Turkey clashes after boy hurt at Istanbul protest dies


The BBC’s Selin Girit witnesses the clashes in Istanbuly

Clashes have erupted at a hospital in Istanbul where a boy has died nine months after he was struck on the head by a tear gas canister fired by police.

In Ankara, police fired tear gas to disperse some 2,000 protesters.

The boy, Berkin Elvan, 15, was wounded while on his way to buy bread in June. He had been in a coma ever since.

His death is the eighth linked to last year’s mass anti-government protests, which began in Gezi Park, Istanbul, and then spread across Turkey.

Minute by minute the crowd outside the hospital grew and others said on Twitter they would come later after work.

Berkin Elvan’s mother was crying and saying it was not God that had taken her son but the prime minister. The protesters grew angry in the belief that police were not there for their safety but to make things worse.

Pepper spray was fired and there were reports that a man was hit in the face by a canister.

As Berkin Elvan’s family and supporters left the hospital they headed for a nearby cemevi (prayer house), where the boy’s mother could be heard complaining she had been unable to protect her child.

They chanted: “Berkin Elvan is our honour and he is immortal.”

There has been no reaction from the government so far, but Istanbul governor Avni Mutlu has sent a message of condolence.

The boy’s family announced on Twitter that their son had died at 07:00 (05:00 GMT) on Tuesday. “We lost our son. May he rest in peace,” they wrote.

He had been in a coma for 269 days and his health had deteriorated in recent weeks. Doctors said his weight had dropped to 16kg (35lb).

Berkin Elvan was 14 when he was hit on the head by the tear gas canister in the Istanbul district of Okmeydan. He was one of thousands of people hurt during last year’s protests.

The protesters were initially angered by plans to raze Gezi Park and redevelop it, but the police crackdown galvanised anti-government demonstrators in several cities.

Of the eight people whose deaths were related to the demonstrations, one was a police officer.

After Berkin Elvan’s death was announced, his mother appeared outside Okmeydani hospital and was quickly surrounded by mourners. Tributes appeared on social media and hundreds of people gathered to show their anger.

Riot police soon arrived at the scene and protesters attacked one of their vehicles.

Protesters attacked a riot police vehicle outside the hospital where Berkin Elvan died
Protesters attacked a riot police vehicle outside the hospital where Berkin Elvan died
Some 2,000 people demonstrated near the Middle East Technical University in Ankara
Some 2,000 people demonstrated near the Middle East Technical University in Ankara
Protester holds picture of Berkin Elvan (July 2013)
The injuries Berkin Elvan suffered enraged protesters in Istanbul last year

The family then moved to a nearby Alevi Muslim prayer hall, or cemevi. Outside, the crowd chanted: “Berkin Elvan is our honour and he is immortal.”

BBC Turkish correspondent Rengin Arslan said many in the crowd believed the police had not turned up at the hospital to ensure the safety of mourners but to make things worse.

Further protests were reported in the coastal cities of Antalya and Izmir and in the capital, Ankara, where students boycotted classes and staged sit-ins.

Larger demonstrations were due to take place later in Istanbul and Ankara. Berkin Elvan’s funeral is due to take place on Wednesday.

(Source / 11.03.2014)

US drones kill 4 AQAP commanders and fighters in central Yemen


Aftermath of a US drone strike that targeted two vehicles in Marib province on March 10.

Late last night a US drone strike killed four al Qaeda commanders and fighters in Marib province east of Sana’a, the Yemeni capital. The strike is the third in Yemen so far this month.

Arabic media reports indicate that the drones fired two missiles at two vehicles carrying al Qaeda operatives as they traveled in the Wadi Abida area of Al Shabwa district in Marib.

The two al Qaeda leaders confirmed killed in the attack were identified as Ebad Mobarak Al Shabwani and Ja’afar Mohammad Jaber Al Shabwani. Ebad and Ja’afar were not on Yemen’s most recent list of wanted al Qaeda leaders. The identities of the other two killed in the strike were not confirmed, but Arabic new sources suggest that they too were members of al Qaeda.

The Al Shabwan tribe has been recurrently involved in al Qaeda activity in the country, and drone strikes have targeted a number of the tribe members. Most recently, Mujahid Jaber Saleh al Shabwani, an AQAP leader who had returned from fighting in Iraq, was killed in Shabwa province by a US drone strike [see LWJ report, US kills 3 AQAP operatives in Yemen drone strike]. AQAP is known to operate in Shabwa province, where much of the Shabwan tribe is based. Most of the province was under AQAP control between May 2011 and May 2012.

The US has targeted AQAP in Wadi Abida in Marib four other times in the past. The last strike in Wadi Abida took place on Jan. 23, 2014; four AQAP fighters were reported killed in the attack. Two of the strikes took place in 2013 and the other in 2012. A few years earlier, in March 2008, Wadi Abida was identified as the base of an al Qaeda group known as the Yemen Soldiers Brigade. The group claimed credit for mortar attacks against the US Embassy, the Italian Embassy, and a Western housing complex in Sana’a in 2008.

Background on US strikes in Yemen

Last night’s strike is the third by the US in Yemen in the past eight days. On March 3, US drones killed Mujahid Jaber Saleh al Shabwani and two other jihadists in a strike on a vehicle in the province of Shabwa. Al Shabwani was on the Yemeni government’s list of 25 most wanted. And on March 5, the US killed Ali Saleh Juraym Al Olyan, an AQAP commander in the northern province of Al Jawf. He had previously fought alongside al Qaeda in Iraq.

In addition to the three strikes this month, the US has launched three other strikes in Yemen this year; all three were in January.

The pace of the drone strikes in Yemen decreased last year from the previous year (26 in 2013 versus 41 in 2012). The reduction in the number of strikes coincided with a speech by President Barack Obama at the National Defense University in May 2013. The strikes are being reduced as the US government is facing increasing international criticism for conducting the attacks in both Yemen and Pakistan.

The number of strikes might have been much lower in 2013 were it not for an al Qaeda plot emanating from Yemen that was uncovered by US officials in late July. The plot led the US to close down more than 20 embassies and diplomatic facilities across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The plot involved AQAP emir Nasir al Wuhayshi, who now also serves as al Qaeda’s general manager.

Between July 27, after the plot was disclosed, and Aug. 10, the US launched nine strikes in Yemen; no drone strikes were reported for seven weeks prior to July 27. The burst in attacks was intended to disrupt the plot and take out AQAP’s top leadership cadre and senior operatives. The US killed Kaid al Dhahab, AQAP’s emir for Al Baydah province, during that time period.

(Source / 11.03.2014)

Updated: Three killed in Israeli strike, three others in internal explosion

One of the Islamic Jihad members killed in the Israeli air strike (ALRAY Photo: March 11, 2014)

One of the Islamic Jihad members killed in the Israeli air strike

Gaza, ALRAY – Three Palestinians have been killed and seven wounded in an internal explosion in a Beit Hanon town home, northern Gaza Strip.

Ashraf al-Qidra, the health ministry spokesman, confirmed the incident.

Three others affiliated to Islamic Jihad earlier on Tuesday were killed in an air strike in the southern Gaza Strip.

“Medical crews have moved the bodies of three died in an Israeli strike,” Health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra told ALRAY.

He identified the Palestinians killed as Ismail Abu Joudeh, Abdel Shafi Abu Mo’mar, 23, and Shaher Abu Shanab, 24.

ALRAY reporter said the three Islamic Jihad members were driving a motorcycle near once commercial crossing – ‘Sufa’ in southern Gaza Strip.

The targetting came hours after Israeli occupation tanks crossed into agricultural land bordering the security fence.

The air strike came just hours after the Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, took over an unmanned Israeli drone used for surveillance and missile strikes in the same area, east of Khan Younis.

The Al Qassam Information Office released photos of the Israeli drone found on the border.

AFP quoted the Israeli military as saying the fallen drone crashed.





(Source / 11.03.2014)

Eyewitness says Israeli army lying, judge did not try to seize soldier’s gun


AMMAN –– The Jordanian judge who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers on Monday at the King Hussein Bridge did not try to seize the gun of a soldier as Israelis claim, an eyewitness at the scene said Tuesday.

Mohammad Sharif Zaid told The Jordan Times over the phone from Bethlehem that he was standing just metres away from Raed Zuaiter, a judge at Amman Court of First Instance, when the incident happened.

He recalled that the shooting took place after Israeli forces carried out a search of passengers of the bus that was carrying them to the West Bank.

When most passengers went on board except for three, the 38-year-old judge, a young Palestinian woman and himself, an Israeli occupation soldier moved towards the bus and pushed Zuaiter, Zaid said.

“The judge and the soldiers had a verbal argument at the entrance of the inspection room,” he added, elaborating that another soldier pushed Zuaiter again, causing him to fall on the ground.

Zaid recounted that the judge stood up and reacted to the affront to his dignity by pushing the soldier, but the Israeli pointed his gun at him and shot a bullet that missed him.

The soldier took aim again, shooting Zuaiter in the chest as another soldier fired two more bullets that penetrated the judge’s body.

Asked if Zuaiter attempted to seize the weapon of the Israeli soldier, the witness said it did not happen.

“It is not true that he tried to take the soldier’s gun,” he added.

“Passengers were shocked, and started crying and screaming,” according to Zaid, who added that the incident took place at around 8am.

Tens of Israeli soldiers surrounded the bus to prevent passengers from getting off, while the judge was still bleeding, the witness said, noting that medics arrived at the scene nearly half-an-hour later and tried to perform CPR on the judge, but he was already dead.

Later on, investigators arrived and started interrogating passengers individually.

“‘Do you know this person or do you have any relationship with him?’ they asked me and others,” Zaid said, adding that the investigators asked the passengers to tell what happened from the beginning.

They asked about the contents of Zuaiter’s luggage and then decided to have it destroyed with explosives without checking its contents, he recounted, noting that the bus was allowed to leave for the West Bank at 2pm.

Reuters reported Monday that the Israeli military said Zuaiter, a judge with a PhD in law, had tried to seize a soldier’s gun at the King Hussein Bridge — known to Israelis as Allenby Bridge — and that troops had then shot him.

The killing of the Jordanian judge triggered anger among Jordanians.

(Source / 11.03.2013)

Dispatches: Saudi Arabia Talks Human Rights in Geneva, Represses Rights at Home

Last week, the president of Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission, the kingdom’s governmental human rights body, addressed the opening of the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, which his country recently joined.  He told the council, “I … confirm my government is pressing ahead towards achieving its commitments in the field of human rights, and voluntary engagements made upon submitting its candidacy…” He followed this by announcing a $1 million Saudi donation to the council.

But a series of recent events inside the kingdom stands in sharp contrast to the country’s attempts to engage internationally on human rights.

For example, Saudi Arabia’s assault on peaceful criticism and independent civil society continues unabated. A new terrorism law decreed in January contains broad provisions that limit free expression and violate the right to due process.

Prominent civil and political rights activists Mohammed al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid marked one year in prison on March 9, convictedon charges stemming from their peaceful criticism of the government’s human rights abuses and membership in the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, an independent rights organization that Saudi authorities consider subversive. The men are currently on  hunger strike to protest prison conditions.

Jeddah activist Waleed Abu al-Khairi s now on trial before Saudi Arabia’s terrorism tribunal on charges such as “breaking allegiance with the ruler” and “making international organizations hostile to the kingdom.” He recently lost an appeal of an October 2013 conviction in a separate case, in which he was sentenced to three months in prison for signing a public statement critical of Saudi authorities. He told me he expects a summons to turn himself in “at any moment.”

In spite of marginal progress on women’s rights in 2013, women in Saudi Arabia continue to require permission from a male guardian for basic life functions such as getting a passport, undergoing certain medical procedures, or attending university.

Saudi Arabia presses on with a campaign to throw out hundreds of thousands of migrant workers found in violation of labor laws, despite the fact that these restrictive laws are part of a labor system that leads to rampant human rights abuses. A recent riot erupted at a crowded detention facility in Mecca hosting workers awaiting deportation, causing at least one death and numerous injuries.

It’s clear Saudi Arabia’s efforts to burnish its human rights record in Geneva are at best, mere window dressing – at worst,  an attempt to obscure repression at home.

(Source / 11.03.2014)

Palestinians warn Israeli aggression could ’torpedo’ peace talks

Recent spate of killings by Israeli military spark fears that already shaky peace negotiations may collapse

Saji Darwish

Palestinians carry the body of Saji Darwish, 20, during his funeral in the village Beitin near the West Bank city of Ramallah, March. 11, 2014.

An Israeli airstrike killed three members of the Palestinian armed group Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday near an area where an unmanned Israeli surveillance aircraft crashed earlier in the day, a local official said. The attack, which raised the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli military to five in two days, sparked warnings from Palestinians that already shaky peace talks could collapse.

The Israeli military said the Skylark drone experienced a “technical malfunction,” and it was investigating what caused it to go down.

Israel uses drones to monitor activities in the Gaza Strip, which is governed by Palestinian armed group-turned-political-party Hamas.

Members of Hamas said they recovered the aircraft in southern Gaza and handed it over to security forces. No further details were immediately available.

The Israeli army would not say whether the drone’s fall into Hamas’ hands could provide secrets or technology to the group. The Skylark, however, is known to have safeguards to prevent disclosure of information to unauthorized personnel.

Shortly after the drone crashed, Islamic Jihad said an Israeli airstrike struck the area, killing three of its members.

“Three martyrs have died in a Zionist strike,” Ashraf al-Qudra, Gaza’s health ministry spokesman, confirmed to Agence France-Presse.

The Israeli military said the strike was in response to mortar fire that had been directed toward Israel.

“Terrorists must know that there is a price to pay when participating in aggression,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman.

A statement from Islamic Jihad confirmed that the three members had been killed while firing mortars, but said they were attempting to prevent “an Israeli incursion east of Khan Yunis.”

A witness confirmed Israeli tanks and bulldozers had tried to enter the area before the mortars were fired.

Escalating violence

Late on Monday, Israeli soldiers shot 20-year-old Saji Darwish, a second year student at Birzeit University in the West Bank, for throwing rocks at Israeli cars traveling to the Jewish settlement of Beit El.

Settlements built on Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, including East Jerusalem, are deemed illegal by the United Nations, and are a major obstacle to ongoing negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Army sources told The Jerusalem Post that an initial military assessment found Darwish posed no threat to soldiers at the time of his killing, and that the military would investigate the matter further.

Clashes following his death left five Palestinians wounded.

The shooting came hours after Israeli guards shot and killed 38-year-old Raed Alaa Addin Zieter, a Jordanian judge of Palestinian origin, at the border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan.

Shootings at the Allenby crossing on the West Bank-Jordan border are rare. Israel and Jordan signed a peace agreement 20 years ago and have close security ties.

The military said its initial investigation showed that the man tried to grab a rifle from a soldier and shouted “God is great,” a common Arabic expression, before soldiers opened fire, first toward his legs and then once again after the suspect began to strangle a soldier.

Following strong reprimand by the Jordanian foreign minister to the highest-ranking Israeli diplomat in Jordan, Israel agreed to launch a joint investigation into the killing.

In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said: “Israel regrets the death of Judge Raed Zieter … and expresses its sympathies to the people and government of Jordan.”

Protests erupted near the Israeli embassy in the capital of Jordan on Tuesday in response to the killing.

‘Dangerous provocation’

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday that the “latest Israeli escalation (of violence) can lead to the situation spiraling out of control.”

In a statement to the media, Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the recent deaths constituted “a dangerous provocation that will torpedo what’s left of the peace process.”

Israeli and Palestinian officials resumed shaky peace negotiations in August 2013 after nearly five years of failed attempts by the international community. However, the talks have gotten off to a rocky start, with Israel announcing a series of construction plans for news settlement units.

Abu Rudeineh urged the United States or the Quartet (made up of the U.N., U.S., EU and Russia) to intervene. There has been no official response to the request.

Last week, President Barack Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House to discuss, among other subjects, recent advances in U.S.-Iran relations and Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Obama is expected to also meet with Abbas in Washington later this month.

(Source / 11.03.2014)

PHOTO: Israeli forces fire live ammo in Bethlehem clashes

In clashes that erupted after Israeli forces killed six Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in the last 24 hours, soldiers in Bethlehem fired tear gas, rubber- and plastic-coated steel bullets and eventually at least two rounds of live ammunition, according to eyewitnesses. Witnesses also reported that at least four youth were taken to the hospital after sustaining injuries from rubber- and plastic-coated steel bullets. No injuries from live bullets were reported, though the sniper could be clearly seen from the tower in the separation wall, and witnesses reported hearing at least two bullets,  presumably fired from a silenced Ruger 10/22, striking near them. The same type of rifle has been used for crowd control on previousoccasions in Bethlehem over the past year, resulting in serious injuries and death.

An Israeli sniper aims a silenced Ruger 10/22 rifle from a tower in the separation wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem during clashes with Palestinian youth, March 11, 2014. The clashes erupted after Israeli forces killed six Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in the previous 24 hours. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)



According to Ma’an News:

The clashes came after an Israeli airstrike killed three Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, and just hours after Palestinian security sources said a man died when Israeli soldiers fired at him in his car in the West Bank city of Tulkarem. The Israeli army also killed two Palestinians in the West Bank on Monday. Israeli soldiers shot and killed 18-year-old Saji Darwish near Ramallah late Monday, after he allegedly threw stones at Israeli vehicles. Earlier, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian-Jordanian judge at the Allenby Bridge crossing with Jordan.

A Palestinian youth throws stones at Israeli soldiers standing in an open gate in the separation wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, March 11, 2014. Clashes erupted after Israeli forces killed six Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in the previous 24 hours. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)


A Palestinian flees tear gas launched by Israeli soldiers during clashes at the separation wall in Bethlehem, March 11, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)










Israeli forces fire tear gas from a jeep-mounted launcher onto a main street in the West Bank town of Bethlehem during clashes with Palestinian youth, March 11, 2014.

(Source / 11.03.2014)

Israel sells defence systems as protection from Gaza “terror”

By Ramona Wadi               ©                       (Source  / 11.03.2014)


Ramona Wadi

Amidst increasing discourse regarding alleged threats to Israel’s security, the US and Israel have signed an agreement deemed “of strategic value” that ensures a continuation of production for the Iron Dome air defence system. According to reports in the Times of Israelthe Jerusalem Post and YNet News, the US government will immediately transfer $429 million to Israel to be used for building the system glorified during Operation Pillar of Defence. 

The US Department of Defence released a statement highlighting the mutual value of the agreement. “During Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012, Iron Dome was credited with saving countless Israeli lives and was called a ‘game changer’ by many Israeli policy makers … Israel will obtain valuable resources to contribute to its defence and US industry will receive meaningful co-production opportunities for Iron Dome components.”

According to Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, the funding is “another shining example of the iron-clad friendship between the United States and Israel”.

According to YNet News, the chief defence attaché for the US Embassy in Tel Aviv said that “multi-layered defence” should also be considered within the region. “If we were able to build a regional defence capability in, say, Jordan, that capability could easily defend Israel, Jordan and even Egypt, if you so desired.”

Israeli coverage during Operation Pillar of Defence manipulated the loss of Palestinian lives by focusing upon intercepted rockets from Gaza. The distortion induced by the rhetoric of “saving lives” allowed Israel to gloss over the massacres perpetrated in Gaza following the targeted assassination of Ahmed Al-Jabari. The trend was also evident in social media, allowing the Iron Dome to become a metaphor of security while obliterating the settler-colonial state’s sanctioned terror against Palestinians in Gaza.

The funding of Iron Dome consolidates Israel’s security threat narrative amidst escalating rhetoric about Hamas’s alleged procurement of weapons from abroad. The Israeli defence Forces (IDF) has been running a propaganda campaign about “Gaza terrorists” and the confiscated weapons from Iran that were allegedly on their way to Gaza.

The IDF blog displays a series of maps which project the area of the Gaza Strip onto its allies’ landscapes to illustrate the rockets’ reach capability to put the threat “in perspective”. Utilising maps of the US, Canada and the UK already diminishes the perspective by invoking images of hypothetical destruction upon Israel’s staunchest allies. Projecting the same improbability upon countries which have resisted colonial and imperial violence would have elicited far less misplaced compassion.

The funding of Iron Dome and its benefits for the oppressor states have been conveniently discarded in an attempt to deflect attention from the US’s constant compulsion to fuel terror and bolster Israel’s strategy of isolating Gaza while attempting to exploit regional instability as a pretext to disseminate its culture of annihilation. What emerges from the military cooperation is the deconstruction of settler-colonial and imperial violence in order to provide justifications for the endorsement of war and ostracising of Palestinians in Gaza.

Libyan lawmakers oust Prime Minister Ali Zeidan

File photo of former Libyan premier, Ali Zeidan

File photo of former Libyan premier, Ali Zeidan

The Libyan parliament has ousted Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, after military forces failed to prevent the escape of a North Korea-flagged tanker laden with crude oil.

A total of 124 lawmakers out of 194 in attendance at the General National Congress (GNC) passed a vote of no-confidence – four more than the majority required – to oust Zeidan, MPs said on Tuesday.

The GNC named Defense Minister Abdullah al-Thani as the interim prime minister, having two weeks to find a replacement for Zeidan.

The move follows a standoff between the government and a group of militants in the eastern port of Sidra.

Militants at the rebel-held port loaded oil into a North Korea-flagged tanker, the Morning Glory, which had docked there without government permission on Saturday.

Authorities however later said they had taken control of the tanker and were prepared to unload the crude once it reached a western port, and then launch legal measures against the potential buyers.

However, the seaworthy tanker slipped past the warships during inclement weather early on Tuesday.

Tripoli has made efforts to end a wave of protests at oil ports and fields across the country that have drastically reduced its oil output.

Zeidan had earlier promised that he would end the blockade of all rebel-held ports in the east either through talks or by military force.

(Source / 11.03.2014)

The Palestine refugee problem: the search for a resolution


Palestinian Refugee Problem: The Search for a Resolution

Editors: Rex Brynen and Roula El-Rifai 

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Pluto Press

ISBN-13: 978-0745333380

Book Review By Ramona Wadi

The Palestinian right of return is crucial to the establishment of Palestinian identity and memory, so any discourse regarding the subject should not take place in isolation. The Palestine refugee problem: the search for a resolution (Pluto Press, 2014) incorporates this premise, bringing together various viewpoints within two main contexts: the centrality of Palestinian identity and the “reconceptualising” of the two-state solution in the absence of implementing the single state solution. No assumption of permanence with regard to negotiations is made throughout the book; indeed the analytical contributions highlight the regional instability and lack of popular Palestinian representation as impediments to achieving a solution.

The book identifies aspects that should be retained at the helm of any possible solution: forced exile and displacement as integral to the construction of Palestinian identity, a settlement which should be achieved through negotiations, availability of research and analysis to facilitate negotiations, and working towards an agreement which is sustainable. The dissemination of research is deemed restricted due to divergences in communication between policy-makers and academia and the avoidance of embarking upon research that is not in line with ongoing negotiations. Furthermore, refugees are not represented adequately in discourse pertaining to negotiations and the right of return, which creates a problem with regard to the strength of historical narratives and their influence in shaping a solution that focuses primarily on Palestinian recognition and reclamation of rights.

As described in the first chapters, the increase in research does not necessarily indicate better dissemination and implementation of possible solutions. While Israel has sought to counter research about Palestinian refugees by referring to the displacement of Jews from Arab countries, analysis highlighting the Palestinian struggle for the right of return is hampered by a lack of international coordination. Various bodies have funded and supported research, including the EU and the World Bank. However, sincere participation and support should be questioned in light of the constant support which international organisations have bequeathed to Israel.

The international community’s shaping of discourse regarding the Palestinian right of return is integral, yet should be subjected to intensive scrutiny. The proposed implementation mechanism acknowledges constrains in relation to the right of return and residency for Palestinians: “Within these constraints, the choice of the refugees needs to be maximised as much as possible.” The statement concerns the question of residence; however, constraints should also be discussed within the framework of international bodies that would collaborate upon implementation of return or choice of residency. One main concern would be the refusal of international organisations and imperialism to recognise the legitimacy of Palestinian identity and history, given the penchant for consolidating Israel’s fabricated narratives and claims to land.

Preparatory work identified as maximising Palestinians’ choice includes the gathering of evidence by Palestinians “from archives and historic records”, Israeli cooperation in allowing access to archives pertaining to claims and coordination with international organisations. However, it should be noted that in the aftermath of the Nakba, Israel took steps to obliterate evidence in order to ensure that Palestinians encounter immense difficulties in establishing ownership claims to the land.

Representation of refugees is another important issue tackled throughout the book. An initial contrast between Palestinian official representation and UNRWA’s role in highlighting the plight of Palestinian refugees depicts inconsistencies which also undermine a sustainable solution. The Palestinian Authority’s priority is the hypothetical establishment of a two-state solution, while UNRWA is said to provide a more efficient representation of Palestinian refugees and their needs. An implementation of the right to return would instigate a discussion about the future role of UNRWA and stipulated timeframes which may be detrimental to a comprehensive solution for Palestinians.

The right of return is also mired in unacceptable compromise, partly through acquiescence on behalf of Palestinian leadership. It is tied inherently to Palestinian history, although the official Palestinian representation has minimised discourse pertaining to the right of return by focusing specifically upon accountability and symbolism as opposed to a mass return. Rex Brynen quotes Yasser Arafat as stating, “We understand Israel’s demographic concerns and understand that the right of Palestinian refugees, a right guaranteed under international law and United Nations Resolution 194, must be implemented in a way that takes into account such concerns.”

Hamas, on the other hand, insists upon a full implementation of the right of return taking into account the forced mass-displacement which started in 1948. It is Hamas that comes closer to the determination which should be asserted as part of the right of return by not only holding Israel accountable for its settler-colonial project, but also affirming that historic Palestine should be included within the discourse, something which is deftly ignored in many discussions about Palestinian refugees.

The book also expounds upon the diverging perspectives regarding the right of return. Palestinian refugees frame return “as a matter of rights, dignity and international law”. Conversely, Western discourse regarding the right of return falls within the convenience of humanitarianism. Such framing of discourse not only undermines Palestinian history and identity; it also allows Israel to maintain its dominant narrative within the international arena. Israel articulates three main concerns which have been absorbed by mainstream discourse: the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, impunity with regard to the Nakba and a permanent agreement which would eliminate the possibility of further refugee claims. A lack of agreement upon these issues is said to promulgate conflict; in reality an agreement with regard to these conditions would diminish Palestinian history, identity and memory, as well as the legitimacy of return under international law.

If the Palestinian right of return continues to be discussed externally, or as an Israeli concern, history and the loss of Palestine will become secondary issues. It is important to define 1948 as the enforced loss of Palestinian territory in order to establish the settler-colonial state. Giving prominence to the destruction wrought by settler-colonialism would have strengthened the argument in favour of nostalgia as a vital component of memory and Palestinian refugee claims. An unhindered right of return for Palestinians should focus upon reclamation of territory and an assertion of self-determination, rather than be perceived as a sequel to any peace agreement concocted by the Palestinian leadership, Israel and its international allies.

(Source / 11.03.2014)