The Quartet speaks

The Quartet has met in Germany this week and issued another statement — and UNSG BAN Ki-Moon got to read it, again.

Joint Statement of the Quartet – 30 May 2007:

The Quartet expressed its deep concern over recent factional violence in Gaza. It called for all Palestinians to immediately renounce all acts of violence and respect the ceasefire. It called upon the Palestinian Authority government, in cooperation with President Abbas and regional actors, to do everything necessary to restore law and order, including the release of kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston.

The Quartet strongly condemned the continued firing of Qassam rockets into Southern Israel as well as the buildup of arms by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. It endorsed PA President Abbas’ call for an immediate end to such violence, and called upon all elements of the PA government and all Palestinian groups to cooperate with President Abbas to that end. The Quartet called for the immediate and unconditional release of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit. The Quartet urged Israel to exercise restraint to ensure that its security operations avoid civilian casualties or damage to civilian infrastructure. It noted that the detention of elected members of the Palestinian government and legislature raises particular concerns and called for them to be released. The Quartet noted its support for the May 30th Security Council Press Statement on the breakdown of the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

The Quartet welcomed continued dialogue between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas, including bilateral summits, and expressed support for U.S. efforts to effect progress on security and movement and access issues. The
Quartet agreed that movement and access are essential and in this regard called on both parties to implement fully the Movement and Access Agreement of 15 November 2005. The Quartet urged the parties to work positively and constructively in order to build confidence and to create an environment conducive to progress on the political horizon for Palestinian statehood, consistent with the Roadmap and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, which should also be addressed in these bilateral discussions. Palestinians must know that their state will be viable, and Israelis must know a future state of Palestine will be a source of security, not a threat.

The Quartet commended the excellent work of the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM) and endorsed its extension for three months from July until September 2007. It called on donors to follow through on past pledges of support. The Quartet noted that the resumption of transfers of tax and customs revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority would have a significant impact on the Palestinian economy. The Quartet encouraged Israel and the Palestinian Authority to consider resumption of such transfers via the Temporary International Mechanism to improve the economic and humanitarian conditions in the West Bank and Gaza. In light of increased regional support for the Palestinians, the Quartet agreed to review where additional donor assistance should be focused, with particular consideration for infrastructure and development programs that can directly improve the daily lives of Palestinians. The Quartet invited concrete proposals from the parties on specific international support that could be useful at this stage.

The Quartet welcomed the extension of the EU Border Assistance Mission at Rafah (EU-BAM). It reiterated the importance of resuming normal operations at the Rafah crossing. Taking note of the continuing threat to Israel and Palestinian Security posed by smuggling, the Quartet welcomed progress in the Quadrilateral Security Committee and called for greater efforts by all parties to improve security along the Egypt-Gaza border.

The Quartet welcomed the re-affirmation of the Arab Peace Initiative, noting that the initiative is recognized in the Roadmap as a vital element of international efforts to advance regional peace. The Arab Peace Initiative provides a welcome regional political horizon for Israel, complementing the efforts of the Quartet and of the parties themselves to advance towards negotiated, comprehensive, just and lasting peace. The Quartet noted its positive meeting with members of the Arab League in Sharm al-Sheikh on May 4, and looked forward to continued engagement with the Arab states. It welcomed the intention of the Arab League to engage Israel on the initiative, and Israeli receptiveness to such engagement. Recalling elements of the April 18 decision by the Arab League Follow-up Committee, the Quartet urged all involved to demonstrate their seriousness and commitment to making peace. In that context, the Quartet reiterated the need for a Palestinian Government committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap, and reaffirmed its willingness to support such a government. The Quartet encouraged continued and expanded Arab contacts with Israel, and Israeli action to address concerns raised in the April 18 Arab League decision, including a cessation of settlement expansion and the removal of illegal outposts, as called for in the Roadmap.

Looking ahead, the Quartet discussed a calendar for the coming months to support and encourage progress on the bilateral and regional tracks. The Quartet principals agreed to meet in the region in June with the Israelis and Palestinians to review progress and discuss the way forward. The Quartet also agreed to meet in the region with members of the Arab League to follow up on the Arab Peace Initiative and efforts to advance the regional track.

Principals instructed the envoys to meet beforehand to follow up and explore options for the way forward”.

See http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/ for all press statements

Forty years of occupation

A spate of articles has appeared, reflecting on the forty (40) years that have passed since the Six-Day War in June (5-10), 196z, during which Israel occupied the rest of the former British Mandate of Palestine (East Jerusalem plus the West Bank, which had been occupied by Jordan since the 1948 Mid-East war; and the Gaza Strip, which was occupied by Egypt in 1948.). In addition, Israel occupied the Syrian Golan Heights.

Here are excerpts from one such article, which we will pick up at a point some 20 years after the occupation:

“Early in 1988, on a visit to the West Bank, I arrived at the military government building in Nablus. All these building in the Territories, just like our police stations inside Israel, are remnants of the British Mandate government, a trace of a shared Jewish-Arab history under foreign rule. I stood facing the large building. To my left was a large tent belonging to the General Security Service and a long line of detainees, mostly stone throwers caught in never-ending chases, were qeueing across the front, waiting to be interrogated. An annoying thin rain dripped from the gray sky. It was cold as February in Nablus can be cold. I stood there, watching. A soldier – one of those who live in rooms adjacent to the military administration offices – crossed the courtyard with a gray IDF-issued towel on his shoulder. Walking to the shower, he encountered a detainee standing by the tent, nonchalantly kicked him, and went on to shower. Another soldier crossed the courtyard, walked by the column of waiting detainees, gave one of them a blow and continued on.

I returned to the newsroom. I wrote a story describing what I saw and warning of what would come. The occupation corrupts. The boundaries between right and wrong blur. The accessibility to authorized violence – even endorsed violence – will eventually create a condemnable and dangerous habit of sanctioned brutality. The freedom to invade the life and the body of the other, to humiliate and oppress, will turn into second nature for a society that will corrupt itself and lose respect for the foreigner.

Forty years after obtaining cheap labor and raising a race of masters that employs day-laborers at the settlements, occupying the army and costing in money and blood; Forty years after we turned from a small, threatened country into an empire of aggressiveness, we are still – today more than ever – a country with no borders, a country that knows no boundaries”.

TALLIE LIPKIN-SHAHAK is the former war correspondent for the daily Davar, where she covered the first war in Lebanon and the first Intifada. She is a radio personality and a regular contributor to Ma’ariv, writing on social issues, the arts, and politics.

See full article here.

Is the U.S. blocking discipline standards for UN peacekeepers?

The UN News Centre [the UN uses British English spelling] has put out a little story reporting that UN USG for Peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, has told journalists: “Troop-contributing countries must accept the introduction of formal discipline standards for United Nations peacekeepers or risk jeopardizing the world body’s entire recent campaign to improve the actions of its personnel in the
… Discussions are about to resume with UN Member States on a proposed memorandum of understanding setting out standards for the estimated 100,000 peacekeepers operating in 18 separate missions around the world, Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno told a press conference in response to questions from journalists. The standards, which would be contained in a memorandum of understanding, are being proposed as part of the Secretariat’s response to a series of scandals in recent years over the behaviour – most notoriously involving sexual exploitation and abuse – by some UN peacekeepers. But Mr. Guéhenno added that some States have indicated they are opposed to the introduction of such standards and he called on those unnamed countries to rethink their positions.
‘Sometimes countries want to have their cake and eat it’, he said. ‘That is, you can’t at the same time want the UN to have perfect discipline and everything, and then resist any UN encroachment or interference with their own national disciplinary procedures. It makes things very difficult’…

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Kouchner and Kosovo

Only a handful of people ever have a good time working for the UN. Bernard Kouchner is one of them. Now that he has been named as the next French Foreign Minister, Ian Williams has dusted off his amusing profile, published in the FT on 15 September 2000, of Kouchner in Kosovo. Here is an excerpt:

Maverick Viceroy” —

“In the summer of 1999, there was only one restaurant open in the chaos of Pristina – a pizzeria. I suggested to Bernard Kouchner that even his many critics had to admit that dining out in Kosovo had improved immeasurably during his year as the United Nation’s viceroy there.

He liked my title for him, but of the innumerable bars and restaurants opened by the Albanians returning after their deportation, he could only say: ‘The cuisine is still not good – nor the service’.

So did the ‘special representative of the secretary general’ feel secure, sitting in the open, shaded portion of parkland sequestrated by the Pristina Park Hotel for its outdoor restaurant? ‘No, my guards are over there. You know, I don’t want to die. They have been going to the bathroom with me for a year now. This is not a relaxed job’. Even so, the waiters were unimpressed; we signalled vainly for attention.

While we waited, we discussed Kouchner’s transformation from manning the barricades of Paris in 1968 to his becoming almost absolute ruler of a Balkan province. His period as French health minister in the Jospin government made him a respectable choice when UN Secretary General Kofi Annan needed someone to cope with the pressures of Kosovo.
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Dugard: Quartet ignores Israel's violations and takes action against the Palestinian Authority

Both Israel and Palestinians are violating international humanitarial law, a UN human rights expert said Tuesday.

Professor John Dugard, an expert in human rights and international law from South Africa, who was an activist against the now-fallen apartheid regime in his own country, said that :”The indiscriminate [Palestinian] firing of rockets into Sderot violates international humanitarian law. So does Israel’s response as it fails to distinguish between civilians and combatants and is a disproportionate use of force. Extrajudicial killings of the kind undertaken by Israel are illegal under international humanitarian law and seem to even fail to meet the minimum requirements for such action laid down by Israel’s own Supreme Court in December 2006″…
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Peace should never be an industry — but it is …

From this week’s edition of Bitterlemons, a weekly forum of two Israelis and two Palestinians, organized by the hard-working and talented Ghassan Khatib, is this right-on-the-mark article, “More fraud than friend“, by Akram Baker:

“My sister’s hamster recently dropped another round of babies. Just when she thought life had returned to normal, a new batch of tiny creatures was born, sending the wheel fresh on its never-ending rotation. Looking at the litter, I couldn’t help but think of the plethora of western-funded Palestinian (and Israeli) non-governmental organizations bent on supporting the non-existing peace process. Just like the hamsters, they run around and around, creating an illusion of forward movement but willfully trading substance for process.

Sure, it may be nice when it comes to assuaging the conscience of the West, but in the end the revolving hamster wheel produces about as much good as the ‘peace industry’…

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Dying by The Wall in East Jerusalem

This photo is published in today’s Jerusalem Post: “Police sappers check the body of a 19-year-old Palestinian bystander killed in the crossfire between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli security men…”

 Jerusalem Post photo by Ariel Jerozolimski

What is particularly shocking about this incident is that it took place basically in Jerusalem — and that the reaction has been so muted. Is that because the Israelis who were shot were not members of the Israeli Defense Forces, but were private security guards — showing the privatization of the occupation — and Israeli border policemen, many of whom are Druse Arab Palestinians?
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International Red Cross says that about half of residents of Nahr Al-Bared are still inside battered refugee camp

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has put out a press release today saying that “The plight of civilians inside the Nahr el-Bared camp in northern Lebanon remains a source of great concern for the ICRC. The fragile truce in the camp held on Saturday and Sunday, though tensions ran very high. There was reportedly heavy gunfire on Friday night and some sporadic shooting early on Saturday morning.   There is still a steady trickle of refugees abandoning the camp on foot. While figures are difficult to confirm, it is probable that about half of Nahr el-Bared residents are still inside the camp.   During the first days of the fighting, houses and especially infrastructure within the camp sustained heavy damage. All electricity facilities inside the camp and four water tanks were reportedly hit, plunging it into total darkness and creating a serious water shortage.   The ICRC remains deeply concerned about the safety of the civilians inside the besieged camp and reiterates its appeal for safe access in order to provide urgent medical and other humanitarian aid for the residents”…

Many of the Palestinian refugees who fled the siege of Nahr Al-Bared went to Beddawi, another Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon:  “In Beddawi camp, ICRC delegates spent a great deal of time speaking to the refugees displaced from Nahr el-Bared, gathering information about how they had managed to leave and how they were coping with their current situation. The older among them fled Palestine in 1948 and lamented the fact that they had now been displaced to yet another refugee camp. ‘They have lost their belongings and seen their homes in Nahr el Bared destroyed’, said Virginia de la Guardia, an ICRC delegate. ‘Their present plight adds a further harsh chapter to the story of Palestinian refugees over the past 60 years’.”

Fatah al Hariri vs Fatah al Islam – Cruel, cruel

We might have thought we were beyond all this, that we were modern, post-modern, certainly enlightened, and good guys. But here in a little corner of north-west Lebanon, at the Nahr Al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, we are all watching another terrible drama unfold. As many of the refugees fleeing the siege have already told journalists, there has to be a better way to handle this.
But no, good guys that we are, we are going strait toward a medieval massacre:

Here are excerpts from a post that is not to be missed, written by Rami Zurayk, in Lebanon, who actually specialzes in food farming and rural society in his blog, landandpeople.blogspot.com. Contrary to other reports on the news wires, his interviewees say that Fatah al-Islam attacked the Lebanese Army without provocation (it was a week ago Friday). Also, this is the only place I’ve seen this about beheading in the initial attacks — I caution that it may or may not be true. This beheading business is truly revolting and terrifying, and it is probably responsible for a lot of the popular support for the anything-goes policies aimed at repressing “Islamic fascism”:

“THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2007
Food for thought: In the Beddawi refugee camp

I just got back from the Beddawi Refugee camp near Tripoli where most of the displaced from Nahr el Bared have found shelter. It is a tiny piece of land, no more than 1 km2, which, until May 22, used to be home to 18,000 people. Now they are 30,000. You can feel it in the streets: impossible to move by car without hitting someone.I learned a couple of things…”
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Now, US and Arabs are rushing arms to Lebanon

Tonight, the Associated Press is reporting that Lebanese “Defense Minister Elias Murr said he was ‘leaving room for political negotiations’, which he said must lead to the surrender of the fighters from the Fatah Islam militant group inside the [Nahr Al-Bared Palestinian refugee] camp. ‘If the political negotiations fail, I leave it to the military command to do what is necessary’, he told reporters.
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