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

Israel’s royal reward for discriminating against Palestinians

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 25/6/2018

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UK Prince Williams arrives at the Marka International Airport to hold official visits in Amman, Jordan on 24 June 2018 [Shadi Nsoor/Anadolu Agency]

As Britain’s Prince William arrives in Israel for a royal visit that will also see him visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories, does he really understand the country upon which he is bestowing an air of normality? The same question would apply to any world leader or dignitaries making a similar trip to the state of Israel as it is currently constituted.

Members of the British royal family have, of course, made visits to other states with highly questionable values and human rights records. However, in the current climate, the Foreign Office rightly shies away from organising such a trip to, for example, Myanmar because of its appalling treatment and displacement of the Rohingya Muslims, which has created a major refugee problem.

Similar consideration should have been given before pushing the second in line to the throne to undertake a trip to Israel, which was founded in 1948 on the forced displacement of 750,000 Palestinians to make way for Jewish immigrants; it has rightly been called “ethnic cleansing” and is an ongoing process. Palestinians continue to live in exile in refugee camps to this day, including those in Jordan, where William spent the first evening of the visit watching a recording of the England vs Panama football match with the Jordanian Crown Prince. Will he be briefed about the obstacles that Israel places in the way of Palestinians trying to play the beautiful game, and the sometimes targeted shooting of them in the legs?

The prince could have visited Al-Baqa’a refugee camp, which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visited a couple of days ago, highlighting the continuing Palestinian refugee problem that the world has failed to resolve. It is one of 10 camps registered with UNRWA, which altogether accommodate around one-fifth of the 2 million Palestinian refugees in the Hashemite Kingdom.

In a carefully choreographed visit to Israel and Palestine, the prince will meet the leadership of a people still under occupation, the Palestinians, as well as the people who have been occupying and colonising their land for 51 years (70 if you count the original Nakba), the Israelis. He will meet carefully chosen Palestinians who will not remind him of Britain’s role in their predicament or ask why Britain continues to sell weapons to Israel and why it failed to condemn Israel’s massacres of Palestinians under siege in Gaza.

They will not talk about the Balfour Declaration or the British occupation under the League of Nations Mandate, or ask him why he has made the trip now, which his family had refrained from doing since Israel’s establishment. Nor will they ask him why Britain is rewarding Israel with his visit, when the situation on the ground is worse now than ever before for the indigenous Palestinians whose only crime was to live on the land that Zionists wanted as a homeland for people who did not come from there. They will not ask him the fundamental question of why he is visiting an Apartheid state that dominates and discriminates against even its own Palestinian citizens who make up one-fifth of the population.

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The FCO will have emphasised to the Prince that Israel is not only an ally but also a democracy and that it shares western values to which Britain subscribes. However, it is unlikely that he would have been briefed in detail about the kind of democracy that Israel actually practices. It claims to be a Jewish and democratic state, but inherent in this is that its Jewish character always trumps democracy.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, recently stopped a bill from being discussed that would have given equal rights to all citizens. A bill calling for Israel “to be defined as a state of all its citizens” was disqualified from being placed on the Knesset’s agenda. Palestinian Israeli MK Haneen Zoabi, who the Prince is unlikely to meet, reaffirmed recently that, “A democracy does not exist without equality among its citizens.” Such equality is missing from Israeli-style democracy.

We can assume that this naked discrimination between citizens of the same country would not be something that Prince William would subscribe to, but his visit to Israel gives it the green light to continue.

The “Nation State Bill” passed its first reading earlier this year, and will define Israel as the “nation-state of the Jewish people”. The discriminatory implications of the Bill passing in its original format worry those who fight for equality between human beings, particularly citizens of the same state.

We can also safely assume that Britain would not establish as a matter of policy communities that are exclusively for people of one colour, creed or religion, but the illegal settlement enterprise enforced by Israel on occupied Palestinian land does exactly that. It builds homes, roads and other infrastructure for the exclusive use of its Jewish citizens. Even within Israel’s undeclared but internationally recognised borders, Jews live largely segregated lives from non-Jewish citizens.

Furthermore, it would be inconceivable for British communities to set up “Admissions Committees” to vet those wishing to move in. Prince William will not be told that in 2014 the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the “Admissions Committees Law” that allows Israel’s Jewish communities to exclude its Arab citizens from living in the same town, village or neighbourhood.

In March, a Jewish town in the Galilee region of northern Israel cancelled the sale of land for new homes in the community after it “became clear that more than 50 per cent of those purchasing the plots were Arab citizens”. Hundreds of Jewish Israelis demonstrated recently in Afula against the sale of a home to an Arab family.

The prince will not be told about Israel’s discrimination against the Bedouin Community in the Negev Desert. Since its creation on Palestinian land in 1948, it has not recognised 35 villages, which it deprives of services, simply because they are populated by Bedouin. He will not be told that the Bedouin village of Um Al-Hiran will be demolished to make way the Jew-only settlement of Hiran.

William will not be told of more than 65 laws on the statute book that discriminate against non-Jews in the state, including the law of return and marriage between Israeli citizens and Palestinian citizens from the occupied territories. Nor will he visit Hebron to see modern day Apartheid in action, with an illegal occupation to boot. He will not visit Gaza to see the impact of the 11-year long siege, so he will not visit the home of Razan Al-Najjar, the 21- year old medic who was gunned down and killed by an Israel soldier while helping the injured.

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The prince will not be told that Jewish and Arab women are segregated in hospital maternity wards or that Bedouins are not allowed into a swimming pool because locals threatened to “boycott the pool if Bedouin were allowed in.”

Even as a military man himself, Prince William will not visit a military court to see Palestinian children shackled and abused while they await conviction as almost all charges against them are upheld by the courts whose jurisdiction does not apply to Israeli Jews.

The above is but a taste of the discriminatory state that Prince William is honouring with his visit. Does such an openly racist state deserve this honour? What will it take for the so-called international community and civilised western states to see Israel for what it has become and move from protecting it from accountability for its crimes to sanctioning it for its continued breaches of international laws and conventions?

The timing of the visit is very much linked to Britain’s exit from the European Union and its desperation to sign trade deals post-BREXIT. Prince William is being used by the government to extract such a deal with a rogue, Apartheid state that will take anything on offer and continue to discriminate against Palestinians with impunity, emboldened by this royal visit.

First came America’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and now we have a visit by a senior member of the British royal family, despite Israel’s appalling human rights record What incentive does it have to stop abusing Palestinians and their legitimate rights and aspirations?

El escudo humano más famoso de Israel es Avigdor Lieberman, su ministro de Defensa

primero publicó el monitor de Oriente en 13/6/2018

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Palestinos participan en las protestas contra la ocupación y el bloqueo israelí en la frontera entre Gaza e Israel, en la localidad de Khan Younis, el pasado viernes 8 de junio de 2018 [Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency]

La maquinaria propagandística de Israel lleva funcionando a pleno nivel desde el 30 de marzo, cuando comenzó la Gran Marcha del Retorno y decenas de miles de palestinos de Gaza marcharon hacia la valla que les separa de Israel para exigir su derecho a regresar a sus ciudades y pueblos de origen, además del fin de los 11 años de asedio inmoral a Gaza. Una vez más, el objetivo es deshumanizar a los palestinos, retratarlos como personas violentas que pretenden atacar y asesinar a los israelíes, en vez de como a un pueblo respaldado por la ley internacional articulada en la Resolución 194 de la ONU, que otorga su derecho al retorno.

La hasbará israelí ha trabajado horas extras para tratar de ocultar la naturaleza pacífica de las manifestaciones y su origen como movimiento de base. Incluso antes de producirse la primera marcha a la valla, el ministro israelí de Asuntos Exteriores distribuyó un documento llamado “La Campaña de Confrontación liderada por Hamás”, que detallaba los principales factores expuestos por la diplomacia pública de Israel respecto a la marcha. Tal y como implica el título del documento, Israel quiso despojar a la marcha de su encuadre pacífico y civil, tachándola de “provocación” y afirmando que “Hamás ha gastado más de 10 millones de dólares en financiar la actual campaña de confrontación, pagando a los ciudadanos de Gaza para que participen”. Por supuesto, no existen pruebas que respalden estas afirmaciones. Todos palestinos (no sólo los ciudadanos de Gaza) marcharon por su propia voluntad. Muchas familiar salieron a las calles con sus hijos con la esperanza de poder atravesar pacíficamente la valla y volver a sus hogares.

Otra de las cosas que afirmaban es que “Israel tiene derecho a defender sus fronteras e impedir infiltraciones a su territorio soberano”. Pero el documento no explica cuáles son exactamente las fronteras de Israel. Dado que Israel sigue ocupando Gaza, donde controla la entrada tanto de personas como de bienes y cuenta con un registro de población, la valla en la que se colocaron sus tropas es artificial. Tampoco ha construido un muro a lo largo de toda la frontera, para permitir un fácil acceso a la franja sitiada para aplastar los cultivos y asesinar a la población a voluntad.

Israel reaccionó a las marchas pacíficas con gas lacrimógeno y munición que han provocado 120 muertos y más de 10.000 heridos. Ni un solo ciudadano o militar israelí ha resultado herido durante las marchas.

El documento del ministro de Exteriores israelí también afirma que “Hamás sigue utilizando a la población civil de Gaza como escudo humano”. Es una acusación que hace a menudo para desviar la atención mundial de sus crímenes y culpar a Hamás, no a sus acciones asesinas, de las víctimas y los heridos palestinos. Durante la guerra de 2014 en Gaza, afirmó que Hamás disparaba cohetes desde zonas civiles, incluso desde casas, escuelas y hospitales.

Israel asegura que Hamás ha pagado a los palestinos para que vayan hasta la frontera, arriesgando su vida y su integridad física, llevándose a sus hijos, tan sólo para actuar como escudos humanos que protejan a sus operativos, que planean ataques contra los ciudadanos y soldados israelíes. Los palestinos niegan estas acusaciones, subrayando que son los organizadores de la marcha los que determinan su desarrollo, no Hamás, y que los palestinos acuden a la valla por su propia voluntad.

112 palestinos fueron asesinados en #Gaza por fuerzas israelíes del 30 de marzo al 15 de mayo de 2018

Read more: ow.ly/RxA530k7jVN

BY The White Canvas

Israel incluso tuvo la desfachatez de publicar un vídeo editado para acusar a Razan Al-Najjar, una médica de 21 años, de lanzar un objeto a la valla y actuar como escudo humano de Hamás. En realidad, lo que dice Razan en la entrevista completa es “actúo como escudo humano para los heridos en el frente de batalla”.

Las afirmaciones de Israel de que los palestinos utilizan a los palestinos como escudo humano son falsas. De hecho, Israel utiliza tanto a palestinos como a judíos como escudo humano. A menudo, el ejército israelí usa a palestinos como escudos humanos, según ha informado la organización pacifista israelí B’Tselem. Les ordenan “retirar objetos sospechosos de las carreteras, decir a la gente que salgan de casa para que el ejército pueda arrestarla, ponerse delante de los soldados mientras estos últimos disparan detrás de ellos, y demás. Los ciudadanos palestinos que desempeñan estas tareas son escogidos al azar, y no pueden rechazar las obligaciones que les imponen los soldados armados”.

En 2010, dos soldados israelíes fueron condenados por utilizar a un chico palestino de 11 años como escudo humano en Gaza, ordenándole que abriera bolsas que se sospechaba que eran trampas bomba.

Lo que no resulta tan evidente para los analistas es que el mayor grupo de escudos humanos en la Palestina histórica son los colonos israelíes. Desde que ocuparon Cisjordania y Jerusalén Oriental en 1967, Israel ha construido colonias exclusivas para judíos, localizadas estratégicamente en base a razones tanto políticas como militares. La razón política consiste en imposibilitar que alguna vez emerja un Estado palestino viable y contiguo. Su objetivo también es judaizar Jerusalén y Hebrón. Al colocar ilegalmente a colonos en barrios palestinos, Israel les pone en peligro por razones políticas, ya sea como peones o como escudos humanos. Cuando los colonos ocupan un hogar palestino en Hebrón o en el barrio jerosolimitano de Sheikh Jarrah, se convierten en escudos humanos políticos.

Fue el ministro de Defensa de Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, quien articuló la lógica militar. Afirma que, desde su punto de vista, “está claro que los asentamientos en Judea y Samaria [Cisjordania] y los de las zonas de Jericó y del Mar Muerto son el verdadero muro defensivo del Estado de Israel”. Así, admitió que los colonos que habitan estas colonias están siendo utilizados como escudos humanos de Israel para proteger lo que, hasta el momento, es un Estado sin fronteras definitivas. Lieberman ha defendido los asentamientos y se ha comprometido a seguir construyendo colonias judías ilegales en Cisjordania, Jerusalén Oriental y los Altos del Golán.

El ascenso del terrorismo colono es otro uso de los colonos como peones, para provocar represalias palestinas y expulsar a los palestinos de su territorio. El ejército se pone detrás de ellos mientras se dedican a sembrar el terror, utilizándolos efectivamente como escudos humanos.

La acusación falsa de que Hamás ha utilizado a 40.000 ciudadanos como escudos humanos no está ni cerca del uso israelí de 700.000 escudos humanos: los colonos. Con un gobierno israelí liderado por colonos, hay muchos líderes importantes de Israel que viven en asentamientos ilegales, lo que les convierte en escudos humanos que protegen los objetivos políticos y militares de Israel.

El propio Avigdor Lieberman, ex portero de clubes nocturnos de Moldavia y ahora ministro de Defensa israelí, es un colono que reside en el asiento ilegal de Nokdim, en Gush Etzion. Resulta que el escudo humano más famoso de Israel es su ministro de Defensa.

 

Britain must not reward Israel for its abuse of Palestinians

First published by the Arab Weekly on Sunday 10/6/2018

Britain appears to be developing closer relations with Israel on many fronts.

Breaking with the norm? Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (L) and Prince William arrive as she hosts a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London, on May 31. (AP)

Prince William’s visit to Israel this month, the first official British royal visit to the country, could not come at a more inappropriate time.

More than 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire since March 30, when mass protests near the Gaza-Israel border broke out to highlight the plight of the besieged enclave and the rights of refugees. More than 10,000 people have been reportedly injured.

Among the fatalities was Razan Al-Najar, a 21-year old volunteer medic who was shot in the back while tending to injured protesters near the Israeli fence. Her death caused international outrage. Nicolai Miladinov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, tweeted: “Medical workers are #NotATarget!”

Israel, however, has not been held accountable. A resolution tabled at the UN Security Council to provide protection for the Palestinian people was vetoed by the United States hours after Razan’s death.

Britain’s Middle East Minister Alistair Burt, who was visiting the Palestinian territories and Israel, tweeted: “Circumstances of dreadful death of young Palestinian medic yesterday require urgent clarification.”

The world community failed to condemn Israel for the use of live ammunition fired by highly trained snipers, when less lethal force could have been used. There were no reports of injuries either to Israeli army personnel or nearby settlers.

Britain called for an independent inquiry into Israel’s killings of Palestinians only to abstain in the UN Human Rights Council when a resolution setting up the required inquiry was tabled.

Criticism of Britain’s U-turn on an independent inquiry grew when Burt said he could not verify how British weapons would be used once delivered to Israel. This raised concerns that British weapons may have been used by the Israeli military to kill Palestinian protesters, which is in contravention of the licences that allowed their sale.

Burt explained that once a risk assessment had been conducted, the licences were issued and no further checks made.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade said the United Kingdom issued approximately $300 million worth of arms licences to defence companies exporting to Israel, substantially more than the $115 million sold last year and the $27 million licensed in 2015.

Over the past five years, Israel has bought more than $450 million worth of British military hardware, making Israel the eighth largest market for UK arms companies. Last year’s sales included targeting equipment, small arms ammunition, missiles, weapon sights and sniper rifles. This makes it possible that snipers were using British rifles to kill and maim civilian protesters at the Gaza fence.

Britain appears to be developing closer relations with Israel on many fronts.

Britain’s Royal Air Force took part in a flyover to mark Israel’s Independence Day last month, even though it coincided with the Palestinians’ commemoration of 70 years of their Nakba.

Last December, HMS Ocean, a flagship of the British Royal Navy, docked in Haifa. It took part in exercises with the Israeli Navy and Air Force. To encourage British-Israeli business cooperation, particularly in the high-technology sector, the United Kingdom created the UK Israel Tech Hub. Its website confirms that it focuses on “tech areas with the potential to contribute to growth in both the UK and Israel.”  The areas include cyber-security, biomed, clean tech and fintech.

The United Kingdom is also firmly against placing pressure on Israel through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and has attempted to stop British local authorities excluding companies complicit in Israel’s occupation from applying for contracts or for their pension schemes to invest in such companies.

Israel is on a list of ten countries the United Kingdom is targeting for trade deals post Brexit and the United Kingdom appears to be exercising caution in taking any action against Israel that may put such a deal in jeopardy.

Prince William’s visit to the region is to include stops in Jordan and the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian Authority welcomed the visit, however, it is likely to be a only courtesy call in Ramallah, rather than a “meet the people” affair. The pomp and pageantry will be with the Israelis. Significantly, the prince will not visit Gaza to see first-hand the effect of the siege — imposed by the leaders whose hands he will shake and whose wine he will drink — on 2 million people.

It is the norm that royal visits avoid politics but by choosing to make such a visit in the current climate, every step and every word uttered by the prince will matter.

To avoid the many pitfalls, it would have been better for this visit to take place after a peace deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis, rather than after the significant loss of life in the Great March of Return.

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.