Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sweden recognises Palestine and increases aid

"Sweden has today recognised the State of Palestine. The Government considers that the international law criteria for the recognition of Palestine have been satisfied. 
Sweden hopes that its decision will facilitate a peace agreement by making the parties less unequal, supporting the moderate Palestinian forces and contributing to hope at a time when tensions are increasing and no peace talks are taking place.

"The purpose of Sweden's recognition is to contribute to a future in which Israel and Palestine can live side by side in peace and security. We want to contribute to creating more hope and belief in the future among young Palestinians and Israelis who might otherwise run the risk of believing that there is no alternative to the current situation," says Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström (Social Democratic Party).

The Government also adopted a five-year aid strategy including substantially increased support to Palestinian state-building. Bilateral aid to Palestine will increase by SEK 500 million to SEK 1.5 billion over the next five-year period, in addition to Sweden's substantial humanitarian assistance."

Monday, October 13, 2014

UK MPs vote to recognise Palestinian statehood

"MPs have backed the recognition of the state of Palestine alongside Israel in an historic symbolic vote in the House of Commons.
The vote of 274 to 12, majority 262, saw MPs on all sides urge the Government to "recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel" as part of a "contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution"."

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The US, Palestine and the International Criminal Court

It was reported lately that Netanyahu had approached US lawmakers to help Israeli political and military leaders evade war crimes charges, as Palestine is likely to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.  

Can the US really help Israel?

Firstly, as far as Palestine is concerned, the fact that the US is a non-Party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court should be viewed positively.  

The US is not a member of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, which bars it from having “direct influence” over the Court. But this, of course, does not imply that the ICC Judges and Prosecutor do not function independently. This is merely to say that the US is completely outside the ICC. Furthermore, the US does not contribute to the budget of the Court, and therefore cannot “blackmail” it, or impose financial “sanctions” on it. 

In this respect, it is worthwhile reminding how the US sanctioned UNESCO when it admitted Palestine as a full member in 2011. The US cannot do that with regard to the ICC.

Secondly, in case Palestine accepted the jurisdiction of the Court, it is possible that the US would invoke Article 16 of the Rome Statute, to (temporarily) shield Israeli leaders from prosecution by the ICC - as briefly illustrated in a previous post.  

Thirdly, the US might exert pressure on other States in order not to cooperate with requests by the Court, including arrest and surrender requests. However, all States Parties to the Statute are under a general obligation to cooperate fully with the Court in its investigation and prosecution of crimes - the only exception being Article 98 of the Statute, where the requested State itself would be required to act inconsistently with its obligations under international law. 

In conclusion, the US cannot offer much protection to Israeli leaders in this regard.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Palestine and Article 16 of the ICC Rome Statute

If Palestine eventually decides to turn to the International Criminal Court, there is no doubt that the United States would try to rely on Article 16 of the ICC Rome Statute to block the procedures.

The ICC may be prevented from exercising its jurisdiction when so directed by the Security Council, according to Article 16. This is called ‘deferral’. The aforementioned Article states that the Security Council may adopt a resolution - under Chapter VII of the UN Charter - requesting the Court to suspend investigation or prosecution for a twelve-month period. In this case, the Court may not proceed.   

Perhaps Palestine should go to Moscow and/or Beijing, before going to The Hague, to “guarantee” their vetoes - in case the US would try to shield Israeli political and military leaders from prosecution. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Israel must provide shelters to Palestinians

Israel, the Occupying Power, has an obligation to provide proper shelters to Palestinian civilians whom it orders to evacuate. However, it not only violates its obligation, but also pounds shelters provided by third parties. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Cutting off electricity and water supply for the Gaza Strip: Limits under international law

“Under international humanitarian law, Israel is obliged, in the current conditions of armed conflict, to maintain water supplies from Israel to the Gaza Strip at current level and of an electricity supply sufficient to meet the basic needs of the civilian population.”

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Palestinian factions in Gaza use civilians as human shields?

Israeli officials claim that Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip use civilians as “human shields”.

Needless to remind, this conduct, regardless of who carries it out, constitutes a war crime, according Article 8(2)(b)(xxiii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

However, a number of reports from Gaza denied Israeli claims. But let’s presume that Israeli claims are not false. Does that mean Israel can still go ahead and bomb, despite civilians presence? Absolutely not. Israel cannot bomb areas where civilians are known to be present. That’s prohibited and further constitutes a war crime.
Consequently, the response to Israeli claims lies in Article 8(2)(b)(iv) of the ICC Rome Statute - in addition to other principles of international humanitarian law.  

French lawyer lodges a complaint with the ICC against Israel: Inadmissible

It was reported that a French lawyer lodged a complaint with the International Criminal Court against Israel. This is interesting yet inadmissible.
As a matter of fact, there are different reasons why the ICC would decline to “examine the complaint”. However, let’s mention only three of them. 
Firstly, unlike national courts, the ICC - unfortunately -  doesn’t receive complaints from individuals. Secondly, the lawyer was acting “on behalf of the Palestinian Minister of Justice”. So it was the Ministers initiative, and not the Government’s. Thirdly, any acceptance of the ICC’s jurisdiction, or referral to the ICC, must be signed by the President, which - obviously - wasn’t the case.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cellphone Video Captures Gaza Civilian Shot and Killed by Sniper Share Tweet

“A video emerged Monday showing a Palestinian man repeatedly shot and ultimately killed by a sniper while he searched for his family in the devastated neighborhood of Shujaiyeh.”

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"“Operation Protective Edge": Self-defence?

The ‘right to self-defence’ can only be invoked in the case of armed attack by one State against another. 

Needless to say, Israel continues to exercise effective control over the Palestinian Territory, including the Gaza Strip. 

Israel claims that it launched “Operation Protective Edge” in order to defend itself. However, the alleged “threat” originates from within, and not outside, the territory under Israeli full control. Accordingly, Israel cannot invoke the right to self-defence vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip, nor any part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Richard Falk on the "network of Israeli prisons"

“We should not forget that there is a callous and manifest unlawfulness about this network of Israeli prisons, all but one of the 19 being located in Israel, in direct violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention governing belligerent occupation: “Protected persons accused of offenses shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve therein.”  Underlying such a provision of law is a humane impulse: compelling an individual to be imprisoned in the occupying country imposes a geographic separation from family and homeland, which in the Israeli case is accentuated by a permit system that as a practical matter makes family visits from occupied Palestine a virtual impossibility. With respect to prisoners from Gaza, there are virtually no prison visits allowed even if sentences are for several decades or lifetime. As is widely known, the people of Gaza have been subject to a punitive blockade maintained ever since mid-2007 that involves a massive imposition of collective punishment on the civilian population, a crime of war so specified in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Hillary Clinton and Israeli settlements

If pressing Israel to freeze settlement construction in 2009 was a “tactical mistake” -  according to Hillary Clinton - then the Israeli settlement policy itself is a “tactical war crime”.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Demolitions, and (silent) displacement of Palestinians

Recent demolitions and displacement

Over the past two years, 126 Palestinians have had their homes demolished and some have been forcibly transferred out of these dislocated communities as a result of demolitions: these include 51 people from the Al Khalayla Bedouin community, 63 from the Tel Al Addasa Bedouin community and 12 from Khirbet Khamis.6 Outstanding demolition orders against residential and livelihood structures continue to threaten other dislocated communities with displacement and/or the erosion of livelihood sources, including Khirbet Khamis, An Nabi Samwil village and its nearby Bedouin community, Al Khalayla and Ras Shihadeh Bedouins.

Silent displacement: the case of An Nabi Samwil

In other cases, difficult living conditions, the denial of residency permits by the Israeli authorities and the inability to build as a result of planning and building restrictions have forced families to move out to the remainder of the West Bank. For example, according to An Nabi Samwil village council, 24 households comprising 125 people, including newly-wed couples, have moved out of the village in the past seven years as a result of movement and access restrictions and the inability to build new homes.

An Nabi Samwil village is located entirely in Area C and has been designated by the Israeli authorities as a national park area. Residents live with the continuous threat of demolition orders; in the past three years, the Israeli Civil Administration demolished 11 livelihood structures in An Nabi Samwil, affecting around 25 people. The Israeli authorities have also prevented village residents from expanding their 16-meter-square school and issued demolition orders on the fence surrounding the school, the newly erected school caravan and the school’s sanitation unit.

Israeli settler violence has also been on the rise in the village, including damaging and stealing car wash equipment and flooding newly planted agricultural land with sewage. At the same time, the few Palestinians who attempted to seek work in nearby Ramot settlement were arrested on the grounds that they are not allowed to enter East Jerusalem.

Residency denied: the case of Dahiyat Al Barid residents

Several families living in the area of Dahiyat Al Barid, located within the Israeli-declared Jerusalem municipal boundary, were forced to leave their homes and move to Kufr ‘Aqab after being denied residency permits by the Israeli authorities. These families were issued two-month temporary permits when the Barrier was completed in the area in 2009 and were instructed to apply to the Israeli Ministry of Interior for family reunification, if eligible, or to leave Jerusalem altogether. As a result, three families comprising 18 people, including three fathers with West Bank IDs, were forced to move to the West Bank side of the Barrier after several years of access restrictions that severely affected their family lives and jobs.”

OCHA Report

Thursday, June 5, 2014

International Court of Justice on occupied East Jerusalem


“73. In the 1967 armed conflict, Israeli forces occupied all the territories which had constituted Palestine under British Mandate (including those known as the West Bank, lying to the east of the Green Line).
74. On 22 November 1967, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 242 (1967), which emphasized the inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by war and called for the “Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict”, and “Termination of all claims or states of belligerency”.
75. From 1967 onwards, Israel took a number of measures in these territories aimed at changing the status of the City of Jerusalem. The Security Council, after recalling on a number of occasions “the principle that acquisition of territory by military conquest is inadmissible”, condemned those measures and, by resolution 298 (1971) of 25 September 1971, confirmed in the clearest possible terms that:
“all legislative and administrative actions taken by Israel to change the status of the City of Jerusalem, including expropriation of land and properties, transfer of populations and legislation aimed at the incorporation of the occupied section, are totally invalid and cannot change that status”.

Later, following the adoption by Israel on 30 July 1980 of the Basic Law making Jerusalem the “complete and united” capital of Israel, the Security Council, by resolution 478 (1980) of 20 August 1980, stated that the enactment of that Law constituted a violation of international law and that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem . . . are null and void”. It further decided “not to recognize the ‘basic law’ and such other actions by Israel that, as a result of this law, seek to alter the character and status of Jerusalem”.

76. Subsequently, a peace treaty was signed on 26 October 1994 between Israel and Jordan. That treaty fixed the boundary between the two States “with reference to the boundary definition under the Mandate as is shown in Annex I (a) . . . without prejudice to the status of any territories that came under Israeli military government control in 1967” (Article 3, paragraphs 1 and 2). Annex I provided the corresponding maps and added that, with regard to the “territory that came under Israeli military government control in 1967”, the line indicated “is the administrative boundary” with Jordan.
77. Lastly, a number of agreements have been signed since 1993 between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization imposing various obligations on each party. Those agreements inter alia required Israel to transfer to Palestinian authorities certain powers and responsibilities exercised in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by its military authorities and civil administration. Such transfers have taken place, but, as a result of subsequent events, they remained partial and limited.
78. The Court would observe that, under customary international law as reflected (see paragraph 89 below) in Article 42 of the Regulations Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land annexed to the Fourth Hague Convention of 18 October 1907 (hereinafter “the Hague Regulations of 1907”), territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army, and the occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.
The territories situated between the Green Line (see paragraph 72 above) and the former eastern boundary of Palestine under the Mandate were occupied by Israel in 1967 during the armed conflict between Israel and Jordan. Under customary international law, these were therefore occupied territories in which Israel had the status of occupying Power. Subsequent events in these territories, as described in paragraphs 75 to 77 above, have done nothing to alter this situation. All these territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories and Israel has continued to have the status of occupying Power.

87. The Court first recalls that, pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 4, of the United Nations Charter:

“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
On 24 October 1970, the General Assembly adopted resolution 2625 (XXV), entitled “Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States” (hereinafter “resolution 2625 (XXV)”), in which it emphasized that “No territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal.” As the Court stated in its Judgment in the case concerning Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America), the principles as to the use of force incorporated in the Charter reflect customary international law (see I.C.J. Reports 1986, pp. 98-101, paras. 187-190); the same is true of its corollary entailing the illegality of territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force.

96. The Court would moreover note that the States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention approved that interpretation at their Conference on 15 July 1999. They issued a statement in which they “reaffirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”. Subsequently, on 5 December 2001, the High Contracting Parties, referring in particular to Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, once again reaffirmed the “applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”. They further reminded the Contracting Parties participating in the Conference, the parties to the conflict, and the State of Israel as occupying Power, of their respective obligations.
97. Moreover, the Court would observe that the ICRC, whose special position with respect to execution of the Fourth Geneva Convention must be “recognized and respected at all times” by the parties pursuant to Article 142 of the Convention, has also expressed its opinion on the interpretation to be given to the Convention. In a declaration of 5 December 2001, it recalled that “the ICRC has always affirmed the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the territories occupied since 1967 by the State of Israel, including East Jerusalem”.
98. The Court notes that the General Assembly has, in many of its resolutions, taken a position to the same effect. Thus on 10 December 2001 and 9 December 2003, in resolutions 56/60 and 58/97, it reaffirmed “that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, is applicable to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967”.
99. The Security Council, for its part, had already on 14 June 1967 taken the view in resolution 237 (1967) that “all the obligations of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War . . . should be complied with by the parties involved in the conflict”.
Subsequently, on 15 September 1969, the Security Council, in resolution 271 (1969), called upon “Israel scrupulously to observe the provisions of the Geneva Conventions and international law governing military occupation”. 
Ten years later, the Security Council examined “the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967”. In resolution 446 (1979) of 22 March 1979, the Security Council considered that those settlements had “no legal validity” and affirmed “once more that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, is applicable to the Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem”. It called “once more upon Israel, as the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously” by that Convention.
On 20 December 1990, the Security Council, in resolution 681 (1990), urged “the Government of Israel to accept the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention . . . to all the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 and to abide scrupulously by the provisions of the Convention”. It further called upon “the high contracting parties to the said Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure respect by Israel, the occupying Power, for its obligations under the Convention in accordance with article 1 thereof”.
Lastly, in resolutions 799 (1992) of 18 December 1992 and 904 (1994) of 18 March 1994, the Security Council reaffirmed its position concerning the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the occupied territories.
100. The Court would note finally that the Supreme Court of Israel, in a judgment dated 30 May 2004, also found that:
“The military operations of the [Israeli Defence Forces] in Rafah, to the extent they affect civilians, are governed by Hague Convention IV Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land 1907 . . . and the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War 1949.”
101. In view of the foregoing, the Court considers that the Fourth Geneva Convention is applicable in any occupied territory in the event of an armed conflict arising between two or more High Contracting Parties. Israel and Jordan were parties to that Convention when the 1967 armed conflict broke out. The Court accordingly finds that that Convention is applicable in the Palestinian territories which before the conflict lay to the east of the Green Line and which, during that conflict, were occupied by Israel, there being no need for any enquiry into the precise prior status of those territories.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The 47th Anniversary of An-Naksa

Chronology of events:

An-Naksa, the Debacle, also known as June 1967 War or the Six Day War. On the morning of Monday, June 5, 1967, Israeli military aircraft raided the Egyptian airfields, destroying the bulk of the Egyptian Air Force.

Ground attacks started immediately thereafter on the Jordanian and Syrian fronts, bound to Egypt with military common defense pacts. The Israeli Air Force ravaged the Sinai Peninsula with almost no fight - Egyptian units deprived of air cover. By Friday June 9, the Israeli Army stood on the East Bank of Suez Canal, captured the Golan Heights and the rest of the Palestinian territories (Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza Strip). 

Since the start of the occupation, Israeli policies and practices under various governments - in a striking challenge to international law and UN Security Council resolutions - have been characterized by:

- confiscation of land;
- construction of settlements;
- crushing Palestinian resistance movements - politically and militarily;
- violation of human rights;
- unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem - hardly three weeks after the start of the war -  making it the “eternal, indivisible Capital” of Israel.

Based on the shock of defeat, fear of the unknown, Palestinian society has passed through several phases of resistance under this occupation:

- non-cooperation between 1967 and 1970, which led to the crippling of the society, as schools, universities and courts were closed, in addition to continuous general strikes among professionals and business network;
- “Sumoud” - steadfastness - between 1970 and 1982, marking the rise of a national front from PLO factions;
- isolation - following the exodus of Palestinian fighters out of Jordan in 1970, and out of Lebanon  in 1982;
- Intifada I (1987-1990) and II (2000-2003) - popular uprisings - with the aim of ending the Israeli occupation and building a new society based on freedom and independence on national soil;
- negotiations under the banner “Land for Peace” and Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338  - leading to the Oslo I and II  Accords in 1993 and 1995, respectively.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians reached a total deadlock many years ago, despite changes of governments.

Successive Israeli Governments have systematically threatened and imposed sanctions against Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, and have continued their settlement activities everywhere, expropriation of lands, house demolitions, deportations and other violations of human rights, perhaps the most blatant being the construction of an 8m high concrete Separation Wall built on Palestinian lands despite a negative Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice in The Hague rendered on 9 July 2004 - let alone attacks on Christian and Islamic religious sites by fanatic settlers.

Before resuming negotiations with the Palestinians, Israelis put forth yet another impediment: namely that Palestinians should first recognize the “Jewish character” of the State of Israel - while Palestinians from their side, accepting the challenges, claim the cessation of all settlement activities and the release of prisoners.

US successive administrations seem unwilling to exert any form of pressure on Israel - which is indeed the only way to get out of the political deadlock. 

Some live witnesses from a close and reliable source:

Between 1948 and 1967, there were a number of Arab Consulates General posted in Jerusalem, considering the international character of the City (Embassies were located in Amman): Egyptian, Saudi Arabian, Syrian, Lebanese and Iraqi. Also, there was a Representative Office of the Arab League.

Some of the Arab Consuls had chosen to flee away to their respective Capitals before the outbreak of the war. Early in the morning of Tuesday, June 6, some Arab Consuls - Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi and the Representative of the Arab League - sought refuge at the adjoining Belgian Consulate General in Sheikh Jarrah. In the afternoon of the same day, the Israeli Army had already seized the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, after invading UNRWA buildings. Israeli heavy-armed paratroopers – in violation of international law - rushed into the compound of the Belgian Consulate General despite the fact that the gate was closed and the Belgian national flag raised over the building.  They knocked savagely on the main door, claiming to search the building for Jordanian snipers posted on the roof.  There were none. When they came to know about Arab Consuls hidden inside the Consulate, they arrested all the four Arab diplomats, notwithstanding their sheltering inside a foreign Consulate. These diplomats were dragged out of the premises to detention, inside Israel, which lasted until the end of the year, when a swap of prisoners took place with each of the Arab countries !

On Wednesday, June 7, the Israeli Army hoisted the Israeli flag over the tower of the Ophthalmic Hospital belonging to the London-based Order of St. John of Jerusalem - a private British property in Sheikh Jarrah. Thanks to the intervention of the British Government, through the good offices of the British Consul General in Jerusalem, the Israeli flag was removed from atop the building right on the following day.

Simultaneously, the Israeli Army seized the prestigious, 4-storey Ambassador Hotel, again in Sheikh Jarrah, and made it its General Headquarters for nearly four years. The basement of the Hotel served as a detention area for the captured Palestinians living in the area.

On the same day, the entire Old City of Jerusalem fell under occupation; Israel confiscated the keys to Bab Al-Magharbeh (Western Gate of Al-Aqsa Mosque) compound, never to return them to the Islamic Waqfs (Trusteeship). The Israeli flag was hoisted over the Western Wall …

On Sunday, June 11, the inhabitants of the Old City’s Mughrabi Quarter adjacent to the Wailing Wall were given three hours to evacuate their homes, before the entire quarter was demolished to create a plaza !

On Wednesday, June 14, the Wailing Wall was opened to the Israeli public while the inhabitants of the Old City were put under curfew.

On June 28, the Knesset voted on the unilateral annexation of the Eastern part of Jerusalem, declaring it the “unified, indivisible, eternal Capital” of the State of Israel. On the same day, Palestinian residents of Jerusalem were allowed for the first time to walk inside Israeli-held Jerusalem (West Jerusalem), and contemplate with pain and bitterness their homes and properties - inhabited by Jewish immigrants - for the first time since the day they were evicted therefrom back in 1948 …

On June 29, Israel dismissed the elected Mayor and council members of the Arab Jerusalem Municipality. Mayor Rawhi Al-Khatib was offered to join the Israeli-held municipal council of the City - which he flatly rejected.

In an attempt to ensure Israeli control of the roads in the entire City, Israel allowed nine “Egged” bus routes to operate parallel to the Arab public transport system. Meanwhile, Palestinian vehicles were forced to replace their old plate numbers by Israeli registration ones.

On July 18, the West Bank Muslim Court of Appeals was required to transfer its seat to Ramallah or Nablus, while the Jerusalem Court was ordered to place itself under the Israeli Muslim Court of Appeals in West Jerusalem.

On July 21, Anwar Al-Khatib, Governor of Jerusalem, former MP Daoud Husseini, lawyers Abdul Muhsen Abu Maizer and Ibrahim Bakr were banished by Israel from certain areas in the Occupied Palestinian Territories because of their refusal to accept the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem.

On August 11, a one-day curfew was imposed on the inhabitants of East Jerusalem. Census was taken, and a week later, Palestinians were forced to acquire Israeli blue ID cards.
                                                            *                      *

Under the prevailing circumstances, there is no more sense talking about a two-State solution. This idea is dead. The Israeli practices - like building and expanding settlements, confiscating lands, Judaisation of Jerusalem, disrupting geographical continuity  between the different localities of the West Bank, position of Israeli leaders and political parties - have buried it completely. Israeli leaders confirm their outspoken rejection in principle and in practice of any withdrawal to pre-June 1967 lines.

We often hear about proposals, mediations and initiatives from different sides - but they all lack credibility.  They are all deemed to fail as none of them  claims, puts pressure, or  does anything to put an end to the excessive Israeli practices on the ground, with a view  to pave the way before a two-State solution. The Palestinian leadership conversely offered everything it could in order to reach a peaceful settlement.  It accepted to renounce nearly 78% of historical Palestine lands, opted for negotiations, modified the PLO Charter, accepted security coordination. All these concessions were met by more and more settlements and by hooliganism and vandalism by settlers who make fun attacking peaceful Palestinian civilians and farmers, cutting olive trees, assaulting shrines - under the protection of Israeli soldiers …

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Pope Francis offers prayers at Israeli Separation Wall in Bethlehem

“It is an image that will define Pope Francis's first official visit to the Holy Land. Head bowed in prayer, the leader of the Catholic church pressed his palm against the graffiti-covered concrete of Israel's imposing "separation wall", a Palestinian girl holding a flag by his side. It was, as his aides conceded later, a silent statement against a symbol of division and conflict.”

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Palestinian Nakba: 66 years, and counting

66 years - day by day - have passed since Palestinians were forcibly evicted out of their homes towards unknown destinations. In no time, they found themselves living under temporary tents which became their permanent shelter for many many years ahead. They became to be known as Palestine refugees, to live in the most inhuman and miserable conditions.

Nakba, known also as the 1st Arab-Israeli War, stands for the  1948 catastrophe surrounding the establishment of the State of Israel, resulting in the dispersion of Palestinians worldwide.

The United Nations General Assembly Partition Plan of  1947 - UNGA Resolution 181 - caused the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, in the wake of the exodus of British Mandate forces from Palestine on May 14, 1948. The Plan granted  the Jews in Palestine just over 56% of the area at a time when they owned less than 7% of the land and constituted approximately one-third of the population. By the end of the War, Israel controlled 77.4% of the land. Palestine was fragmented, occupied and its society dismantled and rendered a nation of displaced refugees. When the State of Israel was proclaimed on May 15, 1948, in Tel-Aviv, there was significantly no mention of borders - the “Jewish State” has never publicly defined the extent of its limits.

After the 1948 War, and by the time of the 1949 cease-fire agreement, Arab areas had shrunk to 23% of Palestine (Gaza Strip and West Bank).  418 Palestinian villages had been depopulated and erased from the map as a result of Israeli military activities, expulsion orders, and the exodus of Palestinian civilians. Only about 120 Arab villages remained within the 1949 cease-fire lines, and these now have no more than 7% of the land, as a result of large-scale seizure and confiscation of Arab land and property. By September 1949, according to United Nations estimates, there were 726,000 Palestinian refugees located outside the armistice lines and 32,0000 inside.

On December 11, 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 194 (III) affirming the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. However, this Resolution has never been implemented.

Following the 1948 War, separate  armistice agreements with the Egyptians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Syrians were signed in Rhodes in the course of 1949, which did not pave the way before any settlement to the conflict. Furthermore, the Gaza Strip was controlled by Egypt and came under the administration of an Egyptian governor. Meanwhile, the West Bank was controlled by Jordan which annexed it  in 1950 declaring the two banks of the Jordan River as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip remained under Jordanian and Egyptian rule, respectively, until  June 1967 War when Israel conquered the areas, imposing Israeli military  hegemony over Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Subsequently, a UN agency was established under the name of UNRWA - UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.  It was meant to give emergency assistance to Palestinians displaced by the war of 1948 and began to operate in May 1950. Its mandate, to provide essential education, health and relief services to Palestine refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon,  Syria, as well as in the  West Bank and Gaza Strip.

As a result of the ongoing process of the Nakba, Palestinians have become indeed the world's oldest and largest refugee population, and now make up more than 1/4 of the world's total refugees.

Many of the Palestinians fleeing their homes in 1948 left with minimum of luggage in the belief that they would be returning to their homes within days, weeks,  as soon as the violence passed their villages. Now living in overcrowded and underprivileged camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they and their descendants - now entering a 4th generation - are still waiting, but are adamantly attached to their homeland. Many of them still hold the keys of their pre-1948 homes ..

Nakba stands for a calamity, but it is deeper than that. It is an ongoing process of colonialism, dispossession, land grab ... Indeed the process of Nakba continues until this day through discriminatory and expansionist policies of the Israeli establishment.

May 15, 1948, will always be remembered as a black day in the history of Humanity and of the United Nations, unless the continuous Palestinian suffering is brought to an end. No injustice can or should be permanent.

66 years later .. we, Palestinians, appeal to world conscience to find an equitable solution, and put an end, to the prolonged human suffering of the Palestinian people. The counting should end.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Palestine becomes a State Party to Geneva Conventions

As of 2 April 2014, the State of Palestine is a State Party to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and to the Additional Protocol I of 1977.

A notification by Switzerland. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

It’s not a "unilateral action" to join human rights conventions; US should commend Palestine

The following are 9 of the 15 conventions on human rights Palestine has decided to accede to:
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women 1979
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006
  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 1965
  • United Nations Convention Against Torture, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1984
  • Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 1948
  • Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid 1973

It is worthwhile mentioning that the US itself has not yet acceded to the following conventions:
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 (signed, but not ratified)
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women 1979 (signed, but not ratified)
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (signed, but not ratified)
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006 (signed, but not ratified)
  • Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid 1973

Instead of claiming that the Palestinian decision is a “unilateral action”, the US should commend Palestine, and should also follow suit.

US is determined to isolate itself further: "Power: US opposes Palestinian moves to statehood"

“U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power told a House panel on Wednesday that the U.S. opposes all unilateral actions that the Palestinians take to statehood. She says there are no shortcuts to statehood, and that any unilateral actions could be "tremendously destructive" to the peace process.

1) The US Permanent Representative to the UN probably thinks that she has a “good sense of humor”, but this is certainly not the case.

2) We know that the US opposes anything that is related to Palestine and the Palestinian people. No news.

3) Taking unilateral actions is actually Israel’s “specialty”. It is only Israel which has always taken unilateral actions. Israel unilaterally and illegally annexed Jerusalem in 1967. Israel unilaterally and illegally annexed the Syrian Golan Heights in 1981. Israel unilaterally and illegally continues to annex Palestinian lands and to create facts on the ground, including through the illegal settlement policy and Separation Wall. Israel unilaterally and illegally attempts to determine the borders of the future Palestinian State. The list is too long ... 

4) Palestine’s latest moves can in no way be considered or described as “unilateral actions”. Palestine has never taken “unilateral actions”. Its decision to join international conventions is fully in line with international law. Turning to the UN is legal, and so is acceding to conventions/treaties. Furthermore, it is not a “unilateral action”, or an “illegal action”, to demand an end to Israeli violations of human rights. 

5) Palestinian legal (and not unilateral) actions are “tremendously destructive to the peace process”, but Israel’s unilateral and illegal actions are “not”, right?! The US considers itself a “peace sponsor”?! How despicable!

6) The US should try to have some ‘self-respect’, for a change.

7) The US can continue to oppose all Palestinian steps, although they are absolutely legal, but it will only isolate itself further.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

US self-inflicted isolation

When it comes to Palestine, the United States is isolated from the international community. Its approach, and full support for Israel, will only isolate it further.

This self-inflicted isolation is particularly reflected in the voting at the UN. As a matter of fact, US attitude towards Palestine at the UN can only be described as “hostile”.

The most recent vote the UN Human Rights Council was yet another example. Out of 47 members, 46 voted in favour of four resolutions on Palestine. The US decided to stand alone, to isolate itself – it voted against. But, voting against human rights of an occupied people necessarily means voting against human rights, and siding – all alone – with injustice.

Would one forget, for example, how the US opposed, all alone, Palestine’s full membership at the UN back in 2011? The US did so not because Palestine is “not” a peace-loving State, but because it chose to side with the oppressor - and it still does.

In 2012, an overwhelming majority of UNGA voted in favour of granting Palestine a “non-Member Observer State” status in the United Nations. The US, of course, voted against.

Concerning Israel’s illegal settlement policy, the vast majority of the international community asserts that this policy is illegal and illegitimate under international law. While the US only says “We don’t accept the legitimacy of settlements”, which is a rather ambiguous stance.

That said, one can only remind, time and again, how the US stood alone at the UN Security Council back in February 2011, when it vetoed a draft resolution that would have condemned illegal Israeli settlements. The other 14 UNSC Members voted in favour.

It is now possible that Palestinians would decide to turn again to the UN. The US should review its policy, and stop opposing Palestinian bids.

Finally, let’s remind the US that we are now “in the 21st century, not the 19th”, where injustice is not acceptable. The US is isolated because it behaves vis-à-vis Palestine in a "19th century fashion". Therefore, the US should decide whether it wants to isolate itself further, or to join the rest of the international community in rejecting oppression against Palestinians, thus behaving in a “21st century fashion”.

Palestinian unilateral actions?!

It was allegedly reported that Israel had offered to Palestinians, through the US, “to release 400 prisoners in exchange for agreeing to extend peace talks by several months and for Palestinians not taking unilateral steps at the United Nations during that period”.

Does it stand to reason? When have Palestinians ever taken “unilateral” steps or actions? Turning to the UN cannot in any way be considered a “unilateral” step or action. It is not illegal to turn to the UN. In fact, it is the right place for Palestinians to raise the injustices that they face on a daily basis, and to illustrate Israeli persistence in violating international law, including the UN Charter.

It is only Israel which has always taken unilateral actions. Israel unilaterally and illegally annexed Jerusalem in 1967. Israel unilaterally and illegally annexed the Syrian Golan Heights in 1981. Israel unilaterally and illegally continues to annex Palestinian lands and to create facts on the ground, including through the illegal settlement policy and Separation Wall. Israel unilaterally and illegally attempts to determine the borders of the future Palestinian State. 

"How many racist laws in Israel?"

“The Discriminatory Laws Database, the first of its kind, is an online resource that collects more than 60 Israeli laws enacted since 1948 that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in all areas of life, including land and planning; education; budgets and access to state resources; prisoners and detainees; civil and political rights. Some of the laws also violate the rights of Palestinians living in the 1967 OPT and Palestinian refugees.”

Saturday, March 29, 2014

No prisoners release: US and EU reactions

Israel withheld the release of the 4th batch of Palestinian prisoners, as scheduled.

US expected reaction: it will exert pressure on Palestinians - the weaker side - as usual.

Whereas EU’s expected reaction: it will call - as usual - on “both sides” to show self-restraint, or to refrain from taking actions that could undermine peace talks. This is the classical scenario - even when Israel announces new settlement plans. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

US votes against human rights

Let’s make it clear: when the United States vetoes a draft UNSC resolution on Palestine, it vetoes the Charter of the United Nations.  

And when the US votes against a draft resolution - at UNGA or UNHRC - on human rights of Palestinians, it in fact votes against human rights altogether.

Only today, the UN Human Rights Council adopted four resolutions on Palestine; 46 members voted in favour and only one against. The US, in support of Israel, chose to vote against human rights. 

When Israel runs away from the UN General Assembly

Regardless of one’s view of the situation in Ukraine/Crimea.

The UN General Assembly adopted a Resolution on the “territorial integrity of Ukraine”. Ironically, Israel chose not to show up at the vote. It neither voted ‘yes’ nor did it vote ‘no’, nor did it even abstain. Obviously, any action would have condemned it. 

Here is the voting record:

Here is the text of UNGA Resolution on Ukraine. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

US “peace sponsor” role: Some observations

US role as a “peace sponsor” is striking, ill-balanced - to say the least.

The US exerted pressure over Arab leaders meeting in Kuwait not to issue a final communiqué at the end of the Summit – but a mere “declaration”.

Conversely, when Israel refused the peace initiative proposed by the Arab Summit of  Beirut in March 2002 it did not lift its eyebrows at Israel, to “pressure” it to accept the opening towards a global peace with the Arab countries. Sharon at that time reacted arrogantly that the Arab Summit initiative “was not worth the ink it was written with”.

US Secretary of State John Kerry cut short a visit to Rome to rush  to Amman for quick talks  with King Abdullah, in order to try to bring the parties closer together, and to keep the peace process on-going, at stake by  differences over the impending release by Israel of the last batch of pre-Oslo 1993 Palestinian detainees.

King Abdullah, regardless of the outcome, is not a basic component of the formula.

Kerry had asked President Mahmoud Abbas to send his top negotiator Saeb Ereikat to Rome, but Abbas refused, stressing “that he  would not discuss anything until the release of the 4th and last batch of prisoners”, originally scheduled for 29th March.

The agreement reached in July 2013 to launch bilateral peace talks, under US patronage, included the release on four stages of 104 Palestinian prisoners detailed since before Oslo Accords of 1993, against the suspension of all Palestinian demarches to join international bodies. If the first three batches of 26 prisoners each were released, Netanyahu’s Government, however, made it clear that it would cancel the 4th group, considering the “worsening of relations between the two sides”, with the date of ending the talks -  April  29 - is getting nearer.

Mahmoud Abbas indicated Israel’s bad intentions in a speech before Arab Summit this week in Kuwait which backed the Palestinian position, expressing its “total and frank refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state - a condition sine qua non posed by Netanyahu before any peace treaty.  “We don't need a new chain  of agreements that Israel would bury under many conditions, of reserves and interpretations before honouring its obligations”, Abbas stressed.

In the meantime, Israel Radio reports that US Administration might have suggested the release of Jonathan Pollard, accused of spying for Israel, in order to encourage Israel to go ahead with  the release of Palestinian prisoners and the renewal of bilateral talks. Regardless whether this is true or not, why should the occupier be granted incentives or rewards to carry out its obligations?

The US would have pressured the Palestinian side to accept the extension of the date of peace talks, beyond April 29, to get the release of the 4th batch of prisoners - meaning, each step expected from Israeli side (the stronger party) is attached to a “bill”  that should be honoured by Palestinians (the weaker party).

The meeting between Kerry and Abbas last  evening took  place nine days after Abbas visit  to the  White House where President Obama urged him to take “risks” for the sake of peace. Two weeks before, Obama had asked Netanyahu to take “tough decisions” considering the  approaching date of 29 April to reach a “framework agreement” on final status issues, namely: borders, settlements, security, status of Jerusalem, refugees. Nevertheless, Israel translated “tough decisions” by more settlement construction announcements – amid US silence, and EU “disappointment”, not even reaching deploration.

Western hypocrisy is yet more frustrating …

Palestinians had always placed more trust in Europe, because the Continent happens to be closer to our area geographically, and had twice  tried - before us - the bitter taste of occupation, namely during WWI and WWII.

US and European Governments are the last ones allowed to talk about international law.  They all erupted at Russia’s  “annexation”  of Crimea, calling for stepped-up sanctions. Crimeans were in favour of the “annexation”, let alone the fact that historically Crimea is part of Russian territory.

US and European leaders alas  seem to be oblivious of recent history. Hasn’t Israel unilaterally annexed Jerusalem in the aftermath of June 1967 war, against the will of its citizens, defying international law and legitimacy, and again the Syrian Golan Heights in 1981?  But who of them would dare point a finger of accusation at Israel?

Despite the “peace process”, the US abstained from pressuring Israel to halt building or expanding settlements in the oPt, in violation of international law. The US further never hesitates to veto draft Security Council resolutions in support of Israel. For example, in February 2011, 14 UNSC members voted in favour of a draft resolution that would have condemned illegal Israeli settlements, and only the US voted against it. Ironically, Russia is now being demonized for vetoing a draft Security Council resolution on Crimea ..

US role as a peace sponsor, peace-broker, therefore  cannot in any case be qualified as “honest” or “even-handed”.

Referring to the accusation that Russia, through its “annexation” of Crimea, infringed international law, Russian President  Putin has rightly commented: “It’s a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law – better late than never”.

It is most regretful to conclude these observations by underscoring the fact of double standards on the level of international community ...