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.