cannot, as he promised, be “someone who is on the ground spending 24/7 on the issue”. Another reason is his “West Bank first” attitude – ­continuing the western policy of bolstering Fatah and propping up the ailing Palestinian Authority against Hamas. His lack of commitment to Gaza is all too evident. During the Gaza war, he did not call for a ceasefire. He has one standard for ­Israel and one for its victims. His attitude to Gaza is to wait for change rather than risk ­incurring the displeasure of his American and ­Israeli friends. As ­envoy, Blair has been inside Gaza only twice; once to visit a UN school just ­beyond the border and once to Gaza City. His project for sanitation in northern Gaza was never completed because he could not ­persuade the Israelis to ­allow in the last small load of pipes needed. A growing group of western politicians has ­publicly acknowledged the necessity of talking to Hamas if meaningful progress is to be achieved; Blair is not one of their number.

Blair has totally failed to fulfil the ­official role of the envoy “to promote an end to the conflict in conformity with the Roadmap”, largely for reasons beyond his control. The most ­important of these is Israel’s determination to perpetuate the isolation and the de-development of Gaza and deny the Palestinian people a small piece of land – 22% of Mandate-era ­Palestine, to be precise – on which to live in freedom and dignity. It is a policy that Baruch Kimmerling, the late Israeli sociologist, named ­”politicide” – the denial to the ­Palestinian people of any independent political existence in Palestine.

Partly, however, Blair’s failure is due to his own personal limitations; his ­inability to grasp that the fundamental issue in this tragic conflict is not Israeli security but Palestinian national rights, and that concerted and sustained ­international pressure is required to compel Israel to recognise these rights. The core issue cannot be avoided: there can be no settlement of the ­conflict without an end to the Israeli occupation. There is international consensus for a two-state solution, but Israel rejects it and Blair has been unable or unwilling to use the Quartet to enforce it.

Blair’s failure to stand up for Palestinian independence is precisely what endears him to the Israeli establishment. In February of last year, while the ­Palestinians in Gaza were still mourning their dead, Blair received the Dan David prize from Tel Aviv University as the “laureate for the present time ­dimension in the field of leadership”. The citation praised him for his ­”exceptional intelligence and foresight, and demonstrated moral courage and leadership”. The prize is worth $1m. I may be cynical, but I cannot help viewing this prize as absurd, given Blair’s silent complicity in Israel’s ­continuing crimes against the ­Palestinian people.

 Avi Shlaim is professor of international relations at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and the author of Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations (Verso, 2009). His fee for this article has been donated to Medical Aid for Palestine

UN unsure if Gaza probes set up

Posted in Activism, Everyday life in Gaza, Everyday life in the West Bank, Gaza reconstruction, Gaza war crimes investigation, International community, International conferences, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Peace process, Siege on 05/02/2010 by 3071km

Source: Aljazeera English

The UN secretary general has said he cannot determine if the Israelis and Palestinians have complied with a UN demand to carry out credible and independent investigations into alleged war crimes during the war in Gaza more than a year ago.

Ban Ki-moon told the UN General Assembly in a report released on Thursday that both sides were still looking into the allegations made in a September report by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge and former international war crimes prosecutor.

“No determination can be made on the implementation of the [UN] resolution by the parties concerned,” Ban said in his report to the 192-member assembly that contains responses provided by Israel and the Palestinians.

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, said anyone looking to the UN chief to make a stand on the investigations demanded would have been disappointed.

In his 72-page report, Ban mostly forwards reports to him from the Palestinians and Israelis and makes no assessment himself, our correspondent said.

‘Hope’ over probes

Last Friday, Ban received a 46-page report from Israel in which it denied violating international law, but admitted “tragic results” due to the “complexity and scale” of conducting a military operation in a heavily populated area.

 Ban highlighted Israel’s assertion that two of its senior officers – a brigadier-general and a colonel – were disciplined for the firing of white phosphorous shells towards a UN compound during the Gaza war.

Also last Friday, Ban was handed a preliminary report from the Palestinians in which they said a commission of five well-known judges and legal experts had been set up.

In his report on Thursday, Ban said he had on several occasions urged both sides “to carry out credible domestic investigations into the conduct of the Gaza conflict”.

“I hope that such steps will be taken wherever there are credible allegations of human rights abuses,” he added.

A UN spokesman said the General Assembly would meet soon to discuss Ban’s Gaza report.

The Goldstone report accused Israel and Palestinian fighters of war crimes during the Gaza war.

Most of criticism in the report was directed towards Israel, which was accused of using “disproportionate force” and deliberately targeting civilians.

It recommended that its findings be passed to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at The Hague if Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian faction which governs the Gaza Strip, fail to carry out credible independent investigations of the claims by Friday – six months from when the report was submitted.

About 1,400 Palestinians – many of them women and children – were killed in the war. Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, were also killed.

Russell Tribunal on Palestine – May this tribunal prevent the crime of silence

Posted in Activism, Gaza war crimes investigation, History, International community, International conferences, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Non-violent resistance, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Peace process, Siege, Videos, War crimes with tags , , , , , , , , on 03/09/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 4th March 2009

Source: Russell Tribunal Palestine

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The recent war waged by the Israeli government and the Israeli army on the Gaza strip, already under a blockade, underlines the particular responsibility of the United States and of the European Union in the perpetuation of the injustice done to the Palestinian people, deprived of its fundamental rights.

It is important to mobilize the international public opinion so that the United Nations and Member States adopt the necessary measures to end the impunity of the Israeli State, and to reach a just and durable solution to this conflict.

Following an appeal from Ken Coates, Nurit Peled, and Leila Shahid, and with the support of over a hundred well-known international personalities, it has been decided to organise a Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

Based on the Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued on the 9th of July 2004 and on the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Organisation, this Russell Tribunal on Palestine is a civic initiative promoting international law as the core element of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Further than Israel’s responsibility, it aims to demonstrate the complicity of Third States and International Organisations which, through their passivity or active support, allow Israel to violate the rights of the Palestinian People, and let this situation be continued and aggravated.

The next step will then be to establish how this complicity results in international responsibilities.

Through a decentralised functioning, the organisation of public sessions and other public events, the organisation of a Russell Tribunal on Palestine is designed as a large communication event, with widespread media coverage over the tribunal and its outcomes. Indeed, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine having no official mandate, its impact rests on its ability to mobilise public opinion, so that the latter puts pressure on governments to obtain that they change their policies in the ways that are necessary to reach a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

What is After

Posted in International community, International conferences, Israel, Israel politics, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Siege, Uncategorized, USA foreign policy, War crimes on 23/06/2009 by 3071km

Obama and Netanyahu meeting at the White House.Zimbio.

Obama and Netanyahu meeting at the White House.Zimbio.

What is After

U.S. President Barack Obama declared after the crucial talks with Israeli the Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu the last two weeks at the White House that , the  Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories should be “stopped”,  and reiterated the call for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the two states.  He  said “I think it’s not only in the interest of Palestinians but also in the interest of the Israelis,United States and the international community to find a solution on the basis of the two countries”.

Meanwhile, Obama said he would decide at the end of this year, whether Iran is serious in the talks on its nuclear program or not. “We will not talk forever”, with the Iranians. “I expect that if we start talks soon, shortly after the Iranian elections, we will have a good impression after the end of the year on whether talks were progressing in the right direction”.

Netanyahu also said that the possibility of achieving “arrangement” to allow the Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side. Netanyahu said that he  shares Obama’s  desire to achieve progress in the peace process, stressing that he wants to start negotiations with the Palestinians “immediately.” “I want to say clearly that we do not want to rule the Palestinians.”

Netanyahu did not mention the possibility of a Palestinian state. But he said that on the other hand that if the Palestinian guarantee the security of Israel and  recognize Israel as a Jewish state, “then I think that we will be able to find arrangements in which the Israelis and Palestinians live side by side in dignity, security and peace.”
Palestinian Presidency welcomes Obama’s remarks:

In the first reaction to Obama’s statement, the Palestinian presidency: Obam’s declarations are  encouraging, but expressed disappointment over the remarks of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said, “Obama’s remarks about the two-state solution are encouraging, but Netanyahu has ignored the two-state solution and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people had been disappointing.”

He added “We are waiting for President Abbas to meet with Obama for the reality of the situation until after the development of Palestinian and Arab policy”.

He said “the Palestinian Authority is committed to a two-state solution and a just and comprehensive peace based on Arab and international authorities, especially the Arab peace initiative.”

Prior to the commencement of the movement  of Obama’s administration to revive the stalled peace process, say analysts, that the halo of the tension that surrounded the meeting, exaggerated, and that Netanyahu, like all other heads of the Israeli governments, in a position not only enables him to cope with the most important ally of the Jewish state, in return for his cooperation with the American administration in its quest moving towards the peace process yield results.
Solution of establishing a Palestinian state on the Palestinian occupied territories by Israel in 1967,  meets the international consensus, even among the majority of Israelis, according to opinion polls. Obama’s administration is pushing, and his predecessor, former President George Bush, in order to reach a two-state solution, is the focus of efforts by the United States to achieve peace between the two sides.

Netanyahu, who leads the right-wing coalition, rejects the principle of establishing a Palestinian state, on the grounds that an independent Palestinian state would be a threat to the security of Israel, and noted that any Palestinian entity must have sovereign powers which are limited and have no army.

The U.S Administration assured  since taking office in Last January, it’s based on the resolution of the two states live in peace side by side.

It is expected that the head of the Israeli government agrees to hold talks with the Palestinians and alleviate the restrictions imposed by the government and assist in building the Palestinian economy, according to “Newyork times”

And since taking office six weeks ago, he promised to hold talks with the Palestinians on a  the path of economic and political security.

Netanyahu described the attempts to reach a final agreement at the present time as “misleading” and “useless,” arguing that the priorities should be limited to the administrative capacity-building and economic security of the Palestinians, and to deal with Iran, which he sees an obstacle in any peace efforts of the region.
Netanyahu sees that for Washington to achieve its goals in the region, passes through the curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and geopolitical aspirations, prior looking in the  Palestinian Israeli conflict.

And he based his claims on the Arab consensus that curbing the Islamic Republic of priorities, in view of the threats posed on the stability of the region.

Iran’s support for the “Hamas” movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, provide a sufficient  justification for Netanyahu for refusing to move forward in the peace process, and even the removal of Iran aside.

For his part, Obama will argue that the rally of world to confront Iran’s aspirations will require the dissolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, in the first place.

Indeed,The Obama’s administrations adopted the option of diplomacy to resolve the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program, but it did not enact the sanctions, if the government of Iran intransigence.

How to deal with Iran

The Israeli government has demanded Washington to set a timetable for Iran to respond to international demands, in an attempt to prevent them from gaining more time to increase its nuclear capabilities. Netanyahu has repeatedly warned of Israel is ready to strike nuclear facilities if diplomacy failed.

Obama agreed with the leaders of Israel that the offer of negotiations will not be open to no end to the Islamic Republic, but he will give more time to get a chance success of diplomacy to take a serious part this time.

Israel agreed not to launch an attack on Iran, such as consultation with the U.S. ally, had warned the military and security leaders that military action will only further destabilize the region.

Obama says that the Department continue to expand settlements in the West Bank, and the movement of the Jewish state to expand the scope of its control over East Jerusalem, has undermined the stability and opportunities for moving the peace process.

Israeli governments have not responded to international appeals to stop the expansion of Jewish settlements.

Why all the rush?

And the Israeli prime minster wonders of the urgency to declare a Palestinian state, amid a rift, it is hoped, in the fabric of Palestine, where the lack of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the political power to be a partner in peace.

The opinion poll showed that Abbas, whose mandate expired last January, Hamas will lose face in case of an election now.

Gaza

Prompted the Israeli military campaign on the sector at the beginning of the year, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, to the priority the Bush administration, blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza, as well as fighting in Palestinian politics, has prevented the arrival of 4.5 billion dollars, provided by donor countries for the reconstruction of the sector.