January 2011

January 31, 2011

EDITOR: Mubarak still has one reliable friend…

Below you can read about the one friend who still support Mubarak unflinchingly… it is of course Mr. Netanyahu. If there is one person in the whole world, whose support Mubarak could do without, it is Netanyahu, of course. How bizarre that he should try to shore him up with the very words which will prove fatal to his dear friend in brutality and opression. It seems that Netanyahu is constantly on the phone trying to save Mubarak… What has he in mind? Using the Israeli army to take over Tahrir Square?

Well, maybe he has two fiends left… Peres is also putting the knife in, by declaring unending, eternal love…

Israel urges world to curb criticism of Egypt’s Mubarak: Haaretz

Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in the West’s interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime.

Israel called on the United States and a number of European countries over the weekend to curb their criticism of President Hosni Mubarak to preserve stability in the region.

Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in the West’s interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime. The diplomatic measures came after statements in Western capitals implying that the United States and European Union supported Mubarak’s ouster.

Israeli officials are keeping a low profile on the events in Egypt, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even ordering cabinet members to avoid commenting publicly on the issue.

Senior Israeli officials, however, said that on Saturday night the Foreign Ministry issued a directive to around a dozen key embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries. The ambassadors were told to stress to their host countries the importance of Egypt’s stability. In a special cable, they were told to get this word out as soon as possible.

EU foreign ministers are to discuss the situation in Egypt at a special session today in Brussels, after which they are expected to issue a statement echoing those issued in recent days by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Obama called on Mubarak to take “concrete steps” toward democratic reforms and to refrain from violence against peaceful protesters, sentiments echoed in a statement Saturday night by the leaders of Britain, France and Germany.

“The Americans and the Europeans are being pulled along by public opinion and aren’t considering their genuine interests,” one senior Israeli official said. “Even if they are critical of Mubarak they have to make their friends feel that they’re not alone. Jordan and Saudi Arabia see the reactions in the West, how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications.”

Netanyahu announced at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting that the security cabinet will convene Monday to discuss the situation in Egypt.

“The peace between Israel and Egypt has lasted for more than three decades and our objective is to ensure that these relations will continue to exist,” Netanyahu told his ministers. “We are closely monitoring events in Egypt and the region and are making efforts to preserve its security and stability.”

The Foreign Ministry has called on Israelis currently in Egypt to consider returning home and for those planning to visit the country to reconsider. It is telling Israelis who have decided to remain in Egypt to obey government directives.

Gaza-Egypt border sealed indefinitely: Ma’an News Agency

January 31, 2011 – 12:00am
Egyptian authorities have closed the crossing with the Gaza Strip indefinitely as its army deploys in the northern Sinai, a Ma’an correspondent said Sunday.

Egyptian security contacted officials in Gaza to check up on the situation along the Rafah border, and Hamas authorities confirmed that large numbers of security officers were deployed at the crossing.

Authorities in Gaza also confirmed that strict instructions were given to smugglers telling them all tunnels would remain closed to ensure no Palestinians in Gaza were able to enter Egypt.

Gaza border official Ghazi Hamad said Rafah would be closed Sunday in both directions.

“Egyptian officials informed the crossing department in Gaza,” Hamad said highlighting that the terminal could remain closed for several days. He called on the Egyptian authorities to keep the crossing open “because closure harms passengers, especially those who need to travel to Egypt for medical treatment.”

Hamad pointed out that on Thursday and Wednesday, the Rafah crossing operated normally as about 500 people left to Egypt and 200 arrived in Gaza.

Egypt had opened Rafah permanently (five days a week) on June 2010 following an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. Before that, the crossing had been closed for three years.

Meanwhile crowds of protesters began massing in central Egypt for a sixth day of angry revolt against Hosni Mubarak’s regime, with over 100 already dead in protests demanding the veteran president quit.

Around 200 civilians spent the night on the central Tahrir square, the epicenter of protests since Tuesday, surrounded by army tanks although troops took no action against those breaking a night-time curfew.

More people began arriving on the square early Sunday, normally the start of the working week in Cairo, with a man waving an Egyptian flag as a military helicopter circled overhead.

Groups of club-carrying vigilantes slowly left the streets that they had been protecting from rampant looting overnight amid growing insecurity as the Arab world’s most populous nation faced an uncertain future.

Youths handed over to the army those they suspected of looting, with the police that has been fighting running battles with stone-throwing protesters in recent days hardly visible.

Many petrol stations are now running out of fuel, motorists said, and many bank cash machines have either been looted or are no longer working. Egyptian banks and the stock exchange have been ordered closed on Sunday.

Netanyahu warns outcome of Egypt revolution could be like Iran’s: Haaretz

Netanyahu meets with German chancellor to discuss Egypt crisis, Mideast peace; Merkel says Israel must freeze settlements to move peace process forward.

What happened in Iran could happen in Egypt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The German chancellor, who arrived in Israel earlier in the day, told Netanyahu during the meeting that it was especially important to move the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians forward in light of the unrest in Egypt.

In Israel’s neighboring Egypt, demonstrations and riots have continued unabated for almost a week straight. Netanyahu and Merkel reportedly spent a large amount of time during their meeting discussing the unrest.

Netanyahu said he feared that a radical Islamic regime like the one in Iran could also come to power in Egypt.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with German Chancellor Angela Merkel before a meeting in Jerusalem on Jan. 31, 2011.

Peace talks initiated by the United States grinded to a halt in September after a 10 month freeze on West Bank settlement building expired. Attempts to restart the talks have since failed, with the Palestinians insisting that they won’t negotiate without a complete settlement freeze. Israel has meanwhile insisted that they are ready to continue negotiations, but they are waiting for the Palestinians to return to the table.

Netanyahu responded to Merkel by saying that settlements were not an obstacle to peace, adding that settlement building under his government has decreased greatly in comparison to previous governments. He also said that it was up to the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table and renew peace talks.

Senior officials in Merkel’s office have said recently during closed door briefings that the chancellor will be very tough with Netanyahu and will use the meeting as a chance to tell him that it is his responsibility to renew the peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Merkel arrived in Israel on Monday as part of the third round of talks in an ongoing dialogue between the two countries.

Peres: Israel has great respect for Egyptian president: Jerusalem Post

01/31/2011 15:48

President Shimon Peres has not abandoned his old friend Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. “We always have had and will have great respect for President Mubaraek. Not everything he did was right, but he did do one thing for which all of us are thankful. He was the peace keeper of the Middle East,” Peres told incoming Costa Rican Ambassador Rodrigo Carreras, the first of five new ambassadors who on Monday presented their credentials. The others were Estonia’s Tiina Intelmann, Chile’s Joaquin Montes Larrain, Bulgaria’s Yuri Borissov Sterk and Ethiopia’s Helawe Yosef Mengistu.

Acknowledging that Mubarak had not always taken an ideal course, Peres, alluding to the riots in Egypt and the current regime in Iran, declared “a fanatic religious oligarch is not better than lack of democracy.” He then went on to say that most people think that democracy is only elections. But democracy is much more, he asserted. It is also peace and freedom.

From the front lines of the Egyptian uprising: The Electronic Intifada

Matthew Cassel, 30 January 2011
It’s been a long time coming, but change is on its way to Egypt.

Tens of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo's Imbaba neighborhood, calling for the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak, 28 January 2010. (Matthew Cassel)

In the working-class area of Imbaba in Cairo on Friday, 28 January, I and my companions joined a group of fifty or so protesters marching up and down the street. The crowd shouted “come down! come down!” to neighbors. Without even realizing that others were joining I looked back at one point to see that 50 had become 500, and not long after I couldn’t see the end of the mass marching through the streets.

As we marched, the Egyptian police hiding in their armored vehicles waited until the march got close. When it did they fired tear gas indiscriminately. People fled, and bystanders, including old women and children in their homes, panicked by the suffocating fumes of the tear gas, which was all marked “Made in the USA.”

The crowds dispersed, but only briefly. Moments later the mass was reformed and the march continued. Down one street and then another, it had no direction, no leadership. Just deep anger and frustration at thirty years of what everyone has been describing as a dictator whose corruption has destroyed the country. Despite the fact that they cannot communicate with each other now, nor could they organize freely or have access to a free media for thirty years, Egyptians from across the country have been unequivocal in their one demand: Mubarak must go.

Finally, when the march in Imbaba reached a certain point, the police decided it was enough. They formed a blockade and when the protesters neared, the gas began to fly. Non-stop tear gas — even two days later I can still smell it on my clothes. People fled, and they returned. It was an organic uprising that could not be stopped, the likes of which I had only previously seen in one place: Palestine.

The intifada was an organic uprising when Palestinians said enough was enough. Without even having to think, people took to the streets to challenge the oppressive rule of their Israeli occupiers. They were killed, beaten, arrested — but nothing could stop them. Egypt today is no different.

While it cannot be described as a foreign occupation, the oppression is there. And in both cases, the one supporting and financing the oppression is the same. Without the US government’s billions of dollars to both Israel and Egypt, there would be no intifada. There would be no deaths now, there would be no thugs roaming the streets and reports of bodies being dumped on the side of the road. That’s not to say without the US there would be a utopia, but without the US there sure as hell wouldn’t be this.

Now US State Department officials are calling on the Egyptian government to refrain from violence and making statements that feign concern about Egyptian lives. If that was true, the tear gas would not say “Made in the USA,” and a brutal dictator would not be supported with billions each year to oppress his people.

But US foreign policy that is becoming irrelevant, a failed imperialist ideology that people are standing up to. Resistance is taking over. And like in Imbaba, or Tahrir Square, or anywhere else, it’s not resistance of any one color. Hostile media appear to be hoping, as they did for Tunisia, that it has an Islamist element.

It doesn’t. The resistance is led by the people of this region, whatever their background may be. At Tahrir Square in central Cairo yesterday I saw young communist women chanting for Mubarak’s ouster next to men who minutes later were on the ground praying. Like in Lebanon, resistance against Israel and US intervention has widespread support, even if the military aspect of such resistance is led by Hizballah, a religious movement. You won’t find many Lebanese to tell you that they do not support resistance to Israel’s attacks on their country.

And the resistance is spreading. Here in Egypt, it appears to be unstoppable. After thirty years of Mubarak’s suffocating rule, the people are finally saying enough. There is hardly one place in the entire country where the dictator can go to escape the shouts demanding his overthrow. In response, he’s cut off communication. The Internet is still down, so is SMS. Mobile phones are only working sporadically. Today, Mubarak’s Minister of Information, who was supposedly dismissed on Friday in an attempt to placate demonstrators, came out and revoked Al Jazeera’s press credentials and ordered a shut down of what’s become the world’s most important news organization.

What makes an unstable situation all the more unsettling is that people are not only unable to communicate with the outside world, but also with their friends and loved ones inside the country. And this was the government’s tactic to try and terrorize its people even further and frighten them from going out into the streets in protest. It didn’t work. On Friday hundreds of thousands came out around the country to take their demands for change into the streets.

Yet in Egypt and beyond, resistance is spreading. It’s impossible to say when it started. In Egypt it was the killing of Khaled Said, the young man stomped to death by Egyptian police in June of last year Alexandria that brought protesters to the street on 25 January to protest the police and their dictator. Was it was the popular uprising in Tunisia that ousted that country’s Western-backed dictator of 23 years that sent shockwaves of inspiration throughout the Arab world? Could it have been Hizballah’s defeat of Israel during the latter’s war on Lebanon in 2006? Or the failed war on Iraq that the US cannot escape? Or the Palestinian steadfastness in their decades of struggle to liberate their lands?

Regardless of what sparked the situation that exists today, Arabs are uniting in their resistance to Western interference in the region and its oppressive autocracies. As one Egyptian activist said to me yesterday, “They try to say that we Arabs are all different and we’re disconnected. But look what’s happening now: uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen — even Jordan! We are one, it’s absolutely clear.”

The people in Imbaba, who faced wave after wave of US made weaponry, fought back and refused to give up. After the first few hours protesters grew used to the tear-gas. I know because I was at their side documenting their struggle. I could feel the effects of the stinging gas less and less as time went on. I no longer had to run into alley to breathe fresh air after inhaling the poisonous fumes. The protesters bravely pushed forward until after almost six hours the police retreated.

This wasn’t an isolated protest. It was only one of many happening around the country. Compared to other reports, it was actually one of the smaller ones in Cairo. Now, it’s up to the world and those in solidarity with Egyptians to take a stand and demand that the killing end and the Egyptian people’s grievances be met. The longer we delay, the more Egyptian blood will be spilled. With billions of US support each year, the Mubarak regime has had the resources and the time to develop well-armed and well-trained forces to repress those forced to suffer under his rule.

My taxi driver last night was in tears when he described to me how difficult the last thirty years has been for not only him, but every single Egyptian in every part of this vast country. “We want freedom, that’s it,” he told me. A simple demand, and one that we all have a duty to support.

Matthew Cassel is based in Beirut, Lebanon and is Assistant Editor of The Electronic Intifada. His website is justimage.org.

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January 30, 2011

EDITOR: Egypt’s revolution affecting all around

Despite the still unclear results of the Egyptian mass movement towards ridding the country of its dictator and his corrupt regime, the momentous events sent waves of terror towards Israel and the other corrupt Arab regimes surrounding it.  With Rafah being the single, fragile gateway into and out of Gaza, this is a difficult time for Palestinians there, who, like most of us, are wishing success to the marchers in Egyptian cities, who share with them the need and urge for freedom and democracy.

Concern mounts in Gaza as Egypt shuts down its shared border: Haaretz

Gaza border official Ghazi Hamad says Egyptian counterparts indicated the crossing could remain closed for several days.

There was widespread concern in the Gaza Strip on Sunday after Egypt decided to shut down the Rafah border crossing until further notice amid growing unrest.

The Islamist Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, said it was officially informed by Egyptian security officials that the Rafah crossing would be closed.

Gaza border official Ghazi Hamad said they had been in contact with their Egyptian counterparts and indicated that the crossing could remain closed for several days.

The Interior Ministry in Gaza said in a press statement Saturday that it had redeployed dozens of security personnel to guard the border, to prevent any infiltration of Palestinians from the coastal enclave into Egypt.

Salah al-Bardaweel, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, said there was so far no official Hamas position on the turmoil in Egypt.

“All what we hope is to see calm and stability are back in Egypt and that the Egyptian people choose their representatives freely and democratically,” said al-Bardaweel.

In a Gaza city cafe, a group of young men expressed concerns over the situation in Egypt. Mohamed al-Shawa said, “We depend on Egypt in so many things in our life, and Egypt has been always our gate for the outside world … we are afraid that Egyptian fuel would be cut off.”

Ahmed Abu Sido, another young Gazan, said: “If the regime in Egypt collapses, I believe that all Arab regimes will follow.”

‘Don’t take our girls …’: Al Jazeera online

Jewish-Palestinian couples in Israel face increasing pressure as racism becomes more open.

”]Not long after religious nationalists held a rally in Bat Yam under the banner of “Jewish girls for the Jewish people,” a group of rabbis’ wives published a letter urging Jewish women not to date Arab men.

Jewish-Palestinian couples remain uncommon in Israel. But both the rally and letter point towards the difficulties faced by such couples, even those from liberal backgrounds.

Rona, a young professional Jewish woman in her early thirties who asked to be identified by a pseudonym, has kept her relationship with a Palestinian man a secret from most of her relatives for almost four years.

While her parents know and have met Rona’s boyfriend, Rona says that she is at a point where she is “actively lying” to the rest of her family.

“I don’t know how to articulate how they’d react, “Rona says. “I think that my aunt and uncle know that there is someone … and they definitely know that he’s Arab. But it’s more about my grandmother and her sisters and the older generation. It’s like if [I] were to bring home a mass murderer.”

She laughs nervously and continues.

“It just doesn’t happen. It’s like: ‘Bring home somebody who is a total loser, but don’t bring home an Arab.'”

Rona describes her parents’ political views as “moving more left but kind of traditional,” adding, “my mum always says that she thinks that the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967 was a mistake and that [Israel] should have returned the territories.”

Still, Rona did not tell her parents about her relationship right away.

“There was a period of time I was hiding it for convenience’s sake. I just wanted to enjoy my life and not be harassed.”

When she did talk to her parents about her boyfriend, who is a non-practicing Muslim, they sidestepped the issue of his race, focusing instead on “cultural differences”.

“I was like, ‘What are you saying? That he’s going to come home one day and want me to put on a hijab? Do you know what the cultural differences are?'” Rona recalls. “So I took immediate offense to this concept. I thought it was racist from the get go.”

Her parents also objected to the relationship because “it would be so difficult for us to live here together,” Rona says, due to the widespread discrimination they would face.

She describes the first time her parents met her boyfriend as “awkward”.

“I think it was actually their first personal interaction with an Arab, other than [those working in] stores and restaurants. I think it was a very emotional encounter for them. They liked him and my mum said he seemed like an amazing guy.”

Still, Rona’s mother insisted that she not put herself “in that kind of a situation”.

Rona says that she has not felt any racism coming from her boyfriend’s family. But, because of the political situation, there are moments when she feels a divide between them.

She was living with her boyfriend when Operation Cast Lead began in December, 2008. Her boyfriend’s mother, whose sister lives in the Gaza Strip, happened to be visiting when the war began.

“We were watching the news and they were showing the first strikes, the air attack,” Rona recalls. “His mum was screaming and crying and cursing the army and the Israelis and the Jews and everyone and I was standing there like ‘I don’t know what to do.’ On the one hand, I wanted to show her that I care. On the other, does she now want an Israeli Jew to put her arm around her? But I did.”

History of mixed marriages

Although Israel’s religious nationalists have only recently spoken against such relationships, they are far from new. Jews and Arabs have been falling in love in Palestine for as long as both have been there.
Iris Agmon, a professor in Ben Gurion University’s department of Middle East studies, says: “In the Ottoman sharia court records one can find women whose nicknames hint to the fact that they are converted Muslims.” And some of these women were probably Jewish.

After Ottoman rule ended, the British mandate also saw such couples. Deborah Bernstein, a professor in the University of Haifa’s department of sociology and anthropology, says that although there is no “systematic documentation or even discussion of the subject … it is clear that such a phenomena did exist”. She found family stories of these couples while researching her Hebrew-language book about women in mandatory Tel Aviv.

Bernstein also discovered “archival welfare documents,” pointing to such relationships. “For example, [one referred to] a [Jewish] woman leaving her husband and children and going to live with an Arab man.”

In most cases, Bernstein says, Jewish women converted to Islam before marrying their Arab partner. She believes that a majority of these couples left Israel when it was established in 1948.

Bernstein did not come across any examples of Jewish men marrying Christian Arab or Muslim Arab women.

Bernstein adds that the Jewish community was “very strongly opposed” to “mixed marriages”.

“This was the case in [Jewish immigrants’] countries of origin,” Bernstein says, explaining that the opposition to mixed marriages took on an “additional national element” in Israel.

But, sometimes, protests against such relationships ran the other way – leaving a lasting impact on generations to come.

The Palestinian grandson of such a marriage lives in a neighbouring Arab country. According to Jewish religious law, he is not Jewish. While, technically, many of his cousins are Jewish, they do not know it – their grandmother’s conversion is a strictly-guarded secret, shared with only a few members of the family.

Segregation

Because it remains an extremely sensitive issue for both communities, a number of Jewish-Palestinian couples declined my requests for interviews. Several are so concerned about family reactions, they have not told their parents about their Jewish or Arab partner.

But Alex and Salma are lucky. Alex is the son of Jewish Israeli leftists. Salma is a young Palestinian woman whose Communist parents raised her and her four sisters with only a nod to their Christian roots. Because their families are so progressive, Alex says, their relationship is “relatively simple”.

“The first song I learned to sing was shir l’shalom [song for peace]. We’ve gone to demonstrations since I was a toddler. So I was always on the left,” he explains, “but I never knew any Palestinians.”

Alex’s comment points to the deep divisions in Israeli society that make Jewish-Palestinian relationships so unlikely.

“[Society] is built in a way that doesn’t help relationships,” Salma says. “Everything is segregated. The educational systems are separated … People don’t meet. And if they do meet, they meet under unusual circumstances, like at a demonstration.”

Even though both Alex and Salma grew up in liberal homes, the two were no exception – it was activism that brought them together.

And it helps keep them together. Most of their friends hold similar political views, providing a buffer from the rest of Israeli society.

“You know, we sort of chose our lives,” Salma says. “I can’t be friends with racist people so it’s easy to avoid. But I think if we would have gone out to more parties we would have faced more problems.”

Still, things are only “relatively simple”.

Alex recalls running into a friend from school who made a racist and obscene remark about his relationship with Salma. And one of Salma’s closest childhood friends stopped speaking to her when she joined a Jewish-Arab group that advocates for a bi-national solution to the conflict.

“I think it comes out more than that,” Alex adds.

Salma nods and begins to explain: “I have one sister who got married last summer. She knows Alex and his family very well, so she wanted to invite [them] …”

She pauses and, a bit like an old married couple, Alex picks up the thread and continues: “And the oldest sister says, ‘What are you going to invite all of your Zionist friends?'”

There is a flicker of hurt on Alex’s face as he remembers. “Now, this comes out of nowhere. I refused [mandatory military service],” Alex says. “I’m definitely not a Zionist. I refused and my parents aren’t Zionists.”

Alex emphasises that he maintains a warm relationship with Salma’s oldest sister and that her remark came during an emotional argument. But, Alex says, the incident pointed to something that “can’t be completely erased … that the relationship can’t be normalised. It always has to be politically justified.”

What do such tensions say about Israeli society?

“Nothing good,” Alex answers.

The couple is also concerned about the recent outbreak of open racism in Israel.

“I think the hatred is becoming more and more explicit,” Salma says, pointing to the rally in Bat Yam and the rabbis’ wives’ letter as two examples. “It’s ‘don’t take our girls’ ….”

Israeli Arab who spied for Hezbollah jailed for nine years: Haaretz

Ameer Makhoul was detained by the Shin Bet and police anti-terror units last May; struck plea bargain with prosecution.

Ameer Makhoul at court

The Haifa District Court on Sunday sentenced Israeli Arab activist Ameer Makhoul to nine years in prison and another year suspended sentence for charges of spying and contact with a foreign agent from the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant organization.

Makhoul’s lawyers struck a plea bargain with the prosecution in October 2010, in which they asked for a reduced sentence of seven years, while the prosecution asked for 10 years – the maximum sentence for the charges against him.

The verdict stated that Makhoul handed intelligence to a Hezbollah agent on Shin Bet installations in the Haifa region and on Mossad offices in the center of the country. He also attempted, the verdict said, to pass on information about a military base and sought details about the residence of Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin.

Makhoul, director general of the charity Ittijah (Union of Arab Community-Based Associations), was detained by the Shin Bet security services and police anti-terror units on May 6, along with fellow Israeli Arab activist Omar Saeed.

Saeed struck a plea bargain in August, under which he will be charged with working for an illegal organization, a crime that carries a punishment of several months’ jail-time.

Upon his arrest, Makhoul was kept from meeting with a lawyer or speaking with his family for nearly two weeks, during which he confessed to the accusations. His lawyers later claimed the confession was coerced. They were finally allowed access to Makhoul only after threatening to boycott a hearing.

Makhoul, a veteran activist well-known among Arab charities and NGOs, was a regular participant in conferences on discrimination in Israel and abroad and has been a virulent critic of government policy.

Europe’s failure on Middle East peace: The Guardian CiF

Attempts to reconcile policy contradictions have prevented the EU from mounting an alternative foreign policy to that of the US

Many have questioned why the European Union failed to provide an independent view to that of the United States on Middle East policy during the last decade. It is not a simple question to answer. Partly, the EU failed to assert its voice because, at the beginning of the decade, it was scrambling to contain the impact of inflating US hubris, fuelled by the defeat of Saddam Hussein. Partly, it was also a simple reflection of most European politicians’ dependency on Washington. But the release of the Palestine Papers provides another answer.

They show how Tony Blair in particular had so undercut the political space that there was effectively no room for it. In a secret policy switch in 2003, he tied the UK and EU security policy into a major American counter-insurgency (Coin) “surge” in Palestine.

It was an initiative that would bear a heavy political cost for the EU in 2006, and for years to come, when Hamas won parliamentary elections by a large majority. The EU’s claims for democracy have rung hollow ever since. Blair’s “surge” also left the EU exposed as hypocrites: on a political level, for example, the EU might talk about its policy of fostering reconciliation between Palestinian factions, but at the security plane, and in other ways, it was pursuing the polar opposite objectives.

In 2003, US efforts to marginalise Yasser Arafat by leeching away his presidential powers into the embrace of the prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, collapsed. Arafat dismissed Abbas as PM. This was a blow to the US policy which – even then – was focused on creating a “de-Fatah-ised” Palestinian Authority. George Bush complained to Blair bitterly about Abbas’s dismissal: the Europeans still were “dancing around Arafat” – leaving the US to “do the heavy lifting” with the Israelis. Europeans were not pulling their weight in the “war on terror”, Bush concluded.

Blair’s Coin surge was his response to Bush. The Palestine Papers reveal “a security drive” with the objective of

“degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists: Hamas, PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad], and the al-Aqsa Brigades – through the disruption of their leaderships’ communications and command and control capabilities, the detention of key middle-ranking officers, and the confiscation of their arsenals and financial resources held within the occupied territories. US and – informally – UK monitors would report both to Israel and to the Quartet. We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ figures.”
The papers also show how the project ballooned: a huge investment in training and infrastructure of the security services, building prisons to accommodate the possible introduction of internment for Hamas members, the establishment of the Dayton military battalions to confront Hamas, the planning to depose Hamas in Gaza, the targeted assassination of Hamas leaders. Even the international Quartet was engaged to work with Arab states’ intelligence services in order to disrupt Hamas’s sources of financing.

The “surge” sucked in everything: aid, economic assistance, institution-building – all were reoriented towards the counter-insurgency project. Ultimately, the Palestinian state-building project, and the Coin surge, were to become one.

Against this counter-insurgency background it is not surprising that Hamas’s victory in the 2006 polls only prompted a further increase in European “off-balance sheet” assistance to the EU/US-made security sector. At a political level the Europeans were attempting to keep an independent voice, the Palestine Papers show, when EU envoy Marc Otte spoke with Saeb Erekat two months after the Hamas election.

Otte: EU has to deal with the reality of a Hamas-led government … In this respect, EU position is different from the US.
Erekat: How is this position different?
Otte: US wants to see a Hamas government fail. The EU will encourage Hamas to change and will try to make things work as much as possible.
Inevitably, the EU’s actions spoke louder than Otte’s words. The EU had endorsed the Quartet conditions for engagement with Hamas – conditions that the UN representative at the time told the UN secretary general were hurdles raised precisely in order to prevent Hamas from meeting them, rather than as guidelines intended to open the path for diplomatic solutions. Soon after, British and American intelligence services were preparing a “soft” coup to remove Hamas from power in Gaza.

EU standing in the region has suffered from the contradiction of maintaining one line in public, while its security policies were facing in another direction entirely. Thus, we have the EU “talking the talk” of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas while “walking the walk” of disruption, detention, seizing finances, and destroying the capabilities of one of the two factions.

Thus we have EU “talking the talk” of aid for Palestinians, while “walking the walk” of tying that aid to the objectives of the US security project; we have the EU “talking the talk” of Palestinian state-building, while Palestinian institutions are dispersed to external control; we have the EU “talking the talk” of democracy, while it colludes with a system of government exercised through unaccountable decree, and parliament is prevented from exercising any function.

This catalogue of attempts to reconcile an internal policy contradiction has pre-empted the EU from mounting any effective foreign policy alternative to that of the US on the “peace process”, and has eaten away its standing in the region. The legacy of Blair’s 2003 surge has been a highly costly one, as the Palestine Papers well illustrate.

• This article appeared first on al-Jazeera. Copyright reserved.

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January 28, 2011

Gaza protests accuse Palestinian Authority of betrayal in talks with Israel: The Guardian

Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair calls for Palestinians to ignore row over leaked papers and ‘get on with making peace’

Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters in Gaza have staged a demonstration against the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Palestinian Authority dominated by Fatah. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA
Thousands of people have taken to the streets in Gaza venting their anger at Palestinian negotiators for offering big concessions in peace talks. Meanwhile, Tony Blair accused those behind this week’s leak of documents of wanting to inflict serious damage on the peace process.

About 3,000 joined a rally organised by Hamas in support of anti-government protests in Egypt. But speeches and the shouts of the crowd focused on the leaked Palestinian papers and fierce criticism of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

Thousands of pages of Palestinian documents covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the US were obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared exclusively with the Guardian.

The papers revealed that Palestinian negotiators were willing to go much further in offering concessions than their people realised.

In Gaza City the crowd of mostly young men chanted slogans against Fatah, the party that dominates the authority and is Hamas’s bitter rival. “The concept of Palestine is not for sale,” they shouted, before vowing loyalty to Hamas and promising never to relinquish Palestine’s claims to its land and holy sites.

Mahmoud Saleen, 21, said: “We are here to deliver a message to the Palestinian Authority that they must come back to Palestinian ideas and reject the policies of American and Israel.

“We are against the political arrests in Ramallah and against the security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Yusef Salam, 20, said the leaders of the authority “are not from our own blood, they belong to the enemy more than they do to us. We hope there will be a revolution in the West Bank to relieve the Palestinian people from the people in power now.”

Blair, the envoy of the Middle East peace quartet, said the release of the confidential documents prepared by Palestinian negotiators had been “destabilising”. In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he urged the Palestinians to ignore the damage and press ahead with the drive for peace.

Asked how much damage the leaks had caused, Blair told Today: “I think it’s hard to tell right now, but its intention was to be extremely damaging.”

“I think we’ve just got to be big enough and strong enough to say, OK, whatever al-Jazeera are putting out, we’re going to get on with making peace.”

Palestinians preventing Middle East peace deal, says Israeli deputy PM

Moshe Ya'alon said without Palestinian recognition of Israel there could be no resolution of the Middle East conflict. Photograph: Jim Hollander/AP

: The Guardian

Moshe Ya’alon says Israel is ‘fed up of giving and giving’ while Palestinians refuse to recognise Jewish nation state

Moshe Ya’alon said without Palestinian recognition of Israel there could be no resolution of the Middle East conflict. Photograph: Jim Hollander/AP
An agreement to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not happen in the next “one or two years”, Israel’s deputy prime minister said today, blaming the Palestinians for the lack of progress.

“We’re fed up with giving and giving and giving, and not getting any real substance [in return],” said Moshe Ya’alon, the minister of strategic affairs, after this week’s leak of secret documents on the peace talks. He dismissed the extensive concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, revealed in the documents, saying they were insignificant compared to the “core of the conflict – our right to exist”.

The Palestinians’ refusal to recognise Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish people” was preventing a peace settlement, he said. The issue was the most important at stake in negotiations. “We are not ready to discuss territory without recognition of the Jewish state … We’re not ready to start with issues in which we give [ground] and do not get anything.”

Ya’alon, a member of Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and a former military chief of staff, said that without recognition, the Israelis could not “solve the conflict, we have to manage it”.

The issue of refugees was central to the question of recognition, said Ya’alon. Palestinians saw the occupation as beginning in 1948 with the birth of the state of Israel, he said, rather than in 1967, and wrongly believed they could return to Israeli cities such as Tel Aviv, Haifa and Acre. “Our position is not even one refugee is going to be settled in Israel. If you open the door, you open the door.”

Managing the conflict meant working with the Palestinian leadership on economic reform and security. Ya’alon urged Palestinian political leaders to re-educate a new generation in a “culture of peace, coexistence and reconciliation”.

Further disclosures about negotiations between the two sides are expected this weekend with the serialisation of the former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s memoirs in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. In the last year of his premiership, Olmert offered a deal to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, covering borders, Jerusalem and refugees.

According to a preview in today’s Yedioth, Olmert says in his memoirs: “Never before had any Israeli prime minister presented such a crystallised and detailed position about resolving the conflict as was presented to him on that day. For the first time since the negotiations began, I was very tense. For the first time since I had become prime minister, I truly felt the weight of Jewish history on my shoulders

“Abu Mazen said that he could not decide and that he needed time. I told him that he was making an historic mistake. ‘Give me the map so that I can consult with my colleagues,’ he said to me. ‘No,’ I replied. ‘Take the pen and sign now. You’ll never get an offer that is more fair or more just. Don’t hesitate. This is hard for me too, but we don’t have an option of not resolving [the conflict].'”

The deal was never signed. The Palestinians later claimed that an agreement struck with a lame duck Israeli prime minister would have been worthless.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, today named an American and a Briton in connection with the leak of the documents. He said the Palestinian Authority wanted to question Clayton Swisher, a former state department official and now a reporter for al-Jazeera, and Alastair Crooke, a former British intelligence officer. An unnamed French national was also being sought, he said.

Palestinian killed after settlers open fire in West Bank village: Haaretz

Incident comes only a day after police confirmed Palestinian reports saying that a Palestinian youth was shot to death by an unidentified Israeli citizen.

One Palestinians youth was killed and another wounded early Friday after settlers reportedly opened fire at a village north of the West Bank city of Hebron, only a day after a Palestinian youth was shot and killed by an unidentified Israeli citizen near Nablus.

According to preliminary Palestinian reports, the incident occurred after dozens of settlers from the settlement of Bat Ayin descended on the village of Khirbet Safa in the early morning hours and confronted some of the locals.

The confrontations reportedly resulted in the setters opening fire at the crowd, leaving one Palestinian lightly wounded and another in critical condition. The two were evacuated to a hospital in Beit Jala near Bethlehem, where one of them, a 17-year-old succumbed to his wounds.

The settlers, however, claimed that a group traveling nearby was fired upon, adding that others came to their rescue. Preliminary reports said it took police and Israel Defense Forces units over half an hour to arrive at the area.

Commenting on the fatal incident, Kiryat Arba’s council chief Malachi Levinger reiterated claims that the settlers were attacked while hiking in the area, and emphasized what he called as the “right of Jews to travel their country.”

“We call upon the IDF and the police to aid the defense of this right and to seek the guilty parties within the rioters not within the travelers who acted in self defense,” Levinger added.

On Thursday, police confirmed Palestinians reports claiming that a Palestinian who was shot to death near Nablus earlier in the day was shot by an unidentified Israeli citizen.

Palestinian eyewitnesses said that 18-year-old Fadi Kaddous was shot to death by a settler after clashes broke out between the shooter and a group of rock-throwing Palestinians.

A nearby security camera apparently captured grainy images of the shooting and confirmed that the shooter had Israeli features.

The camera footage showed the group of Palestinians attacking a man with rocks. The man responded by firing a gun in the air, which failed to deter his attackers. The man fired again, this time in the direction of the Palestinians. The video supposedly shows the bullet entering and exiting the shoulder-chest region of one of the attackers; it is being further studied by ballistics experts.

Police also investigated the group of three Palestinian villagers who reported the incident. The group had at first said that armed settlers attacked them but further on in the investigation changed their testimony. The police are currently searching for the unidentified shooter. Click here to continue reading “January 28, 2011″ »

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January 27, 2011

EDITOR: Will Erekat decide what his position is about the Palestine Papers?

On Tuesday, Erekat and Abbas called the Palestine Papers ‘a pack of lies’. Today they seem to admit it was them who were lying. Like their friends, the Israeli government, they first shout ‘a pack of lies’, then admit unwillingly they lied themselves. Today Erekat was singing another tune altogether, in his guardian piece, below. Today he had this to say about the papers:

“What should be taken from these documents is that Palestinian negotiators have consistently come to the table in complete seriousness and in good faith, and that we have only been met by rejection on the other end,” he writes. “Conventional wisdom, supported by the press, has allowed Israel to promote the idea that it has always lacked a partner. If it has not been before, it should now be painfully obvious that the very opposite is true. It is Palestinians who have lacked, and who continue to lack, a serious partner for peace.”

So, Mr. Erekat, please tell the confused readers: If the papers are a pack of lies, how are we supposed to learn all this from them? They are the ones, who, like their partners the Israelis, have told a pack of lies. What can be easily learnt from the papers, is that Erekat, Abbas and their many henchmen have lied to their own people for decades.

The Palestine Papers Part 4

Palestinian negotiator rejects claims of back door deals with Israel: The Guardian

PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat says leaked documents show how passionately Palestinians want peace
Saeb Erekat says the leaked papers show how far Palestinians are willing to go to reach a settlement. Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters
The PLO’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has described the leak of confidential memos documenting a decade of Middle East peace talks as a “slander campaign” and insisted that no single concession will be agreed without a comprehensive agreement with Israel, whose colonisation of Palestinian land is the “only constant”.

Writing in today’s Guardian, Erekat rebuffs accusations that he has been involved in “backdoor dealings” with Israel, but fails to repeat his previous claim that the documents – obtained by Al-Jazeera TV and shared with the Guardian – are “a pack of lies”.

He says the lesson that should be drawn from the documents is that the Palestinians are serious about peace.

“What should be taken from these documents is that Palestinian negotiators have consistently come to the table in complete seriousness and in good faith, and that we have only been met by rejection on the other end,” he writes. “Conventional wisdom, supported by the press, has allowed Israel to promote the idea that it has always lacked a partner. If it has not been before, it should now be painfully obvious that the very opposite is true. It is Palestinians who have lacked, and who continue to lack, a serious partner for peace.”

He underlines that any solution agreed in negotiations must pass a Palestinian national referendum – though the documents reveal him admitting that it will not be possible to hold a vote outside the West Bank and Gaza, which would leave millions of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon unable to take part.

Evidence from the papers shows Palestinian negotiators agreed privately in 2008 to let Israel annex all but one of the settlements built illegally in East Jerusalem and accepted the return of a symbolic number of 10,000 refugees to Israel. “Nothing would be agreed,” Erekat writes, “until everything is agreed”.

The papers also show the PLO working closely with Israeli security forces to target Hamas and other militants.

Publication of the Palestine papers has generated angry reactions from Palestinians, especially the PLO’s Islamist rival Hamas, which advocates armed resistance and will only negotiate with Israel on a long-term ceasefire.

The latest revelations show Tony Blair, envoy for the Quartet, was perceived by PA officials to have a pro-Israel stance and to advocate “an apartheid-like approach to dealing with the occupied West Bank”. A spokesman for Blair said today: “There has been real change on the ground as a result of Tony Blair’s efforts. The economy is now flourishing in the West Bank with double digit growth and falling unemployment. Palestinians are now able to move in the West Bank in ways impossible when Tony Blair started pushing for changes in the access and movement regime.”

Other papers describe how the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, tried to persuade a Palestinian businessman to contribute millions of dollars to a radio station for the Iranian opposition after the country’s presidential elections in 2009.

Abbas’s move was cited by Erekat in a meeting with the US Middle East envoy George Mitchell as evidence of the PA’s support for US goals in the region, especially its attempts to counter the influence of Iran, which finances Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

The Palestinian people betrayed: LA Times

Palestinian Israeli peace process: Leaked Palestinian documents damaging to peace process
The leaked papers published by Al Jazeera show how craven Palestinian leaders are and how willing they were to sell out their people’s rights. Yet all they had to offer wasn’t enough for Israel.
By By Saree Makdisi
A massive archive of documents leaked to Al Jazeera and Britain’s Guardian newspaper offers irrefutable proof that years of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians have been an empty sham. The papers make clear that the time has come for Palestinians and anyone interested in the cause of justice to abandon the charade of official diplomacy and pursue other, more creative and nonviolent paths toward the realization of a genuine, just peace.

The leaked documents, assuming they are genuine — and both Al Jazeera and the Guardian say they have authenticated them — are behind-the-scenes notes from a decade of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. On issue after issue, they show Palestinian negotiators eager to concede ground, offering to give up much of Jerusalem, to accept Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank, to collaborate with Israeli occupation forces in suppressing dissent in the occupied territories — including killing fellow Palestinians — and even to forgo the right of return for most Palestinians driven from their homes by Israel in 1948.

The papers give the lie to Israel’s claim that it yearns for peace but lacks a Palestinian “partner.” And they reinforce the sense that Israel has gone along with these negotiations only to buy time to expropriate more Palestinian land, demolish more Palestinian homes, expel more Palestinian families and build more colonies for the exclusive use of Jewish settlers in militarily occupied territory, thereby cementing new realities on the ground that would make a Palestinian state a geophysical impossibility.

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Anyone who doubts this has only to skim through the leaked papers, which show Israel spurning one gaping Palestinian concession after another. And this was Israel not under Benjamin Netanyahu but under the supposedly more liberal Ehud Olmert and his foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, who claimed they were committed to the peace process. In shameless abjection, the Palestinian negotiators prostrated themselves and surrendered essentially every major objective for which their people have struggled and sacrificed for 60 years, only for the imperious Israelis to say again and again, no, no, no.

Clearly, all that the Palestinians have to offer is not enough for Israel.

The major revelation from the documents, indeed, is the illustration they furnish of just how far the Palestinian negotiators were willing to go to placate Israel.

Men like Saeb Erekat, Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qurei — the lead Palestinian negotiators in all these years — are of a type that has come forth in every colonial conflict of the modern age. Faced with the overwhelming brute power with which colonial states have always sought to break the will of indigenous peoples, they inhabit the craven weakness that the situation seems to dictate. Convinced that colonialism cannot be defeated, they seek to carve out some petty managerial role within it from which they might benefit, even if at the expense of their people.

These men, we must remember, were not elected to negotiate an agreement with Israel. They have no legitimacy, offer zero credibility and can make no real claim to represent the views of Palestinians.

And yet they were apparently willing to bargain away the right that stands at the very heart of the Palestinian struggle, a right that is not theirs to surrender — the right of return of Palestinians to the homes from which they were forced during the creation of Israel in 1948 — by accepting Israel’s insistence that only a token few thousand refugees should be allowed to return, and that the millions of others should simply go away (or, as we now learn that the U.S. suggested, accept being shipped away like so much lost chattel to South America).

The documents also show Palestinian negotiators willing to betray the Palestinians inside Israel by agreeing to Israel’s definition of itself as a Jewish state, knowing that that would doom Israel’s non-Jewish Palestinian minority — the reviled “Israeli Arabs” who constitute 20% of the state’s population — not merely to the institutionalized racism they already face but to the prospect of further ethnic cleansing (the papers reveal that Livni repeatedly raised the idea that land inhabited by portions of Israel’s Palestinian population should be “transferred” to a future Palestinian state).

All this was offered in pursuit of a “state” that would exist in bits and pieces, with no true sovereignty, no control over its own borders or water or airspace — albeit a “state” that it would, naturally, be their job to run.

And all this was contemptuously turned down by the allegedly peace-seeking Israeli government, with the connivance of the United States, to whom the Palestinians kept plaintively appealing as an honest broker, even as it became clearer than ever that it is anything but.

What these documents prove is that diplomatic negotiations between abject Palestinians and recalcitrant Israelis enjoying the unlimited and unquestioning support of the U.S. will never yield peace. No agreement these callow men sign would be accepted by the Palestinian people.

Fortunately, most Palestinians are not as broken and hopeless as these so-called leaders. Every single day, millions of ordinary Palestinian men, women and children resist the dictates of Israeli power, if only by refusing to give up and go away — by going to school, by farming their crops, by tending their olive groves.

Refusing the dictates of brute power and realpolitik to which their so-called leaders have surrendered, the Palestinian people have already developed a new strategy that, turning the tables on Israel, transmutes every Israeli strength into a form of weakness. Faced with tanks, they turn to symbolic forms of protest that cannot be destroyed; faced with brutality, they demand justice; faced with apartheid, they demand equality. The Palestinians have learned the lessons of Soweto, and they have unleashed a simultaneously local and global campaign of protests and calls for boycotts and sanctions that offers the only hope of bringing Israelis — like their Afrikaner predecessors — to their senses.

Saree Makdisi is a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA. He is the author of, among other books, “Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.”

EDITOR: Erekat calls the kettle black…

In between working on bringing down the Iranian regime, and preparing a birthday cake for Zippy Livni, Erekat has found the time to look for the real crminals – those who have leaked the documents to the Guardian and Al Jazeera…

Palestine papers: Erekat asks US, UK and France for help to find leaker: The Guardian

Senior Palestinian negotiator says he wants ex-British spy, US journalist and French national to appear before inquiry

Effigies with Israeli flags and images of Mahmoud Abbas are burned in a Hamas-led protest in Gaza. Photograph: Eyad Baba/AP
A senior Palestinian official today said he has asked the US, Britain and France to help bring three of their nationals for questioning about the huge leak of confidential documents relating to peace talks in the Middle East.

Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the three include a former British intelligence officer, a US employee of al-Jazeera TV and a French citizen. He said he is not accusing them of wrongdoing, but would like them to appear before an investigative committee.

Al-Jazeera this week published excerpts from what it said is a cache of hundreds of documents covering a decade of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The Qatar-based Arab satellite station, widely watched in the Arab world, alleges that the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, secretly made major concessions to Israel.

Abbas and his aides say they are victims of a smear campaign.

The leaks have intensified the bitter rivalry between Abbas and Hamas, the Islamic militant group which wrested the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian president in a violent takeover in 2007.

Yesterday, thousands marched in Gaza in Hamas-led protests, accusing Abbas of being a traitor and burning him in effigy.

Today, hundreds rallied in Gaza City, burning a photo of Abbas and raising a large picture of al-Jazeera’s benefactor, the emir of Qatar.

Salah Bardawil, a Hamas legislator, told the crowd that “those traitors and anyone who is thinking of compromising any of our rights” should be put on trial.

In the West Bank, several thousand Fatah supporters chanted slogans against al-Jazeera and in support of Abbas. They also burned photos of two senior Hamas leaders.

Erekat, who frequently meets with Israeli and US officials, features in many of the documents. Palestinian officials have said they believe the documents were leaked by someone in a department he heads, the negotiations support unit.

Erekat told the Associated Press today that the investigation into the leaks is still continuing.

Erekat said he has tried to contact the US citizen, but to no avail. “I am not accusing him of anything. We want to investigate him,” he said, adding that he had contacted US diplomats for assistance.

Al-Jazeera officials have been unavailable for comment throughout the week. The French national declined comment when contacted by AP, and the former British intelligence officer said he might discuss the issue at a later time.

Many of the leaked documents detail 2008 negotiations between Abbas and Israel’s leader at the time, Ehud Olmert. Those talks were cut short by Israel’s three-week war on Hamas-ruled Gaza, launched in late 2008, and mounting corruption allegations against Olmert that eventually forced him out of office.

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January 26, 2011

EDITOR: Palestine Papers continue to sting both Israel and the PA, as well as the US and UK

Today we learn that bot MI6 and the CIA have worked tirelessly to get rid of the Hamas movement for a decade, assisting Israel and the PA in their various attempts to thwart Hamas as the leading force in Palestinian politics. What the result of their effort was we all remember well – the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections six years ago, and the strt of the longest ever blockade of over a million and a half people, mostly refugees, in what has become the largest open air concentration camp on earth.

Palestinians will be pleased to learn that their ‘leaders’ in Ramallah were discussing the extra judiicial murder of a number of Palestinian activists, some who have indeed been murdered eventually. What emerges from those meetings is the great intimacy between the sides, as well as the deep contempt in which the very leadership of the PA is held by Israel and the US; on the one hand, they make use of them, on the other, they really despise them. Not an atypical colonial scenario, and one Franz Fanon wrote well about over fifty years ago.

Then it gets even better – the South American option of resettling the refugees is now blown open, shocking people in those countries as well as the refugees themselves. This will run and run.

The besieged leadership in Ramallah, has in the meantime flipped a number of times, in the time-honoured fashion so beloved of the Israeli leadership… it seems that by working closely together for many years, some of the Israeli methods have rubbed off, and adopted by the Palestinian democrats… First, like the IDF always does in such cases, they called the papers a ‘pack of lies’ and dubbed Al Jazeera as “Zionist’, then today comes the admission that the papers are indeed genuine, and the PA is looking for the culprit who leaked them… The problem for them is not that Al Jazeera are zionist, but that they themselves emerge from this round of the revelations as ardent Zionists…

It is clear that we will soon learn of arrest and trioal of Palestinian ‘traitors’ who leaked the papers, in the tradition beloved of Middle Eastern regimes. Israel has done the same in the case of Anat Kamm, for example. Whoever tells the truth will pay dearly, no doubt. However, should not the corrupt leaders in Ramallah be worried about the wind blowing East from Tunis, already affecting Egypt? The hot Khamsin is almost due, coming normally around March, and blowing for fifty days, supposedly, hence its name. This time, the Khamsin has come early, and the corrupt leaders might do better than trying top continue lying, torturing and silencing their populations. Maybe they are better looking for a nice place in Saudi Arabia?

Well, this Khamsin might even blow that far.

Palestine Papers Part 3

Palestinian negotiator rejects claims of back door deals with Israel: The Guardian

PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat says leaked documents show how passionately Palestinians want peace

• Saeb Erekat: Papers are a distraction from the real issue

Saeb Erekat says the leaked papers show how far Palestinians are willing to go to reach a settlement. Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters

The PLO’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has described the leak of confidential memos documenting a decade of Middle East peace talks as a “slander campaign” and insisted that no single concession will be agreed without a comprehensive agreement with Israel, whose colonisation of Palestinian land is the “only constant”.

Writing in today’s Guardian, Erekat rebuffs accusations that he has been involved in “backdoor dealings” with Israel, but fails to repeat his previous claim that the documents – obtained by Al-Jazeera TV and shared with the Guardian – are “a pack of lies”.

He says the lesson that should be drawn from the documents is that the Palestinians are serious about peace.

“What should be taken from these documents is that Palestinian negotiators have consistently come to the table in complete seriousness and in good faith, and that we have only been met by rejection on the other end,” he writes. “Conventional wisdom, supported by the press, has allowed Israel to promote the idea that it has always lacked a partner. If it has not been before, it should now be painfully obvious that the very opposite is true. It is Palestinians who have lacked, and who continue to lack, a serious partner for peace.”

He underlines that any solution agreed in negotiations must pass a Palestinian national referendum – though the documents reveal him admitting that it will not be possible to hold a vote outside the West Bank and Gaza, which would leave millions of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon unable to take part.

Evidence from the papers shows Palestinian negotiators agreed privately in 2008 to let Israel annex all but one of the settlements built illegally in East Jerusalem and accepted the return of a symbolic number of 10,000 refugees to Israel. “Nothing would be agreed,” Erekat writes, “until everything is agreed”.

The papers also show the PLO working closely with Israeli security forces to target Hamas and other militants.

Publication of the Palestine papers has generated angry reactions from Palestinians, especially the PLO’s Islamist rival Hamas, which advocates armed resistance and will only negotiate with Israel on a long-term ceasefire.

The latest revelations show Tony Blair, envoy for the Quartet, was perceived by PA officials to have a pro-Israel stance and to advocate “an apartheid-like approach to dealing with the occupied West Bank”. A spokesman for Blair said today: “There has been real change on the ground as a result of Tony Blair’s efforts. The economy is now flourishing in the West Bank with double digit growth and falling unemployment. Palestinians are now able to move in the West Bank in ways impossible when Tony Blair started pushing for changes in the access and movement regime.”

Other papers describe how the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, tried to persuade a Palestinian businessman to contribute millions of dollars to a radio station for the Iranian opposition after the country’s presidential elections in 2009.

Abbas’s move was cited by Erekat in a meeting with the US Middle East envoy George Mitchell as evidence of the PA’s support for US goals in the region, especially its attempts to counter the influence of Iran, which finances Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

PA stonewalled the Goldstone vote: Al Jazeera online

PA, with US encouragement, delayed a UN vote on the Goldstone Report into war crimes committed during Israel’s Gaza war.

”]

The Palestine Papers reveal the conversations between US and PA officials in the days before the vote [EPA]
On October 2, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council was widely expected to pass a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report, the UN’s probe of war crimes committed during Israel’s war in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.

The Council instead agreed to delay a vote on the report until March 2010, following major reservations expressed by the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Israel.

A UNHRC endorsement of the report would have brought Israeli officials one step closer to prosecution before a war crimes tribunal, an event many Palestinians were anxious to see.

But, as The Palestine Papers reveal, the Palestinian Authority apparently sacrificed a potential victory for Palestinian victims in exchange for favorable assurances on negotiations from the United States and, they hoped, from Israel.

Quid pro quo

The Goldstone Report, formally known as the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, was released in mid-September 2009 amid calls for a review of Israel’s wartime practices. The probe was led by Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge; it identified war crimes committed overwhelmingly by Israeli forces, but also by Hamas, during Israel’s war on Gaza.

Both the United States and Israel were outspoken in their criticism of the report, claiming that any UN endorsement would endanger the peace process and future Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has already admitted that the PA asked for the postponement; he said at the time it was to secure more international support before the vote.

“Since we felt we would not be able to gather enough support we asked for the postponement,” Abbas said in October 2009. “We wanted to reach mechanisms that would ensure the implementation of the decision and punish the perpetrators of crimes against our people.”

What The Palestine Papers demonstrate is that, in the weeks preceding the vote, the United States apparently urged the PA to stall the report as a means of restarting negotiations with Israel.

At a September 24, 2009 meeting between Saeb Erekat, George Mitchell and David Hale, the latter informed Erekat that “Our intention is to move quickly to relaunch negotiations. We are wrapping up an agreement on a package with Israel, and including other parties.”

Erekat resisted, saying “I simply cannot afford to go into a process that is bound to fail. I am trying to defend my existence and way of life.” Mitchell informs Erekat that President Barack Obama’s “attitude was consistent: we need to proceed to negotiations; delay will not be beneficial to anyone.”

During the same meeting, the U.S. also stressed to the PA that it was actively engaged in supporting the PA through other means. Mitchell informs Erekat, “I’ve devoted half my time over the last several months to things like getting you support (for example with Kuwait), not just financial. We will stay the course on this.”

At end of the meeting, Mitchell invites Erekat to Washington, D.C., on the day before the UNHRC was due to vote on the Goldstone report. “Regarding coming to DC next week…you should come next Friday,” Mitchell said. Erekat resisted, countering, “That does not give us enough time to go back and consult…”

The Palestine Papers further divulge that during the exact time of the crucial UNHRC vote, Erekat was in Washington, D.C. seeking more guarantees from the United States.

During a meeting at the U.S. State Department with Mitchell and Hale, on October 1, 2009, Mitchell reiterated to Erekat not only the U.S.’s commitment to a new round of talks, but also U.S. willingness to take a more active role on behalf of the Palestinians.

Mitchell said the U.S. would “explicitly repeat its position on Jerusalem (non-recognition of Israeli annexation and related actions; demolitions, evictions etc.) In such a situation, with negotiations going on, if [Israel] make a provocative announcement, the US has the leverage to state that this undermines the process, and that Israel is acting in bad faith in the negotiations.”

Erekat further bared not only the PA’s reliance on the United States, but the PA’s desperation to get back to the negotiation table. Erekat informs Mitchell that “peace through negotiations is a strategic choice… Our whole future depends on it, and we are counting on the US to help us… Another failure will be devastating.”

The following day, on October 2, 2009- while President Abbas was in New York pushing to postpone the vote on Goldstone – Erekat again met with Senator Mitchell. This time, Erekat appeared to use the expected international backlash to the vote deferral as a bargaining chip in proving their commitment to peace talks.

“I did not come here to complain, but to try to help move forward,” Erekat told Mitchell. “Many people strongly objected to [Abu Mazen] going to NYC and me coming to Washington.”

Mitchell continued building a case to Erekat and the PA on why all parties should move quickly to negotiations. “For 60 years, the choices open to the Palestinian people have become less and less attractive,” Mitchell said. “The circumstance under which they live worse and worse…..Believe me it is the best time.”

Erekat, meanwhile, only seemed to further push Palestinian priorities behind those of even Israel. “We find ourselves in the eye of the storm,” Erekat lamented to Mitchell. “We pray every day that Israel will come to the point where they realize that a Palestinian state on the [1967] border is in their interest…That’s why we are frustrated. We want to help the Israelis.”

At the very same meeting, Senator Mitchell presented Erekat with a document containing language that, if agreed to, would nullify one of the PA’s few weapons – the chance to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes in Gaza at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The U.S. language stated:

“The PA will help to promote a positive atmosphere conducive to negotiations; in particular during negotiations it will refrain from pursuing or supporting any initiative directly or indirectly in international legal forums that would undermine that atmosphere.”

Erekat, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority accepted the language and simultaneously agreed to call for a deferral of the UNHRC vote. Unsurprisingly, this decision was met by outrage, as Palestinians and Arab nations condemned the PA leadership for kowtowing yet again to American and Israeli pressure.

Israel leaked the PA’s support for the resolution deferral on the day before the UNHRC vote was to take place. Erekat, undoubtedly caught off-guard, was outspoken in his complaints weeks later to the U.S. on what he perceived as unfair Israeli tactics. In a meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones on October 21, 2009, Erekat revealed:

“Then came Goldstone and all hell broke loose. You know the first public response to the Goldstone thing came from Lieberman, who said Abu Mazen agreed to postpone the vote because the Israelis threatened to release the “tapes” showing him coordinating the attack on Gaza with Israel. Then there was the report that he did it for Wataniya, which they said is owned by his two sons.”

Jones, however, was quick to assure Erekat that the PA’s efforts would not go unnoticed. “And thank you for what you did a couple weeks ago,” Jones told Erekat. “It was very courageous.”

That same day, Erekat also met with Mitchell, and wasted no time in asking for the U.S. to deliver on its previous promises.

Erekat: When can you give me something, a document or a package, so I can take it to [Abu Mazen], so we can study it in good faith?

Mitchell: Much of what I read is not controversial…

For the United States, and unfortunately for the PA, it was simply business as usual.

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January 25, 2011

EDITOR: The Palestine Papers set the Middle East on new path

The importance of the Palestine Papers, appearing as they do after the popular uprising in Tunisia, and while such an uprising is probably in preparation in Egypt, will surely be judged by history, but one can suggest already that the papers may change the future direction of the conflict, for a number of reasons, and in a number of ways.

That the PA was corrupt, inefficient politically and ‘in the pocket’ of the Israelis, must have clear to all and sundry for a very long time, especially to those living in the Middle East. The fact the ‘leaders’ behind the PA failed miserably in the 2006 Palestine elections, is clear evidence to the level of support they garner in Palestine. The fact they continue to rule unelected, is also evidence to their democratic principles.

However, what is at stake here is much higher. Those ‘leaders’ have, according to the already published papers, been better representatives of Israel than of Palestine. They can see (and accept) the rationale for the Jewish state, and are arguaing for it with gusto. They are less persuaded, anmd less persuasive, on the topic of a Palestinian State.

On the topic of the refugees, they have argued for 0.2% of the refugees to be allowed back. That is really great. Never mind that their love object, Zippy Livni, told them that ‘even one refugee’ is too many. They are quite happy for the US authorities to suggest new locations for the refugees – currently it is South America, next it be the South Pole, and maybe the Moon can also be tried… What do they care about the refugees – as they have signed up for the Likud programme, the refugees can get lost.

They also agree to all of the settlements around Jerusalem, bar one, which is mighty nice of them, seeing that that is exactly what Israel wants and expects of them. They also are discussing an ethnic cleansing, moving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Israel to Palestine, in the Triangle area, without ever bothering to ask those Palestinians for their views, just to make Israel more Jewish. Well, they can say – “after all, the US has not asked Chile or Argentina if they wish to take millions of Palestinian refugees, so why should we ask anyone…” So, they are just following the big boys, US and Israel, who, as Livni says to them in one of the documents:”I don’t care about the law, especially international law. I do not accept it.”And who is going to force her to accept it? Not Obama, I don’t think.

Well, all in all, Abass and Kureia are really nice guys, don’t you think? They just don’t wish to create problems for Israel, and why should they? Better that the Palestinians have the problems – after all, they had them for almost seventy years.

Those who think that this will pass and life will be just the same, are very much mistaken, I reckon.

It is also nice to know the MI6, UK’s intelligence arm, is not only illegally infiltrating environmental organisations in Europe with ‘sleeping agent’s which work for years and act an agent provocateurs like the Cheka once did, but also dip their toes into the Palestine puddle, and help to fight the party which won the Palestine elections!

The Palestine Papers Second Installment

Palestine papers: Browse the documents: The Guardian

Use our interactive to explore the most explosive leak ever of confidential documents from inside the Middle East peace process. Click on a location to see related papers

Palestine papers reveal MI6 drew up plan for crackdown on Hamas: The Guardian

• Internment and replacement of imams among measures
• Document proposed ‘direct lines’ to Israeli intelligence
• New files reveal Israel requested assassination of militant

British intelligence helped draw up a secret plan for a wide-ranging crackdown on the Islamist movement Hamas which became a security blueprint for the Palestinian Authority, leaked documents reveal. The plan asked for the internment of leaders and activists, the closure of radio stations and the replacement of imams in mosques.

The disclosure of the British plan, drawn up by the intelligence service in conjunction with Whitehall officials in 2004, and passed by a Jerusalem-based MI6 officer to the senior PA security official at the time, Jibril Rajoub, is contained in the cache of confidential documents obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared with the Guardian. The documents also highlight the intimate level of military and security cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli forces.

The bulk of the British plan has since been carried out by the West Bank-based PA security apparatus which is increasingly criticised for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture.

The British documents, which have been independently authenticated by the Guardian, included detailed proposals for a security taskforce based on the UK’s “trusted” Palestinian Authority contacts, outside the control of “traditional security chiefs”, with “direct lines” to Israel intelligence.

It lists suicide bombers and rockets as issues that need urgent attention.

Under the heading “Degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists”, the MI6 Palestinian Security Plan recommends “the detention of key middle-ranking officers” of Hamas and other armed groups, adding: “We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] figures, making sure they are well-treated, with EU funding.”

The latest leaks come as US state department spokesman Philip Crowley said they would “at least for a time, make the situation more difficult”, while the senior Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha’ath acknowledged that the documents were genuine and Palestinian groups in Latin America reacted with shock to the revelation that former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice had privately suggested Palestinian refugees be settled in Chile or Argentina.

Among the newly released confidential PA documents is an extraordinary account of a 2005 meeting between Israel’s then defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, and the PA’s interior minister, Nasser Youssef.

Referring to Hassan al-Madhoun, a commander in the armed Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades who was held responsible by Israel for a suicide attack the previous year, Mofaz asked Yousef: “We know his address … Why don’t you kill him?” Yousef replied: “The environment is not easy, our capabilities are limited.” Israel killed Madhoun a few months later in a drone missile attack on his car.

The PLO’s chief spokesman, Saeb Erekat, is recorded as telling senior US official David Hale in 2009: “We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun and the rule of law … We have even killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law.”

Erekat also complained to US envoy George Mitchell in 2009 that not enough was being done to seal off tunnels from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, the documents reveal, undermining the siege of the Hamas-controlled territory, and urged that more be done by Israel and Egypt to prevent the smuggling of goods and weapons. In an echo of the proposals in the British documents, Erekat told Hale: “We are not a country yet but we are the only ones in the Arab world who control the zakat [religious charitable donations] and the sermons in the mosque.”

The intelligence papers highlight the far-reaching official British involvement in building up the Palestinian Authority’s security apparatus in the West Bank, which was led from the late 1990s by the CIA and recently has focused on the build-up of forces under General Keith Dayton, who was US security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian territories until last October.

Alistair Crooke, a former MI6 officer who also worked for the EU in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said that the British documents reflected a 2003 decision by Tony Blair to tie UK and EU security policy in the West Bank and Gaza to a US-led “counter-insurgency surge” against Hamas – which backfired when the Islamists won the Palestinian elections in 2006.

The PA’s security control of the West Bank has become harsher and more extensive since the takeover of Gaza by Hamas in the summer of 2007. Hundreds of Hamas and other activists have been routinely detained without trial in recent years, and subjected to widely documented human rights abuses. In a meeting with Palestinian officials in 2009, Dayton is recorded praising the PA’s security: “The intelligence guys are good. The Israelis like them. But they are causing some problems for international donors because they are torturing people.

“I’ve only started working on this very recently. I don’t need to tell you who was working with them before,” – in an apparent reference to the CIA.

Palestine papers: Mosques and radio stations included in secret MI6 plan: The Guardian

Evidence in leaked documents highlights role British officials played in creating and bolstering PA administration
MI6 said the documents reflected a 2003 decision by Tony Blair, pictured above with Mahmoud Abbas, to tie security policy to a US-led ‘counter-surge’ against Hamas. Photograph: Brian Hendler/Getty Images
The Palestinian Authority’s security strategy to crush Hamas and other armed groups on the West Bank was originally drawn up by Britain’s intelligence service, MI6, leaked papers reveal.

The strategy included internment of leaders and activists, closure of radio stations and replacement of imams in mosques – the bulk of which has since been carried out.

Two documents drafted by the Secret Intelligence Service in conjunction with other Whitehall departments, which are among the cache given to al-Jazeera TV and shared with the Guardian, are understood to have been passed to Jibril Rajoub, former head of PA security in the West Bank, at the beginning of 2004 by an MI6 officer then based at the British consulate in Jerusalem.

The evidence uncovered by the leaked documents highlights the role British officials and security advisers have played in creating and bolstering the PA administration in the West Bank, which is backed and financed by the US, the EU and most Arab states as it pursues what are now all but moribund peace talks with Israel.

Hamas, which won the Palestinian elections in 2006 and is backed by Iran and Syria, carried out dozens of suicide bombings in Israel from the mid-1990s and was the target of Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2008. It opposes negotiations with Israel except on a long-term ceasefire and will not recognise it. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller group, has similar positions.

The PA is increasingly the target of domestic and international criticism for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture.

The British papers, one of which is headed Palestinian Security Plan – Confidential, included detailed proposals for a new security taskforce based on the UK’s “trusted PA contacts” outside the control of “traditional security chiefs”, a British/US security “verification team”, and “direct lines” to Israeli intelligence.

Issues include suicide bombing, weapons smuggling, Qassam rockets and “terror finance”. The SIS and other leaked British official documents have been independently authenticated by the Guardian.

In the most controversial section, the 2004 MI6 plan recommends “Degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists – Hamas, PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] and the [Fatah-linked] Al Aqsa Brigades – through the disruption of their leaderships’ communications and command and control capabilities; the detention of key middle-ranking officers; and the confiscation of their arsenals and financial resources”.

The document adds: “We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ figures, making sure they are well-treated, with EU funding” – reflecting a concern to distance the intelligence agency from the PA security organisations’ established reputation for prisoner abuse.

The MI6 strategy, which was drawn up to implement George Bush’s Middle East “road map” as the second Palestinian intifada was winding down, can then be traced through a sequence of more public Palestinian, EU and British documents and plans, and has now been largely implemented by the US and British-advised PA security apparatus.

The leaked intelligence plan can be seen in retrospect as a blueprint for PA security control of the West Bank, which has become harsher and more extensive since the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas in the summer of 2007. Hundreds of Hamas and other activists have been routinely detained without trial at a time in recent years and subjected to widely documented human rights abuses.

In a meeting with US official David Hale in September 2009, the PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is recorded as saying that PA prime minister Salam Fayyad was “doing everything possible to build the institutions. We are not a country yet but we are the only ones in the Arab world who control the Zakat [charitable religious donations] and the sermons in the mosques” – echoing what had been proposed nearly six years earlier by British intelligence.

The former MI6 officer Alistair Crooke, who worked for the EU in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said today that the documents reflected a 2003 decision by Tony Blair to tie UK and EU security policy in the West Bank and Gaza to a US-led “counter-insurgency surge” against Hamas – which backfired when the Islamists won the 2006 elections.

The CIA played the central role in building up PA security forces from the late 1990s, in close co-operation with the Israeli military and intelligence, detailed in the leaked documents. But particularly after the killing of three US officials in the Gaza strip in 2003, British forces played an increasingly active role – though always in close co-operation with their counterpart US agency, according to diplomatic sources.

The sequence of leaked British documents begins with an unmarked but detailed MI6 draft of the security plan, faxed from the Egyptian embassy, at a time when the agency was working closely with Egyptian intelligence; continues with the second more formal paper jointly drafted by SIS, which floats internment; and is then translated into a series of official papers drafted by the Jerusalem consulate’s military liaison office, which liaises with British special forces, the SAS and SBS.

The documents confirm that by 2005, British projects under the Palestinian security plan – first drafted and passed to the PA under MI6 auspices – included extensive funding of the most controversial parts of the PA security apparatus, including general intelligence, special forces and preventive security under the heading of “UK-Palestinian projects”.

The last in particular has been the subject of repeated and widespread allegations and evidence of torture, including by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. More recently, the British government has denied directly funding the PA’s preventive security.

US general Keith Dayton, who, along with a string of British deputies was in charge of building up Palestinian security forces as US security co-ordinator for Israel and the Palestinian territories until last October, is recorded in the leaked Palestinian records as complaining about torture by PA intelligence in a meeting with chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat in June 2009. “The intelligence guys are good. The Israelis like them,” Dayton says. “But they are causing some problems for international donors because they are torturing people”, adding: “I’ve only started working on this very recently. I don’t need to tell you who was working with them before” – in an apparent reference to the CIA.

In an interview with al-Jazeera, former Dayton deputy US colonel Phillip Dermer described the PA as constituting a “police state” and its security forces as an outsourced “third Israeli security arm”.

Many of those now arrested and detained in the West Bank appear to have no connection to any armed group or activity. Records of a May 2008 meeting between Israeli general Amos Gilad and the head of PA security forces, Major General Hazem Atallah, refer to a senior Israel security official identified as “Poly” who asked: “How is your fight against ‘civilian’ Hamas: the offices, people in municipalities etc? This is a serious threat.”

Atallah is recorded as replying: “I don’t work at political level, but I agree we need to deal with this” – to which Poly retorts: “Hamas needs to be declared illegal by your president. So far it is only the militants that are illegal.”

Another leaked PA security document from 2005, drawn up by a Palestinian official, confirms the central role played by British officials in “unifying Palestinian security efforts” and identifies a former PA senior security figure, Bashir Nafi, as having “strong ties with the British”.

Along with Abed Alloun, Nafi was a deputy to Rajoub. Alloun and Nafi were killed in a bomb attack in Amman in 2005. Alloun, a Liverpool football fan, told the Guardian in 2003 he had been flown by MI6 to Britain and taken to see Liverpool play at Anfield and given a ball signed by Michael Owen.

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January 24, 2011

EDITOR: After the Wikileaks scandal, the Palestine Leaks scandal…

For most of us, reading the new material now released on Al Jazeera and the Guardian is no great shakes – we knew for years that the Palestinian Authority was a lapdog of Israel, and that there was nothing they will stop at to satisfy Israel and the US. They have even stopped mention Al Awda (Return), they gave up on the settlements, on Jerusalem, on Al Aqsa – there is not much they did not do, and all this in order to be spitted upon by the butchers of Gaza and Lebanon, Sharon, Olmert, Barak, Livni and Netanyahu.

But the documentation provides proof, where before we only had reasonable expectations. The total failure to represent any of Palestine interests is now likely to fly in their face, and one cannot see how this will not end up with a political earthquake in Palestine.

Who has provided the texts, which are undoubtedly accurate? Personally, I cannot see anyone but the Israelis benefitting from this scandal – it will divide Palestine politically even further, will undermine the ‘moderates’ who are dangerous, as they present this soft flank to Israel’s brutality, so maybe this is an effort to further divide Palestine, to make Hamas the main spokesman and political power, so that Israel can continue to build without interference, as the west is totally unlikely to pressure Israel to speak peace with Hamas. Too far fetched? Don’t you believe it!

Papers reveal how Palestinian leaders gave up fight over refugees: The Guardian

• Negotiators agreed just 10,000 to return
• PLO agreed Israel could be a ‘Jewish state’
• US suggested Palestinians live in Latin America

Palestinian negotiators privately agreed that only 10, 000 refugees and their families – out of a total refugee population exceeding 5 million – could return to Israel as part of a peace settlement, leaked confidential documents reveal. PLO leaders also accepted Israel’s demand to define itself as an explicitly Jewish state, in sharp contrast to their public position.

The latest disclosures from thousands of pages of secret Palestinian records of more than a decade of failed peace talks, obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared exclusively with the Guardian, follow a day of shock and protests in the West Bank, where Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders angrily denounced the leaks as a “propaganda game”. The documents have already become the focus of controversy among Israelis and Palestinians, revealing the scale of official Palestinian concessions rejected by Israel, but also throwing light on the huge imbalance of power in a peace process widely seen to have run into the sand.

The latest documents to be released reveal:

• The then Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, repeatedly pressed in 2007-08 for the “transfer” of some of Israel’s own Arab citizens into a future Palestinian state as part of a land-swap deal that would exchange Palestinian villages now in Israel for Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

• The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and other American officials refused to accept any Palestinian leadership other than that of Mahmoud Abbas and the prime minister, Salam Fayyad. The US “expects to see the same Palestinian faces”, one senior official explained, if it was to continue funding the PA.

• Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state under George Bush, suggested in 2008 Palestinian refugees could be resettled in South America. “Maybe we will be able to find countries that can contribute in kind,” she said. “Chile, Argentina, etc.”

• Livni told Palestinian negotiators in 2007 that she was against international law and insisted that it could not be included in terms of reference for the talks: “I was the minister of justice”, she said. “But I am against law – international law in particular.”

The scale of the compromise secretly agreed on refugees will be controversial among Palestinians who see the flight or expulsion of refugees when Israel was created in 1948 as their catastrophe (nakba) – while most Israelis regard the Palestinian right of return as incompatible with a democratic Jewish state.

The PLO’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, is recorded telling the US Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, in February 2009: “On refugees, the deal is there.” In June 2009, he confirmed what the deal was to his own staff: “Olmert accepted 1,000 refugees annually for the next 10 years.”

Abbas, who is himself a refugee, is also recorded arguing privately: “On numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or indeed 1 million. That would mean the end of Israel.”

On the issue of accepting Israel as an explicitly Jewish state, Erekat privately told Israeli negotiators: “If you want to call your state the Jewish state of Israel you can call it what you want.” He told his staff privately that it was a “non-issue”.

But publicly PA leaders reject any ethnic or religious definition of Israel, and it is fiercely opposed by many of Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens, who see it as a threat to their own civil and national rights, particularly since there have been moves in Israel to introduce a loyalty oath along the same lines.

In several areas, Livni pressed for Arab citizens of Israel to be included in a future Palestinian state as part of a land-swap deal, raising the controversial spectre of “transfer”. In other words, shifting Palestinians from one state to another without their consent, a demand backed in its wholesale form by rightwing nationalists.

Livni explained privately that there are “some Palestinian villages located on both sides of the 1967 line about which we need to have an answer, such as Beit Safafa, Barta’a, Baqa al-Sharqiya and Baqa al-Gharbiya”. Earlier, she had made clear that such swaps also meant “the swap of the inhabitants”. But Palestinian negotiators rejected the proposal.

Tonight Livni’s spokesman said she had not discussed population transfers and insisted she had not criticised international law. In Ramallah on the West Bank today, al-Jazeera’s offices were taken over by a crowd of 250 security forces and protesters in response to the disclosures. Abbas said they were an intentional “mix-up”, while Erekat claimed they had been “taken out of context and contain lies”.

But senior PLO sources accepted privately that the documents were genuine.

Palestinians agreed only 10,000 refugees could return to Israel: The Guardian

Secret papers reveal Palestininian negotiators privately accepted Israeli offer of 1,000 refugees a year over 10 years

Palestinian refugees fleeing their besieged camp in north Lebanon in May 2007. Saeb Erekat is recorded as referring to their rights as a bargaining chip. Photograph: Ramzi Haidar/AFP/Getty Images
The Palestinian Authority’s anger over the leak of confidential documents about the stricken Middle East peace process is likely to be matched by outrage among many Palestinians at the revelation that their negotiators privately agreed that a token number of refugees, just 10,000, would be allowed to return to Israel.

There will also be anger that the chief PLO negotiator, Saeb Erekat, is recorded as referring to refugee rights as a “bargaining chip”, and that he privately ruled out putting any final agreement to a referendum that would include Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.

Erekat responded to the publication of the leaks by stating that “any proposed agreement would have to gain popular support through a national referendum. No agreement will be signed without the approval of the Palestinian people.”

But behind closed doors in a March 2007 meeting, the documents record him telling the Belgian foreign minister: “I never said the diaspora will vote. It’s not going to happen. The referendum will be for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Can’t do it in Lebanon. Can’t do it in Jordan.”

Refugees have been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 1948 war, so any deal on numbers is politically charged for both sides. Palestinians see the flight or expulsion of refugees at the time of the creation of Israel in 1948 as their catastrophe (nakba). Israelis retort that implementation of the Palestinian right of return is not compatible with the survival of a democratic Jewish majority state.

Israel pushed for a US-led “international mechanism” to handle compensation, but opposed restitution for property. The Israelis were prepared to acknowledge the “suffering” of the Palestinians during confidential talks in 2007-08, but would not acknowledge overall responsibility for the refugee problem.

“In our point of view this is basically asking us to take on their (Palestinian) narrative,” said negotiator Tal Becker, Erekat’s opposite number.

The documents reveal that Olmert first offered a figure of 5,000 refugees over five years on “humanitarian” grounds as part of the “package deal” he presented to Abbas in August 2008. PLO lawyers responded that that was “not serious and cannot be accepted”.

Erekat said later that Olmert had accepted “1,000 refugees annually for the next 10 years” – a total of 10,000. The Palestine papers do not include any subsequent offer, but Erekat told the US Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, in February 2009: “On refugees, the deal is there.” He confirmed the figure later.

Last year, however, Erekat distributed a document to EU diplomats saying the PA had expressed willingness to accept an Israeli proposal to allow in 15,000 refugees.

Olmert has said only that the refugee figure he offered Abbas was less than 25,000. Former US president George Bush referred in his memoir, Decision Points, to a “limited number”.In 2007 a PLO document cited a figure of 100,000 refugees over 10 years as a core principle.

Abbas, himself a 1948 refugee, privately argued against the large-scale return of refugees in a meeting in March 2009: “On numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or indeed 1 million,” he told officials. “That would mean the end of Israel.”

Critics of the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership, within the PLO as well as the Islamist movement Hamas, will be angered by the concession, while many Israeli Jews regard any return of refugees or their descendants as unacceptable.

Tzipi Livni, Israeli foreign minister and lead negotiator in the 2008 talks, made clear in an interview last month that she was implacably against any refugee return. “The Palestinians know my position on this and so does the entire Arab world,” she said. Indeed, the papers reveal Livni saying in the negotiations: “Your state will be the answer to all Palestinians, including refugees”.

Palestinian negotiators accept Jewish state, papers reveal: The Guardian

Tzipi Livni told she can call Israel what she wants, but her demands to move Arab Israelis to Palestinian state are rejected
An Israeli flag is projected on to the Old City walls of Jerusalem. Secret papers reveal Palestinian acceptance of demands for a Jewish state, and Israeli leaders pushing to move Palestinians out of such a state. Photograph: Michal Fattal/EPA
Palestinian negotiators privately accepted Israel’s demand that it define itself as a Jewish state, the leaked papers reveal, while Israeli leaders pressed for the highly controversial transfer of some of their own Arab citizens into a future Palestinian state as part of a land-swap deal.

Both issues go to the heart of the two-state solution to the conflict which 20 years of negotiations have failed to deliver.

Palestinian Authority leaders publicly reject any ethnic or religious definition of Israel, and it is fiercely opposed by many of Israel’s own Palestinian citizens.

When Israel’s Likud prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said last October he would temporarily halt settlement building in exchange for Jewish state recognition, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, described it as a “racist” demand.

But behind closed doors in November 2007, Erekat told Tzipi Livni, the then Israeli foreign minister and now opposition leader: “If you want to call your state the Jewish state of Israel you can call it what you want,” comparing it to Iran and Saudi Arabia’s definition of themselves as Islamic or Arab.

Insistence by Israel and the US that Palestinians recognise Israel as an explicitly Jewish state, as part of a final settlement of the conflict and as being potentially linked to a loyalty oath for Arab citizens in Israel, is the focus of growing controversy.

Palestinians see it as effectively closing down the “right of return” of refugees to what is now Israel, and undermining the national and civil rights of the country’s 1.3 million-strong Arab minority.

The PLO and Israel formally recognised each other in 1993. But accepting Israel as an ethnically or religiously defined state is highly neuralgic, not least because it would be regarded by Palestinians as endorsing the legitimacy of Zionism.

Erekat signalled acquiescence but refused to formally discuss the matter further. “I don’t care,” he insisted in June 2009. “This is a non-issue. I dare the Israelis to write to the UN and change their name to the ‘Great Eternal Historic State of Israel’. This is their issue, not mine.”

But throughout the 2007-08 negotiations, the papers show, Livni and other Israeli negotiators emphasised that the Jewish character of Israel meant all Palestinians should look to a future Palestinian state to fulfil their national aspirations.

In several areas, Livni pressed for Israeli Arab citizens to be moved into a Palestinian state in a land-swap deal, raising the spectre of “transfer” – in other words, moving Palestinians from one state to another without consent. The issue is controversial in Israel and backed in its wholesale form by rightwing nationalists such as the Yisrael Beiteinu party of the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

During talks in April 2008 about the future borders between Israel and a Palestinian state, and land swaps to allow West Bank Jewish settlements to become part of Israel, Livni raised the issue of “some Palestinian villages that are located on both sides of the 1967 line about which we need to have an answer, such as Beit Safafa, Barta’a, Baqa al-Sharqiya and Baqa al-Gharbiya”. Earlier, she is recorded as having made clear that such swaps also meant “the swap of the inhabitants”.

Two months later Livni again argued for the transfer of Israeli Arab villages to a Palestinian state. Referring to a village she had visited in the predominantly Arab Wadi Ara area of Israel, she told Palestinian negotiators: “I said from the beginning that it can be part of the swaps.”

But Ahmad Qureia (Abu Ala) replied: “Absolutely not.” And when Livni’s fellow negotiator, Udi Dekel, mentioned another village on the Israeli transfer list, Betil, the Palestinian leader, explained at once: “This will be difficult. All Arabs in Israel will be against us.” To which another member of Livni’s team retorted: “We will need to address it somehow. Divided. All Palestinian. All Israeli.”

The message that Livni and her fellow negotiators wanted to get across was clear. In January 2008 she told Palestinian leaders: “The basis for the creation of the state of Israel is that it was created for the Jewish people. Your state will be the answer to all Palestinians, including refugees. Putting an end to claims means fulfilling national rights for all.”

Qureia had already stated flatly: “We’ll never accept any change in the reality of the life of the Arabs living in Israel or their transfer. They’re Israeli citizens.” But Livni’s implication was that the Palestinian state should be the “answer” for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as millions of refugees and their families who fled or were forced out in 1948.

Both proposals appear to contravene international law and UN resolutions on the refugees. But in an extraordinary comment in November 2007, Livni – who briefly had a British arrest warrant issued against her in 2009 over alleged war crimes in Gaza – is recorded as saying: “I was the minister of justice. I am a lawyer … But I am against law – international law in particular. Law in general.”

She made clear that what might have seemed to be a joke was meant more seriously by using the point to argue against international law as one of the terms of reference for the talks and insisting that “Palestinians don’t really need international law”. The Palestinian negotiators protested about the claim.

Livni may also come under criticism from the Israeli right over comments in talks in November 2007, when she appeared to signal intent to give up the West Bank religious settlement of Kiryat Arba near Hebron as part of the need to “divide the land and to live in a smaller, Jewish and democratic state”.

The settlement does not appear on the maps created to illustrate the negotiating offer made by Ehud Olmert in 2008. Livni is recorded as telling Palestinian negotiators: “We have distinctions between blocs of settlements and individual settlements. Some are not even in our interest to expand.”

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January 23, 2011

EDITOR: Two years to the end of the Gaza Carnage

Two years ago, Israel has retreated from Gaza after the Cast Lead operation has brought about the murder of 1430 Palestinians, and the destruction of the civic infrastructure serving almost two million people. I the past two years we have witnessed the ineptness of the UN and the international community in the face of continued brutalities by Israel: the blockade continues unabated, the daily murders go on, and the Gaza citizens are not allowed to leave to other countries, and neither are others allowed to enter. Israel has taken a leaf out of the Nazi book – they have created the largest ever Ghetto in the world, and are applying similar tactics to its population. This will not be forgotten or forgiven – despite the inaction of the governments of the west, as well as the corrupt Arab regimes, millions across the globe are now active on this issue – boycotts are called every day in many countries, the trade boycott is harming Israeli economy, and Israel’s standing internationally has never been lower.

Solidarity with Palestine has never been more urgent. And to those who join the Palestinians in their struggle, solidarity is also offered in Palestine; below you can watch a video clip of two days ago in Bilin, where the demonstrators call for the release of the activist Yonathan Polack, arrested few weeks ago.

Bil’in 21.1.2011- Free Jonathan Pollak

Israelis target Macy Gray with racist diatribes AFTER she agrees to play Tel Aviv (and who are the “assholes?”): Max Blumenthal

It wasn't enough for Macy Gray to agree to perform in Israel. She has to take a virtual loyalty oath, too.

The Israeli media is filled with reports about Macy Gray confirming her plans to perform in Tel Aviv in March. This should have been an occasion for Israelis to celebrate their continuing ability to behave as a normal society despite occupying millions of people, holding Gaza under siege, maintaining an apparatus of racism against its non-Jewish citizens. But in a poorly calculated stunt designed to wash her hands of human rights concerns, Gray had first asked her “fans” if she should perform despite what she called Israel’s “disgusting” treatment of the Palestinians. Within hours, thousands of people who had no prior interest in Gray or her music flocked to her Facebook page (they only had to “like” her page in order to post) to register their opinions. Gray, who appeared to have every intention of performing anyway, remarked after announcing her plan to go to Tel Aviv, that some of those urging her to boycott were “assholes.”

Under normal circumstances, Gray’s roundhouse attack on some supporters of BDS and her subsequent pledge to perform in Tel Aviv should have pleased nationalistic Israelis. However, her initial criticism of Israel’s occupation has invited a firestorm of racist, sexist and generally hateful diatribes from Israelis. Indeed, many Israelis are more furious with Gray for performing inside their country than for refusing to come. Several internet forums, including one called “Don’t Betray,” have sprouted up to incite public anger at artists such as Gray who have criticized Israel — even if they agree to perform in the country. Meanwhile, the talkback sections of articles in the Hebrew media about Gray’s Tel Aviv shows have provided a forum for the most extreme screeds about the singer.

I have collected and translated a sampling of talkbacks from an article in the Hebrew edition of Ynet, the online version of the Israeli paper Yedioth Aharonoth, which highlight the attitude of some Israelis towards Gray. The talkbacks are almost entirely negative towards Gray, with many urging her to cancel her show for daring to criticize Israel, while others call her a “nigger” and denigrate black music as “contaminated.” Gray might be vaguely aware of Israel’s systematic abuse of Palestinians, but is she aware of the racism towards black Africans inside Israel, including Ethiopian Jews? Has she considered how she might be treated if she were living in Israel? And who are the “assholes” anyway?

Some of 500+ comments from the talkback section to the Hebrew Ynet article provocatively entitled “Gray is against Israel but not canceling:”

THe ugly niggers are joining the Darfurians entering here. All of you go away. wedontwantyou

Go find whoever is going to shag you you fucking whore. Every piece of garbage opens their cunt on us. muslimit

David from Safed: She should take all her brothers the Sudanese and Eritreans and fuck off here.

Another “afro american.” Nice name that the niggers made for themselves. Max

Black music is inferior music that fits you. No name [Another commenter calls him a racist.] “No name” replies: What is racist about that? To say “black” is racist?

Who wants you? You look like a monkey. Mikhal

It’s really disgusting that Israel is going to see black!!! music. Disgusting. Contaminates your soul. Ayela

Don’t come we don’t need your ugly fat ass here. Dude

Blacks and Muslims always go together. Brainless fraternity of people. Shai

[Responding to other commenters denying that any occupation exists]: Right, what chutzpah of us to survive in the jungle around us, as if she can’t understand the jungle. M

They [Americans] killed thousands of innocent people in Iraq but they come to complain here. mosheWhat Israeli fans does she have here? Leftist garbage maniacs [bastards] need to be killed whoever comes to her show. victorbruriera hess: What Palestinian people? What peaceful people? Maybe terrorism? Maybe right of return on your expense?Don’t give us favors. IF she’s contemplating coming Israel should cancel the show. DontgiveusfavorsAnee: I returned the ticket. And you?Maybe they will let her perform in Gaza. Raymondpessey: Go to Gaza, perform and fuck for the Hamas. May your name be cursed.Go find whoever is going to shag you you fucking whore. Every piece of garbage open their cunt on us. muslimit[Responding to other commenters denying that any occupation exists]. Right, what chutzpah of us to survive in the jungle around us, as if she can’t understand the jungle. MMany say cancel, cancel, we don’t want you here.When you’re being spit at at least you have to get a kleenex to clean it up. hamitnasehRonen: thank you new israel fund you did your job wellFuck you who wants you here anyway? SharonQuote by Ben Gurion. “It doesn’t matter what the goyim will say it matters what the Jews will do.” LTAnother “afro american.” Nice name that the niggers made for themselves. MaxTHe ugly niggers are joining the Darfurians entering here. All of you go away. wedontwantyouShe is boycotting only Israel because she’s anti-Semitic. Gives long list of countries including the US and UK she should boycott.Many say Lieberman should cancel the concert.Many say yalla, yalla, go look for someone to fuck youMany say she should perform in GazaDavid from Safed: She should take all her brothers the Sudanese and Eritreans and fuck off here.Many suggestions to take her to the Holocaust Museum.Who wants you? You look like a monkey. MikhalIt’s really disgusting that Israel is going to see black!!! music. Disgusting. Contaminates your soul. AyelaBlack music is inferior music that fits you. No name Someone calls him a racist. No name replies: What is racist about that? To say “black” is racist?Don’t come we don’t need your ugly fat ass here. DudeBlacks and Muslims always go together. Brainless fraternity of people. ShaiIsraeliJewishFighter: Sweetheart, don’t come here. We don’t want you. Who do you think you are talking about us?Hineh: Those who are “disgusting” towards the Balestinians [mocking the Arabic pronounciation of Palestinian] are the Balestinians themselves.Many are angry with Ynet for posting on this and allowing talkbacks. NA: The problem with the Jews and that we’re stupid, sensitive and attendant to what every idiot around the world is saying. Why is it so important for Ynet to report on this? So a few miserable goyim are not coming. Oy yoy yoy! What are we going to do?Please don’t cancel. What are we going to do without your show? My Asshole
They [Americans] killed thousands of innocent people in Iraq but they come to complain here. moshe

What Israeli fans does she have here? Leftist garbage maniacs [bastards] need to be killed whoever comes to her show. victor

What Palestinian people? What peaceful people? Maybe terrorism? Maybe right of return on your expense? Bruriera Hess

Don’t give us favors. IF she’s contemplating coming Israel should cancel the show. Dontgiveusfavors

I returned the ticket. And you? Anee

Maybe they will let her perform in Gaza. Raymond

Go to Gaza, perform and fuck for the Hamas. May your name be cursed. pessey

When you’re being spit at at least you have to get a kleenex to clean it up. hamitnaseh

Fuck you who wants you here anyway? Sharon

[Quote by David Ben Gurion]: “It doesn’t matter what the goyim will say it matters what the Jews will do.” LT

Sweetheart, don’t come here. We don’t want you. Who do you think you are talking about us? IsraeliJewishFighter

Those who are “disgusting” towards the Balestinians [mocking the Arabic pronounciation of Palestinian] are the Balestinians themselves. Hineh

Please don’t cancel. What are we going to do without your show? My Asshole

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