2014, a year of Israeli thuggery and Palestinian diplomacy

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As 2014 draws to an end, it will be remembered as the year when Palestinians regained the initiative in the Palestine / Israel injustice, through a wave of Parliamentary recognitions and a change in strategy at the UN. Israel’s year will be remembered as one in which its extremist settler Government, led by the arrogant Netanyahu committed war crimes in Gaza, lost much of its support and headed to isolation.

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The year started with Secretary Kerry’s continuing nine-month attempt to conclude a peace deal between a weak Palestinian Authority and a belligerent, extremist Israeli Government. The talks had no basis in International Law or previous agreements and were doomed to failure. Israel continued to announce the expansion of settlements in response to agreed upon Palestinian prisoner releases. It also refused to discuss the key issues, except for its security.

The talks ended when Israel reneged on the release of the final batch of prisoners and accused the PA of forming a Government with Hamas. In fact the PA had formed a government of national agreement, made up of ‘technocrats’, agreed upon with Hamas but with no political affiliation. Israel could not bear to see Palestinians united as this would annul its claim that President Abbas could not deliver on a peace agreement.

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The failure of the talks is Israel’s fault. Far from Abbas not being able to deliver on a peace deal, it was Netanyahu who would not have been able to deliver on a two-state solution, firstly because he does not want it and secondly because he would not be willing to remove one squatter from the West Bank.

Failing to advance a peace deal was expected but Israel’s thuggery and terrorism reached unprecedented heights in the summer of 2014. It started with an oppressive operation in the West Bank following the abduction of four settlers near Hebron. Thousands of troops raided and desecrated homes and arrested hundreds, including some released in the Shalit deal who had committed no crime. A number of innocent Palestinian civilians were killed and tens were injured. The homes of the suspects were demolished.

At the same time, Israel turned its attention to Gaza, claiming Hamas had ordered the Hebron abductions. It carried out a series of attacks to which Hamas and other groups responded with rocket fire. When the bodies of the three settlers were found, the attack on Gaza turned into an all out war. This was initially restricted to aerial bombardment, which Israel claimed was carefully targeted at Hamas rocket launch sites and infrastructure. But the casualties were mostly civilians and included initially tens of children which turned to hundreds. The Palestinian resistance groups launched hundreds of rockets, which although a nuisance to Israelis caused little damage and only four civilian casualties.

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The level of terror heaped on the trapped population of Gaza was quite unprecedented. I argued at the time that if Gaza had sirens, they would have sounded continuously during Israel’s attacks. Even if Gaza had sirens, where would people have gone to for safety, as nowhere was safe?

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Suddenly Israel raised the issue of the ‘terror tunnels’ that required a ground invasion to destroy them. It claimed they were to be used to attack civilians. But the fact is that they were only ever used to attack the military. Nevertheless a violent ground invasion was instigated which heaped more death and destruction on the beleaguered strip.

As the war was drawing to a close and a ceasefire was close to being agreed, Israel started targeting civilian tower blocks, maximising the number of homeless its American supplied bombs would create. UN schools were hit, including thee housing those made refugees again and children playing on the beach paid with their lives for having a bit of fun. Israel was exposed for the violent rogue state Palestinians knew it to be, but ordinary people around the world hit the streets in their millions to protest its thuggery and to show their solidarity with Palestine.

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Hundreds of thousands lobbied their parliamentary representatives to put pressure on their Governments to change policy from supporting Israel’s right to self defence to sanctioning it for its actions. While this saw limited success in the U.S. and Europe, it was a major change in public opinion in favour of the Palestinians.

Enter the Palestinian Authority with a strategy to build on its 2012 upgrade of Palestine to a non-member state and its action to join UNISCO and fourteen other conventions including the Geneva Conventions. Those were excellent steps but fell short of maximising the gains by joining every organisation and convention the new status allowed for, especially the International Criminal Court (ICC). So many crimes had been committed by Israel in Gaza which could be taken to the ICC but the PA had to sign the Rome Statutes first. To this day the PA has not done so, despite repeated promises to do so imminently. Even the recent death of Minister Abu Ein as a result of an attack by IDF thugs failed to trigger this move, but it will come.

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The other part of the PA’s strategy has been to seek recognition of Palestine as a state by all world states. It started the Autumn with134 states that had recognised Palestine but they did not include either the U.S. or major western nations such as the UK, France or Germany.

Sweden surprised everyone when a new Government announced it would recognise Palestine and did so quickly, incurring the wrath of Israel but standing firm. Britain was next, with the Mother of all parliaments recognising Palestine and asking the Government to do so. Spain, Portugal, Ireland, France and Luxembourg followed suit and th EU Parliament recently agreed to recognise Palestine ‘in principle’. More Parliaments are expected to follow suit but real pressure will be applied on Israel when Governments begin to recognise Palestine as a state under occupation.

The PA ended the year with its sensible United Nations Security Council Resolution, setting a date for the end of the occupation in 2017. After 47 years of occupation and failed talks, this was a reasonable and long overdue move. Israel has gone hysterical and its various leaders have collected many air miles in the quest to scupper this resolution before its birth. The latest reason is that it would embolden the right wing and return Netanyahu to power. This is of course nonsense. The reality is that Israeli leaders are united in wanting to keep the occupation, Jerusalem and the settlement enterprise.

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France has been working on an alternative resolution which would not set a date for an end to the occupation but would set a time limit for talks. We have had futile talks for 21 years and the number of settlers has reached 750,000 from a starting position of 100,000.

Whatever happens at the UN, 2014 will be remembered for Israeli terror and thuggery and for Palestinian diplomacy. While the Palestinians are in a most difficult position, their ‘diplomatic terror’ as the Moldovan bouncer and Foreign Minister of Israel Avigdor Lieberman calls it, is winning them friends as Israel loses them.

Updated: 31/12/2014

The year ended with a failed attempt by Palestine to secure a UN Security Council resolution which would set a time limit on negotiations and an end to the 47-year long occupation. Eight members voted in favour, the U.S. and Australia voted against and there were five other abstentions. The abstentions included the UK. Once again, the UK failed to support Palestine, choosing instead to allow continuation of the Israeli occupation with no time limit. It seems the ghost of Balfour continues to haunt the Brutish Foreign Office. At every opportunity to support Palestine, Britain chooses to act to support the Zionist enterprise. This wins it no friends in the Middle East and it wonders why it is that some of its citizens have a problem with its foreign policy.

The Palestinian Authority has threatened to join a number of International conventions and treaties, should the UN resolution fail. This includes joining the Rome Statutes and the International Criminal Court. It has threatened this repeatedly but Abbas’s pen hasn’t quite made contact with paper to initiate this. Will 2015 be the year of accountability? Will Israel finally grace the ICC? I certainly hope so fir the thousands of Palestinians that this violent enterprise has snuffed out. Their only crime is that Palestine was a land with a People.

Recognition, BDS and Israeli elections

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Gaza after Israeli knock on the door

2014 has been a highly tense and significant year in the quest for a solution to the Palestinian / Israeli problem. It started with the then ongoing ‘peace talks’. They ended in failure because Israel had no intention of concluding a deal. The summer months saw deaths in the West Bank and then a most brutal attack on Gaza which left over 2,000 Palestinians dead, thousands injured and hundreds of thousands displaced. Israel argued this was all in self defense and many Western Governments agreed. However, ordinary people around the World saw the attack for what it was an act of state terrorism and went out in their millions onto the streets of capitals an major cities all over the World, united in their condemnation of Israel and their solidarity with the Palestinian people.

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A huge London demonstrations for Gaza

The ceasefire , when it came in August offered much hope for not only an end to fighting but a lifting of the appalling, immoral siege on Gaza. But in true brutal occupier style, Israel has in fact tightened it further and has not allowed sufficient flow of materials and equipment to begin the desperately needed reconstruction of Gaza. Egypt has unfortunately joined the blockade and has implemented a buffer zone in Rafah along the border to end the use of smuggling tunnels, the lifeline of Gaza, once and for all.

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Gaza’s Palestinians face a terrible winter following summer attack

Just prior to the escalation of violence in the summer a Government of of National agreement was formed by the Palestinians which was welcomed by the people but never really functioned. Violence in the Sinai coupled with mistrust between the Egyptian leadership and Hamas with constant closure of the Rafah crossing, left the Government in a state of limbo. That continues to this day.

Recognition

But 2014 also saw a wave of recognition of the State of Palestine. First, it was Sweden. This remains the only formal recognition. However, Parliaments passed motions asking their Governments to recognize Palestine in Britain, Ireland, France, Spain and others will follow suit. While non binding, the decisions reflect the will of the people. But significantly, the debates themselves highlighted the change in attitude towards Israel and its policies. There is no doubt that illegal settlement building during the ‘peace talks’ and since and land grabs have moved even the staunchest of supporters of Israel to question whether Israel is really interested in peace.

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Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström

It is interesting that what solidarity groups have been saying for decades about settlement building in particular is now main stream, not only among parties of the left but even the right, such as the Conservatives in Britain. The prominent Conservative MP Sir Alan Duncan has called those that support illegal settlements ‘extremists’, and of course he is right. How can the UK say settlements are illegal in one breath and then continue to trade with the state which is committing an illegal act?

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British Parliament votes for recognition of Palestine

BDS

While Parliaments have debated and passed motions to recognize Palestine, people were asking both during the attack on Gaza and since then, what individuals can do to help bring about an end to the abuses of the human rights of the Palestinians. The answer has been three fold. Firstly put pressure on your political representatives to pressure Governments to sanction Israel and to end arms trade with it. Secondly take part in the growing BDS campaign until Israel abides by International Law, ends the occupation and welcomes Palestinian refugees back to their homes. Thirdly, visit Palestine / Israel and see the situation for your self.

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There is little doubt that the BDS movement is growing and while the B (Boycott) and D (Divestment) are growing, the S (Sanctions) has some where to go. However, it was reported only yesterday that President Obama has instructed his officials to consider what, apart from condemnation, can be done in the way of halting increased settlement building. The EU is also considering ways of putting more pressure on Israel to halt its settlement expansion policy.

Jerusalem

The past few weeks have seen an escalation of tensions in Jeruslam for which the Israeli leadership is responsible. Its acquiescence to repeated incursions by extremists including legislators onto the Haram Alsharif (AlAqsa) have been as incitement by Palestinians and a prelude to a policy to divide the mosque. This incitement and a raised level of oppression led to attacks and counter attacks on civilians during the past few weeks. The situation is still extremely tense and could morph into a third intifada unless Palestinian grievances are dealt with.

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Israeli elections

Now throw into the mix Israeli elections and we could be approaching a period of intense instability not seen before now. Prime Minister Netanyahu finally succumbed to the ever increasing attacks on him and what he perceived as disloyalty in Government ranks. His popularity has plummeted and it seems he cannot rust anyone to toe the line. He also had to make two trips to Jordan one of only two Arab countries with which Israel has a peace treaty to reassure the King that there would be no change to the status quo at AlAqsa. Netanyahu who enjoyed a number of years batting of his his front foot seems to be on the back foot both at home and abroad, a situation he does not like.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

The Israeli public is not presented with real options in the coming elections. In relations to peace with Palestinians they have a choice between annexation of occupied territory and a prolonged occupation. There is no party or leader that has put forward a coherent policy that say accepts the Arab peace initiative, agrees to ending the occupation and to the uprooting of settlers and the IDF from the West Bank. No one is talking about East Jerusalem as a genuine capital of Palestine. There is no Ghandi or Mandela.

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Tzipi Livni and Naftali Bennett

The various leaders are also oblivious to the growing isolation of Israel and the growing BDS. They feel they can still rely on the US for unquestioned support and on Western Governments to block BDS in their countries. But they are deluding themselves. The movement is growing and with every success other successes seem closer to realization.

Israeli Society

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Israeli society has moved to the right, to intolerance, racism and an acceptance of Apartheid-like policies towards the Palestinians. Their political and religious leaders are leading them to an ostrich farm life, full of sand for them to bury their heads in, in their millions. When they eventually manage to remove their heads from the sand, they will wish they had never occupied the Palestinians. Their isolation will lead them to turn to the Palestinians to help them end their isolation. They will find the Palestinains a very reasonable and tolerant people, far more tolerant than they have been to them.