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 ...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Western hypocrisy: Crimea and Israeli War Crimes

"The West hits Russia with sanctions for annexing Crimea, but it has yet to punish Israel for war crimes in Palestine.

The velocity with which the US and EU imposed economic sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea is equal to the mass of hypocrisy on Israel's creeping annexation of Palestinian land through colonial-settlement expansion."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Putin signs decree recognising Crimea as sovereign state

"Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday recognising Ukraine's Crimea region as a sovereign state, Russian news agencies cited the Kremlin press service as saying."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Crimeans Overwhelmingly Vote for Secession

Fireworks exploded and Russian flags fluttered above jubilant crowds Sunday after residents in Crimea voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

What 'century' is the US talking about?

“"In this century, we are long past the days when the international community will stand quietly by while one country forcibly seizes the territory of another," he said.” The same international community stands silent at Israel’s 46-year-old occupation of Palestinian territories and of the Syrian Golan Heights.