israel and palestine conflict

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No surprises here. Despite an easing of restrictions on imports into Gaza, the goods Israel permits to enter the world’s largest open-air prison are still well below what is required for the sustenance of a full human life.

Moreover, the virtual ban on exports means unemployment rates – hovering at around 30% – continue to be the worst in the world. Add to this the impact of Israel’s bombing of the civilian infrastructure and it comes as no surprise that poverty levels in Palestine are amongst the worst in the world.

Father Dave

source: gulfnews.com…

Ramallah: Poverty levels in the Palestinian Territories, and mainly in the Gaza Strip, have reached unprecedented levels with 11,626 families among a million Gazans officially approved by the Ministry of Palestinian Social Affairs as being in need of financial assistance, said a senior official.

Speaking to Gulf News, Dr Thana’a Al Khozendar, the Director-General of the Combat Poverty Programme at the Ministry of Social Affairs, the latest Israeli offensive against Gaza created more poverty and increased the list of needy families applying to the ministry for financial assistance.

“The Israeli military operation in Gaza added poorer people to their already long lists. The Israeli offensive also created richer people on the other hand,” said Dr Al Khozendar. “The tunnel’s business increased the numbers of rich people in Gaza and expanded the gap between rich and poor in Gaza.”

Israel’s blockade on Gaza has led to the flourishing of trade through underground tunnels between the strip and Egypt.

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God bless Amira Hass. As ever she is on the cutting edge – exposing lies in the official narrative that we’ve heard so often that they’ve become a part of general wisdom.

The apartheid wall, the checkpoints, the permit restrictions – all seem to be designed to protect ordinary Israelis from suicide bombers and other forms of Palestinian aggression. Hass puts the lie to the entire package!

Father Dave

Amira Hass

Amira Hass

source: www.haaretz.com…

Israeli crackdown on Palestinian mobility began well before suicide bombings

Most Israelis labor under the misconception that restrictions on Palestinian movement were a result of suicide bombings, but they started long before that.

“I didn’t know you were such an empiricist,” a friend told me impatiently, a veteran peace activist with a doctorate, when I insisted at some meeting on specifying the prohibitions on the movement of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

That was in 1995, and he thought I didn’t see the big picture, the positive direction, the vision, the beat of the wings of history, and instead was merely insisting on going into detail, into temporary malfunctions. He wasn’t alone in thinking that. One of my editors at the time told me I lacked perspective because I lived in Gaza, and so my reports looked the way they did. In short, wearisome.

The signs were there right from the start − signs that the so much talked-about Peace Process was a process of subjugation; signs that Israel intended to impose on the other side an agreement whose terms were far from the Palestinian minimum, and far from what many countries in the world envisioned as a two-state solution.

But it was hard for these signs to infiltrate public awareness (as well as the Israeli and international media) through the powerful interest in seeing the outward manifestations of something that you believe exists: in Gazans bathing in the sea; in the head of the Israeli Shin Bet security service meeting with the head of the Palestinian security service; in Shimon Peres visiting Gaza; in joint security patrols; and in our soldiers no longer patrolling in the heart of the Palestinian towns.

From the supposedly narrow perspective of the Strip, though, the reality of incarceration was, looked and felt like the complete opposite of a peace process.

The chronology is important here − I’ve repeated it countless times and will repeat it countless more times − because local readers like to think that the blanket prohibitions on Palestinian mobility were a response to the suicide attacks from 1994 on. That is not the case.

It began in January 1991, on the eve of the Gulf War. The Israel Defense Forces GOC Central and Southern Commands then revoked an earlier order, from the 1970s, of a “general exit permit to Israel” − in other words, one that allowed the Palestinian residents of the occupied territory to enter Israel, and move freely within its borders and between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Initially, the revocation was interpreted as something temporary, a preventive measure during the unclear period of wartime. But after a lengthy curfew, the residents of the Strip woke up to a new reality. If up until 1991 Israel had respected (for reasons of its own) the right to freedom of movement for all Palestinians, but withheld it from a few people, after 1991 the situation was reversed: Israel denied all Palestinians (those in the West Bank as well) the right to freedom of movement, aside from a few groups and numbers that it determined.

Since then, this is the rule in effect, aside from shifts in the various categories and specific numbers of those permitted to leave. The expectation that signing the transfer of powers from the Civil Administration to the Palestinian Authority in May 1994 would restore freedom of movement was soon dashed. That was the first clear sign.

Incarceration within the Gaza Strip bagged several birds during this process of subjugation:

Just how important and deliberate that fourth step was may be gleaned from two other signs. Under the Oslo Accords, the PA has the power to change a person’s home address on his or her identity card, and only has to report the change to the Civil Administration (as the representative of Israeli’s Interior Ministry), which enters the new details in the database of its Population Registry. But in 1996, it emerged that Israel was refusing to register address changes from Gaza to the West Bank.

In 1997, another military order was issued: Gazans now needed a permit even when entering the West Bank via the Allenby Bridge. That closed a loophole which students and others had exploited until then: They would depart Gaza through Egypt, fly to Jordan, and then continue westward, through the Allenby Bridge crossing.

‘No reason to leave’

As early as 1995 I asked a woman in the Israeli security establishment why, if “confidence-building measures” between the Palestinians and Israel had been declared, there would be no easing up with respect to mobility permits and the convoluted bureaucracy that developed around them. Why not, for example, grant women and children exit permits that were valid for a year − if not to Israel, then at least to the West Bank? This woman, though not a decision maker, was placed in the right junction to answer my question: “Because they have no reason to leave,” she told me, honestly.

Clerks and junior officers in the system hear and grasp what is planned in the corridors of power, but are less careful than their superiors about what they say, and do not bother to hide certain intentions. In 1997, when I was already in the West Bank, I started to become acquainted with the traditional Palestinian farming communities in the Jordan Valley, whose tent encampments and shacks had been systematically destroyed by the Civil Administration’s inspectors and soldiers.

Several of the people whose homes had been demolished told me: “I asked the inspector, ‘So where will we go now that you’ve destroyed our home?’ And he replied: ‘Go to Arafat, go to Area A [the small area which was then designed to be under Palestinian administrative-civilian control].’”

These soldiers also divulged the intentions of their superiors. To this day, 16 years later, that is the policy behind the destruction of the water cisterns and of tent encampments there. To this day, that is the state’s answer to the High Court of Justice in petitions by residents of the southern Hebron Hills against intentions to evict them from their communities: “They have somewhere to live in Area A.”

“Area A” and “Area B” (under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control) are the code names for the Palestinian enclaves that formed in the past 20 years − the years of the “peace process.” The Israeli battle to create the detached and separate Gaza enclave succeeded better than expected when Hamas − aided by foolish decisions of the PA − created its own separate institutions of government.

The Israeli campaign strategy to create Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank has also been crowned a great success, and its name is Area C (which is under full Israeli administrative and security control). Areas A, B and C were established in the Oslo Accords as purely temporary categories, to mark the gradual nature by which the military forces would leave the Palestinians’ territory. Fourteen years later, Area C − the last area the military was supposed to vacate (in 1999) − still covers about 62 percent of the West Bank, and is the expansion space reserved for the outposts, settlements, industrial zones and multilane highways. Permanent and sacred and ours, like the Temple Mount.

  • Separation and creation of distance between senior officials and ordinary folks by granting “generous” mobility permits to a select class of Palestinians: freedom of movement for senior PA officials who came from abroad and gave no thought to the reality that existed before, without a need for permits, and to several prisoners who had been released and positioned themselves high in the PA leadership;
  • Satisfying the PA and then PLO leader Yasser Arafat’s sense of pseudo-control − closing the crossings and requesting permits necessitated coordination between the Civil Administration and its Palestinian twin (the Ministry of Civil Affairs);
  • Giving the PA a chance to develop the commercial monopolies of its people and cronies − by sheer dint of the need to coordinate exits between the PA and Israel;
  • Most important of all: Severing the society in Gaza from that of the West Bank. In other words, undermining the basic condition for a Palestinian state, in both parts of the territory conquered in 1967.

Just how important and deliberate that fourth step was may be gleaned from two other signs. Under the Oslo Accords, the PA has the power to change a person’s home address on his or her identity card, and only has to report the change to the Civil Administration (as the representative of Israeli’s Interior Ministry), which enters the new details in the database of its Population Registry. But in 1996, it emerged that Israel was refusing to register address changes from Gaza to the West Bank.

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The press release featured below from the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s ‘Department of Culture and Information’ is dated March 26. It features Dr Hana Ashrawi’s bold rebuke of the US for its predictable failure to support four resolutions brought before the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) condemning Israel for ongoing human rights abuses in occupied Palestine.

Obama has made his visit to Israel/Palestine and his position is clear: US support for Israel is unconditional and no pressure is being put on the Netanyahu government to end the Palestinian occupation or even to slow the rate of settlement expansion!  Now the gloves are off and the PA is telling it like it is! As Ashrawi says, “The United States, ostensibly a champion of ‘liberty and justice for all’, voted against freedom and democracy, and for racism, oppression and apartheid.”

Will this press release receive any attention in the US?  We’ll see. Will these prophetic protests from Palestine make any difference to US policy? Not likely!

Father Dave

Dr Hanan Ashrawi

Dr Hanan Ashrawi

Dr. Ashrawi on the adoption by the UNHRC of four resolutions regarding the situation in the Occupied State of Palestine

On 19 March 2013, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in its 22nd session, voted nearly unanimously to adopt four texts regarding the situation in the Occupied State of Palestine, including East Jerusalem.

In relevant part, the texts warned that ongoing Israeli violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, particularly as regards the illegal settlement enterprise, constituted ‘a major obstacle to the establishment of a just and comprehensive peace and to the creation of an independent, viable, sovereign and democratic Palestinian State’. They demanded that Israel respect international human rights and humanitarian law and comply with its legal obligations thereunder. They condemned ‘all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction’; and called upon Israel to implement serious measures to prevent and punish acts of violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians and properties in the Occupied State, including East Jerusalem. They demanded that ‘Israel, the occupying power, cease all practices and actions that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people, including the killing and injury of civilians, the arbitrary detention and imprisonment of civilians and the destruction and confiscation of civilian property’. They demanded that all parties concerned implement and ensure the implementation of the all of the recommendations found in the Report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission to Investigate the Implications of Israeli settlements on the Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and urged their assistance in the early realization of ‘the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to live in freedom, justice and dignity, and to establish their sovereign, independent, democratic and viable contiguous State’.

Only the United States voted against any of the four texts, and it voted against them all.

In response, PLO Executive Committee member, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said:

“On behalf of the Palestinian people and leadership, I would like to express great appreciation and gratitude to the Council Members who stood up for human rights, peace, and justice in the Occupied State of Palestine. We appreciate your support and value your courage to stand behind your convictions.”

Dr. Ashrawi stressed, “In this context, the United States once again demonstrated a total disregard for Palestinian rights and the requirements of peace. In this 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, it willfully voted against the fundamental human rights of people and against the very core values upon which the United States claims to be founded.”

“The United States, ostensibly a champion of ‘liberty and justice for all’, voted against freedom and democracy, and for racism, oppression and apartheid. It voted against justice, and for impunity, in the face of the most egregious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. It voted against peace. There can be no justification for this double standard.”

“Rather than respecting human rights and the rule of law, the United States has chosen to politicize them, and to continue to isolate itself with its unwavering support for the illegal policies and practices of the Israeli occupation.”

“It is therefore incumbent upon the international community to stand strong and united in upholding the rule of law and the established principles and values that govern the international system and individual states,” concluded Dr. Ashrawi.

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It seems that the American President, in his attempt to please everybody in Israel/Palestine, is pleasing no one.

Israelis remain unconvinced that the weakened US military will be able to provide any real support should there be a real outbreak of hostilities with Iran. The Palestinians remain unconvinced that Obama is willing to apply any leverage to see a ‘two-state solution’ come into being.

Father Dave

source: www.haaretz.com…

Palestinians still waiting for Obama to prove commitment to two state-solution

Many Palestinian lives and much political capital could have been saved over the last four years if President Obama had shown the determination to facilitate two-state solution negotiations. Now, rather than calling for the resumption of a meaningless ‘peace process,’ we Palestinians expect real action on the ground.

By Nabeel Sha’ath | Mar.20, 2013

Unfortunately, after that landmark speech, President Obama appeared to give up on his goal. This meant going back to business as usual: Putting pressure on an occupied people and rewarding the occupying power. In the past four years, Israel has added almost 50,000 settlers to the Occupied State of Palestine, almost 3000 attacks have been conducted by settler terrorists and over 1000 Palestinians have been killed. We could have saved lives and political capital if President Obama had shown the determination to create the right environment for meaningful decisions leading to a two-state solution.Four years ago, Mr. Obama was elected President of the United States of America. He won the hearts of Palestinians and other peoples of the world with his principled positions, vision and courage. Later on, he stood up in Cairo and gave us hope. His moral convictions showed us that he understood our quest for freedom, justice and peace. His strong statements, especially his request that Israel cease all settlement activity, gave us hope that the U.S. could help us to achieve these ideals in reality. Both Palestinians and Israelis who believe in a two-state solution saw President Obama as a real opportunity for change.

We have tried every possible venue to get closer to peace, but we have been always met with Israeli intransigence and a lack of commitment to implement its obligations. It’s been Israel’s unilateral actions, mainly settlement construction and the imposition of an apartheid regime, that have undermined the entire goal of the peace process to a point that leave very few people optimistic.

Israeli unilateralism turned the peace process into a smoke-screen to cover its systematic policy of colonization. Today, in the Occupied State of Palestine, we have homes that are being demolished and families evicted by an occupying power at the same time that the number of settlers went up almost three times since the beginning of the peace process, with a total of over half a million settlers today.

What has allowed Israel to get away with its severe violations? It is an unprecedented culture of impunity that keeps treating Israel as a state beyond the law. But it is also the fact that rather than peace, Israel’s goal is to increase colonization as much as possible. The two-state solution is not part of the agenda of Israel’s government and that’s a primary reason why negotiations failed.

When last year we went to the United Nations we aimed to revive hope. This courageous and rightful step meant, for Palestine, a reaffirmation of our rights in a non-violent manner. Recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border meant also to create a positive initiative to open a meaningful political horizon by salvaging the internationally endorsed two-state solution.

We felt that after twenty years of Israeli violations to every single agreement, it was time for the international community to participate in the resolution of the conflict, whilst aiming to respect and honor the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. It is in this spirit that we have committed as well to respect all our obligations, international treaties and international law in general.

But instead of welcoming this step, Israel led an unprecedented campaign of colonization with over 11,500 settlement units approved within a very few months following the UN vote. This act isn’t only a war crime, but it is also in open defiance of the stated U.S. policy regarding Israeli settlements. Acts like this, including approving hundreds of settlement units during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit, are Israeli messages to the U.S. and the rest of the world that it is not interested in peace: So far, Mr. Netanyahu has been able to get away with it.

Unfortunately, President Obama is not able to visit Palestine for more than a few hours. On March 21st, he will meet with President Abbas. He will be respectfully welcomed by our President and our people. We understand that he wants to listen, read and see for himself.

It would have been a great opportunity for President Obama to visit more of Palestine and see the current reality twenty years after the beginning of the peace process. Starting by the fact that we would have love to welcome him at Orient House, the closed PLO headquarters in Occupied East Jerusalem. He would also see segregated roads, just one example of one of the worst combinations possible: Apartheid under a belligerent occupation.

Next week marks the beginning of Holy Week for millions of Christians around the world. In Palestine, the oldest Christian community will be separated from their spiritual heart, Jerusalem, by Israeli checkpoints, walls and fences aimed at consolidating the illegal annexation of Occupied East Jerusalem. President Obama is welcome to see this reality and understand that the window of opportunity is closing. We don’t need another twenty years of negotiations to change this reality. We need tough and courageous decisions before it is too late.

Racial segregation, including those enforced on public transportation, was a dark period in U.S. history. This is happening today in Palestine, a symptom of how severe the current situation is. Rather than calling for resumption of a meaningless “peace process,” we expect real action on the ground. Such action should lead to ending the Israeli government’s impunity as well as to take the political steps needed. The future of millions of Palestinians and Israelis as well as the rest of the peoples of the region as a whole depends on the U.S. administration’s will to push for justice and peace.

For decades Palestinians have been waiting for a miracle. Maybe President Obama’s visit to the Holy Land can provide us with one. Maybe the bells of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem will ring once he visits this Friday announcing clear goals and actions to bring an end to decades of occupation, segregation and colonization. This is the road to justice, security and peace.

Dr. Nabeel Shaath is the Fatah Foreign Relations Commissioner and former Palestinian foreign minister. He was a member of the Madrid Peace Delegation and later was involved in negotiations with Israel that led to the signing of the Oslo Agreements. From 1993-1995, he served as the head of the Palestinian negotiation team, participating in the talks at Camp David (2000) and Taba (2001). He has also represented Palestine at the World Economic Forum.

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Hopes are running high world-wide that the new Pope will bring sweeping changes both within the church and to the church’s relationship with other religious and political bodies. At such a critical juncture for the future of Palestine, the leaders of both Fatah and Hamas in Palestine will be keen to establish a positive relationship with the new Pontiff. 

Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, was somewhat of a failure when it came to Palestinian rights. While the Vatican was always supportive of Palestinian statehood, Pope Benedict made an unfortunate statement in 2006 about the history of Islamic violence that put a lot of Muslims offside. Moreover, being German and growing up in the Nazi era, Benedict was constantly on the back foot with regards to Israel.

Hopefully the new Pope will bring in a new era, but we must not count our chickens before they hatch. It is worth remembering that it is not the Pope but the Curia who control the church, and the Curia has not changed (not yet, at any rate).

Father Dave

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

source: www.al-monitor.com…

The New Pope and Palestine

By: Daoud Kuttab for Al-Monitor Palestine Pulse

What concerns people the most is the political direction that the leader of the world’s more than 1 billion Catholics will take on issues such as women’s rights, relations with other faiths and foreign policy.Electing the leader of the world’s Catholic faithful is always an unpredictable affair. The choice of Argentina’s cardinal, now Pope Francis, has lived up to the mystery.

Palestinians and peoples of the Middle East have been searching hard in the new pontiff’s history to try and figure out where he will stand on the issues that are of concern to them.

Two issues were prominently talked about in this regard. The Jesuit background of the new pope was quickly picked up as a sign that the new leader of the Catholic Church will pay attention to socio-economic issues and not just theological ones.

In the Middle East, Jesuits are known to have established schools of higher education and other projects supporting the poor. His coming from a non-European country (apparently the first time in a millennium) also ensures, many believe, a more internationalization of the Vatican.

The Palestinian leader who congratulated the new Pope was naturally quick to invite the Holy Father to visit the birthplace of Christianity. The congratulatory cable to the Vatican included an invitation to the pontiff to visit Bethlehem. Pope Benedict, as well as Pope John Paul, had visited the Holy Land, including an important visit to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.

The Vatican has generally been supportive of Palestinian rights and the need to end the occupation of Palestine. But equally the leaders of the Catholic Church have placed tremendous efforts to improve relations with Israel and also with world Jewry.

A recent agreement between the Vatican and Israel was signed that resolved a number of issues regarding Catholic holy sites in Jerusalem and the status of priests in Jerusalem and the area. Some felt that Vatican gave too much to the Israelis, especially allowing them control over the Last Supper room.

The compromise in which the Vatican will retain a symbolic seat on the table was seen as too much of a compromise to an occupying power that took sovereignty by military control.

The Vatican’s auxiliary bishop in Jerusalem, William Shomali, a Palestinian, told the National — an English language newspaper based in Abu Dhabi — that  he hoped the new leader would continue with the church’s policy of addressing the difficulties facing Christians in the region, especially in countries such as Iraq, where many have been forced to flee because of sectarian fighting.

Bishop Shomali also expressed optimism that Pope Francis’ Argentine nationality could help breathe new life into the Israel-Palestinian peace process because, he said, Argentina “was a friend of the people of the holy land.”

But perhaps the most important issue of interest in the region is the possibility and potential of Catholic/Christian relations with Muslims. Pope Benedict caused a rift in relations with a statement in 2006 in which he quoted an anti-Muslim thinker’s statement on Islam.

The head of Islam’s leading higher educational institute, Al-Azhar, was quick to welcome the new Pope Francis and has called for change. “We are hoping for better relations with the Vatican after the election of the new pope,” said Mahmud Azab, an adviser to Ahmed al-Tayyeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar.

Arab Christians, while dwindling in numbers, are still an important influential group on Arab nationalism and intellectualism. Christians in areas such as Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine will be looking closely as to what the Catholic Church under Pope Francis will say and do in order to stem the migration epidemic and to encourage remaining Christians to stay in their countries.

Palestinian Christian leaders have been insisting that the emigration problem is turning holy sites and churches into dead rather than living stones. The need to encourage and empower this dwindling group is much bigger than their percentages in society.

Daoud Kuttab is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor‘s Palestine Pulse. A Palestinian journalist and media activist, he is a former Ferris Professor of journalism at Princeton University and is currently the director general of Community Media Network, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing independent media in the Arab region. Active in media-freedom efforts in the Middle East, Kuttab is a columnist for The Jordan TimesThe Jerusalem Post and The Daily Star in Lebanon, and has co-produced a number of award-winning documentaries and children’s television programs. 

Read more: www.al-monitor.com…

 

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