Later this month Palestinians will be celebrating an important anniversary, namely the decision by the UN General Assembly a year ago to recognise Palestine as a non-member observer state.
But not with much joy, I suspect.
Its upgraded status enables Palestine to now take part in UN debates and join bodies like the International Criminal Court (ICC). Predictably, Israel flew into a rage at the prospect and said the move pushed the peace process “backwards”, while the US said it was “unfortunate”.
So what has the Palestinian leadership done with this precious gift of empowerment from the international community?
In March this year the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, concluding four years of investigations, called for the ICC to investigate “crimes” committed by Israel in the occupied territories. The Tribunal said it would “support all initiatives from civil society and international organisations aimed at bringing Israel in front of the International Criminal Court”. Since Palestine was awarded observer status at the UN the previous November, it could file complaints on its own behalf against Israel with the Court. The tribunal also called on the ICC to recognise Palestinian jurisdiction and for an extraordinary session of the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid, set up for South Africa, to examine the Israeli case.
Also in March the United Nations Human Rights Council said Israeli settlements in the West Bank were a “creeping form of annexation” and the international community should take steps to halt business ties with those communities. Their report claimed that Israel could be culpable for these acts before the International Criminal Court. The mission asked Israel to withdraw its settlers from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and urged the international community to comply with their obligation under international law to act.
In April senior Palestinian officials were saying that if Israel began construction in the area designated “E-1″ , a piece of land in the West Bank adjacent to Jerusalem seized by Israel in 1967, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would join the ICC and seek indictments on war crimes charges. It is believed that Israel’s administration had just given provisional permission to build some 3,300 Jewish homes on E-1.
Palestinians say that Israeli construction there would make an independent Palestinian state virtually impossible because it would cut off East Jerusalem (which is Palestinian) from the rest of the West Bank.
But why is Abbas waiting for the bulldozers to go into E-1 when there’s a long list of other examples of criminal settlement building and atrocities that Israel ought to be charged with?
In June Dr. Saeb Erekat, Palestine’s chief negotiator, was criticising the policies being pushed by Israeli PM Netanyahu “including aggressive settlement activity, home demolitions, evictions and ID revocations. This is part of Israel’s plan to destroy any possibility for a Palestinian State, by annexing and changing the status quo of Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and other vast areas of the Occupied State of Palestine”.
The Israeli government, with its destructive policies, was determined to make US Secretary Kerry’s efforts fail, he said. Israel’s actions made it clear they were declaring the end of the two-state solution. The international community should be pushing Israel to implement previous agreements and adhere to international law instead of calling for a resumption of negotiations. “There is a new urgency to face reality and finally hold Israel accountable for destroying the prospects of justice and peace.”
Israel was turning up its aggression against the Palestinian people while we were trying to reach a negotiated solution, grumbled Erekat. “After the announcement to intensify negotiations made by US Secretary John Kerry, Israel destroyed the village of Khirbet Makhoul for the fourth time and approved further settlement expansion aimed at sealing Occupied East Jerusalem from Ramallah.”
Palestinian leadership shows no sign of starting the justice ball rolling
“Our position is clear and in line with international law: all Israeli settlements in Palestine are illegal… and undermine the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution. If Israel is serious about peace, they must cease all settlement activities.” Erekat again demanded action by the rest of the world “to make Israel pay the price for its institutionalized defiance of international law and UN resolutions”.
But there was still no sign of his own people – the Palestinian Authority and the PLO – taking action on their own account, or at least starting the ball rolling, even though the international community had given them the wherewithall to do so.
Now I hear that Israel is drilling into 3.5 billion barrels of oil reserves straddling the armistice ‘green line’, most of it lying under the West Bank. According to official agreements, says Al-Jazeera, “Israel is obligated to coordinate any exploration for natural resources in shared territory with the Palestinian Authority, and reach agreements on how to divide the benefits.”
Ashraf Khatib, an official at the Palestinian Authority’s negotiations support unit, described the oil field as part of Israel’s “general theft of Palestinian national resources… the occupation is not just about settlements and land confiscation. Israel is also massively profiting from exploiting our resources. There’s lots of money in it for Israel, which is why the occupation has become so prolonged.”
And, of course, the world knows how the Palestinians are prevented from benefiting from their offshore gas field and how, if Israel has its way, they’ll never get a sniff of their own gas either.
‘Life in Palestine is subject to the rule of the jungle’
Since the beginning of the Oslo process over 20 years ago, the rights of the Palestinian people have been sacrificed on the altar of so-called political progress, the glittering prize being ‘peace and security’. But that was never really on the cards. All we’ve seen is a continuous slide downhill for the Palestinians while the Israelis’ colonisation and expansion programme goes from strength to strength. “In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the expansion of settlements continues relentlessly, while the illegal Annexation Wall creates a situation that is completely at odds with both international law and the stated goals of the peace process,” says Shawan Jabarin in an excellent article Time for the ICC to act on Palestine.
“Life in Palestine is subject to the rule of the jungle: generals and politicians know that they can violate the law with impunity, fuelling a continuous cycle of violations and suffering. The result has been an increase in war crimes committed against innocent civilians. Throughout Palestine we are struggling for the right to live, and the right to live in dignity.”
Talking of the right to live in dignity, only today I was reading how some of the Palestinian villages are used by Israel for military training exercises in which soldiers enjoy virtual impunity with regard to their cruel behavior in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, the pretext being that the Israeli military is the sovereign authority over the whole territory. “This edict contradicts international law and numerous United Nations resolutions that question the Israeli claim to sovereignty over all Palestinian land,” reports IMEMC .
The Israeli military frequently invades Palestinian towns and villages, with soldiers running through streets and alleys with loaded automatic weapons, ransacking homes and terrorizing residents, for the purposes of ‘training’. Residents and the human rights groups representing them have provided numerous examples of the soldiers tearing through homes and yards, breaking into houses, running up and down stairs and taking over rooftops of family homes as part of these exercises.
It’s bad enough that villages experience actual Israeli military invasions on a regular basis. Now, since the military makes no attempt to differentiate between an invasion and a ‘training exercise’, the villagers are just as terrorized as they are during real raids.
Wasting that all-important empowerment on a dumb promise
International justice remains out of reach for millions of civilians because the corrupt US, UK and EU political establishments conspire to ‘persuade’ Palestine not to join the ICC or press war crimes charges and other complaints against racist Israel. The Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC, meanwhile, is waiting for Palestine to ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court and become a full member if it wishes to commence proceedings.
To pretend there is something wrong with pursuing a brutal oppressor for war crimes through the proper channels – that is, the ICC – while talking peace, is absurd. No peace is sustainable unless it’s underpinned by international law and justice.
So a week ago I sent a ‘press enquiry’ to the Palestinian Embassy in London, addressed to Ambassador Hassassian. It said:
“What is the PA/PLO doing, please, to regularise its position regarding the ICC statute and satisfy any remaining requirements for exercising its membership rights and bringing charges against Israel for its crimes?
“What still remains to be done and why the continuing delay after the international community cleared the way and unpgraded Palestine’s status?”
No reply, no acknowledgement, despite follow-up phone messages. Silence speaks volumes and is par for the course when dealing with Palestinian officials.
However, I’ve heard it said that Abbas promised Kerry not to seek justice through the ICC during the nine months or more the going-nowhere peace talks will be… well, going nowhere. That takes us by my reckoning to May next year, or beyond. And he gave the undertaking without wringing from the Israelis a corresponding promise to halt settlement planning, construction and enlargement.
Welcome to the Palestinian School of Appeasement.
Originally, I didn’t want to write anything at the 20th Anniversary of the signing of the Oslo accords, because I consider it a waste of time. But since there are still journalists and politicians who can get something positive out of this charade, I would like to show them that their thinking is illusory. Fact is: Secret negotiations take place between the fourth-largest nuclear power in the world and a brutally colonized and oppressed people, which only has international law on its side. This fact requires no further comment when it comes to a possible outcome.
At the outset, it should be mentioned that the so-called “Geneva Initiative”, initiated by Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo, who claimed to have submitted the non plus ultra of a “peace plan”, was a political flop. This charade was funded by the Swiss Federal Government and presented to the public in Geneva on 1 December 2003. By the way, in that document, all sensitive political questions remained unanswered. These two ex-politicians and their supporters had the hubris to believe that the Sharon government would spare a thought about their proposals. Sharon simply ignored their “plan”. The entire “peace process” may be regarded as a political show for the Western public, so that the Israeli colonization of the occupied territories could proceed smoothly till the bitter end.
The euphoria that prevailed at the signing of the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn, has finally given way to more sober skepticism. For euphoria was already on 13 September 1993, those who bothered to read thoroughly the Accords had no reason for euphoria. These Accords did not mention the establishment of a “Palestinian state”, “sovereignty” or the “right to self-determination” of the Palestinian people. The Oslo Accords were designed so that the “Palestinian Authority” would serve as a “subcontractor” of the Israeli occupying power. Within narrowly defined limits, it “alone” could take within zone A “sovereign” decisions, and it should keep its own inhabitants in check, should they endanger Israel’s security.
The entire “peace process” may be regarded as a political show for the Western public, so that the Israeli colonization of the occupied territories could proceed smoothly till the bitter end.
This “peace process” has since been in a continuous loop, it has degenerated into a farce, which is currently re-listed as a drama. Under intense pressure from the U.S. the Israeli Justice Minister Tzipora “Tzipi” Livni and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat claim to “negotiate” in secret a peace settlement of the Middle East conflict. If the Palestinians don’t want to be subject to any Israeli diktat, these “negotiations” will fail, like all previous ones. Under the Ehud Olmert government Livni and Erekat negotiated inconclusively for several years about “peace”. The negotiations failed because Israel wanted the Palestinians to surrender. The demand for total capitulation was circumscribed by Erekat’s infamous reply to Livni: “The only thing I cannot do is convert to Zionism.” Do Erekat and the “Palestinian authority” might “convert” this time? Nor should it be forgotten that Livni stands in the tradition of revisionist Zionism, in addition, she is a member of a right-wing nationalist government, which alone has the say. Whatever Tzip Livni “concedes” in the negotiations, cannot be taken at face value by the Palestinian side.
With the publication of the “Palestine Papers”, the world was made aware of the policy of rejectionism by the Israeli side. It is not the Palestinians (Arabs) who are not “miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”, as Abba Eban once famously said, but it is the various Israeli governments, who torpedo every chance for peace. This attitude is impressively documented in the book “Israeli Rejectionism” by Zalman Amit and Daphna Levit. This denial represents the red thread of Israeli politics that runs all the way from David Ben-Gurion up to Benjamin Netanyahu.
The “peace process” that broke out with “Oslo” turned out to be the third “catastrophe” for the Palestinians in their painful history. This “peace process” has brought only disadvantages to ordinary Palestinians, but not for the political class that has financially benefited enormously from it, be it the Abbas administration or the Hamas Palestinians. The former are bankrolled by the West, the latter by some Arab despots. Both political classes live in clover and have made their pile, either in Jordan or Qatar. Their behavior is shameful, if one looks at the misery of their subjects under Israeli occupation. An improvement of their situation can only be achieved if the people rise up against these “representatives” or send them into exile in Jordan or Qatar.
This “peace process” has not only led to the tripling of the number of colonizers (settlers) in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, but the number of Palestinians killed has also tripled in the same period in comparison to the period 1967 to 1993. After Oslo, the occupied territories were covered with a road system, which in part is only open for Jewish Israelis. The destruction of Palestinian homes, intended to promote the Judaization of the occupied territories and Jerusalem, has reached unimaginable proportions. Israel has walled itself in by a fence, which in some parts is replaced by an eight-meter high wall, allegedly to protect its citizens against “Palestinian terrorism”. Adequately for the “peace process”, however, would be to give finally an oppressed and colonized people self-determination and freedom.
The West may still have to deal, journalistically and politically, with the “peace process” for another century until Israel has brought the whole of Palestine under its control. On land and road maps, it has already done so. Since the West doesn’t care any longer about violations to international law and human rights by Israel and since its patron, the United States of America, breaches international law and human rights on a regular basis, the only effective democratic weapon of the Palestinians – international law – has become worthless. In the next century, this Middle Eastern drama could be performed on the international stage under the slogan: “Once upon a time, there was a Palestine”, if there would not be a sign of hope that some people see in the movement for a one democratic state in Israel and Palestine.
There is no way to say this truth nicely: Politicians lie. That includes Japanese, American, Egyptian, Israeli, and Palestinian politicians! Is there something more common sense than that? Yet, so many citizens around the world believe their own politicians or wistfully acknowledge lies but think it is part of the job needed to run things. They believe even when politicians contradict themselves blatantly. This phenomenon is rather remarkable. It is a dissonance and disconnect from reality that many seem oblivious to. It is very dangerous because it can lead to accepting rationales for going to war. These can be deadly wars that lead to millions of lives lost as happened in what was called World War 1 and WW2. Even when incredible and declassified evidence abound, politicians continue to lie and old mythologies refuse to die. Here are just a few of the countless lies told to us over the past few decades:
-Lies about the need to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagazaki (not to end WWII but to start WWIII or the cold war)
-Lies about why Britain issued the Balfour declaration and France the Jules Cambon declaration in support of Zionism
-Lies about why Israel was created in Palestine
-Lies about why Henry Wallace was replaced by Harry Truman as a vice president in the Democratic convention
-Lies about why Truman supported the creation of Israel on top of Palestine
-Lies about the ethnic cleansing of 530 Palestinian villages and towns
-Lies about September 11, 2001
-Lies about the reasons for the war on Iraq
-Lies about safety of nuclear power plants
-Lies about violations of US citizen rights by their own government
-Lies about why US/Israel want to subdue Iran now
-Lies about the US role in propping-up dictatorships
-Lies about western governments and human rights
-Lies about Vietnam, Cambodia, and much more
With a little effort, any person could easily find 1,001 lies and the sometimes painful truth about them. With very minor effort, I compiled 65 lies/myths told to us about Zionism http://www.qumsiyeh.org/liesandtruths/ There are many more.
But even when they have nothing to do with going to war, lies can be very dangerous. I am not talking about naiveté or stupidity because that is not what the politicians have. Take for example the Palestinian authority “leadership” represented by Mr. Mahmoud Abbas. Is it naiveté that would make him go into fruitless negotiations for 20 years with Israeli politicians then suspend negotiations telling his people that we will not go back to negotiations until Israel stops colonial settlement building and then tell his people that he went back to negotiations anyway while Israel is building. This flip-flop is the typical politician: no principles and no honesty. Yet, again many continue to clap for him. I do not say vote for him since his term is expired a long time ago and no elections are going to happen.
Even when confronted with paper evidence of political lies, many people ignore the mounting evidence. In our case, there were the lies about support for right of return told to our people while Abu Mazen tells Israeli TV that 1948 areas are Israel and he has no right to go back there (maybe should be able to go “visit”). There were the lies about being good negotiators with Israel. Saeb Erekat even wrote two books about negotiations full of such lies. Those lies were clearly debunked by the leaking of the Palestine papers which show that even a middle school student could do a better job at these negotiations than this groveling charade that these Palestinian negotiators are going through. The fate of 12 million Palestinians and the legacy of 80,000 martyrs are left to lying politicians: Israeli, Palestinian and American.
But we cannot blame politicians for our ill societies. It is us the people who let them do what they do by not challenging them.
The participation of Arab officials and institutions at a major Israeli security conference has drawn staunch criticism from Palestinian and human rights activists.
The annual Herzliya conference, which includes high-profile guest speakers focusing on Israel’s major security challenges, invited a number of key Arab speakers, including Jordan’s Prince el Hassan bin Talal and senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat.
Omar Barghouti of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel slammed Arab involvement at the conference as “an act of complicity in the promotion of Israeli occupation and apartheid.”
The conference, which is being held for the 12th year, aims at enhancing Israel’s national security through developing the country’s military and intelligence fields.
“The participation of any Arab speaker…[is] a move that undermines our struggle for freedom and our right to return and self-determination,” Barghouti said.
The conference is being held under the name of “In the Eye of the Storm: Israel and the Middle East” and will be attended by Israeli and international speakers as well as several Arab political, business and academic figures.
Some of the most prominent participants also include Salman Shaikh, Director of the Brookings Doha Center, and Riad al-Khouri, a member of the International Council of Quest-scope in Amman as well as others.
“The Palestinian civil society calls on all Arab participants to immediately withdraw from the Herzliya conference and respect the demands of the majority of the Palestinians who fully support the BDS campaign,” Barghouti added.
Herzliya’s website listed Saeb Erekat, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) chief negotiator, as a speaker at the conference, but an official source told al-Akhbar that he was never invited to the conference and therefore will not be attending it.
The official, who wished to remain anonymous, said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official was the only member of the PLO to be invited to the Israeli conference, but declined the invitation.
A spokesperson for the Palestinian Embassy in Lebanon – who also wished to remain anonymous – declined to confirm who of the PLO was invited and would attend.
However, sources in Ramallah told Barghouti that Erekat had been invited to the conference, but withdrew following pressure from the Palestinian civil society.
“If true, this would crucially deny other Arab participants their Palestinian excuse,” Barghouti said.
“We hope that all Arab – and international – participants will withdraw from this shameful conference. Raising awareness about this form of Arab complicity is a key goal of our campaign.”
BDS campaigners aim to increase Israel’s international isolation and raise awareness of the plight of Palestinians suffering under Israeli military occupation.
“Our campaign for a boycott of the Herzliya conference is based on this meeting’s singular importance in building Israel’s strategy, especially in the security and military fields, to enhance its oppressive system of settler-colonialism, occupation and apartheid,” he explained.
Barghouti said Israel is “keen to display” the Arab officials and figures at the conference since it “boosts its propaganda efforts and cover up its increasingly isolated regime.”
The BDS activist also condemned the participation of the Brookings Doha Center, whose director is participating in the event despite the institution working to cement itself in the Arab world.
An “academic endeavor should never justify complicity in covering up grave violations of human rights and international law,” Barghouti said.
“At a time when BDS is achieving spectacular successes and turning Israel into a world pariah, these Arab participants are knowingly colluding in Israeli propaganda efforts, siding with the wrong side of history.”
Salman Shaikh of the Brookings Doha Center failed to respond to an interview request before this story was published.
2. Dr. Saeb Erekat: Chief Palestinian Negotiator for “the Process of Settlement” with the Zionist entity since 1996 and senior member of the Palestinian-”Israeli” negotiations, which accomplished “the Oslo Accords” in 1993. On the 12th of February, 2011, he made his resignation to the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas after “the Process of Settlement” had reached a dead end. Seldom has Erekat missed membership in the negotiations of Palestinian delegations with the representatives of the “Israeli” Occupation. In the Conference he is addressing the recent developments of the Palestinian-”Israeli” relations entitled:
“THE RISE OF POLITICAL ISLAM ACROSS THE MIDDLE EAST: ARAB SPRING OR ISLAMIST WINTER?”
“THE RISE OF POLITICAL ISLAM ACROSS THE MIDDLE EAST: ARAB SPRING OR ISLMAIST WINTER?”
“POST ASSAD: WHAT NEXT FOR SYRIA AND LEBANON?”
“GOVERNING “ISRAEL’S” ECONOMY: SOCIAL JUSTICE VS CAPITALISM”
8. Nahed Khazem: Mayor of the Shafa Amr (Shfaram) Municipality in the Western al-Jalil (Galilee) in the north of occupied Palestine; is well known for his cooperation and good terms with the Zionist-government ministers, particularly with the Culture Minister Gideon Saer. Khazem also participates in merging Arabs with “the “Israeli” community” in the Galilee Region. He is lecturing on:
- Palestinians for Dignity: Saeb Erekat, Go Home (alethonews.wordpress.com)