By Stuart Littlewood | September 15, 2009
“The Israel Project”, a US media advocacy group, has produced a revised training manual to help the worldwide Zionist movement win the propaganda war, keep their ill-gotten territorial gains and persuade international audiences to accept that their crimes are necessary and conform to “shared values” between Israel and the civilized West.
It’s a clever document.
The manual teaches how to justify the slaughter, the ethnic cleansing, the land-grabbing, the cruelty and the blatant disregard for international law and UN resolutions, and make it all smell sweeter with a liberal squirt of the aerosol of persuasive language. It is designed to hoodwink us ignorant and gullible Americans and Europeans into believing that we actually share values with the racist regime in Israel and that its abominable behaviour is therefore deserving of our support.
Israel is hoping for a public relations massacre. The other side – the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization – don’t take communications seriously and have neglected to correct Israeli distortion. They are happy, it seems, for Israel’s one-sided definitions to prevail, which of course makes the task for Israel so much easier. This latest propaganda offensive is potentially the “coup de grace” to finish off the tormented Palestinians. See it here.
And the manual will no doubt serve as a communications primer for the army of cyber-scribblers that Israel’s Ministry of Dirty Tricks is recruiting to spread Zionism’s poison across the internet.
This quote at the beginning sets the tone: “Remember, it’s not what you say that counts. It’s what people hear.”
Top priority: demonize Hamas
The manual’s numerous messages are aimed at the mass of “persuadables”, primarily in America but also in the UK. The strategy from the start is to isolate the democratically-elected Hamas and to rob the resistance movement and the Palestinian population of their human rights.
- “Clearly differentiate between the Palestinian people and Hamas. There is an immediate and clear distinction between the empathy Americans feel for the Palestinians and the scorn they direct at Palestinian leadership. Hamas is a terrorist organization – Americans get that already. But if it sounds like you are attacking the Palestinian people (even though they elected Hamas) rather than their leadership, you will lose public support. Right now, many Americans sympathize with the plight of the Palestinians, and that sympathy will increase if you fail to differentiate the people from their leaders.”
The plight of the Palestinians under Israel’s heel was an international concern long before Hamas appeared on the scene.
But this is familiar ground. We scorned George Bush and Tony Blair and had to differentiate between them and their respective peoples. We now have to do the same with Barack Obama and Gordon Brown. We are tired of having to make that same differentiation between the Israeli people and the dreadful leaders they produce.
- “ISRAEL’S RIGHT TO DEFENSIBLE BORDERS: With more than three years of violent history since Israel’s agreement to withdraw from Gaza and portions of the West Bank [sic], Americans have had time to take stock of the situation and form opinions. The big picture: they believe that Hamas’s leadership of Gaza has made Israel and the region less safe, while some are more receptive to what they perceive as a moderate approach in the West Bank by Mahmoud Abbas. Based on these experiences, they are willing to grant Israel more leeway in resisting calls to give more land for more peace.”
Here we clearly see the motive for demonizing Hamas – Israel wants more leeway to continue its land-grabs and other criminal activities.
- “If… If… If… Then”: Put the burden on Hamas to make the first move for peace by using If’s (and don’t forget to finish with a hard then to show Israel is a willing peace partner). “If Hamas reforms… If Hamas recognize our right to exist… If Hamas renounces terrorism… If Hamas supports international peace agreements… then we are willing to make peace today.”
How one-sided and daft can you get? Substitute Israel for Hamas.
Words that work
The manual sets out numerous examples of “words that work” – supposedly.
- “We know that the Palestinians deserve leaders who will care about the well being of their people, and who do not simply take hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance from America and Europe, put them in Swiss bank accounts, and use them to support terror instead of peace.”
No mention here of the billions of tax dollars Israel takes from the US and spends on munitions to obliterate and vaporize its neighbours.
- “Peace can only be made with adversaries who want to make peace with you. Terrorist organizations like Iran-backed Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad are, by definition, opposed to peaceful co-existence, and determined to prevent reconciliation. I ask you, how do you negotiate with those who want you dead?”
Hamas and Hezbollah are only regarded as terrorists by the White House and Tel Aviv and by US-Israeli stooges and flag-wavers in Westminster and elsewhere.
In Executive Order 13224 – “BLOCKING PROPERTY AND PROHIBITING TRANSACTIONS WITH PERSONS WHO COMMIT, THREATEN TO COMMIT, OR SUPPORT TERRORISM” – Bush used this definition: “The term “terrorism” means an activity that –
(i) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, property, or infrastructure; and
(ii) appears to be intended —
(A) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(B) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(C) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, kidnapping, or hostage-taking.”
It describes the antics of the US and Israel perfectly.
- “There is NEVER, EVER, any justification for the deliberate slaughter of innocent women and children. NEVER… there is one fundamental principle that all peoples from all parts of the globe will agree on: civilized people do not target innocent women and children for death.”
Quite so. Where does that leave Israel, which recently killed 320 children in Gaza and 773 civilians, including 109 women? From 2000 (the start of the second Intifada – the Palestinian urising against the Israeli occupation) up to the end of last year Israel had slaughtered 4,936 Palestinians in their homeland, including 952 children, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. In the same period Palestinians killed 490 Israelis in Israel including only 84 children. So, Israel’s kill-rate is at least 10 to 1, and rising since the blitzkrieg on Gaza.
Iran-backed or US-backed – take your pick
- “Use humility. ‘I know that in trying to defend its children and citizens from terrorists that Israel has accidentally hurt innocent people. I know it, and I’m sorry for it. But what can Israel do to defend itself? If America had given up land for peace – and that land had been used for launching rockets at America, what would America do? Israel was attacked with thousands of rockets from Iran-backed Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. What should Israel have done to protect her children?’”
Palestinians too have a right to defend themselves. Hamas was the popular choice of Palestinians at the last election and is entitled under international law to take up arms against an illegal occupier and invader. If it is supported by Iran, so what? Israel is extravagantly funded and supplied by the US. Here’s part of their begging-bowl “Military Aid Speech”:
- “Israel makes the request for military assistance out of self-defense. As a democracy, they have the right and the responsibility to protect our borders. As a democracy, they have the right and the responsibility to protect their citizens.
- “Israel does not ask for US troops to protect itself. It does not ask for a single American soldier to protect its borders. It only asks for the funds for them to protect themselves. They need the equipment so that their own troops can ensure the safety of their civilian population through this gathering conflict with the enemies of democracy.
- “They didn’t ask to have our nation built in range of Iranian missiles. They didn’t ask that their nation be a focal point for religious extremists who have declared war on the West and on democracy.
- “But they are, and they need your help.”
And here’s the rationale behind it:
- “Americans fundamentally believe that a democracy has a right to protect its people and its borders. And while Americans don’t want to increase foreign aid in a time of significant budgetary deficits and painful spending cuts, there is one and only one argument that will work for Israel (in four easy steps):
(1) As a democracy, Israel has the right and the responsibility to defend its borders and protect its people.
(2) Terrorist groups, including Iran-backed Hezbollah and Hamas, continue to pose a direct threat to Israeli security and have repeatedly taken innocent Israeli lives.
(3) Israel is America’s one and only true ally in the region. In these particularly unstable and dangerous times, Israel should not be forced to go it alone.
(4) With America’s financial assistance, Israel can defend its borders, protect its people, and provide invaluable assistance to the American effort against the war against terrorism.”
It’s evident that Americans don’t believe in democracy enough to allow Palestinian democracy to flourish.
- “When the terror ends, Israel will no longer need to have challenging checkpoints to inspect goods and people. When the terror ends we will no longer need a security fence.”
There are no rockets coming out of the West Bank, so why is the security fence still there – and still being built? Why are the occupation troops still there? Why are hundreds of checkpoints still there? Why is Israel still stealing land, demolishing Palestinian homes and building settlements there?
- “Remind people – again and again – that Israel wants peace.
Reason One: If Americans see no hope for peace – if they only see a continuation of a 2,000-year-long episode of “Family Feud” – Americans will not want their government to spend tax dollars or their president’s clout on helping Israel.
Reason Two: The speaker that is perceived as being most for PEACE will win the debate. Every time someone makes the plea for peace, the reaction is positive. If you want to regain the public relations advantage, peace should be at the core of whatever message you wish to convey.”
Israel has never met its peace agreement obligations. It doesn’t want peace – every action is directed at keeping the conflict going until the Israelis have stolen enough land and established enough ‘facts on the ground’ – Jews-only settlements, highways, disconnected Palestinian bantustans – to enable them to redraw the map to suit their expansionist agenda and make the occupation PERMANENT.
Gaza in a vice
- “Israel made painful sacrifices and took a risk to give peace a chance. They voluntarily removed over 9,000 settlers from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, abandoning homes, schools, businesses and places of worship in the hopes of renewing the peace process. Despite making an overture for peace by withdrawing from Gaza, Israel continues to face terrorist attacks, including rocket attacks and drive-by shootings of innocent Israelis. Israel knows that for a lasting peace, they must be free from terrorism and live with defensible borders.”
Israel never left. It still occupies Gazan airspace, coastal waters and airwaves, and controls all borders except Rafah where it nevertheless exerts a veto. Israel has Gaza in a vice, which is crushing the tiny enclave’s economy, starving its 1.5 million citizens and creating a huge humanitarian crisis in an attempt to bring the elected government to its knees.
- “Draw direct parallels between Israel and America – including the need to defend against terrorism… The more you focus on the similarities between Israel and America, the more likely you are to win the support of those who are neutral. Indeed, Israel is an important American ally in the war against terrorism, and faces many of the same challenges as America in protecting their citizens.”
Note how Israel’s strategy is almost totally dependent on the false idea that they are victims of terror and Western nations need to huddle together with Israel for mutual protection. Fortunately, level-headed people are beginning to realize who the terrorists really are.
It must be blindingly obvious by now that allowing parallels to be drawn between Israel and America only serves to increase the world’s hatred of America. US citizens need to wake up to this, and British citizens should avoid falling into the same trap.
Inject with “core values” and repeat over and over again…
- “The language of Israel is the language of America: ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’, ‘security’, and ‘peace’. These four words are at the core of the American political, economic, social and cultural systems, and they should be repeated as often as possible because they resonate with virtually every American.”
If so fluent in this language, why doesn’t Israel acknowledge its neighbours’ rights to democracy, freedom, security and peace and end their military oppression?
- “A simple rule of thumb is that once you get to the point of repeating the same message over and over again so many times that you think you might get sick – that is just about the time the public will wake up and say ‘Hey – this person just might be saying something interesting to me!’ But don’t confuse messages with facts…”
Never let facts get in the way of a good message!
- “How can the current Palestinian leadership honestly say it will pursue peace when previous leaders rejected an offer to create a Palestinian state just a few short years ago and now refuse to live up to their responsibilities as outlined in the Road Map?”
This must be a reference to Ehud Barak’s so-called “generous offer”, another of the myths Israelis love to peddle. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip, seized by Israel in 1967 and occupied ever since, comprise just 22 per cent of pre-partition Palestine. When the Palestinians signed the Oslo Agreement in 1993 they agreed to accept the 22 per cent and to recognize Israel within “Green Line” borders (i.e. the 1949 armistice line established after the Arab-Israeli war). Conceding 78 per cent of the land that was originally theirs was an astonishing compromise on the part of the Palestinians.
But it wasn’t enough for greedy Barak. His “generous offer” required the inclusion of 69 Israeli settlements within the 22 per cent remnant. It was plain to see on the map that these settlement blocs created impossible borders and already severely disrupted Palestinian life in the West Bank. Barak also demanded the Palestinian territories be placed under “temporary Israeli control”, meaning Israeli military and administrative control indefinitely. The “generous offer” also gave Israel control over all the border crossings of the new Palestinian state. What nation in the world would accept that? The unacceptable reality of Barak’s offer, contained in the map, was hidden by propaganda spin.
Later, at Taba, Barak produced a revised map but withdrew it after his election defeat. Don’t take my word for it – the facts are well documented and explained by organizations such as Israel’s Gush Shalom.
- “Why is the world so silent about the written, vocal, stated aims of Hamas?”
And why is the world so silent about the written, stated aims of the racist regime and its political parties? Read their manifestos.
- “Successful communications is not about being able to recite every fact from the long history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is about pointing out a few core principles of shared values – such as democracy and freedom – and repeating them over and over again… You need to start with empathy for both sides, remind your audience that Israel wants peace and then repeat the messages of democracy, freedom, and peace over and over again… we need to repeat the message, on average, 10 times to be effective.”
Is democracy a shared value? Israel is an ethnocracy not a democracy. Is freedom a shared value? The world is still waiting for Israel to allow the Palestinians their freedom.
- “The situation in the Middle East may be complicated, but all parties should adopt a simple approach: peace first, political boundaries second.”
Renounce resistance while still under Israel’s jackboot? The correct approach is for the international community to insist first that Israel complies with international law and the many UN resolutions it has contemptuously ignored. The boundaries are already defined. Whatever issues remain to be decided, Palestinians should not have to negotiate under occupation or duress.
Rockets, bombs and atrocities: the language of peace
- “Bottom line: What will happen if we fail to get the world to care about the fact that Israeli parents in southern Israel need to literally dodge rockets when they drive their children to kindergarten in the morning? What will happen if the world allows Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, to get nuclear weapons? What will Israel do if bad press causes American citizens to ask [their] government to turn its back on Israel? Why do I care so much about the success of your communications efforts? I care because I never want our children to live through what my family and yours lived through in the Holocaust.”
Only one in 500 makeshift Qassam rockets causes a fatality, small beer compared to the devastation and carnage resulting from Israel’s state-of-the-art rocketry targeted on Gaza. How does it look when Palestinians are forced to pay the price for the Holocaust? And how much does Israel care about the Palestinian holocaust it has caused?
The manual then gives a long glossary of terms. Here’s a sample:
- “Deliberately firing rockets into civilian communities”: Combine terrorist motive with civilian visuals and you have the perfect illustration of what Israel faced in Gaza and Lebanon. Especially with regard to rocket attacks but useful for any kind of terrorist attack, deliberate is the right word to use to call out the intent behind the attacks. This is far more powerful than describing the attacks as “random”.
Israelis know all about bombarding civilian targets. And they are careful not to mention that Sderot, until recently the only Israeli township within range of Gazan rockets, is built on the ruins of an ethnically cleansed Palestinian village whose inhabitants were forced from their homes by Jewish terrorists.
- “Economic Diplomacy”: This is a much more embracing and popular term than the current lexicon of “sanctions”. It has appeal across the political spectrum: the tough economic approach appeals to Republicans, and the diplomacy component satisfies Democrats.
We can all play this game. Israel is now beginning to suffer “economic diplomacy” in the form of worldwide boycotts.
- “Economic Prosperity”: Whenever Israel talks about the “economic prosperity” of the Palestinians, it puts Israel in the most positive light possible. After all, who can disagree?
What sort of prosperity is it when nothing can be imported or exported without Israel’s approval and fisherman can’t even put to sea in their own waters without having their boats shot up by the Israeli navy?
- “Human to Human”: “We know that the average Palestinian and the average Israeli want to come together and make peace. They want to live in peace. Israeli leaders have come together with Arab leaders to make peace in the past. But how do you make peace with Hamas and Hezbollah?”
Simple. You get off their land and stay off. There can be no peace under occupation. You have to be very stupid not to understand that.
- “Humanize Rockets”: Paint a vivid picture of what life is like in Israeli communities that are vulnerable to attack. Yes, cite the number of rocket attacks that have occurred. But immediately follow that up with what it is like to make the nightly trek to the bomb shelter.
Would Israel care to tell the world how many bombs, rockets and shells (including the illegal and prohibited variety) its US-supplied F-16s, tanks, armed drones and navy gunboats have poured into the densely-packed humanity that is Gaza?
Still more advice…
- “Living together, side by side”. This is the best way to describe the ultimate vision of a two-state solution without using the phrase.
Sounds cute but is worn out. Who would want to live alongside bigots and extremists who have made your life a misery for 61 years?
- “When talking about a Palestinian partner, it is essential to distinguish between Hamas and everyone else. Only the most anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian American expects Israel to negotiate with Hamas, so you have to be clear that you are seeking a ‘moderate Palestinian partner’.”
Where are the moderate Israeli partners?
- “The fight is over IDEOLOGY – not land; terror, not territory. Thus, you must avoid using Israel’s religious claims to land as a reason why Israel should not give up land. Such claims only make Israel look extremist to people who are not religious Christians or Jews.”
If the fight isn’t about land, why did Israel steal it at gunpoint? And why won’t they give it back when told to by the UN?
- “Think PRO-PALESTINIAN. While I have spoken about Israeli casualties, I want to recognize those Palestinians that have been killed or wounded, because they are suffering as well. I particularly want to reach out to Palestinian mothers who have lost their children. No parent should have to bury their child.”
Israel won’t even allow cement into Gaza to build the graves.
- “And so I say to my Palestinian colleagues … you can stop the bloodshed. You can stop the suicide bombings and rocket attacks. If you really want to, you can put an end to this cycle of violence. If you won’t do it for our children, do it for your children.”
Effective Israeli sound bite. Speechless.
- “I want to see a future where the Palestinians govern themselves. Israel does not want to govern a single Palestinian. Not one. We want them to govern themselves. We want them to have complete self-determination.”
Is that why Israel tried to snuff out Palestine’s democracy – and the people’s right to self-determination – immediately after the 2006 elections?
- “The big picture approach is this: You must isolate Hamas as:
– A critical cause of the delay in achieving a two-state solution
– The biggest source of harm to the Palestinian people, and
– The reason why Israel must defend its people from living in terror.
Read from the Hamas Charter. Now, here’s how to attack Hamas: indict them with their own indoctrination materials. Yes, people know Hamas is a terrorist organization – but they don’t know just how terrifying Hamas can be. The absolute best way to heighten their awareness is to read from the Hamas Charter itself. Don’t just “quote” from it. Read it. Out loud. Again and again. Hand it out to everyone.”
At last Israel makes a good point. After three years of “government” Hamas must be mad to persist with its ill-advised charter. They have been severely tested. They have matured. They have earned credibility in many eyes. Israel’s behaviour makes Hamas look good. But all that will count for nothing if they don’t rewrite their charter as a matter of urgency.
Regev’s pearls of wisdom. But how safe is the region under the threat of Israel’s nukes?
- “It’s not just Israel who refuses to speak to Hamas. It’s the whole international community… Most of the democratic world refuses to have a relationship with Hamas because Hamas has refused to meet the most minimal benchmarks of international behaviour.” – Mark Regev
Isn’t that a little cheeky, Mr Regev, coming from a regime widely condemned for war crimes, piracy and mega-lawlessness?
- “It was the former UN secretary-general, Kofi Anan, that put four benchmarks on the table. And he said, speaking for the international community…
That if Hamas reforms itself …
If Hamas recognizes my country’s right to live in freedom…
If Hamas renounces terrorism against innocent civilians…
If Hamas supports international agreements that are being signed and agreed to concerning the peace process… then the door is open. But unfortunately – tragically – Hamas has failed to meet even one of those four benchmarks. And that’s why today Hamas is isolated internationally. Even the United Nations refuses to speak to Hamas. – Mark Regev
Which of those benchmarks has Israel met, Mr Regev?
- “Israel is very concerned about the Iranian nuclear programme. And for good reason. Iran’s president openly talks about wiping Israel off the map. We see them racing ahead on nuclear enrichment so they can have enough fissile material to build a bomb. We see them working on their ballistic missiles. We only saw, last week, shooting a rocket to launch a so-called satellite into outer space and so forth. The Iranian nuclear programme is a threat, not just to my country, but to the entire region. And it’s incumbent upon us all to do what needs to be done to keep from proliferating.” – Mark Regev
Why is Israel the only state in the region not to have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Mr Regev? Are we all supposed to believe that Israel’s 200 (or is it 400?) nuclear warheads pose no threat? Would you also like to comment on why Israel hasn’t signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, and why it has signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, similarly the Chemical Weapons Convention? What proof do you have of Iran’s nuclear weapons plans?
And why do you persist in misquoting Mr Ahmadinejad?
The Holy City is not up for grabs
- “The toughest issue to communicate will be the final resolution of Jerusalem. Americans overwhelmingly want Israel to be in charge of the religious holy sites and are frankly afraid of the consequences should Israel turn over control to the Palestinians. Consider:
– 71 per cent of Americans trust Israel most to protect the holy sites in Jerusalem, compared to 6.1 per cent who trust the Palestinian authority most. 8.5 per cent per cent trust neither.
– 54 per cent of Americans believe that ‘Jerusalem must remain united under Israeli sovereignty’ while just 23.9 per cent believe that ‘Jerusalem should be divided into Israeli controlled and Palestinian controlled areas’.
Given the choice between the two, Americans of all political and demographic stripes trust Israel to protect and have sovereignty over Jerusalem.”
Israel is in control right now and prevents Muslims and Christians from outside the city visiting the holy places. No way can Israel be trusted. The UN’s partition plan decreed that Jerusalem should become a ”corpus separatum” under international management. It is unlikely that the UN would wish to see its resolutions torn up or international law rewritten for Israel’s sole benefit, regardless of America’s misinformed opinion.
Get the name-calling right
I’ll close with the following extract:
- “Many on the left see an ‘Israel vs. Palestinian’ crisis where Israel is Goliath and the Palestinians are David. It is critical that they understand that this is an Arab-Israeli crisis and that the force undermining peace is Iran and their proxies Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. You must not call Hamas just Hamas. Call them what they are: Iran-backed Hamas. Indeed, when they know that Iran is behind Hamas and Hezbollah, they are much more supportive of Israel.”
By the same token we must call the racist regime what it is – US-backed Israel.
Iran’s support for Hamas is difficult to quantify and probably less than we think. More funding has probably come from Sunni Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In any case, it is peanuts compared to America’s support for Israel.
Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and was founded in 1987 during the first Intifada. Hezbollah came into being in 1982 in response to US-backed Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. So, the territorial ambitions of US-backed Israel provoked the rise of both. Israel’s problem is entirely self-inflicted and shouldn’t concern the rest of us.
Hamas’s election manifesto in 2006 called for maintaining the armed struggle against US-backed Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, which seems a perfectly valid aim.
Our obligation to respect and promote human rights
The Israel Project’s training manual is an unpleasant piece of work. It runs to 116 pages and I have only scratched the surface. It recycles many of the discredited techniques used by the advertising industry before standards of honesty, decency and truthfulness were brought in to protect the public.
And it serves to undermine with clever words the inalienable rights pledged by the UN and the world’s civilized nations to all peoples, including the Palestinians.
When you have to stoop this low you simply don’t have a case.
The Palestinian side urgently needs to strip away the deception and re-frame the Holy Land situation in truthful language. And it needs to debunk this Zionist handbook. If the PA and the PLO won’t do it, who will?
Everyone should bear in mind the following, written nearly 61 years ago:
“Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”
It would seem that Israel has not read or understood the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which all nations signed up to. Attempts to wipe out the rights of people who happen to be in the way of the Zionist vision of a “Greater Israel” deserve no support whatever.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waged an unprecedented attack on Wednesday against ousted Fatah member Mohammed Dahlan, accusing him of assassinating several key Palestinian figures, including the late President Yasser Arafat.
Official Palestinian TV broadcast a recorded speech by Abbas to the Fatah Revolutionary Council meeting in Ramallah, in which he claimed that an investigation conducted by Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, “revealed that Dahlan gave orders to murder six Palestinian figures: Mohammed Abu Shaaban, Asaad Saftawi, Hisham Makki, Khalil Ezzabin, Naim Abu Saif and Khalid Mahmood Shehdah”.
The Palestinian president added that: “the real question now is who killed Yasser Arafat? Although this is not direct proof, it is evidence that deserves to be investigated. Who delivered the poison to kill Yasser Arafat?”
Abbas devoted more than half of his two-hour-long speech to talk about Dahlan, who was believed to be Abbas’s rival before the Fatah movement dismissed him. He accused Dahlan of organising public demonstrations against Arafat, saying that he only apologised later on to cover up for his possible involvement in the late president’s assassination.
Dahlan, who fled in 2011 to the United Arab Emirates where he currently resides, was unavailable to comment on the accusations.
Following Abbas’s remarks, the Hamas-led government in Gaza called for the Palestinians to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the president’s accusations against Dahlan, including his involvement in the assassination of Sheikh Salah Shehadeh, the co-founder of the military wing of the Islamic Resistance movement Hamas 12 years ago.
Abbas also accused Dahlan of assassinating Sheikh Shehadeh on 22 July 2002, when the Israeli air force bombed his house in the Daraj neighbourhood of Gaza City with a ton of explosives, killing him, his wife, daughter and escort Zaher Nassar, as well as ten neighbours, and wounding dozens while a large number of houses in the area were destroyed.
The media adviser to the Palestinian prime minister in Gaza, Taher Al-Nono, issued a statement published by Quds Press insisting that a national investigation into the Palestinian Authority’s security services, including those officials who have been involved in security coordination with Israel, has to be conducted to prosecute anybody involved in committing crimes against the Palestinian people. Al-Nono pointed out that President Abbas’s accusations against Dahlan regarding his involvement in the assassination of Shehadeh are serious, adding that their timing is also dangerous.
Al-Nono explained that: “If the accusations are true, and they are more likely to be true, then what forced Abbas to remain silent all this time? Abbas commissioned Dahlan back then for senior leadership posts and ministerial positions, where he served as Minister of Security Affairs and was a top security official under Abbas’s presidency. Why did Abbas give him these positions while he was fully aware of his betrayals and subservience to Israel?”
He continued: “Did Abbas remember this information suddenly after all these years have passed to announce it to the public only now? How can we be sure that Abbas did not know Dahlan or any other security coordination leaders were involved in the killing of Palestinian leaders?”
The curriculum taught to students in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been criticised by Hamas through a statement issued by the Education Ministry, which declared the human rights textbooks provided by UNRWA to be detached from Palestinian reality.
The statement denounced the syllabus distribution prior to proper consultation with the ministry and deemed the dissemination of human rights enshrined within the curriculum an exercise in “brainwashing Palestinian students and convincing them to accept the Zionist enemies”.
Apart from providing narratives which have been assimilated into Western mainstream discourse about human rights, Palestinian historical memory was also obscured by providing an alternative history of the Nakba which absolves Israel of the atrocities committed to establish the settler-colonial state, as well as depicting peaceful resistance “as the only way of achieving freedom and independence”.
According to the Times of Israel, UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness insisted that “UNRWA’s education system takes, as its basis, the curriculum taught by the PA. We have done our utmost in developing these materials to be sensitive to local values while also being true to the values that underpin the work of the United Nations.”
However, the issue is of greater complexity than the obvious disagreement about the legitimacy of armed struggle endorsed by Hamas and the peaceful resistance which UN-affiliated entities continue to uphold as sustainable.
It is important to evaluate the alleged universal values of human rights, the probable complicity between UNRWA and the PA as entities affiliated to the imperialist narrative and the inherent selective application with regard to human rights within the imperialist concept of what constitutes humanity.
The “universal” declaration of human rights is a fabricated substitute for freedom providing a backdrop for the constant and premeditated violations. Within this framework there exists oppression and selective application of human rights, decided by the imperialist collective that is also responsible for restraining the legitimacy of the armed struggle in return for a set of competently quoted and intentionally compromised rules.
By relying upon vague terms such as universal qualities and the concept of human rights, the UN is ensuring the depletion of history and memory as a means of preventing nations from asserting their liberation, thus consolidating the subjugation upon which imperialism is dependent.
Extending the imperialist interpretation of human rights to Palestinians remains a conspiracy through which to sabotage armed resistance and the insistence upon the dismantling of the Zionist state, which Hamas has repeatedly insisted upon.
The manipulation of Palestinian history by UNRWA in agreement with the PA, which has repeatedly exhibited its allegiances with oppressive institutions and the settler-colonial state, is an exercise in erasing memories to increase agreement with the dominant narrative.
While resistance is a natural phenomenon against oppression, discourse pertaining to human rights is just a convenient intervention to stifle the reclamation of freedom, perfectly compatible with the alleged values imparted by the UN.
Implementing the compromised education curriculum would limit the possibility of an organised and legitimate armed struggle against the settler-colonial state, as well as indoctrinate Palestinian students against their rights to assert their own historical legitimacy
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.
GAZA — Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri strongly denounced de facto president Mahmoud Abbas for his recent press remarks to a US newspaper and said that the views he expressed pose a threat to Palestinian cause and only represent himself.
Spokesman Abu Zuhri stated that the ideas that were voiced by Abbas in press remarks to the New York Times newspaper do not reflect the national consensus which rejects the negotiations and any solution against Palestinian rights and constants.
Abbas told the New York Times on Monday that he refuses demands made constantly by Palestinian parties to join some UN bodies or go to the international criminal court, adding that he wants to exhaust his negotiation with the Israelis before making any such move.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would be willing to allow a US-led NATO force to patrol a Palestinian state for an indefinite amount of time, adding that the Israeli army and settlements could remain for five years rather than three years as he had told the Americans before.
Abbas also said the Palestinian state would be demilitarized and have only a police force and the NATO force, affirming that he would not allow the return of the armed struggle in the Palestinian state.
He called recognizing Israel as a Jewish state out of the question and said he would agree on extending the nine-month negotiations, which started in July last year, if progress was made.
Amjad Abu Asab, a spokesman for a committee that represents Jerusalemite prisoners, told Ma’an that Israel agreed to free a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a former Minister of Jerusalem Affairs.
Abu Asab said that lawmaker Muhammad Tutah and former minister Khalid Abu Arafah have been detained for two years on the charge of entering Jerusalem “illegally,” after Israel revoked their Jerusalem IDs.
Both Tutah and Abu Arafah have also been accused of being leaders of the Hamas movement in the Jerusalem area, Abu Asab said.
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the 24-month imprisonment was sufficient punishment, and that the two should be released, giving the Israeli military prosecution a week to respond, he said.
The response came Wednesday that the prisoners would be released but would have to leave Jerusalem.
The two were detained by undercover Israeli forces on Jan. 23, 2012, from offices of the International Red Cross Committee in Jerusalem, Abu Asab said.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 in a move never recognized by the international community.
Today, the Palestinian population numbers 293,000 in a city which counts roughly 800,000 residents, UN figures show.
In 2012, Israel’s Interior Ministry revoked the residency status of 116 Jerusalem Palestinians, bringing the total number over 46 years to more than 14,000 people, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
The New York-based nonprofit Inter-religious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) announced on Jan. 6 that the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has recommended ending the group’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Founded in 1967 by the late Rev. Lucius Walker [see Update #1048], IFCO is the first national foundation in the US controlled by people of color. It is probably best known as the sponsor of Pastors for Peace, which for the past 22 years has organized the US-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan, an annual shipment of humanitarian aid to Cuba; Pastors for Peace has also provided humanitarian aid for Nicaragua, Haiti and other countries.
The IRS’s two-year investigation started with a letter to the service from two members of Congress—Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC)—suggesting that IFCO was tied to terrorist organizations because of some $1.2 million in aid it sent to the people of Gaza through the Viva Palestina group in 2009. In its report, the IRS cites a “comprehensive report” by Steve Emerson’s notoriously inaccurate Investigative Project on Terrorism to suggest that some of the aid may have gone to the Hamas organization, which the US lists as a terrorist group. The IRS also charges that the Friendshipments and some aid for US medical students in Cuba may violate the 50-year US embargo against Cuba. In an appeal by New York attorney Martin Stolar, IFCO denies sending aid to Hamas; notes that the relevant US agency, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), has never penalized it for the Friendshipments; and states that OFAC has licensed the medical students to spend money in Cuba.
IFCO has asked supporters to contact US Congress members “and let them know that we need their support. Ask them to contact the Treasury Department to ask them to stop this political persecution and harassment against IFCO.” Treasure can also be contacted directly by fax at 202-622-6415 or via internet at http://www.treasury.gov/connect/Pages/contact-us.aspx. (IFCO letter 1/6/14; Vice (Montreal) 1/8/14; Ahora (Cuba) 1/10/14 from Radio Havana)
Israeli President Shimon Peres has praised what he describes as “the war” being waged by the Egyptian authorities against the Islamic resistance movement Hamas.
Peres also celebrated, in statements during a meeting held on 5 January with foreign ministry representatives, the incitement campaigns being waged by some of the Egyptian authorities against the Palestinian resistance factions, particularly Hamas.
In the same context, Peres noted, “We may be in isolation, but we are not alone”, adding that: “the Arabs wanted to uproot Israel during its establishment; however, they have become convinced that Israel is not the problem, and they are utterly aware that terrorism is their first enemy.”
Last week, Egypt’s Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim claimed that Hamas had provided military training in the Gaza Strip for members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian authorities have now designated a terrorist organisation.
Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan also praised Egypt’s campaign against Hamas ever since the military coup that deposed the former Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi. He remarked that: “We don’t need to destroy Hamas, as Egypt is playing that role already.”
Attending the Majdi Forum in Kfar Saba, Dagan explained: “Israel has no interest in destroying Hamas, and the reason is the important efforts made by Egypt to dwarf Hamas’s power. And I also see a similar effort exerted by the Gulf countries. The State of Israel is not involved in these efforts.”
By Robert Thompson | Axis of Logic | March 8, 2009
The good news is that two envoys have been sent by the USA to Damascus, and that they have discussed with the Syrian Foreign Minister what can be done to improve Syria’s relations with the USA, now that a new régime is in place in Washington.
The bad news is that these envoys (and their bosses) seem to have expected Syria, as part of this aim, to give up all its present diplomatic and other links with some of its principal local friends and allies in the region, especially Hezbollah, Hamas, and (above all) Iran. If this is indeed so, it shows a staggering lack of understanding, not only of Syria, but also of the whole Near and Middle East on the part of the US State Department under the direction of Mrs Hillary Clinton [who seems to think that Syria should be yoked to an alliance with U.S. backed Sunni regimes].
The Syrian Ba’ath Party remains (as its founders, Michel Aflaq and Salah-al-Din Bitar always intended) strictly secular, and its links with theocratic bodies and governments are based on practical strategic concerns and on shared interests which are not linked to any religious affinities. Beyond this, the Syrian government has the good sense to wish to remain in close touch with the vast majority of the inhabitants of all the Arab states. This is in stark contrast, very clearly, with the behaviour and policies of the many Arab rulers who, effectively to protect themselves from their own subjects, have decided to shelter under the protection of the USA and the Zionists.
The rulers of the USA must also bear in mind that a significant and strategic area of Syrian territory is still under harsh enemy occupation. We, on the sidelines, can only wonder what the Obama régime, with its ‘diplomacy’ being mismanaged by Mrs Clinton, thinks it can do, if it believes that it can bully Syria into joining the club of Arab states which have been neutered to make them do as the Zionists/Neocons wish.
The very sensible proposal put forward once again by Syria (using much more polite words than I do) is that it should serve as a bridge linking the USA, the Zionist entity and their servile allies on the one hand, and the people of the Near and Middle East on the other. If the Neocons/Zionists really wanted peace in the area, they would not hesitate a second to welcome such a proposition. Any hesitation can only be a sign that they wish merely to make much of pretending to work for peace, while doing all that they can to ensure that justice continues to be denied to the Palestinians, the Syrians, and the Lebanese, all of whom seek liberation from the atrocities inflicted on them by the Zionist war machine.
It would appear that even the Obama régime has finally understood the sheer lunacy of the expression (invented for Mr George W. Bush by Mr David Frum) ‘Axis of Evil’ in grouping Iran and Syria with North Korea. These three states are so dissimilar that it is hard to follow what this expression was intended to mean. The USA has every interest in having the best of relations with both Iran and Syria; and if they wish to get anywhere in solving the multiple problems arising from the chaos of Afghanistan, they could not do better than to cooperate closely with Iran. Both parties have similar concerns relating to that unhappy country.
To revert to the question of relations between the USA and Syria, some humility on the part of the former would not come amiss, since Syria is no threat to any of the USA’s genuine interests. It is fully understandable, though, that Syria would be extremely happy to see its turbulent south-western neighbour converted into a single democratic and secular state, based on justice, in which its citizens of any religion or none would have equal rights and duties. Apart from the benefits that the whole world would enjoy if peace could return to the Near and Middle East, the USA has no vital interests in that part of the world. The sooner they withdraw their occupation forces from the area, the better it would be for the ordinary citizen (and taxpayer) in the US, as well as for the rest of the world.
The basic problem remains, as ever, the greedy desire by the rulers of the USA to dominate the whole world, and I cannot get out of my mind the fact that the command structure based in Diego Garcia is known as CENTCOM (i.e. Central Command). I would still like a satisfactory answer to explain what it is ‘central’ to, for the USA.
My conclusion is that the USA has every interest in taking advantage of any assistance which Syria can give them, and should be grateful for it. However, I cannot see this being welcomed by the Zionist entity based on (and only held together by) its viciously rigid apartheid system!
© Copyright 2009 by AxisofLogic.com
GAZA CITY – Hamas are a vital component of the Palestinian nationalist struggle and should not abandon their ideology, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said Monday.
The statement from the leftist group was in response to a recent call by the PLO for Hamas to dissociate itself from the Muslim Brotherhood.
“We are not calling on Hamas or other forces to abandon their ideological roots, but we ask everyone to give priority to the interests of the Palestinian people when they build relations with the surrounding Arab and Islamic world,” the PFLP said.
On Saturday, Jamal Muheisin, a Fatah representative in the PLO executive committee, said Hamas should detach itself from the Brotherhood, warning of political, economic, and security consequences if Hamas remained “subordinate” to “this banned terrorist group.”
A representative of the Arab Liberation Front said that Hamas has always prioritized the Muslim Brotherhood’s interests over the interests of the Palestinian people, while Ahmad Majdalani of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front said Hamas was viewed as a terrorist organization by many countries including the United States due to its affiliation with the Brotherhood.
PFLP official Rabah Muhanna was one of many faction leaders who also called upon Hamas to sever relations with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Gaza government spokeswoman Isra Almodallal told Ma’an last week that while Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood may share ideology, they should not be seen as one and the same movement.
“We are in completely different circumstances,” Almodallal said. “We don’t want people to think Hamas is the same as the Muslim Brotherhood.”
“We don’t want Egypt to punish us the way the Muslim Brotherhood is punished in Egypt.”
Almodallal added that Hamas agreed that “at this particular time” it is best to remain neutral in the affairs of other Arab countries.
- PLO Urges Hamas To Sever Ties With Muslim Brotherhood (eurasiareview.com)
Once again we hear that Israel has bombed the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip “in retaliation” for something that they’ve done against Israelis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his country will “respond”. Many people would agree that a person in his position has a duty to protect his citizens. Certainly, those in the White House and Downing Street do, which is why Israel gets away with murder, quite literally. It’s all down to legitimate self-defence; or so we are led to believe.
What, though, is the reality? Why is that right of self-defence never extended to the people of Palestine? After all, it is their land which is under occupation; it is their land which is being stolen and colonised; it is their land from which they are being excluded in a decades-long act of ethnic cleansing that its proponents hope will never end.
If retaliation and responses are the effects, then the occupation and colonisation of Palestine have to be the causes. There is no other way to look at the asymmetric conflict in the Holy Land. Despite what Israel and its apologists would have us believe, this is not a clash of equals, nor is it a case of a defenceless state struggling for its very existence in the face of overwhelming odds. It is, in fact, a nuclear-armed state, backed by the word’s superpowers and armed to the teeth with conventional weapons, most of them self-produced (and sold to the world for a staggering $7 billion a year boost to Israel’s economy), occupying, colonising and threatening a largely civilian population armed, at best, with AK47s and other small arms.
Israel is an occupying power; its occupation of somebody else’s land is the cause, and the resistance to the occupation by the Palestinians is the very legitimate effect; Israel doesn’t do retaliation, it is merely continuing to do what it has done for sixty-five years and counting, killing Palestinians and taking their land. That is the ugly reality of the situation. It is all very well for Netanyahu to say that his country will “respond” to acts of resistance by the Palestinians, but it is much more valid and legitimate for Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to say that action from Gaza is his people’s response to Israel’s brutal military occupation. That is a more accurate narrative for us to follow and accept.
Should anyone still doubt this, it is worth looking to history for further confirmation. It is reasonable, I think, to start not with Theodor Herzl’s The Jewish State, published in 1896, as he did not advocate a state in Palestine, but with the infamous Balfour Declaration of 1917. This letter sent from the then British Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, to Zionist leader Lord Rothschild was a “declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to and approved by the Cabinet”. The issue was never discussed and approved by parliament and it has no legal status, then or now. Balfour told Rothschild that the British government “view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people… it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…” It was written a month before the British army entered Jerusalem during the First World War and does not mention a state, just a “national home”. Such ambiguity was quite possibly deliberate. In any case, it is interesting that the Palestinians are described by what they are not (“non-Jewish”) rather than what they are; a typically-demeaning imperialist tactic to describe the Other as not being of Us.
In 1919, the US-established King-Crane Commission determined that “a national home for the Jewish people is not equivalent to making Palestine into a Jewish State; nor can the erection of such a Jewish State be accomplished without the gravest trespass upon the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” That has to be one of the most accurate of political prophecies of all time.
A year later, on 1 July 1920, the first British High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, a Jew openly sympathetic to the Zionist cause, read a message from King George “to the people of Palestine”. In it, the king assured the Palestinians that despite the existence of the Balfour Declaration and “measures” to be taken to put it into practice, such measures “will not in any way affect the civil or religious rights or diminish the prosperity of the general population of Palestine”.
Samuel went on to say, in 1921, that the British government would never consent to a policy which takes Palestinian-owned land and gives it to “strangers”. HM Government, he insisted, “would never impose upon [the people of Palestine] a policy which that people had reason to think was contrary to their religious, their political and their economic interests.”
The Zionists had other ideas and the result is that there is now a state in Palestine whose founders declared it to be a “Jewish State” in 1948 and which insists that the Palestinians, upon whose land the state was built, recognise it as such as a precursor to any meaningful peace agreement. What will happen to the 20 per cent of Israeli citizens who are Palestinians in such a “Jewish State” has never been explained; some on the Israeli right want to expel them to Jordan, completing the ethnic cleansing started in 1948. Whatever happens, they certainly won’t be treated with justice as Israeli apartheid sinks its roots ever deeper in occupied Palestine.
Cause and effect; action and reaction; decide for yourself: whose land was taken from them and given to another people? Whose land has been colonised? Whose land is being stolen from them on a daily basis? Who are the aggressors and who are more justified in asserting their right of self-defence; Israelis or Palestinians?
By any reasonable legal and moral yardstick, it is the Palestinians who are responding to Israeli aggression; Israel cannot claim with any justification whatsoever that when it bombs an overcrowded refugee camp, as it did this week, and kills Palestinians, it is merely “retaliating” for something done by Palestinians resisting the occupation. Israel doesn’t do retaliation, it never has. It just does more of the same and what it has been doing for more than 65 years: taking Palestinian land and lives through violent and illegal means. The sooner that journalists and politicians acknowledge this and start to deal with the conflict in a fair and balanced way the sooner that a just and lasting peace may be possible.
Until then, we will no doubt continue to see Israel’s aggressive and expansionist colonialism dressed-up as the acts of a democratic state desperate for peace with its unreasonable neighbours. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Separate tirades against highly esteemed international law authority Richard Falk were launched one day apart from each other in Washington and Ottawa over remarks Falk made last week to RT.
A week ago RT’s program “The Truthseeker” aired a segment on the recent findings of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal—a segment that also included comments from Falk, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Palestine, as well as footage of flooding of Gaza’s streets.
The tribunal found Israel guilty of genocide against the Palestinians, and in his remarks to RT Falk stated, “When you target a group, an ethnic group, and inflict this kind of punishment upon them you are in effect nurturning a kind of criminal intention that is genocidal.”
Hardly a controversial statement. However, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird called the comments “appalling” and said they “underscore once more the complete and total absurdity of his (Falk’s) service as a UN Special Rapporteur.” Baird also demanded the UN Human Rights Council “remove Falk from his position immediately.”
Not to be outdone, US State Dept. mouthpiece Jen Psaki lambasted Falk’s remarks as “despicable and deeply offensive” and called upon Falk to step down from his UN post—once again substantiating Washngton’s reputation as “Israeli occupied territory.”
Coming up in a few days the world will mark the fifth anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, a frenzy of military high-tech bloodshed that left 1400 Gazans dead, approximately a third of whom were children. In that 22-day assault, Israel bombed homes, schools, and hospitals, fired upon ambulances, and unleashed white phosphorous munitions that melted human skin and burned people alive. And then after the assault was over, the Jewish state continued its blockade of Gaza, making it difficult to outright impossible for people to get building supplies to rebuild their destroyed homes. Shortages of food and medicine were also reported, and in one notorious case the Israelis even blocked a shipment of pasta.
To say that Israel “targets” an “ethnic group” is undeniably true. To say that it is “nurturning a kind of criminal intention that is genocidal” is, if anything, an understatement. But Falk has a history of speaking truthfully that is rare in a public official—and of course this is what Israel and its puppets in the US and Canada really find so objectionable about him.
The interview below with Falk covers a lot of ground—from the UN’s helplessness to confront Israel to the upcoming bleak Christmas faced by Gazans. Falk is interviewed by Stuart Littlewood, author of Radio Free Palestine and whose articles appear frequently on a number of websites. (H/T Uprooted Palestinians)
Creeping annexation, ethnic cleansing and ‘the politics of fragmentation’ inflicted by criminals who strut the world stage and thumb their noses at international law
By Stuart Littlewood
As the international conspiracy to rob Palestinians of their freedom and homeland is exposed a little more each day, observers and activists still puzzle over the duplicity of the United Nations in the decades-long illegal occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian Territories, not to mention the true intent of Palestinian leaders. So when Richard Falk, professor of international law at Princeton and UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Occupied Palestine, visited Norwich recently, I took the opportunity to put some questions to him.
SL – Can we start with the so-called peace process, please? Does the resignation of the Palestinian negotiation team, and the reasons given, effectively end the already discredited ‘peace talks’? Should the Palestinians walk away or carry on playing a pointless game for another 6 months?
Richard Falk – It is difficult to know how to assess the current suspension of peace talks. The Palestinian Authority seems always ready to bend to pressure, although with some outer limits. In this respect, the future of this phase of ‘peace talks’ will be determined not in Ramallah, but in Washington and Tel Aviv. It should be evident 20 years after Oslo that the peace talks serve Israel’s interest in ‘creeping annexation’ of the West Bank and ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem, while diminishing Palestinian prospects, and even harming the Palestinian image by disinformation that blames the Palestinian side for the breakdown of the process when and however it occurs. It would be a welcome sign of PA independence if they come forth and denounce this peace process for what it is.
The sad reality is that this is almost certain not to happen, and more likely than not the period of negotiations will be extended beyond the nine months set aside, on the entirely false claim that the parties are on the verge of resolving all their differences, and with a little patience, the prospects for a deal are quite bright.
SL – The negotiators said they were resigning because of the ‘unprecedented escalation’ of settlement building and because the Israeli government wasn’t serious about a two-state solution and had failed to fulfill commitments given before the present talks were resumed. I now read that Erekat has already been back to Washington for more talks with Tzipi Livni (Israel’s lead negotiator), Kerry and US envoy Indyk. Far from denouncing the process they are once again endorsing it, which makes your point.
In any case, how acceptable is it for a weak, demoralised and captive people like the Palestinians to be forced to the negotiation table with their brutal occupier under the auspices of a US administration seen by many people as too dishonest to play the part of peace broker?
Richard Falk – Even if the United States was acting in good faith, for which there is no evidence, its dual role as Israel’s unconditional ally and as intermediary would subvert the credibility of a negotiating process. In fact, the US Government signals its partisanship by White House appointments of individuals overtly associated with the AIPAC lobbying group as Special Envoys to oversee the negotiations such as Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk. It is hard to imagine the fury in the West that would exist if the conditions were reversed, and the UN proposed a one-sided ‘peace process’ biased in favour of the Palestinians. The unsatisfactory nature of the current framework of negotiations is further flawed by weighting the process in favour of Israel, which enjoys a position of hard power dominance.
SL – There can be no peace without justice, so is it right for final status ‘negotiations’ to be held before competing claims are tested in the courts and the many outstanding rulings under international law and UN resolutions are implemented? In any case, shouldn’t a neutral UN peace commission be supervising the final settlement of this long struggle, rather than the US or the Quartet?
Richard Falk – Yes, if the priority were to attain a just and sustainable peace, a framework would be developed that had two characteristics: neutral as between the two sides and sensitive to the relevance of rights under international law. Such sensitivity would favour the Palestinians as their main grievances are all reinforced by an objective interpretation of international law, including in relation to settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, borders, water.
SL – How much legitimacy does President Abbas enjoy, having overstayed his term of office?
Richard Falk – This question of political legitimacy of President Abbas turns on the subjective mood of the Palestinian people. Because the PA is a political entity so vulnerable to pressures and manipulation, the status of its presiding leader seems to be widely seen as a secondary matter of limited significance. When President Abbas has articulated the case for Palestinian statehood during the last three years at the United Nations he gained considerable personal respect among most governments and for many Palestinians. He seems a leader caught between the realities of his compromised position and the occasional opportunities to express the national ambitions and support the rights of the Palestinian people. The division with Hamas, and the failure to find a formula to restore Palestinian unity in relation to the West is a further source of weakness for PA claims to represent the Palestinian people as a whole. The failure to hold scheduled elections highlights the insufficiency of PA and Palestinian leadership.
SL – Do you believe a two-state solution is still feasible?
Richard Falk – No. I think Oslo has been dead for some years, primarily due to Israeli policies designed to encroach upon the remnant of Palestinian territorial and symbolic rights, especially by the continuously expanding settlement archipelago, the unlawful separation wall built on occupied territory, and the demographic manipulations in East Jerusalem. The pretence that Oslo plus the Roadmap point the only way to peace serves American and Israeli purposes in quieting growing complaints about the persistence of the conflict. It represents a diplomatic attempt to deflect criticism, and to divert attention from Palestinian grievances and a growing global solidarity movement.
SL – The 1947 UN Partition was unworkable as well as immoral. Shouldn’t the whole territory (of historic Palestine) be returned to the melting pot and shared out more sensibly? Shouldn’t Jerusalem and Bethlehem become an international city, or ‘corpus separatum’, as the UN originally intended?
Richard Falk – For me the fundamental flaw with the partition proposals contained in GA Resolution 181 was the failure to consult the people resident in Palestine at the time. A secondary flaw was the unfairness of awarding 55% of the territory to the Jewish presence as represented by the Zionist movement which in 1947 accounted for only one-third of the population owning around 6% of the land . This idea of determining the future of Palestine by outsiders, even if well intentioned, which seems not to have ever been the case, is incompatible with the historical trend toward resolving the future of peoples by way of the dynamics of self-determination. In Palestine’s case, at least from the issuance of the Balfour Declaration onward, this effort to control the future of Palestine has been justly condemned as the last major example of ‘settler colonialism.’ It is a particularly acute example as the settlers have no mother country to which to return, and take a poker player’s high risk posture of ‘all in.’
SL – Turning to the role of the International Criminal Court, this is an organ of the UN. So why doesn’t the ICC initiate its own prosecution of Israeli crimes based on UN reports and the mountain of evidence available to it, especially in view of Palestine’s upgraded status?
Richard Falk – There is no authoritative explanation of ICC passivity in face of the Israeli criminal violation of fundamental Palestinian rights. As a matter of speculation it is plausible to assume an absence of political will on the part of the prosecutor’s office to initiate an investigation that would be deeply opposed by Israel and the United States. The ICC has been recently criticized for its Western bias, and its failure for instance to consider whether the United Kingdom and the United States violated the Rome Statute’s enumeration of international crimes by initiating and conducting the Iraq War. The African Union has complained about the seeming focus on the criminality of African leaders, and the bypassing of grievances directed at Western behaviour.
SL – We hear you and others calling for intervention to prevent humanitarian catastrophes, e.g. the Gaza water crisis. Who exactly are you calling on? What is the chain of responsibility for intervening.
Richard Falk – There has been evolving within the UN and in international society more generally a sense that there is a ‘responsibility to protect’ peoples subject to severe threats of humanitarian catastrophes or natural disasters. Such sentiments are part of a process I have described as ‘moral globalization.’
In fact, R2P diplomacy has been discredited by being used as a geopolitical instrument, most dramatically as the normative foundation for the UN endorsement of the NATO 2011 military intervention in Libya. With respect to Libya the justification was protection against a feared massacre of civilians in the city of Benghazi, but the actual military operation from its outset seemed designed to achieve regime change in Tripoli. When it comes to Gaza where the present crisis has passed into a zone of desperation, the UN and world community are silent as if stone deaf to this deepening human crisis of survival.
SL – We have just seen the UN intervening to bring fuel into Gaza as it teetered on the brink of a full-blown public health crisis. There are many such emergencies thanks to Israel’s continuing blockade. Why doesn’t the UN take over the supply of fuel full-time? And indeed the supply of medicines, drugs, medical equipment and spares?
Richard Falk – The tragic situation in Gaza cannot be understood without taking account of the political context, above all the split between Fatah and Hamas, and the Israeli posture toward Gaza after its ‘disengagement’ in 2005 and the imposition of a punitive blockade in mid-2007 after Hamas took over the governance of Gaza. The UN has no capability to override geopolitical priorities, and so long as it is useful for Israel and Washington to treat Hamas as ‘a terrorist organization’ the UN will be limited in its role to being a provider of a subsistence existence for the Gazan people, long victims of unlawful Israel policies of ‘collective punishment’ unconditional prohibited by Article 33 of the 4th Geneva Convention.
After the Egyptian coup of July 3rd of this year, the subsistence regime evolved in Gaza is itself in jeopardy. The tunnel network has been substantially destroyed by Egyptian military action and the Rafah crossing from Gaza to Egypt has been mainly closed, isolating the people, and creating emergency conditions due to fuel shortages that have made electricity only available in very limited amounts.
The results are horrifying: sewage in the streets, insufficient power to run machines needed to keep the terminally ill alive, fuel shortages that virtually preclude economic activity, and closed borders that seal the fate of 1.6 million Gazans. Long before this dramatic further deterioration of life circumstances, observers were calling Gaza the largest open air prison in the world.
“The wrongful appropriation by Israel of Palestine’s water, land, and energy resources has been a massive crime against the Palestinian people…”
SL – What is the UN doing to protect Palestine’ s precious aquifers and offshore gas field from being plundered by the Israelis?
Richard Falk – Again, the UN has no independent capability, or ever will, to challenge Israel or to protect Palestinian rights. It is a case of geopolitical manipulation and Palestinian victimization. The wrongful appropriation by Israel of Palestine’s water, land, and energy resources has been a massive crime against the Palestinian people that has been continuous with the occupation that commenced in 1967.
SL – Why is the requirement, often repeated, to allow Palestinians free and unfettered movement in and out of Gaza not implemented? Gaza and the West Bank are supposed to be a contiguous territory but, for example, Palestinian students in Gaza are prevented from attending their excellent universities in the West Bank. And why are Gazan fishermen still restricted to a mere fraction of their territorial waters, despite agreements to the contrary, and regularly fired on? Why is Israel not prosecuted for acts of piracy in international waters against humanitarian traffic to Gaza?
Richard Falk – As earlier, the hard power realities of Israeli military dominance, as politically reinforced by American geopolitical muscle, overrides all of these Palestinian claims of right. In this respect, such injustice and suffering can only be challenged by Palestinian resistance and international solidarity. The specific abuses can and should be delimited to raise public awareness and contribute to the mobilization of support for the Palestinian struggle, but it is pointless to expect the UN to do more than its capabilities allow. The whole structure of the Organization, combined with the method of funding, gives geopolitical pressures great leverage in relation to specific situations. The veto power given to the permanent members of the Security Council is a major expression of this weakness that was built into the constitutional structure of the UN from the moment of its establishment.
SL – People reading what you say here will be alarmed that US geopolitical power and Israeli military might can so easily override international and humanitarian law. After Nuremburg our legal institutions were strong enough to bring Nazi era criminals to book, but present-day war criminals walk free and thumb their noses. What hope is there for mankind and our brave new world if this is allowed to continue?
Richard Falk – The Nuremberg experience was based on ‘victors’ justice,’ holding the defeated leaders after World War II criminally accountable, while exempting the crimes of the victors from accountability. There was a promise made at Nuremberg that in the future the rules by which the Germans were judged would be applicable to all who committed state crimes in the future. This Nuremberg Promise has not been kept. The political and military leaders of the main states enjoy impunity while the leaders of defeated countries (e.g. Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic) or sub-Saharan African countries are prosecuted by international tribunals. Double standards prevail, and it is questionable whether an international criminal law that punishes the weak and exempts the strong is to be treated as legitimate even if those accused receive a fair trial and are convicted and punished only if they were guilty of grave misconduct.
The bottom line is that we live in a world in which the primacy of hard power prevails in the relationship among states. Geopolitical leverage enables Israel to defy the most basic principles of international law, and yet their leaders are not held accountable. There are only two paths available that challenge this result. National courts can be empowered by what is called ‘universal jurisdiction’ to investigate, indict, prosecute, convict, and punish anyone accused of state crime that can be personally delivered to the relevant court. In 1998 the Chilean dictator was detained in London after the Spanish Government requested that Pinochet be extradited. After lengthy litigation is was found that Pinochet could be extradited for torture committed during part of his reign, but in the end he was sent back to Chile because of health reasons, and never faced trial in Spain. Yet such a possibility exists in relation to Israeli political and military leaders, and seems to have discouraged their travel to countries whose criminal law contains the authority to invoke universal jurisdiction.
The other possibility is by convening a peoples tribunal of the sort constituted in the past by the Bertrand Russell Foundation in Brussels and the Lelio Basso Foundation in Rome. The Russell Foundation sponsored four sessions devoted to various allegations of criminality attributed to the government of Israel. It produced convincing documentation of the charges, and issued judgements that called for civil society initiatives. Such a tribunal, although acting on evidence and in accord with the relevant provisions of international criminal law, possesses no formal authority and lacks implementing capabilities. Its role is limited to documenting the case against a government, and providing symbolic support to those who contend that there have been violations of international criminal law. Such outcomes may influence public opinion, and help change the balance of political forces by undermining the legitimacy of an established order of oppression as exists with respect to Israel’s relationship to the Palestinian people and the denial of their collective right of self-determination.
SL – What are the chances as you see them for achieving unity between Fatah and Hamas, and how should the Palestinians play their cards in future?
Richard Falk – There is a near unanimous belief among Palestinians and their supporters that unity is needed to move the struggle forward. Such unity existed throughout the early decades of the Palestinian National Movement, despite many ideological differences relating to tactics and goals, but within a shared resolve to achieve national liberation. The unifying image provided by Yasser Arafat’s uncontested leadership was also important.
Israel has pursued a policy I describe as ‘the politics of fragmentation’ designed to undermine Palestinian unity, and it has been alarmingly successful. Oslo contributed to this end by dividing up the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C, by splitting the administration of Gaza off from the rest of Palestine. The emergence of Hamas highlighted Palestinian fragmentation, a result welcomed by Israel even as it was condemned. Fatah appears to have been inhibited in reaching some kind of functional unity with Hamas by pressures to refrain from such moves mounted in Israel and the United States. So long as Hamas is treated as a terrorist organization, even in the face of its turn from armed struggle and entry into the political process back in 2006, there will be strong opposition to moves toward unity, which were attempted in the Morsi period of leadership in Egypt, and seemed on the verge of success.
SL – Finally, Richard, your robust defence of Palestinian rights has ruffled many feathers and led to demands from ‘the usual suspects’ for your dismissal. Should the people you speak up for be concerned about this?
Richard Falk – The attacks on me, and others who have tried to bear witness to the directives of international law and political justice, are part of a deliberate campaign by Israel, and its cadres in civil society, to deflect attention from the substantive grievances of the Palestinian people. It is what I have described as ‘the politics of deflection,’ go after the messenger so as to deflect attention from the message. The media has been largely compliant as have Israel’s powerful governmental friends, including the United Kingdom, US, and Canadian governments. Of course, many NGOs and elements of the public push back against such tactics. In my case the defamatory efforts of UN Watch, in particular, have been unpleasant, but have not altered my effort to do the job of witnessing to the best of my ability and in accordance with the canons of truth telling.
SL – Thank you for being so generous with your time and sharing your assessment of the situation. But before you go, what sort of Christmas can the children of Gaza look forward to?
Richard Falk – We can only imagine the horror of Christmas this year in Gaza for young and old alike: from life amid raw sewage to freezing cold, scarcities, desolation, and a sense that the world is elsewhere, indifferent to such acute suffering, such sustained injustice, such blind hate.
And yet also knowing many Gazans makes me believe that even in such dire circumstances there remains space for some laughter, and much love, and that such a spirit of resistance lives on among the children of this place haunted by the evils of our world. If present these days in Gaza it would likely make me feel a mystifying blend of sadness and inspiration.
At the very least those of us living in comfort should not turn our gaze away from the children of Gaza this Christmas: we should demand empathy from our leaders and be as personally attentive as possible, whether by commentary, prayer, donations, a compassionate scream! We should not allow these days of celebration and renewal to pass this year without moments of reflection on selfish joys and cheerful carols, as contrasting with the miserable destiny bestowed upon the innocent and abused children of Gaza
Let us look the children of Gaza in the eye if we can. And if we can’t, as I could not, seize the moment to reflect on what it means to be (in)human during this holiday season.