President Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah movement, which he commands, have unleashed a media campaign against Hamas and the resistance. If pressure from the Palestinian public fails to stop the campaign, Abbas may achieve politically what Israel failed to achieve militarily: forcing the Palestinian presidency to choose “peace with Israel” over national reconciliation.
It appears that President Abbas has, indeed, prioritised “peace with Israel.” He has devised plans for resuming negotiations, and is still banking on American support for such talks. This is the only explanation for the current anti-Hamas media campaign.
Abbas sent his negotiators — Saeb Erekat, Majed Faraj and Maen Erekat — to Washington, where they met with US Secretary of State John Kerry a week ago last Wednesday. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki described the more than two-hour meeting as “constructive”. Abbas then prepared to obtain an Arab mandate, which seems guaranteed in advance, for his plans from the 142nd session of the Arab foreign ministers conference, held in Cairo this week.
However, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power poured cold water over the Palestinian Authority (PA) president’s bid to obtain US backing for his plan, which he intends to put before the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly. The proposal would end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza within three years, during which period negotiations would resume within three months with the occupying power over its borders with the Palestinian state.
“We don’t think there are shortcuts or unilateral measures that can be taken at the United Nations or anyplace else that will bring about the outcome that the Palestinian people most seek,” Power said in a press conference last week. “To think that you can come to New York and secure what needs to be worked out on the ground is not realistic.”
This clearly translates into an unequivocal US “No.” The Palestinian president’s new plan has run up against the same American wall that Palestinian negotiators have faced since negotiations were adopted as a strategic approach. The Zionist route remains the only way these negotiators can access the White House and the UN Security Council.
There can be only one explanation for this plan. It is in fulfilment of a Palestinian promise not to resist the occupation and to offer the occupying power the opportunity to agree to yet another futile round of negotiations. Such negotiations will give Israel the time it needs to turn the Givaot colony into a major settler city on the 4,000 dunams of Palestinian land that it has just seized by declaring it “state land”.
The purpose of this appropriation is to separate the Hebron and South Bethlehem governorates in the West Bank. It is also a means to deflect international humanitarian pressure in reaction to Israeli war crimes in Gaza, to evade Israel’s obligations to the truce agreement with the resistance in Gaza, and to fuel internal Palestinian tensions until they reignite once more.
It was not Hamas or the resistance that described Abbas’s new plan as a “spurious process”. It was independent Palestinian figures who expressed their views in a statement read out by Mamdouh Al-Akr, general commissioner of the Independent Organisation of Human Rights, on 2 September in Ramallah. They called for an urgent meeting of the unified leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), in accordance with the Cairo agreement of 2011, so that it can serve as a frame of reference for the Palestinian will and take critical national decisions.
Activating the unified leadership framework of the PLO will put President Abbas’s call for a “single Palestinian central authority”, uniquely empowered to “determine matters of war and peace”, into its concrete national context. Only this context can confer legitimacy on a Palestinian leadership that does not derive its authority from resisting the occupation in all forms.
Moreover, the currently missing “electoral legitimacy” is no longer sufficient in and of itself to allow Palestinian decisions on war and peace to remain in the hands of a leadership that is the product of elections that were held with the approval of the occupation power and in the framework of agreements signed with it.
The Palestinian presidency has dropped the available option of resistance from the lexicon of its negotiating strategy, let alone the option of war, which is not available. The PA, in coordination with the occupation’s security apparatus, has become “the security proxy for the occupying power, rather than an instrument to end the occupation and establish the state,” as Palestinian analyst Hani Al-Masri wrote on 26 August.
As a result, the occupying power, alone, holds the keys to the decision of war, which it continues to repeat, and to the decision of peace, which it still refuses to take.
It appears that President Abbas is working against the tide of Palestinian public opinion, as voiced in a recent survey conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) in Ramallah. According to this poll, only 22 per cent of respondents supported a resumption of negotiations, while 53 per cent said they regarded resistance as “the more effective way” to realise the creation of a Palestinian state.
The results of the PCPSR poll contradict all the charges levelled by the president and Fatah against the resistance and Hamas. Of those polled, 79 per cent believe that the resistance emerged victorious from the recent war, while 86 per cent support the defensive use of rockets.
Respondents gave very low ratings to the performance of the Palestinian president, the PA, the national unity government and the PLO, while the approval rating for Hamas was 88 per cent.
What is the substance of this media campaign against Hamas? It ranges from blaming Hamas for prolonging the war and for the consequent loss of lives and material damage, to adopting the Israeli narrative regarding a Hamas-engineered “coup attempt” against the president in the West Bank and the existence of a “shadow government” in Gaza that prevents the national unity government from functioning.
Then there are the charges of keeping Fatah members under “house arrest”, of “opening fire on civilians”, and of “selling emergency relief on the black market.” On top of these come the accusation that Hamas has violated “the law that defines the colours and dimensions of the flag.”
President Abbas’s instructions to create a “committee to hold a dialogue” with Hamas to discuss the “fate of the national unity government,” as announced by Amin Maqboul, secretary of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, does little to encourage optimism. The national unity government, national reconciliation, the Cairo agreement of 2011, the unified leadership framework that it stipulated, and the reactivation of the PLO, all stand at a crossroads.
This is because of the confrontation stirred by the systematic smear campaign that President Abbas and the Fatah movement are waging against Hamas and the resistance. The campaign has created a media smokescreen behind which the occupation authority can conceal its foot-dragging in carrying out its obligations under the truce agreement, which will probably be echoed in Israeli procrastination on continuing with truce talks due to be held in Cairo.
It should also be stressed that to accuse the resistance and Hamas of prolonging the war is to exonerate the occupation power of responsibility. The Israeli media was quick to capitalise on this, further proof of the extensive coverage the campaign has received.
Indeed, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev virtually reiterated it verbatim when he said that the Egyptian initiative was on the table from 15 July and that while the Arab League and Israel had approved the initiative, Hamas rejected it, only to turn around and agree to it a month later. “If [Hamas] had agreed then to what it agrees to now” it would have been possible “to avoid all that bloodshed,” he said.
The investigatory commission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council will most likely cite the president’s charges to strengthen the claims of the occupying power, as these charges would be regarded as “testimony of a witness from the other side.”
Abbas says that while the “final toll” from the most recent war in Gaza was 2,140 dead, “if added to the number of dead in previous wars, and those who died during the period of the Shalit problem, the number would be 10,000 dead and wounded, in addition to the 35,000 homes that were totally or partially destroyed.”
When Abbas says that “it would have been possible” to avert the human and material losses of the recent conflict he is effectively blaming the resistance, not the occupation, for the last war on Gaza and the two wars since 2008 that preceded it.
The spectre of discord once again hovers over Palestinian unity, with Palestinian opinion divided over a programme of negotiations versus a programme of resistance. This is the breach through which Arab and non-Arab “axes” penetrate into the Palestinian interior, deepening rather than mending Palestinian rifts.
Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories
Even though the Arab Bank, considered one of the oldest and largest Arab banks with assets in the tens of billions of dollars, left New York nine years ago because it was investigated on account of its Palestinian connection, US authorities continue to go after the bank threatening it with total bankruptcy. The case is not a new one but its developments demonstrate how far Israeli groups will go to destroy the Palestinian financial sector and even Jordanian and Lebanese banks with the assistance of the US legal system. The trial began in August and it is still going on amid fears of the negative repercussions on the Arab Bank in particular and the Arab banking system in general.
The issue began when lawsuits were filed against the Arab Bank in US courts 10 years ago by 297 Israelis demanding compensation for damages suffered as a result of attacks by Palestinians against Israeli targets in the first half of the last decade. The plaintiffs claim that the bank was responsible for transferring funds to Hamas. The Arab Bank asked the US Supreme Court to review an order issued by a federal court imposing stiff sanctions on the bank for its failure to turn over secret records belonging to its depositors and clients.
The order to impose sanctions on the Arab Bank was issued by U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon. The bank argued that it cannot meet the demands of US authorities without violating Jordan’s banking secrecy laws which will subject it to criminal fines. It argued that Judge Gershon’s ruling means that all foreign banks are subject to the same destructive pattern of indictments. The prosecutor can ask any foreign bank to hand over all their clients’ statements and if the bank refuses, it will be sanctioned.
The Arab Bank appealed the sanctions order to the Supreme Court, but the court refused to hear the appeal in early July. Jordan asked for President Barack Obama’s help by recommending that the Supreme Court order Judge Gershon to reconsider her ruling and the State Department supported the appeal. But the Justice Department found Gershon’s decision useful in ending bank secrecy worldwide.
The Arab Bank is being tried in a court in Brooklyn, New York under the Anti-Terrorism Act issued in 1990. The charges against the bank include aiding Hamas on three levels.
One, by transferring funds provided by the Saudi Committee to 55 Palestinian families of suicide bombers. Two, by having accounts for dozens of charitable organizations that the Israeli plaintiffs say were a mere front for Hamas. Three, the bank had personal accounts for 30 Hamas leaders, including the late Sheikh Ahmed Yassin who had been placed on the US terrorism list since 1995 and the late leader Salah Shehadeh, founder of Hamas’ military wing. According to the prosecutors, the bank knew these people’s relationship to Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization by the US.
The Arab Bank denied the charges saying that no account was opened for a person that was on a US terrorism list. The only exception was one transfer to Sheikh Ahmed Yassin’s account which was the result of a mistake by an employee. The transfers from the Saudi Committee were part of thousands of transfers that the group made to families in need and therefore for humanitarian purposes. US courts have refused any defense stating that the Arab Bank merely followed local laws in the countries where it operates or that the attacks were part of a historical context of violence in the region that the bank does not bear responsibility for.
The Israeli side had dozens of witnesses including a former official in the Israeli military who told the US District Court in Manhattan that the Jordanian bank transferred millions of dollars to the families of those he described as “suicide terrorists” from Hamas. The money came from Saudi Arabia and Hezbollah-affiliated al-Shahid Foundation during the period between 1998 and 2004, with evidence focused on the period between 2001 and 2004. There were monthly payments from the Saudi Committee at a rate of $140 per family.
The Arab Bank’s defense lawyer said there is no evidence that links the transfers to anti-Israel attacks, warning of the danger of this case that puts the responsibility on the shoulder of every bank employee anywhere in the world to investigate every little thing before completing any transaction or transfer. The bank said in a statement that the case raises very important issues for the international finance system which processes trillions of dollars in transfers each day. Most of these transfers are automated and the plaintiff’s theory, “if adopted by the Court, would undermine the automated compliance systems that regulators around the world require banks to employ, and create vast uncertainty and risk in the international finance system.”
Israeli witness Ronnie Shaked said that Hamas was responsible for every one of the 24 attacks before the court. According to the Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post, this witness is a journalist who had previously served as an Israeli intelligence officer.
Another prosecution witness called Arieh Dan Spitzen said that 18 Hamas members were known by the staff at the Gaza branch of the Arab Bank and it is highly likely that they received thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars through the Arab Bank’s transfers.
The prosecution stressed that the burden of proof is on the bank which is refusing to hand over documents of accounts for individuals who are Hamas members to the court.
The bank’s defense lawyer argued that the prosecution is using Israeli laws and evidence in its suit while the bank is not allowed to rely in its defense on relevant laws in the areas where it operates in Jordan and Lebanon which have bank secrecy rules, concluding that the trial is based on double standards.
The court heard 24 testimonies by Israeli witnesses. The Arab Bank is expected to put on 21 witnesses including the bank’s director general. The defense is expected to challenge the impartiality of Judge Brian Cogan, who described an objection raised by the defense as absurd only to accept it later on without going back to the jury.
If the US lawsuit against the Arab Bank is successful, it will inevitably lead to the bank’s bankruptcy, as it might be forced to pay billions of dollars. It also means trouble for the Jordanian and Palestinian economies, as Israelis are expected to file thousands of lawsuits. The outcome might also force Arab countries to disclose all their bank secrets to the US justice system out of fear that they might be liable to similar lawsuits. This could mean capital flight and bankruptcy for these banks. The Swiss example is not encouraging in withstanding US and even European pressure.
Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar said on Monday that the United States is a partner to the Israeli occupation and its crimes committed in the Gaza Strip.
Speaking to the Palestinian Al-Quds television, he said: “We mean the US administration, not the American people, who took to the streets in large rallies against Israel’s crimes.”
He explained that lifting the Israeli siege of Gaza is not a demand, but a right. “We have the right to exist and lifting the siege is one of our rights,” he said, “it has to be lifted without a price.”
Regarding the Israeli soldiers who were abducted during Israel’s latest invasion of the Gaza Strip, he said their price is the release of the Palestinian prisoners. “This is our policy, which the enemy knows very well,” he said.
He continued: “There are two kinds of prisoners: MPs, former ministers, Hamas leaders and those prisoners freed in previous swaps; and the prisoners who are spending long terms in Israeli jails.”
The first kind should be released without a price, he asserted, while “the Israeli prisoners in our hands” are the price for the second kind of prisoners.
He also spoke about the seaport and airport that Hamas insisted on during the ceasefire talks in Cairo. “The airport was built during the time of late Yasser Arafat, but the occupation forces demolished it,” he said. “It is our right to rebuild it.”
“The seaport was supposed to be built in Gaza’s central port, but the occupation forces have stopped any positive measures from happening in the Strip, including the seaport,” he explained. “The Palestinian Authority was too weak to defend establishing the seaport. It is our right, which we seek to achieve. Whoever attacks us, we will attack them.”
Al-Zahar stressed that the Israeli occupation has to be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court (ICC). If the Palestinian Authority does not carry out this mission, individuals in Europe and Latin America and every free country should pursue Israeli criminals at the ICC.
He concluded by comparing negotiations and resistance as methods to gain Palestinians rights. “There are diplomatic negotiations, which supporters think will gain a Palestinian state,” he said. “However, they have now failed and its supporters warn that they are going to join international organisations if negotiations are not revived.”
Meanwhile, he said the resistance programme is more “successful” and it insists on not making any concessions on Palestinians’ rights.
26 August 2014: Palestinian and Israeli leaders have finally agreed an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire to end the seven-week-old Gaza war.
It is appropriate to recall that Israel’s last military offensive against Gaza in November 2012 also ended with an agreement concerning Gaza brokered by Egypt . Under it, both sides were required to cease hostilities and Israel undertook to take steps towards ending its blockade of Gaza. The agreement seemed to have the backing of the US, since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stood beside the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Mohamad Amr, when he announced it on 21 November 2012.
What happened to the November 2012 agreement?
So, what happened to this agreement? Basically, Israel failed to fulfill its obligations under it, whereas Hamas fulfilled its obligations to the letter for more than eighteen months – and the international community turned a blind eye to Israel’s failure.
Specifically, in the agreement, Israel promised “to stop all hostilities on the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals” and the “opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods, and refraining from restricting residents free movement”. Israel didn’t fulfill either of these obligations – it continued to make regular incursions into Gaza (killing 20 Palestinians in Gaza in the following 15 months) and took no steps to lift its economic blockade.
The agreement required Hamas and other Palestinian groups to “stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks, and attacks along the border”. Hamas did so for more than eighteen months from 21 November 2012. Speaking to a Knesset committee on 30 June 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged this, accusing Hamas “of involvement, for the first time since a Gaza war in 2012, in rocket attacks on Israel”, according to a Reuters report .
Other Palestinian groups did fire rockets into Israel, despite being restrained by Hamas. But, according to Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group Middle East and North Africa Programme, in an article dated 1 August 2014 in the London Review of Books:
“During the three months that followed the ceasefire [on 21 November 2012], Shin Bet recorded only a single attack: two mortar shells fired from Gaza in December 2012. …
“[Hamas] set up a new police force tasked with arresting Palestinians who tried to launch rockets. In 2013, fewer were fired from Gaza than in any year since 2003, soon after the first primitive projectiles were shot across the border.”
Israel’s response to quiet along the border
How did Israel respond to this comparative quiet along the border? In his London Review of Books article, Nathan Thrall writes:
“In the three months following the ceasefire, its forces made regular incursions into Gaza, strafed Palestinian farmers and those collecting scrap and rubble across the border, and fired at boats, preventing fishermen from accessing the majority of Gaza’s waters.
“The end of the closure never came. Crossings were repeatedly shut. So-called buffer zones – agricultural lands that Gazan farmers couldn’t enter without being fired on – were reinstated. Imports declined, exports were blocked, and fewer Gazans were given exit permits to Israel and the West Bank.
“Israel had committed [in the November 2012 agreement] to holding indirect negotiations with Hamas over the implementation of the ceasefire but repeatedly delayed them. … The talks never took place. The lesson for Hamas was clear. Even if an agreement was brokered by the US and Egypt, Israel could still fail to honour it.”
If Israel had fulfilled its obligations
Had Israel ceased military incursions into Gaza and taken steps to lift its economic blockade, as it was supposed to do under the agreement, it is virtually certain that Hamas would not have resumed rocket fire. Hamas did resume on 7 July 2014, after Israel made an armed incursion into Gaza and killed seven Hamas members. And if progress was being made towards lifting the blockade, Hamas would have been in a much stronger position to stop other Palestinian groups from firing rockets and mortars into Israel.
So, had Israel fulfilled its obligations under the agreement, it is very likely that rocket and mortar firing into Israel could have been halted altogether without Israeli military action against Gaza.
June 2008 agreement
This is not the first time that Israel has failed to fulfill its obligations under an agreement with Hamas. In June 2008, Egypt brokered an agreement which, like the November 2012 agreement, provided for a cessation of hostilities on both sides and steps by Israel towards ending its blockade .
Hamas fulfilled its obligations under this agreement to the letter and, as a result, southern Israel was almost entirely free from firing out of Gaza for four and a half months. But Israel did not ease its economic blockade, let alone lift it, and on the evening of 4 November 2008 (when the world was watching the election of Barack Obama) it made a military incursion into Gaza for the first time since the ceasefire began in June and killed seven members of Hamas. That was the end of that agreement.
A few weeks later Israel embarked on its first major offensive against Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, with the declared objective of suppressing rocket and mortar into Israel.
The lesson of history
The lesson from the above is that the international community will have to ensure that Israel fulfills its obligations in any future agreement with Hamas. Come to think of it, does another agreement need to be negotiated? In reality, all that is necessary is that Israel be persuaded to implement the November 2012 agreement.
David Morrison is a Political Officer of Sadaka: The Ireland Palestine Alliance and co-author of A Dangerous Delusion: Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran (April 2013). Morrison can be reached at email@example.com.
- See also “The Victims of Gaza: A List of Palestinians Killed in Israel’s Ongoing Assault” (26 August 2014)
- See also David Morrison’s “Gaza: Israeli and Palestinian fatalities” (24 July 2014) and “Gaza: Nobody needed to die” (26 July 2014)
Israel has agreed to open Gaza crossings to allow the flow of humanitarian aid and construction material, senior Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouq said Tuesday.
Speaking to Ma’an, Abu Marzouq added that three more Gaza crossings will be operated in addition the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings, which are already operating.
Asked about the fishing zone, he said that Gaza fishermen would be allowed to reach as far as 6 nautical miles and the zone would be increased gradually until it is 12 nautical miles by the end of 2014.
Reconstruction of the war-torn Gaza Strip will be discussed during a conference in Egypt next month, added Abu Marzouq. The Palestinian national consensus government will be in charge of implementation.
The Hamas official added that the ceasefire agreement was sponsored and would be monitored by Egypt only.
Another round of negotiations will start a month from now to discuss unresolved issues, Abu Marzouq said.
Furthermore, Israeli, European and American restrictions and opposition to money transfers to Gaza for salaries for employees of the former Hamas-led government in Gaza have been cancelled. The national consensus government is supposedly working on proceedings to arrange payment of salaries.
Abu Marzouq pointed out that Israel agreed to stop targeted assassinations of resistance activists and said that a ceasefire agreement could have been reached earlier if Israel agreed to this demand sooner.
As for the Rafah crossing, Abu Marzouq said Egyptian and Palestinian officials would meet soon to discuss what is needed to open the crossing permanently.
The Gaza buffer zone has also been removed, he added.
In the biggest blow to Israeli propaganda, which claimed that Hamas broke the ceasefire, former Israeli Attorney General Michael Ben Yair has said that “it was Israel who staged the alleged Hamas breach of the ceasefire in order to create the conditions for assassinating Muhammad Al-Daif, Commander-in-Chief of Hamas’s military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades.
The website of Makor Rishon newspaper said that Ben Yair, who also worked as a judge in the Israeli supreme court, tweeted on his twitter account the following: “There is no agreement and hostilities have been renewed, but who is the culprit? Hamas who wants an agreement with accomplishments or Israel who staged the breach of the ceasefire in order to justify the assassination of Muhammad Al-Daif?”
The significance of this testimony lies in the fact that Ben Yair, by virtue of his former position, had knowledge of the fine details of the secret Zionist intelligence work. He conducted investigations into the various aspects of the activities carried out by Israel’s Security Agency, the Shabak, which is responsible for intelligence about resistance leaders named for liquidation.
Ben Yair’s testimony is also significant because it comes in the wake of the adoption by Europe and the United States of America of the Israeli narrative as a result of which they held Hamas responsible for breaching the ceasefire.
It is worth mentioning that the Israeli government’s judicial advisor is also in charge of prosecution in the country.
Ben Yair is considered to be a serious person who is highly respectable within Israel, thanks to his revolutionary decisions during the time when he was in office. It is worth noting that Ha’aretz military commentator Amir Oren alluded in an article he published last Wednesday that there were indications that Israel had an interest in the collapse of the ceasefire so as to justify liquidating Al-Daif after receiving intelligence about his whereabouts.
Oren ruled out the possibility that Hamas was the one who violated the ceasefire, noting that what Israel was in need of was a context that justifies the assassination of Al-Daif after receiving valuable intelligence about his whereabouts.
DOHA – The Hamas Movement said it had had no idea at first who kidnapped and killed three Jewish settlers in the West Bank last June, but it described what happened to them as a natural and legitimate act against the illegitimate Israeli occupation.
This came in an explanatory statement released by the Movement on Saturday evening to clarify inaccurate and incomplete media and press interpretations of remarks made on Friday by head of its political bureau Khaled Mishaal in an interview conducted by Yahoo News.
“We did not have prior knowledge of this act which was done by a group of Hamas members, but we do know that any distressed people living under occupation and oppression could do anything to defend themselves,” the Hamas Movement explained.
“The soldiers and settlers in the West Bank are considered ‘assailants’ and live illegally on usurped and occupied Palestinian land, so the Palestinians have the right to resist them,” the Movement reiterated some of what Mishaal said in the interview.
The Movement also included in its statement some of the remarks that were made by Mishaal during the interview in Arabic. The Palestinian Information Center translated these remarks as follows:
“This group of Hamas members are in Al-Khalil and the Israeli investigations have unveiled lately that they had carried out this operation against those armed settlers who practiced, as thousands of other settlers do, their violence in all Palestinian areas. However, we, as the leadership of Hamas, did not know about that. This was known later on.”
“This is part of the [Palestinian] reaction to the occupation and settlement, because as you know the West Bank is an occupied territory according to the international law and the American standards, and the right to self-defense is guaranteed for all.”
“I am talking about something that has been announced as a result of the recent Israeli investigations. We in the political leadership of Hamas are not sure about that, but if that was true, it would be in the context of self-defense against Israeli occupiers whether they are soldiers or settlers. They are not civilians living in other places; they are living in Jerusalem and the West Bank which are occupied territories in accordance with the international law and the American standards.”
In a related context, member of Hamas’s political bureau Saleh Al-Aruri said that what he had previously stated about the kidnapping of three settlers in the West Bank was not a declaration of responsibility for the operation.
Aruri stated in a press release on Saturday that he had made his remarks in this regard based on the results of the recent Israeli investigations.
“The leadership of the Movement had no idea at the time about the group or the operation, but later it turned out that they were a group of Hamas fighters, and about this context was my talk,” the Hamas official explained.
Hamas has signed a proposal for the Palestinians to apply to join the International Criminal Court at which legal action could be taken against Israel, a senior official of the Islamist movement said Saturday.
“Hamas signed the document which (Palestinian) president (Mahmoud Abbas) put forth as a condition that all factions approve, before he goes to sign the Rome Statute, which paves the way for Palestine’s membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC),” Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuq wrote on his Facebook page.
The Palestinian declaration came after two days of talks in Qatar between Abbas and Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal.
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP that the Islamic Jihad, the second most powerful force in Gaza, “is currently the only Palestinian faction that has not signed” the document.
“They are studying the possibility of signing,” he added.
According to Erakat, “the document calls on president Abbas to sign the Rome Statute to join the ICC, and indicates all the signatories assume responsibility for this membership.”
Based in The Hague, the ICC opened its doors in 2003 and is the world’s first independent court set up to try the worst crimes, including genocide and war crimes.
Since the July 8 outbreak of the latest war in and around Gaza, Israel and Hamas have accused each other of war crimes.
Joining the ICC would also expose Palestinian factions to possible prosecution.
The Palestinians had in 2009 asked the ICC’s prosecutor’s office to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Israeli military in Gaza.
There has so far been no probe as Palestine is not an ICC member state and its status as a state is uncertain in some international institutions.
However, the Palestinians in late November 2012 obtained the status of observer state at the United Nations, opening the door for an ICC investigation.
Israel has signed but not ratified the Rome Statute.
Was anyone surprised to hear that the International Criminal Court is under pressure not to investigate Israel’s war crimes in Gaza?
The British government wouldn’t even vote for the UN Human Rights Council’s proposal to launch an inquiry and, along with France, abstained. The US, as expected, voted against. Even Ireland, Germany and Italy abstained in an extraordinary show of collective political cowardice. The enemy within had revealed itself.
As The Guardian reported, “at stake is the future of the ICC itself, an experiment in international justice that occupies a fragile position with no superpower backing. Russia, China and India have refused to sign up to it. The US and Israel signed the accord in 2000 but later withdrew.
“Some international lawyers argue that by trying to duck an investigation, the ICC is not living up to the ideals expressed in the Rome statute that ‘the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished’.”
Britain’s recently departed foreign secretary, William Hague, while still in the job proclaimed his commitment to smoking out war criminals, bringing them to justice and supporting the International Criminal Court in its investigations. “If you commit war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide you will not be able to rest easily in your bed,” he said.
“There is no doubt where Britain stands: we are with those who say that international law is universal and that all nations are accountable to it…. We are a country that believes in and upholds the Responsibility to Protect…
“We pledge to recommit to the importance of fighting impunity for grave international crimes wherever they occur…. We will be a robust supporter of the International Criminal Court in its investigations.”
It was enough to make one warm just a little to the man.
Two years ago Hague delivered an important speech at the Hague, home of the International Criminal Court. He said all the right things, for example:
“The rule of law is critical to the preservation of the rights of individuals and the protection of the interests of all states.”
“You cannot have lasting peace without justice and accountability.”
“International laws and agreements are the only durable framework to address problems without borders.”
“Such agreements – if they are upheld – are a unifying force in a divided world.”
He spoke of a growing reliance on a rules-based international system. “We depend more and more on other countries abiding by international laws…. We need to strengthen the international awareness and observance of laws and rules….”
Some emerging powers, he said, didn’t agree with us about how to act when human rights are violated on a colossal scale, while others didn’t subscribe to the basic values and principles of human rights in the first place. He was actually talking about Syria although many in the audience must have had Israel in mind.
“The international community came together in an unprecedented way to address the crisis in Libya last year,” said Hague. “The Arab League, the UN Security Council, the UN Human Rights Council, the European Union, NATO and the International Criminal Court all stepped forward and played their part to protect a civilian population.”
Funny how they never came together for crisis-torn Palestine these last 65 years.
‘Pledged to fight impunity for grave international crimes ‘wherever they occur’
Hague continued: “Our coalition Government is firmly of the view that leaders who are responsible for atrocities should be held to account…. Institutions of international justice are not foreign policy tools to be switched on and off at will.”
He said that referring leaders in Libya and Sudan to the ICC showed that not signing up to the Rome Statute was no guarantee for escaping accountability. “If you commit war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide you will not be able to rest easily in your bed: the reach of international justice is long and patient…. There is no expiry date for these crimes….”
A year later a policy paper was issued by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, dated July 2013.
“It is a sad truth,” it said, ”that the biggest advances in international justice came about because of our revulsion at atrocities: the horror of the World Wars, the killing fields of Cambodia, the premeditated barbarity in Bosnia and Kosovo, the slaughter in Rwanda, and the mass rapes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, all of which were an unbearable affront to the conscience of humanity. Today, how much better it would be to look ahead and summon the political will to act to prevent conflict and expand human rights without needing to be shamed into doing so by the deaths and suffering of innocent people”.
It hammered home these ‘key messages’:
- Our support for international criminal justice and accountability is a fundamental element of our foreign policy.
- Our support for the ICC as a court of last resort and the importance of its role when national courts have been unwilling or unable to deliver justice is unswerving.
- It is our clear hope that through universality of the Rome Statute and the development of national jurisdictions that the ICC’s role will eventually become increasingly limited.
- Until then, the ICC will continue to play a vital role in achieving justice for the victims of the worst crimes.
Did Hague’s successor, the warmonger Philip Hammond (yes, he’s another who “voted strongly” for the Iraq war), read those words? Did his boss David Cameron, whose upbringing on the playing fields of Eton was supposed to have imbued him with the highest moral values and inoculated him with the most honourable intentions?
Where is that “unswerving” support for the ICC now? Why the about-face when Britain ought to be leading the charge against Israel’s genocidal tendencies?
We should remember that Hamas was democratically elected to govern the whole of occupied Palestine, not just Gaza, and that Israel and its Western friends conspired to prevent it. Hamas’s resistance is on behalf of all Palestinians. No matter how much some of us might disagree with Hamas’s methods they have very few defence options. No doubt they would love to replace their garden shed rockets with state-of-the-art guided missiles capable of the same accuracy as Israel’s, and to give Israeli citizens three minutes to evacuate and run for it.
Last night I attended a public meeting on the subject “How can Palestine be Free?” After a very good summary of the root-causes of the struggle no-one was able to put forward a game-changing plan of action. I ventured the opinion that the ICC remained the Great White Hope, even if it had been temporarily nobbled. It was up to civil society groups like the BDS movement and peace coalitions to make sure our shameless politicians at last feel the heat and are made to squirm until they clear their desk or change their ways.
First we must free ourselves from the clutches of the Enemy Within. Only then will Israel be brought to account and the Palestinian know peace and prosperity.
Since Israel’s creation in 1948, Israeli political and military leaders have demonstrated a pattern of repeatedly violating ceasefires with their enemies in order to gain military advantage, for territorial aggrandizement, or to provoke their opponents into carrying out acts of violence that Israel can then exploit politically and/or use to justify military operations already planned.
The following fact sheet provides a brief overview of some of the most high profile and consequential ceasefire violations committed by the Israeli military over the past six decades.
2012 – On November 14, two days after Palestinian factions in Gaza agree to a truce following several days of violence, Israel assassinates the leader of Hamas’ military wing, Ahmed Jabari, threatening to escalate the violence once again after a week in which at least six Palestinian civilians are killed and dozens more wounded in Israeli attacks.
2012 – On March 9, Israel violates an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire and assassinates the head of the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees, sparking another round of violence in which at least two dozen Palestinians are killed, including at least four civilians, and scores more wounded. As usual, Israel claims it is acting in self-defense, against an imminent attack being planned by the PRC, while providing no evidence to substantiate the allegation. Following the assassination, Israeli journalist Zvi Bar’el writes in the Haaretz newspaper:
“It is hard to understand what basis there is for the assertion that Israel is not striving to escalate the situation. One could assume that an armed response by the Popular Resistance Committees or Islamic Jihad to Israel’s targeted assassination was taken into account. But did anyone weigh the possibility that the violent reaction could lead to a greater number of Israeli casualties than any terrorist attack that Zuhair al-Qaisi, the secretary-general of the Popular Resistance Committees, could have carried out? “In the absence of a clear answer to that question, one may assume that those who decided to assassinate al-Qaisi once again relied on the ‘measured response’ strategy, in which an Israeli strike draws a reaction, which draws an Israeli counter-reaction.”
Just over two months prior, on the third anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, Israeli army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz tells Israel’s Army Radio that Israel will need to attack Gaza again soon to restore its power of “deterrence,” and that the assault must be “swift and painful,” concluding, “We will act when the conditions are right.”
2011 – On October 29, Israel breaks a truce that has maintained calm for two months, killing five Islamic Jihad members in Gaza, including a senior commander. The following day, Egypt brokers another truce that Israel proceeds to immediately violate, killing another four IJ members. In the violence, a total of nine Palestinians and one Israeli are killed.
2008 – In November, Israel violates a ceasefire with Hamas and other Gaza-based militant groups that has been in place since June, launching an operation that kills six Hamas members. Militant groups respond by launching rockets into southern Israel, which Israel shortly thereafter uses to justify Operation Cast Lead, its devastating military assault on Gaza beginning on December 27. Over the next three weeks, the Israeli military kills approximately 1400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including more than 300 children. A UN Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone subsequently concludes that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the fighting, a judgment shared by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
2002 – On July 23, hours before a widely reported ceasefire declared by Hamas and other Palestinian groups is scheduled to come into effect, Israel bombs an apartment building in the middle of the night in the densely populated Gaza Strip in order to assassinate Hamas leader Salah Shehada. Fourteen civilians, including nine children, are also killed in the attack, and 50 others wounded, leading to a scuttling of the ceasefire and a continuation of violence.
2002 – On January 14, Israel assassinates Raed Karmi, a militant leader in the Fatah party, following a ceasefire agreed to by all Palestinian militant groups the previous month, leading to its cancellation. Later in January, the first suicide bombing by the Fatah linked Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade takes place.
2001 – On November 23, Israel assassinates senior Hamas militant, Mahmoud Abu Hanoud. At the time, Hamas was adhering to an agreement made with PLO head Yasser Arafat not to attack targets inside of Israel. Following the killing, respected Israeli military correspondent of the right-leaning Yediot Ahronot newspaper, Alex Fishman, writes in a front-page story: “We again find ourselves preparing with dread for a new mass terrorist attack within the Green Line [Israel's pre-1967 border]… Whoever gave a green light to this act of liquidation knew full well that he is thereby shattering in one blow the gentleman’s agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority; under that agreement, Hamas was to avoid in the near future suicide bombings inside the Green Line…” A week later, Hamas responds with bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa.
2001 – On July 25, as Israeli and Palestinian Authority security officials meet to shore up a six-week-old ceasefire, Israel assassinates a senior Hamas member in Nablus. Nine days later, Hamas responds with a suicide bombing in a Jerusalem pizzeria.
1988 – In April, Israel assassinates senior PLO leader Khalil al-Wazir in Tunisia, even as the Reagan administration is trying to organize an international conference to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The US State Department condemns the murder as an “act of political assassination.” In ensuing protests in the occupied territories, a further seven Palestinians are gunned down by Israeli forces.
1982 – Following Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June, and after PLO fighters depart Beirut under the terms of a US-brokered ceasefire, Israel violates the terms of the agreement and moves its armed forces into the western part of the city, where the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila are located. Shortly thereafter, Israeli soldiers surround the camps and send in their local Christian Phalangist allies – even though the long and bloody history between Palestinians and Phalangists in Lebanon is well known to the Israelis, and despite the fact that the Phalangists’ leader, Bashir Gemayel, has just been assassinated and Palestinians are rumored (incorrectly) to be responsible. Over the next three days, between 800 and 3500 Palestinian refugees, mostly women and children left behind by the PLO fighters, are butchered by the Phalangists as Israeli soldiers look on. In the wake of the massacre, an Israeli commission of inquiry, the Kahan Commission, deems that Israeli Defense Minister (and future Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon bears “personal responsibility” for the slaughter.
1981-2 – Under Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel repeatedly violates a nine-month-old UN-brokered ceasefire with the PLO in Lebanon in an effort to provoke a response that will justify a large-scale invasion of the country that Sharon has been long planning. When PLO restraint fails to provide Sharon with an adequate pretext, he uses the attempted assassination of Israel’s ambassador to England to justify a massive invasion aimed at destroying the PLO – despite the fact that Israeli intelligence officials believe the PLO has nothing to do with the assassination attempt. In the ensuing invasion, more than 17,000 Lebanese are killed.
1973 – Following a ceasefire agreement arranged by the US and the Soviet Union to end the Yom Kippur War, Israel violates the agreement with a “green light” from US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. According to declassified US documents, Kissinger tells the Israelis they can take a “slightly longer” time to adhere to the truce. As a result, Israel launches an attack and surrounds the Egyptian Third Army, causing a major diplomatic crisis between the US and Soviets that pushes the two superpowers to the brink of nuclear war, with the Soviets threatening to intervene to save their Egyptian allies and the US issuing a Defcon III nuclear alert.
1967 – Israel violates the 1949 Armistice Agreement, launching a surprise attack against Egypt and Syria. Despite claims Israel is acting in self-defense against an impending attack from Egypt, Israeli leaders are well aware that Egypt poses no serious threat. Yitzhak Rabin, Chief of the General Staff of the Israeli army during the war, says in a 1968 interview that “I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent into Sinai on May 14 would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it.” And former Prime Minister Menachem Begin later admits that “Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”
1956 – Colluding with Britain and France, Israel violates the 1949 Armistice Agreement by invading Egypt and occupying the Sinai Peninsula. Israel only agrees to withdraw following pressure from US President Dwight Eisenhower.
1949 – Immediately after the UN-brokered Armistice Agreement between Israel and its neighbors goes into effect, the armed forces of the newly-created Israeli state begin violating the truce with encroachments into designated demilitarized zones and military attacks that claim numerous civilian casualties.
An Israeli court has banned the broadcast of Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem that listed the names of Palestinian children killed during Israel’s month-long offensive in the Gaza Strip.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court rejected B’Tselem’s appeal to overturn a decision by the Israel Broadcast Authority to ban a broadcast produced by the NGO, saying it is of political nature.
The broadcast listed the names of children killed in the war in the besieged enclave.
“The hidden objective of the broadcast… is to get the public to make the government stop the (Israeli army operation) in Gaza, due to civilian deaths and children in particular,” the judges’ decision read, adding, “The broadcast is clearly not meant for informative purposes only,” it added.
Israel launched the latest war against the coastal enclave on July 8, killing at least 1,962 Palestinians, including 470 children, and wounding at least 10,100 others.
On Wednesday, Israel and the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas agreed to extend a temporary truce in Gaza for five more days as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators continued talks to reach a long-term deal in the Egyptian capital Cairo.
On Thursday, Khalil al-Haya, a senior member of the Hamas delegation at the talks, said any deal with the Israel regime must include Palestinian’s demand to end the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Israel launched the latest war against the blockaded Gaza Strip on July 8. Nearly 1,962 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have so far lost their lives and at least 10,100 have been injured in the Israeli war.
HEBRON – Undercover Israeli forces detained a Hamas leader in the town of Beit Ummar on Thursday, a local community leader said.
The spokesperson of Beit Ummar’s popular committee said Israeli forces from an undercover unit who disguise themselves as Palestinians, known in Hebrew as Mistaravim, kidnapped Ahmad Khader Abed Abu Maria, 47, from his house at 10 a.m.
His relative, Hashem Khader Abu Maria, 45, was shot and killed during a Gaza solidarity protest in the town on July 25.
Locals in the town said they noticed 15 masked men hiding in an ice-cream truck in the town and began throwing stones at the vehicle.
The masked men, who were undercover Israeli forces, fired live ammunition at the villagers, with no injuries reported.
Israeli soldiers then fired tear gas canisters at locals who had attempted to push back the undercover unit, who retreated to the nearby illegal Karmi Tsur settlement.
Israeli forces also raided the home of Muhammad Munir Radwan Qawqas, 36, and pointed a gun at his mother.
He was blindfolded, handcuffed and taken to Etzion military base.
Muhammad is an ex-prisoner who spent 10 years in Israeli prisons. He is a married father of two girls and teaches Hebrew in a school in Bethlehem.
Israeli forces also detained Usama Mahmoud Awad Kamil, 26, and Ahmad Khaled Mahmoud Kamil, 26, in the Jenin village of Qabatiya.