Newsletter 03 Dec 2008
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Israelis and Palestinians: two peoples, one future
EU-Israel Association Agreement – protest called for
The agreement with Israel looks set to being upgraded this very week when the issue goes before the European Parliament on 4th December. Leila Shahid, Palestine general delegate to the EU and Palestinian civil society organisations have both appealed for pressure to be put on MEPs to protest against this upgrading, which ‘offers to Israel full access to the EU scientific, academic, research and technical programmes’ while Israel’s violation of human rights, expansion of settlements, the blockade of Gaza etc continue on the ground.
See Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s comments to the EU heads of mission: “Nothing at this stage matters more than a principled position by the EU on the matter of the upgrade when considered in the context of Israel’s non-compliance with international law and the Road Map”
Some reading – summary
1. The EU is planning a more pro-active role in regard to finding a solution to the conflict as detailed in its new document “The EU Action Strategy for Peace in the Middle East: The Way Forward”. This sits oddly with the push to upgrade the EU-Israel Association Agreement (see above).
2. An interesting report by the Israeli National Security Council stresses the importance of making peace with Syria, in order to contain Hezbullah, Hamas – and Iran. It also comes out totally against democratic elections in the Palestinian Authority, fearing that Abbas would be swept away.
3. On 25th November the new head of the United Nations General Assembly Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, said the international community should consider sanctions against Israel including “boycott, divestment and sanctions”.
4. A long and moving account of the deprivation of and discrimination against the Bedouin citizens of Israel was published in the Guardian on 30th November.
5. Teachers TV has recently followed the story of two schools in Nablus over four weeks at the beginning of term to produce discussion materials for use in schools in the UK and elsewhere.
6. The story of the Museum of Tolerance in process of being constructed on the site of a former Muslim cemetery continues to rumble on. Two further contributions, by Bradley Burston of Ha’aretz and Gershon Bakin of Ipcri, are reported on below.
7. Finally, a number of humanitarian and human-rights issues have come to the fore recently:
Barak Ravid reports (Ha’aretz, 1st December 2008) that the EU is planning a more pro-active role in regard to finding a solution to the conflict. In doing so it alarming the Israeli government.
‘Israeli officials are deeply concerned over an internal European Union document outlining the EU’s plans for advancing an Israeli-Palestinian deal in 2009. Inter alia, it calls for increased pressure on Israel to reopen Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, including Orient House, which formerly served as the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in the city.’
Inter alia, it:
On the core issues of the conflict – borders, security, Jerusalem and refugees – the document proposes three main lines of action.
“A key part of building the Palestinian state involves resolving the status of Jerusalem, as the future capital of two states,” it declares. Therefore, “the EU will work actively towards the re-opening of the Palestinian institutions, including the Orient House.”
According to a press article (Agence France Presse and the Beirut Daily Star on 25 November) the Israeli National Security Council believes that: ‘Israel should pursue peace talks with Syria next year to help contain perceived threats from Iran’s nuclear program and Hamas’. It ‘also highlighted the need to halt Palestinian democracy.’
The recommendation in relation to Syria sees such a peace as the only way of cutting Syrian support for Hams in Gaza and Hezbullah in Lebanon as well as being part of a wider strategy to contain a potentially nuclear Iran.
The article continues that: ‘The NSC report, as cited by Ha’aretz newspaper, warns that Abbas could “vanish” and urges Israel to “prevent an election in the Palestinian Authority, even at the cost of a confrontation with the United States and the international community.”’
A top UN official has called for “concrete action” against Israel over the country’s treatment of Palestinians. UN General Assembly head…
General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann said the international community should consider sanctions against Israel including “boycott, divestment and sanctions” similar to those enacted against South Africa two decades ago.
See the Jerusalem Post report
A long and moving account of the deprivation of and discrimination against the Bedouin citizens of Israel (Guardian 30 Nov)
“A family stand in the Negev, amid the wreckage of their house. They are not Palestinians, but Israeli citizens with voting rights and husbands who have served in the army. So why did soldiers destroy their home? Rachel Cooke meets the Bedouin women who officially do not exist…
(The British Shalom-Salaam Trust has given a number of donations to Bedouin projects in Israel and Palestine including Action Group – Regional Fabric of Life for a Bedouin kindergarten in the Negev; Bedouin Association for Education & Health Development; Bustan (whose representative spoke at JfJfP’s AGM); Itach-Maaki – Women Lawyers for Social Justice for their Bedouin Women’s Legal Rights Center; and various projects for the community in Umm Al Khair in the south West Bank.)
See the series of videos ‘Two Schools in Nablus’ – Episode 1; New Term; Under Pressure; Under Siege…
(a) Debate over Museum of Tolerance – an exchange
(b) Gershon Baskin of Iprci (the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information) continues what has become a personal crusade against the building of the Museum:
See Baskin’s ‘Update on the Construction of the Wiesenthal Center Museum of “Tolerance” in Jerusalem’, 1st December, 2008 here.
In its Third Annual Report, just published in November, the United Against Torture Coalition (UAT Coalition), a coalition of 14 Palestinian and Israeli human rights organisations, has undertaken an in-depth and critical analysis of Israel’s compliance with the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).
The report examines the continued and systemic use of torture by the State of Israel, in both Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
It concludes: *the use of torture and ill-treatment by Israeli authorities against Palestinians is both widespread and systematic. *the State is either unwilling or unable to fulfill its treaty obligations under CAT. *it believes that until this culture of impunity is addressed the situation is unlikely to improve’
Read the Report (and its 2006 and 2007 reports) via this link.
In a new comprehensive report, the first of its kind, Yesh Din releases to the public full data on incidents in which indictments were filed against soldiers accused of committing criminal offenses against Palestinians or their property. The report deals with the period between the start of the Second Intifada in September 2000 until the end of 2007.
The report is based on empirical data, indictments and rulings provided to Yesh Din by the IDF. From 1,246 investigation files opened by the MPCID (military police criminal investigations department) from the start of the Second Intifada in 2000 until the end of 2007, only 78 (6%) led to indictments against one or more soldiers. Of the thousands of Palestinian civilians killed, perpetrators were convicted in only 4 cases.
In a report published in September, B’tselem looks at how ‘Israel is taking unilateral measures to institutionalize and perpetuate a new factual and legal reality of separation between residents of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, while severing the interdependent social, economic and cultural ties between the two groups,1 infringing their rights and impeding the possibility that the Palestinian people will realize their right to self determination.’
It concludes that ‘The international community must protest the violation of the rights of Palestinians to freedom of movement, to family life and to choose where they wish to live anywhere inside the OPT, and take action to secure these rights.’
Some extracts from the report:
* The policy of separating West Bank and Gazan Palestinians has ‘escalated in the past year with a new requirement imposed on Palestinians whose registered address is in the Gaza Strip, to hold a permit in order to be present in the West Bank, and with the removal of such persons from the West Bank and defining them “illegal aliens”.
* Israel has stopped updating the addresses of Palestinians who have moved from Gaza to the West Bank, while abusing the control it has seized over the Palestinian population registry.
* Israel does not consider marriage between residents of the Gaza Strip and West Bank a criterion for issuing a permit to remain in the West Bank.
* Israel has now eliminated the possibility of entering the Gaza Strip for a visit and returning to the West Bank.
* Israel has recently taken active measures to locate and forcibly remove Palestinians from the West Bank and to the Gaza Strip, based on the claim that they were “illegal aliens” in the West Bank since their registered address was in the Gaza Strip and they did not have a “permit to remain” in the West Bank.
* Israel does not recognize the right of Palestinians to live on their lands with their families and cynically manipulates the population to deny them basic human rights, while simultaneously continuing to support, fund and protect the settlements. Settlers are not required to prove that they are married and have children or that there are humanitarian reasons for their wish to live in the West Bank.
The Israeli High Court is no longer dissenting: ‘in its recent judgments; the HCJ has backed the decisions of the army, which block movement entirely.’
(d) Over twenty international organisations, members of The Association of International Aid Agencies, protested strongly about how humanitarian relief in Gaza was being impeded by access restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities
Vital humanitarian work of international humanitarian and development agencies in the Gaza Strip is being impeded by access restrictions imposed on international and local Palestinian staff by Israeli authorities. Emergency programmes to make sure people in Gaza have safe drinking water and sewage services, effective health care and sufficient nutritious food to eat are being undermined by Israeli authorities preventing the full and unimpeded humanitarian access that is demanded by international humanitarian law where the occupying power is not meeting its obligation to ensure the well being of the civilian population.
The ability to move to and from the Gaza Strip at short notice and without unreasonable delay is essential for international humanitarian and development agencies who work with local partners to play their part in ensuring the quality, timely delivery and sustainability of essential services for alleviating the humanitarian consequences on Palestinians in Gaza of the Israeli government’s blockade of Gaza.
Restrictions on entry to Gaza have grown rapidly in recent weeks with the introduction of shorter crossing opening hours at Erez and longer delays in processing requests for entry into Gaza. On 2 November 2008 the Erez crossing opening hours for staff of international humanitarian and development agencies and the United Nations were reduced from 60 hours to 45 hours a week. Restrictions have further tightened since the recent violations of the truce on both sides. Even after prior agreement from Israeli authorities, there is still often considerable delay at Erez crossing, particularly for local Palestinian staff. Written confirmation detailing decisions is not provided by Israeli authorities, often leading to further delays. These further conditions add to the collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5 million population.
International humanitarian and development agencies call on the government of Israel and the leaders and senior officials of the international community to ensure a transparent and accountable system of unimpeded humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip so that high quality, effective and sustainable essential services are delivered to the people who need them. Urgent steps are needed from the Israeli authorities to ensure that simple and clear procedures facilitate unrestricted access to and from Gaza for international and Palestinian staff of international humanitarian and development agencies and that these procedures do not put an unreasonable administrative burden on these agencies. Clear written procedures and guidance are needed to ensure that unimpeded humanitarian access is fully guaranteed in line with international humanitarian law.
Action Against Hunger (Spain)
17 November 2008
Michael Bailey Advocacy and Media Manager Jerusalem Office Tel + 972 (0)2 656 6234 ext 223 mob + 972 0572233014
Brigadier General Avichai Mendelblit, Chief Military Advocate General, reacted to Ha’aretz’s report Wednesday that the Israel Defense Forces have assassinated Palestinians in apparent defiance of High Court of Justice guidelines for such operations by saying the article – which will appear in full in Ha’aretz’s weekend supplement – was “annoying and misleading.”