Salam Fayyad steals a line or two: he is not an ATM machine + he threatens to resign

Actually, Fayyad steals a couple of lines, in an interview this week with AP’s Karin Laub in Ramallah.

The first is the one about not being an ATM machine [Fayyad did not, however, say “unfeeling ATM machine”].

Fayyad told AP, according to Laub’s report, published here, that “he would not serve as finance minister under a different prime minister, bristling at the idea of being kept on because of his strong ties to the donors. ‘That would not work … partly because it would most likely be seen as an attempt by our system to tell the world, here is a face that the donor community has been comfortable with, essentially looking at me more or less as the ATM’, he said. ‘I am not the ATM for the Palestinian Authority. I never was’, he said”.

The original, unforgettable ATM line is attributable to an Israeli official who was explaining, in June 2008, how angry his government was with Fayyad [politics are always personal].

Fayyad, at the time, had written letters to the EU and the OECD — in 2008 — urging them not to upgrade relations with Israel because of its continuing belligerent military occupation of Palestinian territory. The furious Israeli government ordered an examination of possible Palestinian debts to Israel that caused a delay in transfers of VAT and Customs tax to the Palestinian Authority [PA] — a classic go-slow action. According to Haaretz, the then-U.S. Ambassador to Israel [Richard Jones] asked what’s going on, and was told by officials in the Israeli Foreign Ministry that “they did not accept Fayyad’s ‘double standards’. ‘We’re not an unfeeling ATM’, one official told him. ‘We too are permitted to get angry when such scummy things are done to us’.” This unforgettable line is reported here.

Continue reading Salam Fayyad steals a line or two: he is not an ATM machine + he threatens to resign

After four years, ICRC goes public with criticism of Israeli policy preventing visits of families from Gaza to Palestinian detainees in Israel

In its own special way, the ICRC has gone public with criticism of Israeli policy that has prevented family visits — for fully the past four years — to Palestinian detainees from Gaza being held in Israel prisons.

A media announcement has been released (this is going public) and a somewhat stilted video has been released (part of it viewable from the ICRC website here).

On the same webpage, the ICRC gives this explanation: “Gaza detainees barred from family visits: In June 2007, the Israeli authorities announced the suspension of family visits for Palestinians from Gaza who were being held in Israel. This decision, which was made a year after Palestinian armed groups captured the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, deprives both the detainees and their relatives of an essential lifeline, and cuts detainees off from the outside world. In the past four years, over 700 families from Gaza have been prevented from seeing their detained relatives”.

Almost simultaneously (though I didn’t see this until later), the ICRC Director-General Yves Daccord issued a statement in Geneva saying that “The total absence of information concerning Mr Shalit is completely unacceptable … The Shalit family have the right under international humanitarian law to be in contact with their son … Hamas has an obligation under international humanitarian law to protect Mr. Shalit’s life, to treat him humanely and to let him have contact with his family”.

The statement noted that “The ICRC continues to make every possible effort to gain access to Mr Shalit or at least to establish contact between him and his family”.

Continue reading After four years, ICRC goes public with criticism of Israeli policy preventing visits of families from Gaza to Palestinian detainees in Israel

Hussam Khader brought to Ofer Prison hearing, returned to Megiddo Prison

There are a couple of ways to approach this story.

One is to explain that Hussam Khader, a well-known Fatah activist, who was taken into custody by a very large group of masked IDF forces who raided his home at 2am the very beginning of June, was brought yesterday to Ofer Prison along Road 443 between Qalandia checkpoint and Modi’in for an Israeli military court hearing on whether or not to enact a request — already granted in principle — from an Israeli military prosecutor, to send him for a six-month sentence of Administrative Detention (renewable).

The military judge, Michael Ben-David, refused, for the second time, to enact the Administrative Detention order without real evidence that such a severe sentence is necessary.

However, this means that Hussam Khader is still in prison, one way or another.

Continue reading Hussam Khader brought to Ofer Prison hearing, returned to Megiddo Prison

Hussam Khader faces Israeli military court in Ofer on Sunday, possible decision on 6-month Administrative Detention order

Hussam Khader, a Fatah activist who was arrested in a 2am Israeli military raid on his home in Balata Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Nablus, in early June, faces an Israeli military court Sunday morning in Ofer Prison, located on Road 443 outside Jerusalem.

An Israeli military judge is expected to decide whether or not to confirm a 6-month Administrative Detention order handed down about ten days ago. The judge reportedly asked Israeli military prosecutors for a reason for 6-month sentence.

Administrative Detention orders are renewable almost endlessly.

Israeli-Arab lawyer Jawad Bulous has been hired to lead a team defending Khader. “As in all Administrative Detention cases, the situation is so bad”, Bulous said in a telephone interview. “We don’t know exactly what charges Hussam is suspected on. Nothing will be clear, even afterwards”.

Bulous said that “from my experience, I see this as a purely political arrest. At the same time, two other men — from Hamas — were also detained in Nablus, and this is a new wave of political arrests for political reasons”.

Hussam Khader’s family said that they thought it might be linked to his support for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. Or, it might have been linked to the June5 demonstrations that were held a few days after the arrests. All three of the men arrested that day, including Hussam, are well-known and active political activists.

But, Hussam’s family also insisted that Hussam was doing nothing wrong, and that all his contacts and activities were public.

Bulous said that the proceedings will be “not exactly open — they are held in a sealed inside hall”.

But, he said, “I will present my arguments in open. They will probably mention that Hussam is suspected of endangering public order and public security. Then they will submit a secret file to the judge, who will then make a decision”.

Hussam and his defense team will not know what evidence the secret file contains, Bulous added.

Our earlier account of his arrest is posted here.

Continue reading Hussam Khader faces Israeli military court in Ofer on Sunday, possible decision on 6-month Administrative Detention order

UNSG's new report on UNDOF mentions Golan minefields + Palestinian protests

The UN Secretary-General’s new report raises more questions than answers about two protests that turned deadly in the Golan Heights in the past month in which people who the UN report identified as “civilians”, and “largely young unarmed Palestinians” overran Syrian, UN, and Israeli lines — in an attempt to enter an area under Israeli control.

The UN said it still did not know the exact casualty toll. The report said that the two demonstrations “resulted in an unconfirmed number of civilian casualties and put the long-held ceasefire in jeopardy”.

The statement about the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire being in jeopardy is a surprise: there are no reports of any Syrian responses to the Israeli firing on the demonstrators.

The report was prepared, as it usually is, by the UNSG in connection with the imminent renewal of the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights later this month.   The UN has decided to ask for a regular six-month renewal, as has happened since 1974, and a threat to the cease-fire would be a good justification for renewal.

The report does not say that Syrian forces were in any way responsible for the organizing the protests, though it does note several times that the Syrian forces were present.

On May 15, it said, “A total of 44 civilian casualties, including four fatalities from IDF fire, were reported, but UNDOF has not been able to confirm these numbers”. In the second demonstration, it said, “Although UNDOF could not confirm the number of casualties during the 5 June events, up to 23 persons have been reported killed and many more wounded”.

The report said that it was still investigating an “incident” in which two civilians “entered Majdal Chams and demonstrated in the town centre” during the May 15 protest — and were detained by the IDF. They were returned two days later, on 17 May, “by the IDF through UNDOF and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the Syrian authorities”. According to the UN report, “UNDOF is investigating the incident and both parties have agreed in principle to cooperate with UNDOF’s investigation”.

It also said it was still investigating an apparent attack by protestors, during the June 5 protest, on an UNDOF position. Stones were thrown at a UNDOF commander trying to calm the situation, several protesters climbed the walls and entered the UNDOF facility and some UNDOF military police were evacuated for their own protection.

Continue reading UNSG's new report on UNDOF mentions Golan minefields + Palestinian protests

AFP: UN report mentions unmarked minefield, denial of access to UN observer teams, in Golan

AFP has written a story from UNHQ/NY, based on an as-yet-unpublished UN report, that apparently says that Palestinian and Syrian demonstrators coming from Syria crossed an “unmarked minefield” in the Golan Heights on May 15 — the day that Israeli forces were surprised by the breach.

From the AFP story, published here, it is not clear if this referred to a field of Israeli, or Syrian, mines.

The unpublished UN report that AFP obtained is apparently linked to forthcoming UN Security Council consideration of periodic renewal, later this month, of the UN peacekeeping mandate on the Golan Heights, known as UNDOF [UN Disengagement Observer Forces]. This UNDOF report, published as a report of the UNSG, was due to be published on 10 June…

The AFP story, published yesterday [Wednesday June 15] says that “On May 15, about 4,000 mainly Palestinian demonstrators gathered on the Golan Heights on the anniversary of Israel’s 1948 creation. The UN report said about 300 moved toward the Israeli side ‘and despite the presence of the Syrian police, crossed the ceasefire line, through an unmarked minefield‘ and broke through an Israeli security fence. Israeli forces at first fired tear gas, then warning shots and then used ‘direct fire’, according to the UN, which said four dead and 41 wounded were reported. On June 5, Palestinians again gathered at two places on the Golan Heights ceasefire line. ‘Despite the presence of Syrian security forces, protesters attempted to breach the ceasefire line in both locations’, the UN said. Israeli forces again used tear gas and then live fire to deter the demonstrators. The UN said up to 23 people were reported killed and many more wounded … The UN report said ‘anti-government demonstrations in Syria spread to several villages’ on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line. UN observer teams have been denied access to six villages ‘ostensibly for reasons of safety and security of the military observers’, the report said”. This AFP story is published here.

This confirms the serious — and still unanswered — questions that have been raised in the past month:
(1) There is a question of proper notification, both to Syrian authorities and to UN peacekeeping missions working in the Golan.
(2) There is also an unanswered question about whether or not the minefields were properly marked [particularly any newly-laid minefields], in order to provide adequate warning to the demonstrators themselves.
(3) The breach of the Syrian and Israeli lines by Palestinian and Syrian protesters in demonstrations both on June 5 and also on May 15 has raised questions about how the UN peacekeeping forces who operate there are working.

The AFP story did seem to show UN confirmation that Syrian authorities didn’t do much but stand by and watch during May15 +June5 protests — though there was no real dispute on that point. The UN report apparently does not say that Syrian authorities actually sponsored, or even encouraged, the demonstrations. [It would be interesting to see anybody argue that the Syrian Army should actually have stopped the protesters from protesting — though the Lebanese Army did shoot at demonstrators on May 15.]

On Monday 6 June, a day after the latest demonstrations, the Israeli media published reports that newly-laid IDF minefields were among the preparations undertaken since the Nakba Day protests on May15 (when Palestinians + Syrians surprised the IDF by crossing the Golan on foot and entering Majdal Shams etc.) These newly-laid IDF minefields were reportedly planted expressly to prevent a second breach of the lines, in anticipation of the June 5 demonstrations marking the start of the June 1967 war (and the start of the Israeli occupation). An unclear number of people, said to be unarmed, were killed by unclear causes, apparently including minefield explosions.

UNDOF’s Croatian Battalion is located in the middle of the UN Zone that separates Israeli and Syrian lines near Majdal Shams.
The current UNDOF deployment map is published here.

The Israeli and Syrian lines are situated where agreed by a 1974 Agreement on the Disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces. It can’t be found on the UN website, but it is on the website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, here. It shows the UN zone in the middle of the demarcated area:

Map of Israeli-Syrian Disengagement Agreement - 1974
Israeli-Syrian Disengagement Agreement Map - 1974

The story has not yet been developed.

It is not clear where the old minefields are, or whether they are all clearly marked. And it’s absolutely not clear where any newly-laid minefields are. But, all indications are that the newly-laid minefields were unmarked. (Except by two rows of barbed wire, according to an Israeli friend.)

One report, whose link I’ve unfortunately misplaced, did mention in passing that the IDF lines were overrun on May15 when Israeli troops stopped in their tracks, stunned to see the Palestinian demonstrators crossing minefields [marked, or unmarked?]

The first indications of injuries and deaths from mine explosions came from accounts given to the Israeli media by the IDF Northern Command on June 5, and then by IDF spokespersons themselves. The IDF aid that some protesters supposedly threw Molotov cocktails onto one minefield, apparently near Quneitra, thereby setting off one or more explosions. At least one IDF spokeswoman insisted, in an interview with one of my colleagues, that this peculiar tragedy involved minefields left over from the 1967 war.

UPDATE: However, the as-yet-unpublished UN report blame the fire not on Molotov cocktails supposedly thrown by demonstrators, but rather on the tear gas (or smoke?) canisters fired at the demonstrators by Israeli forces. Thanks to a tip from NYC-based journalist Alex B. Kane, who published his own account on Mondoweiss, there, we discovered a DPA [German Press Agency] story published by Haaretz on Tuesday evening, here reports that “A UN report on the Naksa day events said the IDF used tear gas, smoke grenades and live fire to prevent the demonstrators from crossing the ceasefire line. It stated: ‘Several anti-tank mines exploded due to a brush fire apparently started by tear gas or smoke grenade canisters near UNDOF facilities at Charlie Gate [near Quneitra?], resulting in casualties among protesters’. The brush fire was put out by Syrian and Israeli fire squads, and UNDOF, the report read”.

Another link in Alex Kane’s report for Mondoweiss, a Haaretz report published on June 6, here, “[IDF] Soldiers fired ‘with precision’ at the bottom half of the bodies of the protesters, the army said”. Then, an IDF spokeswoman said that this was further proof that the death toll figures had been exaggerated: We shot them in the feet, she said, and then the wounded were carried away on stretchers, pretending that they were dead…

So, to satisfy the IDF standards of proof that they were only “shot in the feet”, those injured should have walked back across the lines…?

ICRC in Tel Aviv on IDF newly-laid minefields in Golan

The ICRC Spokesperson in Tel Aviv Ran Goldstein informed me by email, in response to my query days ago, about Israeli media reports of newly-laid IDF minefields in the Golan planted in the weeks between May15 and June5 demonstrations, that:
We are closely following the events that are taking place in the Golan. The organization is particularly concerned with the loss of life and the wounded. The ICRC has also reminded the IDF of its obligations regarding the need to respect international standards relevant to law enforcement especially with regards to the proportionate use of force. The ICRC has a confidential and bilateral dialogue with the authorities on the situation. Once it has collected more details on the incidents, the ICRC would be able to address the authorities according to its working modalities. Unfortunately, for the moment, we can’t provide you with additional details about this issue“.

The IDF has also been criticized for the use of live fire — after oral warnings in Arabic, Israeli officials counter — against unarmed protesters who breached Israeli lines in the Golan both on May15 and on June5.

Our earlier posts on this are: 7 June – here; 8 June – here; and 9 June – here.

No surprise, yet still a surprise: Fatah reportedly wants to keep Salam Fayyad as PM

Though it’s what all the savvy and not-so-savvy, and all the well-informed and not-so-well-informed, have been saying in Ramallah for weeks, now it seems to be almost official: the Associated Press (AP) is reporting that Fatah met on Saturday [in Ramallah, of course] “to finalize a proposed list of candidates for Cabinet positions. A Fatah official who attended the meeting said Fayyad was chosen to be their candidate [for Prime Minister]. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter”.

This AP report is published today in Haaretz here.

Until rather recently, many in Fatah complained endlessly about Fayyad — particularly about the small number of Fatah appointees in his cabinet.

Continue reading No surprise, yet still a surprise: Fatah reportedly wants to keep Salam Fayyad as PM

Why no progress in investigation of murder in Jenin of Juliano Mer-Khamis?

Amira Hass has written a new article reporting that Jenin Camp residents — and PA care not to antagonize some of them — are partly responsible for blocking the investigation in the assassination of Juliano Mer-Khamis in Jenin Refugee Camp two months ago. Her reportage, in Haaretz, is posted here.

But, she wrote, there appear to be other forces of inertia at work as well.

Hass wrote: “Of the four law enforcement agencies investigating the case – the Palestinian police, the Israel Police, the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service – none seems to be working particularly hard to solve it, says Abeer Baker, the attorney for the family”…

Continue reading Why no progress in investigation of murder in Jenin of Juliano Mer-Khamis?

Discussion in Jerusalem: We are now in a period of unknown change

There was a “book discussion” Thursday evening at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem.

The book is almost unimportant, by comparison with the discussion.

In addition to the author [a young German], there were two panelists: Dr. Mahdi Abdel Hadi [PASSIA] and Amira Hass [journalist for Haaretz].

Abdel Hadi said, at the end of a description of four eras in Palestinian political life [we are now in the fourth, which is “change, led by the people”] that: “There is a madness in the changes occurring in Israel today, and there is fear among Palestinians… Anything can happen now, anything”.

Amira Hass was emotional, and strong. She spoke last, and said that what she missed in the discussion “is a small reminder that we are dealing with a subjugator people and a subjugated people. The word occupation is overused and worn out”.

She exclaimed — really exclaimed! — that “A people — us — have become expert in subjugation! We, of all the peoples in the world! The more I live here, and the more I see, the less I can write about this — there are so many sophisticated, sly, malicious details about this subjugation … What has been developed here for the past 63 years needs new vocabularies, if only for the simple fact that it’s us Jews, of all people, scheming in so many ways, so many incredible ways, to subjugate this indigenous people”.

She said: “I see [in the audience] many Westerners and diplomats in front of me, and I’m angry with you! What are you doing? Don’t you see this is going to a disaster? Why are you standing idle?

Continue reading Discussion in Jerusalem: We are now in a period of unknown change