Palestinians and Peres: A love-hate relationship

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres (L) and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat (R) arrive for a meeting at the Gaza airport in Rafah Sept. 26, 2001

The atmosphere at the Palestinian ministry was as cold as ice. News had come of the condolence statement issued by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the death of former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

The press was asking for comments, but no one at the ministry wanted to talk to the press. A senior Palestinian official who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, said, “If we say what we want, we will be going against what the president said. At the same time, no one wants his or her name associated with a whitewashing of Peres’ bloody history.”

Most of the staff working for the Palestinian government today entered political life around the time Peres and Abbas sat at a table on the White House lawn, on Sept. 13, 1993, to sign the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). That declaration, since called the Oslo Accord, established the very offices in Ramallah and elsewhere in which some of these longtime staffers work today. Oslo — which was preceded on Sept. 9 by an exchange of letters in which Israel and the PLO recognized each other — ushered in the Palestinian Authority as well as controversial Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation.

Suheir Ismail, who trains Palestinian women to be filmmakers, began her work as a camerawoman during the first intifada (1987-1990). In an interview with Al-Monitor, Ismail argued that Peres shrewdly divided the Palestinian national movement while normalizing Israeli relations with the Palestinians and Arabs. “The person claiming to be a peacemaker acted to defend the Zionist plan to establish a Jewish state and turned the effort to resolve the Palestinian cause into an endeavor to manage the conflict,” she said.

Anees Sweidan, a Fatah activist from Nablus, told Al-Monitor that what has angered many Palestinians in the occupied territories is how Peres succeeded in diverting attention from the core issue of the land and settlements to one of protecting Israel and Israelis. “As the godfather of the Oslo process, he knew exactly what he was doing when he created a plan that he knew full well would not work, as it lacked the guarantees that would lead to an independent and sovereign Palestinian state,” Sweidan said. Sweidan posted on Facebook on Sept. 29 that Abbas should not have attended the funeral, calling Peres “a criminal.”

The most repeated criticism of Peres, and also often made against PLO officials, which includes Abbas, is that Oslo did not deal with settlements and did not even include a halt to settlement construction. Local leaders have often argued that the PLO, desperate for recognition by Israel, accepted the Israelis’ demand to postpone dealing with the issue of settlements.

According to a senior official in the prime minister’s office, who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, the number of settlements and settlers has tripled since 1993, making the possibility of the creation of an independent Palestinian state that much more difficult.

While Palestinians were generally unhappy with Abbas’ condolence message, which alluded to Peres’ lifetime commitment to peace, a number of activists and Palestinian officials contacted by Al-Monitor expressed respect for their old adversary.

Ismail, one of the three co-directors of “Palestinian Diaries,” a documentary chronicling the first intifada, expressed a quiet admiration for Peres’ patriotism. “He has been sincere to his ideology and his people, and if our leaders who met him from the Palestinian side worked the same way as Peres, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in now,” Ismail asserted.

Mohammad Daraghmeh, a veteran Palestinian reporter and analyst, told Al-Monitor that the most important lesson we can learn from Peres is that he dedicated his life to the interest of his people and state. “He moved in different directions, creating one initiative after the other from different angles, whether from an economic, military or political direction,” he said. “[Palestinians] need a leader like Peres, who would work on building up state institutions and not his person.”

Daraghmeh, who met Peres a number of times, further said, “[He] always sought ways to help his country and had a strategic vision as to the place of his country in the region and the world.” The analyst admits that Peres’ vision of a “new Middle East,” reflected in his speeches and a book by that title, showed — despite this vision not being accomplished during his lifetime — the character of a leader who is thinking and initiating new projects and ideas.

This hate-love relationship between Palestinians and the late Israeli leader reflects the complexity of a man whom the world considers a peacemaker, while Palestinians insist that while he is an Israeli patriot, he bears major responsibility for the plight that Palestinians find themselves in today.

(Source / 30.09.2016)

Abbas mourns Peres on anniversary of Al-Durrah’s murder

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) during the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem September 30, 2016. Amos Ben Gershom/Government Press Office (GPO)/Handout via REUTERS

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) during the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem September 30, 2016

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attended former Israeli leader Shimon Peres’ funeral today on the 16th anniversary of the murder of Palestinian child Muhammad Al-Durrah during the Second Intifada.

16 years ago today, Israeli forces shot Muhammad dead in cold blood as his father, Jamal Al-Durrah, tried to shield him during widespread violence that broke out across the Palestinian territories. The entire event was caught on camera.

The harrowing footage showed father and son crouching behind a concrete pillar as they were trying to find shelter from Israeli forces who had opened fire. Jamal could be seen signalling to try and get the soldiers to stop firing, only for a burst of Israeli gunfire to put a premature end to the Palestinian child’s life.

Meanwhile, Abbas received permission from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attend Peres’ funeral today, and was seen mourning the late Israeli statesman.

(Source / 30.09.2016)

Legal Committee Submits Memo to UNSC on Russia & Iran Aggression on Aleppo

The Syrian Coalition’s legal committee submitted a memorandum to the UN Security Council to protest against the genocidal war the Assad regime as well as its Russian and Iranian allies wage on Aleppo. The memorandum said that the ongoing brutal onslaught on besieged Aleppo is aimed at emptying the city of its indigenous population and bring about a demographic change.

Head of the legal committee Haitham Almalih stressed that the Assad regime as well as the Russian and Iranian invaders commit war crimes and genocide in Aleppo through besiegement, starvation, mass forced displacement, and the use of internationally banned weapons such as white, phosphorus, napalm and most recently “bunker buster” bombs.

Russian and Assad regime air forces are targeting, hospitals, schools, children, and women. These barbaric attacks have forced more than half of Syria’s population to leave their homes; destroyed vital civilian infrastructure, and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, Almalih added. He also said that regime forces incarcerate tens of thousands of civilians who are subjected to severe torture and maltreatment.

Almalih went on to say that the Russian intervention in Syria violates international law as it came at the request of an illegitimate government. In times of popular uprisings, legitimacy goes to the people in line with their right to self-determination, he added. Russia’s direct military intervention did not come to ward off outside aggression on Syria but to help the Assad regime quell the revolution and suppress the Syrian people’s aspirations for freedom and dignity, he noted.

Member of the Coalition’s political committee Yasser Alfarhan said that the problem is not with the characterization of Russia’s aggression on Syria or with evidence, which is already clear and abundant, but with the flawed international system and the UN Security Council.

Alfarhan pointed out that Russia cannot claim to be a credible sponsor of the political process as it is a direct partner to the crimes committed by the Assad regime against the Syrian people.

Alfarhan noted that the legal committee called for withdrawing the Syrian file from the UN Security Council and referring it to the UN General Assembly in accordance with the principle of maintaining civil and peace security.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 30.09.2016)

Israel to release Palestinian woman shot and wounded after alleged vehicular attack


RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities issued an order on Thursday to release a Palestinian woman who was grievously wounded when Israeli forces shot at her and her fiance, killing him, earlier this month.Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs lawyer Karim Ajwah said that Raghad Khaddour, who is currently being treated at the Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem after having been shot in the abdomen, would be transferred to the Palestine Medical Center in Ramallah within 48 hours.Khaddour, an 18-year-old resident of the village of Bani Naim in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, was riding in a car with her fiance Fares Moussa Muhammad Khaddour, 18, on Sept. 16, when Israeli forces opened fire at the vehicle, claiming that the two young Palestinians were attempting to carry out a car ramming attack.Fares Khaddour was one of seven Palestinians to have been killed by Israeli forces in the span of five days earlier this month.Meanwhile, it was initially reported that three Israeli civilians were injured in the incident, though Israeli news site Ynet later said the three were “treated for shock but were physically unharmed.”Rights groups have denounced what they have termed a “shoot-to-kill” policy by the Israeli forces, which they say has led to the death of numerous Palestinians who did not constitute a threat or who could have been subdued in a non-lethal manner.Meanwhile, the Israeli army blockaded Bani Naim and deployed an additional battalion to the Hebron district, while an Israeli army officer vowed strict punitive measures would be would be imposed on Palestinian civilians in the area.Israel has come under harsh international condemnation for its response to attacks, which rights groups have said amounts to “collective punishment” and represents a clear violation of international law.The Hebron area in particular has grown as an epicenter of upheaval over the past year, with Israeli authorities severely restricting the movement of Palestinians in parts of its Old City, including Tel Rumeida, as a “closed military zone” for several months, while closures on Hebron in July saw the most widespread restrictions on movement in the occupied West Bank in two years.Some 230 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis since October 2015, while 32 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians during the same time period.

(Source / 30.09.2016)

Remembering Muhammad al-Durrah and the stolen dreams of Palestine

Mere days ago, on the 22nd of September, the city of occupied al-Khalil (Hebron) remembered and mourned the murder of 18 year old Hadeel al-Hashlamoun, another Palestinian youth executed in cold blood by Israeli forces outside the Shuhada Street checkpoint one year ago. Today, on the 30th of September, all of occupied Palestine bows its head in mourning and raises its fist in resistance on the 16th anniversary of the deaths of Jamal al-Durrah and his 12 year old son Muhammad.

On this day 16 years ago, Israeli forces unleashed their militarized terror upon the streets of occupied Gaza, firing indiscriminately upon anything seen as a threat, which at this time was any Palestinian within sight.  Even Palestinian medics were forced to run for cover as bodies lay bleeding on the ground.  On this day, every Palestinian person was reduced to just that in the eyes of the Israeli occupying forces: a body to be targeted.  Two of these bodies were Jamal and young Muhammad.

16 years ago, the world was presented with a French journalist’s video documenting in incriminating clarity the final moments of a young, frightened, innocent boy who had not even reached his teenaged years.  As Palestinians run frantically for cover, the camera focuses in on Muhammad as his father attempts to shield him behind a concrete cylinder.  In what seems like an instant, gunfire rains down upon the two of them and the entire scene is covered in smoke.  As the smoke clears, young Muhammad’s body is seen slumped over his father’s lap.  Jamal musters his last remaining strength to sit his upper body up.  He wavers back and forth for a few moments, the body of his son laid across his legs, before the spark of life leaves his body as well.

In the 16 years since Muhammad’s execution, Palestine has never ceased to live under the iron grip of Israeli state terrorism.  16 years has brought military crackdowns, arbitrary arrests, fear and intimidation across the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. 16 years has brought countless land grabs in the expansion of illegal checkpoints and illegal Israeli settlements.  16 years has seen Israeli forces and settlements “pulled out” of Gaza, only to be replaced by a complete economic blockade as Israel surrounded its borders on land, sea, and even the militarized sky above.  16 years has brought multiple genocidal assaults on Gaza, the latest, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge”, slaughtering over 2,000 Palestinian lives.  Over the course of the last 16 years, the land that Muhammad al-Durrah lived, played, and dreamed on has continued to live under the sledgehammer of an illegal military occupation attempting to erase Palestinian bodies and memories from existence in order to lay claim to a stolen nation.

There is much to remember from these past 16 years, and each day brings more horrors for the people of Palestine.  Yet today, let us remember the death of an innocent boy whose only crime was living in the land of his birth.  May his unknown, yet forever present dreams shine a light on the entire land of Palestine today and remind us that all we struggle for is life itself.

(Source / 30.09.2016)

Israeli army persists in razing Palestinian land in Salfit

SALFIT, (PIC)– Israeli bulldozers on Friday morning continued to destroy, under military protection, Palestinian agricultural lands and pastures in Deir Ballut town, west of Salfit city. Local sources said that the Israeli army prevented farmers and landowners from approaching the area as bulldozers were embarking on leveling their land and uprooting trees. One farmer was reportedly assaulted and arrested a few days ago by Israeli soldiers as he was trying to reach his land. These land bulldozing activities have been taking place in Bab al-Marj area to the east of the town, according to the sources.

(Source / 30.09.2016)

Kuwait criticises Israeli stance on nuclear weapons

Dimona nuclear research facility in Israel

Dimona nuclear research facility in Israel

Kuwait yesterday reiterated its vision to have a nuclear weapon free Middle East. The Gulf state’s foreign ministry representative, Talal Al-Fasam, called for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to apply its mandate to implement nuclear safeguards in the region. He made his comments at the 60th General Conference of the agency.

Al-Fasam also addressed the Israeli standpoint on non-proliferation. He asserted that Israel must sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Kuwaiti official noted that that all countries in the region are signatories to and abide by the treaty while Israel persists in its refusal to do so. Indeed, he pointed out, Israel even refuses to open its nuclear installations to IAEA inspectors.

(Source / 30.09.2016)

Barzani, Abadi Discuss Unresolved Issues

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaks at a news conference with Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (not pictured) in Baghdad, November 20, 2014. REUTERS/Hadi Mizban/Pool

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaks at a news conference with Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (not pictured) in Baghdad, November 20, 2014

Baghdad, Erbil- Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani and Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stressed the importance of cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil in order to face the Iraqi challenges in various fields.

They both expressed their hope to reach solutions with regards to the accumulated problems between them within a short term.

“The purpose of the talks with the Kurdistan Region delegation was to support those fighting to liberate the Iraqi territories from ISIS,” said Abadi. He also added that the federal government in Baghdad supports political, economic and security stability in Kurdistan Region and shows full respect to all political forces.

For his part, Barzani stated that the visit indicates full support to Abadi and an intention to agree upon all unsettled matters. Barzani added that the economic crisis and the issue of oil and gas were tackled with the Iraqi Prime Minister.

MP Mohammed al-Karbouli told Asharq Al-Awsat that the U.S. President Barack Obama invested in a smart way the need of these two parties to each other in addition to the peaceful policy adopted by Abadi which allows him to be the man of the transitional phase.

Saad Hadisi, spokesperson of Prime Minister Abadi, also informed Asharq al-Awsat that the meeting was positive and fruitful, where both parties showed determination to solve problems. Hadisi added that the convening parties emphasized on the importance of dialogue between the federal government and Kurdistan Region government and the necessity of cooperation between the two to combat security and economic challenges.

“The major topic in Barzani’s meetings with political and executive officials in Iraq is ways to develop Erbil-Baghdad relations,” said Barzani’s Media Advisor Kifah Mahmoud to Asharq Al-Awsat.

(Source / 30.09.2016)

Hamas urges Abbas not to attend funeral of Peres

GAZA, (PIC)– The Hamas Movement has called on Palestinian Authority president to reverse his decision to attend the funeral of Israeli war criminal Shimon Peres. In a press release on Thursday, Hamas warned that such a step would encourage other Arab parties to normalize relations with Israel and result in disastrous impacts on the Palestinian national endeavor. According to different Israeli media outlets, Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday approved Abbas’s request to participate in the funeral of Peres, the former Israeli president, to be held on Friday.

(Source / 30.09.2016)

1948 Palestinian party subject to campaign of arrests, political repression

balad-arrests2The Israeli state has launched a major campaign of arrests and political persecution against activists of the National Democratic Assembly or Balad, the political party of Palestinians in ’48 Palestine. The party is represented in the Knesset as part of the Joint List, where its representatives, including Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi and Basil Ghattas, have been repeatedly targeted for their statements recognizing their own Palestinian identity and their support for the Palestinian liberation struggle. Indeed, today, Israeli attorney general Avichai Mandelblit has approved the police to interrogate Zoabi and Zahalka on the ongoing arrests, regarding “campaign finance issues.”

zoabi-zahalkaIn the past two weeks, dozens of activists and leaders in the party have been arrested in allegations that were initially trumpeted as related to “corruption,” but are in fact instead attempts to label the party as receiving “improper foreign funding.” Thus, rather than Balad/NDA leaders being accused of stealing money from the party or from the Palestinian people, they are being accused by the Israeli state of bringing money from international and Arab supporters to Palestine to support the Palestinian people. Exact allegations, however, have not been released and are “secret,” withheld from the public and the detainees, reported Al Jazeera.  The party issued a statement in which it “unequivocally denies all allegations and calls for the immediate release of all activists.”

The party and other Palestinian activists in ’48 have warned of this as an ongoing attempt to criminalize Palestinian political activity among Palestinian citizens of Israel.  Broad protests have taken place throughout Palestine ’48 and political forces throughout the Palestinian population, including Abnaa al-Balad, Hadash and the Higher Arab Follow-Up Committee have denounced the arrest campaign, calling for Palestinian unity against repression.

awad-abdelfattahOn 18 September, the homes of party leaders were raided by Israeli police and 20 members and leaders of the party were arrested. Dozens have been released, with some being ordered to house arrest, forbidden from leaving their homes and in some cases from internet usage. Party general secretary Awad Abdel Fattah was released from prison to house arrest Wednesday, 28 September, as were Kayed Attiyah Awni, Ezzedine Badran and Shadi Awad. Deputy General Secretary Yousef Tatour was also released after being detained one day before.  Over 35 leaders and activists have been arrested in total in the past weeks, with the majority released.  Murad Haddad, member of the municipal council of Shafa ‘Amr and the party’s central committee, saw his detention extended until Wednesday inn a Haifa magistrate’s court. Several lawyers have also been arrested and released, including Eyad Khalayleh, Haneen Ighbarieh, Mohammed Tarabeh and Alaa Mahajna.

Balad labeled the move to interrogate Zahalka and Zoabi as “an escalation in the rabid political persecution against the Assembly and a provocative attempt to smear the reputation of the party….[this] is retaliatory political action that cmes after police have failed to intimidate the members and cadres of the party over the last two weeks.”

The Abnaa al-Balad movement noted in its statement on the repression that “these despicable repressive campaigns have been a systematic practice against our struggling people throughout their history since the beginning of the occupation of Palestine in 1948. We have seen the prosecution of all of the movements and activist national political currents among our people since the Al-Ard movement.”

Indeed, political persecution of the political activity of Palestinians in ’48 is nothing new; for the first twenty years of Israeli occupation, Palestinians lived under martial law and were prohibited from forming political parties; the Al-Ard movement of Palestinian citizens of Israel was prohibited in 1964. The movement of Palestinians in ’48 produced a series of movements, including the protest movement against land confiscation that sparked national protests and general strikes in 1976; after the killing of six Palestinian protesters, 30 March became known as Land Day. Palestinians from ’48 have always been imprisoned alongside fellow Palestinians in Israeli jails; today, there are over 100 Palestinian political prisoners holding Israeli citizenship, including Lena Jarbouni, Raed Salah, Ameer Makhoul and Said Nafa.

In late 2015, the Northern Islamic Movement, a large Islamic political and social organization among Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship, led by Sheikh Raed Salah, was banned by the Israeli state following its extensive campaigns against repression and limitation of access to Al-Aqsa Mosque.  Zahalka labeled the move at the time a “declaration of war” against the Palestinian population.  Dozens of social organizations were raided and served with orders for their closure, including kindergartens, clinics, mosques and a sports league.

Salah is currently serving a 9-month prison term for “incitement” for delivering speeches against Israeli action at Al-Aqsa Mosque. “Incitement” is the same charge currently being used against Palestinian poetDareen Tatour, also holding Israeli citizenship; Tatour has spent 11 months in prison and then house arrest and is threatened with up to eight years in prison for posting her poetry on YouTube. Tatour’s case has received international support from literary organizations and prominent writers and poets.

Nafa, a former member of the Knesset, is imprisoned for visiting Syria, an “enemy state”  and meeting there with exiled Palestinians and Palestinian political parties; interrogation and arrest of Palestinians for visiting Lebanon, Syria or meeting Palestinian political parties labeled “prohibited organizations” are not uncommon.

Palestinian citizens of Israel are subject to over 80 discriminatory laws, including a number of laws specifically targeting Knesset members.  These include new laws allowing the expulsion of members if 3/4 of the existing members agree; as well the suspension of members based on majority vote, carried out against Balad MKs earlier in the year, for meeting with the families of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers.

Balad advocates for “a state for all its citizens” and participates in the Joint List, a coalition of mostly Palestinian parties in ’48 formed after a new threshhold law would see most of the Palestinian parties excluded from the Knesset. However, participating in the Knesset is itself highly controversial among Palestinians in ’48 Palestine, and numerous Palestinian citizens of Israel participate in a boycott of Knesset elections. Opponents of Knesset participation emphasize that the Knesset itself is an institution that is fundamentally racist and Zionist and based on the dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians. Organizations including the now-banned Islamic Movement in the North and Abnaa el-Balad  emphasize that the participation of Palestinians in the parliament, where they are subject to racist laws and repression, is used to beautify the image of Israel internationally and claim that it is “democratic” for all of its citizens.

(Source / 30.09.2016)