Monday, 21 May 2018 02:14

Good bye “conflict resolution”

Forty five years passed since the 1973 first Geneva Conference for Peace between the Arab Countries and Israel. A lot of talks took place by then to find a way for the inclusion of the PLO in that Conference directly or indirectly. The Palestinian National Council of 1973, and 1974 eleventh and twelfth sessions were both  an attempt in that direction when they decided to create a “ Palestinian National Authority in any part of Palestine to be liberated”. This program signaled the PLO move from the Liberation of all Palestine strategy, to another one that speaks about liberation in stages, opening the way to the recognition of Israel in the 1988 PNC conference. The 1973-1974 change gave PLO the Arab recognition as the sole representative of the Palestinian people which took place in the Arab Summit held in Rabat in 1974, and it also opened the UN doors to Yasser Arafat to give his famous speech” I came to you with an olive branch in one hand, and a gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand”, and he repeated the last sentence. Besides that the PLO started engaging with some European countries like France.

Yet, these changes of the 1973-1974 were not enough for United States and Israel to accept the inclusion of the PLO in the so called” Peace Process”. This inclusion had to wait for the Americans till 1988 when PLO recognized the UN Security Council Resolution 242 during the  PNC 16th conference held in Algeria by then. After that conference an American dialogue with the PLO started, and the American Ambassador to Tunisia Robert Pelleatru was appointed to conduct it. Without delving in too much details, the rest of the story is known starting from Madrid Conference of 1991 when PLO participated as part of a joint Jordanian- Palestinian delegation, followed by eight sessions of “ corridor meetings” aiming to agree on the agenda before interning the negotiations room. These sessions were held in Washington between the Palestinian delegation that was led by the late Haidar Abdel Shafi the well known Palestinian National Personality from Gaza,  and the Israeli one led by Lawyer Elyakim  Rubenstein. The sessions were stopped without entering the negotiations room. This stoppage took place after Oslo Declaration of Principles was released as a result of secret direct talks that took place between Israel and the PLO. Since Madrid conference of 1991, 27 years already passed, and 25 are almost passed since Oslo. Palestinian wise the harvest was bitter.

The colonial settlements grow bigger more than six times, during the “ peace process”. Jerusalem got fully separated from the other parts of the Palestinian 1967 territories, and almost Judaised except the Old City and some other few communities. The Refugees issue is taken in practical terms out of the table by Israel and the United States. Last but not least Area C became De facto annexed to Israel if not De Jure yet, and Jerusalem annexed territory to Israel is still growing by grabbing parts of West Bank, and adding them to Jerusalem. The outcome of all of this is a creeping annexation as it was first called by Moshe Dayan in the end of 1960’s, and the creation of one bigger Israel that have no place for the Palestinians. What will be the next step towards those ignored Palestinians?. Some in Israel are raising their voices calling for their transfer, in other hand the official Israeli Policy is keeping silent about their fate, but at the same time supporting those who call for the transfer of the Palestinians by taking no single step against their statements and actions. 

This is a summary of the bitter harvest so far, which is also an indication that the worse is still to come. Why is that?

The main reason is the formula that was used for peacemaking and conflict resolution  between the Palestinians and the Israelis. I published a long research paper about this formula in the “ International Negotiation Journal” last January 2018, titled “Beyond Exacerbating Asymmetry, and Sustainig Occupation”. Here is a brief summary of the findings about the conflict resolution formula that was adopted by the United States and Israel towards our case: 

First: Despite the grief asymmetry between the two sides( The occupier and the occupied). They were considered to be symmetrical. “ You will get if you give”.  ( Netanyahu).

Second: The process dealt with West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem as the subjects of bargaining and division between the two sides. This approach led to the marginalization of the Palestinian refugees issue, and other issues like the Palestinian rights in West Jerusalem.

Third: The Process was gradual, and incremental, so the discussed details will open the way to other endless kind of details leading as such to the failure of all the negotiations rounds.

Fourth: Instead of agreeing in advance about the end game( The goal of the Negotiations), the final status was kept as an “ open ended”, and the core issues including of Jerusalem, refugees, settlements and borders were left to the permanent status negotiations that its rounds failed one after the other, while settlments were growing in the ground.

Fifth: The mediator was biased to the strong side all the way ahead. In the times of President Donald Trump the mediator moved to a worse position of becoming a partner to Israel in settlement expansion, and in Judaizing Jerusalem.

Sixth: The formula for the negotiations was based on “ Ignoring the past, and looking together for the future”. That was adopted instead of reconciling and solving the atrocities of that past.

Seventh: The formula included a People to people approach which ended up becoming the hub for “ technical” and “ business like” projects with a lot of bearucracy in reporting and the quality of reporting included from the donors side. This was accompanied by an assumption by the donors that the two sides moved to a stable “post- Conflict period” of partnering in making solutions, therefore institutional building became the fashion instead of the continuation of the support for the Palestinian non- violent struggle for self determination and independent statehood. Neo- Colonial tools of control was included as research explicated.

In brief, a commercial  formula of compromise prevailed either by looking politically for the division of the 1967 occupied territories between the two sides, or by doing business together through the so called” people to people projects”. 

The bitter harvest of this formula is ahead of our eyes. Accordingly it should be said clearly: Goodbye to conflict resolution with all its shortfalls, and look instead for reconciliation. The conditions of the latter do not exist in the ground today, but an international formula of non violent struggle for the emancipation of the Palestinian people can create the conditions for it instead of focusing solely on diplomacy. 

Article published in Akhbar el Balad: http://akhbarelbalad.net/ar/1/6/3944/

Photo credit: AP

Published in Tribune

In response to the savage massacre committed by the Israeli Army against the “ Marches of Return and Seige Lifting” of yesterday in Gaza, the White House in Washington DC released a statement blaming Hamas for using violence, and supporting the “ right of Israel to defend itself”. Also Mr Jason Greenblat the American Envoy to the Middle East “ Peace process” wrote an article in the Israeli newspaper “ Yisrael Hayoum” accusing Hamas of returning Gaza back to the “ Iron Age”

Till Nine PM yesterday evening, the death toll among Gaza Palestinians participating in the Marches reached the number of 55 (increased to 58 by 1:26 am this morning), in addition to 2410 injured. According to the Ministry of health in Gaza, there are 203 children and 78 women among the injured. 40 of these were in a critical conditions and 76 seriously injured. 1204 got injured by live bullet, and 130 by rubber covered metal bullets. Further than that the Ministry of health report includes calculations about the parts of the bodies that were injured, for instance 79 injured in the neck and the head, 76 in thier chests and stomaches, 164 in different places of their bodies, and 1055 in the lower parts of their bodies. As such many of the injured will be left with permanent disabilities life long.

How comes that these killings and injuries just in one day are merely practiced in the framework of “ Israel right to defend itself”?. How comes that later in the day the USA prevented a UN Security Council Statement approved by the other 14 members of the Council condemning the massacre and calling for the formation of an international committee of investigation about them?.

Beyond the shock from these positions, three issues should be emphasized (among others that there are no enough space for all to be discussed in a short column like this one):

The first among these is that United States is not any more just a supporter to Israel politically and militarily, but moreover United States is a partner in the Israeli ongoing settler colonial project in the ground. A latest research had shown that 15 percent of colonial settlers in West Bank (without East Jerusalem) today are Americans. Sara Yael Hirschhorn from Oxford University presented these results showing that there are sixty thousand settlers in West Bank only ( without the inclusion of East Jerusalem), who are originally Americans. Therfore President Abbas was fully right to describe the move of the American Embassy yesterday to Jerusalem as “ an establishment of an American Settler outpost in Palestine”. This is one.

Secondly, the significant point regarding the move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem yesterday, is that it is about dictation of the final status results  in the ground in contradiction with Oslo Agreement article five text which stated that Jerusalem as a whole ( East and West) is subject to the final status negotiations. In other words Oslo Agreement included what the late Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini was saying all the time till he passed away in 2001, that the Palestinians property rights in West Jerusalem should be negotiated and agreed upon before any political agreement about the city and on how to share two capitals for two states in it. The Americans violated this article and adopted the Israeli position which again makes the American Embassy in Jerusalem of a colonial type as mentioned above. 

Thirdly: The American Administration becoming a partner of the Israeli settler colonial project, will share as well the Israeli position of finding no place to the Palestinians within this project. Accordingly the Palestinians should hide and show no presence, expressed by keeping fully silent towards what is imposed and dicatated, or they will pay the price by getting to be” removed” forcefully when they oppose. In this sense all kind of Palestinian struggle armed and non- armed become illegal according to this perspective because they make the Palestinian visible while he / she is supposed to be invisible. Adi Ophir wrote once and again that the Palestinian is punished not because he made something wrong, but he/she is punished becsuse he/ She is found in a place where the settler colonial project expect him/ her not to be existing in. Gaza wise this means that the Gazan Palestinians should continued acting in impotent way despite the move of the Embassy, and despite the anniversary of 70 years of the Nakba given also that 66 percent of Gaza residents are refugees according to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics new report released yesterday.

It was James Zughby who wrote yesterday that the the Americans consider the Palestinians as” invisible victims” that do not count anything by themselves, but they merely represent a “ problem to Israel” that the latter has to deal with and solve. Accordingly no attention will be made to the plight of the Palestinians since 1948.

Article published in Akhbar el Balad: http://www.akhbarelbalad.net/ar/1/6/3933/

Photo credit: AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed

Published in Tribune

This year witnesses the seventieth anniversary of 1948 Nakba. In the 1980’s the Israeli New Historians found out what Walid Al Khalidi and others discovered since 1960’s that the Palestinians did not leave due to calls from the Arab Radios calling them to leave their country. In the opposite they found that the majority of Palestinians who left were obliged to do so due to Zionist attacks. First Benny Morris showed through checking Israeli Archives that 282 villages were evacuated due to Zionist groups attacks. Nur Masalha further found that 292 locations were evacuated due to these attacks, other 87 were evacuated due to fear from Jewish attacks or as a result of the evacuation of neighboring villages, and finally 12 locations were evacuated because of terrifying rumours. Later Ilan Pappe wrote an outstanding book about ethnic cleansing recording and analyzing all its process based also on informations that he got through his access to to the Zionist Archives.

However, the  majority of people in Israel still think that what happened in 1948 is legitimate. They deny the fact that other people were evacuated by force from their country. This denial did not led only to the continuation of the plight of the Palestinian refugees till today, but it was also used as a coverage for the repetition of what happened in 1948 once again in 1967 and after. By checking the official Israeli Archives Nur Masalha found out that in addition to those who left during the 1967 war, other 200 thousand were forcefully evacuated after the war, this include most of the residents of the Morrocan Quarter and Al Sharaf neighborhood  in the Old City of Jerusalem, and the former villages of Yalo, Emwas and Beit Nuba in the Latrun area that were destroyed after the war( Canada Park today). After that war also 850 to 2000 houses were destroyed by Dynamite in Qalqilia city according to different estimations, the same goes for destroying the villages of Beit Awwa and Beit Mirsem close to Hebron, and the village of Jiftlik in the Jordan valley and others. Besides that the Refugee camps of Ein Al Sultan, Nweimeh, and Aqbat Jaber were evacuated.

The period from 1948 to 1967 witnessed also several campaigns of evacuating the Bedouins of the Negev to Egypt and Jordan. These campaigns continued till 1959. Also when Gaza was occupied in 1956 for few months several plans for the evacuation of its population mainly the refugees were prepared, also several massacres were conducted leading to the killing of more than 2000 Gazans as Isam Sakhnini wrote. Till 1948 and as the Israeli historian Aryeh Yitzhaki showed 10 big massacres were conducted by the Zionist groups each of more than fifty people killed, and other smaller 100 massacres were also committed.

This brief review showed that the settler colonial project that has no place to the other continued  also after 1967. Some call what is going in the post 1967 territories as a colonial case of occupation. But this description is misleading. What we have here is a settler colonial project that is stretching itself in the ground using the same methods that were used in the pre 1948 period. It is then a matter of time only when the moment of full confrontation between this project and the indegenious population will come if the expansion of this project will continue with the American support, and the European inability to confront it, and the Arab and the Palestinian divisions and internal fights. 

Today we have around 650 thousand colonial settlers in West Bank and East Jerusalem according to the minimal estimations, also the refugees are still in there place, and new numbers of refugees keep emerging, either in the shape of internal displacement (what is going on with the Bedouins in Area C for instance), or by external ones.

The path to confront this is well known, and were written and called for once and again. It is not by waisting the precious time in the diplomacy of seeking for negotiations,  but by creating an international non violent struggle for the freedom of Palestine and the emancipation of its people. Such a struggle should take place in Europe cities, United States, and every were in the world in addition to Ramallah, Gaza, Jerusalem, and the other Palestinian cities. Such a struggle needs to use political, economic, legal, and diplomatic means, and not to be limited to the organisation of marches and demonstrations. The like-minded Israelis are invited to join, but first they need to cross the bridge from dialoguing with the Palestinians to join them in the struggle for freedom. Crossing this bridge can’t be achieved without their one by one recognition first on the individual basis of the plights of 1948 and 1967, and the Israeli responsibility of creating them. By this recognition they create an example for other Israelis to join. Can they have the courage to do so, and come to a position of truth and honesty for oneself and in their relation with the other?.

Article published in Akhbar el Balad: http://www.akhbarelbalad.net/ar/1/6/3920/

Published in Tribune

The thesis of this short column, can be summarized in the message that the leaders of the underdog party in a protracted and intractable conflict cannot be expected to act all the time rationally( as versus to emotions as the term is unusually used in the political discourses), regardless of the context and its history. And also regardless of the General and the overall positions of those leaders.

On this basis, one can look to the last statement of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the opening of the Palestinian National Council of the PLO ( The PNC) in the 30th of last April considering the “ Jewish usuary” as the reason for their hate and therefore the successive killings in Europe.

This statement was reviewed and received as separate from the context( The status of the conflict), the personality of Mahmoud Abbas as a man of peace who also presented his last peace plan to the UN General Assembly In the fall of last year, followed by presenting it in his speech to the EU in Brussels last January this year, then to the Arab Summit in Dhahran of Saudi Arabia in 15th of April, and last but not least in the PNC meeting few days ago.

His plan included a call for an international conference to be held under the international legitimacy and run by an international collective mechanism to reach a solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

The plan was strongly welcomed by the EU, Russia, China, Brazil, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, most of the non- aligned countries, and finally it was adopted by the Arab last Summit, and last PNC Conference, and became part of their resolutions.

The only two countries who strongly reject Abbas peace plan are the United States, and Israel.
Obviously all know the answer of why is that?. Briefly both of them do not have a peace plan that is capable to achieve peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The details are known and were discused through an immense number of articles written by many observers.

The writer of this column has his reservation on Abbas peace plan, based on the fact that instead of just demanding the world for it’s implementation, we should first create our comprehensive and continuous Non- Violent Intifada in order to make the world adopting the plan. Nevertheless the striking question for this column is: Why Abbas “ irrational” statement was stripped from its links to the history of the conflict, its context today, and also from the personality and the history of Abbas himself as a man of peace?.

This question is two-fold: In one hand, why this “ Stripping” process came out as a consensus among the world major powers?. Why as a result there were a series of strong statements against Abbas without mentioning( at least by those that supported his peace plan), even that he is a man of peace, and putting his “ mistake” Within this overall “ evaluation” of him?.

The answer for these questions, goes to the Western conceptualization of “ who is the moderate” among the underdogs in the conflicts, presented all the time as the person who is completely rational, and as a one that is not expected to do even any single “mistake” of following his/her emotions. If he or she did that mistake, even once, it will be then enough to start the process of his/ her Politicide by legitimizing him among his/her people and internationally.

This takes us to the second part of this question, which is why the two former charismatic leaders of the Palestinians were deligitimized at the end?. These two are The Mufti Haj Amin Al Husseini, the head of the Pre- 1948 Arab High Commitee( and later the Arab High Commission), and the second is Yaser Arafat.

The first escaped detention by the British in the 1930’s due to his role in the 1936 revolution in Palestine by escaping to Iraq, and then to Iran when the British Forces were back to Iraq during the World War Two, and finally he found himself escaping from Iran to Berlin the capital of the Nazi Germany when the British occupied Iran. He found a shelter in the Nazi Germany but all the respectful and non demagogic studies will tell that he did not become an advocate to the Nazi ideology. So why he was deligitimized?. The same goes to Yaser Arafat the signatory of Oslo Declaration of Principles of 1993, and the man of peace together with Yitzhak Rabin. After his rejection of 2000 Camp David American offered deal, he found himself imprisond in his compound in Ramallah by the Israeli right wing Government , till he died.

One to think of these two cases, and then speculating: Are the Palestinian leadrs are expected to follow all the time to line of the great power, and to expect punishemt and ousting from the “ moderation” category when they do not do? Are we accordingly witnessing the process of delegitimizing now Mahmoud Abbas after he showed his objection to the American” Ultimate plan” that do not solve any of the issues of refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, and others?. Is this a formula to move him out of the “ moderation” category? Is it the fate of the Palestinians to continue having an ethnocide combined with a politicide of their political leadership through all their modern history?. Will be there a real peace plan to be implemented so this fate to be transformed?.

In the same Line: Are the statements against Abbas stripped from all what mentioned helpful in path to prevent the delegitimization of Abbas? are they rational by themselves, or just reactions of anger by some , and instruments to deligitimize Abbas by others? what are the level of “ tolerance” given to the underdog in a conflict by those who are” stereotyping” him/ her?, and when the patronizing part of this stereotyping will be removed?. Finally how these condemnations to Abbas will not objectively leads to the strengthening of the Israeli settler colonial project on the expense of the Palestinians?

Special to Akhbar Elbalad

Published in Tribune
Saturday, 21 April 2018 16:19

To be a Palestinian Jerusalemite these days

The Arab Summit held in Saudi Arabia in the 15th of April, passed this year without attracting the media attention. Strong decisions about Palestine and Iran, and a deep split regarding Syria.These are in general the summit resolutions.

Jerusalem wise the summit was called by King Salman as “ AlQuds Summit”, with 150 million dollars allocated by Saudi Arabia to the Islamic Endownment in the city, and other 50 million allocated to the UNRWA. As happened with the previous summits financial support decisions, one has to wait and see if these will find their way to implementation this time. The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a letter to the summit after its end, calling for a mechanism to implement the summit decisions. We will wait and see.

In Israel, there were almost no response to the Arab Summit resolutions. The Israeli plans in regard to Jerusalem continued as if nothing happened. Besides that some Israeli voices who consider them seleves as “ Peace makers”, moved from their previous patronizing position of giving “advisory opinions” to the Palestinians about alternatives to what is called as “ the failure of the Palestinian strategies for Jerusalem in the last fifty years”, to a new worse position of creating a list for joining the Israeli upcoming municipal elections of this year. This participation is taking place in the framework of the Israeli annexation to the city, and practically recognizing it, by looking for the improvement of the daily life issues of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem through this system instead of working to support the creation of Palestinian facts in the ground towards Palestinian self determination. Interesting enough this new “ project” is presented under the slogan of “ the people democratic right to vote”, as if this democratic participation cannot be achieved by bringing back the Palestinian Municipality that was dissolved illegally by Israel in 1967, and by allowing for the Palestinian munici elections in
West Bank and Gaza Strip to be inclusive to East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine.

This development in the year of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, will only create within the existing asymmetry an inclusion process of the Palestinians in the Israeli system, that it besides creating fragmentation among the Palestinians instead of supporting by practical means their right to self determination and independence.

The problem to the Palestinian Jerusalemites with the Arabs are those of that they are making slogans about supporting, but practically speaking the Arab support is fragmented, compitative between different Arab Countires, and also the support that arrives is very small.

The problem of the Palestinian Jerusalemites with the State of Palestine Authorities is about the latter inability to start acting as a Palestinian State in the ground, with East Jerusalem as its capital, which will include the implementation of practical economic and community based programs in Jerusalem, and also include the creation of a long term nonviolent resistance. Now the Jerusalemites are looking to the Palestinian National Council of the 30th of April to make a crucial steps in that direction. Can it?

The big problem for the Palestinian East Jerusalemites will still to be the ISRAELI OCCUPATION, and its ongoing plans for the deepening of the Israeli settler colonial project in the city. Reading the mentioned list for municipal elections program one will find that occupation is not mentioned, and as well the right of the Palestinians to have back their dissolved 1967 Municipality is not mentioned. Moreover the list program ignores the fact that most of the decisions regarding the Israelization and the Judaization of Jerusalem are taken in the Israeli Ministerial level rather than the municipal level. Do they want to be “ witnesses” ( if they succeeded in the municipal elections) on the settlements expansion and the humiliation against the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, including for example the humiliation taking place in the offices of the Israeli Ministry of Interior in East Jerusalem?

Yet, this is not all the story, but there is an ethical side of it that still to be tackled: Opposite to relativism which considers every point of view as merely an “ Opinion”, and therefore considers all opinions as all legitimate and equal regardless of the divide, the Israeli so called “ Peace activists” are called to make the courageous move from this “ Neutrality”, to the position of the the ethical support of what their Palestinian partners struggle for. Without this move, talking about struggling together become impossible, and the joint ventures become like a waste of the Golden time in controversies and arguments on the expense of taking actions.

Finally, despite all these pressures and others not mentioned on the Palestinian East Jerusalemites, there are lights in the horizon, the last was the decisions of the economic conference in Istanbul last week, and others. More importantly there is the Palestinian strong sense of integrity, and the resilience and the ongoing community development in the East Jerusalem communities, which make the Palestinian East Jerusalemite steadfast, continue and prosper despite all the odds.

Article published in Akhbar Al Balad

Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

Published in Tribune

As it happens every time when the Israeli municipal elections get closer, one will see voices calling the Palestinians in East Jerusalem to break their boycott to those elections. So far the Palestinian participation in those elections did not exceed one to three percent in all of its rounds. The explication of this very low turnout by claiming that the East Jerusalem Palestinians are afraid from the PLO and that the factions , is disrespectful to both the people and the factions. The people in Jerusalem are acting according to their believes rather than according to what the factions ask them to do, also the factions actions are usually not directed towards terrorizing their people. The public opinion poll that Haaretz published last month claiming that 59 percent of the East Jerusalem Palestinians are in favor of voting in those elections  looks to be representing the positions of one segment from East Jerusalem Palestinian population rather than representing all segments of this highly fragmented society due to the Israeli occupation policies since 1967.

The argument of those who call for Palestinian participation in those elections include that this participation will give the Palestinians their rights in the municipal level, might create a freeze of settlement, and also it might bring out a good response to President Trump decision about about “ Israelizing” Jerusalem as a whole( See for Instance Uri Avnery response to Abraham Burg proposal of a list to be led by Ahmad Tibi for those elections both published in Haaretz few days ago).

These claims are based on the assumption that the Palestinians might succeed in those  elections together with the Israeli colleagues in the list because of being around 40 percent of the population.

The assumption is awkward because the ability of such a list to win the elections by exploiting  the rift between the secular and the religious communities among the Jews, which was possible in the past is not any more possible after the right wing religious and secular segments became able to unite their forces both in the Israeli government and in the municipal levels as well in the last few years. Therefore the failure of the list is highly likely.

Besides that if it won, will that lead for reversing or at least freezing the settler colonial expansion?. An issue that all know for being key for Zionism. 

Looking to  the experience of the Palestinians inside Israel participation in both the Knesset and the local council elections will teach us that at the end the procedures of taking over the Palestinians lands and expanding  settlements on their expense continued since 1948 despite this participation.

It is then a wishful thinking to find easy solutions to more complicated issues by suggesting that electoral ways as if they are being capable to reverse or at least stop a  settler colonial project who aims to take over more and more territory, and to replace and displace. In the contrary other means are required to “ defeat” such project, these include initiating a comprehensive non violent campaign with global participation( including the Israeli like minded participation), building Palestinian Community unity and resilience versus fragmentation, and recreating a bottom up Palestinian Municipal structure that will assist also to prepare for the Palestinian independence. Failure of the Palestinian side to launch these kind of alternatives paved the way for the growing voices calling for rotten ideas such as joining the Israeli municipal elections, as being the only salvation for the Palestinian status in the city before being lost!.

Transforming this “ doom day” claim , will require first from those who are calling for it to change direction and to join fully the Palestinian non- violent struggle, and to lend hands to assist building the resilience of the Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem according to the needs of those communities rather than according to the imagined forms of these needs by the initiators as it usually take place by different projects that are” targeting”  East Jerusalem Palestinians instead of working according to their real needs.

Besides that all who call for the Palestinian participation in the municipal elections of West Jerusalem should be able to show a respect to the Palestinian municipality of each Jerusalem that still exist since 1967, and reappointed by President Yaser Arafat in 1998, and then by President Mahmoud Abbas in 2012. Those who call for the participation in the Israeli municipal elections should be able to change direction and think instead in how to assist this Palestinian Municipality that is still symbolically exist to become factually existing through creating the connections between it and the East Jerusalem communities, and therefore create one additional step towards disengaging with occupation towards Palestinian independence. Several scenarios were developed in the last few years for how to make this link between the Palestinian municipality and the East Jerusalem communities and most of them are doable. 

Such a change of direction became also more and more required specially after the last January resolution of the PLO Central Council to “revive the Palestinian East Jerusalem Municipality in the basis of the best democractic and Representetive methods that are possible”. Is it possible to express respect of this dicision and to try to find out how to support it towards implementation?.

Besides that major discussion there is the other one of asking East Jerusalem Palestinians to vote to Meretz in order to increase its seats number in the municipality. Such a call leads to a violation to the Palestinian boycott, and it cannot be tenable.  Meretz will be required as it is mostly doing to keep supporting  the Palestinian independence in East Jerusalem and the fullfilment of the Palestinian needs in the city in the basis of its principles towards the two states solution, without waiting to get a reward for that from the victims of its country occupation. 

Finally, in Jerusalem the adminstrative and the political are strongly linked. Here both are intertwined. In Israel the decisions regarding Jerusalem are made by the Government and its ministry for Jerusalem and not from the Municipality only. In Palestine there are a ministry of Jerusalem and PLO department of Jerusalem. Claiming then that the Palestinian participation in the municipal election will not lead to political results that are against the Palestinian rights of independence and building the steps towards it, is a rotten and awkward kind of claim and it’s ramifications were explained above. Further than that Palestinians will not seek for improvement of the services to them within the framework of the” Israeli United Jerusalem” by participation in the Israeli municipal elections, especially when this participation will be also in full contradiction with their political aspirations, and with their daily life needs that they will be better to befulfilled  by sustaining the Palestinian municipality in the city opposite to its 1967 illegal dissolution by Israel.

Article published in Akhbar Al Balad: http://akhbarelbalad.net/ar/1/6/3825/

Photo credit: Getty Images

Published in Tribune

The Israeli settler colonial project started in East Jerusalem in early 1967, directly after the beginning of occupation. During the same period, the Palestinian resistance began as both an armed struggle – as in Gaza mainly from 1967 to 1972 – and a public movement of nonviolent resistance – as in East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank. In addition to settler colonialism, the Israeli project in East Jerusalem has included a combination of belligerent occupation and apartheid policies.

One of several early settler-colonial projects was the demolition of Al-Sharaf neighborhood inside the Old City, in order to begin the expansion of the Jewish Quarter over its ruins. At the same time, however, the Palestinian Jerusalem Municipality (Amanat al-Quds) rejected its dissolution by the Israeli occupying authorities. Sheikh Abdel Hamid Al Sa’eh, among other personalities, took the initiative to create the first National Guidance Committee, which has led the Palestinian struggle against the occupation since early 1967.*

Later on during the same year, the Israeli Occupation Authorities deported Sheikh Sa’eh to Jordan, but the resistance continued. In Jerusalem, this resistance preserved the Palestinian Islamic and Christian Waqf Institutions’ independence under the leadership of the High Islamic Commission that was established immediately after the 1967 war. The commission worked in tandem with the Christian religious representatives in order to protect the holy places and the religious courts’ independence, and to contribute to the leadership and guidance of the resistance against the occupation.

Using all kinds of creative measures, the Palestinian national institutions in East Jerusalem strove to protect themselves from being taken over by occupation. These included the chamber of commerce, the electricity company, the labor and professional trade unions, Makassed and Augusta Victoria hospitals (among others), and several charitable societies as well as the education sector. In this case the teachers undertook a long, successful strike in order to prevent the imposition of the Israeli curricula as the curricula for education in East Jerusalem schools.

These successes in the early years of occupation were sustained by others in subsequent years. In 1973 the National Front was established in Jerusalem and consisted of national and left-wing factions and parties in addition to national personalities. The National Front led the Palestinian resistance until 1976. Several demonstrations were organized during that period of time, especially by students. A national strike followed the martyrdom of Muntaha Al-Hourani, a schoolgirl from Nablus who was assassinated by Israeli Occupation Forces in 1974. The Palestinian artist Suleiman Mansour drew an impressive portrait of her bleeding from the back while lying on the ground in her school uniform.

For the Israeli Occupation Authorities, the combination of the struggle made by the Jerusalem-based National Front – in addition to the students and trade unions, cooperatives, and other organizations under the national front leadership – combined with the Arab Rabat Summit recognition of the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people, meant that there was a need to make concessions. One of the major concessions was the cancellation of the 1975 plan to establish a civil administration, and the decision to allow the PLO-affiliated personalities to run for the municipal elections in 1976, which resulted in a big victory for a number of important personalities, including Karim Khalaf, Bassam al Shaka’a, and Ibrahim Al-Tawil, who became the mayors of Ramallah, Nablus, and Al Bireh, respectively.

The elected mayors played the role of political guide for the Palestinians and did not limit themselves to the provision of services. In 1978 when the Camp David agreement was signed between Israel and Egypt, the mayors gathered with other personalities and the university student councils, the trade union representatives, and others in the premises of the trade unions in Beit Hanina, Jerusalem, where they declared their rejection of the Camp David Accords and announced the establishment of the second National Guidance Committee.

In the early 1980s, the Israeli Likud-led government decided to dissolve the National Guidance Committee and initiated a war against the elected mayors. In the course of this campaign of persecution, Bassam Shaka’a’s car was bombed in June 1980, which left him in a wheelchair after he had lost parts of his legs and one hand.

At the same time, the Israeli occupation authorities created the so-called village leagues that were connected to the Likud-created Civil Administration. It was led by Hebrew University professor Menahem Milson (between November 1981 and September 1982). He ended up resigning after the utter failure of his experiment to “organize village leaders.” The whole plan failed in all its aspects: To weaken the urban-based PLO supportive leadership on one hand, and to create a leadership that was loyal to Israel on the other hand. In addition, the village leagues were boycotted, even in their own villages, which led to their full collapse a few years later.

As the Israeli government increased settlement expansion, with the number of settlers reaching 111,600 in 1993, it also hired Israeli professors such as Ezra Sadan to develop ideas for economic peace as an alternative to ending the occupation. These additional Likud policies strengthened Palestinian national aspirations and Palestinian support of the PLO, contrary to the aim of the Likud: that “the improvement of living conditions for Palestinians” as it was called then, would lead Palestinians to forget their national aspirations and the confiscation of their land.  

These developments ripened conditions for the eruption of the first Intifada that started in 1987. Jerusalem once again was the center of the Intifada leadership, continuing until the death of the leader Faisal al-Husseini in 2001, and the Israeli closure of the Orient House.

This short overview has shown the centrality of East Jerusalem not only in planning and guiding the Palestinian popular struggle against the occupation from 1967 to 1987, but also in the protection of national institutions, the rejection of any compromise in the struggle for self-determination, and the strengthening and support of the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.

* A chronology of the Palestinian resistance to occupation can be found in the annual volumes of the Palestinian Diaries and in the Palestinian documents (in Arabic) that were published by the PLO Research Center.

Blurb: After 1967 the Palestinians refused to surrender their national institutions to the Israeli occupiers, continuing the Palestinian struggle for freedom. East Jerusalem was central to such efforts that ended up thwarting Israeli attempts to normalize the occupation and to create an alternative to the PLO. This strengthened the PLO’s status as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.  

Walid Salem is a lecturer on democracy, human rights, and conflict resolution at Al-Quds University, and a PhD candidate in international relations at the Near East University of Northern Cyprus. He is also a member in the PLO Palestinian National Council, and the director of the Center for Democracy and Community Development in East Jerusalem.

Published in Tribune
Monday, 19 February 2018 21:33

Russia plays kingmaker in the Middle East

While US representatives are going to Middle Eastern countries to discuss American concerns, the region’s leaders are visiting Russia. In the space of about two weeks, Russia has hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah. Russian President Vladimir Putin also spoke on the phone with Saudi King Salman.

Netanyahu failed to persuade Putin about anything regarding Iran’s presence in Syria, in the wake of Israeli airstrikes against Iranian and Syrian military facilities. Abbas arrived in Moscow on Tuesday for talks on Jerusalem and a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “From now on, we refuse to cooperate in any form with the US in its status of a mediator, as we stand against its actions,” Abbas told Putin.

The US has lost credibility as a mediator, having obviously taken sides in the conflict, and having threatened and blackmailed the Palestinians, which is unacceptable. Washington will not be happy with a stronger Russian role in settling the conflict, but Moscow will not retreat.

King Abdullah headed to Russia’s capital on Wednesday to boost bilateral ties, after meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. It has been about a year since the monarch’s last visit to Russia, and it is his 19th to the country since 2001, making him the most frequent visitor of any head of state.

The king’s current visit is of great importance, because it comes at a time when the Middle East is beset by clashes, including between Syrian and Israeli forces near the Jordanian border, and after US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The king seeks Russian intelligence cooperation to confront terrorism and extremism, and Putin’s personal support on Jerusalem.

Full-scale Moscow-Amman cooperation, based on mutual trust and respect, may bring balance to regional affairs.

– Maria Dubovikova

In the past few days, after the confrontation between Israeli, Syrian and Iranian forces in southwest Syria increased the possibility of direct warfare, it has become clear that if Russia did not intervene to calm tensions, things would have escalated. This could have affected the borders of Jordan, Syria, Israel and Lebanon.

“I do feel that the international community has let down our people, who have paid and shouldered the burden of responsibility of 20 percent of our country of Syrian refugees, of other refugees that have come through,” the king told Russia’s TASS agency on the eve of his visit.

Jordanians’ economic concerns were the impetus behind his visit; he does not want any political or military escalation on the Jordanian-Israeli-Syrian border that may add to his people’s frustration. Any escalation could engulf the whole region in a new, possibly endless, war.

The king wants assurances from Putin on the agreed-upon de-escalation zones, mainly in southern Syria. So he will ask Putin for the removal of Iranian and Hezbollah forces from the Jordanian-Syrian border, and away from the disengagement line in the Golan Heights.

Of all the countries neighboring Syria, Jordan has been the most cautious since the outbreak of the conflict in March 2011. Amman was deeply concerned about the threat of widespread instability and violence. Its response to developments in Syria was driven primarily by concerns about the potential security and political impact of the crisis on the kingdom, not to mention the fact that there are more than 1 million Syrian refugees in Jordan.

King Abdullah discussed with Putin the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the aftermath of America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and its intention to move its embassy there from Tel Aviv. The two-state solution, which the king believes in, is the best solution to the conflict. He wants Putin to work on such a solution, and to keep the issue of Jerusalem until final-status negotiations.

The beneficiaries of any delay in a political solution to the Palestinian issue are extremists on both sides.

Russia and Jordan fully agree on this matter. The king believes that resolving the Palestinian issue requires US-Russian coordination.

Full-scale Russian-Jordanian cooperation, based on mutual trust and respect, may bring balance to regional affairs. Russia’s politics have proven consistent and Jordan is becoming a particularly important regional player, with balanced policies.

Article published in Arab News: http://www.arabnews.com/node/1247946/columns

Published in Tribune

The tune heard from the American administration and its Envoy Jason Greenblat in the last two weeks, includes two messages which are as follows: Any plan that we present will be for implementation, and not for negotiations. Also if the Palestinians want a capital in Jerusalem then they should go an build it the same as Israel built its Jerusalem.

The first message is clear: We do, and not just saying:In this regard our decision regarding Jerusalem was followed by other acts, such as cutting the support from the UNRWA, and other acts will follow.

The second message, is a call to the Palestinians to design and put in the ground their facts, not only as what Israel is doing, but also as the United States itself is doing as the first message bluntly telling.
The hurdles confronting the Palestinians to create their facts are very huge, and in regard to creating facts in the ground in Jerusalem their hands look to be completely tied. Nevertheless the PLO Central Council took decisions in its 15th of last of January meeting regarding Jerusalem, these were included in article 3:3, with five components that can be translated as follows:
“- Providing with all the requirements for steadfastness to our people in Jerusalem, and develop a comprehensive program to promote This steadfastness in all fields.
- support their struggle against the judaization of the city.
- Increase the national cohesion among the Palestinians in Jerusalem under a one united leadership.
-The creation of a United
- The formation of Amanat Al Quds ( The Palestinian Municipality of Jerusalem) according to an appropriate and nationally agreed upon democratic and representative formula.
- Calling upon the Arab and the Islamic counties to fulfill their obligations in regard to Jerusalem”.
These resolutions are self explanatory. The problem is in implementetion, and the question is if there is a political will to derail Trump decision about Jerusalem, or just it is suffice to battle against it in the international and regional arenas in addition to keep initiating days of rage to express what is called as” Shouting in the history instead of changing it”?

To derail the American decision regarding Jerusalem another way of handling matters will be needed. In this regard we have a time ceiling till the end of 2019 when the American Embassy will be fully moved to Jerusalem. This gives us around two years to work in derailing the step, and in this period a lot can be done within a systematic plan for derailing. Some of the actions that can be done include the implementation of the Palestinian Central Council resolutions regarding Jerusalem, building Palestinian facts in the ground with an international support in East Jerusalem and area C, and rebuilding Gaza in order to show that the Palestinian side is functioning and capable, boycott the Israeli products, the investemets in Israel and the work in the settlements. Conduct creative Palestinian non violent activities to sustain Palestinian villages as it is the example of Al Aqaba village close to Jenin.

Jerusalem wise other key initiatives can be done, starting with building on the international consensus that we have against the President Trump decision about it,and build on that support towards more acheivements to Jerusalem. To be also added parts of those points mentioned above, and others by making the world as a whole the courtyard for the struggle for Jerusalem by doing many things such as going once and again and again without getting tired to each capital in the world asking for recognition of Palestine and Jerusalem as its capital, using the good offices of our Ambassadors , and the Palestinian communities in each country to lobby for that in coopration with the civil society organizations and grassroots movements in the world countries. Besides that go to the UN again and again with new resolutions and propositions, and communicate intensively with the international diplomatic missions to Palestine to influence their countries positions, and to get their suppport to the creation of Palestinian facts in the ground in East Jerusalem, area C, and Gaza Strip.
Work with the key Arab and Islamic countries to coordinate steps in the international arena together, and to bring their support to Jerusalem.
In the United States itself: Make appeals againdt Trump decision to the American courts from Americans, American Jews, and Arabs and Muslims, and also from Americans who are originally from Jerusalem. Communicate intensively with the Republic Party members, the Congress members, and the American think tanks. Address the American people by the American media..etc.

This list above is far from being comprehensive, a lot can be added to it, and it is also can be modified. It is presented only in order to show that there are another way around if the political will to do it is present. Can we?

Article published in Akhbar Al Balad

Photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Pool via AP

Published in Tribune
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 18:23

Russia and Israel: trust despite disagreements

There is a high degree of trust in the Russian-Israeli relations, Valdai Club expert Irina Zvyagelskaya believes. “We have disagreements on Syria and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But we can maintain good relations despite these disagreements and understand each other’s concerns,” she said in an interview with valdaiclub.com.

On January 29, 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow and met with Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu’s aide Zeev Elkin described the trip as “very important.” “As always, such visits are very effective and, as always, effectiveness is due to the fact that the content of the talks remains between the two leaders,” he said in an interview with the Israeli Russian-language Ninth Channel. In turn, Russian president’s aide Yuri Ushakov said that the two leaders discussed bilateral relations and regional problems, including the Syrian settlement.

“The situation in Syria was discussed in several aspects indeed,” Irina Zvyagelskaya, chief researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with valdaiclub.com. “One aspect is our interaction, prevention of incidents. There is exchange of information between the military structures and this is of great importance for both sides. But the role of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria remains a much more painful issue for Israel. Israel maintains a very tough stance on this issue, fearing Iran’s strengthening near its borders.”

Because of the Hezbollah presence on the Lebanese-Israeli border, Israel has been saying for a long time that Iran is in his backyard, Zvyagelskaya stressed. Moreover, Israel and the Islamic movement have reached a level of mutual deterrence, which is unique in such an asymmetric conflict with military formations of Hezbollah not being a regular army.

According to Zvyagelskaya, “Israel’s top priority is its own security. It seeks to protect itself with methods it considers acceptable, and wants to have as few restrictions as possible in this regard,” she said.

“For our part, Russia cannot and should not become part of the complex system of regional relations,” Zvyagelskaya stressed. “We should resist attempts to make us part of the contradictions that exist there. Our position is that we are interested in stabilization in Syria and preservation of its statehood, that the country should not again turn into a hotbed of international terrorism.”

Another important aspect of the visit was, according to the expert, the fact that Netanyahu and Putin took part in events dedicated to the Holocaust Remembrance Day and the anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad. “Israel is categorically against rewriting the results of the World War II, and pays tribute to the Red Army and heroism of Soviet people during the war,” she said. “On this, we find a common language, especially because Red Army veterans who fought during the war still live in Israel.”

According to Zvyagelskaya, there is a high degree of trust in the two states’ relations. “We have disagreements on Syria and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But we can maintain good relations despite these disagreements and understand each other’s concerns,” she concluded.

Article published in Valdai Club: http://valdaiclub.com/a/highlights/russia-and-israel-trust-disagreements/

Photo credit: SPUTNIK/ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS

Published in Tribune
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