Les dirigeants palestiniens devraient se retirer poliment ou être renvoyés par le peuple

Translated from English

Published on the Middle East Eye édition française on 22/1/2018

Mahmoud Abbas va demander à l’Union européenne de reconnaître l’État de Palestine. Mais la cause et les sacrifices consentis par des millions de Palestiniens méritent beaucoup plus que ce que les dirigeants actuels ont accompli ou ne pourront jamais offrir

Lors de la dernière réunion du Conseil national palestinien à Ramallah, le président Mahmoud Abbas, en évoquant certaines des réussites palestiniennes des ces dernières années, a filé la métaphore du football.

Il a rappelé qu’en 1934, l’équipe palestinienne – battue un but à zéro – avait été privée par l’Égypte d’une place en Coupe du monde de football. Il leur a rappelé avec fierté qu’en 2009 la Palestine s’était classée 179e au classement mondial de la FIFA.

Elle est toutefois passée à la 80e place du classement récemment publié, alors qu’Israël se trouvait en 98e position, « malgré tous les efforts qu’ils ont déployés », a-t-il souligné.

Abbas attribue cette réussite aux efforts considérables de la Fédération palestinienne de football, mais ajoute toutefois qu’elle est aussi due au fait que le sport n’est pas politisé – et que quiconque voulant y participer peut le faire indépendamment de la faction politique à laquelle il appartient. Il a prédit en plaisantant qu’« un jour, nous pourrions même nous placer avant l’Amérique ».

Sa métaphore du football était intéressante, mais dans un sens différent.

La métaphore

Les dirigeants palestiniens pourraient-ils tirer des leçons de ce beau sport ? Si la Palestine était une équipe appartenant à l’une des leagues anglaises, comment son leadership gagnerait-il régulièrement, grimperait-il dans chaque ligue, serait-il promu et gagnerait-il ensuite le prix ultime du championnat voire (pour compléter la métaphore) sa liberté et son indépendance ?

En football, comme en politique, il faut créer des équipes gagnantes – sur le terrain comme en dehors des stades. Les clubs de football sont sur le marché pour détecter les talents, acheter les meilleurs joueurs du moment, mais aussi pour faire progresser ceux qu’ils ont déjà. Les pressions du jeu moderne sont telles qu’on ne peut se permettre de rester les bras croisés, d’autant plus quand on voit les équipes voisines renforcer leurs positions.

Si nous prenons la période des 23 ans écoulés depuis les accords d’Oslo, nous constatons que les Palestiniens s’éloignent de plus en plus de leur objectif mais, à la différence d’une équipe anglaise de football – qui ne cesse d’élaborer des stratégies, d’acheter et de vendre des joueurs et de changer d’entraîneurs –, l’équipe palestinienne a si peu été renouvelée.

Il est temps que les Palestiniens disent haut et fort que le leadership actuel fait partie du problème

Abbas et ses collègues les plus anciens ont entre 75 et 88 ans – quand on regarde des photos de la conférence du Conseil central palestinien (CCP), on peine à voir un jeune à la table d’honneur ou au premier rang.

Au cours d’un match, un entraîneur de football commencera par une formation donnée – censée être sa meilleure équipe – mais il la changera si les choses ne se passent pas comme prévu. Il misera parfois sur une formation défensive et parfois sur une formation offensive.

Il mettra certains joueurs au repos et placera sur le terrain des jeunes joueurs, pour qu’ils « se fassent les dents », contribuant ainsi à assurer fraîcheur et continuité. L’équipe palestinienne, elle, stagne depuis des décennies.

Le président palestinien Mahmoud Abbas, lors d’une réunion du comité exécutif de l’OLP, en avril 2015 à Ramallah, en Cisjordanie (AFP)

Alex Ferguson a connu 27 ans de succès à Manchester United. Il a construit une base – d’abord une équipe victorieuse – mais ses treize trophées de Premier League anglaise n’ont pas été remportés par la même équipe, mais par trois ou quatre.

Un grand nombre des principaux joueurs de l’équipe palestinienne sont toujours là, 24 ans après Oslo.

Un futur leadership

Si l’argument en faveur du maintien de la « vieille garde » palestinienne repose sur ses connaissances et son expérience, alors un examen attentif du côté opposé, Israël, balaie cet argument. En Israël, la « vieille garde » a largement disparu, laissant place à de « nouveaux talents », des Bennett, Shaked, Hotovely, ou encore Danon.

Il se trouve que ce sont des extrémistes et, sur la durée, leur leadership pourrait conduire Israël à l’isolement et au désastre (mais ce n’est pas le sujet). Ils ont eu l’occasion de développer leurs compétences politiques au plus haut niveau.

D’où viendra la prochaine génération de dirigeants palestiniens ? Peut-on en nommer cinq qui gagnent en notoriété ? Il est indubitable qu’un peuple qui compte près de quatorze millions d’habitants en Palestine historique, dans les camps de réfugiés, sans oublier ceux de la diaspora, et qui est très instruit, ne peut qu’avoir engendré un leadership dans l’attente d’émerger.

À 62 ans, Saeb Erekat est l’un des plus jeunes membres de la « vieille garde » palestinienne. Depuis la conférence de Madrid, il participe aux négociations – et, depuis 1995, en qualité de négociateur en chef palestinien. Il a démissionné à plusieurs reprises, mais sa démission n’a jamais été acceptée par le président Abbas.

Le leadership palestinien doit s’imposer des changements radicaux s’il espère se montrer à la hauteur des difficultés à venir. La cause, et les sacrifices consentis en son nom par des millions de Palestiniens, méritent beaucoup plus que ce que les dirigeants actuels ont accompli ou ne pourront jamais offrir.

Malgré la tradition du Moyen-Orient, de respecter les anciens et tenir en haute estime ceux qui, dans le passé, ont fait pour la cause d’énormes sacrifices, il arrive un moment où ils doivent prendre leur retraite avec grâce ou être renvoyés par le peuple palestinien.

Joueuses palestiniennes lors d’un match de qualification contre la Thaïlande, pendant la Coupe d’Asie de football féminin, à Al-Ram, en Cisjordanie, en avril 2017 (AFP)

Il est vrai que la tâche à laquelle sont confrontés les dirigeants palestiniens, jeunes ou vieux, expérimentés ou non, est énorme. Ils sont confrontés à un ennemi très organisé et stratège, qui en plus d’un siècle leur a volé leur patrie, tout fait pour la garder et, à terme, a la ferme intention de tous les en expulser. Qu’on ne se méprenne pas sur l’objectif ultime d’Israël.

Il est temps que les Palestiniens disent haut et fort que le leadership actuel fait partie du problème. Ils agissent en grande partie comme si la Palestine avait été libérée, comme un État en bonne et due forme, avec ses ministres, ses ministères et ses pièges du pouvoir. Or, en réalité, même Abbas a besoin d’une autorisation d’Israël pour se déplacer d’une ville à l’autre et le Premier ministre palestinien risque toujours d’être arrêté par l’armée israélienne en Cisjordanie pour un excès de vitesse.

Jeu à deux mi-temps

Mais les dirigeants palestiniens ont fait leurs plus grandes erreurs de jugement lors des négociations avec Israël, sous la direction d’Erekat – dont les concessions trop généreuses ont été dénoncées par Al Jazeera dans les journaux palestiniens –, notamment lorsqu’a été offert à Israël, sur un plateau, le « plus grand Jérusalem de l’histoire ».

Si Abbas a choisi de négocier avec Israël, c’est uniquement comme moyen de parvenir à la paix. Mais il a sous-estimé le parti pris de l’Amérique en faveur d’Israël, quelles que soient les administrations successives. Abbas avait-il vraiment besoin que Trump vende la mèche pour qu’Abbas comprenne que l’impartialité des États-Unis n’est qu’un simulacre ?

Même lorsqu’il a eu l’occasion de faire réellement pression sur Israël – comme avec l’arrêt de la Cour internationale de justice sur le mur de séparation et le rapport Goldstone –, Abbas et son équipe, n’en ont pas profité. Aucune de ces deux opportunités n’a été utilisée à bon escient.

Les dirigeants sont responsables de la décision de ne pas avoir tiré le meilleur parti du rapport et de la pensée dominante selon laquelle Israël serait d’une certaine manière, obligée de faire des concessions. Ils se sont lourdement trompés.

Le célèbre dirigeant de Liverpool, Bill Shankly, a déclaré : « Certains pensent que le football est une question de vie ou de mort. Je suis très déçu de cette attitude. Je peux vous assurer que l’enjeu est bien plus important que ça ».

Pour le peuple palestinien, la Palestine est bien plus qu’une question de vie et de mort et il veut voir ses dirigeants mettre la barre très haut. Ils pourraient prendre exemple sur un autre célèbre entraîneur de football anglais, Bill Nicholson, un ancien dirigeant de Tottenham, qui a déclaré : « Il est préférable d’échouer en ayant visé haut que de réussir en ayant visé bas. Et nous, les Spurs, avons placé la barre très haut, si haut en fait que même l’échec aura pour nous saveur de gloire ».

La lutte palestinienne contre le sionisme dure depuis longtemps. Selon une expression très répandue dans le football, il s’agit d’un « jeu à deux mi-temps ».

Si les Palestiniens considèrent les 70 dernières années comme la première mi-temps de la rencontre, c’est Israël qui a marqué le plus grand nombre de buts. Et s’ils veulent avoir une chance de retourner la situation dans les 70 prochaines années, en marquant le but de la victoire en fin de match, ils ont besoin d’une nouvelle équipe, une dream team dynamique, réactive, fertile en idées neuves et qui œuvre à développer une nouvelle stratégie de libération, comme jamais les dirigeants actuels n’en ont élaborée.

Il faut parfois être cruel pour faire du bien. Obtenir la libération exige d’urgence de souffler le coup de sifflet final et de se préparer à une fameuse contre-attaque.

 

– Kamel Hawwash est un professeur britannico-palestinien d’ingénierie à l’Université de Birmingham et un militant de longue date pour la justice, en particulier pour le peuple palestinien. Il est vice-président du British Palestinian Policy Council (BPPC) et membre du Comité exécutif de la Campagne de solidarité avec la Palestine (PSC). Hawwash apparaît régulièrement dans les médias comme commentateur sur les questions du Moyen-Orient. Il dirige le blog www.kamelhawwash.com. Vous pouvez le suivre sur Twitter : @kamelhawwash. Il a rédigé cet article à titre personnel.

Les opinions exprimées dans cet article n’engagent que leur auteur et ne reflètent pas nécessairement la politique éditoriale de Middle East Eye.

Photo : Le président Abbas préside une réunion du Comité exécutif de l’OLP au siège de l’Autorité palestinienne à Ramallah, en septembre 2017 (AFP).

Traduit de l’anglais (original) par Dominique Macabies.

Israeli sovereignty doesn’t extend to Palestinian territories

First published by the Arab Weekly on 21/1/2018

Israel is using its control of entry points to the occupied Palestinian territories to punish human rights activists and organisations.

Fifty years after Israel took control of all of historic Palestine in the Six-Day War, it is taking a number of approaches to the sta­tus and laws that operate in what the rest of the world consid­ers illegally occupied Palestinian territory. Israel regards the area as “disputed” territory that it might consider returning — or more likely return part of — to secure peace with its neighbours.

In reality, Israel behaves as if it is sovereign over the whole of historic Palestine. It is important to note that UN Security Council Resolu­tion 2334 distinguished between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, thus rejecting Israeli sovereignty over them.

International law does not consider Israel as sovereign over the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, which the Israelis in 1967 annexed in the Six-Day War. In recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, US President Donald Trump referred to Israel as a “sovereign nation” that can “determine its own capital.” He is wrongly recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the whole city.

There is no way to access the ille­gally occupied Syrian Golan Heights except through Israel. That border has been effectively shut since the 1967 war, with the exception of some movement facilitated by the UN peacekeeping force for humani­tarian reasons. Even this move­ment came to a halt after violence erupted in Syria.

The Gaza Strip is accessed through the Beit Hanoun crossing, which Israel controls, or the Rafah crossing, which Egypt controls.

Entry to the West Bank and East Jerusalem is under Israel’s control, too. Palestinians with a Palestinian Authority (PA) passport enter and exit only via King Hussein Bridge, while Jordanian passport holders issued with Israeli visas by Israel’s Embassy in Amman can enter via the Sheikh Hussein Bridge further north.

Those carrying foreign passports, including European and US citizens wishing to visit either Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories, can enter through one of the bridges or through Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.

The situation for human rights activists who wish to visit the oc­cupied territories has changed con­siderably over the past few years. While some have been subjected to questioning about the purpose of their visit and who they were plan­ning to meet, most were allowed to enter, especially those who man­aged to convince Israeli authorities they were tourists visiting holy sites.

Faced with increased scrutiny of its policies and an escalating Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, however, Israel is using its control of entry points to the occupied Palestinian territories to punish human rights activists and organisations. It does this in addi­tion to pushing allies to implement anti-BDS laws, particularly in the United States, where some 20 states have such laws.

While Israel has long denied entry at will to activists and EU and US citizens of Palestinian heritage, it is now routinely denying entry to those working in organisations sup­porting BDS or individuals who are vocal in criticising it and supporting BDS. Israel has passed legislation amending its law of entry to specifi­cally deny access to such individu­als. This included Hugh Lanning, chairman of the UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign and myself. Shortly after this, it denied entry to Anwar Makhlouf, the head of the Palestinian community in Chile and three Swedish citizens, members of the World Council of Churches, over alleged BDS affiliations.

Israel went further in implement­ing its ban in July, ordering Lufthan­sa airline to deny boarding to five members of an interfaith delegation at Washington Dulles International Airport, including Jewish Rabbi Alissa Wise. Jewish Voice for Peace, an activist organisation opposed to the occupation, said this was the first time Israel had barred Jews, including a rabbi, entry to Israel be­cause of political positions. Israel’s law of return stipulates that all Jews have the right to move to Israel and become a citizen. The airline claimed: “We don’t know who these people are. We have no information as to why the Israeli government does not want them to enter. We simply have to abide by the rules and regulations of every country in which we operate.”

Israel has gone even further, using intelligence about those planning to travel to one of its entry points to ban them before attempting to board flights. On November 13, it announced it was barring seven EU officials from travelling with a 20-member delegation of European Parliament members, national lawmakers and mayors over “sup­port for Israel boycott” and for their aim to raise awareness on the plight of Palestinian prisoners, including political figure Marwan Barghouti. Israel’s Interior Ministry said the delegation had planned to visit Barghouti in Hadarim prison. It an­nounced its decision a week before the delegation was to visit.

The European Union — France in particular — might have been expected to stand up for its citizens but instead used the sovereignty issue as a reason not to challenge Israel’s decisions. A French Foreign Office minister said: “One can regret this Israeli decision but it remains nonetheless sovereign.”

This is rather bizarre as the European Union does not recog­nise Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Palestinian territories. It was left to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) to challenge the decision. The group’s executive director, Sharon Abraham-Weiss, said: “The interior minister is not authorised to serve as a commissar standing at the gate and deciding for the country’s citizens and for the residents of the occupied territories, who are dependent on Israeli border crossings, which positions are ap­propriate to be heard. Freedom of expression is not just the right to express oneself but also the right to be exposed to opinions, even opinions that outrage and infuriate the majority in Israel.”

The European Union must take a stand on the issue of sovereignty, especially as it relates to the oc­cupied Palestinian territories, to ensure non-Israelis can access them or consider taking their own measures, including denying entry to illegal Israeli settlers wishing to visit. Otherwise, the message to Israel is “Carry on; there are no red lines to cross.”

Palestinian leadership should retire gracefully or be removed by the people

First published by the Middle East Eye on 19/1/2018

The cause and the sacrifices made by millions of Palestinians deserve much more than the current leadership have or can achieve

During the last Palestinian National Council meeting in Ramallah, President Mahmoud Abbas made reference to football when describing some of the Palestinian achievements in recent years.

He reminded the audience that in 1934 Egypt denied the Palestinian team a place in the football World Cup after beating them by one goal to nil. He further proudly reminded them that in 2009 Palestine was ranked 179th in FIFA’s world ranking.

It, however, jumped to 80th place in the recently released ranking while Israel was in 98th”despite all the efforts they have made”, he said.

While Abbas attributed this achievement to the great efforts of the Palestinian Football Association he, nonetheless, added that it was because sport is not politicised and that anyone who wants to participate can do so regardless of which political faction – if any – he/she belonged to. He quipped that “one day we might even rank higher than America”.

His reference to football was interesting but in a different sense.

The analogy

Could the Palestinian leadership learn any lessons from the beautiful game? If Palestine was a team in one of the English leagues, how would its leadership win regularly, move up each league, be promoted and then win the ultimate prize of the championship or, to complete the analogy, its freedom and independence?

In football, as in politics, one needs to create winning teams, both on and off the pitch. Football clubs are in the market for talent, buying the best players around but also growing their own. The pressures of the modern game are such that they cannot afford to stand still, particularly as they see teams around them strengthen their positions.

If we take the 23-year period since the Oslo Accords, we find the Palestinians moving further and further away from their goal, but unlike an English football team which would be constantly strategising, buying and selling players and changing their coaching team, the Palestinian team has been a permanent fixture.

It is time the Palestinians said loudly that the current leadership has become part of the problem

Abbas, and his most senior colleagues, are in their late seventies or eighties – just look at the images from the PCC conference and you will struggle to see a young person either at the top table or in the front row.

Within a match, a football coach will start with a formation – and what may be his best team – but will change it if things are not going according to plan. He will sometimes play a defensive formation and at other times an attacking formation.

He will rest players and bring young players on to “blood” them, thus helping to ensure freshness and continuity. The Palestinian team has stagnated for decades.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting of the PLO executive committee in the West Bank city of Ramallah in April 2015 (AFP)

Alex Ferguson had 27 highly successful years at Manchester United. He built a base – initially then a winning team – but his 13 English Premier League trophies were not won with the same team but three or four teams.

Many of the key players in the Palestinian team are still there 24 years after Oslo.

A leadership in waiting

If the argument for keeping the Palestinian “old guard” is because of their knowledge and experience then a close look at the opposite side, Israel, destroys that argument. The “old guard” in Israel have largely gone, making way for “fresh talents” such as Bennett, Shaked, Hotovely and Danon.

They happen to be extremists and it may be that in the long run their leadership leads Israel to isolation and disaster but that is a different story. They have been given a chance to develop their political skills at the highest level.

Where is the next crop of Palestinian leaders going to come from? Can anyone name five that are gaining in prominence? Surely a people that number nearly 14 million in historic Palestine, the refugee camps and the diaspora, a highly educated people, have produced a leadership in waiting.

At 62, Saeb Erekat is one of the younger members of the Palestinian “old guard”. He has been involved in negotiations since the Madrid conference and has been the Palestinian chief negotiator since 1995. He has repeatedly resigned but his resignation has never been accepted by President Abbas.

The Palestinian leadership needs drastic changes to meet the challenges ahead. The cause and the sacrifices made by millions of Palestinians deserve much more than the current leadership have or can achieve.

While it is part of Middle Eastern culture to respect elders and to hold those who made huge sacrifices in the past for the cause in high regard, the time comes when they either retire gracefully or are removed by the Palestinian people.

Palestinian female football players at a qualifying match against Thailand during the Women’s Asian Cup in the West Bank town of al-Ram in April 2017 (AFP)

It is true to say that the task facing any Palestinian leadership, young or old, experienced or not, is massive. They face a highly organised, strategising foe that has been working for over a century to take their homeland, to keep it and over time to eject them all from it. Make no mistake about Israel’s ultimate aim.

It is time the Palestinians said loudly that the current leadership has become part of the problem. They largely act as if Palestine has been liberated, a state with ministers, ministries and the trappings of power when in fact even Abbas needs permits from Israel to move from one city to another and when the Palestinian prime minister can be stopped for speeding by the Israeli army in the West Bank.

A game of two halves

But the Palestinian leadership made its greatest misjudgments during the negotiations with Israel, led by Erekat, whose overly generous concessions were exposed by Al Jazeera in Palestine papers, which included offering Israel the “biggest Yerushalayim in history”.

Abbas chose only negotiations with Israel as the way to achieve peace and somehow misunderstood America’s bias towards Israel under successive administrations. Did it really require that Trump blow the cover of the pretence of even-handedness for Abbas to see the bias?

Even when he had opportunities to really pressure Israel, such as the ruling of the International Court of Justice on the separation wall and the Goldstone Report, Abbas, and his team, let them go to waste. Neither were used to good effect.

It was the leadership’s decision not to make the best use of both the report and the ruling thinking that this would somehow force Israel to make concessions. That was poor judgment in abundance.

The famous Liverpool manager Bill Shankly said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

For the Palestinian people, Palestine is much more than life and death and they want to see a leadership that aims high. They can take a leaf from another famous English football manager. Bill Nicholson, a former manager of Tottenham, said: “It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low. And we of Spurs have set our sights very high, so high in fact that even failure will have in it an echo of glory.”

The Palestinian struggle with Zionism is a long one. A much-used phrase in football is that it is a “game of two halves”.

If the Palestinians take the last 70 years as the first half then they are many goals down to Israel and if they are to turn the match over in the next 70 years and score a late winner then they need a new team, a “dream team” that is dynamic, quick on its feet, equipped with fresh ideas and working to develop a new strategy for liberation that the current leadership has failed to deliver.

You sometimes have to be cruel to be kind. Time to blow the half-time whistle and prepare for a famous fightback that will lead to liberation.

– Kamel Hawwash is a British-Palestinian engineering professor based at the University of Birmingham and a long-standing campaigner for justice, especially for the Palestinian people. He is vice chair of the British Palestinian Policy Council (BPPC) and a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). He appears regularly in the media as commentator on Middle East issues. He runs a blog at www.kamelhawwash.com and tweets at @kamelhawwashHe writes here in a personal capacity.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: President Abbas heads a PLO Executive Committee meeting at the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in Ramallah, September 2017 (AFP)

Interview: Hopes for two state solution dying

I was interviewed by Press TV for On the News Line 12/1/2018

Hopes for the so-called two state solution are gradually dying in light of support for and disfavor toward the

 

The PA must rise to the dangers facing the cause or make way for new leadership

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 9/1/2018

Israel’s extremist, settler-led government is on a roll. US President Donald Trump’s Christmas gift of recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his consequent surrogate bullying in the UN General Assembly on behalf of the colonialist entity has sent its leaders into a frenzy of actions that will have far-reaching consequences. Trump has in his Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Hayley, a pro-Israeli figure that David Ben Gurion could only have dreamed of.

Haley stood alone in the UN threatening states that disagreed with the US decision – US President Donald Trump “will be watching the vote carefully” and “requested I report back on those who voted against us …” she told them. In the event the bullying had a limited effect with the General Assembly voting 128 in favour, nine against, with 35 abstentions. Not even the threat to cut US funding to some of the poorest states in the world worked on this occasion.

In her letter to the UN GA members prior to the vote Hayley attempted to play down the significance of Trump’s move arguing he was simply implementing the will of Congress expressed through the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act but that “the president’s announcement does not affect final status negotiations in any way, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem”, and that “the president also made sure to support the status quo of Jerusalem’s holy sites, and did not advocate changes to arrangements at the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif”, Haley added in her letter.

Thankfully, from a Palestinian standpoint, the threats had little impact.

The reward for those countries which voted with Israel was a reception that Nikki Hayley organised at the UN which could have been held in a broom cupboard considering that the grand total of attendees according to the vote was nine.

On its part, Israel sought to increase its influence on poor countries by establishing a $50 million fund to support development in poorer countries and establish diplomatic backing, according to Israeli media reports. Israel had been trying to increase its influence, particularly in Africa, to garner backing internationally, including at the UN. Her efforts in Africa seemed to be making some headway until a summit organised by Togo was cancelled under threat of boycotts from a number of countries and pressure from others.

For now, Israel will take what it sees as a major breakthrough in its colonial project – America’s recognition of Jerusalem as its capital. It is noteworthy that rather than reiterate his UN ambassador’s stance that the final status of Jerusalem – including boundaries – was still up for negotiations, Trump contradicted her in a tweet claiming: “We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more.” He did not explain how or what. However, he went on to threaten the PA saying: “But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

Trump and Hayley’s contempt for the Palestinian leadership and people is now out in the open. Not only are they threatening to cut the PA’s funding, they have now moved to target the most vulnerable Palestinians, those refugees reliant on services from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA. Hayley explicitly threatened to cut funds to UNRWA “unless the Palestinians went back to the negotiating table”.

It is doubtful that the Trump administration really understands the potential impact of the moves they have threatened to make. Much of the funds the US passes to the PA are to ensure its security services continue to suppress Palestinian resistance against Israel’s occupation and it is therefore in Israel’s interest. Curtailing UNRWA’s ability to provide employment and services, particularly in Gaza, is likely to lead to an uprising whose format no one can predict with certainty. An area that has been under siege for 11 years, has suffered from three Israeli wars and that is deprived of electricity and free entry and exit is at boiling point. Again, keeping the situation calm and under control is in Israel’s interest.

As for Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, he must feel that he can contain this anger as he has now called for UNRWA to be dismantled, arguing it was “an organisation that perpetuates the Palestinian problem”. “It also enshrines the narrative of the so-called ‘right of return’,” he told a weekly cabinet meeting. His solution was that UNRWA “should pass from the world”.

Netanyahu, emboldened by an irrational American president but one who has sided with Israel during the election campaign and since his installation, is calling the shots with seemingly no one is able to stop him. The Knesset recently passed a bill, which amends the Basic Law of 1980 titled “Jerusalem, Capital of Israel”, in a way that would make it more difficult for future governments to return parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s own party, Likud, unanimously endorsed a resolution calling for the annexation of illegal Israeli West Bank settlements. This indicates the direction of travel of Netanyahu’s own party, which is now not that far behind the even more extreme elements of his coalition. Education Secretary Naftali Bennett has been urging annexation of the West Bank for years claiming “the time has come to say Israel is ours”. His fellow Jewish Home colleague and Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked stated“We’re here for 50 years already, and we will be here for another 5,000 years. Our policy is clear: Settlement in the entire Land of Israel and normalisation of life in Judea and Samaria”.

Israel’s plans to entrench the occupation are being complemented by further oppression of the Palestinians and their supporters under the pretence of democracy. The Israeli Knesset recently approved a first reading of the death penalty bill which would allow the authorities to execute Palestinian prisoners accused of taking part in “operations against Israeli targets”. The claim is that the death penalty would serve as a deterrent. However, it is reasonable to assume that a Palestinian who sets out to carry out ‘an operation’ against heavily armed Israeli soldiers knows full well that s/he is likely to be killed and therefore the deterrence claim is illogical. It is worth noting that the death penalty would not be extended to Israelis accused of violence against Palestinians.

Israel’s claim to be ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ was further eroded when it released a ‘blacklist’ of 20 organisations whose activists would be barred from entering the country and therefore the Occupied Palestinian Territory, essentially for supporting or promoting boycotts or the BDS campaign. It is also ‘investing’ a further $72 million into efforts to combat the movement.

None of the moves in the past month indicate a desire for peace by Israel, but rather a misguided conclusion it has come to that it can now make rapid progress towards completing its colonialist project in the era of Trump. However, from a Palestinian perspective, the situation is as dangerous as it has ever been.

It is extremely worrying for Palestinians that their tired leadership is devoid of any ideas or a strategy for liberation. The ageing Mahmoud Abbas refuses to do the decent thing and retire. He has promised to make “important decisions in 2018”, but his record shows a dearth of such decisions.

The forthcoming meeting of the PLO’s Central Committee in Ramallah should produce a new strategy. However, there are reports that there have been no significant consultations with the various factions and therefore the meeting could end up with Abbas presenting them with a fait accompli, reinventing negotiations as the only way forward but under a different framework not led by the US. That would be disastrous.

What is needed is much more radical. I suggested elements of what a future strategy could include in a recent article in MEMO which has started a debate. The Palestinian people cannot afford to leave their future in the hands of those that have proved their failure. They need to take back control of their liberation movement and fast.

Blacklisted: Why I will not allow Israel to defeat me

 

First published by the Middle East Eye on 9/1/2018

We will continue to work using all peaceful means to support the Palestinians until they have attained their rights whatever the price Israel attempts to extract from us

I do not have to imagine the anguish – yet determination – felt by the activists who are likely to be denied entry by Israel following the publication of its blacklist of organisations to be targeted for supporting the Palestinian people. I was denied entry at Tel Aviv airport in April 2017 shortly after the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, voted to ban supporters of boycotts against Israel.

Being denied entry to my homeland by a representative of a state that was built on the dispossession of my people was very difficult to grasp.

Denied entry

I had travelled with my wife and five-year-old son to spend the Easter vacation with family in Jerusalem. They were allowed in but I had to endure a 12-hour wait in a holding room for a flight back to Birmingham.

The British embassy told me they could not help as Israel was a “sovereign country”, but Israel is not sovereign over the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) including East Jerusalem where I was too be based.

Those wishing to visit the OPT can only do so via Israeli-controlled entry points either along the River Jordan or Tel Aviv airport.

I had mixed feelings about my experience – a combination of anger, helplessness and humiliation. But at no point did I regret anything that I had done that may have led to my being denied entry. I did, however, quickly understand more clearly than ever what it feels like to be a Palestinian refugee, to be so close to my homeland and not to be able to step out of the airport to see it, to smell it and to feel it. I always have this incredible feeling of belonging to the place as soon as I see the majestic Al-Aqsa mosque as I drive to the Mount of Olives where my wife’s family have lived for centuries.

On the blacklist

The two weeks I spent back in Birmingham separated from my wife and son could have been extremely difficult under the circumstances. However, I was damned if I was going to sulk or allow Israel to defeat me. Rather than curtail my activism I wrote my story up, was interviewed by the media, wrote more op-eds about Israeli violations and tweeted just as much, if not more.

Being denied entry to one’s homeland by a representative of a state that was built on the dispossession of your people is very difficult to take (AFP)

One of the reasons I was denied entry was I had a high profile in one of the organisations that appear on Israel’s blacklist, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), which has been campaigning for justice for Palestinians for nearly 40 years.

I had spent eight years as vice chair of the organisation but had stepped down from this position at the time of my being denied entry for personal reasons. However, I had done enough to appear on Israel’s radar as a “problem”.

The PSC is non-partisan, working for the right of the Palestinians to self-determination. It responded to the call from Palestinian civil society organisations in 2005 to support a campaign organised by the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel until it ended the occupation, treated all its citizens equally and implemented the right of return for Palestinian refugees. All three demands are legal and moral.

Israel has attempted to present the BDS movement as anti-Semitic but this smear has no basis in reality.

The PSC worked closely with the BDS campaign and other organisations to pressure companies complicit in the occupation to reconsider their involvement, which led to some key successes including changes made by Veolia and G4S.

BDS success

In response to the BDS movement’s growing successes, Israel has dedicated a minister, Gilad Erdan, and a ministry funded to the tune of millions to combat BDS activities but has failed to counter it through argument. It has resorted to legal means to bully those who may be tempted into supporting BDS, especially in the US and in Europe.

In the US, where Israel enjoys blind support, individual states have passed legislation that would punish those companies that may be suspected of refraining from doing business with Israel and to exact a price from individuals who support boycotts.

France has already effectively outlawed boycotts of Israel, using strict laws against “inciting discrimination”, while the UK has attempted to stop local authorities boycotting Israeli companies through their specific ethical procurement guidance.

When the UK tried to apply similar pressure to local authority pension funds they were challenged by the PSC, which defeated the government in this matter. Yousef Munayyer, the director of the Campaign for Palestinian Rights, called the group’s inclusion a “badge of honour”.

In a show of defiance, a number of the organisations on Israel’s blacklist have come out to call their inclusion a badge of honour. They are in agreement that they will not be dissuaded from continuing to fight for justice for the Palestinian people and will even redouble their efforts.

Some have reported new members joining following the publication of the list. My guess is some organisations not included are feeling left out and will do even more in the coming years in support of the Palestinians.

It is personal

However, I, like Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, am hit doubly hard by the ban. First, I for now and Rebecca potentially are unable to visit Israel and the OPT to show our solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis striving for peace.

However, for her as an American Jew married to an Israeli with relatives there and myself as a Palestinian with relatives there, the impact on us is severe. It is personal.

The ban stops us ever seeing elderly members of our families. Certainly in my case my two remaining uncles are likely to die before I am next able to visit my homeland.

Following US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as its capital, Israel has embarked on a set of measures to entrench its occupation, to complete the Judaisation of Jerusalem and to shut down criticism of its criminal policies.

It is even working to introduce the death sentence for Palestinians accused of carrying out operations against it. Those measures hardly indicate a desire by Israel for peace or that the conflict is about to end.

Against this background, Israel can be assured of one thing: individuals such as myself and organisations like the PSC will not be bullied. The peaceful but oppressed Palestinian people need us now more than ever.

We will continue to work using all peaceful means to support them until they have attained their rights whatever price Israel attempts to extract from us.

We are on the right side of history, while the Israeli regime, which continues to delegitimise itself through its actions, will be consigned to the dustbin of history. This is not a threat, but remember apartheid South Africa?

– Kamel Hawwash is a British-Palestinian engineering professor based at the University of Birmingham and a long-standing campaigner for justice, especially for the Palestinian people. He is vice chair of the British Palestinian Policy Council (BPPC) and a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). He appears regularly in the media as commentator on Middle East issues. He runs a blog at www.kamelhawwash.com and tweets at @kamelhawwashHe writes here in a personal capacity.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: A Palestinian boy walks past a mural calling on people to boycott Israeli goods in the al-Azzeh refugee camp near the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem (AFP)