Nikki Haley’s swansong at the UN was an embarrassment

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 10/12/2018

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley [Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency]

The 6 December was the first anniversary of US President Donald Trump’s announcement that he recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and that he would move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. The announcement was cheered by Israel and its supporters for whom international laws and conventions are at best meaningless and at worst an irritant. Trump suggested that this move would help bring peace to the Holy Land. How wrong he was. Anyone but a diehard Zionist would have told him that he was deluded to think this, but nobody in his administration would have done so, because those tasked with developing a peace deal fall into this category.

One of these cheerleaders for Apartheid Israel is Nimrata Randhawa, better known to the world as Nikki Haley, the US Representative to the United Nations. In the UN Security Council, she can wield the US veto to protect Israel but she is unable to do that in the General Assembly, where no state has a veto. Her swansong in the chamber was an embarrassment for her and her country.

Haley left what was her final General Assembly with her pro-Israel tail firmly between her legs. Her resolution to condemn Hamas was voted down, while a resolution reiterating the call for a comprehensive peace based on the two-state solution, which she opposed, passed overwhelmingly. It is particularly galling that Haley wanted to use the UN to condemn Palestinians while defending Israel and its breaches of hundreds of resolutions passed by the very organisation she wanted to use to sanction the people of Palestine who are in breach of none.

The US envoy’s period in office has been characterised by her complete dismissal of Palestinian rights and unwavering support for Israel to ensure that it never faces accountability for its crimes. Her support for Israel since she took on the role has been astonishing. Early on in her appointment she made the defence of the Zionist state at the UN her primary goal, insisting that, “The days of Israel-bashing at the United Nations are over.” She added that the passing of so-called anti-Israel resolutions in the Security Council, referring to the anti-settlement resolution 2334, “would never happen again.”

Haley even blocked the appointment of former PA prime minster Salam Fayyad as UN Envoy to Libya. “For too long the UN has been unfairly biased in favour of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel,” she claimed.

Following Israel’s murder of over 60 Palestinians protesting peacefully on one day at the height of the Great March of Return demonstrations in the besieged Gaza Strip, Haley blocked a call for an international investigation into Israeli tactics in dealing with the peaceful protests. Instead, she blamed Iran and terrorist proxies for causing the violence. Haley went on to praise the Israeli forces’ performance throughout the protests: “I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council, who among us would accept this type of activity on your border? No one would. No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has. In fact, the records of several countries here today suggest they would be much less restrained.” She did not refer to the right that the Palestinian refugees marching to the nominal border fence have to return to their homes inside what is now called Israel. Resolution 194 regarding the right of return is yet another of the UN resolutions which Israel has failed to implement, even though its membership of the UN itself was conditional on doing so.

Palestinians will not forget her action on the day when 21-year-old volunteer medic Razan Al-Najjar was killed by an Israeli sniper’s bullet, possibly sourced from the US. Ambassador Haley fought to scupper a resolution in the Security Council calling for protection for the Palestinians.

One of Haley’s most embarrassing moments came when she tried to defend the US President’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the embassy from Tel Aviv. A resolution calling for the withdrawal of such recognition was backed by every council member except the US, which then used its veto to block it.

The resolution demanded that all countries comply with pre-existing UN Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem, dating back to 1967, including requirements that the city’s final status be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Haley denounced the resolution as “an insult” and insisted that this action would not be forgotten.

“The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy,” she blustered. “It’s scandalous to say we are putting back peace efforts. The fact that this veto is being done in defence of American sovereignty and in defence of America’s role in the Middle East peace process is not a source of embarrassment for us; it should be an embarrassment to the remainder of the security council.” Haley walked out of the chamber as the representative for Palestine began to speak.

A picture taken on October 18, 2018 shows the US Consulate in Jerusalem on October 2018 [THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

In October, she announced her resignation as America’s UN envoy but her defence of Israel ran through to the last minute of her period in office, which concluded with the General Assembly on 6 December.

The outcome of the vote on the two resolutions tabled at the GA last week was important to Palestinians and supporters of a just resolution to the conflict. Haley’s anti-Palestinian resolution called for condemnation of Hamas for “repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and for inciting violence, thereby putting civilians at risk”, and for its use of resources in Gaza to construct military infrastructure, “including tunnels to infiltrate Israel and equipment to launch rockets into civilian areas.” The US-drafted text did not make any reference to Israel’s killing of nearly 300 peaceful protesters since 30 March or the botched covert Israeli operation inside Gaza that led to the recent flare up. The result of the vote was 87 in favour, 58 against, with 32 abstentions.

While this resolution gained a simple majority, including support from EU countries, it did not pass the two-thirds majority that the GA agreed would be necessary for it to pass. While Palestinians and their supporters were relieved and pleased, a closer examination shows worrying signs of a possible shift in support for Palestinian rights, including the legitimate right to resist a 51-year long illegal occupation and a 12-year siege on Gaza.

The Palestinians, though, can take comfort from the passing of the second resolution. The General Assembly called for an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine in favour of the two-state solution. Not only did Israel vote against the Irish and Bolivian resolution as expected, but the US did as well, giving the clearest possible indication that it no longer supports a two-state solution. Australia also voted against a two-state solution, but none of the five countries opposed to the second resolution offered any alternative.

This General Assembly was likely to be Haley’s last public appearance as US Envoy. She has undoubtedly changed the role to one that takes its lead from both the US and Israeli administrations such that America’s Security Council veto is also openly Israel’s to use. This is a dangerous development, which together with the increasing support in the UN for condemnation of what Palestinians and international law regard as legitimate resistance is extremely detrimental to international law and order. The situation requires an urgent strategy to counter it.

Nikki Haley will not be missed by either Palestinians or their supporters. Good riddance, we say, to an apologist for Israel who has been the face at the UN of a completely biased, anti-Palestinian US administration. The Palestinians should be under no illusion that the next holder of the position, and those developing the “ultimate deal”, will be working to liquidate the Palestinian cause. However, those working against Palestinian rights should also know that they have picked on a people who have demonstrated over decades that they will not give up on their rights, whatever the challenges.

Israel’s botched operation in Gaza comes with consequences

First published by the Arab Weekly on 18/11/2018

The Palestinian group behind that attack scored a public relations victory because it refrained from firing until Israeli soldiers left the bus.

War advocacy. Israeli residents from the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon demonstrate against the Gaza ceasefire, on November 14. (AFP)

War advocacy. Israeli residents from the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon demonstrate against the Gaza ceasefire, on November 14. (AFP)

A botched Israeli operation 3km inside Gaza resulted in both physical and political casualties, the latter including Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who resigned to protest what he said was a lack of determination in the Israeli government to inflict a major blow on Hamas

Lieberman also objected to the transfer of $15 million, donated by Qatar, to pay the salaries of Hamas-employed public servants, which the Palestinian Authority had refused to pay.

What started as a limited covert operation — Israeli media reported that members of the elite unit were disguised in women’s clothes — to abduct or assassinate a commander in the armed wing of Hamas’ armed wing Ezzeldin al-Qassam ended with seven Palestinian fighters dead.

However, the Palestinians killed the Israeli group’s commander and one of his companions. Israeli helicopters scrambled to evacuate the unit and Israeli jets destroyed the vehicle they used for the operation close to the Gaza fence.

Israel thought it could conduct a limited operation, leave the Gaza Strip with its attack team intact and withstand a small reaction of the firing of a limited number of rockets from Gaza. It would then present itself as the victim of Palestinian terror.

It once again failed to account for the resilience of the Palestinians, particularly in the tiny besieged strip, into its risk assessment before the operation. Not only did Palestinian groups fire back with nearly 400 rockets causing tens of injuries, images of a bus carrying soldiers on the Israeli side of the fence that was targeted with apparent ease made a mockery of Israel’s security provision.

The Palestinian group behind that attack scored a public relations victory because it refrained from firing until Israeli soldiers left the bus, controlling the amount of damage that could have been inflicted — and possible consequences.

The incident was shown on Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV, which was targeted and its main building demolished by an Israeli strike.

Far from inflicting a severe blow on Hamas, Israel is at war with itself, with Lieberman’s resignation and his calls for others to consider their positions possibly leading to the collapse of the coalition government and perhaps early elections.

A week is a long time in politics. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu started the week making a surprise official visit to Oman.

Two other ministers followed on open trips to the Gulf. Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev visited the United Arab Emirates and Transport Minister Yisrael Katz attended a transport conference in Oman. The Israeli flag was raised in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

There were rumours of possible diplomatic relations being established between Bahrain and Israel. A possible long-term truce with Hamas appeared to be near completion and plans were presented to create a sea route between Gaza and Cypress, to ease the siege on Gaza.

The Americans were said to be readying themselves to reveal the Deal of the Century, US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, in early December.

By the end of the week, Netanyahu was back in Tel Aviv to deal with the fallout from the botched operation and the ensuing violence. He cut short his visit to France, where he was pictured in the front row of commemorations of the centenary of the Armistice Day. On his return to Israel, he was met with images of Israeli citizens burning tyres in protest of the decision to end the bombardment of Gaza. This is a measure of the effect of the failed operation.

Yet another truce appears to have been secured between Israel and the Palestinian groups in Gaza. This was met with celebrations in Gaza, which saw this and the resignation of Lieberman as a victory for the Palestinian resistance. The truce will bring relief to Israelis in the neighbouring settlements, despite their protests.

The Israeli operation showed friendly Arab countries that normalising relations with Israel would not encourage Israel to engage in serious efforts for peace with the Palestinians. Also, Israel will not go to the aid of Arab states in the unlikely event of an Iranian strike against them.

The messy operation should be a wake-up call for Arabs to review their strategies towards Israel.

Gaza strikes: Israeli impunity grows as Arab states normalise ties

First published by TRT World on 13/11/2018

 

The botched Israeli operation, and airstrikes, in Gaza, comes while a truce is under discussion with Hamas. Is bombing the Palestinians into submission, Benjamin Netanyahu’s idea of a negotiation?

Israel is quite literally playing with fire.

It launched a botched operation 3km into the Gaza strip, whose objectives are still unclear, but which seems to have been an attempted abduction or assassination of a senior member of the Ezzedine Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. The special forces unit used a civilian vehicle, and its members were reportedly disguised in women’s clothes. The alleged target, Nour Baraka was killed, as were six other resistance fighters.

Israeli forces lost one of their commandos, and another was reported injured. Things could have been much worse for Israel if it had not been for the overwhelming firepower it used to rescue its forces out of Gaza.

Hamas and Israel have since exchanged attacks, with Palestinian resistance groups firing tens of projectiles into Israel with reports of tens of injuries, while in return Israel launched rounds of airstrikes, which targeted among others, the homes of Hamas leaders, including Gaza’s speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ahmad Bahar.

Israel also bombed and destroyed the building that houses the Al Aqsa television station in Gaza City. A 19-year-old Israeli soldier was severely wounded after “an anti-tank missile” hit a bus in southern Israel’s Shaar HaNegev regional council area, Haaretz reported.

Israeli representatives have been laying blame at Hamas’s door for the escalation. However, Israel triggered it, and on this occasion, it is firmly to blame for the death on both sides.

The incident is in keeping with Israel’s reputation for negotiating with one hand and murdering with another. It just cannot be trusted.

It is not clear why Israel chose this moment to escalate matters. It decided to do this while a truce with Hamas was being negotiated through Egypt, which would have brought some relief to the besieged strip.

There was the talk of a sea route from Cyprus to Gaza to be installed to allow relatively free movement of cargo and presumably people in and out of Gaza that the Qataris had been negotiating. The two million besieged Palestinians were enjoying nearly 16 hours of electricity per day for the first time in years.

The Qatari Ambassador Mohammed al Emadi brought suitcases full of cashtotalling around $15 million to pay for the salaries of Hamas workers, who had not been paid in six months. In return, he could be heard asking a senior Hamas representative to “ensure calm.”

This was an explicit reference to scaling back the Great Return March to the Gaza fence, which has continued unabated since March.

Palestinians suffer as the world cosies up to Netanyahu

Further afield, Israel was enjoying quite sensational normalisation with Gulf states, with whom it has no official diplomatic ties.

Relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia have warmed, even leading Netanyahu to stress the importance of Saudi Arabia’s stability, in what analysts saw as clear reference to protecting the Saudi Crown Prince from any accountability for the Jamal Khashoggi urder in the Kingdom’s Istanbul Embassy.

Benjamin Netanyahu was on the front row for the commemoration of centenary of Armistices day in France. US President Trump’s special Adviser, Jason Greenblatt has been briefing pro-Israel supporters about the long rumored ‘ultimate deal’ which he told supporters of Israel in London would be made public as soon as the beginning of December.

Having handed Israeli recognition of Jerusalem as its capital and worked overtime to close UNRWA—both long desired by Netanyahu—it is almost certain the ‘deal’ would provide Israel with more gifts and be impossible for the Palestinians to accept.

Israel was winning the diplomatic and PR war, while the Palestinians were increasingly isolated. This makes it even more bizarre that it would seek to ignite a war on Gaza just as it was making such wins.

The botched attack forced Netanyahu to scupper home from France to decide on the next steps to yet again punish Gaza for the Israelis breaching a ceasefire or understanding of a ceasefire. As he was on his way, it was reported the Israeli military was requiring Tel Aviv airport to change flight routings in fear of rockets from Gaza reaching its main airport.

It seems Israeli leaders are now so certain of complete impunity—not only provided by the West but a normalising Arab world—that it can diplomatically win without any costs while exercising state terror on the Palestinians to perhaps finally beat them into submission.

Israel perhaps hopes this will send them scuttling to Trump to accept any deal both in Ramallah and Gaza.

Having failed to quell the peaceful Great Return March, Israel is back to her old tricks of crying wolf and painting Palestinians as terrorists to justify its violence. The normalising Arab states should take note. Israel cannot be trusted, especially under the current Netanyahu regime.

Whatever calculations Netanyahu and his extremist government made when they sanctioned the attack in Khan Younis, they once again failed to factor in the bravery and resilience of the Palestinian people.

As Israeli tanks amass at the Gaza fence, Israel can be sure that yes it can kill tens, hundreds or thousands with its American supplied weapons, but it will not break the Palestinians.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

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Israel seeking escalation to justify future attack on Gaza

I was interviewed by Press TV on 17/10/2018

Israel tries to provoke Palestinians to conduct retaliatory attacks in order to justify any future attack on the besieged people in the Gaza Strip, says a commentator.

Kamel Hawwash, with the Palestinian solidarity campaign, told Press TV on Wednesday that “they (the Israeli authorities) are goading the Palestinians in Gaza in particular Hamas into some sort of retaliatory action, which they would then use to justify in front of their allies as [the Israelis are] attacking the Palestinians in Gaza in self-defenKamel Hawwash, with the Palestinian solidarity campaign, told Press TV on Wednesday that “they (the Israeli authorities) are goading the Palestinians in Gaza in particular Hamas into some sort of retaliatory action, which they would then use to justify in front of their allies as [the Israelis are] attacking the Palestinians in Gaza in self-defenKamel Hawwashse.”

“Israel is the occupier and the side that has laid siege to two million people for now almost 12 years.”

However, Hawwash noted, Palestinians “are not looking for an escalation” and they are determined to continue their protest against the Israeli siege and also their denial of the right to return to their homes.
#FreePalestine

 

Trump’s Administration will fail to break the Palestinians

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 11/9/2018

Trump and Netanyahu are now brothers in arms in racism against the Palestinians

US President Donald Trump (L) is welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in Tel Aviv on May 22, 2017 [Daniel Bar On/Anadolu Agency]

US President Donald Trump (L) is welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in Tel Aviv on 22 May 2017 [Daniel Bar On/Anadolu Agency]

The Palestinian people and their cause are facing an existential threat in their homeland. Anyone who thinks that this an exaggeration should remember how many times since US President Donald Trump took office that the phrase “I can’t believe what he has just done” was used. People said that when he appointed his anti-Palestinian “dream peace team” made up of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, former company lawyer Jason Greenblatt and former bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman. All three are ardent supporters of Zionism, Israel and the settlement enterprise. Unbelievably he recently added war monger and Palestinian-hater John Bolton as National Security Adviser.

They said that it was unbelievable that Trump broke with every previous American president since Bill Clinton by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December last year. He followed this by moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in record time. His daughter and son-in-law inaugurated it on the 70st anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba as over 60 Palestinians were murdered at the Gaza fence marching peacefully to return to the homes they were expelled from in 1948. Trump had the audacity to claim that his move would bring peace closer because it would take Jerusalem “off the table”.

They said it was unbelievable when Trump initially cut and recently ended the US contribution to UNRWA, the UN agency which has delivered vital services to the most vulnerable Palestinians, the refugees. Rather than exert pressure on Israel to allow them to peacefully return to their homes, Trump parroted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that the agency “perpetuates” the refugee problem by passing this status from one generation to another. Facing severe financial difficulties as a result of this immoral US move, the agency’s schools which reopened recently for the new academic year warned that they may have to close at the end of September unless the $217 million deficit is plugged by others. Palestine was recently reported to have one of the lowest illiteracy rates in the world.

Read: Trump cuts aid to Palestinian hospitals in occupied Jerusalem

Jared Kushner was reported to have tried to pressure King Abdullah of Jordan to remove the status of some two million Palestinian refugees residing in his Kingdom, which the King refused to do.

They said it was unbelievable when the US cut funding to the Palestinian Authority by $200 million but kept funding for the security services, which secure |Israel, not the Palestinians. What was even more unbelievable was the American administration’s decision to cut its $25 million of funding for the treatment of cancer in Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem. This sickening decision hits the most vulnerable with immediate effect.

It should be unbelievable that the neither the US nor the EU have condemned Israel’s racist and Apartheid confirming Nation-state Law. However, we all remember which side the US and EU took when blacks in South Africa were fighting for their freedom and the end of Apartheid there.

Perhaps less unbelievable was the decision to close the PLO Office in Washington. This has been on the cards for some time, but presumably Sheldon Addison and AIPAC could not bear seeing the Palestinian flag lying in Washington. However, what is unbelievable is that Congress still considers the PLO a terrorist organisation, despite the White House rolling out the red carpet for first Yasser Arafat and then Mahmoud Abbas on a number of occasions and despite the famous signing of the Oslo Accords and the famous Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House lawns in 1993. Trump himself met Abbas in Bethlehem on his first visit as president to the region last year. The reason given for the closure was the PA’s refusal to return to meaningless negotiations and to dare to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

It was therefore not unbelievable, though it should be, to watch John Bolton rubbish and threaten the ICC with sanctions in his recent speech. He directly threatened judges if they actually do their work and bring to justice not just American citizens but Israelis suspected of war crimes. He warned: “If the court comes after us, Israel, or other US allies, we will not sit quietly,” adding: “We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the US financial system, and we will prosecute them in the US criminal system. We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.”

Read: The debate on UNRWA takes focus away from the realities of Palestinian refugees

Working in cahoots with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Bolton clearly does not consider the West Bank or East Jerusalem as occupied. In his speech he referred to the construction of illegal Israel settlements as simply “Israeli construction of housing projects on the West Bank”, which he castigated the ICC for even considering prosecuting Israeli leaders for sanctioning and funding. Unbelievable too was Israeli high court proclamation that settlers acted “in good faith” when they built illegally on Palestinian land.

With Jerusalem “off the table”, settlements just construction projects, no right of return for Palestinian refugees, no recourse for Palestinians to the ICC and UN Security Council paralysed by an Israeli veto (yes) and an administration that is content with supporting Israel both politically and to the tune of $3 billion per year, the Palestinian cause faces an existential threat.

However, not only is the cause facing an existential threat, the Palestinians themselves are facing an existential threat. Israel’s Nation State Law gave only Jews the right to self-determination within whatever borders Israel claims for itself but not to Palestinians. It further recognised Jewish only settlements as a “national value”. If only Jews have a right to self-determination in Israel then they could decide they do not want any Palestinians in the area Israel rules.

A racist Israeli state is now supported by an American administration that is racist against the Palestinian people. It sees them as having no rights whatsoever, apart from any crumbs that Netanyahu and his extremist government will give them but only if that does not impact Israel’s security, whatever that means.

#UNRWA

Having failed to “encourage” Palestinians to leave of their own accord through 70 years of oppression, it may be the right moment for Israel to put all Palestinians on busses to Jordan and “Greater Gaza”, which has been talked about as part of Trump’s “ultimate deal”. Is that beyond belief? Just think who would act to stop it if it tried? It certainly won’t be America, the EU or the Arab states. It also won’t be the UK as this will be a further fulfilment of the Balfour Declaration, whose centenary it celebrated last year.

The only thing that will stop it, which Trump has not built in as a factor in his immoral “ultimate deal” is the resilience of the Palestinian people, all 13 million of them. He should have realised this on the day the embassy was moved when over 60 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. That has not stopped them going to the fence again and again and again as they have done since 30 March. The Palestinians will outlast Trump’s administration. However long it takes they will stay and fight for their very existence in their homeland and those in the diaspora will not give up on their right to return. After all they are the people of the land not Israeli settler colonialists whose resilience will waiver and whose hold on the land is only maintained through the barrel of a gun.