Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Stirling Council to Boycott Israeli Goods


Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Media Release

Wednesday 15th December 2010


Stirling Council became the latest local authority to support a campaign to boycott "Apartheid" Israel on Monday, after condemning Israel's "open aggression and disregard for International Law."

The motion by Labour Councillors Colin Finlay and John Hendry states, "Apartheid was not acceptable in South Africa and it is not acceptable in Palestine", and instructs procurement officers to "ensure future agreements and contracts boycott all Israeli goods".

Two of the 22 members on the SNP-led Council, both Conservative, opposed the motion.

Councillor Colin Finlay

Councillor Finlay, who helps run the Stirling branch of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), said he was delighted at the decision: "More and more Scottish councils are distancing themselves from Israel and its racist apartheid policies. Palestinians deserve our support, so I am delighted that Stirling is playing its part in the international boycott campaign. This is a significant step in the right direction."

Speaking from Palestine, SPSC Scottish Secretary, Sofiah Macleod said that Palestinians were "buoyed up" by this and other similar acts of solidarity. Just last week, Edinburgh Council rejected an attempt by Veolia to take over a range of public services in the city, after hearing evidence from Macleod of the French firm's involvement in Israel's illegal settlements. City leaders had also received legal advice that contacting Veolia could expose the local authority to "legal action for failing to take on board their obligation to recognise and comply with their duties and responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions and international law."


Notes for editors:

1. The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign started in autumn 2000 in response to the Palestinian second uprising against Israeli occupation (Intifada). The SPSC has branches and groups of supporters in several Scottish towns, cities, and universities, as well as individual members across Scotland and elsewhere.

For further information, contact:
SPSC Chair, Mick Napier: 0131 620 0052; 07958002591

Email: media@scottishpsc.org.uk (default reply to this email)
Website: www.scottishpsc.org.uk

2. Motion to Stirling Council, Monday 13th December 2010, Item 20(b) on the Agenda:

Blockade of Gaza
"Stirling Council condemns the Government of Israel for its continuing illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza. Council notes the heroic resilience of the people in these areas in the face of Israeli Defence Force's open aggression and disregard for International Law. Stirling Council recognises that Apartheid was not acceptable in South Africa and it is not acceptable in Palestine. This Council therefore resolves to reassess its current procurement arrangements and ensure future agreements and contracts boycott all Israeli goods. Council also agrees to write to all Scottish Local Authorities, Westminster and Holyrood Governments calling on them to implement an immediate boycott of all Israeli goods."

Signed by Councillor Colin Finlay and Councillor John Hendry

The motion was passed subject to the following being added: "within the legal framework set by the Geneva Convention and the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2006"

Sunday, 7 November 2010

East Jerusalem's Shu'fat Refugee Camp: "For All Practical Purposes, Ramallah"

East Jerusalem's Shu'fat Refugee Camp: "For All Practical Purposes, Ramallah"
By Ben White

Sister and brother Nada and Ahmad Anati in the Shu’fat refugee camp. Visible at bottom left is Israel’s apartheid wall, while illegal settlement buildings loom in the background. (Photo Ben White)

From routine clashes in the streets, to the talk of "final status issues" by international diplomats, Arab East Jerusalem continues to be at the center of the struggle in Palestine/Israel. In recent years, there have been some particularly prominent foci: right-wing Jewish settlers and the demolition of Palestinian homes in Silwan; evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah; Israel's apartheid wall in Abu Dis. Off the radar, however, there are many localized battles as Palestinians face an intensified Israeli regime of control and colonization.

One such place is the Shu'fat refugee camp. While the fact that it is the only Palestinian refugee camp in East Jerusalem makes it unique, Shu'fat's reality reflects a number of key Israeli strategies in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as a whole: it is surrounded by illegal Jewish-only colonies, choked by the wall and checkpoints, and considered "separate and unequal."

The camp dates back to 1965, when it was established on land from Shu'fat village. At the time, the refugees were being relocated from a camp in Jerusalem's Old City, but its residents originally came from dozens of villages in pre-1948 Palestine. UNRWA lists around 11,000 registered refugees in Shu'fat camp, but the population is now around 20,000. The area of the camp also has more than doubled in size over 40 years. As residents within the Israeli-defined Jerusalem municipality, most Palestinians living in Shu'fat camp hold Jerusalem ID (although some Palestinians with West Bank ID live in the camp). Yet conditions in the camp are a world away from the streets of West Jerusalem—overcrowding and sewage problems being just two examples.

On opposite sides of the camp are the Israeli settlements of Pisgat Ze'ev and French Hill. To the east, Shu'fat camp and the neighboring Palestinian village of Anata are hemmed in by an Israeli-controlled road, a military base, and the municipal boundaries of the enormous settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. Visit the camp today, though, and the most striking definition of the camp's outer limits is Israel's apartheid wall. Despite the fact that the camp is part of the Jerusalem municipality, the wall's route has been designed to leave Shu'fat on the "wrong" side, meaning the camp's residents share the same fate as some 50,000 Palestinians with Jerusalem IDs who now must cross military checkpoints in order to enter the city.

Shu’fat resident Dr. Salim Anati. (Photo Ben White)

Dr. Salim Anati, director of Shu'fat's Al-Quds Charitable Society for Disabled and Special Education, lives in the camp with his wife and six children. His community center is going through a financial crisis, and is now open only three days a week. Sitting in his living room, I see a bag of clothes that he's collected to take to the center.

Discussing the route of the apartheid wall, Salim explained that Israel's "great project is to make a continuity of settlements on the east side of Jerusalem, linking up Pisgat Ze'ev and French Hill. Shu'fat camp is a problem for this plan, because we are in the middle. So we'll be on the wrong side, though many of us have Jerusalem ID. But in a few years, Israel can turn around and say that those on the other side of the wall are no longer part of the city. The wall," he observed, "is intended to be a border."

Furthermore, construction work is proceeding on a new "crossing point" checkpoint outside the camp—the checkpoint was closed at night for three weeks in April for "structural improvements"—further consolidating restrictions on Shu'fat residents' freedom of movement. According to a report this year by the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the expansion of the Shu'fat checkpoint will mean it operates like the massive ones at Qalandiya, Zeitoun, and Gilo. Even the existing checkpoint is bad enough: as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) noted this year, it is "frequently closed arbitrarily" and the site of "incidents of harassment."

While, on the one hand, Shu'fat camp is being excluded and cut off from the city, Israeli authorities remain keen to flex their muscles in demonstrations of authority. One such example was a large-scale raid in February that went on for days, carried out by hundreds of police officers, border forces and municipal officials. Over the course of the operation, dozens of Palestinians (as many as 90, according to UNRWA) were detained, on charges including non-payment of taxes and stone-throwing. Local estimates were that of all those picked up during the first evening, all but one was under 18 years old. Salim Anati described how a cousin was in a shop buying chicken when soldiers came by, saw him, and took him. "For two days, the family didn't know his whereabouts," Salim said. "Then he was accused of throwing stones, and his family had to pay NIS 3,000 for his release." For Salim, the raid was all about "wanting to show that they are the main power and can do what they want."

Amir Cheshin, former senior advisor on "Arab Affairs" under Jerusalem mayors Teddy Kollek and Ehud Olmert, wrote that the raid reflected "sheer stupidity," and that while the camp is "in Jerusalem and under Israeli sovereignty," Shu'fat is, in fact, considered "external to the city." This interpretation is supported by the kind of remarks made in January by Yakir Segev, the Jerusalem city councilman responsible for the East Jerusalem portfolio, when he described Palestinian areas east of the apartheid wall as "no longer part of the city." The Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted Segev as saying that the hall was built for political and demographic reasons, not just for security, and that "the State of Israel has given up" with these neighborhoods "outside the jurisdiction of the state, and certainly the municipality." He added that "for all practical purposes, they are Ramallah."

In the spring of this year, when the talk was of a U.S.-Israeli "rift" centering on Israeli settlement construction in East Jerusalem, the city's mayor, Nir Barkat, and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were keen to drive home the same message: that Jerusalem is an "open" city, with equal rights for all, Jewish and Arab alike. This has been thoroughly debunked, however, particularly by the fact that Palestinians with East Jerusalem ID are prohibited by law from leasing Israel Land Administration-owned property—a category that includes the vast majority of land zoned for housing in West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem settlements.

Yet the Israeli government and Zionist lobby lie about "united Jerusalem" also is exemplified by the Shu'fat refugee camp, where thousands of the city's residents are being walled out by a barrier ostensibly intended for "security purposes" and face an uncertain future for themselves and their children. From Shu'fat's vantage point, it is easy to see why Salim Anati describes the peace process as "a joke."

"To be honest," he said, "I am deeply upset—and I have lost my hope. I don't think I will live in a free country. I remember my parents having this hope, and they died. My conclusion is that no one wants us to have our freedom—especially Arab countries. It's just propaganda, all this talk of human rights and independence."

From within one of many walled-in enclaves in occupied Palestine, this pessimism seems only justified.

Ben White is a free-lance journalist and the author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide (available from the AET Book Club).

Sunday, 24 October 2010

28 September 2010 marks ten years since the start of the Al Aqsa or second Palestinian Intifada. On that day in 2000, Likud leader General Ariel Sharon and his security goons invaded the area around the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in a deliberate act of provocation. During the next five days, 47 Palestinian protesters were killed and more than 200 wounded by Israeli forces. The ten years since have seen the deaths of over 6,500 Palestinians and the continued advancement of the Zionist project, with the construction of the Apartheid Wall and ongoing settlement expansion in the West Bank. But they have also seen the continued heroic resistance of the ordinary people of Palestine, a resistance that in part forced Israel to withdraw from Gaza. This unbroken struggle for Palestinian self-determination constantly threatens to ignite a wider battle of the poor and oppressed across the Middle East against the plans of imperialism for the region.

For imperialism, the crushing of the Palestinian resistance and the promotion of a pliant pro-imperialist Palestinian leadership have been the overriding objectives of their policies over the past ten years. In Mahmoud Abbas they have found their man. His recent characterisation of the Intifada as a ‘mistake’ which had ‘destroyed all that we built’ expresses his servility and that of a small coterie of Palestinian capitalists who exist as a parasitic layer on the backs of the mass of the Palestinian people. Bob Shepherd reports.

For the vast majority of Palestinian people, the Intifada was an outpouring of anger both at the expanding Israeli occupation and the failure of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) strategy for an independent Palestinian state. It was a continuation of the first Intifada in 1987, which was betrayed by the PLO leadership in the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. At Oslo, Yasser Arafat, Abbas and the rest of the PLO leadership renounced the Palestinians’ right to armed struggle against the suffocating and brutal Israeli occupation. The main issues for ordinary Palestinians, such as the status of East Jerusalem, the expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees, were all fudged at Oslo, to be discussed and agreed on within a five-year period. As we wrote at the start of the second Intifada:

‘The [Oslo] Agreement was the diktat of a victorious colonial power, brokered by its staunchest ally, US imperialism. Arafat and the PLO not only capitulated, but worse, they proclaimed the disaster to be a victory, one which would guarantee the Palestinian people their own state. In reality…the Palestinian Authority (PA)…was a mechanism to get the PLO to police the Palestinian people on behalf of the Zionists. As Arafat was obliged to declare at the time, “PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance to prevent violations and discipline violators”. It was to be no empty promise; by 1995 he had built up a repressive apparatus with eight or nine different forces, numbering 50,000. Its cost of $500m per year left nothing to be spent on health or education. From the outset, the PA co-operated closely with the Zionist occupation forces, arresting and torturing Hamas and Jihad supporters as well as other opponents of the PA; many have died in PA custody.’ (FRFI No 158, December 2000/January 2001)

Seventeen years after Oslo and an endless succession of ‘peace talks’, East Jerusalem is still occupied, settlements are still expanding and refugees are still denied the right of return. The latest talks in this charade are still following an agenda set by the US in the interests of Israel, where nothing of any substance that benefits the Palestinians will be agreed.

Abbas and Fatah, pro-imperialist collaborators

As the second Intifada progressed, so the role of Fatah, the dominant force within the PLO, became more and more insignificant as a resistance force and more and more embroiled in corruption and collaboration with the occupying Israeli forces. Armed groups that were loosely associated with Fatah, the Al Aqsa Brigades and the Tanzim, were ‘beheaded’ by Israel through targeted assassinations or by detaining their leaders, the most prominent of these being Marwan Barghouti. The PA then did its bit by persuading remaining members to hand in their weapons and offering them jobs within the PA. Abbas, as the leader of Fatah following the death of Arafat, has led the organisation on the path to open collaboration with Israel. The PA in the West Bank is now nothing more than a Quisling government whose main job is to crush resistance.

The latest round of US-sponsored talks that began on 2 September 2010 has been condemned by almost all Palestinian groups that are not part of the PA. The response of Abbas and his security forces has been more repression. At the end of August, a conference in Ramallah of left and independent forces against the talks was broken up by PA thugs. On 31 August, four Israeli settlers were killed near Hebron, an action claimed by Hamas in opposition to the talks. Over the next week PA security forces arrested over 750 Hamas supporters in a clamp-down in the West Bank with many detainees claiming they were tortured. On 17 September Israeli forces assassinated Iyad Shelbaiya, a leader of Hamas’s armed wing in Tulkarm in the West Bank. His murder was condemned by all resistance forces. Islamic Jihad blamed both the PA and Israel, and said ‘a joint security campaign...waged against the people and their fighters...ended with the Israeli occupation’s crime of executing fighter Shelbaiya, one of Al Qassam Brigade’s leaders in the West Bank.’

Since the Oslo Agreement a parasitic Palestinian bourgeoisie based in the West Bank has grown up which makes its money not from producing anything but from the importation and sale of goods from Israel. It is their class interests that the PA and Fatah represent. Palestinian writer Khalil Nakhleh perceptively describes in Al Ahram Weekly (2 September 2010) how this comprador capitalist class is completely dependent on the continued Israeli occupation:

‘The “Oslo-induced” national economy is, by and large, nothing more than a national warsheh (workshop) of consumption. Here, we are trained in the most effective methods of how to consume goods and products that have been produced by others and imported to us through a network of dealerships, fancy marketing schemes and the generous availability of credit… This is what Zionist Israel encourages, what donors and funding agencies push for and reward, and what our capitalists, big and small, old and new, welcome with open arms … A very dependent and empty miniature fiefdom of self-rule under continued occupation is where the profits are.’ (See also FRFI 170 December 2002/ January 2003: Class and the national liberation struggle in Palestine.)

Hamas, leading force of Palestinian resistance

As Fatah has become compromised by its collaboration with the Israeli occupation forces, so Hamas has been prepared to express the interests of the poor and become the leading force in the resistance. Hamas was formed by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in December 1987 at the start of the first Intifada, in part to bridge the gap between the role of the MB as a religious organisation which abstained from political activity and the need to represent its constituency of the poor who suffered under the Israeli occupation. The MB was mostly financed by Saudi Arabia, and its activities in Palestine had been tolerated and to a certain degree encouraged by Israel as a counterweight to the secular PLO. In 1986 the then Israeli Military Governor of Gaza, General Segev, said: ‘We extend some financial aid to Islamic groups via mosques and religious schools in order to create a force that would stand against the leftist forces which support the PLO.’

During the first Intifada, Hamas opposed the PLO-linked Unified National Leadership (UNL), which was leading the Intifada and organising popular committees, days of strike action and other actions against the occupation. Instead Hamas organised its own actions and sometimes attacked those called by the UNL. Following the Oslo Agreement, the left, secular forces in the PLO, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) proved unwilling to challenge the PLO leadership’s drive to collaboration, and Hamas filled the gap, evolving into an Islamic revolutionary nationalist organisation, which has been able to organise the poor and lead the resistance to the occupation. Its role in Gaza in defeating the pro-imperialist coup attempt by Fatah in June 2007 was a defining moment for the Palestinian resistance. The failure of the PFLP and other left forces in Palestine to unequivocally oppose the Fatah coup attempt further undermined their ability to build mass support amongst the poor and oppressed, and they remain marginalised.

British support for Israel

The 1997-2010 Labour government ensured consistent British support for Israel no matter what atrocities it carried out: ‘In the early days of the Intifada, Labour distinguished itself by refusing to condemn the extreme violence of the Israeli army when it came before the UN Security Council. In April [2001], Britain abstained when the UN Security Council voted on a motion to send an international observer force (armed with notebooks and pencils). Although the US vetoed it, the fact that Britain and other European countries on the Council abstained encouraged Sharon to believe he could escalate the war without fear of retaliation.’ (FRFI 161 June/July 2001)

In 2006, when Hamas won an overwhelming victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections, Labour was in the forefront of implementing economic sanctions against the new Hamas-controlled PLC. Jack Straw declared that the EU ‘doesn’t want to punish the Palestinian people for their votes at all ... On the other hand the Palestinian people need to say to any Hamas government that democracy involves responsibilities and above all a responsibility not to get involved in violence’. Britain was also involved in the imprisonment of Ahmad Sa’adat, General Secretary of the PFLP, and the subsequent collusion in allowing Israel to attack the gaol in March 2006 to seize Sa’adat and four of his comrades.

In July 2006, when Israel invaded Lebanon, the British government, alongside the US, blocked the UN Security Council from passing any resolution calling for a ceasefire; it was to do the same after Israel launched its 2008-09 blitzkrieg on Gaza. When Blair visited Beirut in September 2006 Galeb Abu Zeinab, a leading member of Hizbullah, said:

‘Blair was a true partner in the killing of children and the destruction of thousands of homes, if he hadn’t fully supported the US-Israeli position the war would not have happened in the way it did…He is a full partner in the atrocities and I think he should be prosecuted as a war criminal alongside Bush and Olmert.’

Solidarity in Britain

From early on in the Intifada, large and militant protests took place in Britain in support of the Palestinian people, involving tens of thousands of young working class Muslims. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters organised pickets of Marks and Spencer up and down the country as a focus for a wider Boycott Israel movement. Yet the official solidarity movement – the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and Stop the War Coalition attempted first to control and then to undermine independent solidarity activity. The result has been the emergence of organisations like the International Solidarity Movement, Smash EDO!, the Free Gaza Movement and the Boycott Israel Network, all made up of people whose solidarity actions have been frustrated over the years by the PSC. The PSC also opposed our Boycott M&S campaign, often, like the Zionists, calling it ‘anti-Semitic’. More recently, the PSC has done nothing to defend the 100 or so overwhelmingly Muslim protestors who were arrested months after the January 2009 protests against the assault on Gaza, about 20 of whom have received gaol sentences of up to 30 months.

The position of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! is clear: the heroic example set by the Palestinian people in confronting the overwhelming odds of the imperialist-backed Israeli occupation demands that we build a militant solidarity movement calling for the complete isolation of the racist Zionist state of Israel. That movement must oppose the imperialist Labour Party, and cannot rely on the ineffective trade union movement in Britain for support. It has to go out on the streets and build amongst those who have an instinctive solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and those who will be feeling the effects of the growing economic crisis of imperialism.

10 years of Intifada: 10 years of repression, 10 years of resistance

• From 29 September 2000 to 30 July 2010 figures produced by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) show that the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has killed 6,545 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. 1,315 were children, 32 were medical personnel, 11 were journalists and 15 were international supporters. The IDF has also wounded 30,545.

• Figures produced by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) show that between 2001 and the end of July 2010 approximately 13,130 houses have been demolished by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian human rights organisation Al Mezan reports that, from the start of the Intifada up till the end of 2009, 5,687 homes were totally destroyed in Gaza, and 13,143 were partially destroyed by Israel, affecting a total of 181,505 people. ICAHD says that 4,247 houses were destroyed in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, 6,261 heavily damaged and 8,501 suffered medium damage. PCHR shows that Israel has destroyed approximately 14% of Gaza’s farmland during the Intifada, a total of 48,052 hectares.

• In the West Bank there are now more than 200 settlements connected to one another and to Israel by an elaborate network of roads – over 500km – that Palestinians of the West Bank are not allowed to use. 65% of main roads in the West Bank are controlled by Israeli forces. There are 600 permanent road blocks staffed by the Israeli army and 60-80 flying check points as well. One third of the West Bank is inaccessible to Palestinians without a permit. Over 42.8% of the West Bank is now controlled by the settlements. The Apartheid Wall in the West Bank, begun in 2002, is now over 60% complete. In 2004 it was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice.

• According to human rights organisation Addameer there were 6,408 Palestinian political prisoners being held in Israeli jails in July 2010. 281 are children under 18 years. 200 are administrative detainees (including two children and five PLC members), held without charge or trial. Since 1967 over 800,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel, including 15,000 women (uruknet.info).

2006 Invasion of Lebanon

One of the greatest Zionist crimes during the ten years of the Intifada was Israel’s 2006 onslaught on Lebanon. After Palestinian resistance groups captured an Israeli soldier in Gaza in July 2006, Israel launched a deadly assault on civilians in Gaza and implemented the crippling blockade which is still in effect today. As a gesture of solidarity, Hizbullah forces launched an attack on Israeli forces along the border with Lebanon and captured two Israeli soldiers. The Zionists responded with a blitzkrieg on the people of Lebanon, bombing residential areas of Beirut where Hizbullah supporters, mainly poor working class Lebanese, lived. The murderous assault left over 1,300 Lebanese dead, over one million refugees and destroyed infrastructure in large parts of the Shi’a areas of Lebanon. However, imperialism’s attempt to restructure the Middle East in its own interests and destroy all resistance failed: Hizbullah forces were not defeated, and they forced Israel out of much of Lebanon. Hizbullah had mass support: ‘Palestinian militants from the refugee camps in Lebanon and fighters from Amal and the Lebanese Communist Party supported it militarily. Surveys showed that as the Israeli attack intensified support for Hizbullah rose to over 80% amongst all sections of Lebanese society.’ (Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 193) As Israeli forces withdrew, they left hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs in the border area to prevent people they had forcibly displaced from returning to their farms and villages.

Mark Moncada

10 Years of M&S Boycott

In October 2000, days after the start of the second Palestinian Intifada, Manchester Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! joined with a group of Muslim students called Green Ribbon and students from Manchester University to picket Marks & Spencer because of its support for Zionism and its huge trade with Israel. London FRFI supporters quickly followed the example and set up a regular demonstration urging people to boycott M&S outside its flagship store on Oxford Street, Britain’s busiest shopping street. Since then, pickets of M&S have been held in Birmingham, Brighton, Dundee, Durham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leicester, Lincoln, Liverpool, Middlesborough, Newcastle, Nottingham, Rochdale, Stockton Stratford-Upon-Avon and other towns.

The demonstrators faced harassment from M&S, the police, local councils and Zionist organisations. In 2002 Manchester City Council attempted to close the picket down: two picketers were charged with obstructing the highway and affixing material to council property, but the pickets carried on. In December 2004 nine picketers were arrested and charged after defying a ban that the police issued for two weeks over the Christmas period using Section 14 of the Public Order Act. Manchester’s pickets were regularly attacked by Zionists in collusion with the police. In London, continuous attempts by Zionists to stop the Oxford Street pickets failed. However, in 2003 the police sent in the Forward Intelligence Team to try to frighten the picketers away and used the Public Order Act against the VTI demonstration. Two protestors were illegally arrested in April 2004 for using a megaphone after being ordered not to do so by the police. The charges were subsequently dropped.

FRFI has also organised Rolling Pickets taking in different shops selling Israeli or Caterpillar goods in London, Manchester and Newcastle and we have supported actions against Ahava and H&M and taken part in demonstrations against the EDO arms company.

Why Boycott M&S?

• Of all the British retail companies M&S has maintained the strongest and most long-standing support for Zionism and the state of Israel, not just with its trade but also with contributions to Zionist organisations such as World Ort.

• M&S supports Israel with over £200 million in trade every year, with the M&S brand socks, underwear and lingerie supplied mainly by Israeli textile giant Delta Galil (Corporate Watch, 2009). Israeli suit manufacturer Bagir ‘outfits 1 in 6 UK men, mainly through Marks and Spencer.” (Israel 21c, 28 April 2008).

• M&S buys dates from well-known illegal settlement exporter Hadiklaim, though this contract prohibits purchase from Palestinian Territories (Profundo 2009) and M&S stocks grapes, lychees, figs, plums, dates, fresh herbs, sweet potatoes and potatoes from Israeli state-owned Agrexco, another settlement exporter (Palestine Israel Ethical Shopping Initiative, 2008).

Fiona Donovan

One State solution

Palestine: one-state ‘solution’ the only possibility remaining

Ten years after the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada, Israel’s intransigence is unabated as it continues enforcing the barbaric siege of Gaza, bulldozing homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, constructing the apartheid wall and building ever-more homes in illegal settlements, all of which are making talks about a two-state solution increasingly farcical.

With this as the backdrop, the so-called Washington ‘peace’ talks can be seen as nothing more than another cynical attempt at diversion from the Israeli-created ‘facts on the ground’. One more attempt to cast the US as the ‘peace broker’ in the Middle East while allowing Israel to continue its colonisation and occupation of Palestine.

Yet while the ‘peace’ talks are doomed to fail from the start, the opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine continues to gain strength, whether it be from the departure of the fifth convoy now en route to break the siege of Gaza or the six million strong TUC unanimously resolving to boycott Israeli settlement goods and to denounce the role of the Histadrut in the Gaza massacre of 2008/09.

Peace talks a joke from the start

The beginning of September saw the same Israeli and Palestinian stooges lined up as those that failed in the last attempt at talks almost 20 months ago. The four stooges and their imperialist master, collectively posing as peace negotiators, were described by Matthew Cassel as “a dictator [Mubarak of Egypt], a Monarch [King Abdullah Il Bin al-Hussein of Jordan], a puppet [Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority] and two heads of government responsible for the region’s only military occupations [Obama of the US and Netanyahu of Israel] – not the best ingredients for making world peace”. (Washington peace talks: democracy need not apply, electronicintifada.net, 15 September 2010)

For Mahmoud Abbas to attend ‘peace talks’ while 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are being collectively punished in a siege the UN has called medieval, while making no demand for Israel to end the blockade only confirms that he does not and cannot legitimately call himself a representative of the Palestinian people and their rights.

Hamas excluded from talks

The obvious missing component to any peace talks between Palestine and Israel is the elected representative of the Palestinian people, namely Hamas.

Hamas has made it clear that it is prepared to talk with Israel and that it is prepared to recognise the 1967 borders as a state of Palestine. It is not prepared to do so unconditionally, however, demanding that Israel make some small gesture of willingness to abide by international law and UN resolutions.

Since 2009, Khaled Meshaal, chairman of Hamas, has reiterated that the organisation “is prepared to cooperate with the US in promoting a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict if the White House can secure an Israeli settlement freeze and a lifting of the economic and military blockade of the Gaza Strip”. (‘Hamas chief outlines terms for talks on Arab-Israeli peace’, Wall Street Journal, 31 July 2009)

Clearly, no such requirements have been set prior to Israel engaging in the current talks. The US, as ‘peace broker’, has made no attempt at pressurising Israel to fulfil such prerequisites. Indeed, the opposite is true, and pressure has come to bear on the Palestinian side. Mahmoud Abbas had originally echoed the demands set out by Hamas as prerequisite for peace talks, but subsequently dropped them and is now sitting down to talks with Israel while 1.7m Palestinians are being held in an open prison and settlement building is set to accelerate.

It is not only these prerequisites that prevent Hamas from attending the peace talks but also the failure by Israel, the US and even the Palestinian Authority, to recognise Hamas as the elected representative of the Palestinian people. However, as Ali Abunimah, the founder of the Electronic Intifada, pointed out recently, “Palestinians don’t get to choose who the Israeli leaders are. And if they did, I wouldn’t choose the current array of Israeli leaders. I’m not saying that Hamas represents all Palestinians, but it does represent a significant proportion and it’s simply unrealistic to pretend they don’t exist, or worse, try to destroy them.” (‘Can ignoring Hamas lead to Israeli-Palestinian peace?’ The Christian Science Monitor, 16 September 2010)

Continuing to exclude Hamas will not advance peace in Palestine. As Khaled Meshaal outlined in a recent interview: “The Palestinian Authority cannot reach a solution with the Israelis without the approval of the majority. Any rightful representatives of the people will advocate for, and not disregard, the Palestinian people’s ambitions and legitimate rights.

“In short, the West will discover sooner or later that any solution that will not fulfil the rights of the Palestinian people will not be successful and will not be implemented. In that very particular instance, when they finally decide to respect the desires and ambitions of the Palestinian people, they will decide to engage with the Hamas movement.” (‘Hamas chief weighs in on eve of peace talks’, sabbah.biz, 10 September 2010)

‘Moratorium’ on illegal building?

One of the big issues that has become the main focus of the ‘peace talks’ is the impending end of the ‘moratorium’ on settlement-building activity.

First, a glaring omission in most reports is that the building of jewish settlements (in reality, fortified outposts peopled with gung-ho, machine-gun-wielding zionist extremists) in occupied Palestine is illegal under international law. According to the fourth Geneva Convention, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” This has been confirmed by several United Nations resolutions (904, 465, 452 and 466) and by the International Court of Justice.

The temporary and partial halt on construction of houses within these illegal settlements, which has been held up by imperialist media and politicians as a great and magnanimous gesture of goodwill on Israel’s part, is nothing more than window-dressing for a great criminal act, one whose innocuous title covers a multitude of barbaric oppressive crimes (including land theft; demolition of Palestinian houses, crops, olive and citrus groves; ethnic cleansing; constant harassment and frequent murder of local Palestinians, including children; separation of Palestinians from their fields, families, places of work and education, from their sources of water and general means of life).

From the start of the talks it has been clear that Netanyahu has had no intention of extending the moratorium. Indeed, his position in power is somewhat dependent on the moratorium ending, given that his coalition partners have made it clear that their support for the government hinges upon the government permitting construction to recommence with full force within the occupied territories.

There has been some vague notion tabled by Netanyahu of a ‘tacit freeze’ that would allow ‘only’ a few houses to be built. However, these ‘few’ houses would in fact amount to almost 13,000 across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. According to Settlement Watch, some 2,066 housing units have been granted the required ‘permits’ and work has already begun, while an additional 11,000 units have received permissions but works have yet to commence. (See ‘Settler housing plan threatens Mideast talks’, Financial Times, 13 September 2010)

Currently, over half a million Israelis live in the occupied territories in some 120 illegal settlements spread throughout the West Bank. The settlements have already swallowed up large areas of land within the occupied territories, on top of which a network of jewish-only roads have carved up the land left to Palestinians into ever diminishing and isolated Bantustans.

This is further exacerbated by the continued demolition of Palestinian homes. Since 1967, over 24,000 houses have been demolished by Israel in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD) works with Palestinians to resist these flagrant attacks on Palestinian land and homes, from direct action on sites where demolitions are taking place to assisting in reconstruction of homes.

Two-state solution increasingly untenable

With an end to the construction moratorium, the balance of land ownership in the occupied territories is set to shift even further away from the Palestinian people. Robert Grenier is one of a growing number of voices now pointing out that “the idea of a two-state solution in Palestine is finished. Israeli settlements in the West Bank and their attendant infrastructure have made a viable and independent Palestinian state impossible. The settlements, moreover, cannot be undone. Their existence obviates the need for formal Israeli annexation: The de-facto annexation of the West Bank has already taken place. The only remaining solution is a single, unified, bi-national state.” (‘Netanyahu’s “catastrophic success”’, aljazeera.net, 19 September 2010)

Indeed, although the Israelis continue with their plan quietly to annexe the entire West Bank, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert himself pointed out the inherent danger in this expansionism after the Annapolis talks in 2007: “if the day comes when the two-state solution collapses and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished”. (Quoted in ‘The spectre of the one-state solution’, Asia Times Online, 21 September 2010)

Yet Israel ploughs on with its expansion regardless, apparently unable to stop hammering the nails into its own coffin.

Ten years after the start of the second Intifada, and over 60 years since the occupation of the Palestine by Israel, there is no reason to believe that the defiance and steadfastness of the Palestinian people is now about to crumble.

Until such time as the genuine aspirations and legitimate rights of all Palestinians – in Israel, in the occupied territories and in the refugee camps across the Middle East – are recognised, the resistance to occupation will continue.

British opposition to occupation gains strength

As the Palestinian struggle for self-determination continues, our responsibility within the imperialist heartlands to oppose the occupation and give solidarity to our brothers and sisters in Palestine is as important as ever.

It is with this that the unanimously supported resolution to boycott Israeli goods at the TUC congress marks a step forward for the trade union movement in Britain.

TUC passes boycott motion

At this year’s annual Trades Union Congress, the Transport Salaried Staff’s Association (TSSA) put forward the motion to boycott and disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

The motion stated: “Congress instructs the General Council to work closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to actively encourage affiliates, employers and pension funds to disinvest from, and boycott the goods of, companies who profit from illegal settlements, the Occupation and the construction of the Wall.”

The motion passed unanimously, marking a further swell in grass-roots support for Palestine among union members. Last year’s landmark resolution, although very similar, the first of its kind to be passed by the TUC, was weaker, and generated much hostility from a certain pro-Israel section among the delegates.

Although stopping short of the call for a boycott of all Israeli goods, the fact that the motion was passed unanimously reflects the increasing opposition to Israel’s occupation, and can also be seen as one more achievement of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, the barbaric Israeli attack on which so exposed the Israeli regime in May this year. In the words of the motion:

“The actions of the Israeli military, under the orders of their government, in mounting a deadly assault on activists on the Mavi Marmara and other ships seeking to take humanitarian aid to Gaza, is particularly condemned.”

As Hugh Lanning, PSC chairman pointed out: “It is a massive step forward in the movement for justice for the Palestinian people, and reflects growing public anger at Israel’s aggression towards the Palestinians and those, such as the humanitarians on the Gaza aid flotilla, who try to help them.” (‘TUC vote to extend Israel boycott’, Jewish Chronicle online, 14 September 2010)

The motion also for the first time condemned the Histadrut, the Israeli TUC, for giving support to Israel’s attack on the Gaza flotilla, although it failed to go as far as the University College Union national conference had done early this year in May 2010 when it voted to ‘sever all relations’ with this bastion of Israeli apartheid.

“Congress furthermore condemns the Histadrut statement of 31 May, which sought to justify the Israeli action, and the failure of the Histadrut to condemn settlement construction. Congress endorses the 3 June 2010 statement of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions, criticising the Histadrut and calling for an immediate end to the military blockade on Gaza and for a full independent inquiry into the attack on the Mavi Marmara.”

Viva Palestina convoy and flotilla

While the TUC were resolving to step up the boycott against Israeli settlement goods, Britain’s Viva Palestina embarked upon its landmark fifth convoy to Gaza to break the siege. Vehicles left London at the same time as two other convoys were leaving from Casablanca in North Africa and Doha in the Middle East. The three convoys are set to converge on the Rafah crossing from Egypt into Gaza in early October.

Clearly, Israel’s massacre aboard the Mavi Marmara has had the opposite effect to that intended: rather than quell people’s support for the Palestinian struggle, it has galvanised them into bigger and bolder actions aimed at breaking the blockade and showing solidarity with the besieged people of Gaza.

On 18 September, the anniversary of the Israeli massacre at Sabra and Chatila in 1982, the London section of the latest land convoy, dubbed ‘A Global Lifeline to Gaza’, left from the Thames Embankment. It is set to pick up over 100 additional vehicles as it crosses Europe and the Middle East, and hopes to be the largest and most international aid convoy yet taken to Gaza.

The vehicles are carrying medical equipment, educational supplies and the building materials needed to rebuild a destroyed mosque, a school for orphans and a maternity facility in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.

Viva Palestina’s founder, George Galloway, is once again leading the land convoy. He has already received a statement from a spokesperson from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry that he will not be allowed into the country. In response, Galloway has made the following statement:

“I am currently leading a huge international effort to break the siege on the Gaza Strip, imposed by Israel and its allies to punish the people for how they voted in a free, democratic election. The convoy will travel through France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Syria and thence by ship to Al Arish. It will be joined by convoys which set out on the same day from the Gulf and from North Africa ...

“I am already forbidden to enter Palestine by Israel. If I am now unable to enter through Egypt this amounts to an exile from Palestine, a country I have struggled for these last 35 years and which is deep in my heart. I ask my friends in Egypt to do all they can to persuade the government to change this decision. Meanwhile, I will continue with my responsibilities to get the convoy of desperately needed aid through, and try to break the siege on Gaza. Long live Palestine, free, Arab, dignified.”

Given the trouble that the Viva Palestina Lifeline 3 convoy faced when it attempted to enter Egypt last December, there is no reason to think that Egypt’s willingness to allow the convoy through will be any better this year. Equally, following the total western media blackout surrounding Lifeline 3, it is incumbent upon all of us in the imperialist heartlands to spread the word far and wide that the convoy is taking place and to do what we can to raise the profile of the campaign.

In breaking the siege on Gaza, the convoy is not only bringing much needed aid to the Palestinians in Gaza, it is also showing Israel and the world we will not stand by and allow the siege to succeed in its aims.

Flotilla raid declared ‘unlawful’

Meanwhile, as we go to press, the UN’s probe into Israel’s murderous attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla has given its verdict.

In a report that condemned the “incredible violence” of the Israeli commandoes who boarded the boats, the UN-appointed human rights experts said that there was “clear evidence to support prosecutions” against Israel for the “wilful killing” and torture that left eight Turkish and one Turkish-American solidarity activists dead, and many more badly wounded and traumatised.

“The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence,” said the report.

The UN’s verdict only confirms what right-thinking people have known all along: that Israel “betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality” and violated international law, “including international humanitarian and human rights law”.

The three-member panel reaffirmed that Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip is unlawful, and that Israel therefore has no right to be intercepting ships bound for its coastline.

The report also rejected Israel’s assertion that its forces acted in self-defence when they raided the flotilla, since it found that even those who did not attempt to stop Israeli soldiers from boarding the aid ships “received injuries, including fatal injuries”.

“It is apparent that no effort was made to minimise injuries at certain states of the operation and that the use of live fire was done in an extensive and arbitrary manner. The circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution.” (All info taken from ‘Israel flotilla raid was unlawful’, Aljazeera.net, 23 September 2010)

These findings throw into sharp relief the pro-Israeli propaganda efforts of the British media, and of the BBC in particular (see the article on Panorama elsewhere in this issue), and remind us once again of the extraordinary complicity of the western media in the war crimes of imperialism and its agents in Palestine and elsewhere.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

East Jerusalem

“The 75 km Wall being built in East Jerusalem is an instrument of social engineering designed to achieve the Judaization of Jerusalem by reducing the number of Palestinians in the city.”

Professor John Dugard, UN Special Rapporteur

East Jerusalem: The Facts

- A 2006 study estimated that 62% of Palestinians in East Jerusalem live in poverty, as compared with 23% of Jewish families in East Jerusalem.
- In 2005 the Arab and Jewish birthrates in Jerusalem were equivalent at 3.9 children per woman.
- In the first three years of occupation, Israel confiscated 18270 dunums (18,27 sq kms) of Palestinian land.
- By 1991 that number had reached 23378 dunums (23,4 sq kms).
- By 2007, the Wall resulted in the confiscation of land belonging to 19.2% of Palestinian families in Jerusalem.
- From 1967 until the end of 2006, Israel had revoked the residency rights of around 8,269 Palestinian Jerusalemites.

East Jerusalem

In the 1947 UN Partition Plan (See rear inside cover in the PDF) Jerusalem was declared a ‘corpus separatum’ to be placed under a special international regime administered by the UN. The UN Partition Plan was not accepted by Palestinians, nor the larger Arab world, resulting in the 1948 war in which Israel captured up to 85% of the city, primarily in the west, while the Jordanian army held onto 11% primarily in the east. The remaining 4% was considered ‘no man’s land’.

64,000-80,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes in West Jerusalem and 40 of the surrounding villages, which were destroyed by Israeli forces to preclude the return of their inhabitants. The property, homes and possessions of Palestinians who fled were considered ‘left’ by the previous inhabitants under Israel’s 1950 Absentee Property Law and transferred to the Israeli state.

The remaining 15% of Jerusalem, including the ‘Old City’, remained in the hands of Palestinians until it too was captured by Israel in the war of 1967. After having ‘unified’ the city, Israel began to implement a complex series of policies and regulations meant to control or expel the remaining Palestinian population, so as to build a strong Jewish majority in the city.

In 1980, the Israeli government officially annexed East Jerusalem by amending the “Basic Law” to extend Israeli jurisdiction to the occupied area of the city. This act unofficially, but quite effectively, severed the remainder of the city from Palestinians living in either the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Travel to and from East Jerusalem today requires special permits from the Israeli authority which are often difficult or impossible to get for the majority of Palestinians.

The annexation of Jerusalem by Israel has had two important consequences for Palestinians revolving around culture and economics. Culturally and historically Jerusalem was the original capital of Islam, where the Prophet Mohammed not only began his ministry, but from where he also ascended to heaven. After the center of Islam moved to the Arabian Peninsula, Jerusalem, or ‘Al Quds’ as it is known in Arabic, remained its third most holy site.

Economically, the severing of Jerusalem from Palestine can be likened to the removal of the hub of a bicycle wheel. The cities of Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Nablus to name only a few, developed as suburbs over time like the spokes of a wheel - all connected to and dependant upon Jerusalem as the center of trade and commerce. The removal of the hub has left each of the spokes disconnected and economically impotent - greatly hampering the economic development of the occupied Palestinian territories.

East Jerusalem Ring Road map

Despite international law, and the implications that Jerusalem has for the viability of a future Palestinian state, Israel has thus far refused to put the city on the negotiating table. Many believe that this is not politically feasible in an Israeli politic in which small, extreme or religious parties are given great power in the coalition building process - powers which are effectively able to veto any negotiations or even collapse a coalition-building process as was done in October 2008.

Meanwhile it is highly unlikely that any Palestinian leader would be able to sign an accord which does not include East Jerusalem in a Palestinian state as it would exacerbate the economic challenges of state-building and deliver a heavy blow to the pride of not only Palestinians, but the entirety of the Muslim and Christian world.

Land Confiscation

In the 1949 Armistice Agreement Jerusalem was divided between Israel in the West and the Jordanian East Jerusalem. In 1950 the ‘Absentee Proberty Law’ was passed transferring all property considered ‘abandoned’ during the war, to the Israeli state. In the late 1980’s a number of properties in Silwan and the Muslim Quarter in the Old City were turned over to the Custodian for Absentee Property, and then to a settler organization.

In June 1967, Israel unilaterally expanded the boundaries of Jerusalem by annexing some 70 sq kms to the municipal boundaries of the West Bank area and evicting “over 6,000 Palestinians from the Old City’s Mughrabi Quarter (…) in order to create a plaza in front of Al-Buraq (the Western Wall)”.

Following the Six-Day War and the annexing of Palestine, Jerusalem was declared capital of Israel. This prompted the UN GA to pass a resolution (2253), which ordered Israel “to desist forthwith from taking any action which would alter the status of Jerusalem”. However Israel, in the first three years of occupation, confiscated 18270 dunums (18,27 sq kms) of Palestinian land - by 1991 that number had reached 23378 dunums (23,4 sq kms).

The construction of the separation Wall is also important in terms of land confiscation. By 2007, the Wall resulted in the confiscation of land belonging to 19.2% of Palestinian families in Jerusalem. Over the course of the occupation, Israel has expropriated over 60,000 dunums (60 sq kms) of Palestinian land in occupied East Jerusalem, all of which have been converted exclusively to Jewish use. This amounts to roughly 86,5% of the total land area of occupied East Jerusalem.

House Demolition

According to the Fourth Geneva Convention as signed by Israel, an Occupying Power is prohibited from destroying property or making use of collective punishment. Article 53 states that; “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, to the State, to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations”. East Jerusalem is regarded ‘occupied territory’ by the United Nations, therefore, the practice of demolishing Palestinian houses is not legal.

Israeli law, however, differs. Construction, built without an Israeli permit is considered illegal. In large parts of East Jerusalem no building permits are obtainable due to the inability to meet the conditions required. The Municipality notes that NIS 185 million is required to “promote conditions for construction in the eastern city,” and to provide infrastructure that will enable building permits to be issued. The Municipality was given NIS 9 million, but so far, no project has been launched.

Many Palestinian Jersusalemites choose to construct buildings without permits, which provides the Ministry of Interior and the Jerusalem Municipality the judicial pretext to demolish their homes.

It is to be noted that illegal constructions are being built in West Jerusalem, but demolition of these are seldom carried out and “if they are actually carried out, are committed against minor structures – balconies, sheds, staircases and so on – while in East Jerusalem most demolitions are of entire dwellings and multi-storey apartment buildings.”

Residency & ID

From 1967 until the end of 2006, Israel had revoked the residency rights of around 8,269 Palestinian Jerusalemites. Losing residency means losing the right to live in Jerusalem, access to social services and the right to travel within and out of Israel.

Jerusalem IDs were issued to Palestinian Jerusalemites in 1967 when they refused to accept Israeli citizenship following the occupation of East Jerusalem. This would have required them to take an oath of allegiance to the Israeli state and would have meant the de facto acceptance of the occupation.

Jerusalem IDs entitle Palestinian Jerusalemites to all the social and economic rights granted to Israeli citizens. They are allowed to work, travel and reside anywhere in Israel. However, Palestinian ‘permanent residents’ of Jerusalem are not entitled to an Israeli passport and they are not allowed to participate in Israeli national elections. They do have the right to participate in Jerusalem municipal elections, but most residents choose not to, as a principled protest over the Israeli controlled East Jerusalem.

Jerusalem under International Law

Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem in June 1967 and extended Israeli law, jurisdiction, and administration to this part of the city. In 1980, the Knesset passed the Basic Law, which declared Jerusalem the Capital of Israel, including East Jerusalem. In response to Israel’s expansion of the Jerusalem borders, UNSCR 252 of 1968 states that the Security Council “Considers that all legisla-tive measures by Israel, including expropriation of land and properties thereon, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change that status”.

In response to Israel’s annexing of occupied East Jerusalem, UNSCR 476 of 1980 states that the Security Council “Reconfirms that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which purport to alter the character and status of Jerusalem have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East”.

Furthermore, West Jerusalem, which was declared Israel’s capital in 1949 in contravention of United Nations General Assembly Resolutions 181, which stated that; “The City of Jerusalem shall be estab-lished as a corpus separatum under a special inter-national regime and shall be administered by the United Nations". See Map on inside rear cover in the PDF.

This point was further restated in UN General As-sembly Resolutions 303 of 1949. Despite these resolutions, the Judaization of Jerusalem and the oppression of the remaining Palestinians continues right into the present.

Jerusalem in the Annapolis Process

The issue of East Jerusalem was too controversial to be addressed in the Oslo Accords (1993) and left to be decided at a later stage. Since then we have seen the outbreak of the Second Intifada (2000-2007) and the continued expansion of settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, as well as the construction of the separation Wall, which encloses and divides Palestinian communities while incorporating illegal Israeli settlements on its western side.

In this current round of talks the issue of Jerusalem has remained controversial to say the least. Though we will perhaps never know what is discussed behind closed doors, the negotiators of both sides have publically admitted that the final status of the Holy City has not yet been discussed in the year since the launch of the Annapolis Peace Process. Even the rumor of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni carrying on discussions concerning the partition of Jerusalem is said to have been part of the reason Kadima was unable to form a coalition in October of 2008, which in turn has frozen the peace process pending new Israeli elections.

Friday, 9 July 2010

UN: West Bank wall a health hazard

Israel's separation barrier makes it difficult for Palestinians living in the West Bank to obtain proper health care, according to a new report from the United Nations.
Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports on how West Bank families have been affected by the barrier

The report, prepared by the Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs, found that thousands of Palestinians have limited access to East Jerusalem hospitals because of the barrier.

Ambulances are routinely delayed at checkpoints, and Palestinian vehicles are not allowed to pass through barrier checkpoints, forcing sick or elderly patients to walk.

Some Palestinians living in the West Bank cannot obtain permits to receive medical care in East Jerusalem - or they receive permits for shorter durations of time than the treatment requires.

"Males aged between 15 and 30 often have their requests for permits turned down on the grounds of security," the UN wrote. "In many cases, it is also difficult for parents of sick children or for family members to obtain permits to escort patients to Jerusalem."

Israel's civil administration told Al Jazeera that 84 per cent of Palestinians who apply are granted permits to access hospitals or other medical facilities.

Verdict anniversary

Friday is the sixth anniversary of an International Court of Justice ruling that declared the wall illegal. The court called on Israel to dismantle the wall and to compensate Palestinians affected by its construction.

Palestinians hold routine protests against the wall in the West Bank [AFP]

Israel ignored the ruling, and construction continues: 61 per cent of the 707km barrier has now been built, according to the United Nations.

Roughly 9 per cent of the West Bank's territory will sit on the "Israeli" side of the finished barrier. A number of villages are completely or partially surrounded by the wall.

The UN's report noted that the barrier has also hurt farmers in the West Bank. Hundreds of farmers own land that sits between the wall and the Green Line, the cease-fire line drawn at the end of the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli war.

Those farmers need to obtain permits to work their own land, and can only access their property through one of 57 barrier gates.

"The majority of the gates only open during the olive harvest season, and usually only for a limited period during the day," the UN said. "Farmers are not permitted to stay on their land over night and must return at the last gate opening time."

More than 7,000 Palestinians live in those "seam zones" between the wall and the Green Line. They have little access to hospitals or other medical facilities once the barrier gates close for the night.

"Emergency medical care during those night hours requires co-ordination with the Israeli authorities, leading to serious delays," the UN wrote.

'21st-century colonisation"

The Israeli government started building the wall in 2002, after a wave of suicide bombings inside Israel. The government insists it is a temporary measure.

Few Palestinians believe that, and polls routinely show that halting the wall's construction is one of their main concerns. Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator in the Palestinian Authority, recently called the barrier "colonisation in the 21st century".

"The wall is one of the ugliest manifestations of this grave violation of international law," Erekat said on Thursday. "It separates farmers from their lands, children from their schools and families from each other. It is a land grab disguised as a security measure."

In fact, the Israeli government has taken steps which suggest the wall will not be short-lived. Earlier this year, for example, Israeli officials said they were designing electronic key cards that farmers could use to access their land.

Ramadhan 2010: Don't break your fast with Israeli dates

This Ramadhan, Check the Label: Don't break your fast with Israeli dates

Ramadhan check the labelRamadhan is a time of year when we remember those who are less fortunate than ourselves. When we break our fasts with dates, it would be an affront to us all if the dates were the produce of illegal Israeli settlements built on land stolen from Palestinians.

Israeli produced Medjoul dates are grown in the Jordan Valley within illegal Israeli settlements. They form a large part of the agricultural produce from these settlements which are then exported all over the world. Buying these dates means that you are actually helping Israeli settlers steal Palestinian land.

Israelis claim Palestinians are given jobs working on the land of these settlers and a boycott will harm them. In actual fact, these Palestinians are employed for paltry wages, to do the back-breaking work that the Israeli settlers will not do themselves.

Settlers exploit Palestinian children, who are forced to miss out on their education and work long hours under the hot baking sun for small sums of money. The price of settlement produced dates are cheaper compared to those produced by Palestinian farmers as a result

Don't let your money go towards entrenching Israel's occupation of Palestine

Check the label. Do not buy dates that come from: Israel, West Bank or Jordan Valley

Support the Palestinian economy by buying Palestinian produced fair trade Medjoul dates from Zaytoun: find your local stockist at www.zaytoun.org.

dates launchCampaign launch:

Israel resumes its illegal demolitions in the Occupied Eastern Part of Jerusalem city 02,July,2010

On June 16, 2010, the Israeli bulldozers of the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem, accompanied by the Israeli police razed Al- ‘Abbasiyya neighborhood in Silwan town south of the old city of Jerusalem and demolished three animal sheds and nursery under the pretext of lacking building permits.
Mr. Nidal Siyam the owner of the demolished structures indicated that after the Israeli bulldozers completed the demolishing act, the Israeli police went and impounded the animals (horses, sheep and poultry) under the pretext that these animals constitute a threat to public health.
During the same day, the Israeli bulldozers staged into At-Thawri neighborhood west of the town of Silwan, and demolished a garage owned by the local residents Kamal As-Shweiki under the pretext of lacking proper authorization.
Later on, and on June 21, 2010, the Building and Planning Committee of the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem sanctioned a plan to demolish 22 Palestinian houses in Al Bustan neighborhood in the town of Silwan to pave the way for the Israeli colonial project called “Kings' Valley” which is a restoration of a biblical garden, in addition to other facilities to stand on the ruins of more than 90 Palestinian houses in Al Bustan neighborhood in Silwan that are currently at the risk of demolishing to carryout this Israeli fling.
Silwan….. A battle of Existence
Silwan is a Palestinian Jerusalemite town, located to the southeastern part of Jerusalem's Old city. The town extends along the Qedron Valley and runs alongside the eastern slopes of Jabal Al-Mukkabir. Since the occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip East Jerusalem in 1967, the town has been a target for the successive Israeli governments as well as by Jewish organizations such as 'Ateret Cohanim and El 'AD Jewish organizations. El 'AD foundation was established in 1986 with the aim of constructing what is called the 'city of David' (Ir David in Hebrew) in the place that is home to the Silwan citizens for hundreds of years.
The colonization attack on Silwan escalated since 1991, since then more than 40 houses were taken over by force by Jewish settlers. Al Bustan neighborhood in Silwan is a section of the part labeled 'Ir David' and was the most targeted one because of its proximity to the western wall of the Old City.
Al-Bustan is one Palestinian Neighborhood located in the middle of Silwan city in the southeastern part of the Old City of Jerusalem. According to the British Mandate classification of lands and properties, the entire lands of Al Bustan neighborhood, which spreads over an area exceeding 70 dunums, have been registered as “Exclusive Jerusalem Palestinian Properties” owned by Palestinian Jerusalemites.
In the year 2004, the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem issued administrative orders to demolish 88 Palestinian houses in Al-Bustan Neighborhood (which constitutes more than 90% of the neighborhood's houses) allegedly for lacking proper authorization from the Israeli Municipality and that the ownership of these houses refers to the Jewish extremist organizations “‘Ateret Cohanim” & “El ’Ad” which intend to build the “City of David” at the targeted neighborhood.
Later in August 2008, Palestinian citizens of Al-Bustan neighborhood had submitted a master plan to the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem to obtain building permits for their threatened houses, but their request had been formally rejected in January 2008.
Furthermore, and on February 21, 2009, the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem handed over owners of more than 134 Palestinian families (1500 Palestinians) from Al-Bustan Neighborhood evacuation and demolition orders notifying them that they have to evacuate their houses for demolishing to make room for the Israeli plan, “King David Garden”. See the map blow:
Map 1: Al- Bustan neighborhood In Silwan town
If the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem carry out the demolitions in Al-Bustan Neighborhood in the town of Silwan, more than 1,500 Palestinian Jerusalemites will be homeless, since half of the house owners in Al-Bustan neighborhood received an administrative demolition orders issued by the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem.
Legal & International Status
The Israeli systematic house demolition campaign, which carried out by the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem is Illegal and contradicts with the International law rules and conventions. Following is a synopsis of Articles within these covenants, conventions and law rules that address the issue of house demolitions and forced evictions under these articles:
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights:
  • Article 11 (1): 'The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions'.
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965):
  • Article 5: 'States' Parties undertake to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in all of its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, color, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights: ... (e) in particular ... (iii) the right to housing'.
Universal declaration of human rights, Article 17:
  1. 'Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.'
  2. 'No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.'
Article 25:
  1. 'Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.'
The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949:
  • Article 53: 'Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.'
  • Article 47: 'Protected persons who are in occupied territory shall not be deprived, in any case or in any manner whatsoever, of the benefits of the present Convention by any change introduced as the result of the occupation of a territory, into the institutions or government of the said territory, nor by any agreement concluded between the authorities of the occupied territory and the Occupying power, nor by any annexation by the latter of the whole or part of the occupied territory.'
  • Article 147: 'Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts ... extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.'
Hague Regulations of 1907:
  • Section II Article 23: 'it is especially forbidden- to destroy or seize the enemy's property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war.'
  • Section III Article 46: 'Family honor and rights, the lives of persons, and private property, as well as religious convictions and practice must be respected. Private property cannot be confiscated.'
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 a (III) of, December 10, 1948.
  • Article 17 reads: 'No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.' Which means it bans Israel from destroying or confiscating the property of the Palestinians at any case.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Palestinian Roads: Cementing Statehood, or Israeli Annexation? By Nadia Hijab & Jesse Rosenfeld

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has staked his political credibility on securing a Palestinian state by 2011 in the entire West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, a program enthusiastically embraced by the international community. Ambitious PA plans include roads and other infrastructure across the West Bank, with funds provided by the United States, Europe and other donors.

Palestinian Roads: Cementing Statehood, or Israeli Annexation?

Nadia Hijab & Jesse Rosenfeld: New evidence indicates that the PA's ambitious road-building program--heavily funded by the United States and Europe--is being used by Israel to facilitate settlement expansion.
Obama's Blind Spot on Israel


Nadia Hijab: Why is Barack Obama courting right-wing groups like AIPAC and steering clear of the American Jewish left and center?

Fayyad has argued that development will make the reality of a Palestinian state impossible to ignore. However, many of the new roads facilitate Israeli settlement expansion and pave the way for the seizure of main West Bank highways for exclusive Israeli use.

For decades Israel has carried out its own infrastructure projects in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. These include a segregated road network that, together with the separation wall Israel began building in 2002, divides Palestinian areas from each other while bringing the settlements--all of which are illegal under international law--closer to Israel.

Now, armed with information from United Nations sources and their own research, Palestinian nongovernmental organizations are raising the alarm. Their evidence spotlights the extent to which PA road-building is facilitating the Israeli goal of annexing vast areas of the West Bank--making a viable Palestinian state impossible.

Roads currently under construction in the Bethlehem governorate are a prime example, as they will complete the separation of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, which includes some of the earliest Israeli settlements, from the Palestinian West Bank, swallowing up more pieces of Bethlehem on the way. The PA is building these roads with funding from the US Agency for International Development and thus ultimately the US taxpayer.

Bethlehem Palestinians had not grasped the implications of the PA-USAID road construction until a meeting organized last month by Badil, the refugee rights group. Representatives of local councils, refugee camps, governorate offices and NGOs were shocked by the information presented, and are calling for a halt to road construction until risks are assessed.

It is unlikely that either the PA or USAID would wittingly advance Israeli annexation plans. Still, several factors conspire to help Israel take advantage of donor support to Palestinian development and sweep land away from under Palestinian feet. For example, it is impossible to build in most areas without Israel's say-so, and permission is usually given only when it suits Israel's plans.

As public works minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh defended the PA's road rehabilitation and construction: "All these efforts have improved Palestinian infrastructure and fit into the plans of the government," he said. But, he added, "this work needs a political frame to end the occupation." (Shtayyeh has since resigned his post.) As for USAID, it insists that the PA is responsible for project selection, while its role is limited to economic and technical assessment and funding.

But research by the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ), the respected Palestinian natural resources institute, reveals some damning facts: 32 percent of the PA roads funded and implemented by USAID neatly fall into a proposal the Israeli Civil Administration (aka the military occupation authority) presented to donors in 2004. Israel wanted donors to fund some 500 kilometers of alternative roads to serve the Palestinians it was blocking from the main road network (see animated slide here). The donors rejected the proposal at that time, but it now turns out that PA-USAID efforts have effectively implemented 22 percent of Israel's plan.

When it is pointed out that many of the alternative roads could facilitate settlement expansion, apartheid-style segregation and annexation by taking Palestinians off the main grid--thus working against a Palestinian state--Shtayyeh said, "We don't look at it this way. The Israelis are stopping people from using these roads, and our job is to find ways for people to survive. This doesn't mean these roads are permanent structures."

The Palestine Liberation Organization's Negotiation Support Unit carefully studied the perils of developing infrastructure under occupation after the International Court of Justice in 2004 reaffirmed the illegality of Israel's wall in the occupied West Bank. The NSU prepared a manual with guidance on how to build without becoming complicit in Israeli colonization. Asked whether the PA was aware of the role these roads would play in settler annexation, an NSU staffer, speaking anonymously as he was not authorized to speak to the media, told The Nation, "We have presented our position paper to the prime minister's office and Mohammad Shtayyeh, and they are well aware of the issue."

In a meeting with Badil and other local Palestinian NGOs, a senior official at the Palestinian public works ministry reportedly criticized some Palestinian municipalities for exacerbating the problem by dealing directly with donors, without concern for the national interest. He also targeted international aid agencies, reportedly saying that Western donors insist on accommodating the Israeli settlements. For example, he said, German donors enabled the Israeli settlement of Psagot to link into the Palestinian town of El-Bireh's sewage system despite PA objections. He added that USAID goes along with PA priorities "so long as Israel doesn't object."

Roads to Dispossession

The Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO facilitated the implementation of Israel's segregated road system. The PA, supposedly established for an "interim" five-year period in 1994, has control over Area A, some 17 percent of the West Bank. Israel and the PA share control over Area B, while Israel retains absolute control of Area C--around 60 percent of the West Bank. Not coincidentally, Areas A and B include some 96 percent of the Palestinian population, while Area C comprises the settlements and most of the agricultural land, including the fertile Jordan Valley. In addition, Israel has sole control over development in occupied East Jerusalem, which it annexed de facto in 1967.

Israel continues to cement these interim arrangements into permanence, with control of road construction being one of its major tools. USAID explains that "only" the roads located in Areas B and C (more than 80 percent of the West Bank) require coordination with Israeli officials. Roads located in Area B are forwarded to Israel's District Civil Liaison for security coordination, while roads located in Area C are submitted for "security coordination and construction permitting" so that the liaison can verify "compliance with existing master plans and confirmation of rights-of-way."

Badil director Ingrid Jaradat Gassner says that the PA receives fast-tracked permission from the Israeli Civil Administration for construction in area C that can be incorporated into Israel's road plans. She adds that not all roads are a problem, but the ones that don't link to main roads or act as substitutes for established routes are of serious concern.

After donors rejected its 2004 proposal for the alternative road network, Israel began building the roads anyway, later terming them "fabric of life" roads. "Apart from being racist, these roads are wasteful," said Sarit Michaeli, spokesperson for B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization. "The fabric-of-life roads are meant to solve a problem that in most cases was illegally imposed by Israel."

In mid-2009 the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that Israeli authorities had paved about forty-nine kilometers of alternative roads, including forty-three tunnels and underpasses, raising not just political but also environmental concerns about the impact of an additional road network on a small area like the West Bank. OCHA describes the fabric-of-life roads as one of the mechanisms to control Palestinian movement and facilitate that of Israeli settlers. B'Tselem estimates that Israel has spent some $44.5 million on the fabric-of-life road system--a small price to pay to seize vast tracts of land.

The Human Impact

Nidal Hatim, a local playwright, online columnist and activist with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS), cannot take the main road from Bethlehem to his home village of Battir, just outside the city. Route 60 is the main highway running north-south through the center of the West Bank. "To go on the highway, we have to go through the checkpoint and turn around," he said. "I have a West Bank Palestinian ID, so I can't go through the checkpoint." Instead, he takes a bumpy side road that is currently being built by the PA with USAID support. The road turns from choppy cement to residential street to dirt and gravel path, weaving around and under the four-lane Route 60, which is now used mostly by Israeli settlers. Passing through a partly completed tunnel, the car stalls for a second on a steep unpaved incline on the edge of an olive grove.

According to a Battir council member Hassan Awaineh, the tunnel will become the only access point connecting the 22,000 residents of Battir and neighboring villages to Bethlehem.

B'Tselem's Michaeli affirms that the dual road system in the West Bank will "in the long run cement Israeli control. The tunnel that connects with Battir can be controlled by one army jeep."

The tunnel will enable Israel to fully integrate the Gush Etzion settlement bloc into Israel and separate it from the Palestinian population, a Western NGO worker explained. "Once the tunnel is completed, it's all over," she said, speaking anonymously because she is not authorized to speak to the media. Sitting on his porch in Battir overlooking the valley where the train connecting Jerusalem to Tel Aviv runs, Awaineh points to the now defunct Battir station, where trains used to stop during Ottoman and British rule. Since then, Battir has had nearly half its land confiscated by Israel, and Palestinian activity there is forbidden. Awaineh leans forward, the sun reflecting off his white hair, and sighs. "In the end they will make life difficult for students going to school, laborers going to work and farmers going to their fields," he says. "People will be forced to move to Bethlehem."

"This is part of Israel's policy to 'thin out' Palestinian areas," the NGO worker said. "It's not full-blown ethnic cleansing but rather incremental displacement, just as was done to the Palestinians who remained in Israel in 1948." What is happening to Battir and its neighbors in Area C has already happened in the Jerusalem-Ramallah area and elsewhere in the West Bank.

How It Works

A slide in a PowerPoint presentation produced by OCHA on new development in the Gush Etzion area graphically shows how PA-USAID-constructed roads connect with existing or planned Israeli bypass roads that push Palestinians off the main road network. The slide disappeared from the OCHA website after a presentation to donor organizations last month, but a copy has been obtained by The Nation. ARIJ has produced its own maps showing the impact of Gush Etzion development. The completion of the separation wall will sever Palestinian access to the section of Route 60 between Bethlehem and Hebron. Israel is increasingly pushing Palestinians off Route 60 and onto other roads like Road 356, part of which Israel has rehabilitated. Conveniently for Israel, the PA rehabilitated another segment of 356 with support from foreign donors, and a third segment is under rehabilitation by the PA with support from USAID.

"When you look at all things put together, it doesn't look like we'll be using Route 60 for very long," said Badil director Gassner in her Bethlehem office.

It gets worse. The rehabilitation of Road 356 has given several of the Jewish settlements in the Bethlehem governorate a new lease on life. ARIJ points out that the settlements of Teqoa and Noqdim had their travel time to Jerusalem slashed from forty-five minutes to fifteen, encouraging Israeli settlers to buy property in the bloc, where house prices have soared by 70 percent. By contrast, Palestinians who will be pushed off Route 60 onto Road 356 will see their travel time from Hebron to Bethlehem quadruple, to 100 minutes. And of course Israel has made Jerusalem increasingly off limits to West Bank Palestinians.

Community Outcry

There is no question that Palestinians need, and have a right to, a secure and functioning infrastructure and that the communities are crying out for it. It is also clear that Israel wields overwhelming power over the occupied Palestinian territories, putting many obstacles in the way of independent action. Moreover, communities are reliant on the PA's good graces for development support, which in turn is reliant on the funding of donors like USAID.

Nonetheless, those on the front lines are not accepting development at any price, and activists are demanding that road construction be halted until political risk assessments can be done. "No one wants to see the wrong roads built overnight," Gassner says.

"The people here need to resist," says Hatim, the playwright and activist. Walking around a Palestinian taxi stand in the setting sun and looking at the tunnel that now connects his village to Bethlehem as settler cars speed by overhead, he adds, "We also need to target the PA and USAID. People need to boycott USAID and its contractors. As long as the problem is Israel, the PA and USAID, we need to struggle on all three fronts."

Battir's Awaineh, who is close to the PA, is more guarded in his criticism and focuses on the Israeli role. Yet when pressed, he is clear on the need to resist the isolation and displacement of his community. "We must encourage people to stay here and survive. The PA and USAID need to build roads for the Palestinian people, not for settlers in the name of Palestinians."

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