Yesterday spouse and I visited two Palestinian families who are close friends. Among other things that we spoke about, I asked one of our friends who lives in Hares if Israeli soldiers still, as in the past, harass the boys by coming to the school just when the youngsters are leaving for home, and taunting them until the youngsters start to react by throwing stones. That seems to have stopped, at least for the time being. However, he told me something else that I was unaware of. During the period that the settlement building was on hold, Palestinian home demolitions increased. Whereas now, when settlement building is going on at a gallop and Palestinian land is being taken for the purpose, the demolitions of Palestinian buildings has lessened considerably. Lose your land, but keep your house. We’ll come back for it later-policy, I guess.
The 8 items below begin with two positive occurrences.
The biggest news today is of course the opening of the Rafah crossing to Gazans. It does not end the siege, but does put a tiny crack into it, and to a small extent eases the lives of at least some Gaza residents.
Item 2 reports that the executive branch of England’s National Union of Students demands “freedom for Palestine” and an end to the siege of Gaza. May such demands increase!
In item 3 Robert Fisk relates what happened to one person who participated in the Palestinian refugees march to the Lebanese border on May 15 this year, and this person’s feelings about what is happening.
Item 4 attempts to explain why the 1967 line is still important. Actually, as Ariel Sharon himself pointed out, in the days of missiles, borders are not going to stop the flying objects any more than the Maginot line stopped the Germans.
Item 5, Friedman’s bogus advice, shows the fallacy of Thomas Friedman’s thinking regarding Palestinian non-violent protest, which Israel consistently meets with violence. On June 5th Palestinians will again march. I can only hope, desperately, that Israel will not massacre them.
Item 6 reports that Amr Mussa supports the Palestinians going to the UN in September.
Item 7 tells us that Ban Ki-Moon is urging member states not to allow the flotilla, and also, asking Israel not to use violence if the flotilla nevertheless takes place. His error is in believing that the main function of the flotilla is to bring humanitarian aid. That is a purpose but not the principal one. The main purpose is to end the blockade of Gaza. I’m wishing it all the luck! And hoping that this time Israel will not again use force. Israel can refuse to end the blockade this time as till now. But it cannot stop the boats from coming!
Item 8 presents a novel (though not new) idea about how to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: not one state, not two, but rather parallel states. It’s an interesting idea which I have heard in the past. The question is would Israel, which is so afraid of an ‘imbalance’ in demographics, accept it?
Most Palestinians have not been able to leave Gaza since 2007
Egypt has relaxed restrictions at its border with the Gaza Strip, allowing many Palestinians to cross freely for the first time in four years.
Women, children and men over 40 are now allowed to pass freely. Men aged between 18 and 40 will still require a permit, and trade is prohibited.
The move – strongly opposed by Israel – comes some three months after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak lost power.
Egypt and Israel closed borders with Gaza when Hamas seized power in 2007.
Israel retains concerns that weapons will be imported into Gaza through the Egyptian frontier, but Egypt insists it will conduct thorough searches of all those crossing. People leaving Gaza will also need to be carrying Palestinian ID cards, which are issued by Israel.
The BBC’s Jon Donnison, in Gaza, says the decision to ease the border controls is symbolically important.
It is another sign that the new leadership in Egypt is shifting the dynamics of the Middle East.
Israel has criticised the border move, saying it raised security concerns.
But with elections coming up in Egypt, our correspondent says the change in policy is likely to be popular with a public sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
Egypt says the crossing will now be open from 0900 to 2100 every day except Fridays and holidays.
Although the border will still be closed for trade, the opening of the Rafah crossing is expected to provide a major economic boost to Gaza.
Continue reading the main story At the scene Jon Donnison BBC News, Rafah
In the departure hall of the Rafah crossing on the Gaza side hundreds of Palestinians gathered from early morning. Many carried huge suitcases, as if they might be going for some time.
“This makes us feel a little bit less trapped,” one man told me. He was planning to visit his son in Cairo. He has not left the tiny Gaza strip for four years.
Up until today only 300 Palestinians have been allowed to cross into Egypt each day. Egypt’s easing should see that number rise considerably. Palestinians will wait to see how much real change it makes but most here seemed genuinely happy that getting out of Gaza has become at least a little bit easier.
Up to 400 Palestinians were estimated to have gathered at the crossing as it opened on Saturday. By contrast, only about 300 Palestinians were previously allowed out of Gaza every day.
One of the first people to cross was Ward Labaa, a 27-year-old woman leaving Gaza for the first time to seek medical treatment in Cairo, the Associated Press reported.
Gaza resident Ali Nahallah, who has not left the Strip for four years, told the BBC the changes would be welcome.
“Of course this is our only entry point from Gaza to the external world,” he said.
“We feel that we live in a big jail in Gaza so now we feel a little bit more comfortable and life is easier now. My kids are willing to travel to see other places other than Gaza.”
The latest move comes a month after Egypt pushed through a unity deal between the two main Palestinian factions – Fatah and Hamas – something Israel also opposed.
Fatah runs the West Bank, while Hamas governs Gaza.
Analysts say that with elections looming in Egypt the new policy is likely be popular with a public largely sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
Egypt’s co-operation in blockading Gaza was one of President Mubarak’s most unpopular policies.
Last year, Israel eased restrictions on goods entering Gaza, but severe shortages in the territory remain.
In 2010, the International Committee of the Red Cross said the blockade was a clear violation of international humanitarian law.
Hundreds of smuggling tunnels run under the Egyptian border with Gaza.
2. The Guardian,
27 May 2011 18.26 BST
Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students. Photograph: Richard Saker
The NUS president, Aaron Porter, has been accused of misrepresenting a new policy adopted by his own union in support of Palestinians after he warned it could lead to a backlash against Jewish students.
The policy passed by the NUS national executive council demands “freedom for Palestine” and an end to the siege of Gaza, but Porter said it could have repercussions for Jewish students at UK universities.
“NUS has always taken a measured and balanced approach to the complex issues surrounding the Middle East and I believe changing that is damaging to all involved,” Porter said.
“NUS has worked closely with the Union of Jewish Students to tackle hate speech on campus and I am proud of that work.
“Jewish students must feel able to participate freely in our movement and I will do all I can to persuade the NUS NEC to drop a policy which is seen as anti-Israel and to further co-operation on campuses.”
The policy means the NUS will send a delegation on future convoys to the Gaza strip, possibly on next month’s freedom flotilla, and build links with students at the Islamic University of Gaza and other educational institutions.
Kanja Sesay, the NUS black students’ officer, voted for the motion and said the NUS president’s criticism was misguided. “Supporting the right to education for Palestinians is not hate speech,” he said.
“Universities, colleges and schools were destroyed by Israel during the war on Gaza and the ongoing siege has meant the damage cannot be repaired because of a lack of building materials in Gaza … NUS is right to commit to positive action to support Palestinian human rights, which are continually violated.”
Fiona Edwards, student officer for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which helped to draft the motion, said it contained “nothing … which advocates any oppression or discrimination against any group of people”.
Dan Sheldon of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) said his group supported legitimate debate on Israel-Palestine but Jewish students had been “spat at, intimidated and called Nazis”.
“We welcome Aaron’s statement and hope, for the sake of our students, that NUS will listen to its own students and eschew this outdated brand of gesture politics,” he said.
The UJS described the Islamic University of Gaza, which was bombed during the 2009 Israeli invasion of Gaza, as a “Hamas stronghold”, a claim supported by the Israeli army but rejected by the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict, which found no evidence it was being used for military purposes.
3. The Independent,
28 May 2011
Robert Fisk: A tale from the frontline of Palestinian protest
I went to see Munib Masri in his Beirut hospital bed yesterday morning.
He is part of the Arab revolution, although he doesn’t see it that way. He looked in pain – he was in pain – with a drip in his right arm, a fever, and the fearful wounds caused by an Israeli 5.56mm bullet that hit his arm. Yes, an Israeli bullet – because Munib was one of thousands of young and unarmed Palestinians and Lebanese who stood in their thousands in front of the Israeli army’s live fire two weeks ago on the very border of the land they call “Palestine”.
“I was angry, mad – I’d just seen a small child hit by the Israelis,” Munib said to me. “I walked nearer the border fence. The Israelis were shooting so many people. When I got hit, I was paralysed. My legs gave way. Then I realised what had happened. My friends carried me away.” I asked Munib if he thought he was part of the Arab Spring. No, he said, he was just protesting at the loss of his land. “I liked what happened to Egypt and Tunisia. I am glad I went to the Lebanese border, but I also regret it.”
Which is not surprising. More than 100 unarmed protesters were wounded in the Palestinian-Lebanese demonstration to mark the 1948 expulsion and exodus of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in Mandate Palestine – six were killed – and among the youngest of those hit by bullets were two little girls. One was six, the other eight. More targets of Israel’s “war on terror”, I suppose, although the bullet that hit Munib, a 22-year old geology student at the American University of Beirut, did awful damage. It penetrated his side, cut through his kidney, hit his spleen and then broke up in his spine. I held the bullet in my hand yesterday, three sparkling pieces of brown metal that had shattered inside Munib’s body. He is, of course, lucky to be alive.
And I guess lucky to be an American citizen, much good did it do him. The US embassy sent a female diplomat to see his parents at the hospital, Munib’s mother Mouna told me. “I am devastated, sad, angry – and I don’t wish this to happen to any Israeli mother. The American diplomats came here to the hospital and I explained the situation of Munib. I said: ‘I would like you to give a message to your government – to put pressure on them to change their policies here. If this had happened to an Israeli mother, the world would have gone upside down.’ But she said to me: ‘I’m not here to discuss politics. We’re here for social support, to evacuate you if you want, to help with payments.’ I said that I don’t need any of these things – I need you to explain the situation.”
Any US diplomat is free to pass on a citizen’s views to the American government but this woman’s response was all too familiar. Munib, though an American, had been hit by the wrong sort of bullet. Not a Syrian bullet or an Egyptian bullet but an Israeli bullet, a bad kind to discuss, certainly the wrong kind to persuade an American diplomat to do anything about it. After all, when Benjamin Netanyahu gets 55 ovations in Congress – more than the average Baath party congress in Damascus – why should Munib’s government care about him?
In reality, he has been to “Palestine” many times – Munib’s family comes from Beit Jala and Bethlehem and he knows the West Bank well, though he told me he was concerned he might be arrested when he next returns. Being a Palestinian isn’t easy, though, whichever side of the border you’re on. Mouna Masri was enraged when her sister asked her husband to renew her residency in east Jerusalem. “The Israelis insisted that she must fly from London herself even though they knew she was having chemotherapy.
“I was in Palestine only two days before Munib was hurt, visiting my father-in-law in Nablus. I saw all the family and I was happy but I missed Munib very much and so I returned to Beirut. He was very excited about the march to the border. There were three or four buses taking students and faculty from the university here and he got up at 6.55 on the Sunday morning. At about 4pm, Munib’s aunt Mai called and asked if there was any news and I began to feel uneasy. Then I had a call from my husband saying Munib had been wounded in the leg.”
It was far worse. Munib lost so much blood that doctors at the Bent Jbeil hospital thought he would die. The United Nations peacekeepers in Lebanon – disastrously absent from the Maroun al-Ras section of the border during the five-hour demonstration – flew him by helicopter to Beirut. Many of those who travelled to the border with him had come from the refugee camps and – unlike Munib – had never visited the land from which their parents came. Indeed, in some cases, they had never even seen it.
Munib’s aunt Mai described how many of those who had gone on the march and by bus to the frontier felt a breeze coming across the border from what is now Israel. “They breathed it in, like it was a kind of freedom,” she said. There you have it.
Munib may not believe he is part of the Arab Spring but he is part of the Arab awakening. Even though he has a home in the West Bank, he decided to walk with the dispossessed whose homes lie inside what is now Israel. “There was a lack of fear,” his Uncle Munzer said. “These people wanted dignity. And with dignity comes success.” Which is what the people of Tunisia cried. And of Egypt. And of Yemen, and of Bahrain, and of Syria. I suspect that Obama, despite his cringing to Netanyahu, understands this. It was what, in his rather craven way, he was trying to warn the Israelis about. The Arab awakening embraces the Palestinians too.
0diggsdiggMore from Robert Fisk
4. “But Ariel Sharon, when he became defense minister in 1981, argued that the modernization of Arab armies and their possession of surface-to-surface missiles had cancelled out the benefits of “strategic depth.” He argued that Israel could not absorb a first strike and should be ready to launch preventive and pre-emptive strikes against potential threats. The same argument is made by many Israeli strategists today, in relation to a potential nuclear threat from Iran.” [CNN ‘Maps, land and history. Why 1967 still matters’ below]
Israeli soldiers patrol along the border fence between the Golan Heights and Syria on May 20
Successive Israeli leaders have rejected return to pre-1967 boundaries
Israel seized all of Jerusalem, West Bank, Golan Heights, Sinai peninsula and Gaza
International community never recognized Israel’s claims to territory beyond pre-1967 lines.
Netanyahu said after meeting Obama that pre-1967 borders were “indefensible”
(CNN) — On the website of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs there is a map — with a message. The map itself is a basic display of how regional borders looked before the Six Day War in 1967. The message is in the distances drawn from those borders to major Israeli cities.
For example, it’s noted that the distance from what was in 1967 the armistice line with Jordan to the Israeli city of Netanya on the Mediterranean was 9 miles; to Beersheeba, 10 miles; and to Tel Aviv, 11 miles. The city of Ashkelon was 7 miles from the edge of the Gaza Strip, then under Egyptian rule.
The point is a simple one: Israel was virtually impossible to defend; any aggressor would try to cut it in half. Read this story in Arabic
That’s just what the Arab armies tried to achieve in 1967. On the eve of the war, the Egyptian newspaper al Akhbar noted: “Under the terms of the military agreement signed with Jordan, Jordanian artillery, coordinated with the forces of Egypt and Syria, is in a position to cut Israel in two at Qalqilya, where Israeli territory between the Jordan armistice line and the Mediterranean Sea is only 12 kilometres (7 miles) wide.”
It’s a point that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed at his White House meeting with President Barack Obama last week.
“Remember that before 1967, Israel was all of 9 miles wide, half the width of the Washington beltway,” he said. “And these were not the boundaries of peace, they were the boundaries of repeated wars because the attack on Israel was so attractive from them.”
His choice of the word “boundaries” may not have been accidental, because in 1967 Israel had no agreed borders with its Arab neighbors. They were instead armistice lines agreed to in 1949 after the division of Palestine. (Internationally-recognized borders with Jordan and Egypt have since been agreed upon.) The Six Day War rendered those armistice lines redundant.
At the end of May 1967, Egypt, Syria and Jordan were massing troops and armor within striking distance of Israel. Egypt had closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. On June 5, Israel launched a pre-emptive attack that destroyed much of the Egyptian air force. In the days that followed, Israeli forces captured all of Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria and the Sinai peninsula and Gaza from Egypt. Suddenly, Israel had some “strategic depth.”
For a time, that altered Israel’s military doctrine — meaning that a pre-emptive first strike was no longer its only option. The October 1973 war showed that Israel was capable of absorbing a first strike and retaliating.
But Ariel Sharon, when he became defense minister in 1981, argued that the modernization of Arab armies and their possession of surface-to-surface missiles had cancelled out the benefits of “strategic depth.” He argued that Israel could not absorb a first strike and should be ready to launch preventive and pre-emptive strikes against potential threats. The same argument is made by many Israeli strategists today, in relation to a potential nuclear threat from Iran.
Successive Israeli leaders have rejected a return to the pre-1967 boundaries, starting with Golda Meir in 1969, who said it would be irresponsible for any Israeli government to support such a plan.
Former Foreign Minister Yigal Allon wrote in 1976 that Israel needed defensible borders “which could enable the small standing army units of Israel’s defensive force to hold back the invading Arab armies until most of the country’s reserve citizen army could be mobilized.” When he was prime minister, Menachem Begin said it would be national suicide for Israel to retreat to its pre-1967 borders. And in 2004, President George W. Bush promised then-Israeli Prime Minister Sharon a “steadfast (U.S.) commitment to Israel’s security, including secure, defensible borders.” Even so, the international community has never recognized Israel’s claims to any territory beyond the pre-1967 armistice lines.
Intermittently, there has been greater readiness to negotiate territorial compromise — most notably at the Camp David summit in 2000, when President Bill Clinton brought together PLO leader Yasser Arafat and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Barak floated a proposal that would give the Palestinians control of about 90% of the West Bank, while Israel would annex the rest. But there were plenty of complicating factors. According to one account of that summit, Abu Ala’a, a leading Palestinian negotiator, refused to negotiate on a map, arguing that Israel first had to concede that any territorial agreement must be based on the line of June 4, 1967 — prompting Clinton to exclaim: “Don’t simply say to the Israelis that their map is no good. Give me something better!” The summit ended in recriminations.
Ehud Olmert, shortly before he left office in 2008, said Israel would eventually have to give the Palestinians a “similar percentage” of territory in return for the biggest Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank that Israel would want keep in any “final status” deal. “We face the need to decide but are not willing to tell ourselves: ‘Yes, this is what we have to do,'” he said. The man who is now Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, then described Olmert’s ideas as insanity.
So what, if any, “mutually agreed swaps” — the phrase used by Obama — could give Israel the security and the Palestinians the land that would satisfy both?
“The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state,” Obama said last week. But in the 44 years since the Six Day War, the map of the West Bank has become cluttered with substantial Jewish settlements — now home to nearly half a million people. A security barrier meanders deep into the occupied territory, protecting the settlements but dividing Palestinian land into a series of enclaves.
Netanyahu said after meeting Obama that the pre-1967 borders were now “indefensible because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.” Those “demographic changes” are the settlements.
In addition, Netanyahu has also said he would insist on keeping Israeli forces in the valley that divides the West Bank from Jordan, even after the establishment of a Palestinian state, as a safeguard against rocket attacks.
“If rockets and missiles break out here, they will reach Tel Aviv, Haifa and all over the state,” Netanyahu said as he toured the area in March.
Other Israeli leaders — including Yitzhak Rabin — have taken a similar position.
Every year, “facts on the ground” — and advances in military technology — complicate the argument over territory, now as visceral as it was in 1967 and 1948. And that’s before anyone has uttered the word “Jerusalem.”
See these articles on Nonviolence in Palestine. We need to spread the word about Active NV among Palestinians. See also the links in the Peter Hart article – here, here, here and especially here in the
Please share these articles with others on webpages, listserves, etc..
Published on Thursday, May 26, 2011 by FAIR
Friedman’s Bogus Advice on Palestinian Nonviolence
by Peter Hart
In yesterday’s New York Times (5/25/11), columnist Tom Friedman issues yet another call for Palestinians to practice non-violence:
May I suggest a Tahrir Square alternative? Announce that every Friday from today forward will be “Peace Day,” and have thousands of West Bank Palestinians march nonviolently to Jerusalem, carrying two things–an olive branch in one hand and a sign in Hebrew and Arabic in the other. The sign should say: “Two states for two peoples. We, the Palestinian people, offer the Jewish people a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders–with mutually agreed adjustments–including Jerusalem, where the Arabs will control their neighborhoods and the Jews theirs.”
If Palestinians peacefully march to Jerusalem by the thousands every Friday with a clear peace message, it would become a global news event. Every network in the world would be there.
The implication–a familiar one in corporate media–is that there’s never been much Palestinian non-violent resistance. This is false–see here, here, here, or especially here–a piece by Yousef Munayyer titled,”Palestine’s Hidden History of Nonviolence: You Wouldn’t Know It From the Media Coverage, but Peaceful Protests Are Nothing New for Palestinians.”
The other part of Friedman’s argument is that media would pay this movement serious attention. Again, we don’t need to imagine what might happen if Palestinians were to take Friedman’s advice. Regular non-violent protests against the West Bank separation wall are ignored in the U.S. media, as Patrick O’Connor documented in 2005. A 2009 Guardian report is a reminder of what often happens in response to such demonstrations. As the subhead put it, “Palestinian demonstrations intended to be peaceful met with Israeli teargas, stun grenades and sometimes live ammunition.” And one of the most prominent non-violent Palestinian activists is Adeeb Abu Rahma, who was held in an Israeli prison for 17 months before being released late last year.
Or take a more recent example:
On March 24, the Israeli government arrested Bassem Tamimi, a 44-year-old resident of the small Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, which is just west of Ramallah. Tamimi was arrested for leading a group of his neighbors in protest marches on a settlement that had “expropriated” the village’s spring–the symbolic center of Nabi Saleh’s life.
Tamimi was brought before the Ofer military court and charged with “incitement, organizing unpermitted marches, disobeying the duty to report to questioning” and “obstruction of justice”–for giving young Palestinians advice on how to act under Israeli police interrogation. He was remanded to an Israeli military prison to await a hearing and a trial. The detention of Tamimi is not a formality: Under Israeli military decree 101 he is being charged with attempting “verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order.” As in Syria, this is an “emergency decree” disguised as protecting public security. It carries a sentence of 10 years.
And activist Abdallah Abu Rahmah:
Abu Rahmah, a high school teacher at the Latin Patriarch School in Ramallah, began organizing Bil’in’s protests in 2004, even as the violence of the Second Intifada was beginning to wane. Every Friday after prayers, Abu Rahmah would lead a group of Bil’in residents on a protest march towards a local settlement–and every Friday his march would be intercepted by the IDF.
In one demonstration, an IDF sniper used a .22 caliber rifle to disburse the protesters, killing a Palestinian boy. Twenty-one unarmed demonstrators, among them five children, have been killed in nonviolent West Bank demonstrations since the beginnings of the movement.
Peter Hart is the activism director at FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting). He writes for FAIR’s magazine Extra, and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR’s syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly” (Seven Stories Press, 2003).
Arab League chief backs UN route for Palestinian state
Amr Moussa calls Palestinian plans to seek UN recognition for a future state in September ‘the sound path’ to statehood in light of ‘futile’ negotiations with Israel.
Tags: Arab League Middle East peace Palestinian state
The head of the Arab League said on Saturday the Palestinians should seek UN recognition for their statehood in September because negotiations with Israel have proven futile.
“The sound path is going to the United Nations and political struggle,” Amr Moussa told Reuters.
He was speaking in Doha, where Arab League member states were to meet later on Saturday to discuss Palestinian options in the wake of major policy speeches by U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Moussa said a vision presented by Netanyahu in a speech to the U.S. Congress this week had amounted to a series of “no’s”.
“I believe that negotiations have become futile in light of all of these no’s. What will you negotiate on?” Moussa said, referring to the Netanyahu speech which the Palestinians said put more obstacles in the path of the moribund peace process.
Netanyahu said he was willing to make concessions for peace but repeated terms long rejected by the Palestinians, including an insistence that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept Israel keeping settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in Doha for the meeting of the Arab League’s peace process committee, said this week he would seek UN recognition for Palestinian statehood if there was no breakthrough in the peace process by September.
The Palestinians currently have the status of UN observers without voting rights, but are hoping that at September’s General Assembly they can persuade other nations to accept them as a sovereign member.
Both Netanyahu and Obama have criticized the move, and although U.S. opposition means the Palestinians have very little chance of success, the Israelis fear the maneuvering will leave them looking increasingly vulnerable on the diplomatic front.
U.S.-brokered talks between the Palestinians and Israel broke down last September in a dispute over continued Jewish settlement building in the West Bank.
In a bid to break the deadlock, Obama said in a major policy speech last week that a future Palestinian state should be based on the borders as they existed on the eve of the Six Day War in 1967, with land swaps mutually agreed with Israel.
Netanyahu immediately rejected Obama’s proposal saying it would leave Israel with “indefensible” borders. Abbas described the idea as “a foundation with which we can deal positively.”
May 28, 2011
UN chief urges member states to discourage new Gaza flotilla
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says that aid to the Gaza Strip should go through established channels but urges Israel to act responsibly.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on governments on Friday to discourage pro-Palestinian activists from sending a new aid flotilla to Gaza a year after Israeli commandos killed nine people aboard a previous convoy.
The United Nations meanwhile said it was giving a panel set up to investigate last year’s incident more time to finish its work. It suggested that the group, which diplomats and UN officials say has been held up by disputes between its Turkish and Israeli members, might not reach consensus.
In letters to Mediterranean governments, Ban said all aid for Gaza, which is blockaded by Israeli forces, should go through “legitimate crossings and established channels” — which in practice in recent years has meant through Israel.
But he also called on Israel to “act responsibly” to avoid violence.
Activists say it is legal for them to send goods by sea direct to the coastal Gaza Strip. The government has said that it is justified in blocking such shipments because Palestinian militants in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, conducts military actions against Israel.
Ban said in his letters that he was concerned by reports that another attempt would be made next month to send an international aid flotilla to Gaza, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
“The secretary-general called on all governments concerned to use their influence to discourage such flotillas, which carry the potential to escalate into violent conflict,” Nesirky told reporters.
“He further called on all, including the government of Israel, to act responsibly and with caution to avoid any violent incident.”
Last May 31, Israeli commandos intercepted a six-ship flotilla in international waters and killed nine activists — eight Turks and a Turkish-American — aboard the Mavi Marmara, owned by the Turkish Islamic charity IHH.
Israel said its commandos were attacked by activists wielding metal bars, clubs and knives. The incident led to a breakdown in already strained ties between Turkey and Israel.
With the anniversary of the incident looming, the Free Gaza Movement, an international pro-Palestinian activists group that includes IHH, is planning for a convoy to set out for Gaza from various parts of Europe, including Turkey.
The movement says on its website that at least 10 ships with doctors, professors, artists and journalists among those on board, as well as construction supplies and humanitarian aid, will set sail in the second half of June.
It describes the move as “an act of non-violent civil disobedience to persuade the international community to fulfill its obligations towards the Palestinian people and end Israel’s four-year illegal blockade of Gaza.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said last week his administration had warned Turkish activists of the risks of trying to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, but could not prevent them from sailing, as Israel has requested.
Ban, whose letter did not mention Turkey by name, said that while flotillas were “not helpful,” the Gaza situation was unsustainable and Israel should take “further meaningful and far-reaching steps” to end the territory’s closure.
Ban last year appointed a panel, headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and including a Turkish and an Israeli representative, to look into the Mavi Marmara affair.
The panel’s report to Ban has been delayed by disagreements between Turkey and Israel over its findings, diplomats and UN officials say.
More Time for Probe
Last August, Ban appointed a four-man panel, headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and including former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and a Turkish and an Israeli representative, to look into the Mavi Marmara incident.
In a statement on Friday, Nesirky said, “All four members of the panel agreed that more time was needed for them to work on their final report, and to explore the possibility of reaching consensus on the outcome.” The United Nations had never publicly specified a deadline for the group’s report.
“We do not know if they will be able to reach a consensus document or not, and when,” Nesirky told Reuters.
But Ban “feels that there is a greater likelihood of agreement if the panel has more time for consideration and discussion,” he added.
8 Al Jazeera,
28 May 2011
Parallel states: A new vision for peace
A new idea of citizenship is needed for peace in Israel and Palestine; Obama can’t repackage failed strategies.
Two parallel states, Israel and Palestine, should be established, with jurisdictions extending to Israelis and Palestinian citizens whether they lived in Israel proper, the West Bank, or Gaza, scholars say [AFP]
President Obama’s much-anticipated Middle East policy speech last week has drawn fire from many quarters, none more so than politicians and commentators involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on one or the other side.
Obama’s bluntness has shocked some Israelis and their supporters, who long assumed that when push came to shove the United States would acquiesce to the facts Israel has created in the West Bank through its establishment of over 120 settlements since 1967. The President knocked the wind out of their sails by reiterating US support for the 1967 borders as the basis for any final peace deal. The Palestinian state, he declared, “should be… sovereign and contiguous [and] based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognised borders are established for both states.”
An equally important but much less noticed element of Obama’s speech was his desire to return the negotiating process squarely to the dynamics that governed the Oslo era negotiations that collapsed with the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000. He did this from two perspectives: First, the idea of borders roughly aligning to 1967 with land swaps is essentially the position to which the two sides were allegedly close to agreeing before the negotiations broke down at Camp David in July of 2000.
Second and more broadly, the process Obama outlined marks a return to the strategy of a “phased” solution that defined the ill-fated Oslo process, where interim agreements on less difficult issues were supposed to enable a “final status” agreement that resolved the most difficult issues.
Out of phase
As we know from the subsequent history of the conflict, the phased process failed miserably. And yet President Obama has redrafted the concept by arguing that the two sides should agree to “territory and security” first, and then later return to the more difficult issues of “Jerusalem and refugees,” essentially dividing final status issues into yet another subdivision, of semi-final and really final status issues. Indeed, a recent “simulation” of such a “security-borders” first scenario conducted by the Brooking Institution’s Saban Center could only consider such a program if it “defined away” the likelihood that no such agreement would be possible without also addressing Jerusalem and refugees from the parameters of the simulation.
Similarly, visi-a-vis Jerusalem a simulation of possible land swaps by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy had to deal “only with areas outside the Jerusalem municipality as defined by Israel” in order to be conceivable merely on paper. Neither report considered Palestinian security concerns at all, and the Saban simulation admitted that most of the conceivable provisions for a security-borders agreement would challenge Palestinian conceptions of sovereignty in irresolvable ways. Indeed, the only way the Palestinian Authority (PA) could “get a state and sovereignty over territory” would be if it was “willing to accept infringements on its sovereignty which undermined its legitimacy among its own people”.
Broadly, there are four reasons why a phased solution will work no better today than it did almost two decades ago, each one relating to one of the President’s own four elements of a proposed solution.
First, it is extremely difficult to imagine how Israel, having establishing such a comprehensive matrix of control over the West Bank-settlements, bypass roads, security corridors, military zones and the security wall – can ever withdraw from enough territory to allow the establishment of a territorially contiguous Palestinian state. Indeed, successive Israeli governments, even during the Oslo process, worked hard to create the facts on the ground that would render such an outcome moot.
Second, even if Israel could disengage from most of the West Bank, the ring of Israeli settlements surrounding East Jerusalem, a finger of which sticks deep into the West Bank, will be almost impossible to dismantle. Yet without doing so, it will be impossible to include East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, without which no Palestinian would ever agree to a final settlement.
Previous rounds of negotiations have stumbled on issues including the partition of Jerusalem and the return of Palestinian refugees [Reuters]
The third problem concerns the President’s definition of security, which is focused almost entirely around Israel’s perceived needs. The reality is, however, that Palestinians have suffered far more threats to their physical security than have Israelis during the last forty-five years. The legitimate needs of all Palestinians, in and outside the Occupied Territories, to be free of the risk of routine Israeli incursions, attacks, confiscation and destruction of land and property, constant humiliations, and other defining motifs of the occupation are as legitimate as the need of Israelis to be free from rocket attacks and suicide bombings.
Fourth, the issue of Palestinian insecurity leads to refugees, among the most insecure categories of existence possible. The protests along Israel’s borders from the West Bank, Syria and Gaza on May 15 demonstrate the continued salience of the refugee issue among Palestinians. Contrary to what Israelis, Americans and some Palestinian leaders would like to believe, they will not easily relinquish their right of return, something Israeli conservatives intuitively understand, as they point out that Jews held on to their right for almost 2000 years.
By returning to failed strategies of the past, President Obama is likely ensuring the failure of his courageous attempt to bring the two sides together towards a common future. There is a way, however, for the United States to take the lead in working towards a two-state solution, albeit one that looks very different from the type Mr Obama is presently imagining. We believe that a new vision, based on shared sovereignty, power and cooperation, offers a more viable path towards resolving the conflict.
The language of sharing rather than division has long been associated with a binational or even one-state solution that have both been dismissed because their implementation would effectively mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state. But sovereignty and control can be shared while retaining a two-state structure that allows each side to secure and preserve its unique identity. Specifically, two states could be established in parallel over the same territory, both covering the whole area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
Termed a “parallel states” solution, this concept has been developed over the last four years by a team of Israeli, Palestinian and international scholars, policymakers and even protagonists in the conflict. It is built upon a new understanding of sovereignty that breaks the previously exclusive link with territory, and reorients the basis of identity, citizenship and rights away from land and towards the relation between the state and the individual citizen. Citizenship would follow the citizen wherever she or he may live within the territory of Israel/Palestine, not the territory itself.
Building on existing institutions and frameworks of the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, two parallel states, Israel and Palestine would be established, whose jurisdictions would be extended to Israelis and Palestinian citizens whether they lived in Israel proper, the West Bank, or Gaza.
As sovereignty would no longer be tied to territory, demography would no longer determine the viability of each state, and Jews and Palestinians, and indeed, members of the Diasporas of both societies, could in theory live anywhere within the space of Israel/Palestine without disturbing the basic ethnic composition, and thus character, of either state.
A parallel states structure addresses the core Israeli concerns of remaining Jewish and democratic, while allowing most if not all Israeli settlers to remain in place (although the boundaries of such settlements would be limited to their built up area rather than the much more expansive areas allotted to them under Israeli occupation). At the same time, it addresses the Palestinian need to implement the right of return for Palestinians throughout historic Palestine and be secure on their land.
Moreover, a parallel state structure would allow Israelis and Palestinians to retain their national symbols, have political and legislative bodies that are responsible to their own electorate, and retain a high degree of political independence. Put simply, the contours of political authority and security would be shared by the two states in a manner that guarantees the long-term secure existence of each community, something the Oslo era two-state solution could never achieve.
It will be difficult to convince Israelis and Palestinians to embrace the concept of parallel states [EPA]
External security would have to be coordinated in a common security envelope and with a joint Israeli-Palestinian security and defence policy. Internal security would require a close cooperation, as is the case already today, but on a more equal basis.
Economic cooperation could be expanded, and with the help of the international community the Palestinian economy could be brought up to a higher level, so a meaningful and mutally beneficial exchange could take place.
This is particularly important, because the Oslo peace process, while billed as an economic as much as political peace, in fact exacerbated the structural imbalances and inequalities between Israel and the Occupied Territories, in particular through the policy of closures of the Territories that almost destroyed the Palestinian economy.
Jurisdiction could be separate in some areas, harmonised in other and unified in yet some other areas. Parallel jurisdiction is not a novel legal concept and has several international precedents that can serve as models for cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis.
Difficult but possibe
In the short and medium term the two states could agree to territorial division with extraterritorial jurisdiction and shared sovereignty over certain areas such as Jerusalem, settlements and border areas. This is both a more realistic and positive kind of phased solution than the Oslo model resuscitated by President Obama.
Many if not most of the elements of a Parallel States solution have precedents in attempts to resolve other ethnoterritorial conflicts. Yet it cannot be denied that the scenario as a whole would be an innovation in world politics and in international law, and difficult to implement. But in difficult times you have to do difficult things, and the alternative of another round of a doomed process with continued land grabs going on simultaneously is hardly encouraging.
What is clear is that the Oslo era two-state solution was born out of a twentieth century notion of sovereignty that, at least in the case of Israel/Palestine is neither viable nor particularly desirable in the “New Middle East” Oslo’s architects imagined their peace process heralded. Almost two decades later, the region has finally moved towards a new era, but led by ordinary people rather than leaders who more often than not have frustrated rather than helped to realize the legitimate political, economic and cultural aspirations of their peoples.
In the context of the Arab Spring, a parallel states process might just hold the key to helping Israelis and Palestinians join the region-wide push towards peace, democracy and justice in the fullest, and fairest, way possible.
Mathias Mossberg is a former Swedish ambassador who has served in the Middle East. He was part of the Swedish team that helped initiate the back-channel negotiations that produced the Oslo peace process. He currently directs the Parallel States Project at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden.
Mark LeVine is a professor of Middle Eastern History at University of California, Irvine, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lund. His most recent books include Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Book, 2009) and, with Gershon Shafir, Struggle and Survival in Israel/Palestine (California, forthcoming).
The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.