Briefing Paper February 2014

The Oslo Accords 20 years on: Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?

Haim Bresheeth 20/09/13

The Oslo Accords accelerated the disappearance of Palestine, with disastrous results.

Amidst the press and media brouhaha in July about the “amazing success” (now all but forgotten) of John Kerry in “restarting” the longest-lasting and the least productive “peace process” known to man, it was easy to overlook the fact that two decades have passed since that fateful set of agreements were signed by Rabin, Arafat and Peres, leading them to the Nobel Peace Prize lectern, and Premier Rabin also to his death at the hand of an extremist Jewish assassin.

Had twenty years really passed? And what have we to show for it?

Well, not a lot, if you are a Palestinian. The agreements which, at best, could lead to a small Bantustan, the parts of which would be connected by tunnels and bridges, have led to a very large network of tiny mini-stans, connected not by roads but by the internet, in the main.

The Palestinian Authority, as Arafat once mused, was allowed only the killing of mosquitoes in its limited reign, now has the unenviable task of securing, not their own population, but the Israelis instead. They do not control much – certainly not the roads, airspace, territorial waters, water resources, electricity, ports and airports, or even their own border crossings. They have not got their own currency, and so cannot employ any financial machinery in the PA areas, let alone any serious attempt at rebuilding the Palestinian economy, which, before 1967, was the richer part of the Jordanian economy, and self-sufficient.         That the policemen controlling the Palestinian population are themselves Palestinians is certainly not impressive enough to stop Israeli snatch-and-kill squads from periodically entering the PA territories to carry out extra-judicial assassinations, or to stop Israel from bombing Gaza and its inhabitants on a constant basis.

To cross from one part of the West Bank to another may take not just many long hours, but sometimes days. Israel controls the whole of Palestine, as it did before the Accords were signed, but now it is able to seal off areas much more easily than before. Of course, Israel has never carried out the series of withdrawals which were intended, by those liberals who believed in the Accords, supposedly to lead to a two-state solution, itself never mentioned in the Accords.

It is safe to say we are as far away from such a solution as we always were, if not further. Palestine is a patchwork of local communities, separated by a Jews-only system of roads, roadblocks, and the army of occupation – the so-called IDF. There is no Palestinian state and nor is there likely to be one in the near future.

The PLO was allowed back from Tunis, yes – but only for the task of securitising the Israeli population. The armed struggle is ended, for all intents and purposes. Not a single settlement was vacated in the West Bank, and the ones in the Gaza Strip were abandoned in order to make the whole of the Strip more open for Israeli airstrikes and naval attacks as well as Israeli tanks. Well, it does not amount to much, does it?

What was achieved is more significant, if you are on the Israeli side of the apartheid fence. Israel, which had to fork out billions every year in order to securitize the continuation of its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, has managed to outsource the cost, as a result of the Oslo Accords. This cost is now born by the US and EU, instead.

Not just the cost has been avoided, but also the headache of running the 46-year-old occupation amongst a hostile Palestinian population. The daily policing of the territories before 1993 caused a deep rift in Israeli society, where many men serving in the territories have found it increasingly difficult to live with their role of brutal occupiers. That crucial social and political rift was healed in 1993 – the peaceniks of the left have joined the admiration of Sharon prevalent in all parts of Israeli society, and come to see the racist right-wingers in the settlements and elsewhere as a fact of life, and an integral part of their society.

Israel since 1967 has had a huge commercial boom due to the captive market of occupied Palestine where it made sure no industry of any kind was established. Israel became a mini-empire, with its modernised economy based on exploiting cheap labour from the territories (and later from other parts of the world) and on the double-headed industrial base – the huge and lucrative military-industrial complex, and the diamond-processing industry, as well as high-tech start-ups.

Released from the need to manage the occupation, and from the cost-implications of such managements, Israel could concentrate on making sure Palestine can never rise from its ashes under the PA. While this process started in 1967, it was greatly accelerated after 1993.

The main achievement of Israel is its ability to act illegally with impunity, never fearing that the international community might take issue with its infringements of human rights, of the Geneva Convention rules, and UN resolutions, not to mention the International Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court. With the massive umbrella of US and EU political and financial support, Israel could at last work on enlarging the settlements, so as to make a Palestinian state all but impossible.

Ever since 1993, this massive building and repopulation effort, in clear contravention of international law, has brought about a tripling of the Israeli population living in the 22 percent of Palestine destined to become a Palestinian state as a result of a fulsome reading of the Oslo Accords – certainly a reading promoted by the US and the EU.

The settlements also meant additional “security roads”, land confiscations, control of crucial water resources, and the addition of hundreds of military check-points, making daily life for millions of Palestinians rather impossible.

A hard-hitting approach was adopted towards the Christian Palestinians, driving many to immigrate to North America, South America and Europe, as they felt abandoned by Christians elsewhere, in their plight under the occupation.

In 2003, just over a decade after signatures were exchanged on the lawn of the White House, Sharon started the great effort still ongoing to totally cut off Palestinians from the rest of the world, as well as from much of their land, by building the apartheid wall, destined to become almost a thousand kilometres long, and visible from space.

While Sharon spent almost a decade in a vegetative state in a Jerusalem hospital, the Oslo Accords did no better – they have vegetated into a system of strictures and limitations on every legal activity in Palestine, leaving Israel scot-free to flout all international laws it chose at any point in time. Under the guise of “peace talks” which quickly became “talks about talks”, Israel and its allies continue to flout the Oslo Accords themselves, making sure the life in Palestine became increasingly insufferable.

Israel, one of the smallest countries on the planet, has become one of the strongest powers extant; it is the fifth or sixth largest arms-exporter in the world, exporting death and destruction, as well as its branded security solutions, methods and equipment, far and wide.If anyone thought that this impressive expansion in its destructive capacity would lead Israeli society (that is, its Jewish majority) to a better social contract and a more open and liberal society, the summer of 2011 came with its widely-spread social protest and proved the opposite.

The occupation has not just de-humanised the Palestinians, but has also been enormously destructive for Jewish (and Arab) workers inside the Green Line boundaries. The only winners are the settlers, the tycoons, and the arms industry. Inequality in Israel soared to become the highest in the world – another first Israel may have done better without. But of course there are deeper fault-lines still. Ever since Oslo and the rapid disappearance of Palestine, accelerated in 1993, Israel is leading away from its supposed solution of a Jewish state.

While I myself am not at all supportive of such a racist concept, which will keep Zionism alive, most Israelis are totally invested in this concept, and believe there is no other arrangement they could wish for or accept. Of course, the failure to carry out the Oslo Agreements, and to withdraw from the 22 percent of Palestine occupied in 1967, meant that the ideal of a Jewish state is further away than ever, creating further tension in the region, as most people are coming to realise that the two state solution is not only a mask of lies by Israel and its allies, but is also deeply-flawed, dividing the small country of Palestine unnecessarily and in an unjust manner, while preserving intact the racist ideology and practices at the heart of Zionism.

The law of unintended consequences has come to demonstrate, once again, how some ideologies are so extreme as to achieve a reversal of their own intentions. More and more people, on both sides of the apartheid wall realise that their future lies in a common, democratic entity in the whole of Palestine. It seems that the heritage of this flawed project – the Oslo Accords – will bring about the end of the racist state that has set it in motion. The question is, how many will have to die, how many lives will be destroyed, how much of Palestine will be devastated, before the end of the occupation?

Israeli soldiers ‘manhandle’ European diplomats attempting to deliver aid to Palestine


Israeli soldiers manhandled European diplomats on Friday and seized a truck full of tents and emergency aid they had been trying to deliver to Palestinians whose homes were demolished this week.

A Reuters reporter saw soldiers throw sound grenades at a group of diplomats, aid workers and locals in the occupied West Bank, and yank a French diplomat out of the truck before driving away with its contents. “They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity,” French diplomat Marion Castaing said. “This is how international law is being respected here,” she said, covered with dust. The Israeli army and police declined to comment.

Locals said Khirbet Al-Makhul was home to about 120 people. The army demolished their ramshackle houses, stables and a kindergarten on Monday after Israel’s high court ruled that they did not have proper building permits. Despite losing their property, the inhabitants have refused to leave the land, where, they say, their families have lived for generations along with their flocks of sheep.

Israeli soldiers stopped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivering emergency aid on Tuesday and on Wednesday IRCS staff managed to put up some tents but the army forced them to take the shelters down. Diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the European Union’s political office, turned up on Friday with more supplies. As soon as they arrived, about a dozen Israeli army jeeps converged on them, and soldiers told them not to unload their truck.

Al-Aqsa Faces Biggest Threat Since Occupation of Jerusalem

Malik Samara 19/09/2013

Not a day passes, it seems, without the occupation issuing some new regulation to Judaize al-Aqsa mosque. Today, Jews are being given unfettered access to one of Islam’s holiest sites, while restriction on Muslims increase by the day. Thirteen years ago this month, when former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon brazenly entered the Haram al-Sharif, where the al-Aqsa mosque is located, he sparked a Palestinian intifada that lasted several years. Today, Jewish settlers enter the Muslim holy site at will, with legal cover from the highest echelons of the Zionist state.

Alongside calls for mass marches in Jerusalem on the occasion of the Sukkot Jewish holiday next week, the Knesset issued a law allowing “Jews to worship on the Temple Mount.” In a turbulent meeting of the Knesset’s committee for internal affairs last Monday, September 16, members voted to allow “Jewish worshipers” to enter the Temple Mount throughout the holidays, which last for a week. Palestinians are concerned that during this period, Jewish settlers and militants will be given free reign to enter the Haram.

All efforts have been made to isolate Jerusalem from the adjoining Palestinian areas, forcing it to face the impending disaster alone. This has been done by increasing the number of checkpoints that Palestinians from the West Bank must cross to enter the occupied city, while imposing age restrictions on those within the area occupied in 1948 wishing to attend Friday prayers at the holy mosque.

Israeli plans to divide the Haram al-Sharif between Jews and Muslims – as they did with Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron many years ago – are no longer a matter of conjecture among Israeli politicians, with Knesset members calling for designating certain days of worship for Jews and others for Muslims, thus laying the foundation for the eventual division of one of Islam’s holiest sites.

Some Israeli MPs have even begun to discuss the idea of allowing Jews into the mosque compound at all times, with access to all entrances available. This is as the occupation authorities plan to close all checkpoints leading from the West Bank and Gaza on the occasion of the Sukkot holiday, as they had done recently during Yom Kippur. Palestinians are concerned that during this period, Jewish settlers and militants will be given free reign to enter the Haram. These concerns were only reinforced by calls within the Knesset that only Jews be allowed to enter the holy site during Jewish holidays.

Over Yom Kippur, the occupation rehearsed this scenario by restricting Muslims below the age of 50 from entering the mosque, while squares within the Haram were opened before Jewish settlers.

Israelis Turning Blood into Money: The Lab Review

Vacy Vlazna Palestine Chronicle Oct 16 2013

Yotam Feldman’s documentary, released in August, is one of the most important exposés of the obscene rationale and execution of Israel’s hugely lucrative arms and security industries through the voices of some of its ex-military key operators: Amos Golan, Shimon Naveh, Leo Gleser, and Yoav Galant. Israel’s armament juggernaut currently turns over $7 billion p.a. and its phenomenal success is, as Feldman reveals, due to experience, that is, the testing of weaponry on the Palestinian population in the Israeli military ‘labs’ of Gaza and the West Bank:

“I think the main product Israelis are selling, especially in the last decade, is experience. .. the testing of the products, the experience is the main thing they [customers] are coming to buy. They want the missile that was shot in the last operation in Gaza or the rifle that was used in the last West Bank incursion.” Without blinking an eye, Benjamin Ben Eleixer, Industry Minister proudly asserts the reason for the tremendous demand for Israeli weapons and technology,

‘If Israel sells weapons, they have been tested, tried out. We can say: we’ve used this for 10 years, 15 years,”

Tested by Israeli killers on 1,398 Palestinian children murdered since 2000 and the hundreds of thousands of children who struggle with war trauma, PTSD and perpetual terror. The Lab makes plain why the peace process, past, present and potential, is a total sham. The economy of Israel is inextricably dependent on war and the suffering of the Palestinians;

“And the other is the fact that now the Israeli economy is so much dependent on these operations. It’s 20 percent of the exports. It’s 150,000 families–not people–in Israel actually dependent on this industry. And if one day it will stop, if there will be no next operation in Gaza, so Israel will have some economic problems.”

‘The arms industry doesn’t belong to a few dealers, its owned by a whole country.’

What better justification of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which targets state and private companies as well as all Israeli universities, through their military R&D programmes, that are ‘turning blood into money’.

Which gun made the shekel accelerate when sisters Amal, 2 and Suad Abed-Rabbo, 9, who was waving a white flag, were shot by tank personnel in Gaza?

The degradation of the Israeli mind and society through the perverted normalising of state-sanctioned cruel aggression and violent criminality is apparent in the egotistic strutting throughout the film of the Israeli warmongers, politicians and arms dealers, who are oblivious that to civilised people they come across as psychopaths:

Gen (ret.) Amiran Levin, “I want to move onto one point, speaking of Gaza, speaking of Lebanon, and other places we will occupy in the future. Since we want to maintain equilibrium, as a developed country, punishment as a strategy should be the main element…That’s the most important thing, Quantity is more important than quality. One mistake the army makes is judging each case individually, whether the person deserves to die or not. Most of these people were born to die, we just have to help them.”

Lt.Co.(ret.) Shimon Naveh, a military philosopher, yes, you read right, military philosopher, who talks like he’s swallowed a kilo of amphetamines, strolls through a bullet-riddled mock Arab village used for military exercises, moaning, “As you can see this isn’t an Arab village. It is a dead place. Maybe in our rosiest dreams this is what a Palestinian village would look like, but it isn’t one.”

Gen.Yoav Galant, the ‘inventor’ of the 2008-9 Operation Cast Lead; “As far as I’m concerned the enemy has 3 options either he get killed, or he surrenders, or he flees.” Galant omits that the 1.6 million men, women, children and elderly of Gaza (for that matter all Palestinians) have nowhere to flee because Israel tightly controls Palestinian land, sea and airspace. Thus we understand that the Israelis have the identical strategy of low intensity or asymmetrical warfare as the USA; only attack nations that are on their knees through sieges, sanctions and substandard armaments.

Naveh, in an interview in the Small Wars Journal admits as much, “When you fight a war against a rival who’s by all means inferior to you, you may lose a guy here or there, but you’re in total control. It’s nice. You can pretend that you fight the war and yet it’s not really a dangerous war.”

Apart from the Hamas freedom fighters armed with Kalashnikovs and a ‘modest stock of weapons’, Palestine has no army, navy, airforce to defend its people. There are, of course, President Abbas’ US armed and trained security forces but they brutally police their own people on behalf of Israel.

Feldman shows how Israel’s major arms companies make arms selling sexy. At a weapons trade exhibition in Paris, a perky young female rep demonstrates on screen the precision capabilities of IAI products, and at the Shivta military base, foreign officers who have come to view a missile demonstration are divided into groups led by ‘lovely’ female Israeli soldiers.

Foreign governments, like Australia, contribute generously to optimising the profits of Israel’s death merchants while simultaneously appeasing their electorates, Galant complains, “Theres a lot of hypocrisy, they condemn you politically, while they ask you what your trick is, you Israelis, for turning blood into money,” nevertheless the gains for Israel as specified by him are, “First of all it gains security, secondly the nations and the armies of the world want to be friends with the strong, just side, and the winning side.”

Strong, yes, JUST? Not according to the parents of little 3 year old Ahmed As -Sinwar who was found under a pile of rubble and stones with a hole in his head, and not according to the parents of the other 352 children killed plus the 860 children injured and maimed in Operation Cast Lead by the sought-after Israeli air and ground missiles, artillery shelling, phosphorous bombs, flechettes, bullets and unexploded ordnance. It is utterly macabre and beyond decent comprehension that the sales of drones were boosted by the wilful killing by drones of 116 children during Operation Cast Lead.

The highest echelon of the Israeli government has control of the business of death. All export of arms and security services are OKd by SIBAT, the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s export agency. Amos Golan, an arms dealer who started ‘with a dream’, views himself as a ‘good guy’ not someone who kills innocent people in his spare time. He was a former commander of the Duvdevan special forces unit that conducts undercover operations disguised as Arabs and   the inventor of the highly profitable Cornershot assault and sniper gun that enables the user to see around corners.

His Silver Shadow Advanced Security Systems (SSASS), listed with SIBAT, has provided security solutions and training for the dictatorships of the Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Uganda where SSASS trained the Black Mamba death squad accused of human rights violations.

Leo Gleser, a generous father and grandfather, states that since 9/11 “all defense solutions now come from Israel through Israeli companies.” Who’d have thought 9/11 would benefit Israel? His own company, International Security and Defense Systems (ISDS), listed with SIBAT, was “established in 1982 by highly experienced officers, former operatives of I.S.A. Israeli Security Agency, the MOSSAD and the Defence Forces” has among its clients the Athens, Barcelona, Beijing and Rio Olympic Games, 2014 World Cup Soccer, joint ventures in security training with China, India, Brazil, Spain and USA.

It also serves the United Nations which appears to have overlooked that Gleser’s company trained, in the 80s, the CIA backed brutal Honduran Battalion 3-16 involved in the disappearance of 191 people. (This has been documented in Andrew and Leslie Cockburn’s book Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the US-Israeli Covert Relationship.)

War criminal and child-killer, Noav Galant, once tipped to become the next Chief of General Staff, is now retired because of allegations that he appropriated public lands near his home for his private use which is irony par excellence given he is on the board of HaShomer HaChadash that helps Israeli “farmers and ranchers in the Negev and the Galilee who administer vast tracts of state-owned land to deal with the threat of illegal seizure of their land”, which is to say, to prevent the ‘ongoing encroachment of the Bedouin on state-owned land ‘ which we all know is ancestral Bedouin land seized by Israel. As we have seen, Galant knows all about hypocrisy.

The Lab’s exposition of Israel’s profiteering from its military expertise and arms dealing is nothing new as this has been well documented elsewhere such as in Jane Haapiseva-Hunter ‘s ‘Israeli Foreign Policy: South Africa and Central America’. The impact of The Lab lies in directly hearing and seeing for ourselves Israel’s deviants cheerily admit to making big bucks from ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Lessons in hatred: Israeli incitement is worse than that of Palestinians

Gideon Levy Ha’aretz 20/10/13

Here’s another record for Israeli chutzpah: Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Yuval Steinitz declares that because of Palestinian incitement there is no peace. In an article published in the New York Times last week under the headline “How Palestinian Hate Prevents Peace,” the national philosopher tallied Ramallah’s sins: As soon as Mahmoud Abbas returned from the United Nations General Assembly he met with the Egyptian poet Hisham al-Gakh, and listen to what this national poet, who was once accused of plagiarism, wrote: “Our enemy is the fork-tailed Zionist devil.”

Yet Abbas dares to meet with him – for that reason there is no peace.

Poking out of a sea of ministerial announcements about his radio interviews (“Tomorrow at eight I will be a guest on Kalman Liveskinder’s program on Israel Radio.” “At 10:20 I will be invited by Radio Haifa”) is an announcement of grief at the death of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: “The People of Israel today lost a dear man, preeminent rabbi and outstanding intellectual,” it reads. The great intellectual, in the eyes of that anti-incitement campaigner Steinitz, said more than once that the Arabs should simply be annihilated.

“They should not be given pity, instead we should send them really cool missiles, those cursed, evil people.” Really cool missiles, said the revered rabbi. Abbas never used such language – ever – and neither did al-Gakh. But Palestinian incitement is what’s preventing peace. “Instead of being schooled in the ‘culture of peace,’ the next generation of Palestinians is being relentlessly fed a rhetorical diet that includes the idolization of terrorists, the demonization of Jews and the conviction that sooner or later Israel should cease to exist,” Steinitz wrote in his propaganda piece, which explains at last to the boorish Americans why there is no peace.

Paper can suffer anything, even that used for printing the New York Times. For all that, you must agree that this marks another record in Israeli chutzpah: A representative of the “culture of peace” excoriating Palestinian incitement. That has always served as the last refuge of Israeli refusal.

Well, Israeli incitement is far worse than that of the Palestinians. It’s not only the late rabbi or other rabbis who incite; not only Beitar Jerusalem supporters, price tag perpetrators and daubers of “Death to the Arabs” graffiti on every signpost. The real Israeli incitement is that which slips off the tongue easily, camouflaged, covert and brainwashed.

When Steinitz compares the Geneva talks of 2013 with the Munich talks of 1938, he is effectively comparing Rohani with Hitler. That’s not incitement? When he talks about sanctifying terrorists, is he talking about Palestine or Israel? Which one sanctifies its past and present terrorists more? Where are there more memorials to the fallen? Which one educates more toward hatred, arrogance and racism?

You want an example of camouflaged incitement, the type that slips off the tongue every evening? Television presenter Danny Kushmaro went to the Jordan Valley to follow the murder of Seraiah Ofer on the “Friday Studio” newscast, and what did we get? In the Jordan Valley there are only “inhabitants” whose lives the Palestinian thieves make a misery, those wretched victims. One of them said that “90 percent of the hatred in the world is by the Muslims.”

That is not incitement by any means. In Kushmaro’s Jordan Valley there are not lots of Palestinians, whose land was confiscated and freedom trampled. He simply did not see them, therefore they do not exist. That’s not incitement?

The real incitement is denial of the Nakba; the real incitement is demonization and dehumanization of the Palestinians; the real incitement is the militarism, victimization and arrogance of the “Chosen People,” including Holocaust studies for six-year-olds that is designed to give the impression that the whole world is against us.

The real incitement is that which will never acknowledge the context and motive behind Palestinian hatred. They don’t need lessons in school in order to hate Israelis – it’s enough for them to wake up terrified in the middle of the night to see soldiers brutally intrude their homes, bully their parents and degrade them in front of their eyes. Those are their real inciters.

As peaceful protests decline, fears rise of a third intifada

Hugh Naylor The National 19/10.13

Each Friday, Bilal Tamimi and fellow residents of Nabi Saleh have been determined to peacefully rally against the seizure of their land and a village spring by Israeli settlers. Although many in this Palestinian hamlet, along with foreign activists and liberal Israelis, have tried to embrace non-violent struggle against Israel, most Fridays Mr Tamimi and fellow protestors face barrages of tear gas and rubber bullets fired by Israeli soldiers. At night, the military sometimes raids their homes, arresting scores of people, including children, for participating in the rallies. For four years, they have carried on with almost unflinching resolve. But that is changing.

“The people are tired, and they don’t see results,” Mr Tamimi, 48, said. He was forced to call off a demonstration on a recent afternoon because he was one of a mere three people who showed up. The village of Nabi Saleh is not alone in experiencing such fatigue. About a dozen other Palestinian villages in the West Bank have in recent years also attempted to use what they call unarmed resistance to Israeli occupation. But combined with the harsh response of Israel’s military and the unrelenting expansion of its Jewish settlements on land wanted for a Palestinian state, Palestinians are increasingy questioning the usefulness of peaceful tactics. Some even predict a return to armed struggle and its painful consequences.

“There are those who are saying we should change the style, to be more violent,” said Iyad Tamimi, 47, a Nabi Saleh resident and a relative of Bilal who supports the non-violent approach. “But violence means we pay a big price.”

The push to use non-violent tactics by these villages was initiated as an alternative to the violence of the second intifada that began 13 years ago and became notorious for Palestinian suicide attacks on Israelis. By trying to refrain from using violence during such protests against Israel’s separation barrier and expanding settlements, community leaders hoped to expose Israel and its military’s often-brutal tactics. While demonstrations often have descended into stone-throwing by youth, protests have until recently had large turnouts and garnered sympathetic international media attention.

Now, the villagers say they have been worn down by Israel’s tough response to their protests. Soldiers routinely raid their homes. Israeli tear gas, rubber bullets and live fire have injured and even killed scores of them. Protest leaders from West Bank villages have sought to address falling turnout at their demonstrations. This month, participants in the protests with various political affiliations, held a conference in the West Bank village of Bilin, where weekly demonstrations against Israel’s separation wall have been held since 2005, to discuss the issue.

Bilin gained international attention from the documentary, 5 Broken Cameras, which focused on how the village has struggled against Israel’s wall and its confiscation of their ancestral farmland. But even though it won an Oscar-nomination last year, the film’s acclaim has not been enough to reinvigorate the rallies, according to Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, a protest leader in Bilin who attended the conference. He blamed the decrease in rallies across the West Bank, in part, on the division between the Fatah faction, which controls Palestinians areas in the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers. Without unity, the protests lacked crucial support, he said. He also said difficult economic conditions played a role. The injuries sustained during the rallies can incur expensive hospital bills, while Israel also arrests family breadwinners. “Their focus right now is bringing food to their families,” said Mr Rahmeh.

Some also see the ebbing participation of both Palestinians and foreigners as possibly linked to a loss of creative edge. The demonstrations had often caught Israeli soldiers off guard, for example with the mass prayers held in olive-tree orchards about to be levelled by bulldozers.

Talking Nonsense about Apartheid

Jonathan Cook Palestine Chronicle

When people call Israel an apartheid state, they are referring to the crime of apartheid as defined in international law.

Yes, I know. Uri Avnery has achieved many great things as a journalist and a peace activist. He has probably done more to educate people around the world about the terrible situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, and for longer, than any other single human being. And, to boot, he’s celebrating his 90th birthday this week. So best wishes to him. Nonetheless, it is important to challenge the many fallacious claims Avnery makes to bolster the arguments in his latest article, dismissing the growing comparisons being made between Israel and apartheid South Africa.

There is much to criticize in his weakly argued piece, based on a recent conversation with an unnamed “expert”. Avnery, like many before him, makes the mistake of thinking that, by pointing out the differences between Israel and apartheid South Africa, he proves that Israel is not an apartheid state. But this is the ultimate straw-man argument. No one claims Israel is identical to South Africa. You don’t need an expert to realize that.

When people call Israel an apartheid state, they are referring to the crime of apartheid as defined in international law. According to the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, apartheid comprises inhumane acts “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime”. So what color the victims of apartheid are, what proportion of the population they constitute, whether the economy depends on their productive labour, whether the early Zionists were socialists, whether the Palestinians have a Nelson Mandela, and so on have precisely zero relevance to determining whether Israel is an apartheid state.

A key distinction for Avnery is between “Israel proper” and the occupied territories. In the territories, Avnery admits, there are some parallels with apartheid South Africa. But inside Israel, he thinks the comparison is outrageously unfair. Let’s set aside the not-insignificant matter that Israel refuses to recognize its internationally defined borders; or that one of its major strategies is a colonial-style divide-and-rule policy that depends on establishing differences in rights for Palestinians under its rule as a way to better oppress them. Avnery’s motives in highlighting this territorial distinction should be fairly clear. He believes the occupation is a crime and that it must end. But he also believes that Israel as a Jewish state should continue after the occupation ends. In fact, he sees the two matters as inextricably tied. In his view, Israel’s long-term survival as a Jewish state depends on severing it from the occupied territories.

This concurs with fairly standard liberal Zionist ideology: segregation is seen as offering protection from demographic threats posed by non-Jews to the future success of the Jewish state, and has reached its apotheosis in the building of the West Bank wall and the disengagement from Gaza. Avnery is simply one of the most humane proponents of this line of thinking. But for this reason, as I have argued before, Avnery should be treated as an unreliable mentor and guide on matters relating to Palestinians inside Israel – the group that is hardest to deal with under a strictly segregationist approach.

Avnery is unlikely to treat criticism of “Israel proper”, such as the apartheid comparison, based on the merits of the case. He will react defensively. Admitting that Israel is an apartheid state inside its internationally recognized borders would undermine the legitimacy of his prized Jewish state. It would indicate that his life’s work of campaigning for the creation of a Palestinian state to preserve his Jewish state was misguided, and probably harmful.

The most outrageous claim Avnery makes in the article, precisely to deflect attention from the problem of a self-defined Jewish state and its relations with a large Palestinian minority, is the following: “On the whole, the situation of the Arab minority inside Israel proper is much like that of many national minorities in Europe and elsewhere. They enjoy equality under the law, vote for parliament, are represented by very lively parties of their own, but in practice suffer discrimination in many areas. To call this apartheid would be grossly misleading.”

One does not need to concede that the comparison with apartheid is right, both in the occupied territories and inside “Israel proper” – though I do – to understand that it is, in fact, Avnery who is being grossly misleading here. There is no sense in which Israel’s treatment of its 1.5 million Palestinian citizens is comparable, as Avnery argues, to the situation of national minorities in European states. Palestinian citizens do not simply face unofficial, informal or spontaneous discrimination. It is structural, institutionalized and systematic.

Here are a few questions Avnery or those who agree with him need to answer:

* Which European states have, like Israel, nationalized 93 per cent of their land so that one ethnic group (in Israel’s case, Jewish citizens) can exclude another ethnic group (Palestinian Arab citizens)?

* Which European states operate vetting committees, enshrined in law, in hundreds of rural communities precisely to prevent one ethnic group (Palestinian Arabs) from living in these communities?

* Which European states have separate citizenship laws – in Israel’s case, the Law of Return (1950) and the Citizenship Law (1952) – based on ethnic belonging?

* Which European states have designed their citizenship laws, as Israel has done, to confer rights on members of an ethnic group (in Israel’s case, Jews) who are not actually yet citizens or present in the state, privileging them over a group (Palestinian Arabs) who do have citizenship and are present in the state?

* Which European states have more than 55 laws that explicitly discriminate based on which ethnic group a citizen belongs to?

* Which European states, like Israel, defer some of what should be their sovereign powers to extra-territorial bodies – in Israel’s case, to the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund – whose charters obligate them to discriminate based on ethnic belonging?

* Which European states deny their citizens access to any civil institutions on personal status matters such as marriage, divorce and burial, requiring all citizens to submit to the whims and prejudices of religious leaders?

* Which European states do not recognize their own nationality, and make it possible to join the dominant national group (in Israel’s case, Jews) or to immigrate only through conversion?

Stop the demolitions in Jerusalem!

Jeff Halper Mondoweiss 3/11/13

The “judaization” of Jerusalem and the West Bank continues apace, despite the so-called “peace process.” This week the Israeli government demolished a large apartment block in Beit Hanina, bringing the total number of Palestinian structures demolished in East Jerusalem in 2013 to almost 100; about 400 people displaced from their homes (figures from ICAHD, OCHA, HRW and human rights groups).

At the same time that it announced the construction of yet another 1500 housing units in the illegal East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo – and another 3500 in the West Bank –the Israeli government issued demolition orders for 2000 housing units in the nearby area of Ras al-Kahmis and the Shuafat refugee camp. The government also announced plans to establish a “national park” on the lands of Isawiyeh and a-Tur, further fragmenting East Jerusalem communities and preventing their development, and the construction of a large new visitor center in the “City of David,” the settlers’ new name for Silwan, where the municipality intends to demolish 88 Palestinian homes to make way for yet another “national park.”

If the demolition of 2000 housing units of Ras al-Kahmis/Shuafat are carried out, 15,000 Palestinian residents will lose their homes. No less significant in the view of the Israeli government, they will be forced out of Jerusalem and will lose their right to live, work, pray and even enter the city. Demolitions of Palestinian homes lay at the very heart of Israel’s attempt to “judaize” Jerusalem and the West Bank, just as it does inside Israel as well. The process graphically illustrates how dry, bureaucratic urban policies can be used as effective mechanisms of repression.

Since 1967 the Israeli government has pursued a declared policy of maintaining a 72% majority of Jews over Palestinians in the city. Towards that end, it has not allowed Palestinians to build new homes, creating an artificial shortage of some 25,000 housing units in the Palestinian sector. (Palestinians, to put it mildly, are not able to access most of the Jewish neighbourhoods). That induced shortage raises the price of renting or buying, and since 70% of the Palestinians live under the poverty line, they are forced to move outside of the Jerusalem borders to acquire affordable housing.

Now urbanites moving out of cities into nearby suburbs is a common worldwide phenomenon, but not for the Palestinians of Jerusalem. Although inhabiting the city for centuries, and despite the fact that Palestinian East Jerusalem has been formally annexed to Israel – as its capital city, no less – Palestinians are classified merely as “permanent residents,” not citizens. That means that if Palestinians are forced to seek affordable housing just outside the municipal borders in the West Bank, which Israeli policy is designed to do, they shift their “center of their life” from Jerusalem, thus losing their residence and the ability to even enter the city again. House demolitions area meant to prevent Palestinians from building “illegally,” and thus contribute to the housing shortage and forced expulsion of Palestinians from Jerusalem.

But wait– over the past few years the Jerusalem Municipality has allowed massive housing complexes to arise within its borders yet outside the Wall and checkpoints, in such no-man’s land as Ras Khamis and by the Shuafat refugee camp, where the 2000 demolition orders have been issued, or in Kufr Akab, a part of Jerusalem on the other side of the Kalandia checkpoint. By doing so, it set a trap. The plan, publicly discussed by Mayor Nir Barkat, was this: thousands of desperate Palestinian families would be allowed to move into high-rise apartment blocks beyond the Wall but still in Jerusalem, attracted by the affordable prices but in no danger of losing their Jerusalem residency. Once settled in, the government would declare that the Wall will henceforth constitute the municipal border, thus in one fell swoop ridding itself of tens of thousands of Arab residents by depriving them of their residency rights since the “center of their lives” is no more Jerusalem. The 72% majority is more or less preserved.

So why, then, the demolition orders?

Such are the political machinations behind the seemingly justified policy of demolishing “illegal” homes, a key element of a broader policy of ethnic cleansing proceeding steadily throughout the country from 1947 until this day. As the common Israeli slogan has it: We never finished 1948. Not yet, at least.

Israel’s military advocate: IDF training inside Palestinian villages is legal

Gili Cohen Ha’aretz 3/11/13

There is no legal barrier to Israel Defense Forces training inside Palestinian villages in the West Bank, according to a document prepared by the IDF’s Military Advocate General. Maj. Harel Weinberg, the MAG’s deputy prosecutor for operational affairs, wrote that the legality of training inside Palestinian villages is anchored in the principles of “belligerent occupation,” by which the military commander, who is the sovereign authority in the area, is obligated to maintain security and public order in the West Bank, and so must hold occasional training exercises in populated areas.

Still, Weinberg wrote that troops taking part in such training were required to “avoid putting the population at risk, damaging their property or causing unreasonable disturbance to their daily routine.” The document was written in response to a complaint filed by activists of the Yesh Din NGO following a series of incidents involving IDF training in villages.

In one incident last May, troops held an exercise in the middle of the village of Amatin. In another case three months ago, during Ramadan, the army held a training exercise at Tel Rumeida in Hebron while a family there was eating breakfast in their yard. According to a report by family members, about 15 soldiers broke into their yard without permission, scattered throughout both floors of the home, and practiced breaking into a home using special equipment — all while family members were inside.

The IDF Spokesman said: “After looking into the matter, the Military Advocate General found that there was no legal obstacle to holding training in inhabited areas as part of maintaining security in the area. The orders issued for the drills that take place in populated urban areas include a statute requiring coordination with the ones doing the drill. It will also be made clear that as part of the training exercises, the soldiers must avoid putting the population at risk, damaging their property or causing unreasonable disturbance to their daily routine. Anywhere that there are deviations from these rules, the Military Advocate General will order that clarification be given and will take the appropriate measures.”

Israel demolishes Jerusalem home while family trying to demolish it

Maan News 12/11/2013

Jerusalem (Ma’an) — Bulldozers belonging to the Israeli municipality on Tuesday morning demolished a Palestinian family’s mobile home in the Beit Hanina neighbourhood of Jerusalem after the family had already begun trying to disassemble and remove it.

Afif Castero told a Ma’an reporter Tuesday morning that bulldozers escorted by a large number of Israeli forces surprised his family in the early morning and started to demolish his family’s mobile homes, which he and his brother Ayman had started to disassemble Monday afternoon. Castero’s family had previously received an order for his home’s demolition. However, because when the Israeli municipality demolishes a Palestinian home they force the owner to pay the cost, Castero had been trying to demolish his own home in order to avoid exorbitant fees.

Castero highlighted that his family moved to live in the trailers after Israeli bulldozers demolished the family’s two-story building in February because it was built without license from the municipality. He added that his family started the procedures to obtain a license for installing a mobile home, but the Israeli municipality turned down their application. Their brother Salih Castero, was also handed a warrant ordering him to demolish a small structure made of brick which shelters his family or otherwise he will have to pay a fine of 200,000 shekels.

The mobile homes and the brick room were used to shelter 27 family members of Afif Castero and his brothers Ayman and Salih. According to Afif Castero, the homes and the brick room cost the family 270,000 shekels. The family also paid more than 25,000 shekels to lawyers in an attempt to obtain a license to install the trailers on the wreckage of their family house. Afif Castero explained that he and his brothers began to disassemble their trailers Monday evening, preparing to remove them upon orders they had received from the Jerusalem municipality.

“We started to do the job ourselves,” he added, “so as to avoid paying the municipality a high bill for demolition.” “But they did not give us time to finish the removal, and they will force us to pay the bill.” The family will also sustain additional loss because once mobile homes are demolished by bulldozers, they can no longer be assembled again.

The Israeli agency that oppresses Palestinians ‘for their own good’

Haaretz 18 Nov by Amira Hass

And this month’s George Orwell Prize for excellence in misleading language, for rose-coloured ink and for doing a hell of a job on sugar-coating lies, goes to… Yes, clap your hands for the happy winner, the planning and licensing subcommittee of the Civil Administration’s Supreme Planning Council. Its excellence was revealed in full in its decision dated October 24, 2013, which relates to the request for approval of a master plan for construction filed by the Arab village, er, assemblage of Susya. The West Bank village, which has a population of 300 (dispersed over 40 households), filed five different versions of the master plan, and the prize-winning committee rejected each of them. It wrote that for the sake of the rights of Palestinian children and the expansion of their horizons, and for the sake of the rights of Palestinian women and their salvation from lives of poverty, in order to prevent a rift in society and out of consideration for the limited abilities of the Palestinian Authority, these Arab residents of Susya should move to the nearby city of Yatta, which will provide them with the infrastructure necessary for their development. With this decision, the subcommittee has devised an innovative, refreshing take on one of the Ten Commandments: Jews to Area C, Arabs to Area A.

And see what a wonderful life awaits them in Yatta:

Israel issues orders to halt construction of Yatta mosque

Hebron (Ma‘an) — Israeli forces prevented villagers in Yatta from constructing a mosque on Monday, claiming the building lacked an Israeli-issued building permit, locals said. Israeli forces arrived in the area and confiscated stones and construction materials being used to build the mosque, villagers in al-Deirat told Ma‘an. Israeli forces issued demolition orders for the parts of the mosque already built and banned villagers from all construction in the area. In the past, Israeli forces have demolished at least three houses in the village, claiming they lacked a building permit. Several residential and agricultural structures have also been issued demolition or stop-work orders, according to the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem.

link to

Israeli forces confiscate school bus in Yatta, locals say

Hebron Ma‘an 18 Nov

Israeli forces on Monday confiscated a school bus in Yatta, without providing an explanation, locals said. Mufied Abu Qbeita, the driver of the vehicle, said an Israeli patrol pulled him over and inspected his ID and the vehicle’s papers. Two Israeli soldiers then entered the vehicle and told him to drive from Masafer Yatta to the Israeli District Coordination Office in Etzion. After several hours in custody, Abu Qbeita was released and informed that the vehicle had been confiscated. The vehicle had been donated by UNICEF to take children to school in the south Hebron hills.

IOA to confiscate lands in al-Khalil, clashes erupt

Al-Khalil PIC 18 Nov

Israeli Occupation Authorities (IOA) informed Sunday Palestinian citizens in Yatta town south of al-Khalil of its decision to confiscate 1370 dunums of their lands. The popular activist Ratib Jabour confirmed that IOA prevented Palestinians from entering their lands under the pretext of being a military area as a prelude to confiscate the lands. He pointed out that the IOA renewed its decision to confiscate the lands although the citizens have appealed against Israeli racist and confiscation policy against their lands since more than seven years.

Hugh Humphries


Scottish Friends of Palestine

0141 637 8046

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