Novemebr 29, 2012

EDITOR: Reviving the Two States solution?

In few hours the UN General Assembly will vote on the PA proposal to afford Palestine limited state status. In another context, this would be a useless measure – over the last five decades, Israel has done all it could to make such a solution impossible. If this vote was taken 40 years ago, it may have meant something. However, on the 65th anniversary of the UN fateful resolution 181, dividing Palestine, and almost a whole century after the Balfour declaration, it is right that the UN shall start undoing the great injustice of Resolution 181,  which enabled the Nakba and has been the source of Palestine’s woes. Israel, which has fought this new resolution tooth and nail, aided and abetted by its partner in war crimes the US,  has actually made the passage of the resolution a certainty by its criminal attack on Gaza in Mid November, hence achieving exactly the opposite of its intended effect. The fight against the passing of this Resolution by Israeli and US politicians, including the miserable Obama II, proves how out of touch with reality they all are. Even the war criminal Olmert, responsible for 1440 death in Gaza in January 2009, has seen fit to give his blessing to this Resolution, which should tell us exactly how unimportant it is in real terms. This Resolution has mainly a symbolic role, and as such, it will be passed today by a great majority. The main benefit will be Palestine status thus achieved, which will allow it to prosecute Israeli war crimes through the international bodies such as the ICC. This shall send a shiver down the spine of Israeli war criminals, such as Peres, Barak, Netanyahu, Olmert, Livni and Peretz, not to mention the vegetating Sharon, who is now beyond the reach of international justice. It will be interesting to see what use Palestine PA politicians will make of this new option.

In another development, it became known that Stevie Wonder has cancelled his concert in Los Angeles for the supporters of the IDF, responsible for too many war crimes to enumerate here.  How the supporter of ANC and the struggle against apartheid has found himself supporting the IDF is a question he can best answer… At least, he saw fit to cancel as the petitions started flying. BDS works OK, and we need to intensify it a hundred-fold!

Germany backtracks on Palestinian bid; Israeli official: ‘We lost Europe’: Haaretz

Hours before the UN General Assembly vote, Germany decides to abstain, instead of voting against; Netanyahu says the decision will not advance the establishment of a Palestinian state.

By  | Nov.29, 2012 | 12:20 PM |  10

Palestinians attend a rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah

Palestinians attend a rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah supporting the resolution that would change the Palestinian Authority’s U.N. observer status from “entity” to “non-member state,” Today. Photo by Reuters

Reuters

Benjamin Netanyahu and Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Jerusalem, September 9, 2012. Photo by Reuters

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian people are enjoying sweeping support in the lead up to Thursday night’s vote at the UN General Assembly over whether to upgrade the Palestinians’ standing to non-member observer status. By Thursday morning Israel time, that support had turned into a full-on landslide, as more European nations decided to alter their positions, essentially leaving Israel to fend for itself.

Early Thursday morning, just hours before the vote — scheduled to take place around 11:00 P.M. (Israel time) — Germany changed its mind, deciding to abstain from voting rather than opposing the Palestinian initiative, as Israel had assumed it would.

“The decision wasn’t taken lightly,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said. “Germany shares the goal for a Palestinian state. We have campaigned for this in many ways, but the recent decisive steps towards real statehood can only be the result of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” the German official said.

The UN General Assembly is expected to pass a historic resolution recognizing Palestine within the 1967 borders as a non-member observer state.

At least 150 countries are expected to vote in favor of the resolution. In opposing the resolution, Israel is likely to find itself isolated with the United States, Canada, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and possibly the Czech Republic – although sources at the Foreign Ministry said Germany’s decision would likely affect the Czech vote as well.

This, in effect, leaves Israel without any European country supporting it at the international forum. Officials in Israel said that Germany’s decision was influenced by Britain. “Britain’s dramatic reversal prompted the Germans to change their mind,” a Foreign Ministry official said. “We lost Europe. More than half of its countries will vote with the Palestinians, and the rest will abstain.”

Bulgaria and Romania, with whom Israel has held intensive discussions in the last day, have also backtracked on their positions, as both intend to abstain. Belgium, meanwhile announced Thursday morning that it will vote in favor of the Palestinians. Belgium’s foreign minister Didier Reynders said his UN envoy will stress that his country urges the renewal of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Speaking in Jerusalem hours before the vote, Prime Minister Netanyahu said the UN General Assembly’s recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state “will not change anything on the ground.” Netanyahu denounced the international community and said that, “No matter how many fingers are raised against us, there is no power in the world that can force Israel to compromise on its security.”

Netanyahu said the decision will not advance the establishment of a Palestinian state, but rather push it farther away. “Israel’s hand is outstretched in peace, but a Palestinian state will not be formed without recognition of Israel as the Jewish state,” the prime minister said.

“A Palestinian state will not rise without declaring an end to the conflict and without security arrangements that protect Israel’s citizens. None of these issues are mentioned in the UN General Assembly decision. These are just some of the reasons why we are rejecting the proposed resolution.”

Netanyahu added: “Peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations without preconditions between the parties, and not through unilateral decisions made at the UN. I suggest we not pay heed to the applause at the UN. I remember when Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza received international applause; we got applause and then rockets. Israel withdrew from Gaza and Iran went in. The same exact thing happened when we left Lebanon. As prime minister, I will not allow the growth of another Iranian terror base in Judea and Samaria – the heart of the country – just a kilometer outside of central Jerusalem.”

People gather in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on November 29, 2012.
People gather in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on November 29, 2012.AFP

 

Palestinians set to win statehood recognition in UN vote: Guardian

West Bank officials hope for more than 130 yes votes in 193-nation general assembly, despite US and Israeli opposition

 

Mahmoud Abbas and Ban Ki-moon

Mahmoud Abbas with the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, in New York. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

The UN general assembly is set to implicitly recognise a sovereign state of Palestine on Thursday despite threats by the US and Israel to punish the Palestinian Authority by withholding much-needed funds for the West Bank government.

A resolution to change the Palestinian Authority’s UN observer status from “entity” to “non-member state,” like the Vatican, is expected to pass easily in the 193-nation general assembly. Israel, the US and a handful of other members plan to vote against what they see as a largely symbolic and counterproductive move by the Palestinians.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has led the campaign to win support for the resolution, and more than a dozen European governments have offered him their support.

The US state department said on Wednesday that the deputy secretary of state, Bill Burns, made a last-ditch effort to get Abbas to reconsider. The Palestinians gave no sign they were turning back.

Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, said on Wednesday that the US believed the Palestinian move was misguided and efforts should focus instead on reviving the stalled Middle East peace process. “The path to a two-state solution that fulfills the aspirations of the Palestinian people is through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not New York,” she said. “The only way to get a lasting solution is to commence direct negotiations.”

A state department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, reiterated US warnings that the move could lead to a reduction of economic support for the Palestinians. The Israelis have said they might take significant deductions out of monthly transfers of duties that Israel collects on the Palestinians’ behalf.

Granting Palestinians the title of “non-member observer state” falls short of full UN membership, something the Palestinians failed to achieve last year. But it would allow them access to the international criminal court and some other international bodies, should they choose to join them.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian Liberation Organisation official, told a news conference in Ramallah that “the Palestinians can’t be blackmailed all the time with money”.

“If Israel wants to destabilise the whole region, it can,” she said. “We are talking to the Arab world about their support, if Israel responds with financial measures, and the EU has indicated they will not stop their support to us.”

Peace talks have been stalled for two years, mainly over the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have expanded despite being deemed illegal by most of the world. In their draft resolution, the Palestinians have pledged to relaunch the peace process immediately following the UN vote.

As there is little doubt about how the US will vote, the PA has been concentrating its efforts on lobbying wealthy European states, diplomats say. With strong support from the developing world that makes up the majority of UN members, the Palestinian resolution is virtually assured of securing more than the requisite simple majority.

Abbas has been trying to amass as many European votes in favour as possible. As of Wednesday afternoon, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland had all pledged to support the resolution. Britain said it was prepared to vote yes, but only if the Palestinians fulfilled certain conditions.

Diplomats said the Czech Republic was expected to vote against the move, although other Europeans might join it. Germany said it could not support the Palestinian resolution, but left open the question of whether it would abstain, like Estonia and Lithuania, or vote no with the Czechs.

Ashrawi said the positive responses from European states were encouraging and sent a message of hope to all Palestinians. “This constitutes a historical turning point and opportunity for the world to rectify a grave historical injustice that the Palestinians have undergone since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948,” she said.

A strong backing from European nations could make it awkward for Israel to implement harsh retaliatory measures. Diplomats say Israel wants to avoid antagonising Europe. But Israel’s reaction might not be so measured if the Palestinians seek ICC action against Israel on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity or other crimes the court would have jurisdiction over.

Israel also seems wary of weakening the western-backed Abbas, especially after the political boost rival Hamas received from recent solidarity visits to Gaza by senior officials from Egypt, Qatar and Tunisia. Hamas militants, who control Gaza and have had icy relations with the PA in the West Bank, unexpectedly offered Abbas their support this week.

One western diplomat said the Palestinian move was almost an insult to the US president, Barack Obama. “It’s not the best way to convince Mr Obama to have a more positive approach toward the peace process,” a western diplomat planning to vote for the Palestinian resolution said. “Three weeks after his election, it’s basically a slap in the face.”

On November 29 Israel should vote for two states: Haaretz

An Israel that opposes the UN resolution is an Israel that wants to strengthen Hamas and a return of terror.

By  | Nov.29, 2012 | 1:27 AM

The writer Amos Oz recalls that day, 65 years ago, in his novel “A Tale of Love and Darkness”: “On Saturday morning, they said, the General Assembly would convene at a place called Lake Success and there they would determine our fate. ‘Who is for life and who for destruction,’ said Mr. Abramski.”

Abramski was right. If he were alive today, he would have similar things to say about want will happen tonight in the UN General Assembly. Who is for life and who for destruction. If Israel was a wise and reasonable country, it would have to join the family of nations this evening, not including Micronesia, and vote proudly for the completion of the previous vote on November 29: two states for two peoples. And if there were a real peace camp in Israel, its members would flock en masse to the tiny rally being held in front of Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, where this State of Israel was declared.

But Israel, as usual, says no. First, hurling childish threats, with unparalleled chutzpah, bullying and condescension: we’ll punish the Palestinian Authority; we’ll hit it in its pocket; we’ll build 3,000 apartments in the settlements. And now, in a weaker voice, we’re “lowering our profile.” And no is still no.

When Israel says no, what does it mean? That the talk of two states is one big fraud; that it simply doesn’t want peace; that the world can go jump in a lake; that the Palestinians are forbidden to fight for their freedom, either with weapons or with diplomacy; no to Hamas and no to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. No, and no. Jerusalem’s thousand nos.

Israel will say no tonight, not just to the Palestinians, but to the whole world, except its patron, the United States, which will apparently humiliate itself again and draw even more hatred by voting automatically with Israel. Most Israelis will not even ask themselves how we reached the point at which the entire world really is against us; whether, perhaps, Israel has some part in it, to which voting against the resolution will only add.

“The automatic majority,” as Israel disparagingly calls the sane majority in the United Nations, will vote for recognition of Palestine as a nonmember state. Because that is the right and necessary step to take; Israeli propagandizing word play will not help. “A unilateral step,” Israel, in its temerity, calls it, while Israel builds more and more settlements in a step that is anything but multilateral. “A breach of the Oslo Accords,” Israel accuses, although Israel never met its obligation for the “third phase,” which was to have transferred most of the West Bank to Palestinian control 15 years ago.

An Israel that opposes the UN resolution is an Israel that wants to strengthen Hamas and a return of terror. There is no other way to explain its intransigence. But of all its baseless and foolish reasons for its opposition, one stands out: the danger that, after their change of status in the UN, the Palestinians will supposedly appeal to the International Criminal Court in The Hague regarding the war crime of moving the population of the occupying state into the occupied territories.

What exactly is Israel afraid of? After all, Retired Justice Edmond Levy will make it alright. In fact, he already has: the committee he headed has already determined that there is no occupation at all and the settlements are completely kosher. And so what is there to fear? Could it be that despite the acclaimed Levy report, there is something to worry about? After all, the International Criminal Court fights war crimes and is esteemed by the whole world. On the contrary, let Israel send retired Justice Levy to that court to present Israel’s justified and persuasive arguments.

Mr. Abramski is long dead. So is Mrs. Tosia Krochmal, the neighbor of the young Amos on Amos Street in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kerem Avraham who, 65 years ago, brought the extension cord from the sewing machine in her husband’s doll hospital to the Lembergs’ house, so they could bring their heavy black radio out to their balcony, to hear the “voices of Lake Success.” This evening, no one will be listening to the radio. Israel will continue to bury its head in the sand, to disconnect from reality, to ignore the world, ignore justice and proclaim: No.

 

Open Letter to Stevie Wonder: BRICUP

Dear Stevie Wonder:

We’re in a state of shock. Can the Stevie Wonder who’s about to play a benefit performance for the Israel Defence Force be the same Stevie Wonder who got himself arrested protesting apartheid in South Africa? We’re looking at a newspaper report from 15 February 1985, with Stevie Wonder in police custody saying ‘I will become a conscientious criminal for world justice and against oppression, segregation and apartheid’. Can this be you?

We’re puzzled because we can’t understand how someone who was so active in the campaign against apartheid South Africa can think there’s no problem playing a benefit for the Friends of the Israel Defence Force.

When you sit down at the piano at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles on December 6, will you be able to put out of your mind baby Omar Mashhrawi, blasted to death on the first day of the Israeli army’s recent onslaught against the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip? His story, and that of his father, recounted here by the BBC, are very touching.

When Omar was born, racism and discrimination against Palestinians were already major factors in his life, since the entire Gaza Strip has been under siege, blockade and bombardment by the Israeli army for the past five years. And, like most people in Gaza, Omar was born a refugee, his grandparents driven out of the Palestinian towns and villages that became Israel in 1948. Driven out by whom? By the army you’re helping to raise money for.

How can you do it, Stevie Wonder? The same people you supported in South Africa are now calling for boycott action against what they are clear is an apartheid regime against the Palestinians. Archbishop-emeritus Desmond Tutu says, ‘I have visited the Occupied Palestinian territories, and have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinians at Israeli military checkpoints…the inhumanity that won’t let ambulances reach the injured, or children attend school. This treatment is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled by the security forces of the apartheid government.’ In May, Tutu told a US newspaper, ‘The harsh reality endured by millions of Palestinians requires people of conscience to divest.’

Stevie Wonder, we’re asking you to divest yourself of your commitment to play this benefit, which is described by its organiser as an ‘opportunity to thank the soldiers who defend the State’. If you go, you’ll be helping to celebrate a state based on the

subjugation and dispossession of the Palestinians. again. Please don’t play.

Yours sincerely,
Professor Haim Bresheeth Mike Cushman
Professor Adah Kay
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead

Source: Stevie Wonder to cancel Friends of IDF gig: JTA

November 28, 2012
(JTA) — Stevie Wonder is set to pull out of a performance at a fundraiser for the Israel Defense Forces,  a source told JTA.

Wonder’s representatives will claim that he did not know the nature of the group, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and that he believes such a performance would be incongruent with his status as a U.N. “Messenger of Peace,” according to a source who has read email exchanges between Wonder’s representatives and organizers of the event.

Wonder was scheduled to headline the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces annual gala in Los Angeles on Dec. 6. The event raises millions of dollars annually to support the Israeli military.

An official of Friends of the IDF, reached at its Los Angeles office, had no comment. Wonder’s agent at Creative Artists Agency did not return a request for comment.

The spokesman for the U.N. Secretary General also had no comment on the matter.

The United Nations does not impose restrictions on its goodwill representatives. Wonder most recently performed at a U.N. concert commemoratiing its 67th anniversary. Elie Wiesel, the Nobele Peace Laureate and Holocaust memoirist who is also a staunch defender of Israel is also a U.N. Messenger of Peace.

Wonder had come under intense social media pressure to pull out of the event. An online petition calling on him to cancel his performance had garnered more than 3,600 signatures.

The petition was launched more than a day ago on the change.org website.

“You were arrested in 1985 protesting South African Apartheid, now we ask you: please remember that apartheid is apartheid, whether it comes from White Afrikaaner settlers of South Africa or from Jewish Israelis in Israel,” the petition reads. “Desmond Tutu has recognized that Israel’s Apartheid is worse than South Africa’s — will you stand with us against apartheid and cancel your performance at the IDF fundraiser.”

A second petition, launched by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, calls on Wonder to “(p)lease continue your legacy of speaking out for the oppressed. Please be a ‘full-time lover’ of justice by standing on the right side of history and canceling your performance for the Israeli army.”

Wonder performed at a 1998 gala honoring Israel’s 50th anniversary.

Stevie Wonder to pull out of IDF fundraiser: Haaretz

Representatives for Wonder, who performed at a 1998 gala honoring Israel’s 50th anniversary, say the performance would be incongruent with his status as a UN ‘Messenger of Peace.’

By JTA | Nov.29, 2012 | 8:59 AM |  12

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder Photo by AP

Stevie Wonder is set to pull out of a performance at a fundraiser for the Israel Defense Forces, a source told JTA.

Wonder’s representatives will claim that he did not know the nature of the group, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and that he believes such a performance would be incongruent with his status as a UN “Messenger of Peace,” according to a source who has read email exchanges between Wonder’s representatives and organizers of the event.

Wonder was scheduled to headline the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces annual gala in Los Angeles on Dec. 6. The event raises millions of dollars annually to support the Israeli military.

An official of Friends of the IDF, reached at its Los Angeles office, had no comment. Wonder’s agent at Creative Artists Agency did not return a request for comment.

The spokesman for the UN Secretary General also had no comment on the matter.

The United Nations does not impose restrictions on its goodwill representatives. Wonder most recently performed at a UN concert commemorating its 67th anniversary. Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Laureate and Holocaust memoirist who is also a staunch defender of Israel is also a UN Messenger of Peace.

Wonder had come under intense social media pressure to pull out of the event. An online petition calling on him to cancel his performance had garnered more than 3,600 signatures.

The petition was launched more than a day ago on the change.org website.

“You were arrested in 1985 protesting South African Apartheid, now we ask you: please remember that apartheid is apartheid, whether it comes from White Afrikaaner settlers of South Africa or from Jewish Israelis in Israel,” the petition reads. “Desmond Tutu has recognized that Israel’s Apartheid is worse than South Africa’s — will you stand with us against apartheid and cancel your performance at the IDF fundraiser.”

A second petition, launched by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, calls on Wonder to “(p)lease continue your legacy of speaking out for the oppressed. Please be a ‘full-time lover’ of justice by standing on the right side of history and canceling your performance for the Israeli army.”

Wonder performed at a 1998 gala honoring Israel’s 50th anniversary.

What Palestinian statehood means for ICC jurisdiction over Israeli crimes: 972mag

The Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN has Israel especially worried about one implication from the move – Israeli conduct on Palestinian territory becoming subject to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

By Noam Wiener

Tomorrow is November 29, a day that in my childhood memories is associated with a static recording reading: “Afghanistan, no; Argentina, abstain; Australia, yes” and with black and white photos of people dancing in circles in the streets of Tel Aviv following the approval of the Partition Plan for Palestine.  But children today will have a different memory. Obviously many Israeli opinion makers do not like to be reminded that the state they live in was conceived alongside what was meant to be a state on land Israel has been occupying for the past 45 years. But the Palestinian Authority’s request from the UN General Assembly to recognize it as a non-member state creates further concerns for the Israeli political and media establishment on this special date.

This piece will be limited to one of the key issues relating to the Palestinian bid for statehood – its ability, should the bid be accepted, to join the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC was created in 1998 as a court with the authority to try individuals – as opposed to states – who commit international crimes (including the crime of aggression, genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes).

Most international institutions do not have universal authority and can only exercise power over individuals from member states who chose to join the organization. The ICC is different. The ICC has jurisdiction over crimes committed by individuals, be they citizens of member states or otherwise, if these crimes were committed in the territory of a member state. This means, for example, that if a citizen of the United States (not an ICC member), commits an international crime on French soil (an ICC member), the ICC will have jurisdiction over that individual even though the U.S. never consented to ICC jurisdiction. This seemingly imperial power over a non-member state does not seem so unusual, however, when we remember that if a U.S. citizen commits any sort of crime in France, French courts have authority to try that individual by virtue of France’s territorial sovereignty. Thus, the ICC only follows the territorial jurisdiction of the member states.

Israeli officials find the ICC’s jurisdiction worrisome in relation to the Palestinian bid for recognition as a state.  As long as Palestine is not a state, it cannot become a member of the ICC, and Israeli conduct on Palestinian territory is not subject to ICC jurisdiction (unless the UN Security Council refers the matter to the to the ICC, or Israel joins the ICC – both unlikely events in the foreseeable future). Palestine’s “non-state” status is the reason the Palestinian bid for ICC investigation in 2009 was rejected last April by the ICC Prosecutor. But if Palestine gains recognition as a state from the members of the UN, it could then ask to join the ICC, and then international crimes committed in its territory could be subject to ICC jurisdiction.

Notably, this does not mean that we will be seeing Israeli generals and politicians hauled off to The Hague on November 30. The ICC gains jurisdiction only prospectively, so alleged crimes committed before the new member joined are not subject to ICC investigation. Second, the ICC would only have jurisdiction over crimes committed on Palestinian sovereign territory, but where that territory starts and ends is entirely unclear and will doubtlessly be subject to prolonged legal wrangling. Third, even if alleged crimes have been committed (and this needs to be investigated on a case by case basis), because of the ICC complementarity regime (on which I have already commented in +972), the Prosecutor will only investigate cases that Israel has itself neglected to investigate. Finally, the Prosecutor will only apply his or her very limited resources to those cases considered to be the most grievous violations of international law. As inhumane as the occupation of Palestine is, even if the Prosecutor is convinced that specific crimes have been committed in the occupied territories, it is unclear whether he or she will also think that these crimes are grave enough to warrant her attention in light of other instances of international crimes committed around the world.

Despite these four caveats, Israel’s leaders are right to be worried about potential ICC investigations into Israeli conduct in the occupied territories. The mere launch of an investigation against Israeli leaders could turn them into diplomatic pariahs. But the best means to avoid this is, of course, to refrain from committing crimes, rather than to avoid being investigated for them. And more important still, to acknowledge the Palestinian right to statehood, so that November 29 can be celebrated as the day the right of both Palestinians and Israelis – to live as free and sovereign peoples – was recognized.

Noam Wiener is an Israeli doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan Law School. His research focuses on international criminal law.

Students in solidarity with Palestine: NUS condemns Israel’s siege on Gaza

The National Union of Students – which represents 7 million students in Britain – today made the landmark decision to “condemn and call for an immediate end to the siege on Gaza” by a unanimous vote of the NUS National Executive Council.

This huge breakthrough comes after years of campaigning within the NUS to shift its position.

Proposer of the Emergency Motion entitled ‘Israel’s assault on Gaza must end’, Aaron Kiely, NUS Black Students’ Officer said:

 

“Today’s decision by the NUS NEC to support Palestinian human rights is a massive step forward for our national union.

I am proud that the British student movement is united in fiercely condemning Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza which resulted in the killing of over 150 Palestinians, injured more than 900 Palestinians and killed 5 Israelis.

The ceasefire brokered by Egypt is very welcome indeed.

But we must remember that Israel’s aggression against the Palestinians in Gaza continues as we speak. The siege on Gaza, now in its 5th year, is nothing less than collective punishment of the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped on a tiny piece of land, in what the United Nations describes as “an open air prison.”

Today, for the first time, NUS has sided with peace and justice by voting to condemn and call for an immediate end to the siege on Gaza after 5 years of sitting on the fence.

We must build on this decision moving forward, and continue to show our solidarity with the Palestinian people until this siege is lifted, the occupation ended and justice is achieved.”

 

Full text of the Emergency Motion ‘Israel’s assault on Gaza must end’

NUS NEC believes:

1. Israel launched a military assault on Gaza, starting on Wednesday 14 November.

2. Israel’s assault has caused hundreds of casualties, including 19 Palestinians deaths, 6 of who were children and 3 Israeli deaths.

3. At the time of writing (Friday 16 November, 11am) there were numerous threats from the Israeli government and military to launch a ground invasion of Gaza. Such an escalation will lead to more casualties, death and destruction.

NUS NEC further believes:

1. The blockade of Gaza which has been imposed by Israel for 5 years, was recently described by United Nations Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator as “an open air prison”.

2. The British Prime Minister David Cameron stated in July 2010 that the “people in Gaza are living under constant attacks and pressures in an open air prison.”

 

NUS NEC Resolves:

1. To condemn and call for an immediate end to Israel’s air strikes on Gaza and the killings of Palestinians.

2. To call for an immediate ceasefire.

3. To condemn and call for an immediate end to the siege on Gaza.

The following final resolves was removed by a majority of votes:

4. To encourage students to join the peaceful protests organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign against Israel’s assault on Gaza.

 

Why Israel Didn’t Win: London Review of Books

Adam Shatz, November 23

 

The ceasefire agreed by Israel and Hamas in Cairo after eight days of fighting is merely a pause in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It promises to ease movement at all border crossings with the Gaza Strip, but will not lift the blockade. It requires Israel to end its assault on the Strip, and Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets at southern Israel, but it leaves Gaza as miserable as ever: according to a recent UN report, the Strip will be ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020. And this is to speak only of Gaza. How easily one is made to forget that Gaza is only a part – a very brutalised part – of the ‘future Palestinian state’ that once seemed inevitable, and which now seems to exist mainly in the lullabies of Western peace processors. None of the core issues of the Israel-Palestine conflict – the Occupation, borders, water rights, repatriation and compensation of refugees – is addressed by this agreement.

The fighting will erupt again, because Hamas will come under continued pressure from its members and from other militant factions, and because Israel has never needed much pretext to go to war. In 1982, it broke its ceasefire with Arafat’s PLO and invaded Lebanon, citing the attempted assassination of its ambassador to London, even though the attack was the work of Arafat’s sworn enemy, the Iraqi agent Abu Nidal. In 1996, during a period of relative calm, it assassinated Hamas’s bomb-maker Yahya Ayyash, the ‘Engineer’, leading Hamas to strike back with a wave of suicide attacks in Israeli cities. When, a year later, Hamas proposed a thirty-year hudna, or truce, Binyamin Netanyahu dispatched a team of Mossad agents to poison the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Amman; under pressure from Jordan and the US, Israel was forced to provide the antidote, and Meshaal is now the head of Hamas’s political bureau – and an ally of Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi.

Operation Pillar of Defence, Israel’s latest war, began just as Hamas was cobbling together an agreement for a long-term ceasefire. Its military commander, Ahmed al-Jabari, was assassinated only hours after he reviewed the draft proposal. Netanyahu and his defence minister, Ehud Barak, could have had a ceasefire – probably on more favourable terms – without the deaths of more than 160 Palestinians and five Israelis, but then they would have missed a chance to test their new missile defence shield, Iron Dome, whose performance was Israel’s main success in the war. They would also have missed a chance to remind the people of Gaza of their weakness in the face of Israeli military might. The destruction in Gaza was less extensive than it had been in Operation Cast Lead, but on this occasion too the aim, as Gilad Sharon, Ariel’s son, put it in theJerusalem Post, was to send out ‘a Tarzan-like cry that lets the entire jungle know in no uncertain terms just who won, and just who was defeated’.

Victory in war is not measured solely in terms of body counts, however. And the ‘jungle’ – the Israeli word not just for the Palestinians but for the Arabs as a whole – may have the last laugh. Not only did Hamas put up a better fight than it had in the last war, it averted an Israeli ground offensive, won implicit recognition as a legitimate actor from the United States (which helped to broker the talks in Cairo), and achieved concrete gains, above all an end to targeted assassinations and the easing of restrictions on the movement of people and the transfer of goods at the crossings. There was no talk in Cairo, either, of the Quartet Principles requiring Hamas to renounce violence, recognise Israel and adhere to past agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority: a symbolic victory for Hamas, but not a small one. And the Palestinians were not the only Arabs who could claim victory in Cairo. In diplomatic terms, the end of fighting under Egyptian mediation marked the dawn of a new Egypt, keen to reclaim the role that it lost when Sadat signed a separate peace with Israel. ‘Egypt is different from yesterday,’ Morsi warned Israel on the first day of the war. ‘We assure them that the price will be high for continued aggression.’ He underscored this point by sending his prime minister, Hesham Kandil, to Gaza the following day. While refraining from incendiary rhetoric, Morsi made it plain that Israel could not depend on Egyptian support for its attack on Gaza, as it had when Mubarak was in power, and would only have itself to blame if the peace treaty were jeopardised. After all, he has to answer to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s parent organisation, and to the Egyptian people, who are overwhelmingly hostile to Israel. The Obama administration, keen to preserve relations with Egypt, got the message, and so apparently did Israel. Morsi proved that he could negotiate with Israel without ‘selling out the resistance’, in Meshaal’s words. Internationally, it was his finest hour, though Egyptians may remember it as the prelude to his move a day after the ceasefire to award himself far-reaching executive powers that place him above any law.

That Netanyahu stopped short of a ground war, and gave in to key demands at the Cairo talks, is an indication not only of Egypt’s growing stature, but of Israel’s weakened position. Its relations with Turkey, once its closest ally in the region and the pillar of its ‘doctrine of the periphery’ (a strategy based on alliances with non-Arab states) have deteriorated with the rise of Erdogan and the AKP. The Jordanian monarchy, the second Arab government to sign a peace treaty with Israel, is facing increasingly radical protests. And though Israel may welcome the fall of Assad, an ally of Hizbullah and Iran, it is worried that a post-Assad government, dominated by the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brothers, may be no less hostile to the occupying power in the Golan: the occasional rocket fire from inside Syria in recent days has been a reminder for Israel of how quiet that border was under the Assad family. Israeli leaders lamented for years that theirs was the only democracy in the region. What this season of revolts has revealed is that Israel had a very deep investment in Arab authoritarianism. The unravelling of the old Arab order, when Israel could count on the quiet complicity of Arab big men who satisfied their subjects with flamboyant denunciations of Israeli misdeeds but did little to block them, has been painful for Israel, leaving it feeling lonelier than ever. It is this acute sense of vulnerability, even more than Netanyahu’s desire to bolster his martial credentials before the January elections, that led Israel into war.

Chicago University Press - The Holocaust as Culture by Imre Kertesz

Hamas, meanwhile, has been buoyed by the same regional shifts, particularly the triumph of Islamist movements in Tunisia and Egypt: Hamas, not Israel, has been ‘normalised’ by the Arab uprisings. Since the flotilla affair, it has developed a close relationship with Turkey, which is keen to use the Palestinian question to project its influence in the Arab world. It also took the risk of breaking with its patrons in Syria: earlier this year, Khaled Meshaal left Damascus for Doha, while his number two, Mousa Abu Marzook, set himself up in Cairo. Since then, Hamas has thrown in its lot with the Syrian uprising, distanced itself from Iran, and found new sources of financial and political support in Qatar, Egypt and Tunisia. It has circumvented the difficulties of the blockade by turning the tunnels into a lucrative source of revenue and worked, with erratic success, to impose discipline on Islamic Jihad and other militant factions in the Strip. The result has been growing regional prestige, and a procession of high-profile visitors, including the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who came to Gaza three weeks before the war and promised $400 million dollars to build housing and repair roads. The emir did not make a similar trip to Ramallah.

Hamas’s growing clout has not gone unnoticed in Tel Aviv: cutting Hamas down to size was surely one of its war aims. If Israel were truly interested in achieving a peaceful settlement on the basis of the 1967 borders – parameters which Hamas has accepted – it might have tried to strengthen Abbas by ending settlement activity, and by supporting, or at least not opposing, his bid for non-member observer status for Palestine at the UN. Instead it has done its utmost to sabotage his UN initiative (with the robust collaboration of the Obama administration), threatening to build more settlements if he persists: such, Hamas has been only too happy to point out, are the rewards for non-violent Palestinian resistance. Operation Pillar of Defence will further undermine Abbas’s already fragile standing in the West Bank, where support for Hamas has never been higher.

Hardly had the ceasefire come into effect than Israel raided the West Bank to round up more than fifty Hamas supporters, while Netanyahu warned that Israel ‘might be compelled to embark’ on ‘a much harsher military operation’. (Avigdor Lieberman, his foreign minister, is said to have pushed for a ground war.) After all, Israel has a right to defend itself. This is what the Israelis say and what the Israel lobby says, along with much of the Western press, including the New York Times. In an editorial headed ‘Hamas’s Illegitimacy’ – a curious phrase, since Hamas only seized power in Gaza after winning a majority in the 2006 parliamentary elections – the Times accused Hamas of attacking Israel because it is ‘consumed with hatred for Israel’. The Times didn’t mention that Hamas’s hatred might have been stoked by a punishing economic blockade. It didn’t mention that between the start of the year and the outbreak of this war, 78 Palestinians in Gaza had been killed by Israeli fire, as against a single Israeli in all of Hamas’s notorious rocket fire. Or – until the war started – that this had been a relatively peaceful year for the miserable Strip, where nearly three thousand Palestinians have been killed by Israel since 2006, as against 47 Israelis by Palestinian fire.

Those who invoke Israel’s right to defend itself are not troubled by this disparity in casualties, because the unspoken corollary is that Palestinians do not have the same right. If they dare to exercise this non-right, they must be taught a lesson. ‘We need to flatten entire neighbourhoods in Gaza,’ Gilad Sharon wrote in the Jerusalem Post. ‘Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki too.’ Israel shouldn’t worry about innocent civilians in Gaza, he said, because there are no innocent civilians in Gaza: ‘They elected Hamas … they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.’ Such language would be shocking were it not so familiar: in Israel the rhetoric of righteous victimhood has merged with the belligerent rhetoric – and the racism – of the conqueror. Sharon’s Tarzan allusion is merely a variation on Barak’s description of Israel as a villa in the jungle; his invocation of nuclear war reminds us that in 2008, the deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai proposed ‘a bigger holocaust’ if Gaza continued to resist.

But the price of war is higher for Israel than it was during Cast Lead, and its room for manoeuvre more limited, because the Jewish state’s only real ally, the American government, has to maintain good relations with Egypt and other democratically elected Islamist governments. During the eight days of Pillar of Defence, Israel put on an impressive and deadly fireworks show, as it always does, lighting up the skies of Gaza and putting out menacing tweets straight from The Sopranos. But the killing of entire families and the destruction of government buildings and police stations, far from encouraging Palestinians to submit, will only fortify their resistance, something Israel might have learned by consulting the pages of recent Jewish history. The Palestinians understand that they are no longer facing Israel on their own: Israel, not Hamas, is the region’s pariah. The Arab world is changing, but Israel is not. Instead, it has retreated further behind Jabotinsky’s ‘iron wall’, deepening its hold on the Occupied Territories, thumbing its nose at a region that is at last acquiring a taste of its own power, exploding in spasms of high-tech violence that fail to conceal its lack of a political strategy to end the conflict. Iron Dome may shield Israel from Qassam rockets, but it won’t shield it from the future.

Palestinian UN status vote more than symbolic?: BBC

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, right, meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN's headquarters in New York, 28 November 2012Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian application for full UN membership faced US opposition last year

The UN General Assembly is set to upgrade the Palestinians’ status to that of “non-member observer state”. The BBC’s Barbara Plett at the UN headquarters in New York asks whether the move is more than symbolic.

With Hamas claiming a victory for its military strategy during this month’s eight-day conflict with Israel in Gaza, the Palestinian president is hoping for a diplomatic victory at the United Nations.

It is the second time around – last year Mahmoud Abbas applied for full UN membership, but that got bogged down at the Security Council amid opposition from the United States.

This time he is asking the General Assembly for a lesser upgrade, from “observer” to “non-member observer” state, like the Vatican.

This is a largely symbolic move. But the Palestinian leadership argues that at least it will define the territory it wants for a state, which is being eroded by aggressive Israeli settlement building, and grant it formal recognition.

The Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour described the move as “a very important step to save the two-state solution”.

Raised stakes

There is no doubt the Palestinian Authority has enough support to win the vote, because of strong sympathy from the post-colonial nations which dominate the General Assembly.

But it faces significant opposition from Israel and its powerful US ally – they say a Palestinian state should emerge only out of direct negotiations, without reference to the UN.

The Israelis have branded the move a violation of the Oslo Peace Accords, which charts a bilateral route to peace, and the Americans fear the bid will severely complicate any attempt to return to peace talks despite Palestinian vows to do just that.

Perhaps the greater fear is that the Palestinians will use their new status as observer state to join the International Criminal Court and try to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes in the Occupied Territories.

Alongside the US, European countries, especially the UK, have been pressing the Palestinian Authority for assurances that it will not take this path.

The PA has made clear this approach will not be its priority but has so far refused to relinquish the option.

It would have been difficult for Mr Abbas to make such a concession to the West under any circumstances, but events back home have raised the stakes.

Hamas has gained in Palestinian eyes by confronting Israel (and its Western backers) in the recent Gaza offensive aimed at stopping Palestinian rocket-fire – and not losing. It even achieved some dividends.

Arab foreign ministers flocked to Gaza to demonstrate solidarity, while Egypt mediated a ceasefire that included provisions to ease Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas remained side-lined in Ramallah, with nothing to show for his moderate policies.

But the Arabs insist their support for the Palestinian president and his UN bid is just as strong, and they stand ready to provide him with material help should he need it.

That “includes financial and economic assistance to mitigate any negative economic effects of the decision”, said Egypt’s UN ambassador Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil, noting Israeli and US threats to cut finances to the PA.

Reality on the ground

Israeli foreign ministry documents had warned that Israel might go further by nullifying the Oslo Accords – they even suggested toppling Mr Abbas.

But as the vote approaches Israel has moderated its tone – officials now say they’ll wait to see how the Palestinians use their new status.

“If they use this resolution as a platform for confrontation, we will have to act accordingly,” a spokeswoman told the French news agency AFP.

Strong European support could also help temper reactions. It would certainly strengthen the diplomatic clout of the bid.

The European Union is split but so far more than a dozen countries have said they will vote yes, some partly motivated by the desire to give Mr Abbas a diplomatic achievement to counter the rise of Hamas.

He will need more than that.

Regardless of what the Palestinian president achieves on paper at the UN, when the celebrations are over he will have to revise a political strategy that has so far failed to translate the Palestinian dream of statehood into a reality on the ground.

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