Briefing Paper July 2006

Palestine’s War of Independence

Half an hour from here it is Hell, and nobody knows about it

The Other Israel

May 2006

Separation is now the byword in Israel. Declaring that “there is no (Palestinian) partner”, politicians embark on ever new programmes and projects of unilateral actions, and the Separation Wall/Fence/ Barrier grows ever higher and cuts even deeper into Palestinian territory. But rather than disentangling, it is only intensifying the lethal embraces in which the two peoples are trapped…the Palestinian Islamic Movement gained control over a parliament and a cabinet possessing many of the outward trappings of sovereignty but very few of the actual attributes – and are nevertheless often expected by the international community to act as the organs of a sovereign state would.

As was demonstrated again and again – both before and after Hamas’ electoral victory – Palestinian lawmakers and cabinet ministers cannot secure to their constituents so much as the right to move freely from one village to its neighbour, or safeguard any of them being lifted from their beds at late night raids and taken off to detention and interrogation by the Israeli security services

Al Numan Village, Bethlehem

Najib Farag PNN 29 May 06

Al Numan Village is a prison now due to the Israeli Wall inside the West Bank. This village is southeast of Bethlehem, on hill of 5,000 dunams of land. The Israeli built several major settlements in the area, including Har Homar imposed on the Abu Ghneim Mountain that was once a popular picnic spot for Bethlehem residents.

At the new “entrance” to Al Numan Village, Israeli soldiers occupy a gate which is now the sole outlet for the Palestinians who live there to reach Bethlehem, the nearest city. Al Numan is near Sur Bahar Village in the Jerusalem District, and is part of Bethlehem as well but nearest to Beit Sahour.

The mountain has a view of Haram Al Sharif in Jerusalem’s Old City Al Aqsa Mosque. This is a strategic point for the Israelis as they continue the takeover of Jerusalem. The village is surrounded, as is Jerusalem, with settlers and settlements and Israeli military installations, checkpoints and roadblocks.

The Land Defence Committee Chair in the Village said that recently Israeli soldiers imposed a gate, described as “huge.” He reports that Israeli forces decide when to open and close the gate, and whom they wish to allow through or not. There is no rhyme or reason, except that any Palestinian not holding an Israeli permission slip has no chance at all.

Students cannot reach their schools as they were enrolled in Beit Sahour elementary and secondary schools, the city directly to the east of Bethlehem. After invasive inspections, some are allowed through, others not. University students are in an impossible situation trying to reach Al Quds University in Abu Dis on the eastern road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The Committee Chairperson told PNN on Monday that Al Numan Village students who make it through the Israeli soldiers at the gate are often an hour or two late to school. He also explained that now any Palestinian who is not a resident of the village is not allowed to enter, even if coming to visit relatives. This is similar to the situation in Al Mawasi in the southern Gaza Strip which was closed for years and became the most devastated and impoverished area in all of Palestine.

Additionally, Israeli forces now prevent trucks from entering carrying supplies such as vegetables and fruits. Delivery trucks are allowed to enter every four to five days. This was also the case in Al Mawasi. The only point can be to drive the population out in order to overtake the strategic location as the Israeli administration continues its slow yet steady process of ethnically cleansing the West Bank of its population.

And with the Israeli electrical fences now surrounding the village, its electrical supply is tapped. Instead of the electricity going to light village homes, it is bypassed to the fence and half the nights are spent in darkness at the hands of the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem District Electric Company.

They add Israeli settlers and put Palestinians behind Walls and gates. It is only a matter of years before the “1894 Map of Israel” is fulfilled.

For the crime of voting in free democratic elections for one of the main contending parties – a party whose armed militia maintained a one-sided ceasefire with Israel throughout the year before the elections – the Palestinian people (are) exposed to the most severe and brutal kind of economic sanctions.

The Other Israel

May 2006

Palestinian voices: Hamas and Israel Laila El-Haddad

(Aljazeera 29 May 2006)

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has threatened to call a referendum unless Hamas resolves differences with his Fatah faction.The referendum would ask Palestinians whether they accept a document that was drawn up by Fatah and Hamas leaders imprisoned in Israel and that endorses a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The document would amount to a recognition of Israel’s right to exist, a major stumbling block for relations between the Hamas-led government and the United States and European Union.

Hamas, elected to power in January, has refused to recognise Israel, and the US and EU have cut aid until Hamas reverses this stance, gives up armed struggle and accepts past deals signed between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Since Hamas took office in March, Israel has frozen tax revenues to the Authority, amounting to $52 million a month, and has closed Palestinian borders, leading to shortages in food and medicine and a halt in exports. Salaries for about 130,000 Palestinian public servants have gone unpaid. spoke with eight Palestinians about their views, asking whether they think Hamas should recognise Israel’s right to exist and under what conditions.

Mariam Om Ibrahim al-Kurd, 82, refugee

I think Hamas should stand firm Please tell me, why should I recognise Israel? Does it recognise my right to return to the land they expelled me from in the middle of the night – the same land they want me to recognise now as theirs? I think Hamas should stand firm by its principals, and I am confident God will make them victorious, because they have only the interests of the people at heart, not themselves like those cowards before them.

Maha Banna, 32, schoolteacher

Israel … doesn’t need anyone to recognise its existence The previous government recognised Israel and it achieved nothing. It’s simply another way to prove that [Israel] gets what it wants, when it wants. Besides, Israel exists already – it doesn’t need anyone to recognise its existence. And for them to set borders unilaterally – that in and of itself is not recognising our right to exist. I don’t think whether they acknowledge Israel or not will make a difference. …While money is a problem right now, people don’t want Hamas to compromise more politics. Playing with words is not up to them, it’s up to the PLO.

Hasan Nakhala, 35, shopkeeper

People have no money to buy anymore Hamas should leave power – they aren’t accounting for all these difficulties in society, nor the realities on the ground. I buy merchandise every week, but I’m not selling anything. People have no money to buy anymore. They are selling their gold and other belongings in order to buy food for their families. I deal with Israelis every day in my trade – this is my reality. So I know they exist.

Besides, didn’t Hamas recognise the PLO and follow its path? And didn’t the PLO recognise Israel? There is no alternative solution.

Saeed Abo Salah, 40, farmer

I would say ‘yes’ only after conditions are met What did recognition bring us? We’ve been through 10 years of negotiations and yesses for nothing. All American initiatives have failed. Oslo was merely institutionalised occupation. So now we give them one more “yes” for what? To continue with their annexation plan in the West, to continue and choke us here in Gaza? I would say “yes” to recognition in a referendum only after certain conditions are met. They need to recognise our rights first.

Basma Ghalayini, 22, university student

People are making do now, but later they might not be able to I think that we have to recognise Israel because they have tied our recognition of them with a lot of other things – like blocking aid to us. It’s not the idea solution, but it’s the practical solution. … People are making do now, but later they might not be able to. And if they do recognise Israel, it won’t have any meaning anyway – it’ll be recognition under duress.

Ali Murad, 26, national security officer

Aid should not be conditional There is no other way other than the resistance. Hamas should not recognise Israel. Salaries are essential, yes, and I as a human being and employee of the government along with thousands of others are not receiving them. But we should not link the two issues. Aid should not be conditional.

For 12 years we have been negotiating, only to get destruction and grief in return. … I think the alternative is that Israel should present us with a solution, because the ball is in their court now, not ours. They need to end their occupation of our land.

Hashim al-Hussaini, 28, economist

If Hamas wants to stay in power… they have to be pragmatic I think it is essential for matters to go forward that the government recognises Israel. They have to recognise the current agreement so that, for example, the tax revenue clearance can be resumed. If Hamas wants to stay in power, knowing that there are external and internal pressures, they have to be pragmatic. If you want to stay in politics, you have to play the game – it means you do have basics and fundamentals that you keep to, but on the other hand, you can keep true to your principles. However, you are taking charge of four million people, so you have to bear in mind that you represent their interests and if that means recognising Israel, then you do it. We are not saying that you concede a Palestinian state, you just have to keep in mind that you are not just representing Hamas.

Muhammad Dabbagh, 22, taxi driver

This option [recognising Israel]mwill not happen I think Hamas has one of three choices: They can step down, since it’s what everyone on the outside wants, including the Arab states. They can call for a re-election, since no one will vote for them again (they regret it and learned their lesson). Or, thirdly, the cabinet is restructured to include ministers from Fatah. Or of course, they can just recognise Israel. They say it accomplished nothing, but this is not true. It did accomplish things, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant. But it’s against their principles, and so this option will not happen.

Marwan Diab, 37, public relations officer

I see no problem recognising Israel I don’t think it’s a good idea, because if Hamas were to recognise Israel, at that point we will have lost all of our cards. From previous experiences, we’ve learned that Israel has often said we would like this to happen and that to happen, but they themselves never have to give anything up. We are always giving up things, but they are never giving us anything in exchange. And if we were to give up this card, it’s a problem. We’ll have lost everything. But in a comprehensive peace settlement, in the context of a just solution to the Palestinian problem as a whole – a peaceful solution that will result in ending the occupation and establishing our own state, I see no problem in recognising Israel.

Only three months ago, European monitors supervised the Palestinian election. They confirmed Palestine as the first democracy in the Arab world. Now you, the leaders of Europe, are giving the Palestinians a lesson in democracy: unless they overthrow the government they have just elected, there will be no milk for their children, no medecines for their sick, no work for their unemployed, no salaries for their doctors and teachers.

This is not only barbaric, it is also folly; no people in the world would submit to such brutal and humiliating outside pressure. The inevitable result will be a further radicalisation of Palestinian opinion, a deepening hatred for Israel and the West in the entire Arab and Muslim world . . .

Gush Shalom advert April 2006

Yesterday fighting broke out in Ramallah – Invasion and death in the city

Sarah International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS) Hares, Salfit 29/05/06

Three men sheltering behind an upturned garbage bin nursing a terrible wounded man shouting desperately for the ambulance. Two ambulances waiting at the corner unable to approach the men because of the barrage of bullets that were being directed at those sheltering men.

The timing was appalling and it seemed utterly deliberate on the Israeli behalf to cause as much chaos and conflict as possible in one of the major centers of the West Bank as the Palestinian people and the world are still digesting the civil unrest in Gaza.

Some background to the conflict in Ramallah: Not only are the Palestinians being blamed for being on the brink of civil war but they are also facing the long-awaited strangulation of Jerusalem, the Holy City. The day before yesterday the change occurred. There is now one entrance to Jerusalem for Palestinians only: Qalandia.

There was chaos in the roads as people were being sent back to Qalandia. Roads were blocked off and entrance through Qalandia was denied. Children missed school, men and women were two hours late for work and taxi and bus drivers tried desperately to adapt to the change, picking out roads that would allow them to continue their run. Roads that I wouldn’t dare on a bicycle, let alone in a vehicle.

People were angry. Especially in Ramallah, because, of all the West Bank population, they are the closest to the

Holy City they cannot visit. The soldiers at the Al-Ram checkpoint whose job was to send everyone 10km back to Qalandia were totally impervious to their job. “In this life, you put your feelings on one side and your work on the other.”

That was yesterday morning.

There was an atmosphere that was unnerving in the city even before the violence broke out. And the Israeli Intelligence chose this day at 2pm to invade the throbbing city. The streets filled with young men, jobless, restless and angry. Maybe it is good publicity for the world to get a few more pictures of Palestinian violence following on from the Gaza gun battles. When I watched the evening news the only pictures I saw were these. Young boys in a stone-littered street hurling rocks at the jeeps that were driving around the Al-Minara.

There were not the scenes that were the centre of this hour of violence: Three men sheltering behind an upturned garbage bin nursing a terrible wounded man shouting desperately for the ambulance. Two ambulances waiting at the corner unable to approach the men because of the barrage of bullets that were being directed at those sheltering men. A shot that sent one of them five metres down the road, ten men who dared the bullets and ran to those sheltering him to carry him to the ambulance. The whistling for assistance, the live bullets raining on unarmed men, the windows shattered by explosions in buildings where women and old men were hiding. Young men collapsing into the shops where we were hiding, their faces almost blue, their eyes streaming with tears from the gas.

I only wish I had my camera instead of my shopping bags with me so that I could send you these images as well.

Because it was absolutely tragic. How one-sided the conflict was, how deliberate on the Israeli side to cause as much damage as possible in the cause of arresting one man. To cause death and anguish to a people already hurting from a week of tension and disbelief. If the Israeli Intelligence is so good why couldn’t it pick its man in some quiet hour in a less densely populated part of Palestine? Why choose the internet café, 20 meters from Al Minara at two o’clock in the afternoon? One of those sheltering in the City Center with me spoke at the time about his friend outside throwing stones. Standing in the middle of the street opposing tanks and jeeps and gas with only a stone and a damn lot of courage. At 5 o’clock, he rang to tell me that his friend was one of those killed.

When the initial attack on the undercover van began I felt a horrible feeling of inevitability. I watched the men take to the streets. Those in business suits and those in work clothes, and for the hour that followed there was this feeling that these men are really totally defenseless and they are going to die. Which one? And then the jeeps departed and there was chanting and crying and a procession that followed the three killed to the hospital and the many wounded and gave blood for the injured. And I was left trying desperately to call my friends here wondering which part of the fighting they had been caught in.

As the hours passed I met up with one after another, all dripping with sweat, covered with dirt. Yes, they had been out fighting for their country. One friend shot in the leg, but back in his village by evening. Another in the arm, bandaged and then home again.

The night in Ramallah was quiet. All shops were shut and will be today as well as we wait for the funeral procession of the two men from Ramallah who were killed and know that the third from Nablus will likewise be given due respect for his sacrifice.                 No Israeli soldiers were injured in the conflict.

While international pressure continues to pile on the new Palestinian Authority to honour the agreements signed by their predecessors, Israel’s imposition of its de facto borders with the Palestinian territories have received general approval. No lessons, it seems, have been learnt for the last sixty years. Had Israel’s appetite for unilateralist action been checked in the beginning things would have been much different today.

Return Review May 2006

Paralyzed for life

Gideon Levy Ha’aretz

An army that fires missiles at busy streets and tank shells at a beach cannot claim there was no intent to harm innocent civilians

The tangle of tubes and the artificial respirator attached directly to her windpipe cannot hide her beauty. A little 3-yearold girl lying in the pediatric intensive care unit at Sheba Medical Center, Maria Aman’s sad, brown almond eyes are wide open, her lips murmur in a whisper: “Food, I want to eat,” but all her limbs are paralyzed, forever. Not far from there, in an intensive care unit at Ichilov Hospital, lies her uncle Nahed, age 33 and father of two, who is in even worse condition: He is not only on a respirator and completely paralyzed, he is being kept asleep.

No, these are not the victims of this weekend’s operation, but their predecessors – victims of an airborne assassination in Gaza three weeks ago yesterday, an operation that shocked almost nobody here in Israel. The events of this past weekend should not come as a surprise to anyone: The deterioration has been going on for weeks, and the question that should be asked is not what Israel is doing to counter the Qassams, but what it is not doing. An army that fires missiles at busy streets and tank shells at a beach cannot claim there was no intent to harm innocent civilians. The girl’s mother Naima, 27, her brother Mohand, 7, and her grandmother Hanan, 46, were killed in that “targeted” assassination. It was a relatively happy family, eight people traveling to visit relatives that Saturday afternoon in a car bought only two hours earlier. Only the father Hamdi, 28 – who grew up in the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, his little son Moaman, 2, and cousin Imad emerged relatively unscathed, wounded only by shrapnel. The missile was aimed at Islamic Jihad activist Mohammed Dahduh, and it killed him, after his two brothers were eliminated in the past. The missile also hit the Aman family, whose vehicle was next to the Dodge Magnum in which the wanted man was riding. Dahduh, by the way, was heading to Shifa Hospital to visit his wife, who had just given birth. There was no bomb, certainly not a ticking one, but Israel has long since made the assassinations a wholesale weapon, legitimate and justified, and once again there is no public debate about the method.

At the bedside of Maria day and night is only Nabil, her great-uncle. He’s hungry and tired, his eyes bloodshot with weariness. At the bedside of Nahed is only his brother Maher, who lives in Jaffa. The rest of the family remains imprisoned in its home in Gaza’s Tel al-Hawa neighborhood, calling dozens of times a day to find out how the relatives are doing. The girl’s father wasn’t allowed to visit at first. Now the family doesn’t want him to see his daughter, so he can preserve his strength to take care of himself after what he refers to as a terrorist attack, as his toddler son wanders shell-shocked across the sand floor of the family home, calling in vain for his mother.

The Israeli media has almost completely ignored this horrifying disaster caused by the air force. The media, as usual, nearly didn’t report on it, and Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedi said with horrifying indifference that the air force “still has to examine the report that a family was injured.” Two weeks later the IDF Spokesman’s Office told Haaretz, “In the summation of the inquiry, the chief of staff has emphasized the efforts our forces make to avoid harming innocents,” and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz’s conscience is as quiet as usual, as quiet as it was after the assassination of Salah Shehade, an operation that took 16 innocent lives. The chief of staff also noted that the operation was conducted “with high levels of professionalism, with discriminating accuracy, hitting the wanted man and choosing a route not heavily trafficked.”

The road at which the rocket was launched, Industry Street in Gaza, is a crowded road. Nobody apologized, and worse, nobody considered offering aid to this unhappy, innocent family.

After two weeks of hospitalization, last week plans were made to send Maria and Nahed home. There is no rehabilitation facility in Gaza, and their fates were sealed. They would die there in inhumane conditions. Now that the draconian compensation law has been promulgated, the family doesn’t have any chance of suing the state. Last week the father Hamdi, a young and delicate man who commands respect, lost his temper when he heard that Maria was being sent back to Gaza. His voice was strangled by his cries.

Only the vigorous and dedicated intervention of Physicians for Human Rights prevented, at the last minute, the return of the two to Gaza. A letter from the organization to the defense minister that demanded the girl and her uncle be treated in Israel went unanswered for more than a week, until MK Dov Khenin from Hadash bumped into Amir Peretz in a Knesset corridor and asked him about the case. Peretz, who knew nothing about it, promised to find out. Only after the matter was reported on Israel Radio last Wednesday by military correspondent Carmella Menashe did the Defense Minister’s Bureau finally issue a statement saying that a committee would be convened to approve medical treatment for the two in Israel.

Today Maria is supposed to be transferred to the Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem, and apparently her uncle will also be sent there. The defense minister has promised that the treatment will be covered. Even if that happens, it is impossible to ignore the disgraceful behavior of the Israel Defense Forces, its commanders and the Defense Ministry in this shocking affair. Even when nobody is discussing the legality of the assassination policy, let alone its morality, one must ask why the lobbying efforts of a physicians’ group, an opposition MK and the media were needed to drag the minimum human effort out of a state that claims to be morally upstanding. Little Maria will remain paralyzed for life, as will the state and the army that did this to her and did not even think of apologizing or offering full medical help and appropriate compensation.

Permission Denied

Anticipating the opportunity to bring Christian university students from Bethlehem to Jerusalem (only 5 miles away) for Easter, Bethlehem University prepared projects for Christian students. As part of their academic course on Judaism, a “Jewish weekend” was planned for one group. This was to include a Sabbath parayer in a Synagogue, a meeting with students of the Hebrew University, a presentation by a Jew about his faith (something we cannot do at Bethlehem because the Israeli authorities do not permit Israeli Jews to come to Bethlehem), a visit to Yad vashem, and to conclude with the Christian Palm Sunday procession. Permission denied! . . . . . . . . . Christians from Bethlehem need permits from the Israeli military authorities to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or to visit the Holy Sites in the Galilee. Most students graduate from Bethlehem University without ever visiting Jerusalem or Nazareth because they do not receive “permission” from the Israeli authorities. The Christian students who are majoring in Religious Studies at Bethlehem University take a course about the Holy Land without visiting the Holy Land beyond Bethlehem! They have a course about Judaisim without meeting any Jew (other than soldiers and settlers) Why? Because of the Israeli travel restrictions and the injustices of the ongoing occupation.

The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation

The issue is not whether Hamas recognises Israel

Henry Siegman, June 8, 2006 Financial Times

What hope there may still be for avoiding a complete meltdown in the Palestinian occupied territories, not to speak of the hope of ever achieving a two-state solution, lies not with the initiative by Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority president, to put the two-state formula to a popular referendum but with the ruling Hamas movement’s refusal to play by Israel’s old rules. Those rules have in effect eliminated the prospect of viable Palestinian statehood and were intended to achieve that end.

Hamas is determined that Palestinian recognition of Israel will not come about without Israel’s recognition of Palestinian national rights, and that only an end to the occupation and Israel’s acceptance of the principle that no changes in the pre-1967 borders can occur without Palestinian agreement (a principle enshrined in the road map that Israel pretends to have accepted) will constitute such recognition.

The most widely respected Israeli security expert, Efraim Halevy, believes Israeli and American efforts to overthrow the Hamas regime are misguided. A hawk who headed Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, under five prime ministers and served as Ariel Sharon’s national security adviser, Mr Halevy is convinced these efforts damage Israel’s vital interests.

His view shocked members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations when Mr Halevy addressed them recently in New York. He has held it for some time. In September 2003, he said Israel should signal to Hamas that if “it enter(s) the fabric of the Palestinian establishment, we will not view that as a negative development. I think that in the end there will be no way around Hamas being a partner in the Palestinian government”. At that time, when Hamas had the support of only a fifth of the Palestinian population, Mr Halevy said: “Anyone who thinks it is possible to ignore such a central element of Palestinian society is simply mistaken.” How much more so today, when Hamas enjoys majority support.

Asked last week on Israeli television how he could justify advocating engagement with a terrorist organisation that does not recognise Israel’s right to exist, Mr Halevy ridiculed the stale assumptions that underlie that question. Do not look at Hamas’s rhetoric, he said, look at what it does: Hamas declared a truce 18 months ago and has committed no terrorist acts against Israel since. In spite of Hamas’s refusal to change its theological rejection of Israel, Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister in the Hamas-led government, ordered his ministers to seek practical co-operation with their Israeli counterparts. Mr Haniyeh also confirmed that Hamas’s self-declared truce is open-ended.

Why should Israel care whether Hamas grants it the right to exist, Mr Halevy asked. Israel exists and Hamas’s recognition or non-recognition neither adds to nor detracts from that irrefutable fact. But 40 years after the 1967 war, a Palestinian state does not exist. The politically consequential question, therefore, is whether Israel recognises a Palestinian right to statehood, not the reverse.

Using Mr Halevy’s criterion of looking at what a government does, not what it says, it is clear that—its many declarations to the contrary not withstanding—Israel does not recognise a Palestinian right to statehood in the West Bank and Gaza. The position of Ehud Olmert’s government is that Israel’s right to annex at will any parts of Palestinian territory east of the pre-1967 borders supersedes any Palestinian rights. This is implicit in the Israeli government’s decision that a Palestinian government that even wishes to place on the agenda of a peace negotiation the territorial changes made unilaterally by Israel in the West Bank, or the question of the Palestinian refugees, cannot be a partner for peace.

Israel’s “concessions”, such as the withdrawal from Gaza and isolated West Bank settlements, are intended to serve narrow Israeli interests. As noted by Peace Now’s Settlement Watch, Israel is continuing to thicken its existing settlements and expanding the settlements’ territorial boundaries for yet further expansions. In these circumstances, what is puzzling is not Hamas’s refusal to accept Israel’s dictates but the support given by the international community —particularly by the European Union—to Israeli efforts to isolate and overthrow Hamas.

Israel’s government has left no doubt that even if Mr Abbas’s promised referendum passes by a large majority (indeed, even if Hamas were to sign up to it), Israel will not accept it as the basis for a peace process and will proceed to set its border with the Palestinians unilaterally. Should that turn out to be the case, will European leaders continue their support of Washington’s incurable pandering to Israel’s right-wing policies, or will they muster the political will to reengage with the Palestinian Authority and provide the needed political and economic support for the Palestinians’ achievement of their national rights? The answer to that question may well determine the future of the entire region.

One day, we kill/Another day, we apologize/Yet another day, we find ourselves not guilty/ Yet another day, we kill again/ Time has come for an independent investigation of all killings/ Time has come for an immediate Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire/ Time has come for starting to talk, without preconditions

Gush Shalom advert Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Indeed, history teaches us that the siege and humiliation of a people tend to strengthen rather than weaken support for the government.

Professor John DugardUniversities of Leiden (Netherlands) and Pretoria (South Africa) 21 June 2006I visited the

Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) from 9 to 17 June 2006. In the course of the week I visited Gaza; the Wall (barrier) in and around Jerusalem; Ramallah; the hills south of Hebron, where a mini-Wall is being constructed; the Wall at Rachel’s Tomb (Bethlehem) and the nearby village of Wallaje, where house demolitions are imminent; Jericho and the Jordan Valley; Nablus and its Balata refugee camp; the Wall at Jayyous; and checkpoints along the Wall and around Nablus. During this visit I spoke with a wide range of persons, both Palestinian and Israeli. Unfortunately, I had no contact with Israeli officials as the Israeli Government does not recognize my mandate.

There has been a substantial deterioration in respect of human rights in the OPT since Hamas won the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council earlier this year. Gaza is under siege. Israel controls its airspace and has resumed sonic booms which terrorize and traumatize its people. The targeted killing of militants is on the increase. Inevitably, as in the past, such killings have resulted in the killing and wounding of innocent bystanders. Israel also controls Gaza’s territorial sea and fires missiles into the territory from ships at sea. The no-go area along the border of Gaza has been extended to some 500-600 metres to enable the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to prevent the firing of Qassam rockets by Palestinian militants. IDF policy now allows it to fire shells up to 100 metres from civilian houses.

Within Gaza, medical services have been seriously affected by the prohibition on the funding of medical equipment and medical supplies managed by the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. The non-payment of salaries to Palestinian Authority employees has affected both hospitals and schools as employees cannot afford to travel to work. Unemployment and poverty are on the increase. After a long period of closure of the Karni commercial crossing, this crossing has been re-opened but it still processes only a limited number of trucks with the result that Gaza is still short of basic foodstuffs and is unable to export its produce. Human rights violations in the West Bank have also intensified.

The construction of the Wall continues to impact severely on human rights. In farming areas, lands are being abandoned in the closed zone (the area between the Wall and the Green Line) as farmers are denied permits to farm their land. Families both within the closed zone and its precincts have been substantially impoverished as a result. The impact of the Wall is no less severe in the cities. The Wall in Jerusalem divides Palestinian neighbourhoods and in so doing separates families who hold different identity documents. The law prohibiting Israeli Arab spouses from co habiting with their West Bank and Gaza Palestinian spouses has further damaged family life. Travel into and out of Jerusalem has become a nightmare for Palestinians as a result of new travel restrictions. There has been a sharp increase in the number of checkpoints in the West Bank since Hamas was elected to office. There are now over 500 checkpoints and roadblocks that make the travel of Palestinians within the West Bank itself virtually impossible. Previously permits were obtainable from a Palestinian Authority agency acting in co-operation with the Israeli authorities. Since the election of Hamas, however, Israel has ceased all co-operation with the Palestinian Authority and it is now incumbent on Palestinians to obtain travel permits from the Israeli authorities. This has led to a sharp decline in the number of permits granted. To aggravate matters there is a new mood of hostility towards Palestinians at checkpoints on the part of Israeli soldiers, probably in response to the Palestinian elections.

Checkpoints in the northern sector of the West Bank between Jenin and Nablus serve no apparent security purpose as there is a Wall (barrier) to the West and North and a line of fences and checkpoints to the South. Yet it is in this area, particularly around Nablus, which is imprisoned by checkpoints, that checkpoints are most severe. The absence of a satisfactory security explanation for these checkpoints leads to the inevitable conclusion that they are principally designed to humiliate and harass the Palestinian people. Israeli control over the Jordan Valley is intensifying. Settlements are expanding and life is being made intolerable for Palestinians in the area. Only Palestinians with Jordan Valley identity papers are allowed into the area and it is virtually impossible for such persons to leave the Jordan Valley. The Israeli authorities refuse to provide water and electricity to villages and health and education suffer from the ban on access of health workers and teachers to the Jordan Valley. A spirit of vindictiveness prevails. In one village I visited a house in Area B (where Palestinian houses are permitted) bordering on Area C (where the Israel Defence Forces have complete control). The house owner had planted a row of geraniums along the border of his house, but in Area C. The IDF instructed him to remove the geraniums as no permission had been obtained to grow them! In the south Hebron hills a low, mini-Wall is being constructed which seriously impedes Palestinian farmers from farming in the area between the Wall and the Green Line. This is also an area of settler violence towards Palestinians. It seems that this area too is designed for de-Palestinization.

Since Hamas was elected to office there has been a concerted effort to withhold funds from the Palestinian Authority, its agencies and projects. The Israeli Government is currently withholding tax revenues amounting to $50-60 million per month from the Palestinian Authority. In law Israel has no right to refuse to transfer this money that belongs to the Palestinian Authority under the 1994 Paris Protocol. Donor countries and agencies have also cut their funding drastically as a result of the fact that Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union. The decision of the US Treasury to prohibit transactions with the Palestinian Authority (PA) has had a profound effect on banks that are unprepared to transfer funds to the PA, its agencies and its projects, and on NGOs engaged in projects with the PA. In effect the Palestinian people have been subjected to economic sanctions the first time that an occupied peoplee have been so treated. Inevitably this economic strangulation has had a severe impact on the economic life of Palestinians and their human rights. About one million of Palestine’s 3.5 million population are directly affected by the non-payment of salaries while, indirectly, the whole population suffers economically. Moreover, as the Palestinian Authority is responsible for over 70 per cent of schools and 60 per cent of health care services in the OPT both education and health care have suffered substantially. At the same time, both unemployment and poverty figures have risen and continue to rise.

In the last few days the European Union has persuaded the Quartet (comprising the US, EU, Russian Federation and UN) to provide limited support to the Palestinian people. While this relief will ameliorate the humanitarian situation, it will not alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people. Attempts to persuade the Israeli Government to pay tax revenues due to the Palestinian Authority seem doomed to fail. Palestinians understandably find it difficult to comprehend the response of the Quartet and many Western States to the Palestinian elections. They argue that Israel is in violation of major Security Council and General Assembly resolutions dealing with unlawful territorial change and the violation of human rights, has failed to implement the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice and should accordingly be subjected to international sanctions. Instead the Palestinian people have been subjected to possibly the most rigorous form of international sanctions imposed in modern times.

I find it difficult not to support the above arguments. As a South African I recall the refusal of Western States to impose meaningful economic sanctions on South Africa to compel it to abandon apartheid on the grounds that this would harm the people of South Africa. No such sympathy is extended to the Palestinian people or their human rights. Moreover, I recall that the limited sanctions that were applied failed to produce regime change. Indeed, history teaches us that the siege and humiliation of a people tend to strengthen rather than weaken support for the government. At present, there is a need for creative diplomacy that will find a formula that will enable Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume negotiations for a peaceful settlement and respect for human rights. Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist and renounce violence will not be changed by isolation but by engagement and diplomacy. Unfortunately, the United States is unprepared to play the role of peace facilitator. This leaves the EU and the UN as the obvious honest brokers between Israelis and Palestinians. Whether either of these bodies can play this role while remaining part of the Quartet is questionable. The image of both the EU and the UN has suffered substantially among Palestinians as a result of the Quartet’s apparent support for economic isolation, under the direction of the United States. Their credibility and impartiality are seriously questioned by Palestinians. However, they remain the bodies most likely to achieve peace and promote human rights in the region. In these circumstances both bodies should seriously consider whether it is in the best interests of peace and human rights in the region for them to seek to find a peaceful solution through the medium of the Quartet.

Academic Boycott

Israeli academic institutions are implicated in the various forms of oppression exercised against the Palestinians. Israeli research institutes, think tanks and academic departments have historically granted legitimacy to the work of academics who advocate ethnic cleansing, apartheid, denial of refugee rights, and other dicriminatory policies against the Palestinians, whether in the OPT, inside Israel, or in exile.

Collaboration and cooperation with the intelligence services, the army, the other agencies of the occupation regime is part of the routine work of the Israeli academy. Furthermore, no Israeli body or institution has ever taken a public stand against the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, nor have academic institutions or representative bodies of Israeli academies criticised their government’s long standing siege of Palestinian academic institutions.

Indeed, the current regime of economic sanctions and other collective punishments imposed upon an entire society by the government of Israel, with grave complicity of the United States and the European Union, have gone without notice in the business-as-usual world of the Israeli academy.

Nor has the academy raised its voice against racism within Israel, as exemplified by the recent racist ruling of the Israeli High Court upholding a ban on the reunification of Palestinian citizens of Israel with their spouses from the OPT and therefore infringing, on ethnic grounds, upon the basic human right to choose one’s partner.

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (23/05/06) –

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