Interview: We Must Be Careful Whether to Say Saudi Journalist ‘Is Alive or Not’ – Scholar

I was interviewed by Sputnik about Jamal Khashuggi on 8/10/2018

Concerns are growing for the well-being of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was last seen entering the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday.

His fiancee waited for him outside the consulate for 11 hours, but there was no sign of Khashoggi leaving, and he has not been seen or heard by anyone since. Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi regime who had been living in self-imposed exile in America, had gone to the embassy to collect a document certifying that he was divorced, in order to marry his Turkish fiancee.

Sputnik has discussed the issue with Kamel Hawwash, academic and writer on Middle Eastern affairs — whom he met a week ago.

Sputnik: When you met Khashoggi a week ago did he seem afraid for his life?

Kamel Hawwash: When I met Mr Khashoggi at the Middle East Monitor conference just over a week ago — I hadn’t met him before — we exchanged good wishes; I chaired actually the session that he spoke at when he was speaking about the Oslo accords and their failure.

And even in that, although he criticized the stance of the Saudis on what is called ‘the deal of the century’ he reported to the conference that the Saudi King had effectively taken back control of the issue related to Palestine and particularly about Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.

And he advised the Palestinians to take hold of their own fate, but of course they would be supported by other countries.

Sputnik: Does Khashoggi really pose such a threat to the Saudi regime?

Kamel Hawwash: Well, Jamal Khashoggi has been in self-imposed exile for the last few months, he moved to the United States and has been writing for the Washington Post.

I think it was the fear that if he did had remained in the Kingdom he would either have to choose to be completely silent or if he did speak out he would face some danger.

Sputnik: If the reports are correct, and it was a state authorized killing, which would the Saudis want to risk further damaging relations with Turkey by carrying it in Turkey?

Kamel Hawwash: To be missing for a week having entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul having left 20 minutes later (according to the Saudis) raises lots of questions and people look back on a number of incidents when Saudi dissidents —fully fledged dissidents — have been arrested and taken back from different countries.

So we have to be careful about whether the man is alive or not but clearly until the Saudis themselves present evidence that he left in embassy in one piece, suspicions will continue to be that a week afterwards that something must have befallen the man otherwise why hasn’t he spoken out or been seen anywhere?

Sputnik: Is it time for Saudi Arabia to be held to account for its human rights abuses; should the ICC get involved?

Kamel Hawwash: Well I think even before we get that, clearly countries with very strong ties, relationships, that call themselves allies of Saudi Arabia have a role to play, especially the United States, the United Kingdom; countries that supply Saudi Arabia with weapons that are being used in the war in Yemen, for example, should be calling the ambassadors and asking for absolute clarity about what has happened to Khashoggi and different countries can then take their own action.

And that would be much more immediate in my view than taking something to the ICC which would take quite a long time to materialize. So I do think that…But we know that whether it’s the United States or the United Kingdom or other countries who have been continuing to sell weapons to the Saudis despite clear atrocities which have been committed — including for example a bus in which 50 children were killed by a bombing — but there have been, they have not taken the right action in terms of saying ‘we will stop supplying arms to Saudi Arabia because of this’. So the chances of them doing something for one individual — unfortunately there don’t seem to be strong chances that they will.

Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Kamel Hawwash and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

Regeni murder: If only Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall had been Italian

Regeni murder: If only Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall had been Italian

First published by the Middle East Eye on 20/4/2016

Why did the UK and US not react firmly against Israel for the killing of Hurndall and Corrie the way Italy did with Egypt for the death of Regeni?

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The world was shocked at the discovery of the body of Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni in a ditch in Cairo on 9 February. His body showed signs of horrific torture which made it difficult even for his relatives to confirm his identity. The 28-year-old Cambridge University student had been kidnapped 10 days earlier while researching labour unrest and independent trade unions in Egypt.

Ironically, he went missing on 25 January, the fifth anniversary of the start of Egypt’s revolution. Egypt’s initial theories for the cause of his death ranged from being a casualty in a road traffic accident to being murdered by a criminal gang and even to being killed in a lover’s argument.  

The reaction of Italy was firm and robust. The Italian interior minister, Angelino Alfano who claimed that Regeni had been subjected to “inhuman, animal-like violence” announced that while Egypt appeared to be cooperating with a team of Italian investigators dispatched to Cairo, Italy wanted justice for Regeni. “We will not settle for alleged truths,” he said. “We want those really responsible identified and punished on the basis of law.” Rejecting suspicions of Egyptian security forces involvement in Regeni’s death, the Egyptian interior minister, Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, called them “completely unacceptable”.

Not satisfied with Egypt’s response the Italian government recalled its ambassador on 8 April for “an urgent evaluation” of what steps to take to “ascertain the truth about the barbaric murder of Giulio Regeni”. In diplomatic norms, recalling an ambassador is a significant step in expressing displeasure at the behaviour of the host nation, in this case Egypt. States use this very sparingly as it can sometimes take months if not years for relations to return to normality, possibly impacting on other aspects of the relationship including trade cooperation. On this occasion Italy saw this move as an appropriate response.

Coverage of Regeni’s death rightly filled many column inches around the world with writers contrasting the significant coverage of his death with that of thousands of Egyptians who lost their lives since the start of the revolution five years ago.

The media also tends to give significant coverage to the death of peace or human rights activists around the world including when this happens in Israel. However, if one compares the action of Italy as a state to the killing of one of its citizens in Egypt to the lack of action by the UK and the US to the killing of their citizens by Israeli forces while protecting Palestinians from Israeli violence one finds a marked difference.

Corrie and Hurndall: A muted response

Take the case of Rachel Corrie, an American citizen from Olympia Washington who decided to spend her senior year at college in Rafah, Gaza to connect it to her home town through a sister cities project. She did not live to see this through as she was run down and killed by an Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) Caterpillar bulldozer as she tried to dissuade the driver from demolishing the home of a local Palestinian pharmacist. Her killing on 16 March 2003 did not draw a sharp response form the US government.

While US Representative Brian Bard introduced a resolution in the US Congress calling on the US government to “undertake a full, fair, and expeditious investigation” into Corrie’s death, the House of Representatives took no action on the resolution. It was left to Israeli military and legal processes to rule on the reasons for Rachel Corrie’s death.

The Israeli army’s investigation absolved the driver of any deliberate wrongdoing, claiming he could not see Corrie from his cab due to limited visibility. The investigation was criticised by a number of international and Israeli human rights organisations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem. It took until 2012 for US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro to say that the Israeli investigation “was not satisfactory, and was not as thorough, credible or transparent as it should have been”.

Shapiro said further that the government of the United States is unsatisfied with the IDF’s closure of its official investigation into Corrie’s death. Those were empty words, similar in nature to condemnations or expressions of concern at a new settlement building announcement.

The Corrie family were left to their own devices filing an appeal against the army investigation and holding Israel liable for her death. In 2015, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the Corrie’s appeal. There were no howls of protest or a recall of the ambassador by Corrie’s home nation the USA despite its dissatisfaction with the original investigation.

The case of British photographic journalism student Tom Hurndall who died in January 2004 having been shot in the head by an IDF sniper on 11 April 2003 followed an eerily similar path to that of Corrie. Hurndall had only been in Gaza for five days when the IDF opened fire on Palestinian civilians near a checkpoint in Rafah. Tom managed to rescue one child from the line of fire but was shot in the head as he knelt down to pick up another child paralysed by fear.

The Israeli army claimed its checkpoint had come under fire from Palestinian militants and that it was responding to this when Tom was hit. The IDF’s initial “routine internal inquiry” concluded that Hurndall was “shot accidentally in the crossfire”, and suggested that his group’s members were essentially “functioning as human shields”. This was contradicted by witnesses at the demonstration asserted that he had been hit by a rifle bullet while trying to shield the children rather than having been merely hit in the crossfire.

There was no immediate outrage from the British government at this callous killing and, like the case of Corrie, it was left to the Hurndall family to pursue justice for their son. The British government did support the family through then British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. This combination resulted in the Israeli advocate general ordering the IDF to open a further investigation in October 2003. This led to a military court finally sentencing Hurndall’s killer to 11 and a half years for manslaughter. He eventually served six and a half years. Once again though, a Western government was not so robust in the pursuit of the killers of one of its citizens to consider breaking ties with Israel over the matter or even to recall its ambassador to exert pressure from the outset.

Western supporters of justice for the Palestinian people therefore visit Palestine unsure of what their governments would do to help them if they were arrested, injured or even killed by Israeli security forces. There is little protest and no action by western governments when Israeli soldiers attack European or American citizens as they do here and here or even when settlers attacked US officials.

The only exception to this was Turkey’s reaction to Israel’s attack on the Gaza siege-breaking flotilla on 30 May 2013, in which 10 Turkish human rights activists on the lead ship the Mavi Marmara were killed by the Israeli military in international waters. Turkey broke diplomatic relations with Israel and to this day those relationships have not returned to the same level they were at before the attack.

Egypt and Israel are allies to the same Western governments but it seems that when it comes to bringing killers of their citizens to account, there is a differential to the way they deal with the two states. What this does is embolden Israel to act at will not only against the helpless Palestinians but also against citizens of its closest allies.

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 Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and appears regularly in the media as commentator on Middle East issues. He runs a blog at http://www.kamelhawwash.com. He writes here in a personal capacity.

As the Greek Parliament reognises Palestine, Turkey normalises relations with Israel

Tis the season of good will and anyone looking at a horrible 2015 from a Palestinian perspective knows they would welcome some good news.

This year’s Christmas present came in the form of a call for another European Government to recognise Palestine. This time it was the turn of the Greek Parlisment to overwhelmingly call on its Governmrnt to recognise the state. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in attendance and warmly thanked Greece for this gesture.

greece-palestine

This follows votes in anumber of European Parliaments including Britian and Ireland. However, only Sweden has recently recognised Palestine as a state at state level.

Aljazeera teports that the resolution is non-binding and not by the Greek state, so as “not to disturb good relations with Israel”, according to a statement released by the Greek foreign Ministry.

But at the same time, Greece has also been strengthening its ties with Israel. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras recently visited Israel stressing the importance of the bilateral relations between Greece and Israel. More worryingly, while visiting Israeli President Rivlin he wrote in the guest book ” With great honor to be in your historic capital and to meet your excellencies.”

greece

No state, except Israel recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and all embassies are in Israel’s actual capital Tel Aviv.

But a more worrying development for Palestinians across historic Palestine has been the about turn of the Turkish Government in recent days. Turkey froze its relations with Israel following the latter’s deadly attack on the Mavi Marmara, part of the siege breaking flotila of 2010 which Israel raided in international waters and killed 10 turks.

Since then, Turkey has insisted on compensation for the attack and the lifting of the siege on Gaza. However, recently it ahs been reported that the two sides were very close to a deal to normalise relations and that the lifting of the sige on Gaza was not on the cards.

Israel has agreed to pay compensation to the families but “under the deal, all Turkish lawsuits against Israel will be cancelled, and Turkey will prevent senior Hamas operative Salah Aruri from entering its territory and acting from there, the source said”.

mavi marmamra

Hamas in particular is feeling the pressure exerted on Turkey by the USA and Israel.  One of its top operatives, Salah Alaruri,  had to leave Turkey as part of the new understanding with Israel.

Turkey and Greece are still good friends of the Palestinains. However, as Israel continues to oppress the Palestinians, and as the simmering Palestinian uprising continues, Palestinians need tangeable action to support them.

It is all very well for the Palestinian flag to fly at the UN and for rapturous applause to follow Parliamentary recognition votes ahich are all very welcome. However, while these serve to annoy Israel, it is only when states take a stand against Israel that it will begin to change course.

Israel’s Ambassador to the USA Ron Dermer, boatsted about sending gifts from the illegal settlements to ‘combat’ BDS.  If one arrives at the Whitehouse, President Obama should not only retrun the gift but should ask his Secretary of State, John Kerry to summon Dermer to the State Department and censure him for this provocative act.

Israel continues to enjoy impunity to steal, judaise, abuct, imprison and kill at will. It will only end its serial breaking of international Law when it faces real action from states that claim to be democratic, civilised and upholders of International Law.