Freedom Flotilla

February 2, 2011

BREAKING NEWS!!!

Clashes rage in Tahrir Square: Al Jazeera online

At least one dead and hundreds injured as pro-Mubarak supporters attack protesters seeking his ouster in central Cairo.

Clashes have broken out between pro- and anti-government demonstrators in the Egyptian capital Cairo.

Protesters from both sides threw stones at each other in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of ongoing opposition demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak for the past nine days

The health ministry said at least one person had been killed and another 400 injured in Wednesday’s violence.

Al Jazeera correspondents, reporting from the scene, said clashes were still raging and that petrol bombs were being hurled.

Earlier, witnesses said the military allowed thousands of pro-Mubarak supporters, armed with sticks and knives, to enter the square. Opposition groups said Mubarak had sent in thugs to suppress anti-government protests.

One of our correspondents said the army seemed to be standing by and facilitating the clashes. Latest reports suggest that the centre of the square is still in control of the protesters, despite the pro-Mubarak supporters gaining ground.

‘Absolute mayhem’

Witnesses also said that pro-Mubarak supporters were dragging away protesters they had managed to grab and handing them over to security forces.

Salma Eltarzi, an anti-government protester, told Al Jazeera there were hundreds of wounded people.

“There are no ambulances in sight, and all we are using is Dettol,” she said. “We are all so scared.”

Aisha Hussein, a nurse, said dozens of people were being treated at a makeshift clinic in a mosque near the square.

She described a scene of “absolute mayhem”, as protesters first began to flood into the clinic.

“People are coming in with multiple wounds. All kinds of contusions. We had one guy who needed stitches in two places on his face. Some have broken bones.”

Meanwhile, another Al Jazeera correspondent said men on horseback and camels had ploughed into the crowds, as army personnel stood by.

At least six riders were dragged from their beasts, beaten with sticks by the protesters and taken away with blood streaming down their faces.

One of them was dragged away unconscious, with large blood stains on the ground at the site of the clash.

The worst of the fighting was just outside the world famous Egyptian Museum, which was targeted by looters last week.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent added that several a group of pro-government protesters took over army vehicles. They also took control of a nearby building and used the rooftop to throw concrete blocks, stones, and other objects.

Soldiers surrounding the square took cover from flying stones, and the windows of at least one army truck were broken. Some troops stood on tanks and appealed for calm but did not otherwise intervene.

Many of the pro-Mubarak supporters raised slogans like “Thirty Years of Stability, Nine Days of Anarchy”.

Al Jazeera’s online producer in Cairo said rocks were continously being thrown from both sides. He said that though the army had put up barricades around the square, they let the pro-Mubarak supporters through.

“The people on horses are pro-Mubarak supporters, they are a very angry crowd looking for anyone working for Al Jazeera and for Americans. They are trying to get on the other side of the army tanks to get to the anti-Mubarak supporters. More and more pro-Mubarak supporters are coming in.”

Violence

Al Jazeera’s Jane Dutton, also in Cairo, said that security guards have also been seen amongst the pro-Mubarak supporters, and it may be a precursor to the feared riot police arriving on the scene.

Dutton added that a journalist with the Al-Arabiya channel was stabbed during the clashes.

Fighting took place around army tanks deployed around the square, with stones bouncing off the armoured vehicles.

Several groups were involved in fist fights, and some were using clubs.  The opposition also said many among the pro-Mubarak crowd were policemen in plain clothes.

“But we will not leave … Everybody stay put”

Khalil, anti-government protester

“Members of security forces dressed in plain clothes and a number of thugs have stormed Tahrir Square,” three opposition groups said in a statement.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent opposition figure, accused Mubarak of resorting to scare tactics. Opposition groups have reportedly also seized police identification cards amongst the pro-Mubarak demonstrators.

“I’m extremely concerned, I mean this is yet another symptom, or another indication, of a criminal regime using criminal acts,” ElBaradei said.

“My fear is that it will turn into a bloodbath,” he added, calling the pro-Mubarak supporters a “bunch of thugs”.

But according to state television, the minister of interior denied that plain clothes police had joined pro-Mubarak demonstrations.

Elbaradei has also urged the army to intervene.

“I ask the army to intervene to protect Egyptian lives,” he told Al Jazeera, adding he said it should intervene “today” and not remain neutral.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, told Al Jazeera that the clashes look to be orchestrated.

“It is not the first time the Mubarak government has provoked clashes to quell protests, but if it truly is orchestrated, this is a cynical and bloody approach,” she said.

“The army look to be not intervening at all, and the question remains as to whether they have been ordered not to step in.”

The army has told state television that citizens should arrest those who have stolen military clothing, and to hand them over.

Determined protesters

Despite the clashes, anti-government protesters seeking Mubarak’s immediate resignation said they would not give up until Mubarak steps down.

Pro-Mubarak supporters came riding on camels and horses [Al Jazeera/online producer]
Khalil, in his 60s and holding a stick, blamed Mubarak supporters and undercover security for the clashes.

“But we will not leave,” he told Reuters. “Everybody stay put.”

Mohammed el-Belgaty, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, told Al Jazeera the “peaceful demonstrations in Tahrir Square have been turned into chaos”.

“The speech delivered by President Mubarak was very provocative as he used very sentimental words.

“Since morning, hundreds of these paid thugs started to demonstrate pretending to be supporting the President. Now they came to charge inside Tahrir Square armed with batons, sticks and some knives.

“Mubarak is asking the people to choose between him or chaos.”

Ahead of Wednesday’s clashes, supporters of the president staged a number of rallies around Cairo, saying Mubarak represented stability amid growing insecurity, and calling those who want his departure “traitors.”

“Yes to Mubarak, to protect stability,” read one banner in a crowd of 500 gathered near state television headquarters, about 1km from Tahrir Square.

A witness said organisers were paying people $17, to take part in the pro-Mubarak rally, a claim that could not be confirmed.

Other pro-Mubarak demonstrations occurred in the Mohandeseen district, as well as near Ramses Square.

EDITOR: The Dictator totters at last!

Now the that the US president has abandoned his pet, it seems the Egyptian tyrant is loosing some of his venom, but non of his self-deceit. While he now ‘agrees to to stand again’ in September, it is clear that this malignant politician will have to leave now, rather than to torment the Egyptians for another period of madness.

Last night, in a mad scramble to stick to his seat, he even sent a rent-a-crowd to chant “we want Mubarak” at Tahrir Square, as if this was going to fool anyone… He is definitely on his way out now.

Hosni Mubarak vows to stand down at next election – but not now: The Guardian

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s announcement that he will serve out remaining term immediately rejected by angry crowds

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak said: ‘I will die on the soil of Egypt and be judged by history.’ Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
Egypt’s embattled president, Hosni Mubarak, last night bowed to the pressure of millions of people massing on the streets, pledging to step down at the next election and pave the way for a new leader of the Arab world’s largest country.

But Barack Obama, who effectively withdrew US support for the leader of its key Arab ally in a day of fast moving developments, gave an equivocal welcome to the speech by saying that “change must begin now” while praising the “passion and dignity” of the demonstrators in the streets as an inspiration.

Mubarak said he would not be a candidate for a seventh term but would remain in power to oversee reform and guarantee stability – a position that was immediately rejected by angry crowds and promised yet more drama in Egypt’s extraordinary crisis.

“In the few months remaining in my current term I will work towards ensuring a peaceful transition of power,” Mubarak said. “I have exhausted my life in serving Egypt and my people. I will die on the soil of Egypt and be judged by history” – a clear reference to the fate of Tunisia’s president who fled into exile last month.

Looking grave as he spoke on state TV in front of the presidential seal, Mubarak attacked those responsible for protests that had been “manipulated by political forces”, caused mayhem and chaos and endangered the “stability of the nation”.

In a defiant, finger-wagging performance the 82-year-old said he was always going to quit in September – ” a position he had never made public until now.

Opposition leaders had already warned throughout a dramatic eighth day of mass protests that only Mubarak’s immediate departure would satisfy them.

The Egyptian leader made his announcement after meeting a White House special envoy who conveyed the message that Washington had in effect withdrawn US support for the man who had been the linchpin of its Middle East strategy.

The White House declined to reveal details of the message conveyed by the envoy, Frank Wisner, a former US ambassador to Cairo who is close to Mubarak other than to say he urged him not to seek re-election. But after the Egyptian leader’s speech, Obama spoke to Mubarak for 30 minutes and then made a statement at the White House in which he praised the protesters and called for the transition of power to begin immediately.

But the US president did not explicitly call for Mubarak to resign immediately, leaving open the possibility of Washington accepting the Egyptian leader overseeing the transition in the face of unprecedented protests and an insistence by opposition leaders that they would not negotiate while Mubarak remains in power.

“What is clear, and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak, is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now,” said Obama.

“Furthermore the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties. It should lead to elections that are free and fair.”

But in Washington and Cairo there were questions over the Obama administration’s position with some Americanpoliticians, such as John Kerry, chairman of the Senate’s foreign affairs committee, saying Mubarak must resign immediately.

Certainly many Egyptians want that. “May it be tonight, oh God,” chanted the crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square as they waited to hear the historic speech.

Mubarak’s statement came at the end of a day that saw epic protests. Millions of people rallied across the country.

“Illegitimate,” chanted the vast crowds choking Tahrir Square. “He [Mubarak] will leave, we will not leave,” went another slogan, in a festive atmosphere that belied the tense stalemate that has emerged between the people and the regime over an extraordinary 48 hours.

With the army standing by its landmark pledge not to use force against demonstrators, Mubarak faced an intense and co-ordinated US campaign to persuade him and the powerful Egyptian military to effect “an orderly transition”.

But as troops barricaded the presidential palace with barbed wire, Egypt’s fractured opposition rallied together to reject any talks with the ruling National Democratic party on political reform, insisting the president must stand down before any dialogue can get under way.

On Monday, Mubarak ordered his new vice-president and intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, to begin a dialogue with opposition groups, including the powerful Muslim Brotherhood. “Omar Suleiman approached us, and we have rejected his approaches,” Essam el-Arian, a Brotherhood spokesman, told the Guardian. “As long as Mubarak delays his departure, these protests will remain and they will only get bigger.”

Mohammed ElBaradei, 68, the former UN nuclear weapons inspector who has been nominated to lead any negotiations, met protesters and the US ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, insisting afterwards that no talks were possible while the president remained in power.

“I hope to see Egypt peaceful and that’s going to require as a first step the departure of President Mubarak,” he told al-Arabiya TV. “If President Mubarak leaves then everything else will progress correctly.”Mass protests were reported across Egypt, including in Alexandria, Suez and many other cities.

Underlining the regional impact of the crisis, the Jordanian prime minister was sacked after weeks of protests over price rises and unemployment and inspired by events in Tunisia and now Egypt.

The Foreign Office said in a statement last night: “We have been clear in public, and with President Mubarak and his government in private, about the need for a transition to a broader-based government that will produce real, visible and comprehensive change.”

William Hague, the foreign secretary, said a charter flight would be sent to Cairo to bring Britons back but they would have to pay £300 for the service.

Hiding behind the tanks, by Carlos Latuff

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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 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.

Click here to continue reading “January 26, 2011″ »

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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 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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January 21, 2011

EDITOR: The western hypocrisy

The whole world seems to know and care about ONE Israeli soldier caught by Hamas in Gaza few years ago. None of those humanists actually knows or cares at all about the many Palestinian political prisoners – more than 10,000 of them – who are languishing in Israeli jails for many years. One Israeli Jew is obviously more important than ten thousand Palestinians.

Palestinian protesters block France FM from entering Gaza: Haaretz

Demonstrators say infuriated over comments by Michele Alliot-Marie in support of Gilad Shalit; member of Alliot-Marie’s entourage hit in the head.

Hamas security officer trying to clear the way for French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie's convoy to enter the Gaza Strip, January 21, 2011. Photo by: Reuters

A crowd of furious Palestinian protesters have tried to block the French foreign minister on her way into the Gaza Strip, jumping on her vehicle and lying on the road.

Dozens of protesters surrounded Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie’s convoy and tried to block her passage through the Erez Crossing from Israel on Friday. The protesters were relatives of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.

They were angry about comments made by Alliot-Marie on Thursday in support of Gilad Shalit, an the Israel Defense Forces soldier held by Hamas militants in Gaza since 2006.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said her comments reflected a total bias toward Israel.

Hamas police eventually dispersed the protesters and allowed her through.

A member of Alliot-Marie’s entourage was hit in the head and later examined at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

On Friday afternoon, Alliot-Marie visited the southern town of Sderot.

On Thursday, Alliot-Marie met Aviva and Noam Shalit, Gilad Shalit’s parents, in Jerusalem, where she said that Shalit had “been held hostage for over four years. His complete isolation and preventing any sign of life from him is completely inhumane. We demand his immediate release.”

Shalit is a French citizen, and France “is using all its ties in the region to advance his release,” she said.

France’s role in freeing Shalit is secondary because Israel and Hamas chose the German mediator to negotiate the soldier’s release following to his success in dealing with Hezbollah, she said.

Due to the issue’s sensitivity, Alliot-Marie chose not to comment on the talks and the reports about a new deal being negotiated.

Angry protests greet French foreign minister in Gaza: The Guardian

Palestinians pelt Michèle Alliot-Marie’s car with eggs and shoes after she meets family of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit

Protesters attempt to stop the French foreign minister Michele Alliot-Marie’s car as she arrives in Gaza. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features
Palestinian protesters mobbed the car of the French foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, as she arrived in Gaza today.

Dozens of people attempted to block Alliot-Marie’s convoy and hurled eggs and shoes at her jeep. The protesters banged on the vehicle and yelled at the minister to leave Gaza, Reuters reported.

The protesters, relatives of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, were furious over comments attributed to the minister a day earlier when she met the parents of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier being held captive by the Islamist group Hamas.

After the meeting Israeli radio quoted Alliot-Marie as saying the continued detention of Gilad Shalit, seized by Palestinian fighters in 2006, was a “war crime”.

A spokeswoman in her entourage told Reuters: “The minister was misquoted by Israeli media over Shalit’s issue.” French reporters travelling with Alliot-Marie said the term “war crime” was actually used by Noam Shalit – Gilad Shalit’s father – and not by the minister.

In her first visit to the region since being appointed foreign minister last year, Alliot-Marie was greeted with hostility by the dozens of demonstrators brandishing photographs of their imprisoned sons and husbands.

Gazans said they were angry that Alliot-Marie had made no mention of the several thousand Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. “Get out of Gaza!” read one banner. “There is one Gilad Shalit but also 7,000 Palestinian prisoners,” said another.

Germany has tried for months to broker a deal to secure Shalit’s release in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners but the sides are deadlocked over several high-profile inmates.

It has been a torrid week for Alliot-Marie. On Monday the Guardian reported that she had outraged liberals and human rights activists by proposing last week to send French security forces to Tunis to shore up the unpopular regime. Three days later the Tunisian dictator fled to Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday she was summoned to explain her remarks to the foreign affairs commission of the national assembly, the lower house of parliament, where she said her offer had been “misrepresented” and had been aimed at helping the Tunisian people, not propping up repression. She was “scandalised” that her comments had been distorted.

Alliot-Marie made a short speech to reporters on Friday saying France remained committed to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “France cares for Gaza. France will not abandon Gaza,” she told Reuters. “I stress to you France’s determination to achieve a dual goal: establishing a Palestinian state and guaranteeing the security of Israel.”

EDITOR: Ban Ki-moon discovers the settlements

As one of Israel’s strongest backers, it is interesting that Ban Ki-moon has just now discovered that settlements are illegal... he used all his powers for years to shield Israel from the implications of its many illegal acts.

UN chief: Settlements are illegal, hamper peace efforts: Haaretz

Palestinians have right to an independent state, Israel has right to live in peace within secure borders, and way must be found for Jerusalem to be capital of two states, Ban Ki-moon tells UN committee.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon slammed Israel’s refusal to halt West Bank settlement building, saying that this refusal seriously hampered peace talks with the Palestinians, AFP reported on Friday.

“Settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law, contravene the Road Map obligations of Israel, undermine confidence, prejudge the outcome of the permanent status negotiations and hamper efforts at bringing the parties back to the negotiating table,” he told a UN committee dealing with Palestinian issues on Friday.

Earlier in the week, Arab nations submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but a vote on it is not expected any time soon because of a likely U.S. veto.

The secretary-general also called for a halt to “irresponsible rhetoric” that questions a two-state Israeli-Palestinian solution and incites hatred and violence.

Palestinians have the right to an independent state, Israel has a right to live in peace within secure borders, and a way must be found for Jerusalem to emerge as the capital of the two states, Ban said.

Diplomats say that the point of the draft resolution condemning settlement building is to highlight Washington’s isolated position on the Security Council, show the Palestinian population that the Palestinian Authority is taking action, and to pressure Israel and the United States on the settlement issue.

Council diplomats said privately that the 15-nation panel was unlikely to take any action on the draft resolution in the near future – if at all – because of the likely veto.

It has nearly 120 co-sponsors, exclusively Arab and other non-aligned nations. UN diplomats said that the draft would probably receive 14 votes in favor and the one veto if put to an immediate vote.

The draft says that “Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

Intensive U.S. diplomatic efforts to revive direct peace talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas collapsed last year after Israel failed to extend a 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement construction.

Israel has repeatedly called for a resumption of direct negotiations with the Palestinians. But the Palestinians have refused to return to the negotiating table until Israel first agrees to halt settlement work.

Obama must call Israeli settlements illegal: The Guardian

US support for a UN resolution on the settlements would remind Netanyahu that there are consequences for breaking the law

“To veto or not to veto?” That is the agonising question that has President Barack Obama pacing the battlements of the White House waiting to dodge the slings and arrows of outraged Aipac. Provoked by the latest demolition in East Jerusalem, no fewer than 120 countries have sponsored a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity. Hillary Clinton has also condemned it as “illegitimate”, but the resolution introduces precision by terming the settlements as “illegal”.

In a country where “all politics is local”, and in the face of the economic crisis, Obama could almost be forgiven for dropping the ball in the Middle East game. But his response to the current resolution could well determine whether there is any wind left in the sails of the peace flotilla he launched with his speeches in Egypt and Turkey directed at the Muslim world.

Every other member of the UN security council agrees that settlements are illegal, including Britain and France. The international court of justice has affirmed their illegality. The US once called them illegal, then termed them unhelpful, and currently regards them as “unhelpful” and “illegitimate”. Under the road map of 2003, Israel agreed to stop them, but it has ignored the rest of the world and its best friend, the US, and continued to build. Even President Bill Clinton officially reduced the amount of US loan guarantees by the sum spent on settlements.

In the face of Binyamin Netanyahu’s defiance, so far the US response, engineered by Dennis Ross – who seems to have frozen out the official peace negotiator, George Mitchell – has been to attempt to bribe Israel with billions of dollars, free jet fighters and a free “get out of the security council” card in the form of a veto. The handsome offer was for a temporary moratorium.

Washington’s line is to ignore UN decisions and international law and say that it is up to the parties to negotiate such “permanent-status issues”. The state department itself is clearer on the issues. After years of congressional votes, it still balks at moving the US embassy to Jerusalem (which hosts not a single foreign embassy) because, regardless of eventual negotiations, Israel does not have internationally recognised title to the city.

It is as if you have caught someone stealing your car and the police decide to overlook technical issues like the law and ownership and instead tell you to negotiate with the thief to get occasional access to the back seat.

In this week’s security council debate on the resolution, deputy US ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo used theological nicety to explain Washington’s difficulty in supporting a resolution that, on the face of it, reflects US official policy. “We believe that continued settlement expansion is corrosive – not only to peace efforts and the two-state solution – but to Israel’s future itself. The fate of existing settlements is an issue that must be dealt with by the parties, along with the other permanent-status issues – but, like every US administration for decades, we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity.”

However, she added: “Permanent-status issues can be resolved only through negotiations between the parties – and not by recourse to the security council. We therefore consistently oppose attempts to take these issues to this council and will continue to do so.”

The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, is usually tactfully absent during such debates, keeping her credibility by allowing deputies to intone the weaselly formulas that disguise the stark truth. Annexation and settlement building are illegal.

Of course, Obama has other problems, such as the economy and healthcare, and on the Middle East must face not only a rabidly pro-Israeli Republican party but also a majority of his own party that would sign up to a resolution declaring the moon to be made of blue cheese if the Israeli lobby demanded it.

Nonetheless, his credibility as president is at stake here. The Republicans do control the House of Representatives, and indeed the chair of the foreign affairs committee is now Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who outflanks the Israeli government on the right. (She has been trying to de-fund UNRWA, the UN’s agency that provides basic services in the occupied territories, even though the Israeli government, which would have to pay if the UN didn’t, opposes her.) But Congress cannot control the US delegation to the UN.

It is surely time for Obama “to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them”. This week, a letter landed on the White House doormat from a phalanx of foreign policy and government professionals urging him to support the resolution. He should take their advice.

The public exasperation implied by support for the security council resolution sends a signal to Netanyahu that there are indeed consequences for ignoring the advice of your best friend, let alone breaking the law. It might make the Israeli prime minister more amenable, and it would certainly send a signal to the Israeli electorate that Netanyahu had terminally alienated the White House.

It would not alienate the American electorate, not even American Jews. Those who support Netanyahu tend to be those who think the president is a foreign-born crypto-Muslim anyway. It would bring cheer to the J-Street movement, whose peacenik views more closely reflect those of most American Jews than Likud does.

And it would do more than any other single act to demonstrate respect for international law and restore the credibility of American diplomacy.

Indeed, Obama could follow up and demand the IRS check on the tax deductibility of American “charities” and foundations that bankroll settlement building, including Irving Moskowitz, who recycles the proceeds of inner-city gambling in the US to buy and demolish property in East Jerusalem, such as the Shepherd Hotel, with the conscious aim of frustrating the declared policy of every US government since 1967. Some of the money, however, he sends as donations to politicians like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

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January 12, 2011

EDITOR: Russel Tribunal on Palestine report is out

This important international report is now out, after the lengthy procedure which has been used to collect, corroborate and edit it. As the report itself is exceedingly long, I have only provided here the bottom line conclusions. I strongly suggest reading this report if you wish to come into contact with the frightening and grim realities of the Israeli occupation and its iniquities, as put by the most authoritative international body to date.

To read the report and its three Annexes, use the link below:

Russell Tribunal on Palestine: 2010 Report

VII.    TRIBUNAL CONCLUSIONS
7.1    The Tribunal heard compelling evidence of corporate complicity in Israeli violations of international law, relating to: the supply of arms; the construction and maintenance of the illegal separation Wall; and in establishing, maintaining and providing services, especially financial, to illegal settlements, all of which have occurred in the context of an illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. On the basis of this evidence, the Tribunal draws the following conclusions.
7.2    The RToP reiterates that Israel committed serious breaches of IHL during the Gaza incursion (December 2008-January 2009), especially by launching attacks that, in terms of the damage inflicted on the civilian population, are sufficient in themselves to demonstrate their indiscriminate and disproportionate nature. These breaches constitute war crimes entailing the criminal responsibility of their perpetrators. Corporations provided Israel with weapons and military equipment that assisted it in committing these crimes. The supply of such equipment involves acts of assistance that constitute complicity in Israel‟s violation of international law.
7.3    The RToP reiterates that the establishment and maintenance of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are violations of international humanitarian law and regulatory entail the commission of war crimes by Israel. Corporations assist in the establishment of such settlements by supplying equipment that can be used to demolish dwellings, to destroy Palestinian land and to build property. They also contribute to the maintenance of the settlements through the economic relations that they forge with the settlements; for example, by financing the construction of property, by investing in business firms established in the settlements, by importing goods produced by the settlements and by providing them with commercial services. These corporations are complicit in Israel‟s violations of international law, including war crimes.
7.4    The RToP reiterates that the construction by Israel, inside the occupied territories, of a separation Wall between Israel and the rest of the territories violates a number of international legal rules by seriously restricting, without legal justification, the exercise of certain civil, economic, social and cultural rights by the affected Palestinian population. Corporations assist Israel in its violations of international law
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by providing Israel with cement, equipment and vehicles that are used in the construction and maintenance of the Wall.
7.5    With regards to the legal liability of corporations assisting Israel in the violation of international law, the Tribunal concludes as follows.
7.6    By assisting Israel, corporations have infringed the rights recognized by state obligations. Corporations may be liable under civil or criminal law (for example, money laundering and/or handling or receiving stolen goods) for infringing these rights in domestic law courts (many countries domestic law incorporates international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law). For example:
(a)    A claim for damages against a corporation that provided goods and services that they knew (or should have known) would be used in a manner that would cause the claimant (or a class to which the claimant belonged) damage/loss, particularly personal injury, may succeed under domestic tort law (e.g. in England and Wales or the United States) where it can be shown that damage was caused. The fact that the acts were those of the defendant‟s subsidiary need not be a bar to recovery.
(b)    Palestinians may bring a suit under the ATCA for aiding and abetting war crimes and/or crimes against humanity.
(c)    A prosecution may be brought against a corporation in the French, English or American jurisdictions, although the prosecution is likely to be for a crime within each jurisdiction rather than simply for „violations of international law‟.
(d)    The Special Representative‟s Guidelines, the Global Compact, the Norms and the OECD Guidelines all specify that corporations should refrain from violating and should actively promote human rights norms and principles.
(e)    Pursuant to Article 121-7 of the French Criminal Code, it may be possible to bring a claim against corporations operating on French territory that provide material support to the construction of the Wall.
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(f)    Because war crimes are criminal offences under US domestic law and aiding and abetting is criminalised under US law, a corporation could be prosecuted in the US for aiding and abetting war crimes committed overseas. U.S. war crimes statutes approve the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction to prosecute grave breaches of international criminal law by and against U.S. nationals.
7.7    The Tribunal concludes that corporate actors may be liable under international criminal law and/or under domestic criminal law if they have taken decisions as a result of which corporations have become involved in assisting Israel‟s violations of international law.    They may also be liable under civil law, in particular, under the Alien Tort Statute in the United States, which provides a tort remedy for serious violations of international law.
7.8    With regards to the non-legal liability of corporations, the Tribunal concludes that claims may be submitted to OECD National Contact Points for mediation and/or investigation and a final statement. The Tribunal recommends that a claim be brought before a domestic NCP where one is available for the state in which the corporation is domiciled. If no such NCP exists, corporations should be brought before an NCP in other states in which they have a permanent presence.
7.9    Representations to public bodies should make it clear that continued economic relations with these corporations would be contrary to their voluntary codes of conduct/guidance and to their government‟s obligations to promote and protect human rights. Continued economic relations may give rise to state responsibility.
7.10    States are advised to follow the example set by the Dutch public bodies that have investigated a Dutch corporation alleged to be complicit in in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law by supplying materials to Israel for the construction and maintenance of the illegal Wall.
7.11    The Tribunal concludes that states have an obligation to enforce existing law against corporations where they are acting in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law standards.
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7.12    States should ensure that there are sufficient remedies available, and that these remedies are accessible to victims of corporate violations of international and domestic law.
7.13    Finally, the Tribunal calls upon individuals, groups and organizations to take all necessary measures to secure compliance of corporations with international human rights and humanitarian law standards, in particular: boycotting corporations that assist in violations of international law, shareholders holding corporations to account, divestments by pension funds of investments tainted by illegality, and actions that continue to put corporations in the spotlight with the purpose of bringing about change in corporate culture. The Tribunal finds legal support for these initiatives in the Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Wall, in which the Court stated that there exists an erga omnes obligation to refrain from recognizing or in any way supporting the illegality that arises from the conduct of Israel by building the Wall and violating international humanitarian law.

EDITOR: Beware of Israeli deception!

In its growing concern about the effects of BDS, Israel has now resorted to plain deception. The package below is advertising an oxymoron: Palestinian product sold by Israel’s offcial exporter, Agrexco. Beware and warn others of this new con! Nowhere on this package is the word Israel mentioned!

EU LAYS BASIS FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAEL: TikunOlam

In late Apartheid-era South Africa, the momentum among the international community shifted inexorably toward toppling the discriminatory system.  Crippling sanctions took their toll on the country’s economy and psyche.  While the white regime clung desperately to power, finally a spark of realism emerged within the ruling party which allowed the rise of a leader like F.W. de Klerk, who negotiated a peaceful transition to democracy and majority rule.
In the past few months, a similar process has emerged outside Israel with multiple Latin American nations (the latest being Chile) recognizing a Palestinian state within 1967 borders. Now, Haaretz reports on a sensitive new EU report drafted by consuls general in Jerusalem and Ramallah which would lay the groundwork for a possible EU sanctions regime against Israel as long as it continues the Occupation and rejects a Palestinian state.
Among the recommendations:
1. a boycott of all Israeli products, services and businesses operating outside the Green Line including East Jerusalem
2. refusal to attend meetings with Israeli officials outside the Green Line (including East Jerusalem)
3. creating a settler black list forbidding entry to EU countries of those suspected of committing violent acts against Palestinians
4. discouraging citizens of EU countries (most likely directed at European Jews) from purchasing property in East Jerusalem
Returning to the South African analogy, the chief difference is that there seems to be no realism whatsoever within the Israeli political system nor any moderate or pragmatic leader capable of being the Israeli de Klerk.  In that event, it seems that Israel’s future is deeply clouded.  Without political leadership, and with the gathering storm of opprobrium against the Occupation and denial of Palestinian national rights, it seems something has to give.  It could be an international diktat jointly negotiated by the U.S., EU, and Quartet compelling Israel to yield.  Or it could take some other form.  But it appears more and more likely that Israel simply cannot come to terms with what it must do and that the rest of the world must help or even force Israel to get where it needs to be so that both that country and the rest of the region can find stability and peace.

The nation is behind you, Galant: Haaretz

The synergy between settlers and soldiers derives from the intimate relationship between defender and defended, and from the basic fact that the IDF is a people’s army.
By Amira Hass

The seizure of public land, unauthorized road paving, misleading testimony, double standards in land allocation – all under the cover of an army uniform. Is this a precis of the history of Israeli colonialism? Not at all. These claims are the basis of the High Court of Justice petition by the Green Movement political party against Yoav Galant’s appointment as the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, accusations that Maariv journalist Kalman Liebeskind has made repeatedly in investigative reports over the past two years.

In the meantime, the High Court has asked the attorney general on Monday to explain how complaints lodged against Galant have been handled. Here is an explanation that has already been written, but in invisible ink:

The IDF, the greenhouse that has nurtured Galant, is the major land broker in Palestinian areas that were occupied in 1967. All the land that private speculators have managed to purchase by cunning and stealth does not come close to the vast territory stolen on military orders signed by our finest commanders. The army’s seizure of land “for military and security purposes” quickly turned into large-scale appropriation for the exclusive benefit of Israel’s super-citizens, at the expense of the subpar species.

The IDF is simultaneously the representative and the defender of a campaign to peddle the Bible as a real estate deed. Public land, private land, rocky ground, springs, unregistered land, irrigated land, unirrigated land, built-up land, precious artifacts of agricultural and architectural traditions – it’s all the same. Military and civilian jurists alike, ensconced in the robes of knowledge and boasting degrees conferred by the finest universities, have concocted infinite stratagems and machinations to plunder all types of land.

The jurists and the military commanders, like the soldiers who tack land seizure orders or demolition orders on olive trees, are the representatives, the emissaries, of the campaign. But in a state in which military service constitutes an admissions test for a successful political career, any lines that distinguish between those who devise policy and those who implement it become blurred.

Lest there be a misunderstanding, let me state that the settlers also play the role of emissary. Even when the puppet rises against its maker and protector, it is still an instrument, and it is implementing the consistent policy of undermining the prospect of a viable Palestinian state (as compared to a state of Bantustans, of the sort that Kadima and Labor are advocating.

Generations of soldiers and commanding officers owe to the settlement enterprise their social capital – their prestige – and their livelihood in the army, politics or business. As the settlement enterprise grows, so does the number of Israeli Jews who profit from it, whether directly or indirectly. And as that dual expansion takes place, the dispossession of those who aren’t Israeli Jews also increases, as does the need for more security techniques. Israelis serving in the army – whether recent recruits, career soldiers or reservists – are depicted as altruistic, as having no agenda of their own, as the prime human material behind these security techniques.

The synergy between settlers and soldiers derives from the intimate relationship between defender and defended, and from the basic fact that this is a people’s army. In a state in which the social welfare component has long since become watered down, it is the settlements that have become the best prospect for a socioeconomic upgrade for Israeli Jews.

For Galant, the synergy appears to have gone awry; according to the complaints, his actions were a scaled-down version of what his employer, the IDF, has been doing on a macro level.

If he lived in the West Bank settlement of Ofra and he took over land in the neighboring villages of Silwad and Ein Yabrud – just as he is accused of doing to his Jewish neighbors in Moshav Amikam – those who compile a report or file a complaint about it might be subject to a parliamentary investigation.

It would be pointless to file an altogether different kind of petition: one that protests Galant’s appointment as chief of staff not because of his private actions but because of the direct responsibility that he, as GOC Southern Command, bears for the killing of hundreds of civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, in non-combat circumstances.

The nation is behind you, Galant.

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