UNESCO to send fact-finding commission to Jerusalem

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – UNESCO will send a fact-finding commission on May 20 to investigate ongoing Israeli measures in Jerusalem, the Palestinian minister of foreign affairs said Thursday.

Riyad al-Malki told a news conference in Ramallah that the commission would spend five days in Jerusalem before returning to the UNESCO headquarters in Paris to submit a detailed report.

The last time an international commission investigated Israeli procedures in Jerusalem was in 2004.

Al-Malki highlighted that Israeli assaults against holy places in Jerusalem were part of a systematic policy crystallized recently. There have been clear attempts to take control of the al-Aqsa Mosque and its squares and gates, he said.

President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, has asked the ministry of foreign affairs to call an emergency meeting of the Arab League. The council convened Sunday, added al-Malki, and came up with several decisions related to Jerusalem.

Messages have also been sent to foreign ministers all over the world urging them to help protect Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem and to exert pressure on Israel.

Asked about Palestine joining the International Criminal Court, al-Malki said that move wouldn’t be easy as it couldn’t be achieved immediately. The Palestinian leadership, he said, has given directives to complete all preparations to join the ICC, but that necessitates that Palestine signs the Rome Convention.

Palestinian legal experts should first study the Rome Convention and learn about the consequences of such a step before signing the convention, according to al-Malki.

(Source / 16.05.2013)

CONFERENCE RELEASE: Palestinian Shatat Conference convenes in Vancouver for Return and Liberation

May 15th, 2013 – In an effort to unite the Palestinian community through adherence to fundamental principles predicated on return and liberation, Palestinian activists and their allies in North America convened on unceded Coast Salish territories at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada from May 3 – 5, 2013.

With the firm belief that Palestinians in the Shatat should be actively engaged and invested in advancing the Palestinian cause as we commemorate 65 years of Nakba, participants discussed various issues, including, among others, accurate and accountable representation, defining the relationship of Palestinians in North America with Palestinians inside Palestine and the refugee camps, and finding methods to confront Zionist settler colonialism inside and outside of Palestine.

According to Khaled Barakat, a member of the organizing committee of the conference, “at a time when the right of return is under attack and Palestinian land is under threat from occupation attacks and so-called ‘land swaps’, the voice of Palestinians in shatat must be raised. The conference is a critical step towards addressing these concerns, and a new forum to engender positive changes in the Palestinian national liberation movement.”

The program of the conference included workshops spanning various topics, such as strengthening Palestinian organizing in the Shatat, Palestinian shatat participation and leadership in the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, forging joint struggles with justice movements in North America, gender and queer issues, combating Zionism and normalization, the centrality of the right of return to Palestinian liberation, discourses on national unity and addressing issues regarding representation and the Shatat’s relationship with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The conference, which featured Palestinian freedom fighter Leila Khaled, who greeted conference attendees for a one-hour presentation via Skype in which she called for Palestinian national unity on the basis of resistance and struggle for return and liberation saluted the Palestinian prisoners in their fight for freedom and liberation, and reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the Palestinian national liberation movement.

Conference participants included members of Idle No More, as well as other longtime indigenous activists; conference participants dined on bannock donated by Indigenous chefs and a Wet’suwet’en drum group introduced Khaled. According to Omar Shaban, director of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) at UBC, “it is important to recognize, over and again, that this conference was held on unceded indigenous territory, and that the struggle of the Palestinian people in the Shatat is incomplete without recognizing and joining the struggle of the indigenous people of Canada and the United States.”

Throughout the various discussions which spanned various points of views, political perspectives and diverse ideologies, attendees vowed to continue the conversation on forging a united front against Zionist colonization in Palestine. Conference participants formed a follow-up committee, which will be releasing a proposed action plan for Palestinian mobilization in the North American diaspora in the coming weeks.

For more information please contact:
Omar Shaban
604-379-4050
info@palestinianconference.org
palestinianconference.org

To get involved with these initiatives and the follow-up work of the conference, please contact info@palestinianconference.org.

The points of unity of the conference and its follow-up committee are as follows:

May 2013 marks the 65th anniversary of the Nakba, and the 65th year of the ongoing struggle for Palestinian refugees’ return and the liberation of Palestine.

1. The Palestinian people are one people and our cause is one cause. Our objective is to revive the Palestinian national liberation movement and build the national institutions of the Palestinian people based on popular participation and direct democracy, in order to achieve the liberation of the land and people of Palestine and the implementation of the right of Palestinian refugees to return their homes.

2. The conflict with the settler colonialist state of Israel will only be resolved through the dismantling of the racist settler colonial nature of the state, meaning decolonization from Zionism, in all its forms, social, economic and political.

3. The right of return is the first and foremost step to the exercise of our right to self-determination.

4. Based on history, language, culture and geography, Palestine is an integral part of the Arab world and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation.

5. Palestine is part and parcel of international resistance to colonialism, settler colonialism, imperialism and Zionism. The Palestinian people’s struggle is the struggle of an indigenous population directly connected to national liberation movements around the world facing the same powers, including the struggle of Indigenous peoples of North America, where this conference is taking place.

6. This effort is part of the struggle to achieve the basic right of Palestinians to elect our representatives in a democratic manner, and to overcome all obstacles being placed in front of our people in Palestine and in the shatat. As Palestinians in shatat, we have a right to representation and raise the voice of the shatat in our national liberation movement.

7. Palestinians have the right to resist injustice and occupation in order to achieve the liberation of their land and people.

8. The governments of the United States and Canada are directly responsible for apartheid, colonization and occupation in Palestine, through their diplomatic, political, military and economic support for the state of Israel. We recognize the US and Canada to be settler colonies built on indigenous lands.

9. We have the responsibility to confront the role of the US and Canada, hold the governments of the US and Canada accountable, and to build alliances with oppressed peoples and communities in North America.

10. We recognize the leadership and central role of Palestinian women in the national liberation movement, in this initiative, and in political representation.

return-liberation

(Source / 16.05.2013)

Keuze UEFA om EK in Israel te organiseren in strijd met haar eigen waarden

Actievoerders protesteren voorafgaand aan de finale van de UEFA cup

Voorafgaand aan de finale van de UEFA cup hebben activisten geprotesteerd tegen het voornemen van de UEFA om het EK onder de 21 jaar in Israël te organiseren. Deze keuze heeft internationaal tot protesten geleid vanwege de betrokkenheid van het land bij de systematische schending van rechten van het Palestijnse volk. Woordvoerder Benji de Levie: “De genoemde praktijken vallen niet te rijmen met de waarden die de UEFA en de KNVB uitdragen, zoals FairPlay, verbroedering en anti discriminatie. Wij roepen de UEFA op om de keuze voor Israel terug te draaien. Tegelijk roepen wij de KNVB op een voorbeeld te stellen voor andere landen in Europa en het Nederlands elftal terug te trekken uit dit EK. Morgen zal onze brief hierover besproken worden tijdens de bestuursvergadering van de KNVB.”

Tientallen activisten hadden zich met spandoeken en vlaggen verzameld voor de Arena om hun boodschap ten gehore te brengen: Kick Israeli Racism Out of UEFA. Zij werden hierbij muzikaal ondersteund door de Marokkaanse groep Dakka Fantasia. De actie trok veel bekijks van de supporters, en velen waren geïnteresseerd in de redenen van de actie. GroenLinks gemeenteraadslid Nourdin el Ouali was er ook bij: “Ik heb veel gesprekken gevoerd met supporters en ben evenveel gefotografeerd met onze spandoeken. Voor mij een duidelijk teken dat een groot deel van de supporters het met ons eens is: een belangrijk toernooi als het EK voor minderjarigen hoort niet thuis in een land dat stelselmatig het internationaal recht schendt. En dan gaat het om de meest basale universele rechten van de mens, zoals het vastzetten van Palestijnse kinderen zonder beschuldiging of vorm van proces. In zo’n land mag geen Europees Kampioenschap worden gehouden.”

De actie “NEE tegen EK in Israel” werd georganiseerd door Diensten en Onderzoek Centrum Palestina (docP) en aangesloten organisaties en is onderdeel van een wereldwijde campagne Red Card for Apartheid. Palestijnse sportorganisaties en vooraanstaande atleten hebben zich publiekelijk uitgesproken tegen Israël als locatie voor het kampioenschap. Vooraanstaande spelers als Frédéric Kanouté, Eden Hazard van Chelsea, Abou Diaby van Arsenal en vijf spelers van Newcastle  – Papiss Cissé, Cheick Tioté, Sylvain Marveaux, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba – lanceerden in november een oproep om het kampioenschap niet in Israël te houden.

docP%20logo+marge

DocP is in 2012 opgericht en zet zich in om boycot, desinvesteren en sancties (BDS beweging) in Nederland te ondersteunen, te bundelen en te versterken. Concreet houdt dit in dat docP gestart is met onderzoek, informatievoorziening en verschillende campagnes tegen bedrijven.

Russian FM says Iran should take part in Syria conference

Lavrov told Lebanese television that Russia believed the conference, which he and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced in Moscow last week, should include Iran.

Iran should take part in an international conference agreed by Moscow and Washington to help broker an end to the Syria conflict, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted in an interview broadcast Thursday.

Lavrov told Lebanese television that Russia believed the conference, which he and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced in Moscow last week, should include Iran, a key Syria ally, while stressing that this had not been agreed.

“We must not exclude such a country as Iran from this process due to geopolitical preferences. It is after all a very important outside player. But as yet there are no agreements on this subject,” Lavrov was quoted as saying in a transcript published on the Russian foreign ministry’s website.

The interview aired Thursday on Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen channel but was filmed on Monday, according to the ministry website.

Iran, which is Russia’s main regional ally and backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, “can play the same role as the other outside players, directly interacting and supporting one or other Syrian side in a political or other way,” Lavrov said.

“There are obvious things: Iran has often stressed its solidarity with the Syrian government and representatives of the Iranian leadership regularly visit Damascus,” he said.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Tuesday would not rule out the possibility that Iran could be invited to join the talks in search of a political resolution to end the conflict now in its third year.

In the interview, Lavrov also accused Western powers of wanting to hold narrow talks ahead of the planned conference that would set its agenda and possibly even its outcome without Syrian participation.

“Some of our Western colleagues (this came through also in talks with David Cameron in Sochi) have a desire to narrow the circle of outside participants and start the process with a very small group of countries,” Lavrov said, referring to British Prime Minister Cameron’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Friday.

Lavrov suggested that “during these talks, practically speaking, they would decide in advance the teams for the talks, the agenda and maybe even the result of the talks.”

This would end in a “scheme dreamt up without the participation of Syrians,” he warned.

Russia is a traditional ally of Syria and as a veto-wielding permanent member of the U.N. Security Council has blocked several bids to ramp up pressure on Assad to step down.

(Source / 16.05.2013)

Over het verloochenen van God

By Marianna Laarif

Op een morgen tijdens een moskeedienst zijn 2000 mensen bij elkaar. Ze worden verrast door 2 mannen, die van hoofd tot voeten in het zwart gehuld zijn en machinegeweren dragen. Een van de mannen roept: ‘Iedereen, die bereid is om een kogel voor God door zijn lichaam te krijgen: blijf staan waar je staat!’ Meteen vluchten de meeste van de aanwezigen. Van de 2000 blijven er ongeveer 20 staan. De man, die gesproken had, trekt zijn zwarte kleding uit, kijkt naar de imam en zegt: ‘Ok imam, ik heb alle huichelaars ontmaskerd! Nu kunt u met uw dienst beginnen. Ik wens u een mooie dag!’ De beide mannen draaien zich om en vertrekken.

Of stel je voor…
Een man kwam een moskee binnen met een mes in z’n hand. Hij vroeg: ‘Wie is hier moslim’? Niemand durfde op te staan. Na een tijd stond er iemand op en zei: ‘Ik ben een moslim’. Die man met een mes in z’n hand zei: ‘Kom mee’. Na een tijdje komt hij terug zonder de man maar met z’n mes besmeurd met bloed. Hij vraagt weer hetzelfde. Niemand antwoord. Dan staat er een andere man op en zegt: ‘De imam is een moslim’. De imam schrikt en zegt: ‘Wie zei je dat ik een moslim ben’. Die man met het mes in zijn hand heeft die andere man niet vermoord maar gewoon een schaap geslacht voor hem.

Merkwaardig, hoe makkelijk mensen God verloochenen, en zich verwonderd afvragen waarom de wereld naar de knoppen gaat.

Merkwaardig, dat wij geloven wat er in de krant staat, maar twijfelen aan wat er in de heilige geschriften staan.

Merkwaardig, dat iedereen in de hemel wil komen en dan toch aanneemt, dat men niet hoeft te geloven, te denken, te zeggen en te doen wat er in de Koran staat. Is dat soms te beangstigend?

Merkwaardig, hoe iemand zeggen kan: ‘Ik geloof in God.’, maar desondanks de duivel volgt (die zelf trouwens ook in God ‘gelooft’).

Merkwaardig dat de grappen via mail zich als een lopend vuur verspreiden, maar als men begint over God, krabt men zich wel eventjes op het hoofd eer men het doorstuurt.

Merkwaardig, hoe het obscene, vulgaire, gewelddadige, en occulte vrij de cyberspace passeren kan, maar een openlijke discussie over GOD in de scholen en werkplaatsen onderdrukt wordt.

Merkwaardig, nietwaar? Raar, Subhaanallah het was een tijdje ook zo,”dat ik me meer bezorgd maakte over wat de mensen over mij denken, dan wat God van mij denkt”.Natuurlijk kan je deze mail zo wegklikken, alsof deze je niet geraakt heeft. Raar…… toch? Subhaanallaah…

Merkwaardig, dat,als je dit bericht verzendt, je deze niet aan veel van je adressenlijst zult sturen, omdat je weet wat ze geloven of wat ze van jou vinden. Stuur dit bericht door, als je het volgende echt meent:

=> Ja, ik houd van God. Hij is mijn leven en mijn Redder. Hij zorgt er elke dag voor, dat ik functioneer. Zonder Hem was ik niets. Zonder Hem ben ik niets, maar met Hem kan ik alle dingen doen, door Hem die mij sterk maakt.
Ik ben tegen alles bestand door Hem, Die mij kracht geeft!!! Allahoe akbar, Allahoe akbar Allahoe akbar wa lillahi hamd !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The meaning of solidarity in the Palestine movement

Palestinians have been denied the right to narrate their experience of oppression and to lead their struggle for liberation for too long.  The official Palestinian leadership has helped maintain this silencing by participating in sham “peace processes” like the Oslo Accords, which ended in the creation of a Palestinian Authority (PA) that fails to represent Palestinians.  It is estimated that between 28 and 32 percent of the PA budget goes to policing and prisons, not to protect Palestinians–but to control them.

Palestinian voices are also silenced in Palestinian liberation organizing in the United States.  Whether through accusing Palestinians of bigotry, impatience with Palestinians’ internalized oppression, or as a result of tokenization, racism, Islamophobia or Jewish privilege, Palestine solidarity work in the U.S. all too often contributes to the disempowerment of Palestinians and acts to represent them, rather than allowing them to speak for themselves.  I will address some of the ways silencing of Palestinians takes place in Palestine organizing with the aim of encouraging introspection within our movement.

Solidarity means encouraging Palestinian leadership

There is no one Palestinian leadership.  Oppression and exile have created divisions in the Palestinian polity and Palestinians have never had truly representative governance.  This division serves Israel well and is a major source of concern for many Palestinians, some of whom have called for direct elections to a Palestinian National Council representative of Palestinians across the globe.  The division between the PA and Hamas, fomented by the U.S., also serves Israeli interests.  Criticizing the lack of Palestinian leadership without this context is disingenuous.  The results of Zionist policies of fragmentation are often misunderstood by U.S. allies as political backwardness.  It is important for non-Palestinians allies to examine all the ways in which this mostly unspoken and unconscious understanding of Palestinian capabilities shapes our organizing.

In contrast to official Palestinian bodies, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) are examples of Palestinian grassroots leadership.  The 2005 call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it honors the fundamental rights of Palestinians has been endorsed by civil society organizations inside the West Bank and Gaza, inside Israel, and in the diaspora. The BNC and PACBI have outlined in detail the principles that guide BDS work.  At a bare minimum, solidarity activists engaged in BDS work should become familiar with these published principles and guidelines.  Specifically, the BDS leadership and the wider Palestinian community have been clear that Palestinian liberation work is incompatible with any form of racism or bigotry.  However, at times when individuals in the U.S. movement have been called out for their bigotry, they have reacted with defensiveness and have revealed underlying feelings of racism and Islamophobia.

Some “allies” have accused Palestinians of collaboration with Zionist interests when their misrepresentation of Palestinian politics or their anti-Semitism was challenged.  One individual involved in Palestine work accused the BNC of giving up the right of return in exchange for funding from George Soros who he characterized as a “soft Zionist”.  Another resorted to Islamophobic name-calling to attack a Palestinian who challenged her when she posted an anti-Semitic video. Still another published a photo of a Palestinian who had been critical of racist motivations in organizing next to photos of Abe Foxman and Alan Dershowitz to imply that they were all in cahoots to silence “dissident” voices. These actions demonstrate that some involved in our work have motivations that are incompatible with Palestinian liberation and solidarity.

Solidarity means accepting insight into the Palestinian perspective as an opportunity, not as a personal attack. We are all learning and no Palestinian expects non-Palestinian allies to fully understand their experience.  Palestinian activists within solidarity organizations should be given space to discuss issues of oppression apart from the larger group without these discussions being seen as a threat to non-Palestinian allies.  It is imperative that Palestinians have space to sort out their priorities and identify the ways that racism may impact their work.  When they are ready, these Palestinian caucuses should feel welcome to report back to other allies in the organization.  It is also important for non-Palestinian allies to discuss the ways their privilege and power may affect Palestinians in their organizing.

“I wish more Palestinians would get involved”

There is a prevailing lament among U.S. Palestine solidarity organizations that relatively few Palestinians have joined their work.  This is worth examining.

No doubt, Islamophobia and anti-Arab xenophobia in the United States have played a role in keeping Palestinians out of political organizing.  In addition, Palestinians often suffer from internalized oppression and thus subject themselves to self-censorship.  The constant bashing of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims in our society takes an emotional and psychological toll on people within those communities.  There are times when I encounter a strange loop in my own head when facing discrimination that somehow I may deserve the ill-treatment.  I quickly come to my senses, but the fact that it is present in someone like me with a great deal of political awareness is telling.

Palestinians in the United States along with other Arab-Americans and Muslims face real consequences for their political activism including physical and verbal attacks, business losses, denial of promotion or tenure, employment termination, government surveillance, and even imprisonment.  In 1985, Palestinian-AmericanAlex Odeh was assassinated in Santa Ana, California for his activism.  More recently, Palestinian-American Hatem Abudayyeh remains the target of an aggressive FBI investigation because of his political organizing. In 2010, his Chicago home was raided by the FBI and then his personal bank accounts were frozen.

There are many hurdles to engaging Palestinians in the work.  However, if we seek to create new communities and systems that reflect our anti-racist and anti-oppression principles, it is incumbent upon Palestine solidarity organizations to thoughtfully seek ways to involve Palestinians in their leadership. Creating anti-oppression organizations means more than diversity and integration.  It often means slowing down our agenda to make sure Palestinians are involved in the work from the first step, rather than being expected to follow.

Solidarity means stepping back and listening to those most impacted by Israel’s oppression.  This takes time and patience, resources that are often missing among goal-oriented political activists.  Sometimes it means that allies should encourage Palestinians who may not have prior experience in organizing or public speaking to trust in themselves.  This means yielding the floor and allowing Palestinians to learn and make mistakes. It also means refraining from making judgments about or excluding Palestinians who are not as “progressive” or don’t meet some arbitrary litmus test regarding their political analysis.

Are we prepared to help provide organizing frameworks for Palestinians that foster their leadership?  Many Jewish allies and other seasoned white activists have a long history of social justice organizing in this country and have had mentors and role models on which to shape their anti-oppression work.  Being a more recent immigrant population in the United States, Palestinians may have fewer models to draw on.  It has been easy for some allies to fall victim to internalized feelings of superiority when working with Palestinians.

In the church divestment work that took place last year, I was invited to attend meetings of the assemblies considering resolutions on the issue because I am a Palestinian Christian.  I am uncomfortable with the identity of Palestinian Christian because–thankfully–Palestinians have not fallen into sectarian traps that divide along religious lines.  I challenge church allies working on Palestine to invite Palestinian Muslims to their meetings in the coming years as divestment is considered.  We must create spaces for listening to the broad spectrum of Palestinian stories.  We cannot do that by excluding the majority of Palestinians who happen to be Muslims.  When will we be comfortable with men with beards and women in veils addressing Christian congregations?  Some in the churches would argue that it is strategic to use Palestinian Christians to address American Christian groups, but this is not an acceptable excuse for excluding Palestinian Muslims.  This approach accommodates racism and Islamophobia and purports to “help” Palestinians by disempowering them.

The role of Jewish allies in the Palestine movement

In my view, the main role of Jewish allies in Palestine work is to strive to open spaces for Palestinians to narrate their history for themselves and to create ways for Palestinians to lead the process of their own liberation.  Jewish allies should challenge the common wisdom around discourse on Palestine/Israel that affords greater credibility to Jewish commentary on Israel.  Jewish Voice for Peace has made great strides creating space for Palestinians to be heard. There remains much work to do.  In the last several years, I have attended panel discussions where only Jews were invited to speak at local universities about Palestine/Israel.  I wonder if these institutions would organize a panel on racism in the United States without any African American participants.

Another way Jewish identity plays a role in Palestine activism is in efforts to engage Jewish establishment organizations. I have been approached by well-meaning Jewish allies to speak within Jewish establishment venues or with “liberal” Zionists. Once the rabbi or Hillel leader meets me, these Jewish allies assure me, their opinions on the issue of Palestine will change.  It has been delicate and difficult to navigate these wishes as I consider those making the requests friends and I believe it is important to meet people where they are in their political journey.  However, I cannot help but feel tokenized and used as an example of a “civilized” Palestinian.  It is as if they want to say, “Look, she’s a modern and educated Palestinian.  Isn’t she deserving of rights?” In the end, it’s not personal, it’s political.

Convincing Zionists of the human dignity and worth of Palestinians is not my priority.  Dismantling Zionism within the Jewish establishment is essential.   I wonder if some Jewish allies invite me in as part of an effort to address collective guilt for Jewish responsibility for the oppression of Palestinians.  But is it the job of Palestinians to make Jews feel less culpable or guilty for Zionism? It is not productive for Palestinians to engage in interpersonal relationship-building that fails to acknowledge or bring about political solutions to structural inequalities and violence.

I understand that there are enormous issues facing American Jews who support Palestinian liberation.  Creating spaces within Jewish communities and families, reclaiming Judaism from Zionism, and discovering one’s identity within Judaism are vital endeavors.  However, it is important to remember that these individual and communal struggles are not necessarily Palestine liberation work.  I encourage Jewish allies committed to Palestinian liberation to examine how much priority should be given to influencing Jewish organizations that support Zionism. Palestinians will always be on the periphery of this focus.  In contrast, organizing sustainable and movement-building BDS campaigns that create a mainstream constituency for Palestinian rights, together in solidarity, will produce meaningful and effective dialogue on how to end Israel’s crimes and will model the future we hope to create.

In conclusion, the challenge for Palestine organizers in the United States is one of reflection on who has power and agency in our movement.  This reflection requires organizations to think about who is at the table and who is missing.  The first step may be establishing ways for white, Christian, and Jewish allies to hold themselves accountable for the privilege and power they possess by calling out racism, Islamophobia, and oppression where it occurs. When these mechanisms are in place, Palestinians may be encouraged to take a seat at the table.

(Source / 16.05.2013)

Dutch probe sends warning to firms abetting Israel’s crimes

Palestinian men queue at checkpoint next to very tall concrete wall

Corporate complicity in Israel’s occupation potentially carries the risk of criminal prosecution.

This week sees the conclusion of a three-year criminal investigation into the Dutch crane company, Riwal, accused of complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity in the occupied West Bank. The case is unprecedented as it is the first time a company has been criminally investigated for involvement in the Israeli occupation.

Although the case has not resulted in a prosecution, it is nonetheless an important step for those seeking justice for human rights abuses committed against Palestinians. The case sends a clear message to the corporate sector: complicity in Israel’s occupation potentially carries the risk of criminal prosecution.

The case started with a complaint submitted to the Dutch prosecutor by the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq in March 2010. The complaint documented the involvement of Riwal’s cranes and aerial platforms in constructing Israel’s wall and illegal settlements in the West Bank. It prompted the prosecutor to launch a large-scale investigation into the company’s activities, including a raid on company headquarters in September 2010.

The investigation established that the company contributed to constructing the wall and settlements in at least six incidents mentioned in the complaint. However, the prosecutor cited various considerations, including the complexity of the case, limited resources and the likely lack of cooperation by Israel in obtaining further evidence, as reasons not to pursue a prosecution. There is a right of appeal against the prosecutor’s decision, which can also be reconsidered if circumstances change or in light of new evidence.

Significant

Despite the lack of prosecution, the decision by the prosecutor to open the investigation, and to pursue it for as long he did, is legally significant. It means the prosecutor accepted two assertions at the heart of the complaint. First, the construction of the wall and settlements in the occupied West Bank entails the commission of war crimes. Second, that companies involved in this construction may be complicit in, and hence legally responsible for, those crimes.

The case therefore supports the assertions that have been made by lawyers and human rights groups for years: not only is the building of the wall and settlements by Israel illegal and criminal, so is complicity with that construction. Those responsible should be open to prosecution in the correct legal forum.

It undermines the charge often made by Israel and its supporters that legal challenges of this kind merely represent “lawfare” — that is vexatious, politicized attempts to abuse the law in order to “delegitimize” Israel.

Increasing trend

The Riwal case reflects an increasing trend of legal challenges brought by victims and human rights groups against Israel’s violations. Recent years have seen a case in the United States against Caterpillar for its supply of militarized bulldozers to the Israeli army. In Canada, residents of the West Bank village of Bilin brought a case against the companies Green Park and Green Mount International for constructing an Israeli settlement on village land.

There have also been several arrest warrant applications in European countries against visiting Israeli officials for their involvement in war crimes — including a successful application against Tzipi Livni in England in 2009.

Asymmetrical battle

These cases reflect the belief that not only are victims of war crimes entitled to legal redress, but that accountability for Israeli crimes and abuses is an essential prerequisite to achieving a just and lasting resolution to the conflict. The Israel-Palestine conflict is, after all, an asymmetrical battle between a powerful, highly militarized state enforcing a colonial occupation of land that does not belong to it, and an indigenous people fighting against occupation for self-determination.

Accountability for the crimes that are integral to maintaining the occupation is not only right in principle, it constitutes a serious incentive to Israel to desist in its practices. Accountability is essential for achieving a just and lasting peace.

The ad hoc nature of these cases, however — they are invariably brought by victims and human rights groups in domestic jurisdictions — and the absence of a properly resourced, large-scale investigation of Israel’s crimes at the international level, is a result of theimpunity accorded to Israel by the US and its allies.

The report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (the Goldstone report) concludes there was evidence that war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity had been committed by both sides during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s military assault on Gaza in 2008-09. It recommends the situation be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). To date this recommendation has not been acted on and a referral to the ICC would almost certainly be vetoed by the US in the UN Security Council.

Right direction

Also ignored is the International Court of Justice’s ruling in 2004 that the West Bank wall is illegal and must be dismantled and that the international community must ensure that any obstacle to Palestinian self-determination caused by the wall be brought to an end.

Finally, Palestine’s application in 2009 to the ICC for it to investigate war crimes committed in Palestine since 2002 (the date the Rome Statute of the ICC came into force) was rejected.

Within the context of this crisis of accountability, the Riwal case is a positive development. The case did not result in justice for the victims and much more needs to be done. However, it demonstrates that allegations of complicity in Israel’s occupation by foreign companies are a serious legal matter that can potentially result in prosecution.

The case may deter other companies from complicity with Israel’s illegal and criminal occupation practices. It is a step in the right direction in the pursuit of justice and accountability.

(Source / 16.05.2013)

Gaza’s children entertainment project

1544

A continuation of the projects that we have set up entertainment in the past years and documented on the website.

We are in the process of implementing several projects in the next few weeks, and these projects are competent to the children of Gaza, who still suffer the presence of violence in the Palestinian territories, especially in the Gaza Strip.

This geographical area small and inhabited by one million eight thousand Palestinian citizens suffer from a crippling blockade and a fierce war between now and then destroy the calm that they live within a few months to be surprised to escalate military brings them woes and tens or even hundreds of people including children, women and the elderly, most of them civilians.

Therefore, we are coming to put between your hands our project entertainment, which will serve a handful of Gaza’s children who have lost part of their families in the ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip and also sick children suffered from a psychological condition is difficult because of hearing the sound of explosions from missiles huge received Israeli warplanes in residential areas civilian in the Gaza Strip.

Aim of this project is to service the minds of these children to change the atmosphere in their minds that you do not know, but the atmosphere of war, we do not, we must make these minds are looking for the flag, freedom and stability, we go to you and hope your support for us to support these children with all our efforts and energy to provide all of their material and moral and draw a smile back on the faces of these children.

(Source /16.05.2013)

Israel’s Racist and Ethnocentric View

(Photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinians are this week commemorating the 65th anniversary of Al Nakba (the disaster or catastrophe).

On May 15, 1948, Israel was declared a nation on the ruins of more than 500 townships and 800,000 expelled Palestinians. In December 1948 the international community adopted UN resolution 194, calling on Israel to allow the return of Palestinian refugees “at the earliest practicable date”.

This became one of more than three dozen resolutions ignored by Israel.

To pre-empt this and similar UN resolutions, Israel is demanding recognition as a nation for the Jewish people. Hence, it is reducing the status of non-Jewish natives to interlopers and elevating the status of Ashkenazi European converts to original inhabitants.

It is worth noting that the vision of Jewish exclusivity started to take shape at the end of the 19th Century.

Theodor Herzl, founder of modern political Zionism, articulated these objectives in his 1895 diary. “When we occupy the land… we shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border… while denying it any employment in our country,” he wrote.

Following a UN vote to divide Palestine in November 1947, Israel’s founder David Ben-Gurion reiterated the same goals when he voiced concerns that the partition plan would result in a Jewish state of only a 60 per cent majority, declaring that: “Such a composition does not provide a stable basis for a Jewish state.”

After a six-month campaign of terror, the Zionists succeeded in reducing the “vexing” population by more than 90pc.

Institutional racism targeting the remaining natives – today representing 20pc of the total population – was complemented by a rabbinic edict signed by several Israeli Jewish religious scholars, among them the late Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, forbidding Jews to employ Arabs or rent them apartments.

Yosef also endorsed Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira’s book The King’s Torah, a rabbinical manual permitting the killing of non-Jews.

It even rationalizes the slaughter of “babies… because of the future danger they may present, since it is assumed that they will grow up to be evil like their parents”.

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu anointed Yosef as a “Torah giant, teacher and arbiter of Jewish law”.

Following in the footsteps of his father, the once chief Israeli Rabbi Ovadia Yosef pontificated in a 2010 sermon that God created Gentiles (non-Jews) “to serve us – without that they have no place in the world, only to serve the people of Israel”.

Even apartheid South Africa would have been ashamed to exalt advocates of “baby killers”, but in Netanyahu’s “Jewish State” rabbinical deviants are lauded as “Torah giants”.

Israel’s ethnocentric, racist view of non-Jews is not limited to Palestinians.

A survey conducted last summer by Tel Aviv University statistician Camil Fuchs found that nearly 60pc of 12th grade Jewish students believed that black African refugees should be expelled. Following a visit to Israel, Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu – who experienced firsthand South African apartheid – lamented that he was reminded “so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa”.

Ethnocentric programs have always ended up in disaster. After 65 years of the Palestinian Nakba, Zionism is constructing the basis of another tragic human experiment. Israel is the only nation where religious ethnicity is an automatic qualifier for citizenship and where the rights of indigenous people are denied for “deficient” maternal genetics.

In fact, it is the only country in modern history demanding recognition not as a country, but as a nation of a single creed, for a people of one kind.

(Source / 16.05.2013)

Hamas, the Arab Spring and the West

'Hamas itself has been willing to negotiate right from the beginning.' (Photo: Via Aljazeera)
‘Hamas itself has been willing to negotiate right from the beginning.’

The “Arab Spring”, as we now have come to know it, has seemingly changed the nature of politics and the balance of power in the Middle East forever.

The West was caught off guard and after initially grappling with the new situation, are now dealing with Islamist parties whom they had vowed never to sit at the same table with.

Prior to the Arab Spring, all the branches of the ‘menacing’ Islamic Brotherhood were outlawed, and legitimate targets in the worldwide War on Terror.  The outsized blanket of Islamophobia seemed to smother anyone of Middle Eastern origin, let alone an Islamist. Much to the surprise of the world however, since their coming to power in countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, the Brotherhood have been welcoming and willing to deal with the rest of world in a refined, professional manner. To the dismay of the fear-mongering neoconservatives, they turned out to be moderates prioritizing stability, security and prosperity in their countries even if it meant relinquishing power and adopting a power-sharing strategy with their former oppressors. Slowly but surely, an increasing number of Western countries have begun to deal with them and found them to be the moderates, they always were.

The neoconservative extremists in the West, as well as the extremist factions in the East, are clearly not pleased. Continuous efforts to undermine the governments and instigate instability within the countries have been the trademark of the first year since the Arab Spring.

One group however, with the exact same moderate ideology and principles, has been excluded. They have always been willing to meet and deal with Western governments. They are the Muslim Brotherhood group in Palestine, better known as Hamas.

Hamas’s popularity in the Middle East knows no bounds. As analysts like Ed Hussein and others have noted, not only Christians and Muslims in the West Bank support Hamas’s resistance, but that is the general thinking pattern of the majority of those residing in the Middle East – be they Christian, Muslim, secular or Islamist. If the West wants popular opinion to swing in their favor – which they always claim they are trying to do – they should “accept the facts on the ground” and open dialogue with Hamas. It is in the best interests of the West to have the newly emerging democracies as well as the 300 million Arabs on their side if they intend to have any influence in the region.

Even the occupying Zionist state that normally fans the fire of separation negotiated with Hamas (in both official and unofficial capacities) to secure the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. They also negotiated a ceasefire with Hamas during the last war in 2012 via the Egyptian government.

What the West fails to comprehend is that although Hamas’s image has been portrayed as extremist, they are, and have always been moderates. If dialogue isn’t opened with them, their more radical counterparts will be tougher to deal with. The West must understand the ideological difference between the extremists on one hand who have no political vision and who attack indiscriminately in public areas and on the other hand an Islamist political movement who participates in good faith, in free and fair elections. Hamas has never struck anywhere outside the theater of the occupation for their objective is only to liberate the occupied lands.

The branding of Hamas as terrorists may have worked in the past, but today is to a large extent, falling on deaf ears. History bears testimony that even renowned leaders like George Washington and Nelson Mandela, together with their parties were all regarded as terrorists to suit the occupiers’ needs, whereas the world now hails them as symbols of freedom. Hamas has also come a long way and are different to the Hamas of the past. They have in recent years structured a well-run government dealing with all issues facing their society from security to road maintenance. They have been responsive to the criticism of NGO’s and Human Rights’ organizations alike. They have negotiated ceasefires, accepted the 1967 borders, abandoned suicide attacks and have generally become more flexible in their viewpoints. Far from being a failed state or ‘Hamastan’ as critics initially purported, Gaza is safer today than it has ever been since the occupation began.

Analysts like Helena Cobban and others have noted that, “Western governments already engage in intention-probing diplomacy with many international actors whose actions are far more damaging than those of Hamas. (Such as North Korea.)” So the question is asked for the umpteenth time, why not Hamas?

Even the former head of Mossad, Efraim Halevy noted that, “Hamas has demonstrated a will and a capacity to think and act pragmatically when it believes it useful or necessary. There’s no better example of this than its governance of Gaza. Yes, it continues to play the role of peace-process spoiler when that role suits its interests. But Hamas has also demonstrated a serious capacity to exercise responsibility and restraint when that role suits its purposes. It has demonstrated its ability to control Gaza effectively, to both enforce a long-term cessation of hostilities and to withstand the combined efforts of the United States, Israel, and Egypt to bring it to its knees.” He also remarked that dialogue with Hamas is the only way forward.

Hamas itself has been willing to negotiate right from the beginning. In a letter addressed to the Quartet very soon after their electoral win in 2006, members stressed that they, “urge members of the Quartet to intensify their diplomatic efforts to bring both sides to the negotiation table in order to discuss and forge as equal partners a solution to the ongoing conflict that is based on international law and various UN resolutions passed in this regard.” They went on to say that they, “appeal to all peace forces around the world to heed our call for dialogue, peace and justice. We call on the international community to ponder what we perceive as a fair and reasonable stance. And we urge the Quartet to engage us in direct and intimidation-free dialogue. Our ultimate object is to achieve peace for our people, and dialogue has proven the only harbinger for true peace.”

It really isn’t as if the phenomenon of Islamists and the West working hand in hand is something totally alien to the modern world. They worked very well together in Afghanistan and Bosnia against the invading forces, both having the same interests, which produced results that both sides were pleased with.

Is it not high time that the age-old East/West divide is bridged? Can the West afford to contrive on this cultural collision course? Will they carry on in this manner for the next millennium or can they see that there is a better strategy in sight?

(Source / 16.05.2013)