Friday, September 28, 2007
Impressions from the Medical Aid for Palestinians Concert
Tues 25th September 2007
@ 606 Jazz Club
Dynamite modern jazz, Andalucían Flamenco, Arabic guitars, sultry vocals, gastronomic delights & surprise special guests! Book a table for dinner by calling the 606 Club 0207 352 5953 (90 Lots Rd SW10) http://www.606club.co.uk/ Entrance fee £15 to be donated to Medical Aid for Palestinians. Menu includes vegetarian options.
Explosive fusion of Arabic bebop, groovy jazz-noir & sweeping electronica from BBC Jazz Award winner Atzmon & the Orient House Ensemble: Frank Harrison piano, keys & electronics, Yaron Stavi, bass, Asaf Sirkis drums. Special guest Jordanian oud player & vocalist Nizar Al-Issa. A master…a jazz giant with a formidable international reputation. The Guardian Astonishing Time Out
Audiences are clearly bowled over with Atzmon's whirlwind approach ... dynamic, charismatic and ... exasperating! Jazz UK
Eclectic blend of folk tunes, gypsy jazz & wild percussive grooves from string virtuoso Stuart Hall & renowned drummer Paul Clarvis. One of British jazz's quirkiest groups. They're musical nomads mixing up tunes, melodies and rhythms from America to Macedonia and Arabia to Venezuela and beyond Time Out
Electrifying combination of flamenco, jazz & Middle Eastern classical music performed on the Oud by Haddad featuring Graeme Blevins on sax & Genevieve Wilkins on Cajon.
Anglo-American songstress fusing folk, jazz & gypsy feat: Ben Bastin, bass, Billy Adamson guitar, Andrea Mann backing vocals w Gilad Atzmon, accordion. Acoustically styled songs that shimmer with a resonant beauty & emotive hurt Time Out Infectious melodies & a voice so potent it will knock you to the wall Get Rhythm
Medical Aid For Palestinians (MAP) is a charitable company limited by guarantee: 038352 England. Registered charity no: 045315
So it was that we managed to pull off a fundraising concert for Medical Aid in Palestine (MAP) last Tuesday at Chelsea's famous 606 Club completely without incident; a small miracle indeed. Perhaps it was Ahmadinejad's whirlwind US speaking tour that consumed their rage quota last week, or maybe it was the shame of Israel's expansionist and illegal air strikes in Syria that shut them up for a few glorious days, who knows? But somehow our concert was publicised in London's Metro, Time Out, The Evening Standard and the Guardian Guide without anyone racing to pick up their quill and compose letters demanding we be cancelled, or preferably culled.
Musicians from Kuwait, Israel, Egypt, Britain, Australia and America eagerly volunteered their talents for a marathon night of music that managed to raise over £2000.00 for people suffering in Gaza and the West Bank. The high octane Middle Eastern jazz blasted through the candle-lit club, packed to the rafters with punters of every denomination feasting on wine, goats cheese & homemade humus while throwing their hard earned cash into buckets touted around by volunteers. Others helped out on the door collecting money and breaking the news to disappointed hordes huddled outside that we simply couldn't fit one more single person into the club.
Indeed, it is slightly boring to generate such support and profit with so little effort. But such was the success of this event that we are considering developing it into a monthly fundraising gig. Inshallah the pseudo ‘peace lovers’ might one day lay down their placards and join in the fun. Watch this space.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Julien Salingue interview: Rebuilding Palestinian Resistance and Solidarity
Of all the contradictions in the Palestinian situation, which seems to be the most fundamental issue in your view to be the most fundamental issue?
Regardless of the current evolution of the situation in Palestine, I think that it is essential to remember that the most fundamental contradiction that exists right now, as it always has, is the one between the Zionist project and the national rights of the Palestinian people. The establishment of a Jewish State in the greatest possible portion of Palestine meant and always means colonisation, expulsion and repression. This is the structural contradiction, which includes the current situation with it. Evidently this does not mean that things shall be simplified, and the blame for the dead end shall be put also on the contradictions in the Palestinian “camp”, especially in the current moment, but these contradictions must be thought about within the general framework of the negation of rights for the Palestinian people that is part of the Zionist project.
The two major events of the past two years (the victory of Hamas in the elections and the “events” of Gaza) are the product of the contradictions between, on one side, the interests of the minority that has controlled the Palestinian Authority since its creation in 1994 and on the other, the aspirations of the Palestinian people. This minority was clearly rejected by the population at the elections, who had punished them for the reasons of their abandonment of all the perspectives of struggle in order to only use means of negotiation, so much so that the situation on their home ground had deteriorated, due to their intense contacts and sometimes their open collaboration with the Israeli occupier, as well as the rampant corruption. In the days that followed the elections, the more radical wing (in the worst sense of the word) of this minority of privileged people, represented most notably by Mohammad Dahlan, did everything to return to power at any cost. This is what led to the events of Gaza last June.
Indeed, the “coup d’état” of which much was spoken when Hamas drove out the militia of Dahlan from the Gaza Strip, is actually the consequence of an attempted coup d’état, this one quite real, orchestrated by the putschist wing of the Palestinian Authority, with the support of Israel and of the Western countries. The latter organised the political, diplomatic and economic blockade of the new political power, while Israel reinforced the siege of the Gaza Strip, stronghold of the militant wing of Hamas, and took up once again its policy of liquidation of resistance fighters. On its part, the putschist wing of the Authority did everything it could to paralyse the new government and to short-circuit any attempt at establishment of a national unity government. The joint objective was to create the conditions of the fall of the Hamas government. The confrontations, initially sporadic, multiplied in the Gaza Strip and, when the militia of Dahlan, armed by the United States with the agreement of Israel, put on the high speed, Hamas answered on the same ground and quickly drove the putschists of Gaza out.
How it then transpired is known: Abu Mazen dismissed the Hamas government and created an “emergency government” directed by Salam Fayyad, former senior official of the international financial institutions, whose list had obtained hardly more than 2% at the legislative vote of 2006. Things are now very clear: Abu Mazen and his cronies made the choice that conformed exclusively to the requirements of the Western countries and Israel, without making even the pretence of being concerned about the Palestinian people. Their only objective is to remain in power and to be the future administrators of the Palestinian Bantustans, even if they must collaborate openly with the occupation forces for that. An event happened in Jenin at the end of August that is an example of this subject : an Israeli soldier who got lost in the city was taken care of by members of the security forces of Abbas, who protected him from the population and accompanied him back to the nearest military outpost. We are talking about a soldier who belongs to an occupying army... There is only one word to qualify this kind of intrigue: collaboration, pure and simple.
For anyone who still has doubts about the intentions of the Abbas clan, about their positioning within the framework of the structural contradiction that I evoked a moment ago, it is without ambiguity: they work knowingly at the side of Israel against the Palestinian people.
What are the forms of resistance possible given today’s conditions?
I think that the current conditions are the most unfavourable for the organisation and the structuring of the resistance:
- More than 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners rot in Israeli prisons. Compared to the number of inhabitants, it is an incredible figure: imagine that in France there are nearly 200,000 political prisoners. I would not bet on a high level of development of any social battles... And for those who continue the fight, repression, arrests and assassinations continue.
- Geographical fragmentation between the Palestinian “autonomous zones” constitutes a sizable obstacle: total separation between Gaza and the West Bank, encirclement of the towns of the West Bank, only with very great difficulty, often impossibility, can one go from one city to the other... There are so many elements which impede any development or “national” organising of the resistance.
- The installation of the Palestinian Authority, consecutive with the Oslo Accords, had two broad consequences: initially a number of militants of Fatah were co-opted and integrated into the bureaucratic structures in construction in exchange for their renunciation of the struggle, a fact that has weakened the national movement and pushed political conscience back considerably. In the second place, the installation of this vast network of corruption and clientelism has delegitimated politics and policy, reinforcing operations in networks that are mainly structured around collecting financial aid from abroad.
- The multiplication of NGOs dependent on outside financing, even if it constituted an alternative for the many militants of the Intifada of 1987, in integration with the State apparatus, also contributed to this depoliticisation and this weakening of resistance. By disinvesting ground in the political struggle, the militants and leaders of these NGOs had given a free hand to the capitulating leadership of the PLO, many of them satisfying themselves by finding a working arrangement with it.
- The wait-and-see attitude of the left of the PLO (FPLP and FDLP) and its incapacity to formulate an alternative project of struggle to the treason of the direction of the Palestinian Authority had equally reduced the range of possibilities for whoever would have wanted to pursue resistance.
- In this situation, it was Hamas that knew how to play its cards. However, although this current incarnates a much more combative orientation with respect to the occupier and today refuses both compromises and the abandonment of the national rights of the Palestinians, it is a fact that the reactionary ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood school of thought - to which many of Hamas cadres and militants refer to - is contradictory to the construction of a popular resistance in which all the Palestinians, in particular women, would find their place.
Under these conditions, which resistance is possible? For many Palestinian militants, today the essential task is double. The objective consists of reformulating resistance and, why not, the national movement structure, by learning the lessons from past failures and acknowledge that part of the “historical” leadership of the movement is now in the other camp. But the condition necessary to reach that point, and this is the second essential task, is to put the brakes on depoliticisation and individualism. This has been clearly understood by a certain number of militants working in the “Cultural centres” of the refugee camps. For them, organising numerous cultural, social and political activities, in particular for young people, is the only way to perpetuate the memory of the struggle, to fight against individualistic tendencies by developing collective projects, to fight the tendencies to withdraw into family and religion, in order to make people “go out” of their homes and allow them to meet, while at the same time guaranteeing the independence of their initiatives by refusing to be subsidized by the Palestinian Authority or Western countries.
All of that might seem very far from the conquest of their national rights by Palestinians. But such is reality and the power balance on the ground. It is necessary to remain lucid: for these militants it is a question of rebuilding the resistance, stone by stone, in the middle of a field of ruins. Anyone who feels solidarity with the Palestinians and wants to help them in their struggle has to know this: the situation is very difficult and the militants who, over there, invest themselves in the rebuilding of both national conscience and resistance need international support more than ever.
Has the Oslo Accords logic come to an end?
All of that depends on what you mean by “Oslo Accords logic ”. For all those who perceived the Oslo Accords as an historical compromise between an Israeli left ready to make true concessions and a sincere and responsible Palestinian leadership, which in the long run would bring about the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza, it is clear that such an era is over. But for those, of which I am part, who saw in the Oslo Accords a simple reorganisation of the Zionist project (2), which had as its objective the installation of Palestinian Bantustans dependent upon international assistance and under control of a power subjected to the State of Israel, there is nothing surprising or new.
Tanya Reinhart, a university professor who has recently passed away, wrote the following in 1994:
“From the start, it has been possible to identify two conceptions that underlie the Oslo process. One is that this will enable to reduce the cost of the occupation, using a Palestinian patronage regime, with Arafat as the senior cop responsible for the security of Israel. The other is that the process should lead to the collapse of Arafat and the PLO. The humiliation of Arafat, and the amplification of his surrender, will gradually lead to loss of popular support. Consequently, the PLO will collapse, or enter power conflicts. Thus, the Palestinian society will loose its secular leadership and institutions. In the power driven mind of those eager to maintain the Israeli occupation, the collapse of the secular leadership is interpreted as an achievement, because it would take a long while for the Palestinian people to get organized again, and, in any case, it is easier to justify even the worst acts of oppression, when the enemy is a fanatic Muslim organization” (3).
Tanya Reinhart was not a prophet. She simply understood from the very start the “logic” of the Oslo Accords. For Israel, the manoeuvre was simple: to give the impression of making concessions with the Palestinians without making any promises on the key questions, which are Jerusalem, the refugees and the settlements. During the "Oslo years", colonisation, occupation and repression continued, the Palestinians who might have nourished some hopes quickly gave up their illusions. Obviously, colonisation had started before Oslo. But by creating the illusion of the construction of an official Palestinian State structure, the Oslo Accords involved a dangerous ideological change of focus, that was true as well in the international solidarity movement: the support for the rights of Palestinians was replaced by a support for “peace” negotiations. Result: starting in September 2000, with the Palestinian uprising (Intifada) and the brutal response of the Israeli army, many voices rose so that there could be a “return to the Oslo Accords”, which concretely meant a return to precisely the situation against which the Palestinians had rebelled.
The “logic of the Oslo Accords” is not finished. There has however been a notable change on the Israeli side: if in 1994 part of the Zionist Establishment thought that in the long run the PLO apparatus was a credible partner, in the neutralisation of resistance, today it is no longer the case. Israel has assumed the position of making “unilateral” decisions, the most obvious example of which was the withdrawal from Gaza: Israel does not bother to discuss the most important decisions with the Palestinian Authority’s leadership. The idea that there is no reliable partner on the Palestinian side has made inroads in Israel. Abu Mazen and his colleagues have neither the legitimacy nor the social base necessary to control all of the Palestinian cities. What is happening is that Israel is entrusting small local chiefs with the long-term management of microscopic autonomous zones. Israel could even ask Jordan to manage in some way the West Bank enclaves. Concerning Gaza, the “solution” for Israel will necessarily pass through a wide range military offensive. Lastly, Oslo, as an instrument of liquidation of the Palestinian question, is quite alive. Changes were only cosmetic.
I don’t think that the PLO is “impossible to get around”. Even Arafat never failed to “get around it” himself. It’s opportune to remember that in 1993 only a minority of the PLO Executive Committee was in favour of the Olso Accords. It made no difference. This was the logical result of a choice made by both Arafat and Abbas during the negotiation process: the PLO authorities were not informed, neither of the content nor of the existence of the Oslo Accords before their signature… To me the birth of the Palestinian Authority meant the death of PLO.
The State apparatus without a State then thought it had found its State. Militants became officials of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO completed its process of bureaucratic degeneration and officially transformed itself into a State structure. The PLO factions which still considered it as the federating organ of all Palestinian political groups that would coordinate and direct the struggle were marginalized from decision making more and more, and the same happened to the executives who made the decision to remain out of it. Any essential decisions and representation went into the hands of the Palestinian Authority. This is why 13 years later it is not exaggerated to say that the PLO no longer represents anything. Abbas uses it sometimes as a loincloth when he wants to legitimise a decision that is particularly iniquitous or either to isolate Hamas, just as it happened last June when the PLO Executive Committee voted a motion calling for the destitution of the Hamas government and new elections. But this phantom PLO has no legitimacy anymore: the motion in question has no echo whatsoever in the Palestinian territories.
Today, among those who ask themselves about the state of the national liberation movement some say that it’s necessary to “get back to the PLO”, others say that it should be reformed and still others insist that it needs to be dismantled in order to create “something else”. I myself think that the PLO has no future in its current form and that for some time it will remain the scenario of disputes of individuals or groups of individuals in search of a little power or some small benefits. What the Palestinian people need today in the current situation is a re-establishment of both the project and the structures of struggle, something that will need the re-organisation of resistance in all its forms (political, cultural, social, armed struggle) by the militants and left wing Fatah and Hamas cadres who will choose unity and collective interests, not personal ones. Even if this prospect seems remote and very few initiatives of this sort have been taken on this direction, it nevertheless underlies a certain number of discussions in Palestine among sincere militants of all political factions of Palestinian society, both in the Occupied Territories and among the exiled living abroad since 1948.
Is it possible to reconcile democratic development with occupation?
One thing is certain: it is impossible to build successful structures of representative democracy under military occupation. If as we saw both in the January 2005 presidential elections and in the January 2006 legislative ones, it was possible to organise satisfactory elections for the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip with massive participation and little fraud, this “democracy” nevertheless remains subordinate to the interests of the occupying power and its allies. After the Hamas victory it was not at all difficult for the EU, the US and Israel to prevent the government elected at the ballot boxes from holding office and to try to declare null and void the democratic choice of Palestinians. As long as the occupation lasts, “Palestinian democracy” will be dependent upon goodwill from abroad.
But if one thinks of democracy in a broader sense, not only as calling elections, it is obvious that the development of democratic practices is not only possible, but essential in the struggle against occupation. By this I mean the development of democratic practices like the installation of structures set up for the management of everyday life and struggle favouring both widespread involvement and participation. At the beginning of the 1987 Intifada the “popular committees”, set up in the majority of refugee camps, villages and city districts played this role: they were composed of political militants, associates or just “ordinary citizens” who were given legitimacy by their communities. They dealt with all aspects of everyday life (health care organisation, schools, conflict resolution between neighbours...) and the struggle itself (strikes, demonstrations...). That is what gave this Intifada its strength, at least during its first year.
Nothing of the sort happened during the “second Intifada” (with quotation marks as it had almost nothing to do with the 1987 Intifada): the creation of inter-coordinated local structures composed by all those who wanted to take part in the struggle was aborted by the fact that the Palestinian Authority imposed itself as the only legitimate leadership of the movement, instructed the Fatah militants not to renew the experiment of the popular committees and as a result the struggle was quickly militarised. Popular involvement was thus very weak and the uprising, which was quite real in October 2000, was quickly brought down. That does not explain everything, but the inability of creating structures like these after October 2000 contributed very much to the degradation of the balance of power and boomeranged against Palestinians. A central task for anyone wanting to rebuild popular resistance in Palestine is to assure that the Palestinian citizens hold again their own destiny in their own hands through structures supporting everyone’s involvement as well as initiatives able to filling the gap that hinders and is weakening the struggle.
I am echoing here both my personal observations during several stays in Palestine and what I heard from many Palestinians. Indeed, the absence of a political perspective and its major consequence - the development of an increasingly conservative way of thinking with a return to traditional values (which, as they say, “do not lie”) - are causing considerable damage: the most visible manifestation of it is the increasing degradation of women’s conditions, as they are more and more excluded from the public sphere to remain confined only to domestic and reproductive activities. This degradation did not start with Hamas victory, but this last event of course did nothing to slow it down. It’s easy to understand that the absence of half of the Palestinians from the struggle can only harm the Palestinian people as a whole in the long run. That’s why the development of legitimate and “participative” structures is a fundamental issue in re-establishing the Palestinian resistance, even if the military occupation only permits it with great difficulty.
The solidarity movement with the Palestinian people seems to be in crisis. Isn’t it something paradoxically healthy?
It is true that the solidarity movement is not going very well. This crisis has its roots in past developments and, in my view, it has been produced by two main factors: the degradation of the situation “on the ground” and the hopes raised within the solidarity movement both during the “Oslo years” and after September 2000 (4).
It is indeed necessary to show a certain abnegation in order to continue mobilisation while the situation is worsening more and more and any new initiative seems to have no impact at all. The tens of thousands of people who had mobilised themselves at the time of the Jenin massacre in April 2002 have not disappeared but they are discouraged or disillusioned and they no longer take part in public initiatives where often one only finds the “hard core” of militants of the Palestinian cause.
The illusions that were part of the Oslo process did not help those who wanted to take part in solidarity initiatives to understand how things evolved on the ground, be it the degradation of the balance of forces between Israel and the Palestinian population or, more recently, the victory of Hamas and the half-aborted putsch attempted by Abu Mazen and his clique. Making the Palestinian Authority the “legitimate leadership of the Palestinian people” did not help either to develope tangible solidarity among those who in Palestine, in the refugee camps, in cities and villages took and still take initiatives to continue the struggle while the Authority affirms that only negotiation pays. Those who believed or who had convinced others that the Palestinian Authority - first led by Arafat and then by Abbas - was both the only legitimate representative of Palestinians and the unavoidable partner of the solidarity movement must have had a great disappointment with Hamas’s victory and the subsequent nomination to office of the banker Fayyad. In fact, no one has heard from them ever since.
This crisis would only be healthy if they learn from it and go to the root of the successive failures of the solidarity movement. Even if reaching an agreement on all questions shall not be a precondition to working together, at least they should return to basics: what kind of effective solidarity with the Palestinian people? Working here makes no sense if it has no effects over there. One cannot be satisfied with “putting pressure” on our government so that it “puts pressure” on its Israeli ally. In Palestine, 172 NGOs and associations called for an international campaign of boycott and divestment (5), in many refugee camps cultural centres carry out remarkable work and need support, 11,000 political prisoners feel particularly forgotten in Israeli jails, the commemorations of the 60 anniversary of the Nakba (the “catastrophe”, the expulsion of 1947-1948) are in preparation for an international initiative in 2008... There are many projects and campaigns which would allow rebuilding solidarity. But it is true that very few representatives of either the Israeli “peace camp” or Abu Mazen’s clique will support the boycott, the right of return of the refugees or the unconditional release of all political prisoners. These are however the principal demands of the Palestinian people and many political and associative militants. A critical analysis of the Oslo Accords and the illusions which accompanied them is thus indispensable. It will allow the passage from demanding a virtual peace to building an authentic solidarity.
(1) One may consult a French dispatch on http://fr.news.yahoo.com/rtrs/20070827/twl-po-israel-soldat-38cfb6d_1.html
(2) See especially Gilbert Achcar, « Le sionisme et la paix, du Plan Allon aux Accords de Washington », in Achcar, L'Orient incandescent, le Moyen-Orient au miroir marxiste, Lausanne, Editions Page deux, 2003.
(3) Article of February 1994, cited in T. Reinhart, Détruire la Palestine, éditions La Fabrique, 2002.
(4) For a more detailed analysis of the “solidarity obstacle”, refer especially to P-Y. Salingue, Palestine, les termes du combat va changer, available (with others) on http://agircontrelaguerre.free.fr/article.php3?id_article=411
(5) See the appeal on http://agircontrelaguerre.free.fr/article.php3?id_article=388
French Source: http://www.aloufok.net/article.php3?id_article=4130
Translated by Mary Rizzo and Manuel Talens, members of Tlaxcala, http://www.tlaxcala.es/, network of translators for linguistic diversity.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Beladi!!! A tribute to Palestinian and Arab steadfastness
About the Arab “September”
By: Muhammad Aratban
Translated by: Adib S. Kawar
- 1 –
- Beladi (my country) is not a palace, an oil well or a terrorist…
- Beladi (my country): For strangers unknown to us…our doors are open…
- Beladi: Our doors open for the voyagers who come to call…
- 2 –
- Beladi is not a palace, an oil well or a terrorist…
- Beladi: The simple and good people…
- For strangers who knock, our doors are open…
- Our food is theirs…
- The help they seek is willingly granted…
- Away they go and their names we ask not…
- There are in it things disquieting …
- And what is pleasant too…
- In spite of its “roughness”
- For me it remains the most beautiful and noble…
- And the highest land on the earth…
- 4 -
Not a salary at the month’s end is beladi…
From the day of creation to eternity my treasure and fortune it is…
A national anthem played in a national celebration beladi is not…
A folk song that I sing, memorize and repeat whose author remains unknown it is…
And ecstatic I become with its love’s rhythm…
- 5 –
- Beladi, the athan* that the sky pierces… traveling in…
- Spatial voyages, “NASA” shall not be able to imitate ever … nor copy…
- Beladi… the first masjed** it is… All its soil good enough for prayer it is…
- 6 -
- Beladi with its great shyness… to tell me “I love you” it can’t….
- To make you feel, see, and with your hand touch love it can…
- 7 -
- Beladi… the hard cut men that the desert formed…
- When they fall in love they become river tribes…
- Childlike they become…
- Searching for a faraway corner…
- The tears to liberate from their eyes detention camps…
- 8 -
Beladi, “Haya’s” smile and “Al-Hazni’s” songs…
“Talala’s” thunderstorm, God is great I said…
My friend’s effect, like a thunderstorm I thought…
Like “Haya’s” lips… No I said…
Haya’s lips and thunderstorms a great difference there is… Beladi
Najd’s Levantine wind, and passion stories, and songs of glory…
- 9 –
All this concrete destroyed shall it be…
All this iron rusted shall it be…
And one day all this oil dry shall it be…
And beladi: The people destroyed they shall not be…
Their hearts rusted shall not be… And their souls’ wells dry shall not be …
Gone all this shall be… and beladi shall remain…
- 10 -
In the whole ignorant world’s face I shall shout…
- My country is not a palace, an oil well or a terrorist…
- 11 -
- Every year/ every September/ every day…
- You are my beloved, my mistress, my beladi…
* Athan = call for prayer
** Masjed = mosque
Monday, September 24, 2007
Gaza must live!
In 1996 the Palestinians, voting massively for Fatah, expressed their hope for a just peace with Israel. This hope has, however, been frustrated by Israel’s systematic violation of the Oslo Accords, which stipulated that Israel should withdraw its troops from and dismantle its settlements on 90% of the Occupied Territories.
Having taken office after his provocative stride across the Aqsa esplanade, Sharon stopped the withdrawal of the army and further increased the pace of settlement construction exacerbating a tendency prevailing from the very beginning of the accords. Palestine became a completely segregated country, where settlers armed to the teeth operate as auxiliary militias for the Israeli army. Not satisfied, Sharon started the construction of the Apartheid wall resulting in the annexation of a further 7% of the Palestinian land.
Trying to crush the second Intifada, Israel pushed aside the Palestinian Authority (PA) and attacked the Occupied Territories by fire and sword. Thousands of Palestinians were killed or wounded, tens of thousands arrested and kept in prison without trial. Thousands of houses were razed to the ground. Dozens of leaders were murdered by so-called “targeted killings”. Even president Arafat, after he was once again declared a “terrorist”, was caught in his presidential palace, the Mukata’ah, which was bombarded and reduced to rubble.
Therefore the reasons for the landslide electoral victory of Hamas (which the U.S. and the E.U. meanwhile had included in their notorious black list of terrorist organisations) in January 2006 are evident. More than a protest against the endemic corruption in the ranks of Fatah, the Palestinians cried out to the world that they cannot be asked a humiliating “peace” imposed by lead and sealed with their own blood.
Instead of listening to this cry for help by the Palestinian people, the Western powers decided to punish them by imposing a total embargo on the West bank and Gaza. Following once again a cue from Israel (which immediately after the victory of Hamas unilaterally blocked the transfer of tax and duty proceeds of which the PA is the legitimate owner), the U.S. and the E.U. froze the financial aid, resulting in a veritable humanitarian disaster in order to force an entire people to its knees and abandon its resistance.
As its architects intended, this policy has caused, the most bitter of consequences: a fratricidal battle within the Palestinian camp. Those who lost the elections toppled the democratically elected government and replaced it with an illegitimate one with the barefaced support of Israel and its Western allies.
Together with the Zionists, they unleashed a hunt against their adversaries announcing the illegalisation of Hamas under the pretext of a new law according to which only those who recognise Israel can run for elections. The U.S. and the E.U. have justified this putsch and have come to the help of this illegitimate government, lifting the sanctions on the zones under their control but maintaining the stranglehold on Gaza.
1.5 million human beings thus remain under siege, surrounded by barbed wire and without being able either to leave or to enter. Locked up in a concentration camp, they barely survive without food or water, deprived of electricity and the most basic sanitary services. As if this were not enough, the Israeli army continues to pound Gaza by nearly daily bombing raids and incursions resulting in countless innocent civilian victims.
Only one word can describe this slaughter house: genocide!
An immediate mobilisation is necessary to end this tragedy:
Lift the starvation embargo on the Gaza ghetto!
Recognise the democratic choice of the Palestinian people!
Friday, September 21, 2007
Kathleen Christison - Whatever Happened to Palestine?
A group of anti-war leaders held a conference call at the end of August under the sponsorship of Michael Lerner's Network of Spiritual Progressives to do some long-term strategic planning for the anti-war movement. The discussants included leaders of the country's best known peace groups -- United for Peace and Justice, Code Pink, Pax Christi, the Department of Peace, and others -- as well as Lerner himself and Democratic Congressmen Lynn Woolsey and Jim Moran. They talked about Iraq, of course, but of virtually nothing else. There was a bit about "peace and justice" in general, one passing mention of trying to stop an attack on Iran, and a whole lot of talk about avoiding action on all issues, including even Iraq, until Woolsey and a couple of progressive colleagues try their hands at manipulating weak-kneed congressional Democrats into "showing some backbone" on a withdrawal from Iraq. This must be a new concept in opposing war: do nothing.
You would think there was nothing else wrong in the world. There was no talk of the U.S. aggression in Afghanistan (which is assumed even by the anti-war movement to be a "good" war, despite the excessive number of innocent civilians -- never remembered -- who have been killed there). There was nothing about safeguarding Lebanon from frequent Israeli attack and nothing, of course, about supporting Palestinian human and national rights or opposing Israel's gross violation of these rights. There was nothing, in short, about any of the massive injustices perpetrated around the world by the United States, primarily as part of the so-called war on terror, and ignored by the anti-war/peace movement. This is a peace movement but apparently not a justice movement.
Interestingly, two of the discussants, Lerner and Rick Ufford-Chase, a representative of the Presbyterian Church (USA), now lead organizations formed after earlier efforts to address the Palestinian-Israeli issue failed in the face of strong opposition from Israeli supporters. Lerner formed the Network of Spiritual Progressives after his Tikkun Communities faced too much opposition from the Jewish community over the Tikkun effort to tread a middle path between Israel and the Palestinians. Ufford-Chase was the principal Presbyterian spokesman when the church launched a campaign in 2004 to divest from companies supporting Israel's occupation, but after the church backed away from that position in 2006 under heavy attack from Israeli supporters, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, headed by Ufford-Chase, formed a new organization focused specifically on Iraq, called Christian Peace Witness for Iraq.
Thus has the anti-war movement abandoned Palestine and the Palestinians to the Israeli-U.S. pro-war machine. This abandonment is not new by any means; it just gets more and more unjust with time. United for Peace and Justice has always been chary of speaking out on behalf of the Palestinians. It organized a demonstration in June opposing the Israeli occupation timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the occupation, but this was such a pro forma event that the section of UFPJ's website dealing with its "Palestine/Israel Just Peace Campaign" has not been updated since mid-2004. Pax Christi regularly tackles nuclear disarmament, the School of the Americas, Iraq, immigration, Haiti -- as, of course, it should -- but Palestine? Rarely if ever. And so on, with a few notable exceptions, through the catalogue of peace movements.
Scott Ritter's latest book on strategizing for the anti-war movement, Waging Peace, makes no mention of the very unpeaceful situation in Palestine-Israel. MoveOn.org and other political organizations give little indication that they have ever even heard of Palestine. The same for liberal talk radio hosts on Air America, particularly Thom Hartmann and Randi Rhodes. Grassroots initiatives such as the Declaration of Peace make no mention of Palestine and the very preventable tragedy evolving there. None of the excellent films about the Bush administration's aggression around the world -- neither Fahrenheit 9/11, nor Uncovered, nor Hijacking Catastrophe, nor No End in Sight, nor any of the others that have come out in the last several years -- contains a word about the very large part Israel plays in the U.S. imperial machine or about the carte blanche that U.S. war-mongering has given Israel to step up its oppression of the Palestinians and its murder of the Palestinian nation.
And this is the key point: Israel's war machine is essentially a part of the U.S. war machine, Israel's assault on Palestinians is part of the U.S. "war on terror," the U.S. and Israel do not go to war anywhere in the region without close coordination and cooperation. The U.S. enables Israel's occupation and oppression of Palestinians; Israel facilitates and pushes U.S. war policy. One does not act without the other, and the Palestinian plight cannot therefore be separated from whatever other atrocities this war machine perpetrates elsewhere in the Middle East, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, or Iran. Although Israeli supporters roundly condemn any attempt to link Israel to planning for the war in Iraq, they never hesitate to link the Palestinians to the "terrorists" against whom the Iraq war and the "war on terror" are supposedly being fought.
In their new book on the Israel lobby, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt provide masses of evidence revealing Israel's and the lobby's role in pushing for and enthusiastically backing the Iraq war. Indeed, the war was heralded by its neocon proponents as a path to Palestinian capitulation ("the path to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad") -- the idea being that by defeating and humiliating Saddam Hussein and Iraq, the U.S. would so intimidate the Palestinians that they would surrender easily to Israel. But the peace community studiously avoids recognizing the Israeli connection to the war. It also studiously ignores the interlocking realities of the U.S.-Israeli relationship when it argues that the Iraq war is the urgent issue these days, that this is where Americans are being killed and this is where protest efforts must be concentrated. One wonders why "peace and justice" did not concern this peace community before the Iraq war, when Palestinians had already been suffering injustice and oppression at the hands of Israel and the U.S. for decades.
Outside the U.S., the interrelationship between conflict in Palestine-Israel and turmoil in the rest of the region is well understood. Public opinion polls in Europe and the Middle East have demonstrated repeatedly that U.S. support for Israel is the principal cause of increasing anti-Americanism everywhere. In Ireland, according to the chairman of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Committee, James Bowen, writing in Haaretz, "disgust" with Israel's injustices perpetrated against the Palestinians -- and particularly with the land confiscations and home demolitions so reminiscent of British practices in Ireland a century ago-- has reached "such a level that even highly conservative institutions that normally try to avoid politics are driven to express concern." A state-sponsored Irish academy of artists, usually apolitical, issued a call early this year encouraging Irish artists and cultural institutions to "reflect deeply" before cooperating with state-sponsored Israeli cultural events and institutions. "Detestation is spreading around the world," Bowen wrote. In Britain as well, academic, cultural, and labor boycotts of Israel have been called by various organizations.
But not in America. Despite disgust in Ireland, boycotts in England, detestation around the world over Israel's U.S.-financed oppression of another people, the peace community and the anti-war movement in the U.S. are unfazed. Gross injustice to the Palestinians raises little concern among those concentrated on the urgent problem in Iraq. Yet the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, specifically the dire situation of the Palestinians, is now, and has been since well before Iraq became urgent, the central issue in Middle East politics, the volatile center of the most volatile region in the world. It forms the basis for the Arab people's strongest grievance -- a grievance against Israel as perpetrator, against the U.S. as Israel's armorer and benefactor, against the Arab state leaders who have failed to help or stand up for the Palestinians. The anti-war movement ignores the most explosive issue, the one underlying all others, when it turns its back on the Palestinians and ignores Israel's increasingly brutal treatment. By looking away from Palestine, it is looking away from justice toward a false, at best incomplete peace.
So the anti-war movement essentially contents itself with protesting the Iraq war for self-centered reasons, because it is killing Americans and diverting huge monies from domestic needs. The anti-war movement in many ways reflects the thinking and feelings of society at large, and the fear among protesters, as among Democratic politicians, of being perceived to be not "supporting the troops," not adequately supporting America, and therefore not properly patriotic, is strong and pervasive because society in general has set up this issue as a major focus.
But an even larger problem for the anti-war movement is the fear of being labeled soft on terrorism and soft on Islam. In an era in which the right wing is manufacturing a "clash of civilizations" between the West and the Muslim world and a strong anti-Muslim bias increasingly colors public discourse, it is simply too uncomfortable for many on the left to be caught on the wrong side of the barricades, advocating justice for Palestinians or any Arabs and Muslims. Anti-war protesters fear being associated with Iraqi insurgents and even more with Palestinians, who are all considered "insurgents" and "terrorists" against Israel. Many who never caviled at being labeled communists for supporting the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war now fear being labeled Islamo-fascists (whatever that is) or terrorists or, horror of horrors, PLO lovers. Being seen to support Muslim or Arab rights at a time when Muslims are opposing Americans in Iraq and Israelis in Palestine and elsewhere is simply intolerable for most on the left. And so the us-versus-them attitude of the Bush neocons has in many ways overtaken the anti-war movement as well, even when this means allowing injustice to flourish.
Some people call this racism. Israeli-British jazz musician and activist Gilad Atzmon, an irreverent anti-Zionist who comments frequently on Middle East issues, gave a talk at the University of Denver in April in which he castigated Western society in general for its "collective indifference" to crimes committed in the Middle East "on our behalf and in our names" and charged the anti-war movement with a self-indulgence that makes it indifferent as well to the worst injustices. Noting that there is a "common denominator between Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan" largely attributable to the influence over U.S. policy exerted by Israel and its supporters ("America has been operating officially as an Israeli mission force . . . currently fight[ing] the last sovereign pockets of Muslim resistance"), Atzmon pointedly accused Americans and Europeans in general of caring about Muslims only "as long as they stop being Muslims." The notion of a clash of cultures and civilizations, he said, has resonance even in the solidarity movement.
"Naturally, we tend to expect the subject of our solidarity to endorse our views while dumping his own. As much as Blair and Bush insist upon democratizing the Muslim world, we, the so-called left humanists, have our own various agendas for the region and its people. In Europe some archaic Marxists are convinced that 'working class politics' is the only viable outlook of the conflict and its solution. Some other deluded socialists and egalitarians are talking about liberating the Muslims of their religious traits. The cosmopolitans within the solidarity movement would suggest to Palestinians that nationalism and national identity belong to the past. Noticeably, many of us love Muslims and Arabs as long as they act as white, post-enlightenment Europeans."
Western society, including the anti-war movement, Atzmon charged, has "managed to continuously fail to act for the people of Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan." Supporting Muslims is "probably a bridge too far for most Westerners." We cannot accept the "otherness" of Muslims, and so we "self indulge with peace ideologies at the expense of other people's pain."
This is a harsh indictment, but in fact, the truth is that the anti-war movement today cares little about justice for those who are different, whom it considers "other," and this gravely undermines the movement's impact. It cares least of all about justice for those whom Israel considers enemies. Ultimately, a little outrage is in order. The anti-war movement needs a new focus, concentrated on achieving universal justice around the world first, as a prerequisite for a true peace. Only this new approach can accomplish the peace community's aims.
When CounterPunch published Bill Christison's article, "A Global Justice Movement" on August 27, he received numerous comments in a favorable vein indicating that the concept of "justice as a prerequisite for peace" or "justice before peace" was a new and revolutionary idea, coming as a kind of epiphany for many people. This is an indication of how little justice enters into the thinking of ordinary citizens and peace activists. It should not be such a novel concept.
There were also a few comments from critics who claimed that the idea of putting peace in a secondary position after justice was wrong because Gandhi and Martin Luther King always worked for peace. But this is a misunderstanding of Gandhian thinking and purpose. Gandhi very clearly did not struggle for peace at the price of injustice, for peace at any price. He already had that; India was peaceful under British rule, but it was not just. The essence of Gandhi's satyagraha, and of King's civil rights movement, was resistance to injustice through nonviolent civil disobedience -- precisely, in other words, to disturb the peace by conducting direct nonviolent action against unjust laws.
But the idea of justice first is a novel thought in most people's minds. Think how many anti-war organizations list only peace or "peace and justice," in that order, in their names. United for Peace and Justice comes to mind. But what if we reversed priorities and spoke of "justice and peace" instead? Think of the much-touted Middle East "peace process" as instead the Middle East "justice process," and a new light is cast on the issue, forcing us to recognize that, no matter how much we may all talk about "peace and justice," few of us truly have much concern for the justice half of that equation. And justice fades away altogether as a concern when the perpetrator of injustice is Israel; few, even in the active peace and anti-war community, will deal in any way with Israeli injustice. The anti-war movement is a "peace-at-any-price community," and for most activists, achieving peace without achieving true justice for all peoples would suffice.
But the mere end of shooting is not peace. Justice does not simply come along with peace as a kind of side benefit; justice must be actively worked for, and it must be achieved before there can be real peace. Peace is an empty concept without justice. The oppressed never call for peace; their struggle is always for justice. Ending the war in Iraq without bringing justice to the Iraqi people will not bring real peace and, even more important, ending the U.S. role in Iraq will most definitely not bring justice or true peace to the Palestinian people.
The concept of "justice" is not easy to define, but there do exist standards of justice in international law and custom that limit the concept and make an agreed definition readily discernible. The body of international human rights laws drafted after World War II provides an enlightened guide to ensuring the dignity and worth of individuals and to guaranteeing the rights that "are considered vital to life in a just society," as the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem puts it. These laws include the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which defines the rights of individuals and the obligations of states toward those individuals, as well as various covenants and conventions on political and civil rights. In addition, humanitarian laws, such as the Hague and Geneva conventions, governing the conduct of war, particularly the conduct of combatants and occupying powers in war.
Similar standards of "peace" do not exist either in law or in custom. "Peace" means something different for everyone, and one person's peace is often another person's injustice. For Israel, peace means security -- even if, and perhaps particularly if, Palestinians are disadvantaged and denied justice. For Palestinians, peace means a redress of injustices done to them for almost 60 years.
Many of history's most epic struggles for good have been struggles not for peace but for justice. Why, for instance, have humanists opposed bigotry and racism in modern times? Not primarily because these fundamental violations of human decency impede peace, but because they violate common standards of justice. White South Africa lived peacefully during much of the apartheid period. Southern slaveholders in the pre-Civil War United States lived in peace while oppressing blacks. Israel has enjoyed peace for most of its nearly 60 years, even while dispossessing the Palestinian people, occupying Palestinian territory, killing and ethnically cleansing Palestinians. But South African blacks and American slaves had no justice despite living in peace. Palestinians have had no justice since Israel's creation.
If we think about justice as the first priority and allow the principles of justice to be the guide in moving toward a just and peaceful end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, we gain a clearer picture of the situation and the only way out of it. We are led back inevitably to 1948 and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, the only time and event where justice rendered will ultimately resolve this conflict. The Palestinians' dispossession is a fundamental injustice from which all subsequent injustices have sprung, one that can only be rectified by some mutual agreement on the Palestinian right of return. This is the only way to true peace. It is important to understand that Israel exists as a Jewish state only because it was founded in 1948 on a grave injustice to the Palestinian people. It is also critical to understand that Jews will not be "thrown into the sea" if Zionism and its injustices are ended -- any more than dismantling apartheid South Africa meant throwing whites into the sea. (See the Appendix for a description of some of the specific ways in which Israel perpetrates injustice against Palestinians.)
Israeli historian Ilan Pappe observed in his 2004 book A History of Modern Palestine -- a history of struggle in Palestine from the people's perspective, which stands out as a kind of Israeli version of Howard Zinn's classic A People's History of the United States -- that "for any political peace initiative to succeed, the chapter of Palestine's dispossession needs to be closed." Far from closing this chapter, he noted, the Oslo peace process rather asked the Palestinians to forsake remembrance of that dispossession, "the only reason for their struggle since 1948." An historian with a rare sense of compassion and an even rarer sense of justice, Pappe went on to envision a future of justice and peace for Palestinians and Jews in Palestine: "Recognizing the very act of dispossession -- by accepting in principle the Palestinian refugees' right of return -- could be the crucial act that opens the gate to the road out of conflict. A direct dialogue between the dispossessed and the state that expelled them can refresh the discourse of peace and may lead people and leaderships alike to acknowledge the need to seek a united political structure which, at different historical junctures in this story, has seemed possible."
This is the hope and the promise of justice accorded to both sides.
Palestine stands as a challenge to the anti-war movement in this country. The Palestinian situation is a monstrous humanitarian catastrophe, of literally breathtaking scope. Until the anti-war movement begins to seek justice for the Palestinians and not merely some vague, undefined, and highly politicized "peace," it will never be respected throughout the world. Only when it honestly begins to protest injustice perpetrated against all peoples in the world regardless of their ethnicity and religion -- whether they are Palestinians, Iraqis, Israelis, Americans, or anyone else -- will the world look to Americans as a decent people. Until that day comes, the world can expect global injustice to deepen. The unfolding catastrophe created by U.S. policies will only worsen, wars will be endless, peace will never be achieved.
Appendix -- A Catalog of Injustices
Put plainly, Israel -- encouraged and supported morally, politically, and financially by the United States -- is doing grave injustice to the Palestinian people, and has been for 60 years. The first and most grievous injustice occurred in 1948, when 750,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes -- either because of fighting in their towns and villages or because they were deliberately expelled by Zionist/Israeli forces -- and were neither allowed to return to their homes nor compensated. Ilan Pappe describes in grim detail the Zionists' carefully laid-out and efficiently implemented plans for the Palestinians' expulsion and dispossession in his latest book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Until these refugees, now with their descendants numbering over four million, receive justice by being allowed to return and/or being compensated under a mutually agreed formula, neither Palestinians nor Israelis will ever enjoy true peace and stability.
UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of December 1948 -- which stated that Palestinian refugees "wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date" or should be compensated -- was the first of numerous international affirmations of what has come to be referred to as the Palestinian right of return. Justice will not be served, nor peace achieved, until this issue is resolved equitably and democratically, in a manner satisfactory to the human rights and the national aspirations of both Palestinians, including those living in refugee camps outside Palestine, and Israeli Jews.
Since Israel's creation in 1948, justice for Israelis has come at the cost of a succession of injustices to the Palestinians. In Palestine-Israel today, it is the Palestinians who live without justice. Simply by virtue of the fact that Israel enjoys total dominance over the Palestinians and over all the land of Palestine, there cannot be full impartial justice for Palestinians. The absence of justice in Israeli domination over the Palestinians is clear when one examines individual aspects of the Palestinian situation. The international community's demand, for instance, that any Palestinian governing authority accept three pre-conditions to negotiations -- recognition of Israel's right to exist, renunciation of violence, and adherence to past Palestinian-Israeli agreements -- without a reciprocal Israeli acceptance of the same conditions, cannot constitute impartial justice. True peace cannot be achieved until Israel is required to do equal justice to the Palestinians on these issues by recognizing the Palestinian people's right to exist as a viable nation, by renouncing its own violence, and by agreeing to adhere to all past agreements.
Justice is also violated as long as Israel retains control of land and property inside the West Bank expropriated unilaterally and without compensation from private and communal Palestinian ownership for the purpose of building colonies and roads for the exclusive use of Jewish citizens of Israel. Uncompensated seizure of land from one people for any use, and particularly for the exclusive use of a specific ethnic or religious population, cannot possibly be characterized as impartial justice. No peace will be possible until this grave injustice is first rectified. The Israeli organization Peace Now issued a report in November 2006, updated in March 2007, on the construction of Israeli colonies, or settlements, on privately owned Palestinian land. Entitled "G-U-I-L-T-Y!: Construction of Settlements upon Private Land -- Official Data," the report concludes that almost 32 percent of land appropriated by settlements is actually privately owned by Palestinians. A total of 131 Israeli colonies sit entirely or partially on private Palestinian land . An earlier Peace Now report, entitled "Apartheid Roads," was issued in October 2005, describing the extensive network of limited-access roads throughout the West Bank, also built on Palestinian land and accessible only to Israelis, that connect Israeli colonies to each other.
Virtually all aspects of Israel's continued presence in and control over occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza ultimately deprive Palestinians of justice, as defined in international human rights law. International law requires, for instance, that Israel as an occupying power respect the right of Palestinians to move freely in the occupied territories. This right is recognized under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem has published a report, entitled "Restrictions on Movement," on these and other rights denied to Palestinians. The report also contains links to pertinent international laws . A more recent report, "Ground to a Halt: Denial of Palestinians' Freedom of Movement in the West Bank," was published in August 2007.
Another, fuller B'Tselem report, entitled "International Law," describes how international law applies to the occupied territories . The reports provide links to a variety of international human rights and humanitarian laws, including the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which provide for the protection of civilians during war and under occupation (and which Israel signed). The Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War in particular applies to Palestinians living in the occupied territories and the conduct of the Israeli occupier. It prohibits, among other practices, collective punishment, deportation of the occupied population, settlement of the occupier's population in the occupied territory, and the confiscation of property belonging to the occupied population -- all of which Israel has carried out in occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.
The separation wall that Israel has been constructing inside the occupied West Bank since 2002 constitutes a grave human rights violation against the Palestinians and a denial of justice. The wall -- composed for most of its length of a 50- to 100-yard-wide expanse including patrol roads, trenches, and coils of barbed wire on both sides of an electronic fence, as well as in urban areas a 26-foot-high concrete wall -- is built almost entirely on Palestinian land inside the occupied territory. It appropriates approximately 10 percent of the West Bank by placing this land on the Israeli side, where most of it is inaccessible to Palestinians. Many Palestinian villages are separated from their agricultural lands by the wall. As many as 50 Palestinian communities, home to 245,000 people, are surrounded by the wall on three and in some cases four sides; entry or exit to some of these communities is only permitted on foot, while the remainder can be reached only by one Israeli-controlled road. More than half -- up to 90 percent, according to some estimates -- of the Palestinians' fresh water wells are on the Israeli side. Scores of Palestinian homes have been demolished to make way for the wall.
The wall surrounds occupied Arab East Jerusalem, placing some 200,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites on Israel's side of the barrier and cutting them off from their West Bank hinterland. The wall around Jerusalem also cuts off most West Bank Palestinians from their religious, political, and economic capital in Jerusalem. Altogether, the wall directly affects half a million Palestinians, cutting people off from schools, jobs, hospitals and destroying commerce. The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem has issued a detailed report, with several subsections, on the wall's consequences, entitled "Separation Barrier".
In July 2004, the United Nations' International Court of Justice found by a vote of 14 to 1 (the lone dissenting vote was cast by the American judge) that construction of the wall is "contrary to international law" . Israel has defied the ICJ injunctions. No peace is possible as long as the injustice of the wall remains. Peace cannot exist when one people believes it needs a wall of any sort between itself and its neighbor. Building this wall deep inside the neighbor's territory is an even graver injustice, and the wall will remain an insurmountable obstacle to peace unless it is dismantled or at least entirely relocated inside Israel's recognized borders.
A wall also surrounds the tiny 130-square-mile territory of Gaza, and has done so since the beginning of the Oslo "peace process" in the early 1990s. Despite Israel's so-called disengagement from Gaza in 2005 and the removal of Israeli settlers and Israeli soldiers, Israel maintains total control over Gaza, literally imprisoning its 1.3 million inhabitants. Gaza's population density makes it one of the most heavily populated places on earth. Israel controls all four sides of Gaza, not only its northern and eastern borders with Israel, but also its southern border with Egypt and its coastline on the Mediterranean. Gaza's airspace is also controlled by Israel, and there is no functioning airport or port. Neither people nor cargo can enter or exit Gaza without Israeli permission, and in periods deemed by Israel to be crisis periods, entry and exit points are closed entirely, often for weeks on end, so that critical imports such as food are stopped; products for export, particularly produce, are halted; and Gaza's inhabitants cannot leave for any purpose, including for medical treatment and schooling. Israel controls, and occasionally halts, the supply of gas and electricity to Gaza. B'Tselem has issued a detailed report on the situation in Gaza, entitled "The Gaza Strip after Disengagement" http://www.btselem.org/English/Gaza_Strip/.
Palestinians do commit injustices against Israelis -- primarily in the form of suicide bombings against civilians and the firing of rockets onto civilian areas in Israel, actions that must be condemned -- but as a non-sovereign governing authority with no security or judicial control over Israel or Israelis and little way to exert security control even over the Palestinian population, Palestinians are incapable of committing the kind of systematic abuse of justice that Israel perpetrates against them. Although Palestinian attacks on civilians are to be condemned, fairness and balance dictate that Israel's government-perpetrated terrorism against civilians be equally condemned, along with Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.
As a matter of justice, the Palestinians have the right to resist domination by Israel. Protocol 1 Additional to the Geneva Conventions considers struggles against "colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes" to be legitimate as part of any people's right to self-determination. Ohio State international law expert John Quigley has laid out a legal case for Palestinian resistance in a 2005 book entitled The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective. International law, Quigley makes clear, in the form of the UN Charter and repeated UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, affirms the right of peoples to enjoy self-determination and to resist infringements on that right by all means necessary, including force, but short of attacking civilians. In considering other cases of foreign domination over colonial peoples, the Security Council has even recognized a superior right by guerrilla organizations to use force against colonial powers, and in resolutions during the 1970s concerning Israeli reprisal attacks against Palestinian guerrilla raids, the Council found the latter to be lawful and "dealt with them as attacks by a colonized people entitled to the right of self-determination," according to Quigley.
The late Israeli sociologist and political commentator Baruch Kimmerling, writing in Haaretz shortly after the al-Aqsa intifada began in 2000, affirmed the Palestinians' right to oppose the occupation forcibly. The "continuing circumstances of occupation and repression," Kimmerling said, "give them [the Palestinians], by any measure, the right to resist that occupation with any means at their disposal and to rise up in violence against that occupation. This is a moral right inherent to natural law and international law."
Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Livni - Rice joint press conference transcript
Livni and Rice met following the Israel Security Cabinet decision to declare the Gaza Strip hostile territory.
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Hello. I would like welcome again Secretary Rice to the region. We discussed, of course, the situation in the region, the ongoing dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, the need to reach an understanding between Israel and the Palestinians and to reach an understanding on the widest common ground, which is possible I hope. And of course we discussed the Iranian threats, the need to take some more sanctions against Iran. We discussed the situation in Lebanon. So basically like always never a dull moment in the region, and we discussed all the issues that were mentioned.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, thanks very much. Thanks for hosting me here again and we did indeed have a wide-ranging discussion. We focused fairly intensively for most of the time on the dialogue that is going on between the Palestinians and Israelis.
I said to the Foreign Minister what I will say to all Israeli leaders, that we want to be as supportive as possible of this bilateral dialogue. We are hopeful that it can move forward to common understandings of a way forward to the creation of a Palestinian state so that two states can live side by side in peace and freedom. We did have other discussions, including about Iran and very briefly about Lebanon and the importance of the support for the democratic government there, but also the need to make certain that 1701 is carried out.
So it was all in all a very good set of discussions and thank you again for having me here.
QUESTION: Foreign Minister Ms. Livni, today the cabinet has defined Hamas as an enemy entity. Can you explain to us the consequences of this decision?
And second question, Madame Secretary, a fairly simple question: According to your sources, did Syria have nuclear equipment or maybe they still have?
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: I will start by answering your first question. Yes, of course, it's not a secret that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Hamas took over the Gaza Strip and it controls this territory. Clearly, Israel withdrew from Gaza Strip in order to end the Israeli occupation in the Gaza Strip and in order to reduce Israel's responsibility for the situation in the Gaza Strip. But unfortunately, even though we hoped that taking our forces out of Gaza Strip would be the beginning of the creation of a Palestinian state which would live in peace with Israel, what we got in return are terror attacks, daily terror attacks on Israel, on Sderot, on Israeli citizens.
We today declared that the Gaza Strip is a hostile territory. What this means is that although when it comes to humanitarian needs we have responsibility, all needs which go beyond humanitarian needs will not be supplied by Israel to the Gaza Strip.
We do hope that the situation in the Gaza Strip will change in the future and also that the Palestinians will understand that supporting this kind of terrorists is not going to help them.
SECRETARY RICE: As to your question to me, I'm not going to comment on any specific reports. I'll just note that the United States has been, under President Bush, extremely active in fighting the scourge of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in general. The President has made very clear that he intends to work with the international community actively to prevent the world's most dangerous weapons from ending up in dangerous hands.
And as a result, we have a Proliferation Security Initiative, for instance, which helps us to track and in some cases intercept dangerous cargos. We have worked very actively with our friends and allies to get strong language on proliferation in various United Nations and IAEA documents. And finally, we have worked very actively to undermine networks. And indeed the wrapping up of the A.Q. Khan network, which was a black market way to transfer nuclear materials, nuclear equipment to states, rogue states, was probably one of the great victories for the anti-proliferation efforts. So we're making very great efforts but I won't comment on specific cases.
QUESTION: Question for both of you. Do you think that the enemy entity designation is a legitimate treatment of civilians under international law?
And for Secretary Rice, first, is this an action that the United States supports? And second, do you have any concerns that it will lower the confidence among Palestinians and Arabs that Israel will bargain in good faith as you move toward your peace conference?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, looking forward, it is my very strong view that Israel and the Palestinians are showing their good faith in the discussions that they're having, discussions that are getting ever broader and deeper at the level of the Prime Minister and President Abbas and that indeed now have spurred the two sides to create negotiating teams that are to try and memorialize those understandings so that the creation of the Palestinian state can move forward.
It's no secret that the United States declares Hamas a terrorist organization and that we've been troubled by the fact that Hamas did what they did in the Gaza against legitimate Palestinian institutions, against legitimate institutions of the Palestinian Authority. And we have been very concerned that two things be understood, and we've talked about this and I think we have the same view in this regard. One is that we will not abandon the innocent Palestinians in Gaza, and indeed will make every effort to deal with their humanitarian needs. And secondly, that Gaza and the West Bank are both constituent entities of the to-be Palestinian state. And so that is not to say that Gaza is to be separated off somehow and treated as if it is (inaudible). The legitimate government of Gaza is ultimately that of the Palestinian Authority. But Hamas is indeed a hostile entity. It's a hostile entity to the United States as well.
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: The short answer to your question is, yes, we made this decision according also to our legal advisors, so it is according to international law and it's not going to affect the humanitarian needs of the population in the Gaza Strip, as I stated before.
But I would like also to express the need to give a very complicated answer to a complicated situation on the ground. Our policy tries to give an answer to a distinction which happens now in the Palestinian Authority and the need to make a distinction between the extremists and the moderates - Abu Mazen, Salam Fayyad, the government which meets the requirements of the international community. This ongoing dialogue is of utmost importance. Israel is conducting its dialogue in good faith because the creation of a future Palestinian state is in our own interest. We believe in a two-state solution. We believe in the need to live in peace in the region. And we are willing, as was stated before, also to compromise on several issues. But of course any negotiations need to address the crucial or the vital interests of both sides, also Israel's security. As we understand it, the creation of the Palestinian state is an Israeli interest, just as to support the future Palestinian state's economy is part of our interest. We expect the Palestinians to understand that Israel's security is also part of their own interest.
So basically, this is part of the ongoing dialogue between Olmert and Abu Mazen. Only a few days ago, new teams were set up to try and find the common ground. And I hope that we can reach this common ground. It's not easy; it's complicated.
On the other hand, we need to give an answer to daily attacks on Israel coming from the Gaza Strip. And the distinction between the moderates and the extremists on the Palestinian side is also translated in terms of territories. So there is no policy of Israel to divide the West Bank and Gaza Strip, I can assure you. But on the other hand, we need to adopt two different policies toward the situation in order to meet the challenge, the security challenge of the threats coming from Gaza Strip and our need to promote a process with the moderates.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, does the United States support the designation?
SECRETARY RICE: I've given my answer, Anne.
QUESTION: This question to Secretary Rice. I would like to hear, please, your comment on the things that Bernard Kouchner, Foreign Secretary of France, said that the war against Iran may be inevitable.
SECRETARY RICE: President Bush has said that the United States is committed to a diplomatic track because we believe a diplomatic track will work. The President of the United States also never takes any of his options off the table.
Now, why will the diplomatic track work? Why might it work? If there is international unity, which we've been able to achieve in two Security Council resolutions that have been unanimous Chapter 7 resolutions. If there is resoluteness in the international community to do even more, so that – I’ve been very pleased to see that a number of private entities are making decisions about investment in Iran, I think on the basis of investment and reputational risk. Private banks have left Iran. A number of companies are not going to deal with Iran. And I think it is extremely important that governments signal, as Germany did with the cutting of their export credits, as the French are now doing, that it is not business as usual with a state that is seeking the technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon and whose President has said the most awful things about another member of the United Nations, speaking of wiping Israel off the map. So it can't be business as usual with Iran.
But our view is that the diplomatic track can work. It has to have both a way for Iran to pursue a peaceful resolution of this issue and it has to have teeth. And the UN Security Council and other measures are providing teeth.
QUESTION: Foreign Minister Livni, the United States has said that it wants this upcoming Middle East conference to address critical issues. Saudi Arabia has said that it won't attend unless final status issues are addressed. Is Israel prepared to discuss the status of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the borders of an eventual Palestinian state?
And for Secretary Rice, why have you not yet endorsed the idea of inviting Damascus to the conference?
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: As I said before, our own interest is to reach an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It's not because of the international process or international pressure, but this is our own interest and our own need.
But it is very important to you find the common denominator, whether there is common ground that we can agree upon in these sensitive issues. This was part of the dialogue between Olmert and Abu Mazen, and we need to find out whether we can bridge the gaps on certain issues which are more sensitive. We would like to see this international meeting succeed, and we would like to find out whether we can bridge the gap between Israeli interests and Palestinian interests. But basically, we are trying to find out what is the common ground on most of the issues.
It's important to understand because I know that there are certain high expectations and I believe in realistic expectations.
It's not a secret that there are certain issues which are more sensitive and are part of the hard core of the conflict. Of course, we would like to end the conflict tomorrow, but it's no less important to find the best way to do it, wisely and cleverly, in this very delicate situation - While, as I said before, there is also a gap between maybe the willingness of the other side, of both sides, and the ability to translate it into an understanding and then to translate it into actions on the ground.
SECRETARY RICE: We haven't invited anyone yet.
QUESTION: So are you prepared to invite Damascus?
SECRETARY RICE: We haven't invited anyone yet. So I'm not going to address the issue of participation until we address the issue of participation.