Briefing Paper January 2006

This was the absolute bane of our life and now . . . . now it’s a castle in the sand.

Haytham Abu Tukiya (16 years) comments while standing
atop Netzarim settlement’s broken watchtower MEI 16/9/05

Joy because the bulldozers that had destroyed our homes and our fields to secure the settlements ended up by destroying their homes and their fields. And sorrow over the enormous sacrifice, the sheer number of martyrs, it took to reach this point.

Musa Al Ghul, mukhtar of Safiya village MEI 16/9/05

This focus of attention on Gaza has allowed Israel to continue with the construction of the Wall in Palestinian territory, the expansion of settlements and the de-Palestinization of Jerusalem with virtually no criticism.

John Dugard, UN special rapporteur to the Territories

The Israelis are trying to obstruct the elections. They don’t want reform of the Palestinian they don’t want internal stability within Palestinian politics. Israel wants to tell the world that ‘these Palestinians can’t control themselves, they kill each other, there is no law and order in Gaza, so don’t pressure us because they don’t deserve anything else.

Ali Jarbawi, Professor of Political Scince, Birzeit University Sunday Herald 2/10/05

Over the next seven days, the Israeli army not only resumed assassinations of wanted Palestinian militants ( leaving three Hamas and one Jihad man dead) , bombed civilian infrastructure in Gaza and launched massive arrest sweeps in the West Bank, for the first time since the 1967 war. it deployed heavy artillery to clear “mortar-firing” regions in Gaza and flew F-16 sorties through the sound barrier at a ration of one every two hours, spreading absolute havoc below.

Of the 415 West Bank Palestinians the Israelis arrested between 22 and 29 September, 250 were members of Hamas, most of them civilian activists, including 14 local govt. candidtates and 15 campaign managers. It also imprisoned high-profile political leaders like Hassan Yussuf in Ramallah and Ismail Hajj Ali in Nablus. All three belong to the moderate wing of the Hamas leadership and have been the driving forces behind its switch to electoral politics. (MEI 15 Oct 2005)

The resistance must be allowed to maintain its arms. But this does not mean that it is a collection of private fiefdoms which alone decides when and how to act. Resistance is a national activity that should be decided by all Palestinians through their legitimate national institutions.

Hani al Masri, Palestinian analyst) Middle East International 14 Oct 2005

The European union and Palestinian democracy

Teresa Küchler

The EU has become embroiled in a row over aid funding and political self-determination in Palestine, with foreign affairs chief Javier Solana attracting criticism from the political wing of Hamas. Mr Solana said over the weekend that European taxpayers would have a hard time supporting a Palestinian party that does not renounce violence and advocates Israel’s destruction.

“It would be very difficult for the help and the money that goes to the Palestinian Authority to continue to flow”, he said according to press reports.

His statements refer to the fact that Islamic resistance movement Hamas could win next month’s Palestinian election, with the group on a list of terror organisations in both the EU and US.

On Monday (19 December), the political leader of Hamas, Khalid Mashaal, dismissed Mr Solana’s threat, saying it is a “flagrant interference” in Palestine’s internal affairs, writes the Jerusalem Post. “So long as people have opted for democracy, they should respect its results and should not confiscate the right of the Palestinian people to choose [their leaders]”, Mashaal said. A spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has also stated that all parties must have the right to take part or the elections would not be democratic.

Hamas emerged as the strongest party in local elections on the West Bank last week, taking control of 81 localities inhabited by 1.1 million Palestinians, including important municipalities like Jenin, Nablus and Al-Bireh. In

the meantime, president Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, which has dominated Palestinian politics for years, has split in two. Repeated accusations of corruption within the Palestinian ruling party have also made Hamas appear a more feasible alternative.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Hamas’ Mr Mashaal on Monday also reiterated that Hamas would not renew a truce with Israel when it expires at the end of the year, should it be elected. (The Palestinian elections are due at the end of January 2006.)

The EU became directly involved in the peace process when it opened its own police mission on Palestine’s Rafah border with Egypt last month.

Unless there is reform in Fatah, Abu Mazen will not be able to defeat the electoral challenge posed by Hamas. He will not be able to reform the security forces and so impose law and order on the street. and he will not be able to root out the corruption which, for most Palestinians, is the main blight affecting the PA. Without these changes, Fatah will not be united behind Abu Mazen’s leadership and, without a united and democratic Fatah, he cannot pursue his core policies of government reform. a factional cease-fire and negotiations with Israel.

Khali Shiqaqi, Palestinian analyst (MEI 16/09/05)

Jerusalem (Agence France Presse) – Israel said that it would not allow voting in occupied east Jerusalem in next month’s Palestinian election as it sought Egypt’s help to halt a feared upsurge in violence ahead of the polls. Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz held talks with Egypt’s intelligence services chief Omar Suleiman to use Cairo’s influence on militant groups, accusing Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas’s administration of sitting on its hands.

Israel has strongly objected to Hamas taking part in what is only the second ever parliamentary polls, unless it renounces violence and recognizes the Jewish state’s right to exist. The movement’s participation in the elections was one of the reasons cited by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office for not allowing Palestinians living in occupied east Jerusalem from participating in January’s election. “In the past, we have allowed Palestinians to vote in post offices but not this time,” an official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Abbas said the Palestinian leadership would carefully consider its next step, saying it had yet to be officially informed of Israel’s decision. “The Palestinian leadership will study this issue before making a response, for the responsibility is enormous,” he said after his own talks with Suleiman.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhhri said the Palestinian Authority should “multiply its contacts with the parties concerned to facilitate the holding of elections as was the case in the presidential election.” The main Palestinian militant factions signed a truce back in March during talks hosted by Cairo. While the truce has largely held,(Ed note: despite great provocation by the occupation forces which have continued to act with impunity in the occupied territories, continued with the Wall building, continued with settlement expansion) there has been a recent spike in the firing of Qassam rockets.

Khaled Meshaal, Hamas’s Damascus-based overall leader, said earlier this month that the truce would not be renewed at the end of the year as “our people are surrounded and are preparing for a new round of conflict.”Hamas has been trailing Fatah in the polls but won control of three major West Bank municipalities in local elections last week, in areas which had traditionally been Fatah strongholds.

Occupation is getting up in the morning to make tea and finding a soldier in your kitchen making coffee. Occupation is when I wanted to go to the toilet, a soldier had to go with me. I wasn’t allowed in my bedroom. I looked in on my way to the toilet one day and there was a soldier with no clothes on in my bed. Occupation is your son walking around with a bullet in his back even after the soldiers have gone.

The Bashir family – at the end of 5 years of occupation of their house in the Gaza Strip The Guardian 4/10/05

Creation of “Death Zone” in northern Gaza Strip is illegal

B’Tselem 29 Dec 05

An order to open fire at any person present in a particular area in the northern Gaza Strip, if indeed given, is a flagrant breach of International Humanitarian Law. A fundamental pillar of IHL is the requirement to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Only combatants and military objects may be attacked, and care must be taken to prevent, as much as possible, injury to civilians. If it is unclear whether a particular person is a civilian or a combatant, the individual is to be considered a civilian.

In response to the Qassam rockets fired from the northern Gaza Strip at Israeli communities and army bases in Israel , the army announced it was beginning Operation Blue Skies. As part of the operation, the army called on Palestinians living or present in the area to leave by 6:00 P.M. Wednesday . According to media reports, the army intends to open fire at any person who enters the area, regardless of the person’s identity or reason for being there.

An order to open fire at any person present in a particular area in the northern Gaza Strip, if indeed given, is a flagrant breach of International Humanitarian Law. A fundamental pillar of IHL is the requirement to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Only combatants and military objects may be attacked, and care must be taken to prevent, as much as possible, injury to civilians. If it is unclear whether a particular person is a civilian or a combatant, the individual is to be considered a civilian. Also, pursuant to the principle of proportionality, it is forbidden to mount attacks against legitimate objects if the potential damage to the civilian population is disproportionate in comparison to the benefit anticipated from the attack.

Furthermore, attacks directed at civilians, and attacks that are carried out with the knowledge they will cause disproportionate injury to the civilian population, are defined as war crimes. Under international law, in addition to the state’s criminal responsibility, persons involved in carrying out such acts are personally responsible for the crimes committed.

The Qassam rocket fire at Israeli communities and civilian installations is the kind of attack that is a war crime. However, breach of the laws of war by one side does not permit the adversary to carry out prohibited acts. The State of Israel has the duty to take all legitimate means to protect its citizens. However, indiscriminate gunfire at every person who enters a particular area is patently illegal, and can lead to the commission of war crimes. B’Tselem urges the prime minister and the minister of defense to immediately direct that the said order be cancelled, if indeed it was given, and that requisite measures be taken to ensure that Palestinian civilians are not injured in the course of the army’s response to the missile attacks.

In Hebron the most severe atrocities of the settler enterprise are being perpetrated . . . Israel cannot be considered a state ruled by law, or a democracy, as long as the pogroms continue in Hebron

Gideon Levy Ha’aretz Sept 2005

“Security imperatives” have been allowed to deprive a vast population of their very basic rights and these measures need deeper scrutiny by all concerned if respect for norms of international human rights and humanitarian law is to be preserved.

UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders Return Review Nov 2005

Israel is not fighting for its security or survival, but to retain territories it conquered in 1967. The war that Israel is waging against the Palestinian people on their own land is a colonial war. Like all other colonial wars it is savage, senseless, directed mainly at civilians and doomed to failure.

Avi Shlaim (Israeli historian) New Statesman 31 Oct 2005

For the record

*            Acquital On 5 October 2004, 13 year old Iman al-Hams from Rafah was murdered by an officer in the Israeli army. This case hit the headlines when, after the initial shots, an Israeli soldier witnessed that his officer had “confirmed the kill” by shooting the girl multiple times at close range while she lay on the ground. Following the withdrawal of evidence by this soldier and other witnesses, the Israeli military southern command court acquitted the officer of all charges in relation to the murder of Iman including the illegal use of a weapon and the obstruction of court proceedings.

*            Since September 2000, 651 children have been killed by the occupation forces.

*            B’Tselem (Israeli Centre for Human Rights) on 27/6/2005 reported that out of thousands of similar cases the Israeli police conducted investigations into 108 cases of killing and injuring Palestinians in the occupied territories. This led to 19 indictments with only 2 Israeli soldiers being convicted of killing Palestinians.

*            In April 2005 a military judge acquitted an Israeli soldier of killing British journalist, James Miller, in May 2003, claiming that there was not enough evidence.

*            11 year old Ahmed al-Khatib, from Jenin, was shot dead with bullets to his head and abdomen on 3 November 2005 while playing with his friends. The soldiers claimed that they thought his toy gun was a real gun. Ahmed’s father denied that any toy gun was involved. Ther is no indication of any serious investigation.

*            13 year old ‘Adli Tantawi from ‘Askar refugee camp, Nablus was shot dead by Israeli soldiers on 2 October 2005. The claim, that ‘Adli was shooting at the soldiers, was disproven. ‘Adli was not armed and did not pose a threat to the soldiers. The family received a phoned apology with a promis of an investigation. This has yet to materialise.

(Source: Palestinian Centre for Human Rights)

Inhumane Israeli practice

Between Sep 2000 and and Dec 2004, 61 women gave birth and 36 infants died at checkpoints as a result of the so-called Israeli Defence Forces prohibition of ambulance access. In 2003 an infant girl in Nablus died at a checkpoint, as both parents waited for a second ambulance on the other side of the checkpoint, after the father used a stone to cut the umbilical chord.

(Source: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Report August 2005)

We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one – progressive and liberal – in Israel; and the other – cruel and injurious – in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories . . . . Historical processes teach us that no nation is prepared to live under another’s domination and that a suppressed people’s war of national liberation will inevitably succeed. We understand this point but choose to ignore it

Former Israeli Attorney General, Michael Ben Ha’aretz 3 March 2002

It’s not all in the details

Amira Hass (Ha’aretz)

What is important is that the army and the Israeli citizens who design all of the details of dispossession – and the roadblocks are an inseparable part of this dispossession – have transformed the term “humanitarian” into a despicable lie

After half an hour, the bent knees begin to hurt more and more, and the pants are soaked with water and grow tight over the knee. The hands turn cold, but the soldiers don’t change their tune: “Sit, I told you. Sit

Each detail described here, every shred of reality, is liable to be considered as a whole, which would dim its severity. Detail: Hundreds of people gather each morning at three narrow steel revolving doors, and the gates do not turn because some unseen person has blocked them by pushing a button. The number of people crammed behind them grows and grows, and they wait for an hour, and the anger at another day being late for work or for school is piled on top of previous residual tensions brought on by anger, bitterness and helplessness.

However, it is not the crowdedness and waiting and anger that define the checkpoints and roadblocks, or in this specific instance, the new Qalandiyah checkpoint. Nor is it the crowdedness and compressed atmosphere of the rest of the inspection route, before the magnometers and the closed rooms in which the soldiers sit and inspect documents, or the other revolving doors. Or even the other “details”: the cameras that make the soldiers and commanders seeing and unseen, the snarling voice in the speaker that issues commands in Hebrew, the terrifying concrete wall above and around, and the devastation left by Israeli bulldozers and planners outside the cage that Israel calls a “border terminal,” in what was once, and no longer is, a continuous stretch of residential neighborhoods, soft hillsides and the Jerusalem- Ramallah road.

Nor are the 11 “detainees” at the inspection route’s exit an adequate detail: nine teenage boys aged 18 and under, one adult, and a 23-year-old university student, all of whom committed a serious crime on Monday: After waiting in vain for the steel gates to turn, which would lead them to the inspection route, on their way to classes and work, they decided to jump over the fence – one hoping to get to an English test on time, the other fearful of being fired if he again arrived late to the printing press where he works. But they were caught. The student was handcuffed from behind, and was sat down next to a guard booth in the closed military compound. The other ten were placed outside the compound, in the mud that became thicker with every drop of rain. And the soldiers demanded that they sit down. They could not sit, because of the mud, and only went into a kneeling position. After half an hour, the bent knees begin to hurt more and more, and the pants are soaked with water and grow tight over the knee. The hands turn cold, but the soldiers don’t change their tune: “Sit, I told you. Sit”

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