Israel to expand 40 settlements in occupied West Bank

An illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank

The Israeli regime is seeking a court permission to expand 40 settlements on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank despite international condemnations.

According to a Thursday report published by Ha’aretz, Tel Aviv is “working to enable new construction and has retroactively approved existing construction on private Palestinian land in more than 40 settlements, based on old expropriation orders that were issued for military purposes.”

More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

The international community regards all the Israeli settlements as illegal under international law.

On June 6, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered for the construction of 300 units in the illegal settlement of Beit El in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority strongly condemned the move.

On June 8, Daniel Seiderman, a lawyer active in the movement against Israeli settlements, said the municipal planning board in al-Quds plan to “build another 2,500 units” in the Gilo settlement in the south of the city.

The Israeli settlement expansion is not the only issue in the West Bank.

In recent years, extremist Israeli settlers in the occupied territory have often assaulted Palestinians and vandalized their property under the so-called “price tag” policy. However, the Tel Aviv regime rarely detains the assailants.

The extremists say the price tag attacks are carried out against any Israeli policy to reduce the presence of settlers and settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East al-Quds.

( / 19.09.2012)

Leaked documents show PA outsourced Palestinian land and rights to Turkish firm

Israeli President Shimon Peres, Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the Ankara Forum for Economic Cooperation, November 2007.

In a Palestinian Authority (PA) administrative courthouse, in the far north of the occupied West Bank, one family has taken on the authority’s intention to build an industrial zone on their farmland in Jalameh, a village just outside Jenin.

However, according to Daoud Darawi, the family’s lawyer, their case actually represents many more families, and perhaps has implications beyond the area of Jenin.

The concession agreement between Turkish foreign developers and the PA’s Palestinian Industrial Estate and Free Zone Authority, leaked exclusively to The Electronic Intifada, reveals that the industrial zone in Jenin will come under the full control of the foreign power funding the project. If the plan goes forward, this agreement may well set a dangerous precedent for predatory industrialists and multinational companies in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The land in question lies in the Marj Ibn Amer Valley, and is valuable for two — seemingly conflicting — reasons: its strategic positioning for export trade and its fruitful fertility. If converted to industrial use, it will be lost to agriculture forever. Like many Palestinians, farmers in the Marj Ibn Amer Valley have lost their land before — but until now, it has always been to Israel.

Now farmers must resist theft from their own so-called government that intends to use it to create an industrial zone beyond the reach of Palestinian law and on which no Palestinian will have a right to set foot without the permission of the foreign corporation controlling it.

PA encouragement of private industry, free trade

Plans for industrial zones first appeared on the PA’s agenda during the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the early 1990s and were a component of the PA’s encouragement of private enterprise in the wake of the Oslo Accords (“A re-evaluation of the border industrial estates concept,” IPCRI, December 1998).

Free trade zones have been encouraged and supported by third party powers, especially the United States, GermanyTurkey and Japan.

Work on Jenin’s industrial zone began in earnest in 1996 when the Global North Industrial Company, a private Palestinian firm specializing in industrialization, began to buy plots of land from the farmers in the Marj Ibn Amer valley.

Land expropriation

Some families sold their land, yielding 500 dunams in total (one dunam is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters), but five families refused to sell. In response, in 2000 the PA expropriated all of the land — amounting to 933 dunams — in the name of “public use,” transferring it to the newly created Palestinian Industrial Estate and Free Zone Authority commonly known by its initials PIEFZA (see Appendix A).

However, the PA failed to properly announce their expropriation of the land in the officialAwaqa’e gazette in which, by law, notice of such decisions must be published. “This was the first law they broke,” says Darawi.

Soon after the land swipe was declared, the second intifada broke out. Jenin was at the epicenter of violence and destruction by Israeli forces during the uprising, and PA plans for developing the zone were shelved.

In 2007, after relative calm returned to the West Bank, political rhetoric that harkened back to the Oslo period and talk of an “economic peace” resurfaced. Muhammad Mustafa, chairman and CEO of the PA-owned holding company, the Palestine Investment Fund, and economic advisor to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas, publicly announced the renewal of industrial zone efforts (“PIF’s Director General Confirms the Revival of Jenin Industrial Zone Project”).

Notably, this revival would feature a key reshuffling of who was involved in the project.

Joint industrial zones are a natural product of the neoliberal economic policies that the PA enthusiastically adopted after the second intifada. In theory, they promote private sector growth by removing government interference and encouraging investor-friendly markets.

As Nedal al-Jabare, the marketing director of PIEFZA pointed out to this writer, “Our job is to change the bad image of investing in Palestine.” Like most advocates for “economic peace,” al-Jabare believes that through private investment, economic development will lead Palestinians to a peaceful relationship with Israel.

The exceptionally fertile Marj Ibn Amer valley hugs the 1949 armistice line, the internationally-recognized boundary between the lands occupied by Israel in 1948, and the West Bank, occupied in 1967. The boundary does not announce itself; rather, a discreet fence separates Israel from the West Bank.

The vision is clear for industrial planners who seek to catapult Palestine’s economy onto the global market and for multinational firms who wish to establish a hub in the Middle East. In a promotional slideshow provided by Jenin’s governor’s office, a simply-sketched map illustrates how planners hope to integrate the industrial zone into the global market: the valley lies on an envisioned trade route that connects Amman, Jordan to Haifa, Israel’s largest international seaport.

Outsourcing Palestine

Part of appeasing financiers’ anxieties about investing in an area under military occupation is marketing these zones as islands of peace — places where Israel will not impose closures or strict inspections — the kinds of measures that have impeded Palestinian economic development for years.

In order to secure this safe image in Jenin’s industrial zone, the PA cut loose the Global North Industrial Company, a Palestinian company, from the deal, and brought in a foreign sponsor, Turkey, in 2009. But the concession agreement makes it clear that as early as 2006, the PA and the government of Turkey were in conversation about transferring the responsibilities of the industrial zone from the Global North Industrial Company to a Turkish one, the Tobb-Bis Industrial Parks Management Company (see Appendix A).

A 2010 WikiLeaks cable from the US Embassy in Tel Aviv suggests that Israel was happy with — and may well have encouraged — the move to outsource the industrial zone.

The cable states that that Major General Eitan Dangot, the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories (COGAT) — effectively Israel’s military ruler of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip — applauded Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s “Willingness to pull the plug on an ineffective Palestinian effort to invest in the Jenin area and turn the project over to a Turkish investor with a good track record” (“COGAT Dangot on peace process, West Bank and Gaza,” 18 February 2010).

After Turkey became the principal administrator of the industrial zone, Israel became more pliable in releasing certain necessary provisions for the development of the site. Significantly, it reclassified the land from “Area C” to “Area B,” thereby giving the PA a greater amount of control under the provisions of the 1993 Oslo Accords, and agreed to provide water directly to the site (see Appendix B).

A state that had been regarded as friendly to both Israel and the Palestinians, Turkey has marketed its ambitions as “reinforcing mutual trust among parties.” These dealings occurred before the public breakdown in relations between Turkey and Israel over Israel’s lethal attack on the Mavi Marmara in May 2010.

For several years, however, Turkey had been looking for an entry onto the landscape of Israeli and Palestinian markets. In April 2005, when Turkey hosted the Ankara Forum for Economic Cooperation, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas met in the name of tri-partite cooperation (“Ankara forum for economic cooperation between Palestine, Israel and Turkey meeting held,” 27 April 2005).

A month following the meeting of this harmonious trinity, the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) opened a branch in Ramallah in order to “accelerate Turkey’s development assistance” (“Turkey’s political relations with the Palestinian National Authority,” Republic of Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

In return for its involvement in Jenin’s industrial zone, Turkey will be able to establish its own firms in the zone, gaining unfettered access to the region’s markets.

Prime opportunities for private sector

The concession agreement is between PIEFZA and Tobbs-Bis Industrial Parks Management Company. This fairly young Turkish company was established in 2005 in partnership with TEPAV, the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, a not-for-profit Turkish organization that has worked closely with the government of Turkey. TEPAV is charged with researching and proposing policy recommendations that are purportedly designed to “pave the way for Turkey’s integration into the EU and global marketplace.”

Güven Sak, the Turkish signatory of the concession agreement, is both the coordinator of Tobb-Bis’ Palestine Project and the managing director of TEPAV.

Documents authored by Sak on behalf of TEPAV see the joint industrial zone projects in Palestine as prime opportunities for Turkey’s “private sector development” in the greater region. Sak has argued that Turkey “cannot wait for a comprehensive peace treaty” before seeking to develop its private sector in the larger region (“The challenge of developing private sector in the Middle East,” 2 May 2008 [PDF]).

Likewise, Tobb-Bis, a private company specializing in industrial development, articulates similar aims in bringing the region under Turkey’s industrial umbrella: “In today’s context of increased globalization and competition from low-cost producers, competitive positioning of the Turkish companies require them to look for alternative operations locations for both having access to new markets and lowering production cost” (sic) (Tobb-Bis company profile, March 2010 [PDF]).

Esen Çağlar, a policy analyst with TEPAV who has coordinated feasibility studies on the project for Tobb-Bis, explained in a telephone interview with The Electronic Intifada that the development strategy is to market the zones to medium-size Turkish companies in order to establish “the critical mass of companies to show the rest of the world that industrial zones work in Palestine.”

PA subservient to foreign investors

For the PA’s part, it has removed each and every roadblock to Turkish investors. For instance, in compliance with the PA’s general investment promotion strategy, the contract stipulates that goods imported and exported will be exempt from tax and customs duties (see Appendix A).

However, what is most critical is that the contract gives full jurisdiction to the Turkish development company, leaving the Palestinian Authority — its legislature and judiciary — subservient to the foreign company (Appendix A).

The agreement states: “The PNA [Palestinian National Authority] recognizes the inviolability of the Zone and its internal security which will be under the sole control of the [Development Company]. No official or agent of the PNA or other person exercising any public, municipal, judicial, administrative, executive or legislative authority shall enter the zone to perform any duty therein except PIEFZA employee [sic] … and other officials whose work is necessary for the smooth operation of the zone.”

With this virtually unlimited jurisdiction, as the agreement goes on to stipulate, the Turkish development company may “determine and implement procedures and regulations within the zone that will promote and secure the efficient operations” of the investors including establishing its own security force. The contract is valid for a period of 49 years at which point it can then be renewed for the same duration.

Çağlar emphasized the importance of Tobb-Bis’ jurisdiction in the zone in order to attract Turkish (and global) investors. “The idea is to create a secure, predictable and safe atmosphere,” he said.

From this, it is clear that the Palestinian Authority vis-a-vis PIEFZA has handed over the land and labor of its own people to a foreign power, in a move that violates even its own laws established in 1998 to regulate industrial estates and free zones.

Undermining Farmers

The PA’s law regarding industrial estates and industrial free zones, state clearly that the developer of an industrial estate must be a corporation or company registered in Palestine (Appendix C, article 22). However, from the Concession Agreement, it appears that Tobb-Bis is in fact registered in Turkey (although Çağlar asserted it was registered in Ramallah in 2006) (Appendix A).

Ayat Hamdan, a researcher with Bisan Center for Research and Development in Ramallah, sees these projects as normalizing relations with Israel for the sake of “economic peace” instead of forging a political solution and end to the occupation. Bisan has followed the progress of the PA’s industrial plans since 2009, significantly raising public awareness of the industrial designs and their damaging consequences.

Hamdan emphasizes that she is not opposed to industry in general but fears this zone will displace already working farmers. “These farmers will not have the necessary skills to work in the industrial zones,” said Hamdan.

Çağlar explained that one of TEPAV’s strategies to get around the West Bank’s “high reservation rate” is to target the “unskilled labor” sector of the population. It is clear that disenfranchised farmers may well be preyed upon and exploited.

In an effort to gain popular support for the industrial zones, PIEFZA and PA officials have promised massive job creation. Israeli consultants have estimated the zones will create 200,000 to 500,000 new jobs and could refocus 30 percent of Palestinians businesses to service the zones’ needs.

However, Sam Bahour, a Palestinian businessman and economic analyst, has argued that the industrial zones will, at best, provide menial labor-intensive jobs that are still dependent on foreign money (“Economic prison zones,” MERIP, 19 November 2010).

Furthermore, Bahour fears the implications of the anticipated impact of the zones on the tenuous Palestinian economy.

“One can see a continuation of Israel’s scheme to re-engineer the Palestinian economy away from its agricultural and tourism bases toward an economy that is dependent on Israeli public services and good will,” Bahour added.

Darawi’s lawsuit on behalf of families whose land has been taken will argue that there is no “public good” being served by these industrial zones: “No one in Palestine will benefit from this; only the businessmen and private investors will.”

Setting a disturbing precedent

The lack of regulations evident in the concession agreement with Turkey suggest the Jenin industrial zone may very well emulate industrial parks in Jordan and Egypt.

Indeed, as one PA official in Jenin, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Electronic Intifada, “It has worked in Jordan, so why not here?”

Whether or not these Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZs) have “worked” is debatable. As has been documented and reported elsewhere, the cheap and unregulated labor offered by QIZs in Jordan have been exploited by international corporations like Walmart, GAP and Gloria Vanderbilt (“US-Jordan free trade agreement: Descends into human trafficking and involuntary servitude,” National Labor Committee, May 2006 [PDF]).

The non-unionized workers labor in horrific conditions and have reported being beaten, sexually harassed and denied food. At times, workers clocked 72-hour shifts and received no more than two cents an hour — a violation of Jordan’s minimum wage policy in the free trade zones.

Furthermore, while the QIZs in Jordan and Egypt were also promoted as a means to stimulate local economy, studies conducted by Bisan revealed that both have failed to support the economies of the two countries.

This is the “success story” that al-Jabare lauds while opponents like Darawi and Hamdan reject and resist through information campaigns as well as the current lawsuit.

The agreement is designed to facilitate the “smooth” and “efficient” business operations that work to the advantage of what it calls the “Beneficiaries” — those local or foreign companies established in the zone. There is a stark absence of any reference to labor rights, worker safety or wages. Thus, there is no jurisdiction for trade unions, the Ministry of Labor or any other body to monitor conditions for workers.

Furthermore, while there is an explicitly stated expectation that Tobb-Bis development company will give preference to Palestinian workers, there is an accompanying loophole relieving it of that duty that states, “Unless prohibited by any considerations.”

Today, the land in question remains undisturbed. The flat, bright green and water-rich valley continues to be cultivated by family farmers who tend to their plots, growing vegetables and legumes.

The Palestinian Authority’s move to surrender that land to a foreign development company — whether under the guise of “economic peace” or “development” — runs counter to Palestinians’ battle to remain fastened to their land in the face of colonization and foreign land theft.

Indeed, the industrial zone in Jenin represents a culmination of the PA’s neoliberal policies that have neglected and devalued Palestine’s productive, agricultural and manufacturing sectors and seen Palestine become reliant on foreign aid for subsistence.

In the West Bank courtroom, where the PA stands with a Turkish development company and against a family of farmers, it becomes compellingly clear that the PA’s allegiance to a neoliberal ideology is betraying Palestinians.

( / 19.09.2012)

Pro-Israel ads suggesting Muslims are ‘savage’ set to arrive in NY subways next week

Support Israel Defeat Jihad
Support Israel ad by Pam Geller

Pam Geller’s repulsive “Savage” ads that have appeared on San Francisco buses are coming east. Matt Flegenheimer reports in the New York Times:

New Yorkers will soon encounter another potentially inflammatory rendering of Islam: an advertisement in the transit system that reads, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.”

 It concludes with the words, “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad,” wedged between two Stars of David. After rejecting the ads initially, then losing a federal court ruling on First Amendment grounds, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said on Tuesday that the ads were expected to appear next week at 10 subway stations…

Muneer Awad of CAIR says it’s legal to be a bigot; but there will be an assertive response by Muslims to dispel these vicious characterizations. From CAIR: “Muneer Awad, the executive director of [CAIR-NY], said the ads were an attempt to ‘define Muslims’ through hate speech.”

( / 19.09.2012)

Reflections: Justice for Vittorio in Gaza but Israeli impunity continues

It is ironic that justice has come for Vittorio Arrigoni and his family as we commemorate the anniversary of the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, one of the most atrocious crimes ever committed against us, against anyone. Thirty years have passed since it happened in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon by a Lebanese Phalangist militia trained, supported, and secured by Israel. The blood spilled in less than three days, the elderly and the babies killed and tossed into rubbish heaps, women raped and brutally killed: the horrors unleashed on a vulnerable village knew no bounds. The memories of this atrocity are too painful to forget and the wounds it left in the Palestinian people’s hearts are just too deep to heal.

Justice was done for Vittorio — Vik, we called him — by Hamas, an organization that almost the whole world branded as a ‘terrorist’ organization and opposed when they were democratically elected in 2006. But justice for the thousands of victims of Sabra and Shatilla, a slaughter in which Israel was entirely complicit, has not yet been achieved.

And neither has justice for Rachel Corrie, killed in 2003 by a soldier of “the world’s most moral army.” He ran over her body with his Caterpillar bulldozer while demolishing a Palestinian home in Rafah that she gave her life trying to save. Less than a month ago, almost a decade after Rachel’s murder, an Israeli court in Haifa ruled that it was merely an “accident” for which the State should not take responsibility.

I decided not to attend the final court hearing for those suspected of killing Vik on Monday. I tried it once last April but it was just too painful to watch the endless procedures mask the horror of the truth people were trying to find. I remember how I sat and shook, bit my nails, bowed my head, and watched my tears hit the floor. I remember how intolerably annoying it was to hear the murderers’ voices speaking of morals and respect while they had no shred of moralality, respect, or humanity. I remember how I couldn’t bear to remain until the end and escaped the court to express my anger and sorrow at his murder outside.

At the time of the verdict, I sat in a cafe hall named after Vittorio Arrigoni, waiting for Adie Mormech, a British activist who was one of Vik’s best friends, to tell me what the court had ruled. He said that Mahmoud Salfiti, 23, and Tamer Hasasna, 25, were sentenced to life imprisonment, plus 10 years of hard labor, for kidnapping and murder, while Khader Ajram, 26, was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment with hard labor for assisting. The fourth, Amer Abu Ghula, fled Gaza after the killing and was sentenced in absentia to a year of imprisonment for harboring fugitives.

I didn’t know how to describe my feelings about the criminals’ sentences. I don’t suspect them to be unjust. But something tells me that this trial only punished the hands behind this crime, not the minds that plotted it. I also believe that with the killing of the Jordanian Abderrahman Breizit and the Salafi Bilal Al-Omary during their shootout with Hamas forces, many facts were buried as well. This trial didn’t answer all our questions and left us still wondering, who benefited? Who had the most to gain from the murder of Vittorio Arrigoni and Juliano Mer Khamis who was killed in Jenin shortly before?

Even after the convictions of Vik’s murderers, they can never absorb the grief that his family and friends felt and still feel over his loss. Since his killers sentenced us to live the remainder of our lives without him around, Vittorio’s physical absence has been difficult. I still find it hard to imagine that we will have to continue without his laughs filling the room, without his voice singing, “Unadikum, ashod ‘ala ayadikum” — ”I call to you all. I take your hands and hold them tightly.”

I know it’s been more than a year since he had his last Friday dinner with my family, but no Friday has ever passed without his memories flooding our minds. His spiritual presence is very strong almost every place I go, especially in our house. I see him in every corner of my home, on the sofas sitting and smoking his pipe while drinking coffee, on the dining table using his unique sense of humor to make us laugh and distract us from eating, even in the street in front where he frequently had football matches with my youngest brother Mohammed and other international activists such as Adie and Max Ajl. He also used to chat in the garden with my father about his immense pride in his grandparents who resisted fascism in Italy, a legacy that inspired him to fight the fascist policies of Israel against the Palestinians.

I will never forget you, dear Vik, and I’ll always cherish your memories dearly. We still laugh very hard when we hear any of my family or our friends imitating you, speaking your countable Arabic words that you used to repeat over and over again, “zaki, mushkili, mish mushkili, mumkin, shway.”

You will live immortally in every heart of every Palestinian, every farmer, every fisherman, and every child in the Samouni family to whom you gave your strength and sympathy. In the massacre, you were there for them like you were for so many others, right from the moment Israel forced groups of them into one house, before dropping a missile on them all. You were one of those trying to reach them, as the dead and injured lay together under the rubble for four days.

Twenty-nine of them were killed, yet three years later Israel’s military prosecution absolved the Israeli army of wrong-doing, arguing that the massacre had not been carried out “in a manner that would indicate criminal responsibility.”

You have become a symbol of humanity, an icon of muqawama, the tattoo you chose for your right arm out of your faith in our cause and as a promise to the oppressed Palestinian people to never end the struggle for real justice. We will carry on the fight, and we will achieve the aim you sacrificed your life for: “Freedom, justice, and equality for Palestine.”

Shahd Abusalama

Shahd Abusalama, 21, is a Palestinian artist, a blogger and an English literature student living in Gaza City. 

( / 19.09.2012)

Voorzitter Europees Parlement veroordeelt anti-islamfilm

BRUSSEL – De voorzitter van het Europees Parlement heeft woensdag hard uitgehaald naar de geruchtmakende filmInnocence of Muslims waarin de profeet Mohammed wordt bespot.

”Ik veroordeel niet alleen de inhoud, maar ook de verspreiders van de film”, zei de Duitse Martin Schulz woensdag in Brussel. ”Deze film beledigt de gevoelens van veel mensen in de wereld”.

Gelijktijdig had het Witte Huis in de VS kritiek op het Franse satirische weekblad Charlie Hebdo, dat spotprenten van Mohammed had afgedrukt.

”We zetten vraagtekens bij de beslissing om zoiets te publiceren”, zei een woordvoerder van de Amerikaanse president Barack Obama. ”Maar het is op geen enkele manier een rechtvaardiging om geweld te gebruiken”.

Een Syrische organisatie heeft woensdag in Parijs aangifte gedaan tegen het Franse tijdschrift. De organisatie klaagt over haatzaaien.

( / 19.09.2012)

Israeli air strike kills 3 Palestinians in Gaza: medics

An Israeli air strike on a vehicle killed three Palestinian men in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, Palestinian medics said.

The Israeli military had no comment on the attack.

Palestinian hospital officials said a raid after darkness fell in the town of Rafah on Gaza’s border with Egypt killed three men, all employees of the Islamist Hamas government.

The victims were responsible for overseeing tunnels used to import goods from Egypt, the hospital officials said. Israel accuses Hamas of using the subterranean conduits to smuggle in weapons used to attack the Jewish state.

Israel has often targeted Gaza militants by aerial attack in response to rocket fire at its southern towns.

( / 19.09.2012)

The European Parliament is Rewarding Israel’s Human Rights Violations

On 18 September 2012, the European Parliament Committee on International Trade (INTA) passed the Protocol on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) by a slim margin.

The ACAA is attached to the European Union/Israel Association Agreement, in practice it allows industrial products to enter the EU/Israeli markets without additional testing and conformity assessment procedures. The positive vote at the committee level means the issue will now be debated in the European Parliament plenary and the final decision will be made there.

At present, there is only one annex to the ACAA protocol which covers pharmaceuticals, however in the future other annexes may be added, many believe cosmetics and toys may be next. Human rights campaigners across Europe have mobilized to challenge this upgrade in economic relations between the EU and Israel citing Israel’s continued violations of international law and human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.

While supporters of ACAA argue that it does not constitute a formal upgrade of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, clearly it would mean a significant strengthening of the EU’s relations with Israel, marking Israel’s further integration into the EU market. Negotiations on the ACAA Protocol initially started in early 2009, but were suspended since June 2010, following the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla on 31 May 2010. This vote reverses the suspension, although no one has been held to account for the killings on board the Gaza flotilla. Importantly, it may also be a precedent setting agreement and open up discussions on other suspended protocols, such as the protocol allowing Israel’s participation in certain EU Community programmes suspended since 2008.

There are significant legal concerns around the current formulation of ACAA. As a protocol of the EU/Israel Association Agreement it has the same territorial application, which in article 83 states that it applies to the “State of Israel”. In contravention of international law, Israel’s definition of its territory includes settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The European Commission has failed to provide assurances about the territorial scope of ACAA.

Particularly troubling about ACAA is its application to the pharmaceutical sector. The Israeli pharmaceutical industry is deeply involved in the occupation, with devastating consequences for Palestinians in need of basic healthcare. A report by the Coalition of Women for Peace in Israel on the Israeli Pharmaceutical Industry and the Occupation concludes that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are a captive market for Israeli and international drug companies, and this situation has grave ramifications for the occupied population.

The easy access to EU markets that the ACAA protocol would provide to Israel, is in stark contrast to Israel’s stranglehold on the Palestinian economy in general and the pharmaceutical sector in particular. For example, the Israeli Ministry of Health only allows drugs registered in Israel to enter the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), blocking drugs from neighbouring Arab countries and more importantly denying access to cheaper generic pharmaceuticals produced in countries like China and India.

Although the European Parliament recently adopted a motion stating that “the Palestinian presence in the West Bank, with special regard to Area C, and in East Jerusalem has been undermined by Israeli Government policies”, there is a clear discrepancy between condemning Israel’s violations in the OPT and increasing trade links with Israel.

The EU has become Israel’s biggest importer to the tune of 16.8 billion Euros in 2011 and the second largest market for Israeli exports. On 24 July 2012, during a meeting of the EU Association Council in Brussels, Israel was offered 60 new activities of cooperation with the EU. Human rights campaigners are clear that Israel should not be rewarded for its aggression in any way under any agreements, protocols or action plans. All such agreements must be suspended until such a time that Israel complies with fundamental international law and human rights law standards.

There is much work to be done between now and the final vote on ACAA at the European Parliament to make clear to officials that people of conscience around Europe refuse to continue ‘business as usual’ with Israel and would rather see the EU take action to prevent Israel from committing further crimes against Palestinians.

( / 19.09.2012)

Protesters clash with Mahalla police after teen allegedly beaten to death

Egyptian police

Clashes erupted early on Wednesday morning between hundreds of angry citizens and security forces, after a teenager died at a checkpoint in Mahalla, Gharbiya governorate. His family accused police of beating him to death.

The outraged people tried to storm the Mahalla Police Department and some hurled stones at police. Gharbiya Security Directorate intensified security and cordoned the area around the department.

Seventeen-year-old Kareem Mohamed al-Sayed died at a checkpoint in the neighborhood of Abu Shaheen. His family accused police of beating him to death, an allegation which the police deny, saying he died of a heart attack.

A friend of the victim told Al-Masry Al-Youm that Sayed was riding a motorbike when a police captain stopped him at the checkpoint. Sayed’s friend said that the officer beat the victim’s chest, causing the motorbike to roll over, then other security personnel beat him to death.

The corpse was transferred to Mahalla Hospital for an autopsy, where people had gathered and hurled stones at the building.

A medical source at the hospital told Al-Masry Al-Youm that Sayed’s body had no signs of injuries or bruises that would have resulted from a physical assault. He added that the victim may have suffered from cardiac disease.

Police torture was a routine practice under the rule of ousted President Hosni Mubarak. The death of Khaled Saeed, a young man in his late twenties who was killed at the hands of police officers in 2010, was one of the triggers for the demonstrations that ousted Mubarak during the 25 January revolution.

( / 19.09.2012)