Palestinian Autonomy: A Palestinian State in the making
It is . . . worth remembering that Oslo was the brainchild of the dovish wing of the Israeli Labour Party, that all but one of the relevant agreements were concluded prior to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995.
the Netanyahu administration’s manner is certainly more aggressive and provocative than that of the suave Peres . . the former basically picked up where the latter left off.
Netanyahu’s programme is novel only insofar as it is being implemented by a novice.
Middle East International 27/3/98
April was a month that witnessed further convolutions with regard to what was left of the peace process. America succumbed to pressure (backed by the traditional pro-Zionist lobby in the Senate when 81 US senators, and 115 members of the House of Representatives, signed a letter to Clinton warning him not to publish the US peace proposals) from Netanyahu not to publish its ideas with regard to the stalled talks until Israel had agreed to it. Not that the envisaged handover of a further 13.1 per cent of West Bank territory to the PNA was anything to write home about. If the US had to publish its ideas and meet with the inevitable rejection by Netanyahu, the US policy would be shown as bankrupt – nothing to offer and no willingness to bring the current Israeli government to heel.
The US plan apparently demanded that the Palestinians agree to specific security demands: ban “incitement” in the Palestinian controlled areas; investigate, along with Israel, allegations of “incitement”; renounce (yet again) those parts of the Palestine National Charter which allegedly call for the destruction of Israel. In turn 12% of this further 13% of land will be passed from total Israeli control (Area C) to joint control (Area B). As a compensation Israel would convert 12% of the current Area B territory into Area A ie total Palestinian control.
The assassination of the Hamas fighter Muhi al-Din Sharif on 29th March – as Yasser Arafat was meeting the US envoy, Dennis Ross – introduced a dose of poison into the situation. Following Palestinian, Israeli and CIA examination of the scene of the incident, conflicting accusations followed. Israeli intelligence was blamed. They in turn said it was a Palestinian internal matter and hinted that the PNA might be responsible. The latter retorted that the Israel was the culprit, claiming that Israel’s secret service, the Shin Bet had informed Sharif’s family, at midnight on the 29th,of the death – before the body had been identified.
Perhaps it was the reported cautioning from the US that Arafat should “accept Israel’s denial of involvement at face value” and “redirect the investigation in ways in-harmful to the peace process” that brought about the eventual accusation, following a speedy enquiry, that Hamas, itself, was to blame.
At the end of April Tony Blair paid a visit to Israel and departed having arranged a meeting between Netanyahu and Arafat in London during May. During the visit all was not sweetness and light. Blair told journalists that a memorandum of understanding concerning technology and industry would, effectively, remain on the back-burner where it had been for the previous 6 months. In his turn, Netanyahu, tried his hand at a technique which has been well honed in the US. Published estimates of Labour’s election campaign funds indicate that a quarter came from Jewish sources. In preparation for his meeting with Blair, Netanyahu held a private meeting with a major Jewish contributor to the British Labour Party coffers.
On a visit to Beach Camp in Gaza, it was reported in the Middle East International that a new reality was presented to him as he experienced the appalling conditions of this refugee camp. In a private gesture, toys and clothes will be sent from the Blair household. Whether this changes his “romantic biblical notions of Israel” remains to be seen. Meanwhile the eventual meeting in London achieved nothing except for agreeing to meet in Washington for further talks with the PNA, alone, accepting the American proposal of 13% withdrawal. Clinton still refused to publish his proposals for taking the “peace process” forward in case Netanyahu was offended. It remains to be seen if the threat of the U.S. pulling out of the “peace process” will materialise, as was threatened if no progress was forthcoming. Not, as far as seasoned observers were concerned, that it would make any difference to peace in the Middle East.
March of the One Million
This was a demonstration organised by the PNA on May 14th to commemorate the Palestinian Nakba,the Catastrophe, of 50 years ago when the state of Israel was declared on Palestinian land. It took place within the autonomous zones and ended in blood shed. There were eight deaths in the Gaza Strip with hundreds of casualties throughout the occupied territories. One feature which caught the attention of the media was the demonstration at Dheisheh Refugee Camp near Bethlehem. Here, the refugees demonstrated with keys – real and symbolic – of their homes from which they were expelled or fled five decades previously.
Just as the Palestinians have to die in order to prove they exist, the Israelis – be they settlers or soldiers – have been brought up to kill Palestinians in order to prove to themselves daily that their presence on the stolen land is acquiring legitimacy. . .
All the gigantic achievements the Israelis have made, including their nuclear bombs have failed to provide them witha modicum of confidence or reassurance. Their state was established on a series of lies and myths which they knew how to implant in the minds of those in the West. . . They continue having to lie to protect their earlier lies and there are those in the United States who are prepared to believe them in all circumstances. So the lies turn into policies, strategies and alliances.
al-Hayat 15 May 1998 [quoted in MEI 22/5/98]
In Washington, Netanyahu reigned supreme, humiliating the Clinton administration, refusing to make any public concessions to the US peace proposals and, in numerous speeches, successfully plugging his “security” theme. In Congress he was mobbed by members straining to clasp his hand and pass on their good wishes.
Israel’s intransigence throughout the peace talks was totally ignored. Wrath was reserved for their own Secretary of State, Albright, for allegedly being too enthusiastic towards the Palestinian position. Senator Matt Salmon of Arizona was typical of the fawning politicians “I will apologise to Prime Minister Netanyahu today for the administration’s dangerous bullying of Israel.”
Meanwhile, no one talked concerning the need for Palestinian security, the size of territory under their control. As thing stand they might gain control of well under 10% of the original Palestine. Well short of the derisory 42.88% of their own land offered at the time of Partition – when Palestinians outnumbered Jews by two to one. Indications were that Israel was angling for more aid to cover its “withdrawal costs” from 13% of the occupied West Bank. The House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, said that Israel would probably be prepared to grant $1 billion to cover this cost. The Pentagon announced $73m worth of parts and other equipment for the Patriot missiles to be held by Israel.
Various reports were published
The Palestine Human Rights Centre reported that in 1996, 2 500 Palestians lost their Jerusalem ID card. Israel claims only 638 were withdrawn. The Centre also took up the cases of 10 000 children under the age of 16 whom the Israeli Ministry of the Interior had refused to register because the occupation authorities questioned the residency rights of their parents.
UNRWA reported that its camps housed 3.5 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and occupied Palestine.
Over 3 000 prisoners were still being held in Israeli jails, including 100 minors. In addition 350 administrative detainees were being held without trial, according to the Prisoners’ Society.
In 1997 the occupation authorities confiscated about 60 000 acres of land and demolished 197 houses according to LAW. Twenty Palestinian were killed by the Israeli army.
A report on a conference on the development of the Jordan Valley (the Ghour) was published, giving an insight to changes imposed in the area since it was occupied. Eleven communities – villages and refugee camps no longer exist. Today there is the city of Jericho, 12 villages and two refugee camps. Palestine cultivated land dropped from 17 500 acres in 1967 to 13 000 at present, the difference explained by the construction of illegal settlements or vast areas deemed “closed military zones.”
Water available to the Palestinians has dropped from 65 million cubic metres to 47 – due stringent restrictions on sinking wells and pumping from the River Jordan. 26 settlements have been constructed, now inhabited by 4 500 settlers who consume 40 million cubic metres of water from 30 major wells – significantly more than that consumed by their Palestinian “neighbours.”
To pre-empt final status peace talks there are plans to construct more settlements with talk of up to a million settlers for the area.
Housing conditions are appalling. With up to 90% of the Valley in Israeli hands (Area C), fresh construction is rarely allowed. In the Jiftlik area the occupation authoritiies clearly aim to evict the Palestinian residents. Population centre suffer from a low level of public services – electricity, drinking water, roads, clinics, education. Children in the valley walk 10km or more every day. Settler children go by luxury coach..
The consensus is that any measures implemented over the past 30 years have been to further Israel’s strategic interests in the area. [ See article at end of Briefing Paper]
Some of the camp dwellers of Steadfast Camp at the foot of the Mount of Olives – composed of families whose homes have been demolished, have been refused residency permits, had their ID cards removed by the occupation authorities – moved into an empty building in the Sheikh Jarrah quarter (owned by the Islamic waqf). Of the original 70 families, 12 moved into the building to continue their protest. Others have mostly found temporary shelter with relatives.
On May 6th a settler from the extreme right wing Ateret Cohanim was gunned down near the Wailing Wall. The immediate reaction of the settler movement was to set up tents near the spot inside the Old City walls at Burj Al- Laqlaq,Herod’s Gate, vowing not to leave until permission had been given to build a settlement. This was regarded as “one of the fiercest attacks on Palestinian property”, a first step in controlling the area. Later in the day, two Palestinians suffered severe gunshot wounds in a drive-by shooting in Beit Hanoun to the north of the city.
On the 13th, fifty year old Kheiri Alqam,a Palestinian labourer on his way to work in West Jerusalem was stabbed to death as he passed through the ultra-Orthodox area of Mea Shearim. The fifth such stabbing, but first fatality in a month.
The following day an arson attack was carried out on one of the outer gates of al Aqsa Mosque. The Israeli authorities were accused of complicity in an attack attributed to settler terrorists. The gate at Bab al-Ghwanmeh is situated next to both an Israeli police station and army post. No attempt was made to stop the attack or apprehend those involved.
24th The 31st Israeli so-called “Jerusalem Day”. A band of singing, dancing settlers, under heavy Israeli military escort made an unsuccessful attempt to enter the Temple Mount in the compound of al Aqsa Mosque. A military parade with about 13 000 soldiers strutting through West Jerusalem also took place. This brought an immediate response from the Palestinian mission to the UN. Apart from breaching international law and UN resolutions, this attempt at marking the anniversary of the “unification” of the city breached both the Hague and the Geneva Conventions.
The situation at Herod’s Gate became tense on 25th May. The settlers set up shacks on the ground. These were taken over, the following day, by members of the Palestinian Legislative Council who faced the police batons and rifle butts in order to hold a session of the PLC in the shacks. The next day, Wednesday, the Israelis announced that the site – which originally contained the premises of the Welfare Association until it was demolished by the occupying forces in 1996 – was now an archaeological dig. The land was deemed to be Jewish property under the jurisdiction of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The extreme settler group, Ateret Cohanim, will be granted the status of “partner” in the “dig”. Indications are that back in 1991, housing minister Ariel Sharon instructed Israel’s Land Authority to transfer the property to Ateret Cohanim for the purpose of “building a 200 unit neighbourhood on the site.”
These actions were challenged by an Israeli anti-Judaisation group, Ir Shalem, which took legal action over the transfer of custodianship to Ateret Cohanim. However, as PLC member Ahmad Qrei’ pointed out, ‘The Israelis are arguing about property to which they have no right in the first place.’
This action coincided with the takeover of a family home in the Aqbat Saraya by 30 Ateret Cohanim settlers. The Palestinian family, a woman and her 14 year old mentally-retarded son, was evicted from a house which had been the family’s for generations. The settlers claimed that the house was Jewish owned and emptied the furniture out into the street before evicting the couple. Reports indicated that that the settler activity took place hours after a meeting between Netanyahu and Irving Moskowitz, the American bingo magnate and financial “godfather” of Zionist settlement in Jerusalem.
This was followed by the demolition of five Palestinian homes – decreed by the occupation authorities not to have had a building license – in the quarters of Al Tur, Jabal Al-Mukaber, Nabi Samuel and Beit Sureik. A marble factory at A Ram was also demolished.
On June 8th, settlers from the settler group El’ad took over four properties in the village of Silwan which lies in the shadow of the city. This Arab village has long been a target of the extremist settlers who believe that the village stands on the site of the City of David. These actions brought the number of El’ad acquired sites in the village to 17. While West Jerusalem’s mayor, Ehud Olmert, flippantly commented, ‘Jews moving into their houses . . . a natural phenomenon’ Others were not so convinced.
Six participants at a human right conference in Jerusalem, from the USA, Canada and France, were arrested while demonstrating with the villagers. There were claims that the Israeli government was involved in the action. Seven years ago, at the request of settlers, one of the properties was declared “absentee property” since the owner lived in Amman. His daughter, a Mrs Karameen, who lived in the property was then evicted from the family home. It had lain empty since that time – waiting for the settlers to make their move.
The following day the Israeli Interior Ministry authorised the construction of up to 58 settler housing units at Beit Orot settlement on the Mount of Olives. It was felt that this could be a prelude to a further 200 housing units in the area of Karm Al-Mufti in Sheikh Jarrah – all part of a wider plan outlined by Ariel Sharon when he was housing minister six years previously.
Business as Usual
Under the pretext of its so-called security, Israel can violate every single international agreement, all human decency, torture and murder Palestinians, build a nuclear arsenal and possess weapons of mass destruction, not implement peace agreements, demolish homes, expropriate land, wage wars, build settlements, and accuse whoever questions these acts of being anti-Semitic. Israel can do this and get away with it and still pretend to be the only democracy in the Middle East.
Editorial, The Jerusalem Times, 22/5/98
29th The death of alleged top Hamas activist, Mehyeddin Sharif, who was first shot dead then blown up in a parked car, led to widespread accusations of Israeli/Palestine National Authority involvement. While Israel, uncharacteristically, denied any involvement, the PNA were quick to blame an internal feud within Hamas, a feud of which no one appeared to be aware of, until the PNA announced the results of their investigation. Hamas, while not exonerating the PNA from blame, attributed the murder to Israeli actions. Meanwhile the PNA made widespread arrests of alleged Hamas activists.
30th Land Day commemorative events took place throughout Israel and Palestine, to commemorate the deaths of 6 Palestinians, 22years ago, mowed down by Israeli police as they demonstrated against the confiscation of their land in Galilee. The PNA issued orders, Intifada style, to the population and businesses within the autonomous zones with a certain degree of confusion being reported.
2nd Within Israel, three Palestinian homes in the village of Um Sahili in Lower Galilee, were demolished by the Israeli authorities. The following week clashes took place with Israeli police intent on preventing the re-
construction of the houses. It was claimed that the demolitions were racist, the intent being to annex the land to Adi settlement.
Meanwhile racism, of a different nature, was being exposed. The PNA Ministry for Trade and Industry called upon the International Trade Association to stop Israel hijacking Palestinian products and selling them under Israeli trade names. Apart from embroidery and citrus products, West Bank stone, food such as falafel, humus and tehina were named. Israeli practices breached the UN Charter which protects cultural heritage in occupied territories.
Further racist actions were reported in the Naqab (Negev) Desert, directed at the 120 000 Bedouins – all Israeli citizens – who struggle to survive. With Judaisation of the area very much in mind (allegations of plans to import as many as 500 000 colonisers in to the area have been reported), the Israeli government took the decision to transfer
25 000 acres of so-called “state land” to the Jewish Agency. This will mean the land will become Jewish owned land – unable to be rented to the non-Jew, thereby denying the Bedouin Arab the right, for example, to graze their sheep, while Jewish cattle farmers have access to the thousands of acres.
To-date Israel has refused to recognise 36 Arab villages in the Naqab, denying the residents the right to cultivate their land. Crops of barley and wheat were recently sprayed with herbicides by Israeli Border Guards. Several Bedouin have been injured recently following clashes with the Guards.
9th Hamas’ Gaza spokesman, Aziz Rantisi, was arrested by the PNA in the aftermath of the murder of Muhi al-Din Sharif for “delivering statements that attack the Palestinian Authority.” This was followed by the closing down of Reuters Gaza office for “disseminating fanaticism.” By the 15th April, 50 Palestinians had been detained by the PNA without charge. The police were mobilised in a show of strength, patrolling the streets of Gaza in armoured personnel carriers.
The confession of Ghassan Addasi, a 19 year old Bir Zeit University student, to killing Sharif, was regarded as suspect, not least because torture was implicated in his interrogation – sleep deprivation, prolonged suspension from the ceiling, extensive beatings and threats to violate his sister (by Jibril Rajub, head of the Palestinian Security Forces who had taken a personal interest in the investigation.) By the time the immediate reaction to Sharif’s murder had exhausted itself, the statements emanating from some Israeli officials led some observers to believe that Sharif had been executed, by the PNA, on Israeli orders. Perhaps an Israeli attempt to sow seeds of disunity amongst the two main Palestinian political forces.
15th Israel released Ahmad Qatamesh from Damoun prison, following his five and half year incarceration without trial. Qatamesh was the longest serving Palestinian administrative detainee, having endured interrogation, torture, illegal tranfers from occupied territory into Israeli penal establishments, illegal conditions of detentions.
In contravention of the Oslo Accords, the crossing points into the occupied territories have been turned into traps for Palestinian travellers. In 1997, 151 Palestinians were arrested at various crossing points. The Oslo accords state that Israel has to adopt an unobtrusive presence in the Palestinian passport control section.
On the 30th hundreds villagers expelled from Biram in Upper Galilee in 1950 visited their village. Despite an Israeli High Court ruling a year later, successive governments have refused to implement the decision to allow them back to their demolished village. On the same day villagers from al Shajara, in Tiberias, visited the remains of their village from which they fled in terror 50 years ago.
Towards the end of the month Israeli soldiers prevented workers from the Palestinian Energy Authority from completing an 8 metre stretch of drilling required to connect an electricty supply. The work was being carried out close to the Morag settlement in the Gaza Strip. It will mean along delay in upgrading the supply to Khan Yunis which suffers from blackouts and voltage drops.
In a similar incident in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military prevented a factory from installing a weighbridge. Although situated in an area under total Palestinian control, it is claimed that the project will impede the movement of military and settler traffic near Gush Katif – hence the occupiers have a right to intervene.
In the Bethlehem area the occupying authorities diverted much needed water from Palestinian areas to the local settlements beacause of a heatwave and the onset of the summer season. As much as one third of the 300 cubic metres per hour allocated to the town and its environs was diverted – with the consequent hardship arising out of a severe water shortage for the Palestinians.
On the 6th a settler, from Aleh, fired 11 bullets into a Palestinian youth from Qaryut near Nablus, killing him. On the
same day, another youth was arrested for allegedly trying to stab a soldier in near the settler enclave in Hebron.
12th. The Israeli Labour Party leader, Ehud Barak, toured five settlements in the West Bank. In Netanyahu fashion he declared, with reference to Bet El – a “political settlement” near Ramallah “We will remain in Bet El forever.”
14th The March of the Keys, in commemoration al Nakba focused on the refugee camps near Bethlehem, particularly Deheish where the enthusiasm of the children contrasted sharply with garbage, parched landscape. The refugee camp had no water for the previous 25 days. The mood of the demonstrators was summed up by one resident,
The refugees are the ones who lost out big time. I want Israel to recognise my rights to my land, to my house, to my grandfather’s house
The Jerusalem Times May 15 1998
In Nablus, as many as 50 000 took to the streets, including masked, armed Fatah activists.. A separate March of 15 000 Hamas supporters also took place in the city.
In the Gaza Strip thousands of youths vented their frustrations, stoning checkpoints and the tiny settler community at Gush Qatif – protected by armed soldiers. A mixture of metal coated rubber bullets and live ammunition killed five (including a male nurse administering first-aid) and wounded about 400. In the West Bank, at least one demonstrator was killed at Qalandia refugee camp, scores injured in Hebron and Ramallah. The Israeli military threatened to enter the autonomous zones if calm was not restored. Two days later the Labour leader, Ehud Barak, met Arafat for about 15 minutes. Just about enough time for Barak to warn his “partner in peace” that he should “restrain the riots in the territories.”
At least 20 Hebronites were injured during 6 days of clashes with the occupation forces during the third week of May. The commercial area between the settler enclave and the rest of Hebron was closed down affecting 100 shops. This then rose to 200 in mid-week. The action followed a firebomb incident in the enclave vicinity.
In another development, the occupation forces deployed soldiers around Hebron, tightening the control of access to the city.
26th. Two prominent Palestinian businessmen were arrested by the occupying forces, along with the deputy mayor of Umm el Fahm, on charges that the Ramallah based Beit el-Mal financial institution was a front for the Islamic Hamas. One of the arrested, Mazen Sunukrot, owner of a successful food company is also the director of Paltrade which promotes Palestinian trade with the outside world. Beit El-Mal, licensed by Israel, uses the Islamic shared profit system, paying dividends but not interest. The arrests were largely regarded as an attempt to sabotage the Palestinian economy. The businessmen were released over a week later with no charges being laid.
The soldiers responsible for the fatal shooting of 3 Palestinian workers and injury of 5 others at a roadblock near Hebron on March 11 were acquitted on grounds of “self defence”. The workers were killed in circumstances which clearly indicated other than “self-defence”. Arab Knesset member, Talab al-Sane’ commented,
It is granting permission that allows innocent Palestinians to be gunned down. This means the Israeli government holds Arab life in cheap regard. It allows the shedding of Arab blood freely.
The Jerusalem Times 29/5/98
On May 28th settlers forced their way past a Palestinian check-point into the Nabi Yousef shrine in Nablus, ignoring the agreed requirement of prior coordination with the Palestinian authorities. Demonstrators from nearby refugee camps attacked the settlers and the following Israeli patrols with stones.
At Nabi Samuel, a village in north west Jerusalem, a house was demolished for the third time over the past year because of a lack of building license from the occupation authorities. This time building materials were confiscated.
PARC, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee, reported that since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 over 7 500 acres of mostly arable land had been seized for settlement expansion and bypass roads. Many trees had been uprooted. In 1997, 531 farmers had helped reclaim 1 000 acres of uncultivated land. 126 000 cubic metres of terraces had been constructed in 94 different locations, benefiting over 1000 farmers. All of this in the face of difficulties created by the occupation.
Ra’fat Muhammed Bardawil was shot dead by an Israeli soldier at close range as he walked past the Morag settlement in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian authorities immediately protested pointing out that he had carried no weapons and dismissed the Israeli pretext that he was carrying a bomb. He had worked as a farmer on the nearby Naveh Dakalim settlement.
A Palestinian delivery man was stabbed to death by a fellow Israeli worker. The victim had worked for the company for 3 years, the attacker for one month. Zionist extremists were implicated. On the same day yet another stabbing of a Palestinian in the ultra-Orthodox area of Mea Shearim was reported.
On the 4th, a human chain formed along the Green Line in the Tulkarem area to commemorate 50 years ago. They were joined by delegates from the Israeli peace movements.
Palestinian National Authority
The PNA warned against Israeli attempts to open Qalandia airport near Jerusalem for international flights. A spokesman said “This is an attempt by Israel to get the world to think of Qalandia as an airport under Israeli sovereignty.”
The decision by the PNA to postpone “until further notice” the local municipal elections in the occupied territories attracted little attention. The official reasons – “unhelpful political conditions” – “Israeli interference” cut little ice with the critics. Other elections had taken place before, including those that put Arafat and the PLC into power, within the shadow of Israeli tanks without such reservations being expressed. It was felt that the real fear was the very real possibility of defeat for Arafat and his acquiescence to Israeli diktat vis-vis the Oslo Accords. His autocracy would have been on trial with a Hamas victory a possibility.
The Palestinian Higher Court of Justice ordered the release of prominent Hamas member, Abdel Azziz Rantisi, held in Gaza prison on undeclared grounds since April 9. Although the PNA had about a week to respond, some regarded it as a test of the judicial system and awaited with interest to see if the PNA would comply.
On June 16th Arafat began a consultation process following his decision to dispose of his nearly four year old cabinet. The hope appeared to be that confidence would be restored in the PNA and his own leadership. To date Hamas and the PFLP have opposed participation in the new cabinet since, amongst other reasons, Arafat is the sole decision -maker in the PNA. Some Islamists were very suspicious of Arafat’s intentions. They did not want to be seen to be in the “same boat” as the PNA since it could weaken the Islamist movement.
It is thought that pressure from the donor countries, particularly the USA, was responsible for the move. This resulted from concern over financial mismanagement and accountability of the PNA.
Ahmad Qatamesh, the longest serving administrative detainee in the Israeli penal system was set free on the 17th April. His release from six years in detention was accompanied by rumours that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine had reached a deal with Israel. This was denied by the PFLP.
Israel’s administrative detention policy, based on laws promulgated by the British Mandate, have always been considered null and void, and no legal basis on which to detain “undesirables”. This was reiterated by Palestinian jurist, Shawqi Al-Ayaseh.
In the first three and a half months of 1998, 96 Palestinians were placed under administrative detention. This figure did not include those who had their periods of detention renewed – a common occupation practice.
On the 20th May, in response to six petitions brought to the Israeli High Court by the Israeli human rights body, B’Tselem, the Court decided to postpone a verdict on the use of torture against Palestinian detainees. In their wisdom, the judges decided that any ban would have to be decided jointly by the Knesset and the Israeli government. Various methods of torture to extort confessions and information have long been used by Israel’s internal secret service, Shin Bet or GSS.Use of so-called “moderate physical pressure” was sanctioned by the Landau Commission over 10 years ago.
B’Tselem claimed that up to 1 500 Palestinians are interrogated by the Shin Bet annually. The torture, which the Shin Bet defended in the Supreme Court as necessary to ensure the “security” of the interrogator, has already been condemned by the UN as in contravention of the International Convention on Torture (Israel ratified the Convention in 1991 and, in 1997, reaffirmed that the prohibition on torture in Israel was “absolute.”) Methods used include violent shaking (responsible for the death of at least one detainee), sleep deprivation, hooding and playing ear-splitting music, tying detainees in awkward positions, confining detainees in small ‘cupboards’.
Settlers and settlements
19th April A confrontation between Palestinian shepherds and Israeli settlers intent on expanding the Maun settlement near Yatta, Hebron, resulted in the death of one settler (accidentally shot by another settler) and the severe injury of the shepherd. He had been attacked by a group of settlers on horseback and 3 large dogs. Nine Palestinians were arrested, their tents were burned and a caravan established on the site as a prelude to settlement expansion. The dead settler, Dov Driban, had been at the forefront of the harassment and killing of Palestinians – all in an attempt to illegally confiscate land for settlement construction.
It was reported that a settlement campaign was about to be launched in the south of the West Bank. Israeli minister of Infrastructure outlined plans “The surroundings of Hebron”. With 6 new settlements the Palestinian towns near the 1967 boundary Green Line will be encircled. The settlements will act as a buffer between the towns and Israel, according to the Arab Studies Society.
On April 7th, 100 Palestinian families were sent notice by the Custodian of Absentee Property to leave about 5 000 acres of land. These families can expect to experience tactics such as expulsion from their homes, sheep confiscated, caves dynamited and shacks demolished with a dose of anarchic, armed settlers flung in for good measure. Another favoured tactic is to impose an order preventing families from leaving the area – which makes life totally unbearable.
Already these measures are being used against the villagers of Arab al Ramadin, Turqumia, Beit Kahil, Beit Ula, Nuba, Kharas and Sourif in an effort to confiscate 30 000acres of Palestinian land adjacent to the Green Line. Foremost amongst the Military Orders created for this purpose is MO 278, issued on March 27, 1996 which prevents Palestinians from building or living on their land adjacent to the Green Line without a permit from the “Civil Administration” – a permit which is, of course, never granted.
It would contaminate all of Israel’s customs documents and preferential access to the European market. For the first time Israel would be compelled to say where precisely its exports come from.
Middle East International 8/5/98
The European Union decided to end the preferential treatment long accorded to Israeli made goods originating from the settlements in the occupied territories (which include East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights). In the short term the Palestinians will suffer. Many Palestinian goods are marketed as “Israeli” as a means of avoiding Israel’s discriminatory policies towards Palestinian exports – policies which result in spoiling or delay of the goods. In addition an irate Netanyahu threatened the banning of Palestinian workers into Israel, the cancelling of any advantages given to the Palestinians under the Paris Economic Accords.
It is reckoned that up to 120 Israeli products amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars will be affected. However the EU insisted that it was only ensuring the “correct implementation” of its two year old agreement with Israel. Sanctions were not being imposed.. With the EU recognising Palestine as a trade and customs reality, and with the recent signing of a more ambitious trade and cooperation pact between the EU and Palestine (never been implemented properly because of Israeli obstruction) Israeli exporters were warned to stop claiming Palestinian produced items from the West Bank and Gaza as “made in Israel”.
While Netanyahu’s strategic thinking scarcely extends beyond measures to prevent Palestinians from building houses near Israeli settlements or . . access roads, the more thoughtful strategic experts consider Israel’s future in the 21st century that will see proliferation of long-range missiles bearing weapons of mass destruction.
It is hard-nosed strategic calculation . . . that sets Israel’s strategic thinkers firmly on the side of an equitable settlement with the Palestinians. In their unabashed advocacy of naked self-interest the strategists finally reach conclusions closely resembling the views of the peace movement and other enlightened circles
Israel is now the only undeclared nuclear power and evades inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Since the mid-60’s, at the instigation of President Kennedy, the CIA fostered military ccoperation between India and Israel. This then extended in to the nuclear programme.
Prior to Pakistan carrying out its recent nuclear tests, Pakistani radar twice spotted, on May 27, an F-16 fighter jet on its screen. India has no such plane at its disposal. Such a plane is part of the Israeli airforce.
Its appearance caused a red-alert in Pakistan’s air defence system in anticipation of a pre-emptive strike.
Oslo Accords and Ethnic Cleansing – the reality?
The Jordan valley is the West Bank’s “natural greenhouse”. Its 63 000 acres is about 60% of the Palestinian horticultural land. Up to 40 000 Palestinians live or work in the Valley.
On June 11th Netanyahu conceded that further redeployment was a problem for himself. Because it involved withdrawal from “open areas” of the West Bank, “empty of Palestinians, but replete with historical import for us.” The Jordan Valley features as one of these “open areas”.
Following the hostilities in June 1967, 25 000 acres were decreed “closed military zones”. Twenty six Zionist settlements with 4 000 settlers were established on the floor of the valley. Eventually Palestinians were left with about 24 000 acres of cultivated and irrigated land. It was hoped that Oslo would change things – for the better.
In February 1997 the 350 Jahalin bedouin who lived on the slopes between Jerusalem and Jericho were forcibly evicted to shipping containers at Jerusalem’s rubbish tip at Abu Dis. The same fate awaits a further 2 000 who live in the vicinity of the massive settlement of Ma’ale Adumim
Other restrictive features include creating “closed military zones” on the grazing pastures in the area which has caused the deaths of thousands of sheep and goats. Then there are the strictures which have arisen out of the supposedly temporary territorial divisions of the land arising from the Oslo Accords. These increasingly resemble permanent borders.
Some 6 000 Palestinians work in the Valley in winter but come from villages near Nablus under Palestinian civilian control, designated Area B. With the exception of Jericho and some villages, the Valley comes under Israeli exclusive military control, designated Area C. The situation is now that seasonal workers must have an Israeli army pass to go to the grazing areas. Due to “security factors” permission is rarely granted for the workers to stay overnight in Area C.It is as if the Jordan Valley is now within Israel’s boundaries with the few Palestinians allowed entry. The result is that many no longer work as seasonal workers in the Valley. Together with the forced eviction of the Bedouin, there is now slow but steady migration from the Jordan Valley to PNA controlled towns like Nablus or Abu Dis.
During the conflicts of 1948 and 1967 the solution was to expel the Palestinian population into neighbouring countries. In peace it looks as if the strategy is to concentrate the population into existing Bantustans on the West Bank – from Area C locations to Area B or Area A (total PNA control) locations.View all →