An Israeli military contractor, whose surveillance technology is used along Israel’s apartheid wall constructed in the Palestinian West Bank, has been chosen by the United States to provide similar services on the southern border with Mexico, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.
Elbit Systems announced on Sunday that the US Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had awarded its subsidiary a $145 million contract to deploy border surveillance technology in southern Arizona, Reuters reported.
But according to Bloomberg analyst Brian Friel, quoted by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the one-year contract could expand to a broader $1 billion deal if the US Congress passes stringent immigration legislation.
Elbit Systems is set to install watch towers along the border with sensors for spotting, tracking, and classifying data, along with command and control centers.
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona hailed the deal as a “step in the right direction.”
“Arizonans have been waiting more than a decade for the Department of Homeland Security to place the needed technology along our border to support the Border Patrol and fully secure our southern border,” he said in a statement.
“If this technology is developed, integrated and fielded correctly, these Integrated Fixed Towers in southern Arizona, coupled with the tremendous work of the Border Patrol, will give our agents the ability to detect, evaluate, and respond to all illegal entries crossing our border.”
A government contractor said the choice of an Israeli firm was justified by of its “advanced” experience in maintaining separation barriers.
“It is odd to go offshore for this work, but in extraordinary circumstances, one really wants to employ the best,” Haaretz quoted Mark Amtower, a partner at Amtower & Co, as saying.
Elbit Systems is one of the primary military suppliers of the Israel’s occupation forces. Its Hermes 450 attack drone has been used extensively in the besieged Gaza Strip, as well as in Lebanon during the 2006 war.
The company is also responsible for surveillance technology along the apartheid wall erected by Israel within the West Bank. Only 15 percent of the separation barrier is built along the so-called 1949 Green Line, which is recognized by the international community as the border of Israel proper, UN figures show, with most of it jutting into the occupied West Bank.
The 440-kilometer long barrier is considered illegal under international law.
Among its many international contracts, Elbit contributed in 2013 to a $40 million expansive Internet surveillance program for the Nigerian government.
Elbit Systems has officially pledged on its website to “contribute to the enhancement of quality of life and the environment of the communities in which we live and work.”
But this contribution mainly consists of supporting Israeli occupation forces through the “Adopt a Combat Unit” program.
Elbit is targeted by the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for “directly contribut[ing] to violations of international humanitarian law.”
The Stop the Wall campaign has called Elbit a “symbol” which“thrives on and fuels war, repression and control in Palestine and around the globe.”
“Elbit offers its experience in ghettoizing and killing Palestinians to repress other people,” the campaign wrote of the company’s international projects.
“Because Elbit Systems is knowingly participating in and aiding Israeli war crimes and Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people, investors in and partners of the security firm are, by extension, accessories to Israel’s many violations of international law and human rights standards.”
Yesterday the United States lost the propaganda war on Ukraine. President Obama made a reluctant and senseless statement which Washington Post entitled “There will be costs”.
He pronounced standard phrases like “the Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future”, proposed that Russia be a “part of an international community’s effort to support the stability and success of a united Ukraine”, lamented over the alleged “violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and assured that “the United States supports his government’s efforts and stands for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic future of Ukraine”.
It looks like the United States administration was not mentally prepared for the development of the Ukrainian crisis. The synchronized actions of the new Crimean authorities and the press-conference of the expelled president Victor Yanukovych in Rostov-on-Don gave undeniable judicial advantage to the opposite side in Ukraine who are not ready to acknowledge the illegitimate “government” elected by the rowdy Euro-mob in Kiev three days ago. The United States has no tangible tools to destabilize Crimea, de facto controlled by the Ukrainian anti-putschist resistance forces, while the judicial status of Victor Yanukovych (whatever we think about him as a person and political figure) is indubitable.
Since the very beginning of the crisis in Ukraine it was clear that the US goal was not imposing a pro-American government in Kiev, but rather making Ukraine a sticking point for Russia-European relations. The bloody events on Independence Square were organized in order to pull Russia into the vortex of the chaos in Ukraine. The Washington strategists thought that Moscow would become recklessly involved in the dirty games with Poland, Hungary and Romania over “federalization of Ukraine” and the street battles against the fascist thugs in Kiev.
On Saturday the Kremlin unexpectedly broke its skillful political pause after last night’s attempted assault on the Crimea Interior Ministry in Simferopol by unidentified special units sent from Kiev. Until that moment the Russian ‘inaction’ was much more powerful than thousands of nervous actions in Kiev and statements from Washington. The Russian move is going to be even more impressive.
Among all “interested parties” in the Ukrainian crisis, Russia is the only global power that has demonstrated its ability to act within the framework of international law and to take responsible and sovereign decisions.
Ironically, today’s Crimea is probably the only region where the Constitution of Ukraine is still strictly implemented. The referendum on the issue of the wide autonomy, announced to be held on March 30, 2014, was initiated in full compliance with the national law. The Russian military presence in Crimea is also regulated by the 1997 Russian-Ukrainian agreement on the Russian Navy base in Sevastopol. The new Crimean government, unlike the central one in Kiev, was appointed by the local legislative body as a result of a properly performed legal procedure.
So Moscow’s message to President Obama is simple. We are the real guarantors of Ukrainian sovereignty. We are protecting the life of its incumbent president, elected by the people of Ukraine at the free and competitive poll in 2010, from the direct personal threat from illegitimate “new authorities”. For the last three months, unlike you, we were not interfering in the internal political process in Ukraine while your Assistant Secretary of State was handing buns to the “peaceful protesters” in Kiev and talking smut about your European dialogue partners. We followed the letter and spirit of the international law whether we liked it or not. And today we are giving hope to millions of the Russian Ukrainians who categorically reject banderist authorities in Kiev. We are defending their right to determine their future. Therefore you will be brought to account for the billions of dollars invested for years long into the chimera project of the Orange revolution in Ukraine, which in its second incarnation turned Brown. You will be charged for months of explicit incitements for riots and civilian disobedience to legitimate authorities in Ukraine, committed by your officials and congressmen. And you will be responsible for the recognition of the shady Kiev “cabinet”, not only lacking any public support in Ukraine, but also any real resources to secure minimal level of life and the rule of law in this 45-million strong nation, lost in a non-existent “transition”, invented by your insolvent foreign policy consultants. These are the costs you are about to pay in Ukraine, President Obama.
In December 2010, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a television interview that if Israel continued to build settlements in the West Bank he would disband the Palestinian Authority (PA), the West Bank authority established under the Oslo Accords.
“I cannot accept to remain the president of an authority that doesn’t exist,” he said.
Abbas responded to the re-election of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in early 2013 by again threatening to dissolve the PA. “I’ll tell him… Sit in the chair here instead of me, take the keys and you will be responsible for the Palestinian Authority.” The threats were made in an attempt to apply pressure on the Israeli government to kick start negotiations.
For the last seven months, both parties have been back at the negotiations table, with the hope of finding a solution to the decades long conflict by this April. The two sides, led by US Secretary of State John Kerry, are again trying to draw the borders in a two state solution.
Established under the Oslo Accords as an interim body, the PA was sold as a national project that would see the transportation of Palestine from an occupied territory to an internationally recognised state. The West Bank was split into three areas under the accords; Areas A, B and C. The PA was given apparent full control of Area A, the smallest chunk of land, while Area B came under shared control and Area C fell under full Israeli control.
The idea was that a final status peace agreement would be reached within 5 years, and all areas would fall under Palestinian jurisdiction. Twenty years later and the status quo established by the Oslo Accords is still in place.
The PA’s control remains limited to Area A, where its authority is nonetheless frequently violated by Israel. For Palestine, the two central functions anticipated from the PA – providing both a vehicle to statehood and a means of institution building – have arguably failed.
The last 20 years of negotiations between the PA and Israel have instead left the West Bank fragmented into 167 enclaves, which are in turn broken up by 552 checkpoints and barriers as well as being separated from Israel by a 440 kilometre long concrete wall which has annexed East Jerusalem, the envisioned capital of an independent Palestinian state. The settler population has doubled and 53 thousand settlement homes have been constructed to house them. Meanwhile 15 thousand Palestinian homes have been destroyed, according to infographics from Visualizing Palestine.
Instead of viewing the Authority as a vehicle towards statehood, many Palestinians see the PA as an arm of the occupation, with the biggest beneficiary of its existence being the occupier. PA run schools and hospitals, supported by foreign aid, maintain a status quo allowing Israel to shoulder its obligations as an occupying power. Instead of tackling the underlying political issues, millions of dollars of aid are poured into the PA and projects in the West Bank, acting as temporary plasters that serve to make the current situation viable.
The security cooperation between Israel and the PA, which was at a high, according to a 2012 summary report by the Coordinator of Activities in the Territories, has led many to define the Authority as a puppet of the occupation. This has fuelled a decline in Abbas’ popularity and, in turn, led to calls for the third intifada to be pitted against the PA.
Israel’s Yossi Kuperwasser, director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, said during a court case waged against the PA, “I think that the Palestinians shared partial, tendentious and incomplete information with the Shin Bet.”
Shin Bet, the Israel security agency, was reportedly trying to “cover up their inability to use this tool called the Palestinian security forces in supplying them with the purpose for which they exist: preventing terror.”
Not only is it recognised here that the PA is openly sharing files with Israel’s notorious intelligence agency, there is no attempt to hide the fact that the PA, as an entity, has been created solely for this purpose, as a “tool” to be used by Israel.
In 2011, 31 per cent of the total PA expenditure, one third of its budget, was spent on security, the beneficiary of such large national expenditure being Israel.
This led Yossi Beilin, the Israeli architect of the Oslo process, to also call for the disbandment of the PA. In a heavily worded letter to Abbas he said; “Do not let Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hide behind the fig leaf of the Palestinian Authority – impose upon him, once again, the responsibility of the fate of four million Palestinians.
“Remain as the head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which will give you the authority to lead the political negotiations if and when they resume, but for the sake of your own people, for the sake of peace, you cannot let this farce continue,” he said.
While the talks restarted, the call for PA disbandment has continued. The two-state solution currently being deliberated is likely to include large settlement blocs being annexed to Israel, with compensatory land swaps, which some argue could be defined as illegal under international law. Israel is likely to gain “legal” control of the valuable Jordan Valley under the pretext of security, with the right of return for Palestinian refugees shelved.
After they have carved up the complex territory, the Palestinian State will be demilitarised with no control over its borders or airspace. Just as the Bantustans of South Africa were seen by the world as fantasy entities with governments and borders that gave them a veneer of legitimacy, a “state” of Palestine as envisaged by Israel similarly leads one to consider when a state ceases to be a state. This kind of “state” also leads one to question where the terms “peace” and “agreement” are in this solution.
After 20 years of negotiations, which many argue has only led to 20 years of concessions made by the Palestinian side, most citizens seem unexcited by the new talks. Talks that continue despite Israel’s refusal to freeze settlement building, an issue which led to the breakdown of the last talks and despite moves in the Knesset to enforce Israeli sovereignty over Al-Aqsa, Jewish claims to the Islamic holy site sparked the last intifada.
On the ground the effect of dissolving the PA would be disastrous, with a projected loss of $3 billion of public spending, 100,000 public servants left unemployed and the poverty rate potentially rising to 60 per cent, according to a report by the Palestinian Center of Policy and Surveys Research. There is also a genuine concern that the power vacuum left behind would be filled with more radical elements.
However, disbanding the PA may push the completion of a two state peace agreement, with the possibility of using the situation as leverage to gain more from the negotiations than a Palestinian Bantustan. Of course its dissolution would make negotiations between the state of Israel and a future state of Palestine difficult, which instead of contributing to the two-state framework, could lead to a one-state solution becoming the only viable option. Either way, it would mean an end to the occupation.
Alternatively Israel could launch a full scale occupation of the whole West Bank, without the façade of the “liberated” Area A. The latter would cost Israel billions, with the gap left by the PA in Area A cities like Nablus and Jericho requiring an investment of more manpower for little gain. In a desperate bid to protect the Jewish demographics of Israel from the threat of a one-state solution, and with the maintenance of the status quo no longer possible, a viable State of Palestine may be born.
Alternatively, the one-state solution may finally gain some ground, outside academic circles. The one-state solution is unpopular with many Palestinians, who see the negotiations as futile, but are still focused on the aspiration for a nation state and see the PA as the only vehicle to get there, while the PA’s 100,000 employees are understandably more concerned with their pay cheque. However the situation on the ground is often referred to as a “one-state reality”, inferring that the one-state solution is the only option.
In this case, Israel would have to choose between turning the one-state into an apartheid state with Palestinians as second class citizens, or a democratic state granting equal rights to its citizens.
In one-state, accusations of apartheid could not be so easily thwarted by those who excuse Israel’s policies and international condemnation would be quick to follow. Either way, desperate not to let the power vacuum left by the PA be filled by radical Islamist groups that may not be so easy to negotiate with, Israel and the US would be pushed to think of alternative solutions.
Nonetheless, Abbas’ past threats to dissolve the PA are empty. Like Israel and its backers, the Fatah run PA does not want the power vacuum to be filled with its political enemy number one; Hamas, who it has been pitted against since the 2006 elections, with the dissolution of the West Bank authority also spelling the dissolution of Fatah’s authority over the territory. In a meeting with EU representative Marc Otte, Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestinian side, was recorded saying; “Reaching an agreement [with Israel] is a matter of survival for us. It’s the way to defeat Hamas.”
Instead, April will see a US brokered peace agreement unveiled with a State of Palestine resembling a state but not a state with sovereignty but dependent, run by a leader that governs the oppressed, but who is a puppet for the oppressor. The status quo will largely be the same, except this time it will no longer be a called a conflict and the US will celebrate the success of bringing “peace” to the region.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is proposing for the Palestinians to establish the capital of a future Palestinian state in Beit Hanina instead of all of occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war, Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Beit Hanina is located to the north of the old city, on the road to Ramallah.
According to the newspaper, Kerry’s proposal for the Palestinian capital to be located in only a small part of East Jerusalem, along with his other suggestions, enraged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who left his meeting with Kerry last week furious, threatening to torpedo the framework agreement. Kerry is said to have adopted the Israeli positions completely, including demanding that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state and retain the ten Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank as part of a land swap. Kerry also hinted that the Jordan Valley will not be part of a future Palestinian state and refused having any international presence in the Palestinian territories when Israel pulls out.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that US President Barack Obama has decided to intervene in the talks and “pressure both sides” to reach a framework agreement within the set deadline. Obama is meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday and has invited Abbas to visit Washington next month.
Regarding the possibility of extending the negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel after the April deadline, Kerry told reporters that the parties took seven months to reach an understanding on their positions and he did not believe that anyone would feel concerned if it took another nine months to reach a final agreement. “I very much hope we should be able to make both parties take what is necessary to enter the most important stage, that is the final stage. To negotiate the final status based on a clear and specific framework.”
BETHLEHEM – Luxembourg’s general pension fund has decided to boycott five major Israeli banks and a number of major Israeli investment companies over their involvement in supporting construction in illegal settlements in the West Bank, according to the Hebrew-language news site Walla.
In a report published Tuesday, Walla news highlighted that names of the Israeli banks and companies appeared on a list banned by the Fond De Compensation last updated on Nov. 15, 2013. The list, titled on the FDC website as “Exclusion List,” included 60 international banks and companies which FDC decided to boycott over human rights violations.
The Israeli banks and companies on the list are the Africa Israel Investment group identified by FDC as Real Estate, Management and Development group, Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Elbit Systems, aerospace and defense group, Finmeccaneca, also aerospace and defense group, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank, Jerusalem Economy LTD, the Real Estate, Management and Development Group and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank LTD.
It was explained on the list that the Israeli banks and organizations appeared because they support and finance construction of “illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Territories of the State of Palestine” and some provide security systems for the “illegal separation barrier on Occupied Territories of the State of Palestine.”
The Walla report highlighted that the direct impact of this boycott could be zero, but it is still worrying because it is a chain in an ongoing divestment process.
Part I – Norman Finkelstein’s Predictions
Much has been made of the rising influence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Indeed, there is a growing sense that the boycott power of civil society, particularly as it is manifesting itself in Europe, is on track to repeat history—to do to Israel what it once did to South Africa. Simultaneously, there is the persisting assumption that the latest effort at negotiating a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, now being managed by Secretary of State Kerry, will go down the same ignoble path as all its predecessors.
However, not everyone agrees with this. In an interview given to the New Left Project, posted on-line on 11 January 2014, Norman Finkelstein (a well published critic of Israel) presents a different scenario. Finkelstein firmly believes that Kerry’s efforts will bear fruit and thus, before the end of President Obama’s term in office, Israel and the frankly unrepresentative Palestine Authority (PA) will come to terms.
Finkelstein explains that the classic debate over Israel’s illegal settlement blocs is over and, on this issue, Israel has won. It will be allowed to absorb the major settlements and thus render any Palestinian entity geographically dubious. The right of return so dear to Palestinian refugees will also be abandoned by the PA.
As a consequence, what is now being “negotiated” are the Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” and the final status of the Jordan Valley. Finkelstein predicts that the first issue will be solved by describing Israel as “the state of the Jewish people and its citizens,” thus affording alleged legal protection to Arab-Israelis, and correspondingly, Palestine will become “the state of Palestinians and its citizens.” As to the Jordan Valley, Israel will slowly withdraw from the area. Finkelstein’s comment on this is that “Israel is adept at ‘conceding’ things to which it has no title in the first place.”
Finkelstein describes the “Palestinian leadership” as “irredeemably corrupt, incompetent and stupid.” He is only slightly kinder in his description of “Palestinian supporters abroad,” who, he says, are “not acting smartly.” He discounts boycott achievements in the U.S. and believes that those in Europe should be thought of as pressure tactics in support of Kerry’s efforts. Palestinian solidarity groups “carry on as if the Kerry process is a meaningless sideshow, something that can safely be ignored.” He thinks that this is a big mistake and that the possibility of real Palestinian self-determination will be gone before these supporters know what has hit them.
Part II – What If He Is Right?
Whatever one might think of Norman Finkelstein and his prognostications, it would be wise for those supporting BDS and Palestinian rights to consider how they might react if, against all odds, Secretary of State Kerry succeeds. So let’s think about this.
Such a settlement (at least as described by Finkelstein) would transform a good part of the West Bank’s occupied territory into “sovereign” Israeli land and set up a truncated Palestinian entity to which Palestinian refugees could “return.” Some might question whether there would remain a rationale for continuing to boycott Israel. The BDS movement could lose steam, at least temporarily. However, would it and its goals dissipate all together?
Probably not. What would ultimately save the BDS movement is Israel’s leadership itself, driven as they are by the inherently racist nature of the Zionist ideology. In other words, Israel’s policy makers can be safely relied upon to be true to character. Take the “politically moderate” finance minister Ya’ir Lapid ,who recently told an Israeli audience, “the issue [is] we need to get rid of the Palestinians. It threatens us, it chokes us.” As a result of this commonly shared attitude, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (and other non-Jews such as asylum seekers from East Africa) within Israel’s territory will continue apace. To put it another way, the 67-year-old effort to harass most non-Jewish citizens and residents out of the country will greatly intensify. The BDS campaign conducted against South Africa was a reaction against that society’s racist culture and policies. There is no reason why a powerful BDS movement cannot be sustained against Israel on the same basis.
Part III – What If He Is Wrong?
However, Norman Finkelstein may be wrong. It might be that the well-informed journalist Jonathan Cook is correct when he observes that “despite outward signs … [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu [is] far from ready to compromise.” Cook claims that Netanyahu has “the bulk of the Israeli public behind him. … But most importantly he has a large chunk of the Israel’s security and economic establishment on his side too.” As a result, “These negotiations may not lead to an agreement, but they will mark a historic turning-point nonetheless. The delegitimization of Israel is truly under way, and the party doing most of the damage is the Israeli leadership itself.”
Part IV – The Fate of the Movement
I think that the BDS movement, and more generally the movement for Palestinian rights, should be able to survive either way. If Cook is right, not only survival but rapid growth of the movement can be expected. If Finkelstein is correct, the situation will prove more complicated. Cook is certainly right about one thing: we are at a crossroads. Where exactly the situation might lead us is not as clear as either he or Finkelstein make it out. This means that those who support the Palestinians no matter in what format should think about these possibilities. There is as yet lead time to formulate suitable contingencies. Let’s make the most of it.
The Israeli military deployed a new division to the border with Syria in a move described as “a significant boost to border security and stability,” the Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday.
The 210th Regional Bashan Division replaced the 36th Armor Division and the Har Dov sector, which have been stationed on the occupied Golan Heights for 40 years.
The 36th Armor Division will become “an all-purpose wartime division, designed to be sent to any combat arena, such as Lebanon or Gaza, to support other divisions,” while the 210th Regional Bashan Division, with it’s “enhanced capabilities” backed by air defense systems and intelligence operations, will also have the ability “to carry out a ground maneuver in enemy territory.”
The deployment, dubbed “historic” has been planned months in advance, spurred by the volatile events across the border in Syria particularly in terms of fears that “there is no Syrian state sovereignty in areas bordering the southern Golan Heights, and global jihadi forces are expected to get stronger in such areas,” the Jerusalem Post said, citing Israeli intelligence assessments.
“The military sources said they do not expect Syria to recover from the civil war and go back to being a sovereign state in the foreseeable future, and they described the conflict as a strategic change that will be studied in future textbooks on Middle East history. It is impossible to know how Syria will turn out,” the report said.
“The IDF’s map of territory controlled by the Assad regime and the rebels is changing continuously,” it added.
Furthermore, the Jerusalem Post report noted that the 210th Division will be assisted by “a recently created Combat Intelligence Collection battalion, active along the Syrian border, and by a new security fence complete with electro-optical surveillance means and radars.”
The 210th Division will also have the ability to conduct military operations without seeking higher approval.
A Syrian opposition leader has praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for expressing support for militants wounded during the conflict in Syria.
Muhammad Badie told Israel Radio Friday that the Syrian opposition is grateful to Netanyahu for his February 18 tour to a field hospital in the (occupied) Golan Heights.
Speaking from Istanbul, the Syrian opposition leader added that Netanyahu’s public presence near the wounded militants sent an “important message.”
Badie also said that he and his friends thanked the Israeli premier for publicly voicing support for injured militants, especially after the collapse of the recent talks between the Syrian government and the opposition in Geneva, Switzerland.
Israel Channel 2 News recently aired footage of a secret Israeli field hospital in the occupied Golan Heights that has treated over 700 Syrians including militants over the past months.
Last year, the Israeli military carried out at least three airstrikes against Syria.
Damascus says Tel Aviv and its Western allies are aiding al-Qaeda-linked militant groups operating inside Syria.
Gaza, Occupied Palestine – Three Palestinian fishermen were arrested and had their boats and gear confiscated by occupation forces on Tuesday, 11th February, in two separate incidents, despite the fact that they were well within the Israel-permitted zone and could not be classified as security threat to the State of Israel, its civilians or its military.
Mohamed Sleeby, 42, paddled out early in the morning in his hasaka with his son, Ahmed, 16, from the beach at Shati, north of Gaza City. Mohamed’s is a smaller hasaka without an engine, four meters long, and can only fish close to shore. While they pulled on their nets about half a nautical mile from the shore, Israeli patrol boats approached. When they started shooting, other Palestinian fishing boats nearby fled.
“It was like a horror movie,” Mohamed said. “I closed my eyes. When I opened them again, they were right in front of the hasaka with aimed guns and masked faces. They shot into the water right next to us and ordered us to strip completely naked and swim, one at a time, towards them. It was humiliating to stand there completely naked in front of them, stripped of all humanity, with my son at my side. But I dared not disobey.”
Despite his fear, Mohamed asked that his son be spared. The soldiers shouted at him to shut up. They shot near his son, even though he held his hands outstretched while waiting for his turn to step into the cold water. Once they were pulled onto one of the patrol boats, they were given clothes, but hoods were also pulled over their heads. They were taken to a waiting, larger military boat outside the zone allowed by Israel to Palestinian fishermen. Even with shackles on the hands and feet, they were forced to kneel on their knees. Fadel Al-Sultan, 25, was also on board. Earlier that morning, he had also been detained, and had his small hasaka without an engine seized, less than half a nautical half from the shore.
In Ashdod, they all underwent health checks, were photographed holding their results and their personal details on sheets of paper, and were accused of having been outside the permitted zone. Fadel, who had previously been captured twice while fishing, was threatened with being sent directly to jail without trial if he was caught again. As with previous detentions of Palestinian fishermen, the interrogators focused on collecting information about government buildings and their staff in Gaza, on possible contacts with insurgents and on personal networks. Unlike previous detentions, they also asked where any fish farms were located on land. Later they were transported to Erez, where a new hearing began with Mohamed Sleeby, his skin was checked for traces of explosives and attempts were made to recruit him to the Israeli intelligence service.
“He [the lone interrogator] knew everything about me,” Muhamed said. “He knew I did not pay taxes on electricity. He offered to pay them, promised I would get my hasaka and nets back, and even said I would get a little money. He said I should not be afraid, that I am in good hands and that no one but me, him and God would know anything about this, that I ought to think about my family and not miss the chance. But I cannot do that to my brothers and neighbors. He said I should think about it and that he would contact me by phone. But how can he do that? I was left with my clothes in the hasaka they seized. No, I would rather starve than help the ones keeping us in poverty.”
Muhamed Sleeby and Fadel Al-Sultan’s answers on why the Israeli military attack the fisherman so close to the shore, even though they can pose no threat to the State of Israeli or its residents, were consistent. “They want to make life even more difficult for us,” they say, “to prevent us from supporting ourselves.” Fadel also says that to get better catches, they need to go 7-8 nautical miles from the coast, but that is impossible because Israel has limited them to six nautical miles. But even that limit is irrelevant, as they are attacked so far inside it that they all have to fight for the small catches along the beach. Those who have to paddle out to fish are now competing with larger boats forced toward the shore.
In January, thirteen attacks have been carried out by the Israeli military against Palestinian fishermen. At one time the occupying power decreed a six-nautical mile limit, at another three miles, but it has consistently attacked far within three nautical miles from the coast. Both these attacks and the limits are violations of international law.
Yet again, we hear that President Mahmoud Abbas has more or less conceded the lawful right for Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. Last year he told Israelis that although he would like to visit his birthplace in Safed, which is now in Israel, he did not expect to live there. Now he has told a group of Israelis visiting Ramallah that he has no wish to “drown the Jewish character” of Israel with returning refugees. This is an astonishing thing for him to say because its implications are so serious.
For a start, let us make it clear that the right to return is an individual right so it is not within the Palestinian Authority leader’s power to concede it on behalf of anyone other than himself. It may be that he was well aware of that when he signalled his own reluctance to return to Safed but his latest statement is worrying for the millions of refugees festering in squalid UN-run camps around the region.
One journalist said that Abbas’s comments “seemed to signal a significant concession on the so-called right of return – the Palestinian demand that several million descendants of 700,000 refugees expelled during Israel’s 1948 war of independence be allowed to go back to their homes.” For the benefit of the Daily Telegraph’s Robert Tait, it should be remembered that the right to return is not a “Palestinian demand”, it is enshrined in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 dated 11 December 1948: “… refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date…” Israel’s membership in the UN was conditional inter alia on it implementing this resolution, something which, of course, it has never done.
Israel’s unilateral “Declaration of Independence” of 1948 is clear that it was established as “the Jewish State in Palestine”. Among other things, the founding document insists that Israel “will loyally uphold the principles of the United Nations Charter”, among which is a commitment to implement resolutions; Israel has ignored more UN resolutions than it has ever implemented.
This “Jewish State” was recognised implicitly by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1993 when the former “terrorist” group came in from the cold and recognised Israel’s “right to exist”. That being the case, it must be asked why Benjamin Netanyahu is insisting on Palestinian recognition of the “Jewish character” of Israel as a pre-condition for a peace agreement.
Experience shows that Israel is an expansionist state; it has never declared its borders and has grown exponentially ever since it was created. Indeed, even by then it had morphed itself from the “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine mentioned in the infamous Balfour Declaration of 1917 to a “Jewish State” by 1948. The land it occupied by the 1949 armistice was greater in area than the allocation of the UN Partition Plan of 1947; this was increased yet again when Israel launched the Six-Day War in 1967 and occupied all of historic Palestine. While not occupying the Gaza Strip physically since 2005, Israel controls its borders, territorial waters and air space; it is an occupation legally and in all but name. As the “negotiations” (a euphemism for Palestinian concessions) drag on for 20 years and counting, Israel creates more facts on the ground, grabbing ever more land for its illegal settlements, settler-only roads, military zones and “nature reserves”. I think that it is fair to say that Israel’s leaders have no intention whatsoever of giving up any land upon which Jews are now living as they push to create “Eretz Israel”, the Greater Israel that is Zionism’s dream.
Recognition of the “Jewish character” of Israel will give it the green light to complete the ethnic cleansing started in 1948, with the 20 per cent of non-Jewish Israeli citizens being “transferred” to the rump statelet of Palestine that may or may not come into being; ideally, from a Zionist perspective, the transfer won’t end there and life will be made so miserable for Palestinians in the West Bank that they will cross into what many Israelis already call the state of Palestine; the rest of us know this as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. This is the “alternative homeland” scenario dreaded by Palestinians who have no wish to leave their historic homeland.
Israel will cite “security” concerns in order to get its way, though, and willing dupes like US Secretary of State John Kerry, ever-ready to do the pro-Israel Lobby’s bidding, will put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to concede even more than it has already. This includes agreement to a strong Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley, so that an “independent state of Palestine” will be nothing of the sort; it will have an army of occupation on its territory from Day One.
Once Israel is cleared of the “demographic time-bomb” of its Palestinian citizens it can claim, with hand on heart, that it is indeed both Jewish and democratic in nature. Fear of being an obvious apartheid state with a democratic façade is genuine; Jewish students in America are already being coached about how to defend the case for declaring a Jewish state while basically disenfranchising 1-in-5 of Israel’s citizens and implementing a raft of discriminatory laws.
That is why Mahmoud Abbas needs to wake from his stupor and understand that while he is free to give up his own right of return, he has no right whatsoever to concede that right for all Palestinian refugees. Israel and its Western backers will, of course, continue to ignore the UN resolutions in any case and so won’t mind that the legal niceties are chewed up and spat out as long as what Israel wants, Israel gets. But that will never produce a just and lasting peace in the region. Maybe that doesn’t bother the military-industrial complex upon which Israel is so reliant; it certainly won’t bother the neoconservatives running America. Their plans for the Middle East don’t include a state of Palestine; they want to see US-Israeli hegemony at any cost.
More than anything else, Abbas’s ill-advised statements demonstrate the ridiculous nature of the whole peace process, which is producing neither peace nor much of a process at the moment. The one-state solution is being talked about in all sorts of circles these days, as more and more people realise and accept that two-states are a non-starter. If the message can get through to Mahmoud Abbas and his cronies in Ramallah on board the Palestinian Authority gravy train, maybe peace will have a chance after all.
Israeli troops crossed the barrier separating Lebanon from Occupied Palestine on Tuesday, searching for parts of a crashed surveillance plane, the Lebanese National News Agency reported.
The Israelis then fired a shot in the air when a joint patrol by the Lebanese army and UNIFIL passed close by, near the southern Lebanese village of Mays al-Jabal.
The 11 Israeli soldiers were allegedly searching for pieces of an Israeli reconnaissance plane which had crashed inside Lebanon, eyewitnesses told the NNA.
In January, a group of 70 Israeli soldiers also crossed into southern Lebanon to retrieve surveillance equipment, all under the eyes of UNIFIL troops, who are tasked with monitoring breaches at the border.
Israeli drones and warplanes fly over Lebanon on a near-daily basis, violating Lebanese sovereignty despite complaints to the United Nations.
Hamas announced on Friday that it would deal with any foreign forces deployed in Palestinian territories the same way it is dealing with Israeli occupation, emphasizing its rejection of negotiations between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel.
In a speech before a massive march held by Hamas supporters in Rafah against negotiations, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said: “There are discussions about accepting the replacement of Israeli occupation forces in the Palestinian territories with international forces…Who has authorised them to speak on behalf of the Palestinians? Today we announce that we will deal with these forces the same way we are dealing with Israeli occupation.”
Abu Zuhri reiterated his movement’s refusal of the plan proposed by US Secretary of State John Kerry. “We reject negotiations, and we reject any agreement resulting from them. This is our message to the PA, the occupation, and Kerry. Hamas will not allow the passing of any agreement that would violate our rights.”
Abu Zuhri urged Abbas to withdraw from negotiations “before it’s too late”.
“We are here today to say that what is going on is a liquidation of our remaining rights and principles… Kerry’s plan aims at liquidating the Palestinian cause; it has been co-planned by the Americans and Israelis to wipe out the rest of our rights.”
“Regrettably, the Palestinian negotiator took part in negotiations although he recognised very well that they would not restore our rights,” the senior Hamas leader said.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Friday that negotiations gave time to Israel to expand settlements. However, office of the Israeli Prime Minister said today that there is almost an agreement to extend negotiations for an extra year.