Briefing Paper January 2010

Palestine’s War of Independence

Israel’s pretty face

For more than a year, Israeli diplomats have been talking openly about their new strategy to counter growing global anger at Israel’s defiance of international law. It’s no longer enough, they argue, just to invoke Sderot every time someone raises Gaza. The task is also to change the subject to more pleasant topics: film, arts, gay rights–things that underline commonalities between Israel and places like Paris, New York and Toronto. After the Gaza attack, as the protests rose, this strategy went into high gear. “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits,” Arye Mekel, deputy director-general for cultural affairs for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, told the New York Times. “This way, you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”

Naomi Klein The Nation 15/09/09

An Open letter to Mr. Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa

Dr. Haidar Eid – Gaza 6 Sep 2009

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to express my dismay and disappointment with both your attendance at the national conference of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies – a racist organization by any standards – as well as the content of your speech at that forum.

I am a naturalised South African of Palestinian origin. I spent more than five years in Johannesburg, during which I earned a PhD from the University of Johannesburg and lectured at the-then Vista University in Soweto and Rand Afrikaans University in Johannesburg.

I would like to take issue with the manner in which you express your support for the two-state solution: “It is a solution that fulfils the aspirations of both parties for independent homelands through two states for two peoples, Israel and an independent, adjoining, and viable state of Palestine” (emphasis mine). Allow me, Mr. President, as a resident of Gaza, to express my shock with the fact that – only 8 months after the Gaza massacre, in which 1500 civilians, including 434 children, were brutally murdered – you still believe that there are two symmetrical sides. You even call it the “IsraeliPalestinian conflict!” Was that your belief in the 1970’s and 80’s; that there were “two-sides” to the South African “conflict”? Were there two equal parties, namely White and Black, with equal claim to the land and equal historical responsibility for the-then status quo? No doubt, this sounds like a bizarre interpretation of South African history and one which we Palestinians find equally astounding when applied to our history and our reality today.

Mr. President, these words of yours are even more disturbing, given your own involvement in the commendable struggle against the brutal, anti-human apartheid system and the notion of “independent homelands” which were based on the separation of human beings. Your struggle as Black South Africans, was morally superior to apartheid because it was inclusive where apartheid focused on separation; it was embracing where apartheid focused on division; it was lifeaffirming where apartheid was violent and murderous.

The South African anti-apartheid goal, adopted by anti-apartheid activists all around the world was unequivocal: the end of the racist system and ideology of apartheid. There could be no toenadering (rapprochement)with apartheid ideologues; no creation of homelands and puppet leaders: the system had to be dismantled in its entirety. Many South Africans supported by a sustained global anti-apartheid campaign, sacrificed their lives to bring down the Bantustansan euphemistically, called independent homelands by the apartheid regime. Mr. President, Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani, the Mxenges, the Slovosac to mention but a few anti-apartheid heroes must have listened to the speech to the JBD and wondered what happened to the universal values and human rights espoused by the ANC.

Comrade Jacob (if I may), I would like to brief you on the nature of the powerful party, i.e. Israel – with whom your post-apartheid government still, amazingly, maintains exceptional diplomatic and economic ties.

Unlike the new post-apartheid South Africa, which you helped to create, in the State of Israel all human beings are NOT equal. There are fundamental artificially created and selectively rewarded a level of of citizens in the state. Israel defines itself as a Jewish State. It, therefore, creates a bizarre distinction between “nationality” and “citizenship.” Almost 22% of the citizens of Israel are Palestinians who are excluded from such a definition. Israel thus, by definition is NOT the state of its citizens, but rather that of “The Jewish People”, most of whom, like the members of JBD whom you were addressing, have no birthright connection to it. The question which begs an answer is what the status of those Palestinian citizens in a Jewish state is? The answer is, as every single – to use a word you must abhor “non-white” South African knows: Racism.

The delegates at the national conference of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Jewish, but at the same time, South African citizens “enjoy full rights” in Israel, rights that apartheid Israel denies to us, the indigenous people of this land. They also call us “Israeli Arabs”, “Jerusalem residents”, “Arabs of the territories”, not to mention the refugees living in the Diaspora, whose mere mention always spoils any party, and whose right to return and compensation is sanctioned by International Law (UNGA resolution 194).

Israeli nationality, therefore, is non-existent. Instead, there is “Jewish Nationality”. To make such a bizarre term comprehensible, think of “White Nationality” as opposed to South African. In your speech before the JBD, you state very eloquently that “(m)uch as we are conscious of who we are culturally and otherwise, it must not take away the national identity, as we should be South Africans first”.

The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crimes of Apartheid, Article 2, Part 3, clearly defines apartheid as:

“any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work… the right to education, the right to leave and return to their country the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence.”

This definition, in its entirety, clearly applies not only to the Palestinian people residing in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but also those living in Israel itself. This is precisely the reason that the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Territories, a fellow South African, John Dugard, concluded that “the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid appears to be violated by many practices”.

If you were born to Palestinian parents living in Israel – a fate you have been spared, Mr. President – you too would be denied the rights of “Jewish Nationality” and been forced to submit to institutionalized inferiority or choose to resist it.

Furthermore, ICSPCA (quoted above), Article 2, Part 4, makes it crystal clear that:

“the term ‘the crime of apartheid’,’ shall apply to “any measures including legislative measure, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate measures and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups The expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof..” Comrade Jacob, the word apartheid never appears once in your speech before the JBD! A listener would never know that you were speaking to an audience who actively support apartheid in another country.

Did you know that racist laws used to forbid Black property ownership in white areas in apartheid South Africa are in force in apartheid Israel? Indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel are not only prohibited from living on land owned by “Jewish institutions”, but are also not allowed by force of “law” to reside in any areas designated “Jewish” either. I, myself, Mr. President, a resident of Gaza, like so many Palestinians, have legal title to my parents’ land in Israel, but have no “legal” right to it because my parents’ property, like that of millions of other Palestinians’, was taken away from us and given over to Jewish ownership. The facts are that Jews owned only 7% of Palestine before 1948; today 93% is considered “state land” and can only be owned by Jews or Israel.

This is only one example, Comrade Jacob, of the nature of the state your government deems “democratic” and “friendly” despite its past strategic ties with apartheid SA.

Your government, Mr. President, turns a blind eye to the war crimes of its own citizens against Palestinians. The South African war criminal David Benjamin was allowed to freely move around South Africa and share his tactics of support and defence for the Israeli Occupation Forces in its recent onslaught against the Gaza Strip with impunity. There are seventy other South Africans that are known to have links with the destruction of the Israeli Occupation Forces who enjoy the same impunity. It is left to individuals and civil society organizations in South Africa to take action against these criminals that should rightly be the task of the government.

Your post-apartheid government, Mr. President, unashamedly, supports the two-state solution: one for Palestinians (Muslim and Christians), and one for Jews. In other words, you support the re-birth of Bantustans, albeit in the Middle East this time. The two-state solution is a racist solution, comrade Jacob. If you did not accept it for yourselves in South Africa, why force it on Palestinians instead of supporting us as we demand the right to our homeland every single inch of it?


Dr Haidar Eid


Fascism in Israel and its influence on Arab Youth

Nadim Nashif Director Baladna, association for Arab youth.

For the past 61 years, the Israeli government’s policies have been full of discrimination, isolation, and marginalization towards the Arab Palestinian community in Israel. However, within the past two years, discriminatory laws and regulations against the Palestinian population living within Israel has reached an alarming rate of legislation. Adalah-the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel has reported over 40 such laws have reached the Knesset in the last 1 ½ alone. Examples of these laws include a “Nakba bill,” outlawing and criminalizing the holding of public events or ceremonies to commemorate Palestinian Nakba on Israel ‘s Independence Day, the maximum penalty for defying this law, a 3 year prison sentence. As well as a proposed amendment to the Citizenship Law, to impose the following pledge of loyalty on anyone receiving citizenship, “I pledge to be loyal to the State of Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state, to its values and to its flag, and to serve the state in anyway asked of me in military service as required by law.” These bills and legislative suggestions received more and more support from the extreme right wing government of Netanyahu. Fascism became main stream as Israel Betaino Lieberman became a forging Minister of Israel. Lieberman is the main advocate for the transfer of all Palestinian citizens of Israel from the 48’ areas to the West Bank and neighboring Arab countries; thus making ethnic cleansing today a legitimate part of the Israeli political public debate. Furthermore, Gidon Saar (of the Likud party) minister of education, gave orders in the last months to enhance the Zionist education in schools alongside the forced singing of the Israeli national anthem in Arab schools.

These laws are brought to the Knesset so as to instill fear and eradicate any existing political activism within the Palestinian community living within the green line. Specifically, the increased political awareness and activism of Palestinian Arab youth within Israel has seen a very negative response by the government. By monitoring, arresting, and interrogating young activist ‘suspects’ the Israeli security services aims to frighten the community and lessen the political activism. This intends to further discourage the rise of a strong Palestinian consciousness within the state, thus slowly taking the situation of Palestinians within Israel to that of the militant regime of the 50’s and 60’s. During the period of military rule, any form of activism was wiped from the Palestinian identity living within Israel. Arrests, torture, and terrorism were all used to instil fear in those growing up during that time period, and the government hoped this fear would be passed down to the children of that generation. And since the young Palestinian youth of today are in fact active and have become more so after the Second Intifada; the government has reversed to the tactics of the 50’s and 60’s to again weaken this movement of political awareness and activism.

We reject and strongly condemn the arrests and investigations that have been politically motivated by the Israeli security services in the current weeks. Most recently, the security services have detained and investigated a young group of activist whose main commonality was that they had attended the annual Arab Youth Conference in Morocco. Five youth were arrested, 2 young women and 3 men, on charges of suspicion and collaboration with other youth from Arab states that Israel define as ‘enemy countries.’ When the Israeli security services claims charges of collaboration, these accusations are mainly identified as a Palestinian youth’s relations and networks on facebook and other such social networking sites. What this kind of ‘collaborator’ analysis fails to realize is that the Palestinian society in Israel has been and will be part of the Arab sphere and part of the Arab world since before the creation of the state of Israel. It is very natural for various cultural, political and social connections to be made, and the state of Israel has no right to prevent and block such links.

This trend of imprisoning and interrogating young Arab activist is used as a strong scare tactic in regards to the entire Arab community. In recent months, Baladna has been witness to tens of cases of interrogations of youth activist from different NGOs & Political parties, in the last few months only and we estimate that hundreds of youth have been in fact interrogated. For the Palestinian youth active in the political sphere, these arrests and interrogations have increased in order to silence this movement. The main aim of the Israeli government is to silence the truth and prevent the protest against injustices committed within and outside of the state of Israel. This is the real policies of the government that is often called the ‘oasis of democracy’ within the Middle East.

The Palestinian community inside of Israel has fought and struggled throughout the years for its legitimate, equal rights as individuals and as a collective in peaceful and democratic ways, and will not be intimidated to stop. The right of expression and political and social activity is a fundamental right by all the charters and international human rights treaties. It is a human and civil right to raise our voices against the injustices we experience, and we will not allow the government of Israel so frighten us back into the days of military rule.

A just resolution of the question of Palestine must be based on the content of international law, and will only be attained when the unity of the Palestinian people has been achieved and the international community speaks with all its representatives who enjoy credibility and have been democratically elected. In addition to the withdrawal of the Israelis from all territories illegally occupied since 1967, international law demands that all Palestinians displaced during the creation of the State of Israel, their children and grandchildren, be permitted to return to their homeland of Palestine.

Outgoing United Nations General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockman

…the whole world knows that, among many other truths, some of our most powerful and influential member states definitely do not believe in the rule of law in international relations and are of the view, moreover, that complying with the legal norms to which we formally commit, when signing the [UN] Charter, is something that applies only to weak countries. With such a low level of commitment, it should not be surprising that the United

Nations has been unable to achieve the main objectives for which it was created. Outgoing United Nations General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockman

Farewell, Fr Miguel – and thank you for trying Stuart Littlewood 18/09/09

Outgoing United Nations General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockman says he was obstructed by leading UN members from trying to improve the lives of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

“My greatest frustration this year has been the Palestine situation,” he told the 192-nation assembly in his final address on 14 September before handing over the one-year presidency to Libyan diplomat Ali Treki.

He found it “disgraceful” the way influential members of the UN Security Council had shown “passivity and apparent indifference” about the long and cruel Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Fr Miguel is not your usual time-serving career diplomat. In 1961 was ordained a priest in the Catholic church. In 1962, he obtained a Master of Science degree from Columbia University’s School of Journalism (Pulitzer Institute). He served for over a decade as Nicaragua’s minister of foreign affairs, during which he spearheaded his government’s claim in the International Court of Justice against the United States for supporting military and paramilitary actions against his country. The court ruled in Nicaragua’s favour.

Palestinians in particular, and those concerned about foreign affairs in general, will find the unedited version of his parting speech, where it relates to the Holy Land, well worth reading:

My greatest frustration this year has been the Palestine situation. The question of Palestine continues to be the most serious and prolonged unresolved political and human rights issue on the agenda of the United Nations since its inception. The evident lack of commitment for resolving it is a scandal that has caused me much sorrow.   I promised a proactive presidency, and sincerely believe that I did everything I possibly could in this regard, requesting and attempting to persuade those who should have been most closely involved to call for the convocation of the General Assembly to consider the Palestine situation. However, whether at the time of the three-week invasion of Gaza that began on 27 December or now, all I received was advice to give the process more time, because things were always on the point of being resolved and we should do nothing that could endanger the success that was always just beyond our reach.

Faced with this situation, I sincerely did not know what to do. I wanted to help Palestine, but those who should supposedly have been most interested denied their support for reasons of “caution” that I was incapable of understanding. I hope that they were right and that I was wrong. Otherwise, we face an ugly situation of constant complicity with the aggression against the rights of the noble and long-suffering Palestinian people.

A just resolution of the question of Palestine must be based on the content of international law, and will only be attained when the unity of the Palestinian people has been achieved and the international community speaks with all its representatives who enjoy credibility and have been democratically elected. In addition to the withdrawal of the Israelis from all territories illegally occupied since 1967, international law demands that all Palestinians displaced during the creation of the State of Israel, their children and grandchildren, be permitted to return to their homeland of Palestine.

My chief consultant on humanitarian affairs, Dr Kevin Cahill, was sent to Gaza from 17 to 22 February to prepare a report on the humanitarian situation in Gaza immediately after the aggression. Dr Cahill’s report was issued on Wednesday 19 August, on the occasion of World Humanitarian Day commemorating the sacrifices of United Nations staff in conflict zones; it had originally been intended for release at a Special Session on Gaza, but that did not take place for the reasons mentioned.

I find disgraceful the passivity and apparent indifference of some highly influential members of the Security Council to the fact that the blockade of Gaza has continued uninterrupted for two years, in flagrant violation of international law and of the resolution of the Security Council itself, causing immense damage and suffering to the Palestinian population of Gaza. This situation threatens to become even more serious if immediate measures are not taken, now that winter is approaching. Now is the time to demonstrate, with actions and not simply words, a true commitment to the concept of the responsibility to protect.

I hope Fr Miguel will tell us the names of those “highly influential members” who showed “disgraceful passivity and indifference” in the face of such appalling human suffering. The world needs to identify and dispose of these contemptible deadbeats in high places. Were any of them British? We in the UK are well aware that our Foreign Office, and indeed the whole fabric of our government, is infected with Israel’s stooges and others with no moral fibre. These snivelers mouth words of condemnation and wring their hands but never take firm action. They disgrace us all. Law of the jungle rules, OK?

Elsewhere in his speech Fr Miguel made this remarkable observation:

…the whole world knows that, among many other truths, some of our most powerful and influential member states definitely do not believe in the rule of law in international relations and are of the view, moreover, that complying with the legal norms to which we formally commit, when signing the [UN] Charter, is something that applies only to weak countries. With such a low level of commitment, it should not be surprising that the United Nations has been unable to achieve the main objectives for which it was created.

Certain member states think that they can act according to the law of the jungle, and defend the right of the strongest to do whatever they feel like with total and absolute impunity, and remain accountable to no one. It is not recorded whether these words received the applause they deserved.

Farewell, Fr Miguel, and good hunting. You gave it your best shot, unlike others. Please don’t leave the scene altogether.

Obama’s envoy, former Senator George Mitchell, traveled to the region almost a dozen times to convince Israel to implement a freeze. Every proposal he took, the Israelis rejected. And to emphasize the point, the Israeli government accelerated the approval of major new settlement plans. Instead of threatening consequences for such intransigence, Mitchell simply diluted American conditions to meet Israeli objections until finally there was little left of the American demands — or credibility.

“We are not identifying any issue as being a precondition or an impediment to negotiation,” Mitchell said, adding, “We do not believe in preconditions. We do not impose them and we urge others not to impose them.” This is of course completely untrue. The Obama Administration, like the Bush Administration before it, continues to boycott Hamas (which has a legitimate electoral mandate to represent Palestinians under occupation) on the grounds that Hamas has refused to meet one-sided American preconditions!

If this is not absurd enough, consider what the US is really saying to the Palestinians in the wake of Mitchell’s failure: “We, the greatest superpower on Earth, are unable to convince Israel — which is dependent on us militarily, economically and diplomatically — to abide by even a temporary settlement freeze. Now, you Palestinians, who are a dispossessed, occupied people whose leaders cannot move without an Israeli permit, go and negotiate on much bigger issues like borders, refugees, Jerusalem and settlements, and do better than we did. Good luck to you.”

Isn’t it ironic that the most enthusiastic boosters of the ugly collaboration between the Israeli occupation army and US-trained PA militias to suppress resistance to the occupation, simultaneously insist that it is implausible for Palestinians and Israelis to build a joint society under conditions of equality? Apparently Palestinians and Israelis can collude to maintain oppression and injustice but not to transcend them!

Ali Abunimah The Electronic Intifada 24/09/09

Developing the Negev and the Galilee is the Zionism of the 21st century

Ben White 27/09/09

Once again, issues like the settlement “freeze” are dominating the official peace process, ignoring not only core questions like Israel’s “matrix of control”, but also the status of Palestinian citizens of Israel. While the increasingly overt racism of Knesset members has got its fair share of headlines, other important developments have escaped scrutiny outside the region.

Last month, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu managed to pass legislation that introduces significant changes in how Israel’s land is administered. The bill that eventually passed in the Knesset seeks to replace the Israel Lands Administration (ILA), which manages 93% of land in Israel, with a new Land Authority, and crucially, will allow for the privatisation of 200,000 acres (half by 2014). This change will “allow people to own their property outright, rather than lease it from the ILA”.

For weeks, there was fierce political fighting, as supporters and opponents of the reform bill ramped up the rhetoric and made often strange-looking alliances in order to strengthen their bloc. While Netanyahu was selling the reform as a way to boost the economy, the discussion was by no means restricted to fiscal policy – environmental concerns, religion, and Zionism itself were all part of the intense arguments.

Palestinian citizens of Israel were also unhappy with the reforms, though the impact of the new Land Authority and its arrangements with the Jewish National Fund (JNF) on the country’s marginalised minority was rarely central to the Knesset-focused debate. Yet there are important consequences for Palestinian refugees and Palestinians in Israel (including the “present absentees”).

First, the privatisation means that land previously managed by the state after it was expropriated from

Palestinians by past Israeli governments will become the property of private owners. This despite the fact that these mass expropriations were carried out ostensibly for a “public” purpose, and therefore should revert to their original owners once the original reason for the state’s expropriation is no longer relevant. The reform will also “lead to privatisation of property of some of the lands of destroyed and evacuated Arab villages, as well as many properties belonging to Palestinian refugees” – property currently held by the state’s Custodian of Absentee Property. As Adalah, the Arab rights legal centre, put it, this privatisation of land “will lead to a total break of the link between the land and its original owner”, while “the sale of absentees’ property” is not only a breach of the Geneva convention, but also “contravenes” Israel’s own Absentee Property Law.

Second, as part of the reform package, the JNF is exchanging land with the state, receiving land in the Negev and Galilee (though for the moment, the whole deal is being held up in the courts). This fits with the “Judaisation” strategy targeting these two regions which have high concentrations of Palestinians and Bedouins. In the words of the JNF’s world chairman, “developing the Negev and the Galilee is the Zionism of the 21st century”. Given that the new Israel Land Authority will manage JNF lands “in a way that will preserve the principles” of a body whose self-defined “unique role” is as “owner of the eternal property of the Jewish people”, it is not surprising that Arabs see this as yet another means of restricting their access to and control of land, in areas “crying out” for “development” and “fair planning”.

Third, the land reform maintains the influence of the JNF at the highest level of Israel’s land management. The new Lands Council will have six JNF members out of a total of 13, with “the Chairmen of the subcommittee and budget committee” selected from “among the JNF representatives”. This means that the JNF has a significant role in shaping the nation’s land policies – not simply the land it owns.

For Palestinians, the land reforms pushed through by Netanyahu’s government have less to do with stimulating the economy than feeling like a continuation of the 1948 Nakba. Dr Yosef Jabareen, a lecturer at The Technion in Haifa, summarised the bill as a “neo-liberal economic vision, which focuses on the privatisation of public resources” converging “with the completion of Palestinian disinheritance”. The real kind of reform needed is still a distant prospect.

Abbas helps Israel bury its crimes in Gaza    Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada,02/10/09 Representing the moribund Palestine Liberation Organization, the executive committee of which seen here, Mahmoud Abbas has abandoned a resolution to hold Israel accountable for its alleged war crimes in Gaza.

(MaanImages/POOL/Omar Rashidi) Just when it seemed that the Ramallah Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leader Mahmoud Abbas could not sink any lower in their complicity with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the murderous blockade of Gaza, Ramallah has dealt a further stunning blow to the Palestinian people.

The Abbas delegation to the United Nations in Geneva (officially representing the moribund Palestine Liberation Organization) abandoned a resolution requesting the Human Rights Council to forward Judge Richard Goldstone’s report on war crimes in Gaza to the UN Security Council for further action. Although the PA acted under US pressure, there are strong indications that the commercial interests of Palestinian and Gulf businessmen closely linked to Abbas also played a part.

The 575-page Goldstone report documents evidence of shocking Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity during last winter’s assault on the Gaza Strip which killed 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority noncombatants and hundreds of them children. The report also accuses the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas of war crimes for firing rockets into Israel that killed three civilians.

Goldstone’s report was hailed by Palestinians and supporters of the rule of law worldwide as a watershed; it

called for suspects to be held accountable before international courts if Israel failed to prosecute them. Israel has no history, ever, of holding its political and military leaders judicially accountable for war crimes against the Palestinians.

Israel was rightly terrified of the report, mobilizing all its diplomatic and political resources to discredit it. In recent days, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that if the report were acted on, it would “strike a severe blow to the war against terrorism,” and “strike a fatal blow to the peace process, because Israel will no longer be able to take additional steps and take risks for peace if its right to self-defense is denied.”

Unsurprisingly, an early ally in the Israeli campaign for impunity was the Obama Administration, whose UN ambassador, Susan Rice, expressed “very serious concerns” about the report and trashed Goldstone’s mandate as “unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable.” (Rice was acting true to her word; in April she told the newspaper Politico that one of the main reasons the Obama Administration decided to join the UN Human Rights Council was to fight what she called “the anti-Israel crap.”)

Goldstone, whose daughter has publicly described her father as a Zionist who loves Israel, is a former judge of the South African Supreme Court, and a highly respected international jurist. He was the chief prosecutor at UN war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. That the Goldstone report was a severe blow to Israel’s ability to commit future war crimes with impunity is not in doubt; this week bolstered by the report, lawyers in the UK asked a court to issue an arrest warrant for visiting Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. That action did not succeed, but Israel’s government has taken extraordinary measures in recent months to try to shield its officials from prosecution, fearing that successful arrests are just a matter of time. Along with the growing international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions, the fear of ending up in The Hague seems to be the only thing that causes the Israeli government and society to reconsider their destructive path.

One would think, then, that the self-described representatives of the Palestinian people would not casually throw away this weapon. And yet, according to Abbas ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi, the Ramallah PA shelved its effort at the request of the Americans because “We don’t want to create an obstacle for them.”

Khraishi’s excuse that the resolution is merely being deferred until the spring does not pass muster. Unless action is taken now, the Goldstone report will be buried by then and evidence of Israel’s crimes — necessary for prosecutions — may be harder to collect.

This latest surrender comes less than two weeks after Abbas appeared at a summit in New York with US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu despite Obama abandoning his demand that Israel halt construction of Jewishonly settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Also under US pressure, the PA abandoned its pledge not to resume negotiations unless settlement-building stopped, and agreed to take part in US-mediated “peace talks” with Israel in Washington this week. Israel, meanwhile, announced plans for the largest ever West Bank settlement since 1967.

What makes this even more galling, is the real possibility that the PA is helping Israel wash its hands of the blood it spilled in Gaza for something as base as the financial gain of businessmen closely linked to Abbas.

The Independent (UK) reported on 1 October: “Shalom Kital, an aide to defense minister Ehud Barak, said today that Israel will not release a share of the radio spectrum that has long been sought by the Palestinian Authority to enable the launch of a second mobile telecommunications company unless the PA drops its efforts to put Israeli soldiers and officers in the dock over the Israeli operation.” (“Palestinians cry ‘blackmail’ over Israel phone service threat,” The Independent, 1 October).

Kital added that it was a “condition” that the PA specifically drop its efforts to advance the Goldstone report. The phone company, Wataniya, was described last April by Reuters as an “Abbas-backed company” which is a joint venture between Qatari and Kuwaiti investors and the Palestinian Investment Fund with which one of Abbas’ sons is closely involved. Moreover, Reuters revealed that the start-up company apparently had no shortage of capital due to the Gulf investors receiving millions of dollars of “US aid in the form of loan guarantees meant for Palestinian farmers and other small to mid-sized businesses” (See “US aid goes to Abbas-backed Palestinian phone venture,” Reuters, 24 April 2009).

Just a day before the Abbas delegation pulled its resolution in Geneva, Nabil Shaath, the PA “foreign minister” denounced the Israeli threat over Wataniya as “blackmail” and vowed that the Palestinians would never back down.

The PA’s betrayal of the Palestinian people over the Goldstone report, as well as its continued “security

coordination” with Israel to suppress resistance and political activity in the West Bank, should banish all doubt that it is an active arm of the Israeli occupation doing tangible and escalating harm to the Palestinian people and their just cause.

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