July 2012 Archives

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This report is taken from the latest ‘Churches for Peace on the Middle East’ bulletin. The highlights are from Father Roy.

July 13, 2012

Israeli Report Rejects Occupation and Outpost Illegality 

On Monday a panel commissioned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released its final report on the status of settlements in the West Bank. The group decided that Israel’s presence in the West Bank does not constitute an “occupation” and therefore settlement activity does not violate international law. The results are only recommendations at this stage, but nevertheless, they received harsh criticism from Israeli peace groups and much of the international community.

The committee, headed by former Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy, concluded that the “classical laws of ‘occupation’ as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable” given the unique circumstance of Israel’s presence in the West Bank. Additionally, it found “the provisions of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, regarding the transfer of populations, cannot be considered applicable and were never intended to apply to the type of settlement activity” that is carried out in the West Bank. This means, “the establishment of settlements cannot, in and of itself, be considered illegal.”

There are several recommendations in the report based on these conclusions. Levy and his colleagues believe that since the government provided encouragement and tacit approval for outposts, they should be legalized. In cases where settlers built outposts on private Palestinian land, the report suggests that Israel should create a separate judicial tribunal to investigate claims to the land. This could make the process harder for Palestinians to pursue claims by establishing a “fixed time period” for the owner to take legal action.

The committee convened in January this year after settlers in Netanyahu’s coalition pressured him to resolve the illegal outpost issue that has plagued Israel for years. In 2005, Talia Sasson issued a report at the behest of then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that revealed the Israeli government funded the building of settlements and outposts in the West Bank that were illegal under Israeli law. While the government voted to accept the report’s recommendations, there was no set timetable for evacuations and construction continued at a faster rate, often at odds with Israeli courts. The most recent example of this tension was the court ordered evacuation of Ulpana a few weeks ago, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed the court ruling, but vowed to physically relocate the settlers’ homes and build 850 new ones to compensate.

It is important to remember that the Levy Report’s conclusions are mere suggestions for the Netanyahu government. Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein must examine the findings and approve them before Netanyahu and his cabinet can entertain the idea of legalizing all settlements.

TAKE ACTION! Raise your voice and ask Secretary Clinton to express firm U.S. opposition to the legalization of illegal settlements.

Levy Report Fall Out

A press release from Americans for Peace Now quoted President and CEO Debra DeLee saying, “If the Levy Report’s recommendations become official policy, the Netanyahu government will be taking the country that we love and support one step closer to becoming an international pariah – a country whose government declares openly that it prefers land to peace and ideology over law and justice.”

Legal advisor to Yesh Din, Michael Sfard released a statement which, “The Levy Committee was conceived in sin to legalize a crime, and it has fully accomplished its mission. Its report is not a legal report but an ideological report that ignores the basic principles of the rule of law.”

If Weinstein does accept the findings, Jerusalem Post writer Jonathan Rosen cautions Netanyahufrom making the recommendations law. He writes, “To endorse the Levy report is to unmask the ongoing fraud by the Israeli government; it is to admit openly that the government has lent its tacit support to the establishment of the outposts and, as such, to the ongoing settlement of the West Bank, despite promises to the contrary. In short, to do so would be politically suicidal for Netanyahu.”

The report bolsters the settlers’ claims to the land in the West Bank and many of their supporters in the government praised the findings. Prominent Likud Knesset Member Danny Danon said, “The report will remove any leftist radicalism from previous court ruling on the outposts and bury once and for all the alarming report previously submitted by attorney Talia Sasson.”

The United States government says it has not changed its position on the issue of settlements. A State Department spokesman told reporters, “Obviously, we’ve seen the reports that an Israeli government appointed panel has recommended legalizing dozens of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, and we oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts.

This response uses the standard verbiage that has become commonplace in recent years. Several of the statements made by the President Barack Obama’s administration since 2009 involve the illegitimacy of the settlement enterprise but avoid deeming them illegal. However, the State Department says the outposts are illegal, but that view is in agreement with current Israeli law.

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This just in from the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network

Act Now to Save Akram al-Rikhawi’s life!

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Akram al-Rikhawi has now been on hunger strike for 95 days. He is the longest serving hunger striker anywhere in the world.  He is suffering from numerous medical conditions, including diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, glaucoma, kidney problems and immune deficiency. Addameer reports that “Prior to his arrest, Akram received injections of Kenacort to treat his asthma, but following his arrest, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) did not allow Akram to take this injection. Instead, it was replaced with injections of cortisone, which is most likely the cause of severe complications, resulting in additional chronic illnesses such as diabetes and osteoporosis, from which Akram now suffers.” Take action today to call for the immediate release of Akram al-Rikhawi!

Akram began his hunger strike on April 12 of this year to demand his early release due to his heath circumstances. He also has eight children, and he and his wife are also responsible for the care of the five children of his late brother. Despite his severe health circumstances and his difficult family and economic straits and responsibility for 13 children, his appeals for early release in 2012 and on June 5, 2012 were both rejected.

He did not stop his hunger strike on May 14 at the time of the agreement between prisoners and the Israel Prison Services because his unique circumstances were not addressed – namely, early release on medical grounds. Physicians for Human Rights were denied access to Akram for nearly two months, until June 6. He has lost 26.5% of his body weight – and was already very unhealthy. Akram has been refusing medical examinations since mid-May – and in response, the cortisone injections have only increased. PHR has stated that he must be transferred immediately to a civilian hospital in order to receive proper medical care, and filed suit to demand he be transferred – which was denied by an Israeli District Court on June 14. Since June 16, he has been refusing supplements and other forms of artificial nourishment that the Israeli prison hospital has attempted to impose on him.

He has now been on hunger strike for 95 days. He is in severe danger. International action is urgently needed to save his life! It is urgent that we act now to free Akram Rikhawi and secure his much-needed medical care.

Akram al-Rikhawi is not the only Palestinian prisoner currently on hunger strike:

  • Samer al-Barq has now been on hunger strike since May 22, for 55 days, protesting Israeli violations of the agreement with the prisoners – after his own administrative detention, rather than expiring as agreed by the Israelis at the end of the strike, was renewed for an additional three months. Samer al-Barq is now on hunger strike until his release is secured.
  • Hassan Safadi, a long-term hunger striker who had been striking for 71 days at the time the May 14 agreement was concluded, had his administrative detention order renewed by the Israelis on June 21, despite the explicit agreement that the long-term hunger strikers such as Safadi serving in administrative detention without charge or trial would not have those orders renewed. Safadi is now on his 25th day of hunger strike and plans to continue until he is released.

The Israeli Prison Services have continued to violate the May 14 agreement in numerous ways – Dirar Abu Sisi remains in solitary confinement and another prisoner was recently moved to isolation. Although family visits to Gaza prisoners have now been announced, they will be “experimental,” apply only to 25 of the 479 prisoners and will exclude prisoners’ children from visits.

After his 96-day hunger strike, Palestinian soccer star Mahmoud Sarsak returned on July 10 to his home in Gaza to a hero’s welcome. It is urgent that we act now for all Palestinian prisoners to return to their families and homes like Sarsak. Administrative detention, mass roundups, and military trials are continuing in Palestine.  International solidarity and action is needed to hold the occupation accountable for its ongoing imprisonment and abuse of the people of Palestine!

TAKE ACTION!

1. Sign a letter demanding the Israeli state transfer Akram Rikhawi, Samer al-Barq and Hassan Safadi immediately to hospitals and release them. Tell the Israeli Prison Services that the world is watching! Click here to sign.

2. Sign this letter, circulated by UFREE, to members of the European Parliament and demand action to save the life of Akram Rikhawi.

3. Join a protest or demonstration outside an Israeli consulate for Palestinian prisoners. Many groups and organizations are holding events – join one or announce your own. Organizing an event, action or forum on Palestinian prisoners on your city or campus? Use this form to contact us and we will post the event widely. If you need suggestions, materials or speakers for your event, please contact us at samidoun@samidoun.ca…(The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign has great materials, available at www.ipsc.ie/the-issues/factsheets…)

4. Contact your government officials and demand an end to international silence and complicity with the repression of Palestinian political prisoners. In Canada, Call the office of John Baird, Foreign Minister, and demand an end to Canadian support for Israel and justice for Palestinian prisoners, at : 613-990-7720; Email: bairdj@parl.gc.ca…. In the US, call the office of Elizabeth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs (1.202.647.7209). Demand that Elizabeth Jones bring this issue urgently to his counterparts in Israel.

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Jonathan Cook says that while many of us treat Justice Levy’s decision – that there is no such thing as the Palestinian Occupation – as some sort of bad joke, it is truly no laughing matter. While nobody internationally may take him seriously, the decision could well be used to legalize the annexation of large areas of the West Bank!

Original article in The National

If settlements are ‘legal’, the ground is laid for annexation 

Jonathan Cook

Jul 18, 2012

The recently published report by an Israeli judge concluding that Israel is not in fact occupying the Palestinian territories – despite an international consensus to the contrary – has provoked mostly incredulity or mirth in Israel and abroad.

Left-wing websites in Israel used comically captioned photographs to highlight Justice Edmond Levy’s preposterous finding. One shows an Israeli soldier pressing the barrel of a rifle to the forehead of a Palestinian pinned to the ground, saying: “You see – I told you there’s no occupation.”

Even Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, seemed a little discomfited by the coverage last week. He was handed the report more than a fortnight earlier but was apparently reluctant to make it public.

Downplaying the Levy report’s significance may prove unwise, however. If Mr Netanyahu is embarrassed, it is only because of the timing of the report’s publication rather than its substance.

It was, after all, the Israeli prime minister himself who established the committee earlier this year to assess the legality of the Jewish settlers’ “outposts”, ostensibly unauthorised by the government, that have spread across the West Bank.

He hand-picked its three members, all diehard supporters of the settlements, and received the verdict he expected – that the settlements are legal. Certainly, Justice Levy’s opinion should have come as no surprise. In 2005, he was the only Supreme Court judge to oppose the decision to withdraw the settlers from Gaza.

Legal commentators too have been dismissive of the report. They have concentrated more on Justice Levy’s dubious reasoning than on the report’s political significance.

Under international law, Israel’s rule in the West Bank and Gaza is considered “belligerent occupation” and, therefore, its actions must be justified by military necessity only. If there is no occupation, Israel has no military grounds to hold on to the territories. In that case, it must either return the land to the Palestinians, and move out the settlers, or defy international law by annexing the territories, as it did earlier with East Jerusalem, and establish a state of Greater Israel.

Annexation, however, poses its own dangers. Israel must either offer the Palestinians citizenship and wait for a non-Jewish majority to emerge in Greater Israel; or deny them citizenship and face pariah status as an apartheid state.

Just such concerns were raised on Sunday by 40 Jewish leaders in the United States, who called on Mr Netanyahu to reject “legal manoeuvrings” that threatened Israel’s “future as a Jewish and democratic state”. But from Israel’s point of view, there may, in fact, be a way out of this conundrum.

In a 2003 interview, one of the other Levy committee members, Alan Baker, a settler who advised the foreign ministry for many years, explained Israel’s heterodox interpretation of the Oslo Accords, signed a decade earlier.

The agreements were not, as most assumed, the basis for the creation of a Palestinian state in the territories, but a route to establish the legitimacy of the settlements. “We are no longer an occupying power, but we are instead present in the territories with their [Palestinians’] consent.”

By this view, Oslo redesignated the 62 per cent of the West Bank assigned to Israel’s control – so-called Area C – from “occupied” to “disputed” territory. That explains why every Israeli administration since the mid-1990s has indulged in an orgy of settlement-building there.

According to Jeff Halper, head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, the Levy report is preparing the legal ground for Israel’s annexation of Area C. His disquiet is shared by others.

Recent European Union reports have used unprecedented language to criticise Israel for the “forced transfer” – diplomat-speak for ethnic cleansing – of Palestinians out of Area C into the West Bank’s cities, which fall under Palestinian control.

The EU notes that the numbers of Palestinians in Area C has shrunk dramatically under Israeli rule to fewer than 150,000, or 6 per cent of the Palestinian population of the West Bank. Settlers now outnumber Palestinians more than two-to-one in Area C.

Israel could annex nearly two-thirds of the West Bank and still safely confer citizenship on Palestinians there. Adding 150,000 to the existing 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, a fifth of the population, would not erode the Jewish majority’s dominance.

If Mr Netanyahu is hesitant, it is only because the time is not yet ripe for implementation. But over the weekend, there were indications of Israel’s next moves to strengthen its hold on Area C.

It was reported that Israel’s immigration police had been authorised to expel foreign activists from the West Bank. The new powers were on show the same day as the army arrested foreigners, including a New York Times reporter, at one of the regular Palestinian anti-wall protests in Area C.

And on Sunday, it emerged that Israel had begun a campaign against OCHA, the UN agency that focuses on humanitarian harm to Palestinians in Area C from Israeli military and settlement activity. Israel has demanded details of where OCHA’s staff work and what projects it is planning.

There is a problem, nonetheless. If Israel takes Area C, it needs someone else responsible for the other 38 per cent of the West Bank – little more than 8 per cent of historic Palestine – to “fill the vacuum”, as Israeli commentators phrased it last week.

The obvious candidate is the Palestinian Authority, the Ramallah government-in- waiting. But the PA’s weakness is evident on all fronts: it has lost credibility with ordinary Palestinians, it is impotent in international forums and it is mired in a financial crisis.

If the PA refuses to, or cannot, take on these remaining fragments of the West Bank, Israel may simply opt to turn back the clock and once again cultivate weak and isolated local leaders for each Palestinian city.

The question is whether the international community can first be made to swallow Justice Levy’s absurd conclusion.

– Jonathan Cook is a journalist based in Nazareth and the recipient of the 2011 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism

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I’ve done a modicum of highlighting in Dr. Daud Abdullah’s essay pasted below.  Are we reading one man’s honest opinion?  One man is writing.  Notice the date.  Will CNN and the others report this story?   Peace, Roy 

Click here: Israel ignites the tinderbox of religious conflict

Israel ignites the tinderbox of religious conflict

Dr. Daud Abdullah

Thursday, 19 July 2012 15:00

When the dust of this controversy settles one fact will remain unchanged; East Jerusalem is occupied territory and not disputed territory.

Has the struggle for occupied Jerusalem finally revealed its religious character? The recent claim by Israel’s Attorney General, Yehuda Weinstein, that Al-Asqa Mosque is part of Israeli territory has drawn unprecedented condemnation from across the Islamic world. His assertion that Islam’s third holiest mosque should be subject to Israeli law, including antiquities laws and laws regarding building and planning was seen as an obscene provocation. This twist marks a dangerous escalation by the Netanyahu government in an atmosphere already charged with rage and tension.

Weinstein’s inflammatory statement is significant because it came from the nerve centre of the Israeli establishment. It complements similar views advocated not only by the Prime Minister, but also by members of parliament. All three organs of the state – legislative, executive and judiciary – are now in full accord on the question of Al-Aqsa. All are driven by the same motivation and objective, which is to complete the Judaisation of Jerusalem.

Surely, Weinstein’s remarks did not emerge from a vacuum, nor were they coincidental. During the 2000 Camp David peace talks, Ehud Barak, the then Israeli Prime Minister and his Palestinian counterpart, Yasser Arafat, discussed for the first time the status of occupied east Jerusalem and its holy sites. Arafat famously rejected the Clinton proposal to divide the city so that Israel would have sovereignty in the area below the Aqsa sanctuary (Haram al Sharif) while the Muslims would have sovereignty over what is above. The talks collapsed and very soon after the Aqsa Intifada erupted.

On the face of it, Weinstein’s remarks betray an Israeli attempt to exploit regional uncertainties. The Israelis believe that the neighbouring Arab states – Egypt, Syria and Jordan – are so preoccupied with their domestic political challenges that they have no time for Al-Quds and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Shaykh Kamal Khateeb, the deputy head of the Islamic movement in Israel, explained the context of Weinstein’s claim, noting that it only confirms what has been asserted previously by the occupation municipality; that Al-Aqsa Mosque is just a public place and not a religious sanctuary. Also, that it is not part of the 144,000 square metres which form the area of the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), suggesting that the Dome of the Rock and Qibly mosques are the only religious sites.

Israel’s obvious aim is to test the waters to see the public reaction and then proceed in accord with its customary stealth approach in such matters. Palestinians have long maintained that Israel’s ultimate objective is to demolish Al-Aqsa Mosque and build upon its ruins the so-called Third Temple. Everything they witness on the ground suggests that Israel is moving in this direction.

But they were not the only ones appalled by Israel’s latest provocation. In an unusually swift response Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), an umbrella body of 57 states, condemned the Israeli affront. He called on Muslim ambassadors to UNESCO to act immediately to stop Israeli aggression against the sacred Islamic and world heritage sites in occupied Jerusalem.

Weinstein’s comment comes only weeks after UNESCO had granted the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem the status of an endangered world heritage site. Moreover, the UN body also granted funds for the necessary repairs to the fourth-century sanctuary, which was built over the grotto where according to Christian tradition, Jesus was born.

In normal circumstances legal professionals are more circumspect with their public pronouncements. But then again, this is Israel and international law has practically no value in the eyes of its officials, especially when it does not serve their partisan interests. While Israel has the right to legislate its own laws, it must also conform to international standards.

The issue of Jerusalem mirrors other parts of occupied Palestine for which The Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907), the 1949 Geneva Convention as well as the 1954 Hague Convention call for the protection of religious property during armed conflicts.
In the region, the Israeli claim has caused alarm in Jordan. The semi-official Ad-Dustour newspaper, in an editorial on 18 July, described the development as a breach of the 1994 Wadi Araba Treaty, which grants Jordan a special custodial role over “the Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem” (Article 9).

By declaring that Al-Aqsa is part of Israeli territory, observers believe that the Netanyahu government has taken a calculated decision to accelerate the process of Judaisation to a new and dangerous level. Abdul Qadir al-Hussayni, a former PLO minister for Jerusalem affairs, shares this view. He described Weinstein’s remarks is an attempt to give legal cover for more municipal and settler attacks against Al-Aqsa and other holy sites.

Although the PLO has condemned the Israeli move, this was viewed with scepticism because of its questionable record. Critics point to the willingness of the PLO executive committee member and negotiator Saeb Erekat to show flexibility and make unprecedented concessions on the final status of the Haram al-Sharif during the Annapolis talks. A leaked document revealed that on 30 June 2008 he told the Israeli Foreign Minister, Tsipi Livni, “We are offering you the biggest Yerushalayim in history.”

When the dust of this controversy settles one fact will remain unchanged; East Jerusalem is occupied territory and not disputed territory. Israel may occupy Jerusalem and its religious sites for some time yet, but it will not be able to occupy the hearts of the world’s Muslim population who believe that Al-Aqsa Mosque is an integral part of their faith. Damage to Al-Aqsa would therefore be no less consequential than damage to the Holy Mosque in Makkah. For this reason, if no other, the world must act immediately to end Israel’s illegal activities in and around Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Noble Sanctuary which surrounds it.

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Sam Bahour writes: How much longer will this insanity continue! Israel watches a prisoner on hunger strike reach the brink of death, then they strike a deal to release him early, but not until they feed him so he looks normal upon release. Fact is that he should never have been detained to start with! Do Israeli citizens still believe this is all in the name of their security? Can they be that naive? Toying with human life will have a cost, it always does, Sam

From Addameer

Hunger Strike Ends for Akram Rikhawi after 102 days 

Ramallah, 23 July 2012 – Following a visit today by Addameer lawyer Mona Nadaf, Addameer can confirm that Palestinian hunger striker Akram Rikhawi has ended his hunger strike after reaching an agreement with the Israeli Prison Service. Akram ended his hunger strike yesterday evening after 102 days. 

As part of the agreement Akram will be released on 25th January 2013, which is six months prior to his original release date. Addameer’s lawyer visited Akram in Ramleh prison, where he remains in critical condition. It was agreed that upon his release he will return to his home in the Gaza Strip. 

Addameer’s lawyer also visited Hassan Safadi, who is on his 33rd day of hunger strike. Hassan’s health continues to deteriorate with recent tests indicating that he has developed kidney stones as a result of his hunger strike. He remains extremely           

weak and is currently taking only water and vitamins.

www.addameer.org…