We visited the refugee camp in Baalbek, near the Lebanese/Syrian border in the first week of May, 2013. The camp has been housing around 4,000 Palestinian refugees, mainly from the Galilee area, for more than a generation. In the last two years though they’ve had to cope with an influx of 7,400 Syrian refugees!
The camp manager received our delegation warmly when we arrived, mid-afternoon without an appointment. He spoke to us briefly in the dim light of his office (there was no electricity). We asked him how an already crowded refugee camp could possibly absorb an influx of new refugees that is twice its original size! His answer was simple. “Every family adopts two new families … in some cases three!”
The Palestinians of Baalbek are simply an inspiration, though it’s hard to know how long these people can continue in this impossible situation. One small contribution I think we could make is to run some boxing camps for the young people during their summer holidays. I think Denning would be the ideal person to manage it! Does anyone else want to volunteer?
The first video is Luke Waters’ coverage of the camp, screened for SBS TV. Luke was a valued member of our team until his employer said that he couldn’t join us on our trip into Syria (or so I was told)!
(if you can’t view this video, click here)
The second video is Denning clowning around. I don’t know the prelude to this scene but when I arrived he’d been teaching his charges to be ‘Aussies‘ for some time!
(if you can’t view this video, click here)
These are the sorts of incidents that are generally not considered newsworthy, yet behind each statistic are grieving families and children who are growing up in an environment of hatred towards the occupying power – a hatred that is totally understandable.
How can there ever be peace between these peoples while daily injustices like this go on?!
EU flays Israel destroying Palestine structures
28 people, including 18 children, were displaced and 120 others affected
Occupied Jerusalem: European Union missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah expressed serious concerns on Friday about the demolition last week of 22 structures in eight places across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
The destruction displaced 28 people, including 18 children, and affected 120 other people including 57 children, a statement from EU missions in Ramallah and Jerusalem said of the actions on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Some of these structures were funded by EU member states, including France, it said.
“These and other recent demolitions appear to put an end to a period in which a welcome reduction in demolitions had been noted,” the EU said.
“Since the year 2008 more than 2,400 Palestinian houses and structures have been demolished in Area C of West Bank and [occupied] east Jerusalem, displacing more than 4,400 people.”
Places designated as Area C are under full Israeli control.
The statement said that, on May 14, 2012 they had called on Israel to meet its obligations regarding the living conditions of the Palestinian population in Area C, including halting forced transfers of people and demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure.
French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot condemned the destruction of a Palestinian Bedouin camp by the Israeli army on Tuesda in the north of the Jordan Valley.
He said the camp had been financed by France and was “clearly identifiable.”
“France has made representations to the Israeli authorities to stop the destruction of homes, the displacement and the destruction… in Area C, which are contrary to international humanitarian law,” Lalliot said.
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on Friday the demolition of two farm sheds and a Palestinian restaurant in Area C on April 19 and the temporary displacement of some 60 people, including 36 children, in the Jordan Valley due to Israeli military training.
Richard Falk has never been one to pull punches. He simply states what everybody involved in the so-called ‘peace process’ has always suspected – that the ‘two-state solution’ has been dead in the water for many years.
It’s hard to know whether John Kerry really believes his efforts will make a difference. Certainly Mahmoud Abbas must no better. Meanwhile, as they play out their charade, the Palestinian people continue to pay the price.
Falk: Two-state solution presently obsolete
BEIRUT: Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine for the U.N. Human Rights Council, Thursday called the two-state solution “presently obsolete.”
Falk, who has drawn controversy in the past for his criticism of Israeli policies, was delivering the annual Constantine Zurayk Lecture at the American University of Beirut, speaking on the topic “Rethinking the Future of Palestine: Beyond the Two State Consensus.”
Falk did not completely rule out the two-state solution, saying, “Perhaps in the future it will again become a plausible political project.”
But for now Falk said U.S. President Barack Obama’s model of a two-state solution “continues the global mirage of a negotiation … is essentially a bridge to nowhere,” adding that “no image of an end-game solution at this time is possible as a viable political project.”
Since 2005, he has been the chair of the Board at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and taught at Princeton University for 40 years.
In the wake of the June 1967 war, Falk said, the situation can be characterized as one in which the Palestinians have lost, and the Israelis have gained.
“And they [the Israelis] have been able to do that behind the mirage that a two-state solution was in the cards.”
Using South Africa as an example, he highlighted the need to satisfy a number of political preconditions before a solution becomes a realistic possibility.
Saying that “conditions for a just peace do not presently exist,” Falk also noted, “I realize it’s discouraging to emphasize the prematurity of proposing a solution after 65 years.”
My feeling is that it is Abbas who should have resigned rather than Fayyad.
Abbas lost whatever credibility he had left when he kowtowed to Obama and Kerry in delaying Palestine’s application for membership to the International Criminal Court (ICC)! He is not the democratically elected leader of the Palestinian people and has no reason to delay an election beyond his unwillingness to let go of power.
Deep-seated animosity trumps Palestinian calls for unity
After Prime Minister Salam Fayyad resigned, Palestinian politicians immediately called for elections and a national unity government to reconcile bitter rivals Fatah and Hamas.
But entrenched animosity between the two sides, stretching beyond disagreement over Fayyad, suggested that any thaw in relations between Fatah and Hamas, which control the West Bank and the Gaza Strip respectively, would be slow.
In Fayyad’s first weekly radio address after resigning, the now caretaker premier called for “a general election as the only way to rebuild our political system and achieve our national goals,” namely statehood, which would first require intra-Palestinian reconciliation.
“Just as there is no state without Jerusalem as its eternal capital, there is no state without the Gaza Strip, a part that cannot be partitioned from it,” Fayyad said.
Hamas leaders met Friday in Doha, the base of the Islamist movement’s exiled leader Khaled Meshaal, saying they would discuss “Palestinian reconciliation and developments in the Palestinian arena following Fayyad’s resignation.”
A senior member of President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah party, meanwhile, called on his leader to “hold consultations with Palestinian movements to form a national unity government and set a date for elections.”
Azzam al-Ahmed said Fayyad’s resignation a week ago, after an announcement by the elections commission that it was ready to carry out elections should they be called, was “favorable to… forming a national unity government.”
But Abbas’s Thursday pledge to launch talks “in the near future” on forming a new cabinet, despite what officials say is a two-week deadline to do so, avoided giving an exact date as the president prepared for a tour to Turkey and Europe.
In Turkey for two days from Saturday, Abbas will meet Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is set to visit the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in May.
Fatah has openly criticized the Erdogan trip as fostering intra-Palestinian divisions.
“Any official, Arab, Muslim or foreign, who visits Gaza without reference to the legitimate Palestinian leadership is blessing and consolidating the division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” Ahmed said in a separate interview with official Voice of Palestine radio on Monday.
And in a march in Gaza to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day on Wednesday, a speech by a Fatah-affiliated politician and an animated retort by a Hamas member underlined the root of the division between the movements.
Palestinian People’s Party member Talaat al-Safadi called for Hamas’s Gaza premier Ismail Haniya to step down also, prompting Hamas member Ashraf Abu Zeida to seize Safadi’s microphone and shout “Fayyad was an impostor, Haniya was chosen by the people!”
After Hamas won a landslide victory in a January 2006 Palestinian general election, the West mounted a boycott of the movement.
Bickering with Fatah culminated in the formation of a unity government in 2007 but that collapsed in bloody street fighting in Gaza just months later.
Hamas never recognized Fayyad’s authority as Palestinian premier, continuing instead to recognize Haniya.
The two movements signed a reconciliation deal in Cairo in 2011, pledging to set up an interim consensus government of independents that would pave the way for legislative and presidential elections within 12 months.
But implementation of the accord stalled over the make-up of the interim government, and a February 2012 deal signed by Abbas and Meshaal in Doha intended to overcome outstanding differences was opposed by Hamas members in Gaza.