Backlash after Israeli forces prepare to demolish Palestinian village

I was interviewed by RTUK on 4/7/2018 about the impending demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar, a Bedouin Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank

A challenge for Trump: Pull out of the UN

First published by the Middle East Eye on 27/6/2018

If it’s really ‘America first’, why is the US remaining in an organisation simply to act as Israel’s chief defender?SWITZERLAND-SYRIA-CONFLICT-UN-rights

President Donald Trump has pulled the US out of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

I challenge him to pull the country out of the UN entirely.

Trump’s decision to leave the UN rights council was announced by US ambassador Nikki Haley and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Haley gave two reasons for the decision: that “human rights abusers continue to serve on, and be elected to, the council” and that the council has become “a cesspool of political bias”.

Haley also pointed to a “disproportionate focus and unending hostility” towards Israel. She called the 47-member international council “an organisation that is not worthy of its name”.

Support from Netanyahu

A day earlier, UN rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein urged Washington to stop separating migrant children from their parents at the US border, saying: “The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable.”

Only Israel came out fully in support of the US pullout, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanking Trump, Pompeo and Haley for their “courageous decision against the hypocrisy and the lies of the so-called UN Human Rights Council”.

“For years, the UNHRC has proven to be a biased, hostile, anti-Israel organisation that has betrayed its mission of protecting human rights,” Netanyahu wrote on Facebook.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called the decision “regrettable” but said the UK was “here to stay” – despite the UK putting the council on notice last year for its criticism of Israel through the inclusion of a standard agenda item that considers Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians.

“We share the view that the dedicated Agenda Item 7, focused solely on Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, is disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace – and unless things change, we shall vote next year against all resolutions introduced under Item 7,” Johnson said.

This will be interesting, as one of the resolutions normally reaffirms the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. Would the UK really vote against this right?

Haley’s ‘extraordinary’ letter

Twelve rights and aid groups, including Human Rights First, Save the Children and CARE, wrote to Pompeo to warn that the withdrawal would “make it more difficult to advance human rights priorities and aid victims of abuse around the world”.

Haley responded in a letter that Iain Levine, the deputy executive director for programme with Human Rights Watch, described as “extraordinary”. He argued that Haley was seeking to hold HRW and other human rights groups “responsible for the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council”.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee, noted in a statement: “It is not surprising that the United States administration who gives orders to snatch crying babies from their parents’ arms and who partners with Israel, a cruel and belligerent military occupier that holds an entire nation captive, has withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley delivers remarks to the press together with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, announcing the U.S.'s withdrawal from the U.N's Human Rights Council at the Department of State in Washington

US ambassador Nikki Haley accused the UN rights council of hostility towards Israel (Reuters)

 

She continued: “The problem is not with the just and functioning global order, but with Israel who (sic) persists in committing lethal violations and war crimes against the Palestinian people. The US administration’s blind commitment to Israel and its proven track record of human rights violations will succeed in isolating it in the international arena and undermining its influence and standing globally.”

The US withdrawal from the council is not without precedent. Last October, the US withdrew from the UN education and culture organisation UNESCO, claiming it harboured “anti-Israel bias”. Then, too, Israel applauded the US decision as “courageous and moral”, while Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, said it showed the US administration’s “complete and total bias” towards Israel.

Accountability gap

The US is not a member of the International Criminal Court, established to “bring to justice the perpetrators of the worst crimes known to humankind – war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide”, when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so.

It would be natural to assume that a world power, which claims to be committed to human rights, would be a member of the ICC. The fact that it is not brings into question its real commitment to ensuring individuals who commit human rights abuses are accountable for their crimes.

Israel is currently awaiting a decision on whether the ICC, at the request of the PLO, will open proceedings against some of its military and political leaders for alleged violations, including the attacks on Gaza and the illegal settlements. It would be safe to assume that if the US were a member, it would leave the ICC if this happened, citing bias against Israel.

The US administration claims that the UN is dysfunctional, but then obstructs its work in order to protect Israel, including using its veto and withdrawing from its agencies. While it claims the UN singles Israel out for criticism, the US singles it out for protection from accountability for its crimes.

The US recently obstructed a UN Security Council resolution to provide protection for Palestinians participating in the peaceful Great Return March against violence by Israel, whose forces have killed 130 people, including medics and journalists. However, the US lost a similar resolution at the UN General Assembly, where it does not have a veto.

This mirrored the situation after Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Haley vetoed a Security Council resolution rejecting the recognition, while the General Assembly adopted a similar resolution.

US veto is Israel’s veto

If Trump believes the UN – 22 percent of whose budget is funded by the US – is dysfunctional, anti-Israel and disrespectful, he should leave the organisation entirely, just as he left the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.

It is likely that if America could leave the General Assembly but remain in the Security Council, it would – but that is not possible. It is all or nothing.

But even if for a moment Trump considered leaving the Security Council, Israel and its lobby would soon bring him to his senses. After all, the US veto is Israel’s veto on the council.

For a man who claims to put “America first”, I challenge the US president to withdraw his country from the UN.

– Kamel Hawwash is a British-Palestinian engineering professor based at the University of Birmingham and a longstanding 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 a commentator on Middle East issues. He runs a blog at www.kamelhawwash.com and tweets at @kamelhawwash. He 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: The United Nations Human Rights Council is pictured on 13 March 2018 in Geneva (AFP)

 

كل الأبعاد: حول مستقبل القضية الفلسطينية في ظل اقتراب صفقة القرن

لقائي مع الأستاذ شريف منصور الذي تحدثنا به عن القضية الفلسطينية في ظل صفقة القرن والتغيرات الإقليمية بتاريخ ٢٧/٦/٢٠١٨

Interview: Prince William should visit Gaza after Israeli bloodshed, chief of UK Palestinian Council tells RT

I was interviewed by Claire Gilbody-Dickerson for RT on 22/6/2018

5b2cf1dbfc7e93d6718b45e3

Prince William has been urged to visit Gaza, where 120 Palestinians were shot dead in the past two months by Israeli military, during his upcoming visit to the Middle East by the vice president of the British Palestinian Council.

The Duke of Cambridge will be visiting Jordan, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) between 24-28 June. He is expected to meet with Isreali Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his office in Ramallah.

Yet the Prince’s travel itinerary released last week made no mention of a visit to the besieged enclave of Gaza, where Israeli forces have used live ammunition against largely unarmed protestors in recent months.

The Red Cross reports 120 people were killed and 13,000 injured since the Great Return March began on March 30, when Palestinians started protesting for their right to return to the lands they were stripped of when the State of Israel was founded.

Professor Kamel Hawwash told RT Palestinians still “lay the blame at Britain’s door” for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. But a visit by the Prince to the hospitals in Gaza would have helped “boost the morale”.

Hawwash said among others, the Duke could have visited the home of 21-year-old volunteer medic Razan Najar, who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers while giving first aid to injured protesters.

“It would have shown some sympathy, that there is someone who is not political and who is making a humanitarian gesture visiting the home of someone killed for no other reason,” the council’s vice president said.

But Hawwash instead claimed the main reason for the trip is the UK wanting to hammer out a free trade deal with Israel ahead of Brexit, and Prince Williams is merely “part of it.”

Saying the visit could not take place at a worse time because of the current turmoil, Hawwash said: “The royal family has held off making a statement since Israel’s foundation in 1948 and what has changed?

“Has it ended its occupation? Does it treat its citizens, the Israelis and the Palestinians equally? Has it really committed to peace with Palestinians? No. And if that’s the case what is the point of a making royal visit now?”

Hawwash added that “if Palestine wasn’t inside of Israel he probably wouldn’t have visited.”

Israel has defended its use of live fire against the Palestinian protesters saying it was necessary to defend its land from Hamas – Palestine’s leading political party which is deemed a terrorist organization by the US and EU.

Prince William recently angered Israeli politicians by referring to East Jerusalem as part of the occupied Palestinian territories in a statement which outlined details of his trip.

Israel’s Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin hit back on Facebook saying Jerusalem was “unified” and “has been the capital of Israel for over 3,000 years.”

Elkin wrote: “It’s regrettable that Britain chose to politicise the Royal visit. Unified Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for over 3,000 years and no twisted wording of the official press release will change the reality. I’m expecting the prince’s staff to fix this distortion.”

East Jerusalem has been considered occupied, under international law, since 1967.

Razan perdió su vida; mientras tanto, Nikki Haley perdía su humanidad

Primero publicado en Monitor De Oriente on 5/6/2018

Razan murió como una orgullosa palestina lleno de humanidad y será recordada con el mismo nombre con el que nació. Por el contrario, Nimrata Randhawa, será recordada por su nombre adoptado, Nikki Haley, ocultando su herencia india. Elshamy/Anadolu Agency]

El pasado viernes, 1 de junio, una médico voluntaria palestina, Razan Al Najar, mientras ayunaba, atendía a los heridos en la verja artificial que separa a Gaza de Israel. A miles de kilómetros, la embajadora de Estados Unidos en la ONU, Nikki Haley, maquinaba en nombre de Israel en el organismo internacional. El día acabó con Razan glorificada y convertida en mártir y en Nikki humillada y avergonzada.

Como hacía cada día desde el comienzo de la Gran Marcha del Retorno el 30 de marzo, Razan se despidió de su familia y se dirigió a la frontera, consciente de que sus habilidades serían necesarias para tratar a los palestinos que se disponían a marchar hacia la valla que separa artificialmente a Gaza del resto de la Palestina histórica. Marchan para ejercitar su derecho a regresar a los hogares de los que proceden y de donde las fuerzas israelíes les expulsaron en 1948. Sin duda, los conocimientos médicos de Razan serían necesarios, ya que Israel había decidido desplegar a decenas de francotiradores profesionales para asesinar a palestinos. El número de víctimas ha alcanzado las 119 y más de diez mil heridos; algunas estimaciones elevan esta cifra a más de 13.000.

Una publicación de Facebook – cuya exactitud no puedo verificar – afirma que, en sus últimas palabras, Razan le pidió a su madre que hiciera hojas de parra rellenas para la ruptura del ayuno al anochecer. Se despidió y marchó a encontrarse con sus compañeros médicos en la valla. En aquel momento, Nikki Haley estaría probablemente desayunando antes de dirigirse a la ONU y decidir cómo lidiar con los 15 miembros del Consejo de Seguridad. No había llegado a un acuerdo sobre ninguna declaración respecto a los acontecimientos en la frontera de Gaza desde el comienzo de las marchas, a pesar del alto número de víctimas. Aquel día, el Consejo decidía si respaldar una resolución presentada por Kuwait pidiendo protección para el pueblo palestino, o respaldar una resolución estadounidense condenando a Hamás por una serie de cohetes disparados desde la Franja de Gaza en respuesta a los crímenes israelíes.

Razan, de 20 años, era la mayor de seis hermanos. Tenía un título en enfermería general y había completado unos 38 cursos de primeros auxilios. Aunque no tenía asegurado un trabajo remunerado, se ofrecía como voluntaria en hospitales, ONGS y organizaciones médicas, desarrollando habilidades y experiencia que la convirtieron en una gran ayuda durante la Gran Marcha.

En una entrevista con el The New York Times el mes pasado, Razan explicaba por qué se había ofrecido voluntaria para ayudar en la Gran Marcha del Retorno, sobre todo como mujer. “Ser médico no es sólo un trabajo de hombres”, dijo Razan, “también es de mujeres”.

También atestiguó los momentos finales de algunos heridos de muerte. “Me rompe el corazón que algunos de los jóvenes que resultaron heridos o fueron asesinados me dijeran a mí su última voluntad”, contaba a Al Jazeera. “Algunos incluso me daban objetos suyos [como regalo] antes de morir.”

En una publicación en su cuenta de Facebook el 16 de mayo, Razan negaba las acusaciones de que ella y otros voluntarios habían sido coaccionados para ir a la frontera.

El 1 de junio, un francotirador israelí la disparó por la espalda, según informó la organización activista Al Mezan, citando a testigos oculares y a sus investigaciones. En el momento de recibir el disparo, se encontraba a 100 m. de la valla y llevaba ropas que claramente la identificaban como médico. Su chaleco médico manchado de sangre la acompañó a la tumba durante el funeral masivo que se celebró para ella al día siguiente.

Comparemos los actos humanos y desinteresados de Razan, de 21 años, con oportunidades limitadas de conseguir paz y justicia para su pueblo, con los intentos vergonzosos y descarados de la embajadora Nikki Haley en el Consejo de Seguridad para denegar la protección al pueblo de Razan. Mientras que Kuwait proponía una resolución al Consejo para cumplir su responsabilidad ante un pueblo oprimido y garantizar su protección, Haley proponía una resolución para denunciar a Hamás por los cohetes lanzados contra zonas israelíes tras los ataques y bombardeos mortales de Israel en el enclave asediado.

La votación sobre ambos textos se produjo poco después de la muerte de Razan. Haley no consiguió más votos que el suyo para su resolución; tres países votaron en contra y 11 se abstuvieron. Una total humillación para Estados Unidos y personalmente para Haley que hizo que los analistas revolvieran los registros históricos hasta encontrar otra ocasión en la que una resolución sólo hubiera contado con el apoyo del país que la proponía. En el momento de escribir este artículo, aún no han encontrado ninguna.

Una vez más, Haley quedó aislada cuando Estados Unidos vetó una resolución para proteger a los palestinos. Con su poder en Israel, ha dado la espalda a un pueblo palestino mayoritariamente pacífico que se enfrenta al ejército de Israel, ayudado por el hardware militar de EEUU, con un valor de miles de millones de dólares. En una reunión previa del Consejo respecto a los asesinatos de Israel contra manifestantes palestinos, decidió salir en cuanto su representante comenzó hablar. Supuso una clara violación del protocolo y produjo grandes críticas. Dado su desempeño general como embajadora de los Estados Unidos, el presidente Trump debería despedir a Haley inmediatamente. Ha provocado el aislamiento y la humillación de su país; todo por el bien de un aliado inmerecido, Israel.

El 1 de junio de 2018, Razan perdió su vida mientras Nikki Haley perdía su humanidad al defender las acciones terroristas de un Estado criminal, Israel. Razan murió como una palestina orgullosa, llena de humanidad, y será recordada con el mismo nombre que le pusieron al nacer. Al contrario, Nimrata Randhawa, hija de inmigrantes sij, un día fallecerá y será recordada por su nombre adoptivo, Nikki Haley, con el que oculta su herencia india. Razan será recordada por su voluntariado desinteresado, mientras que Haley será recordada por apoyar y proteger al único Estado de apartheid del mundo.

Razan no podía hacer mucho por cambiar el mundo y conseguir la paz en tierra santa, mientras que Haley, desde una de las oficinas más poderosas de la política mundial, podría haber ayudado a proteger a los palestinos y llevar la paz a la región. Si Razan hubiera tenido un cargo tan alto, el mundo sería un lugar mejor.

Descansa en paz, Razan Al-Najar. Vales más que un millón de Nikki Haleys.

 

 

Is Mahmoud Abbas’ peace plan achievable?

First published by TRT World on 5/6/2018

The US has effectively removed any facade of its status as ‘mediator’ between Palestinians and Israelis. Will it be possible for any peace process to move forward in the face of US and Israeli belligerence?

The Palestinians are at a crossroad, as they commemorate the 51 anniversary of the Naksa (day of the setback) when Israel captured the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Syrian Golan Heights and the Sinai desert – prospects for a peace treaty with Israel that would bring any form of justice appear further today than ever.

The intransigence of an extremist settler-led Israeli government has been strengthened by a US Administration that not only has Israel’s back, but is prepared to be isolated at the United Nations if it means protecting its ally.

If confirmation of this was needed, then the recent theatre at the UN Security Council should be sufficient.

The US vetoed a resolution that sought to bring protection for the Palestinian people from Israeli violence—in which at least 118 have been killed since March—mostly at the hands of Israeli snipers positioned high above the fence between Gaza and Israel, using lethal explosive bullets. If the bullets did not kill, the injuries they caused were devastating, resulting in many amputations.

Yes, the Security Council, which is mandated to ensure security, let the Palestinian people down at the behest of US UN envoy Nikki Haley’s raised hand. America’s isolation was compounded when Haley failed to secure a single vote for her resolution condemning Hamas for a volley of 70 rockets, which left the Gaza strip a few days earlier in response to Israel’s killings and frequent air raids on Gaza.

The US secured exactly one vote: that of the US itself.

The US had been isolated earlier in 2018 after US President Donald Trump decided to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and in record time moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, absent of any peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Nikki Haley again had to raise her hand to veto a resolution rejecting its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. However, the US lost heavily when the same text was put to the UN General Assembly, where it has no veto. Haley resorted to threats to those that “disrespected” the US and indicated there would be consequences for doing so.

The Palestinian response to the US Embassy move, its subsequent defunding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and threats to close the Palestinian mission in Washington DC was to suspend all contact with the US administration.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has since refused to meet any American officials, specifically Jason Greenblatt and US Ambassador David Friedman. He even recently shunned a delegation of Democrats on a visit to the region.

The Americans claim to be close to releasing “the ultimate peace deal”, which will apparently be presented for implementation after the holy month of Ramadan. With Trump declaring he has taken Jerusalem “off the table”; no prospects for the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes; no plans to dismantle or evacuate any of the illegal settlements in East Jerusalem or the West Bank; it is likely to be a very thin document, which no Palestinian leader could sell to his people, whose sacrifices before and since Israel’s creation have been immeasurable.

There have also been major geopolitical changes in the region that weaken the Palestinian position. The threat of Iran has sent a number of Gulf States to seek US protection, which in turn has been used as leverage to cajole them into developing clandestine relationships with Israel and in some cases those relationships are out in the open. They even responded to Trump’s call to control the anger that his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital ignited, leaving Haley purring that the sky did not fall in after the announcement.

In the face of such monumental challenges, Abbas has developed his own peace plan, which he put to the UN Security Council and more recently to the Palestinian National Council. It is based on a “multilateral international mechanism”.

The plan would be based on the two-state solution, with East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital. In addition, it includes an international peace conference by mid-2018 that would recognise Palestine as a state; the implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative; and the refraining of all parties from taking any unilateral actions during the negotiation process.

In essence, this plan is dead in the water unless the US approves it because it would have to eventually be put to a vote in the UN Security Council. It’s a safe bet to assume the Haley hand would be raised to veto.

In any case, there is no evidence that either the EU, Russia or China are willing or capable of holding a peace conference in mid 2018 as Abbas asks. We are already there and there is not a whisper of a possibility of this taking place.

It is therefore likely that the situation will revert to the status quo—which Israel can live with—but which the Palestinians have been unable to change.

Two options the Palestinians can pursue to raise the cost of the occupation to Israel are to continue to pursue criminal charges against Israelis in the International Criminal Court, and to escalate the popular non-violent resistance, which caught Israel off-guard and struggled to deal with except through violence. The third strand is to adopt and escalate the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as the Palestine National Council agreed at its recent meeting in Ramallah.

These are actions Palestinians can take themselves and with the help of supporters around the world, rather than relying on Arab or western governments to support them.

It is only once the cost of the occupation has risen to a level which troubles Israel that it will negotiate seriously for a just peace.

In his current mindset Abbas is unlikely to effectively develop an alternative strategy, along these lines. However, the 84 year old has health issues and may abruptly exit the political scene. That might just  open the way for a new approach that delivers freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people.