Who is Embarrassing the United Nations?

Jerusalem Entrance (Photo: Nick Marouf)
Jerusalem Entrance (Photo: Nick Marouf)

Jerusalem Entrance (Photo: Nick Marouf)

Dr. Lawrence Davidson, 27 March 2011

On 23 March 2011 the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the United Nations Rapporteur Richard Falk (Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University) told the world organization’s Human Rights Council that the “continued pattern of settlement expansion in East Jerusalem combined with the forcible eviction of long-residing Palestinians are creating an intolerable situation..” In fact, he continued, the present process “can only be described in its cumulative impact as ethnic cleansing.” Falk concluded by asking the UN Human Rights Council to request an investigation by the International Criminal Court into whether Israeli actions in the West Bank amount to “colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing inconsistent with international humanitarian law.”

This is not a particularly startling or rare point of view. There are many well versed Israelis, including several reporters for Haaretz (such as Amira Hass and Gideon Levy), who would probably agree with Falk’s position. There are millions of people around the world who are willing to actively boycott Israel due to, in part, its illegal settlement policies. And, the UN Human Rights Council itself has, in the past, repeatedly condemned Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank of Palestine.

Nonetheless, Israeli officials found Falk’s statement highly insulting. Soon after the Rapporteur made his presentation to the Human Rights Council, Israel’s envoy to the UN mission in Geneva, Aharon LeshnoYaar, labeled Falk an “embarrassment to the United Nations.” He went on to explain that “Israel doesn’t participate (sic) with Falk” and that when Falk speaks in a UN venue he, Yarr, “leaves the room.” (As an aside, Ambassador Yaar does not like a number of Americans. For instance, he does not like the documentary film maker Michael Moore because the man makes his money in a capitalist society while being critical of aspects of capitalism. According to Yaar, that makes Moore a hypocrite).

It would seem that in order to be a good diplomat, a reliable representative of your government, you have to be able to twist facts in a juvenile way. You know, in the way kids manipulate information to excuse some bad act, even when they have been caught at it in real time. Ambassador Yaar’s behavior is a good example of this. The United Nations Human Rights Council has passed resolutions condemning Israeli behavior toward the Palestinians over 20 times. Given that record you can safely apply the old saying, “where there is smoke there is likely to be fire.” Yet, how do loyal diplomats like Yaar react? They often: 1. Yell loudly and repeatedly that the fellow pointing out their sins is bias. So, he is anti-Semitic (alas, Dr. Falk is Jewish), and that is why he keeps pointing fingers in our direction, Or, 2. The other guy made me do it. Those Palestinians (allegedly) hit me first. How come you never yell at them? Or, 3. (Particularly in the case of Israel) God made us do it and so, if you don’t like it, go argue with God. And, finally, when the fellow who has seen you commit the nasty deed over and again insists that you are the culprit, you get up and run out of the room with your hands over your ears.

While Yaar and the rest of the Israeli establishment engage in these practices and complain about the bias of their critics, the consequences of their governmental policies is to institute bias against the Palestinians wherever they exercise authority. In the recent past there has been a spate of such actions . Thus, the Israeli Knesset has recently passed two bills along these lines. One, known as the “Nakba Bill,” institutes a fine on “local authorities and other state-funded bodies for holding events marking the Palestinian Nakba Day….” Nakba is the term the Palestinians, who constitute more than 20% of Israel’s citizens, use for the catastrophe that led to there loss of a homeland as a consequence of the creation of Israel. The other bill “formalizes the establishment of admission committees to review potential residents of Negev and Galilee towns that have fewer than 400 families.” The bill is designed to keep such towns wholly Jewish by preventing Palestinians from taking up residence. As one Arab Israeli noted, “this is a racist law, a law against Arabs.”

Yaar makes no reference to this sort of bias, but only to the alleged bias of those who point out Israeli bias. No doubt, over time, diplomats and politicians come to believe their own excuses. Like naughty children, they don’t know what double standards mean, and end up creating an alternate world of fabrications. Unlike most children who eventually grow up, professionals like Yaar come to dwell in this alternate world more or less at will. In fact, the ability to do so has been part of the standard job description for a career in diplomacy and politics for a very long time. Back in 1909 the Austrian satirist Karl Kraus asked “How is the world ruled and how do wars start?” His answer was, “Diplomats tell lies to journalists and then believe what they read” (Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 2001, p. 445, #18).

Almost at the same time as Ambassador Yaar was describing Richard Falk as an “embarrassment to the United Nations,” Ahmed Tibi, an Arab Israeli member of the Knesset, debating the racist laws cited above, told his Jewish colleagues the following, “You must read Jewish history well and learn which laws you suffered from…Do you need an Arab on the stand to remind you of your history?” The Knesset’s reaction? Loud and repeated yelling about how bias and insulting Tibi was. “Go back to Ramallah” they told him.

Now, just who is an embarrassment to the United Nations, an organization which began its life back in the late 1940s by, among other things, the issuance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Is it Richard Falk, a man who has dedicated his entire professional life to the fight for a better world, governed by humane laws? Or is it Aharon LeshnoYaar and the political establishment he represents? For anyone beyond childhood, and with accurate information, the answer ought to be obvious.

There Could Never Be Peace Without a Minimum of Justice

Mustafa Barghouthi

Editor Palestine Monitor, 18 November 2010

Mustafa Barghouthi, Palestine, PNI, thanked the Socialist International for its constant efforts to support the cause of peace in Palestine and in the Middle East, and he apologised for questioning whether the current discussion could be called a debate when the representative of the Israeli Labour Party had left immediately after giving his speech.

He urged participants to face the reality that there was a deadlock in the so-called peace process. It was not hard to imagine what would happen to the proximity talks, and the very big risk of failure due to the continuation of the same policy of settlement expansion, ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem, and oppressive measures in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel was negotiating via bulldozers. He mentioned Aualage, a small village in Bethlehem in the heart of the West Bank which was losing all its land to Israeli bulldozers and a wall that was three times the length and twice the height of the Berlin Wall. Time was of the essence because we were about to lose the opportunity for peace based on the two-state solution. It was clear that Israel was trying to gain time through the peace process, imposing its own solutions through settlements and wall-building.

He feared that Israel was not considering an independent Palestinian state, but rather a cluster of bantustans and ghettos, each separated from the other. What was being consolidated on the ground was a system of apartheid, he asserted. How else, he asked, could the situation be described when Israel controlled 80% of the water resources in the occupied West Bank, when Israeli settlers were allowed to use 48 times more water than Palestinian citizens who had to buy Israeli products at Israeli prices and pay for the water Israel had taken from them. No other word could be used for the segregation of roads and street, or the situation where a husband and wife living in Jerusalem could not live together if one had an ID for the West Bank. He himself had been a physician in Jerusalem for 15 years but now for five years had not been allowed to enter Jerusalem.

The big question was whether the peace process itself had become a substitute for peace, and for how long would that continue. What law of humanity, he asked, gave Israel the right to impunity from international law. Anyone who dared to criticise Israel was immediately labelled anti-semitic, even such a highly respected Jewish person as Judge Goldstone who had dared to speak about the war crimes in Gaza.

There could never be peace without a minimum of justice, he continued. Palestinians had extended their hand in peace but all they had received in the last 18 years was more war, more settlements and an apartheid wall.

Concerning the siege and blockade in Gaza, he said that the ILP had denied the humanitarian crisis there. There was nowhere in Gaza where you could get water that was drinkable by international standards because the Israeli government was blocking the construction material needed to rebuild the destroyed sewer system. More than two hundred and twenty Palestinians had died because they could not leave Gaza for medical treatment. Twenty-five thousand houses that were practically destroyed during the war on Gaza were still not repaired because Israel would not allow cement or glass into Gaza. Eighty percent of the population of Gaza today were living below the poverty line. This was a humanitarian crisis, recognised by the United Nations, by Amnesty International, and by the Red Cross. He urged the Israeli Labour Party to listen to the civilised world. The siege and blockade, he continued, were not against Hamas: they were a collective punishment of the million and a half people who lived in Gaza.

If Israel would release just a few hundred of the ten thousand Palestinians in its jails, which included over two hundred children, Gilad Shalit and others could go home.

He saw no justification for Israel’s attack on the flotilla. It was a gross violation of international law and he hoped that the world would realise that the Palestinian people had been suffering this type of aggression for the last forty-three years.

He asked why Israel had refused an international investigation and why someone like Mairead McGuire, who had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in Ireland, had suddenly been labelled a terrorist since joining the flotilla in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Israel claimed that it was not occupying Gaza, Barghouthi pointed out. It had no right to subject the one-and-a-half million people of Gaza to a blockade without going to the United Nations and putting its case before the international community. Israel was putting itself above international law while claiming to be the victim, a victim that had probably the fifth largest army in the world, more than 300 nuclear warheads, and was the third largest military exporter surpassing both France and Britain. He thought Israel should feel ashamed of a blockade that was preventing students from going to university, doctors from working properly, patients from getting their dialysis, rather than affecting Hamas. He therefore supported the European proposition to allow ships into Gaza under whatever control could be established, as long as this blockade was stopped.

The Palestinian struggle today, he said, was a struggle of non-violence and he was proud that a recent poll by a Norwegian institution had indicated that in the last six or seven months the number of Palestinians who supported non-violence had risen from more than 40% to more than 75%. Every political movement should respect non-violence in the best tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. He pleaded for pressure to be put on Israel to stop the destructive violence against peaceful demonstrations in which peace activists from around the world, including Israel, had been injured or even killed. He was proud of this strategy of non-violence, international solidarity and Palestinian unity which would finally achieve their dream of freedom, independence, dignity and democracy. This was the only basis for good governance since lasting peace was found only between democracies, as one could see in Europe.

He regretted the recent decision in Palestine to cancel local municipality elections in the West Bank, which made a mockery of people’s right to choose who would govern them. The people of Palestine needed to regain their unity so as to freely and democratically elect their president, parliament and local councils, as was their right. Israel could not choose for them, nor decide who should negotiate on their behalf. There had been excuses such as the Soviet Union, then Syria, then Iraq, and now Iran, all in order to avoid the main issue which was how to reach a solution with the Palestinian people, the key to stability in the Middle East. Palestinian non-violent resistance could not succeed without international support and solidarity, he continued. Throughout the world there was rising solidarity with the Palestinian people, including calls for divestments and sanctions. Israel was putting herself in the same position South Africa had been in with the apartheid system. This served neither the interest of the Palestinians nor the Israelis in the long run. He called on the Socialist International, with its great tradition of solidarity with oppressed people, to take an effective role in this case number one, as Nelson Mandela had called it, the case of the Palestinian people. A true friend was one who told the truth to his friends, he said, and it was time to tell the truth to Israel, and to ask whether the Palestinian people, after being deprived of their freedom for more than sixty years, were not entitled to the same rights as everyone else.

The struggle for freedom was not just for Palestinian children but for Israeli children too, to save even them from the short-sighted, violent and arrogant policies of their governments that had prevented peace. Referring to the Israeli Labour Party’s representative having mentioned courage, he said that real courage would be to take the decision to stop colonialism, occupation and apartheid, and finally accept Palestinians as equal human beings. In closing he quoted one great leader who had inspired their struggle, Martin Luther King, who had said that in the end we would remember not the acts of our enemies but the silence of our friends. He urged participants not to be silent.

Israel Insists On Killing Chances For Peace

mustafa barghouti

Palestine Monitor
19 September 2010
Israel insists on “killing chances for peace” and “assassinating the peace process” with settlements and the wall, Palestinian National Initiative leader Mustafa Barghouthi said Sunday.

The PNI leader said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s comments that Palestinians were using a call to extend a moratorium on illegal West Bank settlement building to undermine peace talks were “another confirmation that Israel uses negotiations to cover its expansionist policies and not for peace.”

Barghouthi said settlement expansion was not deterred by the moratorium, pointing to developments in occupied East Jerusalem, which was excluded from the freeze.

He said Israel was planning to build a 12 meter concrete wall sectioning off parts of the occupied city, which would isolate residents in the Shu’fat refugee camp, Ras Khamis, Ras Shehada and Anata villages from Jerusalem.

Barghouthi further denounced attacks against Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention, calling for an escalation in popular resistance in support of detainees and their families, and to “work to expose Israel’s violations against them and its violations of the Geneva Convention.”

Barghouthi: 100 Settlement Units Underway in Beit Jala

mustafa barghouti
Palestine Monitor, 19 July 2010
Israel recently began construction on 100 new settlement units in the southern West Bank district of Bethlehem, Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouthi announced Sunday.

The latest settlement construction is underway on Palestinian land in the towns of Beit Jala and Al-Walaja, as US Middle East envoy visits the region for the latest round of indirect talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Barghouthi said.

He said Israeli authorities began overturning land and surrounding it with barbed wires, which he said was an attempt to thwart Palestinian land owners from protesting the confiscation. He said the work began secretly to avoid “the exposure of the Netanyahu government’s false claims of freezing settlement construction.”

Israel announced it would halt settlement expansion and building in the West Bank. However, a report issued by the Islamic Christian Commission for Support of Jerusalem and the Holy Places in May alleged that Israel plans to expand its Jerusalem municipal borders into the West Bank with the Al-Walaja settlement, which will include a 12,000-unit housing complex.

Another 32 units are planned for the Palestinian village of Tuqu, east of Bethlehem, Barghouthi added, saying settlement expansion has increased since Israel declared its moratorium on building.

Since the decision, he said, all projects which under construction continued in the West Bank and Jerusalem while thousands of new settlement units have been approved by the government.

Judaizing Jerusalem

Holy Sepulture - Crosses etched in wall (Nick Marouf)

Stephen Lendman. 6 July 2010

The Middle East Monitor (MEM) covers significant regional issues and events through its weekly newspaper and reports like Samira Quraishy’s September 2009 Briefing Paper titled, “The Judaization of Jerusalem,” discussing Israel’s “escalating campaign of land seizures, house demolitions and eviction(s) of Palestinians.”

Israeli scholars agree, including Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Professor Oren Yiftachel, in a 1999 paper titled “Ethnocracy: the Politics of Judaizing Israel/Palestine,” saying Israel is an ethnocratic regime “enhanc(ing) a rule by, and for, a specific ethnos, and a dominance of ethnicity over citizenship (by) facilitat(ing) the expansion of one ethnic group over contested territory or polity.” It evolved around “the central Zionist (uni-ethnic) project of Judaizing and de-Arabising Israel/Palestine, (and as a consequence undermining) equal citizenship and popular sovereignty,” reserving it solely for Jews, exposing the myth of a democratic nation.

Hebrew University Professor Moshe Ma’oz, Ankara’s Bilkent University Professor Jeremy Salt, Professor Norman Finkelstein, Professor James Petras, and many other scholars agree that Israel pursued this policy since 1967, planning it decades earlier, based on the Zionist notion of dispossessing Arabs to make greater Israel an exclusive Jewish state.

Jerusalem is its epicenter, a religiously important city for Christians, Muslims and Jews, today the scene of epic injustice and discrimination of its Palestinian residents.

For Zionists, the city is politically important, as its historic capital, national and religious center, as well as the symbol of Judaism’s revival and prominence. For Christians, it’s where Jesus lived and died, and for Muslims it’s their third holiest site (the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque) after Mecca’s Sacred Mosque and the Mosque of the Prophet in Madina.

Settlement Expansions 2009

Settlement Expansions 2009 (Click for larger image)

After its 1967 annexation, East Jerusalem underwent legal and bureaucratic changes to its physical, cultural and spiritual character under Israel’s Judaization plan. Settlements were established and expanded, at the expense of land expropriations, dispossessions, home demolitions, the Separation Wall, and other draconian measures to transform the city to an entirely Jewish one. As a result, Palestinian culture and religious heritage are threatened by the establishment of “facts on the ground,” a process begun after the city’s annexation that continues relentlessly to this day.

At the time, official annexation would have caused rupture or confrontation with the international community, because of the city’s symbolic, religious and historic importance. In addition, international laws would have been hard to get around besides ideological differences among Israeli officials. Further, direct annexation would have forced the government to make all city inhabitants citizens, contrary to the plan to Judaize the entire city

On the Six Day War’s final day, Israeli leaders ordered the demolition of the Old City’s Moroccan Quarter, allowing for easier access to the Western Wall. It left 650 residents homeless, many others killed, two mosques destroyed along with other religious and cultural sites, and set the tone for what continued.

Under military occupation, Israel transformed Jerusalem from a multi-cultural, multi-religious city into a predominantly Jewish one under exclusive Israeli control toward the final goal of making the entire city exclusively Jewish – meaning Arabs had to go, voluntarily, by dispossessions, or other means.

Thereafter, Israel manipulated city demographics in its favor toward establishing a Greater Jerusalem by reinforced municipal boundaries – separating Jerusalem from the West Bank by land seizures, dispossessions, home demolitions, the Separation Wall, and a matrix of restrictions over Palestinian residents in the Old City as well as 64 additional square kilometers from surrounding West Bank areas, affecting 28 villages inside the new municipal boundary. As a result, the demographic balance shifted markedly to one predominantly Jewish.

On July 30, 1980, the Knesset introduced the Jerusalem Law, officially annexing the city as Israel’s unified capital – a ceremonial move as East Jerusalem residents were already under military occupation rule.

Yet on March 1, 1980, UN Security Council Resolution 465 declared that:

“all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant (Fourth Geneva) violation….and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”

On July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and an obstacle to peace and to economic and social development (and) have been established in breach of international law.”

Throughout its history, Israel routinely defied all UN resolutions and court rulings against its interests, knowing it can get away with it, always with Washington’s backing. Instead, it’s intensified efforts to annex East Jerusalem through continued settlement expansions on expropriated land. For the West Bank, E. Jerusalem and Golan combined, they’re home for a 500,000 Jewish population, growing at around 4 – 6% yearly.

Extremist groups spearhead it, supported generously by Washington, the Jewish diaspora, and others, contributing billions of dollars annually for Israeli occupation, militarism, and settlement expansions.

Through 2009, settlements covered over one-third of East Jerusalem land, and another 30% is designated as “unplanned area” where little or no development is allowed.

In 2009, OCHA reported that Palestinian construction is allowed only in 13% of East Jerusalem, provided required permits are issued. Because of the bureaucratic nightmare getting them, a huge housing shortage exists, exacerbated by regular home demolitions to provide more space for Jews.

Religious, cultural and archeological sites aren’t spared either to accommodate them, Silwan a notable example. Occupied in 1967, Judaizing followed to change its religious and demographic character, an initiative promoted by ELAD (the Hebrew acronym for the City of David), a Jewish organization wanting full control of the area, using extremist measures to achieve it, including excavations destroying priceless antiquities.

Ones below the Al-Aqsa Mosque continue. Others also to control the town through more land ownership, Palestinian dispossessions, and destruction of Islamic and Christian heritage sites.

In 2004, 88 Al Bustan neighborhood homes were demolished to create King’s Garden, an archeological park located where King David established his kingdom.

Islamic cemetery excavations also aroused anger, including converting Bab al-Rahmad into recreational biblical gardens. So far, the cemetery has lost 1,800 square meters on which new burials are prohibited, a portion already converted into a park.

Ma’man Allah Cemetery is Jerusalem’s largest, reputed to hold the remains of important Islamic figures, including Companions of Prophet Muhammad and Muslim intellects and soldiers who fought the Crusaders.

Yet Israel intends a Museum of Tolerance there, turning it into a large excavation site, over 300 skeletons removed, contrary to international law. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, they were desecrated – dumped into a single mass grave.

Worse still may await the Al-Aqsa Mosque because of excavations under and around it, weakening its foundation, threatening its existence. In 2007, Israel began excavating a pathway from the Western Wall to the compound, sparking Muslim outrage.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock Restoration Committee, established in 1956 to restore it and other Jerusalem holy sites, warned that further excavations would imperil the structural integrity, most seriously by the western tunnel (one of 60) near the Mosque.

Deputy Committee head, Ra’if Najm also said chemicals used to break up rocks are causing more damage. As a result, the Security Council and UNESCO demanded that Israel comply with international law, halting further excavations and related operations. Israel didn’t respond.

Other excavations in the Old City and Silwan have also been damaging, Adnan Al-Hussaini, special PA adviser on Jerusalem Affairs warning that Israel is destroying Islamic antiquities, “replacing them with other ones.”

PA legislator Hatem Abdul Qader threatened an International Court of Justice (ICJ) lawsuit to stop the looting. In early 2009, an Umayyad-era artifact was stolen, an ancient stone, transferred to the Knesset’s courtyard, Israel blocking demands to return it.

The Separation Wall, checkpoints, and other restrictions have also been devastating, impeding Palestinian access to, in and around Jerusalem. Yet prohibiting them from worshipping at Al-Aqsa and nearby mosques violates Fourth Geneva, Christians wanting access to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other religious sites also affected.

The extremist Netanyahu government exacerbates the problem, Palestine’s Chief Justice, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Al-Tamimi, expressing deep concern about outlandish racist policies threatening “to cancel Arab identity.”

On March 28, 2010, the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported that he urged Palestinians “to exert more efforts and unite in order to protect the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque (by) defy(ing Jewish extremists) attempts to storm the holy shrine,” adding that Judaizing has been ongoing since 1967, in calling for efforts to stop it.

PA Authority under Fatah

Shortly after assuming office, Abdul Qader, PA Minister for Jerusalem, resigned in protest, saying inadequate funding defends Palestinian interests in the city – for law suits, against land confiscations, home demolitions, Israeli security force and settler violence, and the destruction of the city’s religious, historical, cultural and demographic character.

Final Comments

Throughout 43 years of colonization, displacement, land seizures, and East Jerusalem annexation, Judaization continues relentlessly to establish irreversible “facts on the ground (to) cancel Arab identity” by making the entire city exclusively Jewish along with the West Bank’s most valued areas.

MEM supports efforts to stop it and demands accountability. “The Israeli authorities and settlers who impede the civil liberties of the rightful Palestinian owners should be brought (before) an open and fair court of law,” to halt Israeli lawlessness, ensure holy, historic Muslim sites are protected, preserved and restored, and to defend their right to a sovereign state, East Jerusalem its capital, or a one-state solution for all.

Israel will react violently, viciously, and illegally against it, its customary behavior as a rapacious occupier, defying the rule of law in pursuit of a Greater Israel and regional dominance, partnered with Washington in its global imperial agenda, threatening all humanity unless stopped.

  • Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening. http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Lieberman’s ‘peace’ plan: Strip Palestinians of citizenship

Palestine Israel Flag

Jonathan Cook in Nazareth, 28 June 2010

Blueprint requires pure Jewish state

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s far-right foreign minister, set out last week what he called a “blueprint for a resolution to the conflict” with the Palestinians that demands most of the country’s large Palestinian minority be stripped of citizenship and relocated outside Israel’s future borders.

Warning Israel faced growing diplomatic pressure for a full withdrawal to the Green Line, the pre-1967 border, Mr Lieberman said that, if such a partition were implemented, “the conflict will inevitably pass beyond those borders and into Israel”.

He accused many of Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of acting against Israel while their leaders “actively assist those who want to destroy the Jewish state”.

Mr Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party campaigned in last year’s elections on a platform of “No loyalty, no citizenship” and has proposed a raft of loyalty laws over the past year targeted at the Palestinian minority.

True peace, the foreign minister claimed, would come only with land swaps, or “an exchange of populated territories to create two largely homogeneous states, one Jewish Israeli and the other Arab Palestinian”. He added that under his plan “those Arabs who were in Israel will now receive Palestinian citizenship”.

Unusually, Mr Lieberman, who is also deputy prime minister, offered his plan in a commentary for the English-language Jerusalem Post daily newspaper, apparently in an attempt to make maximum impact on the international community.

He has spoken repeatedly in the past about drawing the borders in a way to forcibly exchange Palestinian communities in Israel for the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

But under orders from Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, he has kept a relatively low profile on the conflict’s larger issues since his controversial appointment to head the foreign ministry more than a year ago.

In early 2009, Mr Lieberman, who lives in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim, upset his own supporters by advocating the creation of “a viable Palestinian state”, though he has remained unclear about what it would require in practice.

Mr Lieberman’s revival of his “population transfer” plan — an idea he unveiled six years ago — comes as the Israeli leadership has understood that it is “isolated like never before”, according to Michael Warschawski, an Israeli analyst.

Mr Netanyahu’s government has all but stopped paying lip service to US-sponsored “proximity talks” with the Palestinians after outraging global public opinion with attacks on Gaza 18 months ago and on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla four weeks ago in which nine peace activists were killed.

Israel’s relations with the international community are likely to deteriorate further in late summer when a 10-month partial freeze on settlement expansion in the West Bank expires. Last week, Mr Netanyahu refused to answer questions about the freeze, after a vote by his Likud party’s central committee to support renewed settlement building from late September.

Other looming diplomatic headaches for Israel are the return of the Goldstone Report, which suggested Israel committed war crimes in its attack on Gaza, to the United Nations General Assembly in late July, and Turkey’s adoption of the rotating presidency of the Security Council in September.

Mr Warschawski, a founder of the Alternative Information Centre, a joint Israeli-Palestinian advocacy group, said that, faced with these crises, Israel’s political elite had split into two camps.

Most, including Mr Lieberman, believed Israel should “push ahead” with its unilateral policies towards the Palestinians and refuse to engage in a peace process regardless of the likely international repercussions.

“Israel’s ruling elite knows that the only solution to the conflict acceptable to the international community is an end to the occupation along the lines of the Clinton parameters,” he said, referring to the two-state solution promoted by former US president Bill Clinton in late 2000.

“None of them, not even Ehud Barak [the defence minister and head of the centrist Labour Party], are ready to accept this as the basis for negotiations.”

On the other hand, Tzipi Livni, the head of the centre-right opposition Kadima party, Mr Warschawski said, wanted to damp down the international backlash by engaging in direct negotiations with the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank under Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Lieberman’s commentary came a day after he told Ms Livni that she could join the government only if she accepted “the principle of trading territory and population as the solution to the Palestinian issue, and give up the principle of land for peace”.

Mr Lieberman is reportedly concerned that Mr Netanyahu might seek to bring Ms Livni into a national unity government to placate the US and prop up the legitimacy of his coalition.

The Labour Party has threatened to quit the government if Kadima does not join by the end of September, and Ms Livni is reported to want the foreign ministry.

Mr Lieberman’s position is further threatened by a series of corruption investigations.

However, he also appears keen to take the initiative from both Washington and Ms Livni with his own “peace plan”. An unnamed aide to Mr Lieberman told the Jerusalem Post that, with a vacuum in the diplomatic process, the foreign minister “thinks he can convince the government to adopt the plan”.

However, Mr Warschawski said there were few indications that Mr Netanyahu wanted to be involved in any peace process, even Mr Lieberman’s.

Last week Uzi Arad, the government’s shadowy national security adviser and a long-time confidant of Mr Netanyahu, made a rare public statement at a meeting of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem to attack Ms Livni for “political adventurism” and believing in the “magic” of a two-state solution.

Apparently reflecting Mr Netanyahu’s own thinking, he said: “The more you market Palestinian legitimacy, the more you bring about a detraction of Israel’s legitimacy in certain circles. [The Palestinians] are accumulating legitimacy, and we are being delegitimised.”

Mr Warschawski doubted that Mr Lieberman believed his blueprint for population exchanges could be implemented but was promoting it chiefly to further damage the standing of Israel’s Palestinian citizens and advance his own political ambitions.

In his commentary, Mr Lieberman said the international community’s peace plan would lead to “the one-and-a-half to half state solution”: “a homogeneous, pure Palestinian state”, from which Jewish settlers were expelled, and “a binational state in Israel”, which included many Palestinian citizens.

Palestinians, in both the territories and inside Israel, he said, could not “continue to incite against Israel, glorify murder, stigmatise Israel in international forums, boycott Israeli goods and mount legal offensives against Israeli officials”.

International law, he added, sanctioned the partition of territory in which ethnic communities were broken up into different states, including in the case of the former Yugoslavia. “In most cases there is no physical population transfer or the demolition of houses, but creating a border where none existed, according to demographics,” he wrote.

Surveys have shown that Palestinian citizens are overwhelming opposed to “population transfer” schemes like Mr Lieberman’s.

Critics note that Mr Lieberman has failed to show how the many Palestinian communities inside Israel that are located far from the Green Line could be incorporated into a Palestinian state without expulsions.

Legal experts also point out that, even if Israel managed to trade territory as part of a peace agreement, stripping Palestinians of their Israeli citizenship as a result of such a deal would violate international law.

  • Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.
  • A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 2009 Annual Report

PCHR

Stephen Lendman, 27 June 2010

Each year, PCHR publishes its annual report on Occupied Palestine, this year’s a detailed 250 page review of the past year, including the first days of Israel’s war on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, “the major issue in the record of human rights and international humanitarian law violations in the Occupied Palestinian Terrority (OPT) in 2009,” the bloodiest since the 1948 Nakba that stole a nation from its people.

Today, 1.5 million Gazans struggle to rebuild their lives, “in spite of sustaining permanent disabilities, losing loved ones or becoming homeless” after war under siege – collective punishment in violation of international law, and fundamental human rights, including free movement of persons and goods, proper shelter, adequate health care and education, and the right to rebuild homes and other structures destroyed by the war’s onslaught.

Israel’s settlement expansion, Separation Wall, and control matrix exacerbates West Bank conditions, “turning Palestinian communities into (isolated) Bantustans.” In addition, efforts continue to consolidate and illegally annex East Jerusalem by dispossessing its residents, en route to making the entire city exclusively Jewish, unheard of in the modern era, especially by a so-called civilized state, in fact, barbarian and brutish while touting its democratic credentials and victimhood, more evidence of a scoundrel caught red-handed.

PCHR stresses the horrific human rights violations and deterioration throughout the year, intensified since Hamas’ January 2006 election, including:

“willful killings and violations of the right to life;

– collective punishment policies represented by a tightened closure and severe restrictions on the right to freedom of movement;

– detention and torture of Palestinians (official Israeli policy);

– continued settlement activities and attacks by Israeli settlers; and

– continued construction of the Annexation Wall inside the West Bank territory,” on 12% of stolen Palestinian land.

Nonetheless, the international community doesn’t enforce their international law obligation to stop human rights violations and hold those responsible accountable. As such, they’re complicit, guilty through silence and failure to act.

Worse still, the West and colluding Arab states participate in Gaza’s isolation by financially boycotting, and bogusly criminalizing, its legitimate government, democratically elected, in support of Mahmoud Abbas’ coup d’etat regime, Fatah in the West Bank, soundly defeated in the January 2006 election.

Innocent victims are punished, reeling under 43 years of occupation, an unprecedented international betrayal.

Occupation Force Crimes

Numerous ones occur daily, explained in weekly PCHR updates, like its June 17 – 23 one covering:

– peaceful Gaza and West Bank protestors attacked, injuring three civilians (including a child) in Bal’ein village, west of Ramallah;

– dozens more harmed by tear gas inhalation;

– three journalists assaulted in Beit Jala;

– 10 civilians, including three human rights workers, a journalist and five medical volunteers arrested;

– four Gazan farmers and workers, including two children, shot and wounded in their fields;

– 43 civilians, including five children, arrested in 16 West Bank incursions and three others in Gaza;

– the suffocating Gaza siege continues unabated;

– the West Bank and East Jerusalem remain locked down by a control matrix of about 630 checkpoints and 60 – 80 “flying” ones, including in and around Jerusalem, severely restricting access to and throughout the city; and

– ruthless ethnic cleansing continues, stealing land and bulldozing homes for settlement expansions and other Jews only projects.

When completed, the Separation Wall (half finished) will stretch 724 kilometers (on 12% of stolen Palestinian land), encircling the West Bank, further isolating the population. Civilians protesting against it nonviolently are systematically assaulted, tear gassed, fired on, injured and arrested.

In addition, two-thirds of the main roads are closed or controlled by security forces. Further, one-third of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is inaccessible to anyone without a (very hard to get) permit, that if obtained takes months and must be renewed – measures to make life in Occupied Palestine oppressive, punishing, and impossible, including random searches on streets and in private homes, some followed by arrests and imprisonment.

Numbers of Dead and Wounded in 2009

Forty-three years of occupation have taken an unprecedented toll. In 2009 alone, it included:

– 1,092 killed, including 831 civilians, the others resistance fighters;

– civilian victims included 305 children and 101 women, targeted the same as men; civilians attacked like freedom fighters;

– 1,066 were killed in Gaza, 97% of the total;

– the war’s toll killed 1,419 Palestinians and wounded another 5,200, many severely from loss of limbs, brain damage, or other extreme injuries;

– from September 2000 (the start of the second Intifada) through December 2009, 6,520 Palestinians were killed, including 4,955 civilians, tens of thousands more wounded;

– after the January 18, 2010 ceasefire, the IDF killed 47 Palestinians, including 26 civilians, seven of them children; 12 civilians were killed by Israeli snipers in Gaza buffer zones, gunned down in cold blood; five others died when tunnels were bombed;

– in the West Bank, Israeli forces killed 18 Palestinians, including 15 civilians, six of them children; Israeli settlers killed three more, including two children;

– all of them posed no threat, including participants in nonviolent protests against the Separation Wall, land confiscations or home demolitions; nonetheless, Israeli forces murdered them in cold blood, claiming self-defense, the usual bogus pretext.

PCHR investigations confirmed that Israel “used excessive and disproportionate force against Palestinian civilians, who are recognized as protected persons under international humanitarian law” – what Israel doesn’t acknowldege or the principles of distinction and proportionality.

Evidence clearly shows that Israeli forces repeatedly used (and continue to use) excessive and disproportionate force against nonviolent Palestinian civilians, in violation of international law.

They posed no threat, yet were killed when their homes, other buildings, factories, or vehicles were bombed. Some were extrajudicially executed, others when their communities were invaded – in all cases, crimes of war and against humanity.

Throughout 2009, Israel tightened closure on the West Bank, and imprisoned Gazans under siege, denying them enough food, medicines, fuel, electricity, and other common essentials – exacerbating a worsening humanitarian crisis, suffocating 1.5 million people, and paralyzing the economy.

“The members of the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties to (Fourth Geneva) have shamefully failed to take the action necessary to ensure” this stops and to hold Israel accountable. Instead, they’ve been complicit in the worst of its crimes, and share equal guilt, especially America, Israel’s paymaster/partner.

Israeli forces also prevent Palestinian civilians from entering Israel or going abroad for medical care, other emergencies, education, or their right of free movement – denied throughout Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinians are imprisoned on their own land in their own country by a hostile occupier, there illegally.

Throughout 2009, the humanitarian crisis worsened, the result of:

– 40% unemployment, over 55% in Gaza where poverty exceeds 80%, affecting 1.2 million people;

– since September 2000, incomes have steadily decreased, down 45% at yearend 2009; and

– national output dropped sharply in all sectors, especially in Gaza.

Other Imposed Harshness

In December 2009, at least 9,381 Palestinians were imprisoned, including 310 children and 34 women, mostly inside Israel – a clear international law violation under Fourth Geneva’s Article 76 stating:

“Protected persons accused of offences (sic) shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein.”

They must also be afforded proper food, hygiene, medical, and other essentials, including spiritual assistance. In addition, minors must be given special care, and women must be confined in separate quarters under female supervision. Israel, however, has male guards in women’s prisons and treats children the same as adults, besides violating other international laws regarding the treatment of prisoners.

Israeli forces disregard them as well commit regular assaults, other incursions, and arrests during house raids, especially in West Bank villages and refugee camps. Also at checkpoints, roadblocks and during nonviolent demonstrations.

Throughout 2009, security forces arrested about 5,000 Palestinians, including 1,000 in Gaza, mostly civilian men, women and children, all treated horrifically, included elected officials, imprisoned for belonging to the wrong parties and wanting Palestine to be free.

At yearend 2009, 26 PLC members were incarcerated, most from the Change and Reform bloc, affiliated with Hamas. Another was speaker Dr. ‘Aziz al-Dweik, now released. However, civil activists are detained for defending human rights, they like others treated harshly, most of them tortured like other Palestinian prisoners. Others are kept in solitary confinement for prolonged periods.

Testimonies confirm prison horror stories, including physical and mental torture, exposure to extreme heat or cold, starvation, sleep deprivation, beatings, pressure to collaborate in exchange for release, (in some cases, threatened harm to family members if refuse), and/or forced confessions in Hebrew, not Arabic, for crimes they didn’t commit.

During Cast Lead, Israel “wantonly and extensively destroyed Palestinian civilian property, including homes, agricultural lands, as well as health, educational, religious and economic facilities,” all in violation of international law. As a result, about 450,000 Gazans evacuated their homes for safer locations, “causing many to recall scenes of the forced mass migration” during 1948, what those who endured it can’t forget, nor their children who know the toll on their parents, why the event is called the Nakba, the catastrophe, affecting the entire population.

Cast Lead’s toll was horrific by any standard, PCHR documenting:

– 2,116 totally destroyed homes, containing 2,881 housing units for 3,253 families and 18,750 individuals;

– another 3,277 houses with 4,925 housing units for 5,483 families and 32,703 individuals rendered uninhabitable, their damage so extensive;

– 16,000 others were partly damaged;

– in total, 51,453 civilians lost their homes, victimized by illegal bombings or shellings; and

– in the West Bank, Israel demolished 134 houses, including 83 in East Jerusalem; another 23 Palestinian civilians were forced to destroy their own homes and pay the cost.

Today under the extremist Netanyahu government, conditions are worse than ever. Besides daily repression, settlement construction continues, the Municipality of Jerusalem and Israeli ministries taking bids for 3,400 housing units on occupied Palestinian land, ordering homes demolished and thousands of donums of land confiscated for them.

Complicit with Israeli security forces, the judiciary legitimizes occupation policies, Israel’s High Court, for example, rejecting Palestinian petitions against the expropriation of their land for settlement construction and the Separation Wall. Rarely ever does the court order its route changed. Even then, it seldom happens.

Illegal construction imposed new hardships, including farmers denied access to their land beyond the Wall without hard to obtain permits to reach it. Yet to get them, they must be registered owners, nearly impossible due to land registry complications because earlier ownership was under deceased persons’ names. In addition, registries haven’t been updated, and some heirs don’t live in the West Bank.

Other hardships include:

– new movement restrictions for Palestinians living near the Wall’s route, not just affecting farmers; and

– access to medical care, education, and relatives is impacted, plus restricted hours to move through gates at the Wall, “operated under a strict security system,” often closing for no apparent reason, and even when open, onerous to pass through.

A Nation and Occupation Repressively Persecuting Non-Jews

For Palestinians, Israel’s legal system is nightmarish, the chance for impartial investigations impossible, in violation of international standards. They require those responsible for crimes be punished, victims afforded redress, and justice to be blind to race, religion or ethnicity.

Under military occupation and for Israeli Arabs, the system is fundamentally flawed and unfair, under laws affording justice solely to Jews. As a result, PCHR and other human rights organizations pursue universal jurisdiction (UJ) remedies, a legal principle empowering courts in other countries to indict, prosecute and convict persons guilty of international crimes, no matter where they occurred.

Nonetheless, winning judgments against Israeli officials is daunting, not accomplished so far, politics and national alliances superseding the rule of law – what no longer can be tolerated at the expense of victims’ rights.

The UN Fact Finding Mission conducted extensive investigations into Israel’s Gaza war, as well as West Bank and East Jerusalem attacks, confirming gross international law violations – crimes of war and against humanity.

Yet over Q 4 2009, “persistent efforts were made to undermine” reports from the UN Human Rights Council, General Assembly and Security Council, again, Palestinians denied their rights.

As a result, on October 16, 2009, at the urging of the Palestinian leadership, the UN Human Rights Council (at its 12th Special Session) issued a Resolution condemning illegal Israeli acts, especially annexing East Jerusalem lands. It also endorsed the Goldstone Commission’s conclusions and recommendations – a first step toward justice, so far not achieved.

Israel’s harshness continues. A subservient Mahmound Abbas issues presidential decrees without presenting them to the PLC or involving the legitimate Hamas government.

Though released from detention in June 2009, PLC Speaker, Dr. ‘Aziz al-Dwaik, is prevented from even entering his Ramallah office by presidential decree, an illegitimate act by a coup d’etat president.

The split between West Bank and Gaza is untenable, the result of Israel targeting Hamas, bogusly calling it a terrorist organization, Abbas its servile tool obeying orders and being rewarded with White House visits and photo-ops, the benefits for betraying his people, including remaining president long after his term expired and not calling new elections.

Life in Occupied Palestine remains grim, Israeli imposed viciousness creating enormous hardships for millions of victimized Palestinians, ongoing for 62 years, 43 under occupation brutishness – illegal, unjustifiable, and unconscionable by a so-called civilized state, in fact, run by hooligans, war criminals, respecting might alone over right, what grassroots activism no longer can tolerate nor should anyone of conscience anywhere.

  • Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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