Palestinian

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Certainly he is no Yasser Arafat. Even so, John Taylor’s analysis of Abbas is a bit harsh. Certainly the President of the Palestinian Authority has done his best to gain ground for the Palestinian people, even if his efforts have been largely inconsequential.

The problem in many ways did begin with Arafat, who promised to pursue Palestinian statehood only through non-violent means. Abbas, his successor, has remained true to the commitment to non-violence, and this has gained the Palestinian people absolutely nothing!  Israel has continued to build settlements, withhold monies owed, imprison Palestinians without trial, demolish homes, etc., and gives absolutely nothing in return for Abbas’ quiet compliance. Hamas, on the other hand, fires rockets from Gaza and refuses to disavow militant resistance. Hamas seems to acheive results!

Surely this is a lose-lose situation for Israel and the US, and yet President Obama only confirmed the status quo in his recent visit, offering absolutely nothing to Abbas and the Palestinian people beyond his formal greetings! God knows what Abbas can do for his people now beyond making a quiet exit from the political scene.

Father Dave

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

source: original.antiwar.com…

Mahmoud Abbas: Obama and Bibi’s Man in Palestine

Palestinian Authority boss Mahmoud Abbas has no self-respect and no respect for his constituents. Although the US has rarely shown much sympathy for the Palestinians under Israeli occupation, Obama’s visit to Israel reached a new low. After saying the US-Israeli alliance is “eternal, it is forever,” visiting the grave of Theodor Herzl and pontificating about the Dead Sea Scrolls, looted by the Israelis from the Rockefeller Museum in east Jerusalem, the President proceeded to abandon all official US efforts to halt Israeli settlement construction on the West Bank. Was all this a problem for Mahmoud Abbas? No it wasn’t! “Welcome Mr. President! Welcome to Ramallah! Welcome to our ever shrinking fragment of Palestine!”

How can any Palestinian, Israeli or anyone else for that matter, respect Abbas when he puts aside his role as the guarantor of his peoples’ lives and property and welcomes the man who just acquiesced to Israeli colonization in what remains of Palestine? Obama even promised the Israelis that the US would continue to oppose any Palestinian effort to find international legal redress for their plight, a pledge consistent with a US boycott earlier in March of a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.

If Abbas had the least bit of personal or political courage he would have said firmly to Obama: “You are not welcome here.”

Only a fool doesn’t recognize that Obama values Mahmoud Abbas only because he is a willing tool of the Israelis. The Palestinian Authority’s major role these days seems to be restraining resistance to the Israeli occupation while ignoring Israel’s galloping land seizures, settlement construction, check points, closures and house demolitions. Israel holds hundreds of Palestinian political prisoners without charge and the Palestinian Authority now also locks up those opposed to political cooperation with Israel, particularly Hamas supporters.

By now it must be clear to every resident of the West Bank that Uncle Sam has nothing meaningful to offer the Palestinian Authority except money to buy its corrupt leadership and to pay its security forces, but only if the Authority functions as an adjunct to Israel’s West Bank security apparatus. No Israelis were killed on the West Bank in 2012. But what did protecting Israeli settlers get the Palestinians? Nothing! West Bank colonization was not derailed by Palestinian passivity. In fact, the absence of an armed resistance to Israel settlement building actually facilitated construction; meanwhile the Israeli military continued to employ lethal force against unarmed Palestinian protestors.

In a speech to a select group of Israeli young people Obama stated, “Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace…” Fair enough, but the problem with Obama’s new stance on Israeli settlement construction is that it places the decision to build or not to build firmly in the hands of the Israeli government. And further, and even more outrageous, Obama promised Uncle Sam’s best efforts to keep illegal settlement construction beyond the reach of the International Criminal Court. Obama seems to have learned an important lesson from the horse whipping Netanyahu gave him in the Oval Office a few years ago: official US opposition to Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories is a policy no one in the US government wanted to take responsibility for.

What can Abbas and the Palestinians expect from the new Israeli government? No letup in settlement building, that’s for certain: Appointed to the Economics and Trade portfolio in Netanyahu’s new cabinet was Naftali Bennett, former chief of the Yesha Settlers Council. Bennett’s view of the West Bank is simplicity itself, “…there is no such thing as an occupation of one’s own land.” Uri Ariel, the new Housing and Construction Minister, a man who built his political career advancing Israel’s colonization of the occupied territories, stated his Ministry’s goal will be “many more” settlers and that “there can be only one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea-Israel.” Avigdor Liberman, the incumbent Foreign Minister and ex Moldovian night club bouncer, has already stated his opposition to a settlement freeze as has Netanyahu’s Defense Minister, Moshe Yaalon, no surprises in either case.

Abbas now finds himself in an impossible position: He can no longer pretend to his constituents that the Obama Administration will restrain Israeli settlement building. But if Abbas takes Obama’s advice and returns to direct negotiations without preconditions, Palestinian weakness preordains failure. A child can’t bring a child molester to justice alone.

In fact the Palestinians have achieved nothing negotiating within the Oslo framework. As the leaked Palestine Papers reveal, when the Palestinians began negotiating with the Israelis more than twenty years ago they offered numerous territorial concessions in the Old City of Jerusalem and on the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority even agreed to limit the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees to a mere 10,000 out of five million. Negotiation results? No political settlement and 500,000 Israeli settlers in 200 illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Those figures alone show the extent of the disaster which has befallen the Palestinians since the start of the “peace process.”

Abbas’ strategy of throttling the Palestinian resistance with the hope of receiving something in return from the Israelis and the Americans has clearly failed. Abbas’ regime has been so subservient to American and Israeli interests that it even refused to forward the Goldstone Report on war crimes during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza to the UN Human Rights Council for action.

Abbas has brought the Palestinians to the edge of another great tragedy, second only to the Nakba of 1948, which will likely see Israeli colonization preclude the establishment of a Palestinian state and squeeze the indigenous population into ever smaller Bantustans. Events have entirely discredited Mahmoud Abbas and senior members of the Palestinian Authority. Their democratic mandate expired years ago and their shameful collaboration with Israel has profited the Palestinians nothing. They should resign immediately.

The Palestinians need to recognize that cooperation with the American government is a dead end. Obama’s trip to the Holy Land shows, if additional evidence were needed, that the US is wholly in Israel’s camp and that Uncle Sam has absolutely no intention of providing the Palestinians with the kind of leverage which would enable them to negotiate a fair settlement with Israel. The US will continue to ignore international law as it pertains to colonization of the occupied Palestinian territories. It will also ignore the reprehensible and outrageous Israeli policies which have caused untold suffering to 1.5 million people in Gaza.

The Palestinians should pursue Israeli human rights violations in the occupied territories through the International Criminal Court and in every other venue they can access. Security cooperation with Israel should end forthwith-unless settlement activity is terminated. Products made in Israel should join the boycott the Palestinians already have in place against goods produced in Israeli settlements-unless Israel lifts the siege of Gaza. Palestinians abroad should support local BDS efforts. Unarmed resistance of every sort should be organized recognizing, however, that it is likely that such efforts will likely be met with deadly force. All political prisoners should be released, especially members of Hamas. The armed forces of the Palestinian Authority should prepare themselves to defend Palestinians, not protect Israeli settlers.

Is resistance the correct course? It is certainly a recipe for further, potentially much greater, Palestinian suffering and death. Is there any other choice? What is best for the Palestinians is not for me to decide. I can only observe that the right to resist a foreign occupier is both a natural and legal right and that history celebrates those who fight to free their countries from foreign occupations while the Quislings, Lavals and Petains are rightly consigned to the dust bin of history.

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Is this the dark side of the Arab Spring? It seems that there is an increasing crackdown on social networking across the Arab world. Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef was arrested last week for allegedly insulting the President, Mohamed Morsi, and now two Palestinian men have been given prison terms for their online activities, including something no more serious than a ‘like’ on Facebook!

Certainly this trend is not going to endear the Palestinian government to ‘the West’, and this at a time when Palestinian statehood is receiving increasing European support. Even so, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas may consider it far more politically opportune to go with the flow of their Arab neighbours than please the US and Europe.

Father Dave

source: rt.com…

In the last week, two Palestinians have been sentenced to prison terms for online libel and slander of politicians. Meanwhile, an arrest order has been issued for a popular Egyptian satirist, raising fears of a crackdown on freedom in the region.

The Magistrate’s Court in Salfit, West Bank, sentenced a 29-year-old Anas Ismail to 6 months in jail, on charges of “libel and slander against former communications minister” as he was found guilty of “Liking”hostile messages towards the politician on Facebook.

One of the posts demanded the dismissal of the politician and another phrase demanded accountability from the minister.

According to Ismail, “Preventive Security locked me up for 17 days, on charges of libel and slander, and last Thursday I was sentenced in absentia by the Court of Salfit to six months in prison,” quotes Alresalah publication.

Ismail, who works in computer programming and is active in social media said  “I was summoned 10 times in the past six months over my activity on social networking pages.”

Also on Thursday, a court in Bethlehem sentenced a journalist to a one-year term for publishing a photo on Facebook comparing President Mahmoud Abbas to a traitor.

Mamdouh Hamamreh, a reporter for the Hamas-linked Al-Quds TV, was accused of photoshopping  a picture in 2010 showing Abbas next to a villain in a popular TV drama about French colonial rule in the Levant, with a photo caption reading: “They’re alike.”

Hamamreh was found guilty of insulting the president and, “spreading seeds of hatred” and “publishing false information.”

The next day, Abbas pardoned the journalist saying his office never filed a complaint against Hamamreh.

read the rest of this article here: rt.com…

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With President Obama now at a safe distance, the takeover of Palestinian lands continues as before.

It is tragic to think that only four years ago in Cairo Obama had spoken of Palestinian statelessness as ‘intolerable’. On this visit he spoke only of settlement construction being ‘unconstructive’.

Clearly the US is not going to stand in the way of Netanyahu’s program of annexation and ethnic cleansing. How ironic for Bethlehem’s Christians that a new ‘via dolorosa’ should appear during Easter week. 

Father Dave

Bethlehem today

Bethlehem today

source: www.worldbulletin.net…

Israel to build settlements on Palestinian lands in Bethlehem

 A military order has been issued by Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank for the illegal confiscation of Palestinian lands and orchards, leaving dozens of families without their main source of livelihood and without the ability to build homes. 

A military order has been issued by Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank for the illegal confiscation of Palestinian lands in the Khirbit Ed-Deer area, west of Nahhalin village, in the Bethlehem District, in order to build 70 units for Jewish settlers and public buildings, the Palestine News Network (PNN) had reported.

PNN quoted the deputy head of the Nahhalin village council Jamal Najajra stating that the lands in question are dozens of Dunams, located near the Beit Illit illegal settlement which is built on lands that belong to the residents of Husan, Nahhalin and Wad Fokeen, and are planted with olive trees.

Najajra added that Israel intends to build 70 units for Jewish settlers in addition to a number of public buildings.

He said that the new planned constructions are meant to connect the Beit Illit settlement with the Gavot settlement by illegally confiscating Palestinians orchards, leaving dozens of families without their main source of livelihood and without the ability to build homes.

Najajra added that the village council has contacted attorney Ghayyath Nasser so that the necessary appeals in Israeli courts can be filed.

Najajra also said that this is not the first time Israel has decided to annex Palestinian lands in the area. Israel previously confiscated lands in the Al-Jamjoum area, the Salem Valley, and Ein Fares where Israel dumps waste-water coming from the Beitar Illit settlement, PNN reports.

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This is an insightful article by Huffinton Posts’ Robert Naiman. One can put a positive spin on Obama’s visit and speeches. While he didn’t promise to do anything to help the ‘peace process’ along, he didn’t seem to want to hinder it either – something that the Israeli government has relied on the US to do through successive administrations!

Indeed Obama would be doing the world a great service if he allowed some of Israel’s Arab and international neighbors to take a more intentional role in solving the Israel/Palestine debacle, and we all know that he has no personal desire to prop up Benjamin Netanyahu!

Father Dave

source: www.huffingtonpost.com…

Flotilla 3.0: Redeeming Obama’s Palestine Speech With Gaza’s Ark

There’s a half-empty way and a half-full way of looking at President Obama’s Jerusalem speech about the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

The half-empty way of looking at it is: this was Obama’s white flag of surrender. To everyone around the world who for decades has been assuming that at the end of the day, the president of the United States would lead the way to resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Obama was saying:

Don’t look at me. Just because the United States is the principal military, diplomatic, and economic protector of the Israeli government, doesn’t mean that I, as the president of the United States, will do anything about the military occupation of millions of Palestinian human beings. Bibi doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state, Bibi’s government doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state, AIPAC doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state, and Congress — which defers to AIPAC — doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state. Of course, many of them mouth the words — not Bibi’s government, they don’t even do that — but those who mouth the words oppose any practical measure that would help bring an independent Palestinian state into existence. They’re “two state fakers.” Settlement freeze? Impossible. UN membership for Palestine? Can’t be done. No, according to the two state fakers, the only option on the menu in the restaurant for the Palestinians is to return to negotiations without a settlement freeze, negotiations that for 20 years have brought more land confiscation, more settlements, more restrictions on Palestinian movement and commerce, more oppression. And so, Obama was saying, my hands are tied. Don’t look at me.

The half-full way of looking at it is this: it was a great speech. If you “price in,” as the markets say, acceptance that the U.S. government isn’t going to lead on this, it was a great motivational speech. President Obama made a very compelling case that someone else should do something.

The interesting thing is that whether you see it as a great motivational speech or a white flag of surrender, the practical consequences for the public are largely the same: the initiative for justice is going to have to come from somewhere else. The best that we can probably expect from Obama is that if the initiative for justice comes from somewhere else, he won’t get in the way, or won’t get in the way very much. While that is much less than we are entitled to expect, it is much more than the Netanyahu government and its supporters want. They demand that President Obama do everything he can to get in the way of justice. So, if he doesn’t get in the way of justice, or only does so halfheartedly, he’ll be helping us more than they want.

Some people look to Europe. If Europe got serious about curtailing imports from Israel if the occupation doesn’t end, that’s something the Israeli business elite would take seriously, and they would put pressure on the Israeli government to compromise, rather than lose their export income. It’s striking to contrast how Europe is treating its trade with Israel to how it is treating its trade with Iran. In the case of Israel, Europe is toying with the idea of seriously curtailing imports from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In the case of Iran, Europe has shut down virtually all trade, including trade in lifesaving medicines, in violation of international humanitarian law. Giving Israel a little more of the Iran treatment could go a long way. In addition, Europe could support membership for Palestine at the International Criminal Court, and then could support legal action against the settlements and land confiscation at the ICC. So, Europe certainly has a lot of room to get serious about ending the occupation.

Some people look to the Arab Spring. Since 1979, the Camp David Treaty as implemented has been a pillar of the occupation. As many Egyptians see it, it wasn’t supposed to be like that. Under the treaty, the Israeli military was supposed to withdraw from the West Bank. But of course, that never happened. What happened instead is that for 30 years the Mubarak regime traded compliance with Israeli policy towards the Palestinians for U.S. agreement to look the other way while the Egyptian government beat the Egyptian people. Now Egypt has a democratically-elected government. What if that government made ending the occupation a political and diplomatic priority?

read the rest of this article here

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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.