Israel and Palestine stall on road to peace

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      A leading Palestinian activist has said that it may be time to dissolve the Palestinian Authority and “dump the occupation back at Israel’s doorstep”.

      Huwaida Arraf is a Palestinian-American Christian and founding member of the International Solidarity Movement. She told the Straight that the disintegration of the Palestinian territories’ governing party could be the best thing for its people.

      “Creating the Palestinian Authority, in a way, relieved Israel of a lot of the obligations of an occupying power,” she explained in a telephone interview from New York City. “They kind of relieved themselves of the minuscule administrative tasks and, at the same time, can [now] blame the Palestinian Authority for a lot of things that are not even in its control.”

      Arraf, also a chairperson of the Free Gaza Movement, is scheduled to speak at SFU Harbour Centre on Friday (November 27). The event, titled “Women speak out on Palestine and Gaza”, will take place just ahead of the annual International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People (Sunday [November 29]), which was established by the UN General Assembly in 1977.

      According to Arraf, the PA now has little legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinian people.

      Her remarks were made in response to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s announcement that he will not seek reelection in January. Abbas, a moderate in Palestinian politics, cited stalled peace talks as the reason for his decision not to run for office.

      At 0:51 minutes, watch Huwaida Arraf position herself between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian protesters.

      Arraf said that under Abbas’s leadership, the PA has made numerous concessions to Israel in the hope of one day realizing the creation of an independent Palestinian state. She argued that the same cannot be said for Israel.

      A major sticking point in peace negotiations is the construction of Israeli settlements on occupied land in the West Bank. On November 17, Israel approved an additional 900 housing units at an entity called Gilo, which lies on the outskirts of Jerusalem, on land occupied in 1967.

      According to the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, as of December 2008, there were 121 Israeli settlements and approximately 100 “unrecognized settlements” or “outposts” in the West Bank. In addition, IICHROT notes that there are 12 “settlement points” attached to East Jerusalem, of which Gilo is just one. Altogether, IICHROT estimates that as of the end of 2008, there were 673,200 Israeli settlers on Palestinian land.

      “What Mahmoud Abbas is saying is that this whole prospect of a Palestinian state seems so far away,” Arraf said. “We’ve been negotiating fruitlessly for over 18 years and Israel continues to be intransigent.”

      Shimon Fogel, CEO for the Canada-Israel Committee, attributed a lack of progress to Palestinians’ unwillingness to negotiate. He was quick to add that a stalled peace process does not necessarily mean that relations between Israelis and Palestinians have not improved. Fogel said that in recent months many of Israel’s checkpoints in the West Bank have been removed and that as travel restrictions have eased, the territory has seen a boost to its economy.

      He took issue with the description of neighbourhoods such as Gilo as “settlements”, despite the fact that UN maps and news agencies such as the BBC clearly place Gilo in the West Bank.

      “Jerusalem is not in the same category as the West Bank,” he explained. “Is it technically over the green line? Yes. But it is about as far away from a Palestinian neighborhood as you can possibly get in Jerusalem.”

      Fogel said that the current administration and every Israeli government has maintained that Jerusalem is not to be treated or considered in the same way as the West Bank. “So it can’t, by those definitions, be regarded as a settlement,” he added.

      Scheduled to speak alongside Arraf is NDP MP Libby Davies (Vancouver East), who travelled with other members of Parliament to the Palestinian territories in August. Speaking from Ottawa, she emphasized that the group’s journey into the Gaza Strip made them the first elected Canadian officials to visit the territory since 2003.

      On Tuesday (November 24), Davies will deliver a trip report to Parliament. Among other recommendations, she will request that Canada pressure Israel to end its blockade of Gaza’s border, which has remained in place since Hamas won democratic elections in January 2006.

      Davies noted that her trip to Gaza received no help from the federal government. She stressed that the group paid its own way and had to enter Gaza through the Egyptian-controlled Rafah border crossing.

      In contrast, according to Davies, the federal Conservatives are attempting to shut down debate on Israel by characterizing any criticism of the largely Jewish state as anti-Semitic.

      “I really reject this idea that we should be silent and shouldn’t be speaking out,” Davies said. She challenged more Canadian MPs to go to Gaza and witness the destruction that she saw.

      Huwaida Arraf, pictured above on a boat attempting to deliver supplies to the Gaza Strip in January, will speak in Vancouver on November 27.

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      Nov 26, 2009 at 3:58pm

      Booo IZrael!


      Nov 26, 2009 at 4:27pm

      Shimon Fogel: “Jerusalem is not in the same category as the West Bank,” he explained. “Is it technically over the green line? Yes. But it is about as far away from a Palestinian neighborhood as you can possibly get in Jerusalem.”

      (A) Security Council Resolution 446 (22 March 1979) “[Affirms] once more that the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 is applicable to the Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem,

      “1. Determines that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East;.."

      (B) Security Council Resolution 465 (1 March 1980) "determines that all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity..."

      (C) In accordance witht the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, ratified by Israel, and further underscoring the illegality of the settlements, Part 2, Article 8, section B, paragraph viii of the Rome Statue of the International Court (1998) defines "the transfer directly or indirectly by the Occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies" as a War Crime, indictable by the International Criminal Court.

      (D) On 24 February 2004, the U.S. State Department reaffirmed its earlier position in a report entitled Israel and the Occupied Territories, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: "Israel occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights after the 1967 War.... The international community does not recognize Israel's sovereignty over any part of the occupied territories."

      Reader via e-mail

      Dec 2, 2009 at 12:42pm

      As an Associate Editor for the <em>Straight</em>, Mr. Lupick should check the facts better before bringing his write up to print.

      In fact, GILO is not a settlement—this land was purchased by Jews prior to 1948 and was captured by Jordan during the war of Israel’s Independence. Israel then recaptured it back in 1967 during the Six Days War.

      As well, the area of Palestine before 1948 is now both Jordan and Israel. Jordan has three quarters of the area of Palestine and its inhabitants are mainly Palestinians. Israel has only a quarter of the area of Palestine, as part of the division of the land between Arabs and Jews before 1948.

      Now, the West Bank is a disputed area between Jordan and Israel—up for negotiation when the Arab inhabitants are ready to sit with their Jewish counterparts. Wonderful decisions can be achieved once the two sides will sit and work out an arrangement together.

      Let us encourage finding a peaceful solution instead of blame and twisted facts.

      Helen Newman


      Dec 2, 2009 at 4:06pm

      Reader via email:
      To continue with your argument that all is justified because Gilo (not including those Palelstinian villages that have been incorporated into it since June, 1967) was inhabited by Arab Jews prior to 1948, can we expect you to endorse the return of those homes and properties owned by Palestinian Muslims and Christians in West Jerusalem before 30,000 were driven out by Jewish militia in March, 1948 and a further 30,000 by the IDF immediately after the proclamation of the state of Israel?

      Furthermore, Jordan (desigated asTransjordan by the Allies after WWI) is not and never was part of Palestine. As Ottoman maps attest, today's Jordan was administered separately from Palestine, the dividing line being the Jordan River. Known to locals as Al Baqa, the area east of the Jordan River which became the Emirate of Transjordan in 1923, was part of the Turkish vilayet (province) of Syria. The area west of the river was governed by the Ottomans as three sanjaks (sub-provinces), two of which (Acre and Nablus) formed part of the vilayet of Beirut, while the third was the independent sanjak of Jerusalem.

      Also, Jordan's annexation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank in April, 1950 was illegal and recognized only by Britain and Pakistan. It was rejected by the UN, the U.S. and the Arab League. In 1988, King Hussein relinquished all claims to East Jerusalem and the West Bank in favour of the Palestinians.

      Finally, East Jeruslam (including its illegally extended boudaries), the West Bank, Syria's Golan Heights and Lebanon's Shebaa Farms are not "disputed" areas. Under international law (e.g. the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Fourth Geneva Convention, several binding UNSC resolutions, and as declared by the US State Dept. and the World Court) they are illegally and belligerently occupied by Israel So is the Palestinian Gaza Strip as Israel controls its entrances, exits, air space and sea access. In short, there is no provision in international law that renders Israel free to violate it.