Briefing Paper September 2000
(At Camp David) Barak’s red lines are Israel’s red lines – those of Rabin, Netanyahu, Shamir and Begin before him. They are no different in substance from those enunciated by Yitzhak Shamir’s cabinet in 1989 . . . It takes little scrutiny to see what Barak’s red lines mean: disdain for international law; reaffirmation of apartheid; lack of remorse for ethnic cleansing (Jerusalem, refugees).
Naseer Aruri, Middle East International 18/8/00
At the end of July the tri-lateral peace talks at Camp David collapsed with no agreement. It was widely acknowledged that Jerusalem was main stumbling block, athough progress on refugees apparently foundered on the Israeli insistence of viewing their right to return as family reunification, affecting no more than about 100 000 . However Yasser Arafat was given a rousing reception when he arrived back in Gaza. At the very least he had withstood substantial American and Israeli pressure to compromise or capitulate on Jerusalem.
If ever there was temptation to consider the U.S. as a neutral, honest-broker between Palestinian and Israeli, the immediate aftermath would have dispelled such a view. Clinton was quick to blame Arafat with the failure of the talks, perhaps not too surprising since any pretence of adhering to UN resolutions and international legitimacy as a basis for progress had long been abandoned. In its place was Clinton’s, and therefore Israel’s, buzzwords. There was the concept of “creative ideas” such as Israeli sovereignty over the Dome of the Rock – an idea usually touted by the extreme religious right-wing.
For good measure, he resorted to blackmail, threatening to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and halting the meagre $100 million aid if a declaration of an independent Palestinian state takes place, as promised by
Arafat, on 13 September. This was a threat which was reiterated by the Director of the US Agency for International Development which finances projects in the fields of industrial development, health, the judiciary and other infrastructure programmes.
With one “partner for peace” showing his true colours, it wasn’t too long before another was doing likewise. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the ultra-orthodox Shas party whose 17 Mks shore up Barak’s crumbling coalition, demonstrated his particular blend of racist, fascist Judaic fundamentalism when he attacked the Palestinian people as “snakes and serpents” and “evildoers.” At the same time he hinted that the holocaust may have been necessary to expiate past “sins” . Not surprisingly the latter comment caused an uproar. Interestingly, in sharp contrast, the racist tirade against the Palestinian people went largely unnoticed by most Israelis.
There then followed a tour of the world’s capitals by both Palestinian and Israeli dignitaries in an attempt to garner support for their respective positions.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the ultra-orthodox Shas party whose 17 Mks shore up Barak’s crumbling coalition, demonstrated his particular blend of racist, fascist Judaic fundamentalism when he attacked the Palestinian people as “snakes and serpents” and “evildoers.” At the same time he hinted that the holocaust may have been necessary to expiate past “sins” . Not surprisingly the latter comment caused an uproar. Interestingly, in sharp contrast, the racist tirade against the Palestinian people went largely unnoticed by most Israelis.
Business as Usual
July During the month the Israelis introduced new criteria for release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. They will distinguish between those who fought the occupation prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 from those accused of killing Israelis in military operations. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society demanded that they all be treated as prisoners of war, covered by the Third Geneva Convention.
On the15-16th, armed settlers went on the rampage in the Old City of Hebron. Some climbed on to the roofs of Palestinian houses and stoned cars and passers -by. Others shot into the air. Unarmed Palestinians were beaten up with six wounded, one seriously. Three Palestinian cameramen were badly beaten up by occupation troops as they tried to film the settlers. Those Palestinian youths who demonstrated against the settlers’ action were met by the rubber bullets of the occupation forces. On the same day the Jerusalem- Ramallah main road was closed when Palestinian youths set fire to four Israeli buses. Fierce clashes in the nearby Qalandia refugee camp was met by tear gas and rounds of rubber bullets.
On the 18th,77year old Ibrahim Jadallah of Beit Iskariya (near the settlement of Kfar Etzion) was informed of the intention of the occupation forces to uproot trees and vineyards on so-called “state land.” If carried out, the livliehood of an extended family of 45 would be destroyed.
On the 23rd, once again in Hebron, settlers threw stones and shouted obscenities at a group of Arab- Americans on a solidarity visit to the city. Occupation forces intervened when the visitors sought to defend themselves.
Following the collapse of the Camp David talks, the occupation forces reinforced their presence in the Gaza Strip with blockades set up along the southern route close to the settlements. Large amounts of arms were reported to be in the hands of settlers in the West bank courtesy of the Israeli army with joint manoeuvres planned. Orders were given to shoot at Palestinians who tried to “encroach” upon the settlements. Palestinians in the autonomous enclaves were urged to stockpile food in case Israel closed off the areas as a blackmail tactic to impose their demands.
August Agreement was reached with the occupying authorities to open “safe passages” to Palestinian industrial products being exported to Israel and beyond. Instead of the goods being delayed and searched at the checkpoints, this will now take place within the industrial zones. At the same time the Israelis exercised the prerogative of an occpying power by delaying the visas of a Jordanian economic delegation wishing to visit the autonomous enclaves.
The delaying strategy was also applied to construction equipment, waiting to enter the Gaza Strip, destined for the construction of Gaza Port. The 18 month project eventually commenced on the 15th and promises Gaza a measure of independence from Israeli interference. Meanwhile trucks carrying cement into Gaza were halted because of Palestinian refusal to pay double fees (at the Israeli port and the crossing point into Gaza).
On the 6th, settlers from Elon Moreh , near Nablus, attacked and injured an Israeli army liason officer with the PNA, and a police officer, when they tried to prevent two settlers from beating up Palestinians from a nearby village.
On the 18th, the mukhtar of Surda village near Ramallah, 73 year old Mahmoud Bazar was shot dead by an Israeli undercover unit. Asleep on his roof (to escape the heat) he fired at intruders on his property (with a licensed gun). He was killed by the return fire. With the house targeted by mortars, his son was arrested. Home to a family of fifteen, the house was partially demolished.
On the 23rd the main commercial artery of East Jerusalem, Salaheddin Street, was closed as a protest against the tax collectors of the occupation authorities who were conducting raids on commercial premises. Protestors clashed with Israeli police and border guards resulting in four Palestinian shop owners being seriously assaulted and hospitalised, and five arrested, when they resisted the tax collectors. For one shop it was the second raid in two weeks, with goods being impounded on both occasions. Shopowners had to brave roadblocks where, if the questioning elicited the fact that they were alleged to be in tax arrears, their vehicles could be confiscated.
On the 28th, 18 year old Nassar Muhammad Al-Kaabneh from Al-Boukaia in the Jordan Valley was killed by an Israeli landmine while grazing the family cattle. He was the fourth victim of abandoned Israeli ordinance in two months.
At the end of the month the village of Aseera Shimaliyyeh, near Nablus, was turned into a war zone when hundreds of occupation troops sealed off the village, opened fire on two homes with the wounding of two people. The end result was serious injury to schoolteacher Nidal Daghlas who was badly beaten up by members of the “elite” Duvdevan undercover unit when they tried to extract information from him, the escape of the intended target, alleged Hamas activist Mahmoud Abu Hanoud (who escaped to Nablus, surrendered to the PNA, put on trial thus avoiding the need to hand him over to the Israelis and on 1 September sentenced to 12 years in prison), the shooting dead of three Israeli soldiers and wounding of four others by their own cross-fire. The night of mayhem ended with more troops being called in, the searching of nearby villages and the demolition of the Daghlas family house, complete with furniture and family possessions. The raid was carried out on a village under the nominal control of the PNA, but with no effort made to try and secure PNA help in apprehending the suspect, thus avoiding the violent assault on life and property.
Dear Minister of Interior Sharansky,
You are requested to stop the racist and inhuman policies of Palestinian house demolitions in the Jerusalem area. These policies are a disgrace to the state of Israel and you personally.
Years ago, world public opinion rallied behind you to secure your release from the KGB jail. At that time,you protested against the racist policies of the Soviet government implemented against you, a Russian Jew.
Now you became the initiator of state sanctioned demolition of Palestinian homes.You,“the hero of our times” who, as a young and healthy man so bitterly complained when the KGB confined you to a punish- ment cell where “the temperature was almost always below18o C”, do not hesitate to send out entire Palestinian families with little babies, children and women into the open air of Jerusalem.
There are no geographic and ethnic borders to human suffering. So please do not try and tell us that you are only maintaining law and order. Let us refer to page 154 of your own memoirs – this is exactly what your KGB interrogator tried to tell you. And do not tell us that we are interfering with internal affairs of a foreign state. This is exactly what international activists on your behalf were told by the Soviets. Stop Palestinian house demolitions now.
Sent by Gush Shalom (an Israeli peace group) from Jerusalem File, June 2000
With Jerusalem being the focus of Camp David talks , adherents to the extreme Temple Mount Faithful organisation twice tried to break into al Aqsa Mosque on 2 August. Recently their activities had increased with provocative demonstrations, under the benevolent eye of the occupation forces, taking place in the vicinity of the Mosque. These actions were then overtaken by the announcement that Israel’s Council of Rabbis had formed a committee to study the feasibility of establishing a synagogue in the Mosque’s compound – an action reminiscent of the synagogue set up in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque, where settlers now largely control the area.
Settlers also increased their efforts to occupy the Al-Ahram Hotel on Via Dolrosa and a 20 room building situated close to Herod’s Gate. Meanwhile the construction of the Israeli settlement in the heart of Arab Ras alAmud continued.
Plans were announced that, in contravention of international law, an Israeli prison would be built in East Jerusalem to replace the Russian Compound in West Jerusalem. The intention is to site it on land owned by villagers from the long destroyed village of Lifta and some residents of East Jerusalem. The Mufti of Jerusalem pronounced it forbidden for Palestinian Muslims to obtain Israeli citizenship. He argued that this meant recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. Mean while a large question mark was raised over the recent controversial signing, by the Patriarch, Diodorus I, of a 99 year lease on property in Rahabia and Al- Talibiyyeh for $20million to an Israeli foundation. Forensic tests confirmed that his signature had been forged.
During a march organised by Jerusalem Palestinians, to mark the 31st anniversary of the attempt at burning down al Aqsa Mosque, two Mosque security men were badly beaten with clubs by Israeli police. In time-honoured fashion, the police denied access to an ambulance for a number of hours, thus delaying hospital treatment for the injured men.
On 14 August, in the Ras al Amud neighbourhood, two familiy homes were demolished. The homes, it should be noted, are within a stones throw from the provocative settlement under construction thanks to the munificence of US bingo millionaire, Irving Moskvitch. The first was that of the Kadak family of five. With 150 police and soldiers in attendance, it was bulldozed to the ground. The dream of disabled Muhammad Tawil was the next to collapse in dust. He had recently acquired the old house, as an alternative to his two roomed flat, for himself, his wife and 13 children.
On 26 August a fire gutted the Cultural Innovation Centre in Dheishe refugee camp near Bethelehem. The Centre housed archives on refugees. Israel was quick to blame it on Palestinian in-fighting – an accustaion which was vehemently rejected by the Palestinians.
On 29 August bulldozers from the Jerusalem municipality, under the protection of the occupation troops, demolished three houses, home to about 50 people, in Ras Khamis near Shuafat refugee camp. The claim that the houses had no building permit was considered to be secondary to the fact that settlers had long complained of the proximity of the houses to their settlement.View all →