State of Palestine admitted to full membership in UNESCO

Despite a near-100% certainty that U.S. funding [representing 22% of the agency’s budget] will be cut, UNESCO member states voted this afternoon in Paris to admit the State of Palestine into full membership of the UN’s Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.

UPDATE: Within hours, the U.S. State Department announced that a $60 million payment due to UNESCO in November will be withheld because of today’s decision to give Palestine full membership in the UN agency.

The vote was 107 member states in favor, 14 against, and [either 49 or 52?] countries either abstaining or absent.

UN SG BAN Ki-Moon expressed his concern in recent days about the possible funding cuts.

But, principles prevailed.

One of the most important of these principles is the right to self-determination.

France — which is UNESCO’s host country — reportedly voted in favor of full membership for the State of Palestine in UNESCO. So did Russia + China.

Al-Jazeera reports on its website that “UNESCO’s vote will almost certainly trigger a US law, passed in 1990, which bars the US from funding any United Nations agency ‘which accords the Palestine Liberation Organisation the same standing as member states’. The US provides about $80 million per year, or 22 per cent of the agency’s total budget. The president can often override such laws with a so-called ‘national security waiver’; these waivers allow the PLO to maintain a mission in Washington, for example, despite a 1987 law barring it. But the 1990 law on UN funding, and a similar measure passed in 1994, do not provide the option of a waiver”.

The same Al-Jazeera story called the move “symbolic” — but also quoted analyst Mouin Rabbani as saying “What they’re doing is developing leverage over the Americans, the Europeans, the Israelis, so these parties begin to take them more seriously “… which is much more than symbolic.

Continue reading “State of Palestine admitted to full membership in UNESCO”

A raid down the hill, last Sunday — this doesn't happen all the time, like this

I was driving to Ramallah last Sunday, a sunny day, about 1:30 in the afternoon.

The traffic is usually bad at that time in the narrow winding pot-hold streets of Dahiet al-Bariid, where there are two important private schools letting out students at the same time, just as students from the Israeli-run East Jerusalem public school system are coming home at the same hour, more or less.

You really have to plan your day carefully in Palestinian areas, and particularly to know when schools are letting out students.

But, last Sunday it was worse than usual.

Dahiet al-Bariid is a triangle of land in north Jerusalem, divided in two by the Israeli-built Wall which comes straight down the middle of what used to be the main street between Jerusalem and Ramallah, carving out an Israeli-run industrial zone [Atarot] on one side, and closing in the Palestinian suburb of Ar-Ram on the other side.   The route of the wall would have enclosed most of the area’s hill, Jabal as-Sumoud  — except that the Rosary Sister’s School and various other Christian institutions saw what was about to happen as the construction proceeded confidently and inexorably south.  They petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court, and said they did not want to be cut off from Jerusalem, which was the center of their faith and life here.  The Supreme Court granted the petition, and in compliance with this Court decision, the Israeli Army re-routed the Wall sharply right at the lowest point in the area, to make a right turn and head up the hill, several hundred meters more north than apparently first planned.

Though the Supreme Court ruling has been made, the Israeli military has not yet incorporated the area into the Greater Jerusalem Municipality it defined in late June 1967… and most of this area is regarded, at least in military terms, as a “Seam Zone”.

When I got down to the traffic circle at the bottom of the steep hill, I suddenly saw why everything was blocked: in the midst of the normal chaos and traffic jam, there was a major Israeli border police raid going on.

It was not immediately clear which building was targetted — the building with multiple internal apartments separately housing all members of East Jerusalem’s most successful family of money-changers, whose office is located in downtown East Jerusalem’s main thoroughfare, Salah ad-Din Street, run down and crowded, un-posh to be sure, but the local equivalent of the Champs-Elysees, or Fifth Avenue.

Or, was it the office building next door, where a number of NGOs, lawyers, and other East Jerusalem entities have space?

There were many, many vehicles, and many, many men in combat uniforms with big guns standing out on the street. What looked like an armoured jeep was parked right up in the middle of the traffic circle, with a big soldier in combat posture + gun standing beside it, looking up at one of the buildings. Alongside the road, on what might in other places actually be sidewalks, there were more military vehicles, and more armed men in uniforms of various colors. What was going on? And, why?

It took me several days and a number of phone calls to find out.

Before the news was published, one experienced attorney told me it was just a “tax raid”, which happens regularly — it’s just that, to outsiders, he said, when these “tax raids” are in East Jerusalem, “they look like Chuck Norris movies”.

Finally, I called the offices of the Arab Studies Society — formerly, under the late Faisal Husseini, based in his Orient House further downtown, but relocated to Dahiet al-Bariid after Israeli authorities shut down the building housing a number of Husseini-backed organizations. Someone in that office said that the Border Police raided a nearby office rented out to the Northern Islamic Alliance, and arrested a man inside [Sheikh Raed Salah, who has Israeli citizenship and who is now fighting a deportation decision in Britain, is a member of the group].

News agencies and the Israeli media did not report the story right away. It took a couple of days, and the reports varied. It’s not clear why there was a delay in reporting.

Most of the few media reports said that not just one but two, or maybe even three, offices had been raided, and shut down [one of the offices was not in this area, but in Shu’afat village, more south, and closer to downtown Jerusalem], and one or more people arrested.

By Tuesday — two days after the raid — Agence France Presse reported that Israeli national police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told them: ” ‘The Israeli police closed down two offices… that were suspected of being used by the Hamas and the PFLP’ … The office which was allegedly being used by Hamas was in the northern Dahiyat al-Barid neighbourhood, while the premises being used by the PFLP were located in Shuafat, police said. But Khaled Zabarqa, who runs Jerusalem for Development, a local housing association which is based in the Dahiyat al-Barid office, said he was ‘surprised’ by the move and denied the organisation had any ties with Hamas. ‘We have no links to Hamas. We are a development institution which closes the (social) gaps left by the (Jerusalem) municipality in the Arab sector, which carries out renovations and helps families’, he told AFP, saying the organisation was seeking legal redress over the closure. ‘We are operating in accordance with the law’.” This story is posted here.

Haaretz, normally considered a left-liberal media platform, took a more serious and alarmist approach, reporting with a perfectly straight face that “Israeli police forces on Tuesday raided three buildings in Jerusalem allegedly being used by Palestinian militants for illegal activities. The raids were carried out based on intelligence gathered by the Shin Bet security services. Two of the buildings, loacted Dahiyat al-Barid neighborhood in north Jerusalem, were suspected of serving as a center for Hamas militants, while a third building in the Shuafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem was allegedly being used by militants from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Officers from the Border Police and Jerusalem district police found numerous documents in the buildings, indicating that illegal activity had indeed taken place there. Israel Police Commissioner Yonatan Danino signed an order immediately to seal the documents away for a month. The three buildings have been shut down The raids come two months after Jerusalem Police shut down a kindergarten in the Abu Tor neighborhood, citing classified intelligence that the site ‘was meant to serve as a place of terror activity’.” This Haaretz report is posted here.

UPDATE: More than a week later, Haaretz gave more details, and reported [on 1 November] — or, perhaps asserted is a better word, that “The first institution to close down was a Jerusalem branch of Al-Quds Development which was run by the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, headed by Sheikh Ra’ad Salah. According to intelligence, the branch was run in cooperation with senior Hamas operatives who are citizens of East Jerusalem [n.b. — excuse me, but no one is a citizen of East Jerusalem, which is still not an independent state. Israelis are often a bit careless with this word, at least in relation to East Jerusalem, where most Palestinians have permanent resident status, but no citizenship at all — and if they obtain any citizenship other than Israeli or Jordanian, their residency status is revoked]. The second institution was the company Jobs without Borders. According to intelligence collected by the Shin Bet, the company was operated by Hamas and the company directors are Hamas officials, citizens of East Jerusalem. Last, the security forces closed down the offices of Sa’ad, an educational development company in Kafr Aqab in northern East Jerusalem. According to the Shin Bet, the institution belongs to Hamas, which has been active in the neighborhood for more than a year and a half. The company’s managers are prominent Hamas officials, also residents of East Jerusalem”. This report, a week after the raid, is posted here

By chance, a Machsom [Hebrew word for “checkpoint”] Watch team was on its way, around 3 pm on the Sunday of the raid, to their usual observation tour at Qalandia checkpoint, perhaps a kilometer north of where the raid took place.

The women on the team, experienced veterans who have seen all kinds of things at checkpoints and along the roads in the West Bank, as well as at military courts and prisons, were astonished. They stopped their car, and got out to take a look…

Tamar Fleishman, a member of the team, reported that the raid took several hours, and she and her colleagues stayed until it was over.

Here is her account, with her photos:

    “During the afternoon hours a group of Mistaarvim [n.b. – Israeli undercover plainclothes police units, ususally of Arab origin. who are initially assumed to be “locals”] who had their faces covered, protected by the Yasam [the Special Forces of the Israeli Border Police], broke the office door of attorney Kaadan at Dahiat El Barid.

    Within seconds Attorney Kaadan found himself on the floor with two rifles’ barrels pointing at his head. His breath and complexion were back to normal only several hours after the attack. The invaders dismantled the alarm system, sprayed black paint on the security cameras, inspected the files and cabinets [n.b. – throwing a lot of things around in the process and creating a mess] and left the place after three hours and ten minutes.

    They took away with them:
    1. Two detainees (a person who works at the office and a client).
    2. The office computers.
    3. The memory from the cameras and the alarm system”.


Report and photos by Machsom Watch’s Tamar Fleishman, on the
23 October mid-afternoon raid of what Israeli police later said was
a “Hamas office” in north Jerusalem.

Part of the trouble with this place…

Take a look at this article, published here:

Look at the headline:

The Children of Shu’fat Camp Rejoice at “Animals” Muppet Show

.

OK. Now, read the article itself. It’s not so long.

It appears, from careful reading, that this WAFA article was produced entirely on the basis of a press release from UNRWA.

In fact, the original UNRWA press release is posted here — and it’s exact title is:

Children of Shu’fat Camp enjoy animals muppet show


[note that UNRWA prefers to use the word “enjoy].

———————————————-

QUESTIONS THIS POSES:

There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever in this article as written that any correspondent of WAFA — the [yes, official] Palestine News [sic] & Info Agency — was present.

So, how would WAFA be able to know whether the children of Shu’fat [Shoafat] Camp “rejoiced”, or not?
[And, why is “animals” in quotation marks?]

Is this a genuine human interest story — or is it, as seems completely clear, institutional promotion?
[UNRWA, Spanish offices in Jerusalem]?

Why would UNRWA + WAFA be so enthusiastic about the appearance of a Spanish performing troupe?  Is it because any infusion of donor money and interest, however self-serving, must be applauded?

Ah, yes. Here it is, this is exactly what it says in the story below. In the words of the Deputy Consul General of Spain Javier Gutierrez: “It is a good opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the ‘Spanish government and UNRWA since Spanish government is a main partner and donor for UNRWA”.

So, this is the “Thank you”… with, of course, the pat on UNRWA’s own back. The Spanish offices mentioned in the WAFA article [and in the UNRWA press release] gets something nice to show the folks back home in the monthly, quarterly and yearly reports. And, of course, so does UNRWA, as this highlights [entirely on UNRWA’s terms] the “good” work that UNRWA wants you to know it does…

But, it is, certainly, almost unthinkable that UNRWA and/or WAFA [and/or the Spanish Cooperation Bureau] would promote any similar performance by a Palestinian puppet show… More than that, there’s no way a Palestinian puppet troupe would be able to get, easily, funding for its work — certainly never to the same level that this Spanish troupe receives… not from UNRWA, and not from Spain.

And, what can you say about a news agency that does this?

Continue reading “Part of the trouble with this place…”

Jose Ramos Horta, E. Timor President, endorses full UN membership for Palestine

Writing for the Huffington Post, East Timor’s President Jose Ramos Horta endorsed [in September, just days before PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas actually deposited the request] Palestine’s “UN bid” for full membership in the international organization.

Ramos Horta, who was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, alongside East Timor’s Archbiship Belo, for their efforts for self-determination and peace in East Timor, wrote in his article, published on 19 September, that “Arguments against full Palestinian UN membership are not persuasive“.

    “The Palestinians, having waited for 20 years since the Oslo Accords, that promised them a full sovereign Palestinian State living along side with the state of Israel, have decided to seek full UN membership status now. They have every right to do so and I do not see how a Palestinian State that is a full member of the UN would be detrimental to Israel and US interests. Full UN membership carries with it not only rights but in equal manner duties and responsibilities, among them, the obligation to not allow its territory to be used to launch attacks on other countries…
    “The dilemma and challenge for Israel is to vacate most of West Bank. But Israeli leaders and settlers are the ones who created this problem for themselves and must now have the courage and wisdom to leave West Bank and hand over the settlements to the Palestinian authorities. A special fund could be set up, led by the US and Europe, to buy back from Israel the thousands of housing units, schools, health clinics, etc scattered in the West Bank. While no amount of money would ever suffice to buy back the lives lost, Palestinians would receive high quality infrastructures that in some way would constitute a small form of compensation for decades of humiliation and dispossession…
    “To my friends in Israel and the US, I will say, do not oppose Palestinian UN membership; support it instead. Provide the financial means the Palestinian leaders need to turn their economy around. Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu told me in his office in Jerusalem earlier this year that he wanted to see an economically prosperous Palestinian state. I believe he meant it. Now is his chance to show vision and bold leadership by endorsing Palestinian UN membership, lift the Gaza blockade, and facilitate trade…
    “I have heard arguments from all sides. Arguments against full Palestinian UN membership are not persuasive. After more than 60 years of absence, to a great extent due to past Palestinian and Arab leaderships miscalculations, it is time that the five million Palestinians living in West Bank and Gaza, and the many others scattered in the region and elsewhere, see their national flag hoisted along aside that of other powers of the world, great and small, rich and poor”.

    [Jose Ramos-Horta, 1996 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and President of Timor-Leste, made State Visits to Israel and Palestine earlier this year.]

This article by East Timor’s President Jose Ramos Horta, recommending full UN membership for the State of Palestine, is posted here.

The Quartet: Proximity talks + Positive thinking

Envoys from the Quartet met, separately, with Israeli and Palestinians at the UN’s lovely and venerable Government House — the seat of government built by the British during the Palestine Mandate period — on the southern edge of Jerusalem today.

The location seems to have been specially selected to please the Palestinian side, and was a gesture laden with symbolic significance.

Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair, who seriously irritated Palestinian officials recently in what they said was a heavy-handed attempt to dissuade them from pursuing their “UN bid” for full membership in the international organization, was also present. Despite some comments that Blair was “persona non grata”, etc, the Palestinian negotiators seemed to have little-to-no problem in dealing with him in these “proximity” or indirect talks, in which the two sides didn’t actually meet each other, but stayed in separate places while the Quartet envoys moved between them.

According to one news report [in the Wall Street Journal, here], Tony Blair was the essential actor in the Quartet meeting, shuttling in the meetings “between Israelis and Palestinians on Wednesday with an international blueprint for a return to negotiations” — which seems to be just ever so slightly misleading, particularly given the Palestinian anger and unease with his performance during the four+ years he’s held his functions, being present in Israel-Palestine less than one week a month in those four+ years, and meanwhile earning a fortune on the side …

The idea, according to a U.S. State Department official speaking ahead of today’s talks, was “to get each of them working on concrete proposals on security and borders / territories”.

Basically, the U.S. says it has heard “positive noises” from the two sides, and is determined to ignore anything else.

So, the Quartet has just passed the first stage of the plan [the two parties should have an initial meeting] proposed on 23 September, the day Mahmoud Abbas deposited the Palestinian “UN bid” at UN headquarters in New York.

In the second stage, which should last for approximately three months, the two sides must each work, separately, on their own proposals on the two issues [security + borders]. If there is no breakthrough at that point, the problems will become more acute. By six months, which is where the first real crunch will be, the two sides are supposed to have made “substantial progress” in their discussions, if not also on their overall relations with each other…

Two days ago, in a briefing to the UN Security Council, the UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry said: “We remind the parties that the Quartet reaffirmed the international legal basis for peace talks and called for the parties to overcome the obstacles and resume negotiations without preconditions. The Quartet further called for proposals within three months on borders and security, with a view to achieving substantial progress within six months and an agreement no later than the end of 2012. The Quartet stressed the need for the parties to refrain from provocations and reiterated their Roadmap obligations”.

Serry also told the Security Council that “The Palestinian application for United Nations membership is being examined by this Council, and is a matter for Member States. Also, the Palestinian request for membership in UNESCO is being reviewed before a vote by the General Conference. This step could have repercussions for the Organizations as it has legal and political implications for the funding provided by some Member States. The Secretary-General is increasingly concerned about ramifications of such a step for the United Nations and asks all to act wisely in determining a course of action”.

Despite this note of caution, or warning, Mahmoud Abbas said in Ramallah that the Palestinians will press ahead with their UNESCO bid, too.

Serry participated in today’s meetings.

UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon reported on Saturday night here that the Quartet participants in the proximity talks were “David Hale from the US, Helga Schmid form the EU, Sergei Vershinin from Russia and Robert Serry from the UN”…

Keinon added that “Back in the early part of 2010, George Mitchell, who was then Obama’s hand-picked Middle East envoy, was doing the same thing that the Quartet representatives tried to do on Wednesday: meeting with the sides to urge, nudge, cajole, pressure them back to direct negotiations. There was even a name given to this whole exercise: proximity talks. Tellingly, more than a year later, we are pretty much at the same spot: trying to get the two sides once again to agree to direct talks, with the Palestinians saying they will only do so if Israel freezes settlement construction, and various types of pressure being exerted on Israel to stop the building. The Quartet, in its plan for renewing negotiations that was unveiled at the UN on September 23, called for a direct meeting between the sides within a month. Instead, what it got was a reincarnation of ‘proximity talks’, and even that three days late. What distinguishes late 2011 from early 2010 is that now the man in the middle is no longer the US represented by Mitchell, nor even Hale, his low-profile replacement (Mitchell handed in his resignation in May). The man in the middle is actually a grouping of men and women – the Quartet representatives. Is this another example of the US leading from behind? Blair, in an interview this week with the Los Angeles Times, said the Quartet’s more active role in the peace process was not due to the US stepping back, because, as he said, ‘the US is still very much there’. But, he said, the US is ‘also saying to the international community, “You’ve go to step up with us here”.’”

After the proximity talks, Serry’s office put out a statement claiming — with remarkable optimism — that “Both Parties expressed their readiness to engage with the Quartet, on the basis of its statement of 23 September, to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral negotiations without delay or preconditions. The Parties agreed with the Quartet to come forward with comprehensive proposals on territory and security within three months in the context of our shared commitment to the objective of direct negotiations leading toward an agreement by the end of 2012. Envoys reiterated the Quartet call of 23 September upon the parties to refrain from provocative actions if negotiations are to be effective. Quartet Envoys agreed with the parties to meet regularly for the next 90 days to review progress”.

However, the Chief Palestinian Negotiator, Saeb Erekat gave no indication that the meeting had been quite so positive. Erekat is back on the job despite having resigned [he now explains that his resignation was not accepted] after a series of unflattering revelations following a major leak of documents [the “Palestine Papers”] from his office and a few other places in Ramallah, and then were used as the basis for a series of explosive programs on Al Jazeera TV about the conduct of the negotiations in recent years. 

Instead, after the Proximity Talks hosted by the Quartet, a statement was issued in Erekat’s name saying that “We explained to the Quartet that we are prepared to sit at the negotiating table as soon as the Israeli government freezes all settlement construction and accepts clear terms of reference, specifically the 1967 borders. These are not favors that Israel is doing for us. These are its obligations in accordance with international law and the Road Map. Anything short of that will simply put us back on the failed track that we have been on for the last 20 years”.  The Palestinian participants in these meetings were, apparently Saeb Erekat and Mohammad Shtayyah.

Before these Proximity talks, Erekat issued a statement saying that the continuing Israeli settlement enterprise in occupied Palestinian territory was nothing other than “legalized looting”.

According to a press statement published by the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department, “Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat said, ‘All Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal according to international humanitarian law. There are no exceptions to this well-established legal principle’. Dr. Erekat responded to attempts by the Israeli government to draw false distinctions between different kinds of illegal settlement construction, whereby Israel alleges that there is so-called private and public construction. ‘Looting is not made legal under any circumstance. International humanitarian law and relevant UN resolutions draw no distinction between different forms of settlement construction. These actions constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute’, said Dr. Erekat”. This statement is posted here.

According to Israeli media reports, the Israeli participant in the Quartet’s Proximity talks with the two parties was Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s aide, Isaac Molcho.

Continue reading “The Quartet: Proximity talks + Positive thinking”

John Quigley, international law professor, on Palestine — in Palestine

John Quigley, renowned legal scholar and professor of international law who has written several books on the Question of Palestine — and who believes that the state of Palestine already exists, based in the Palestine Liberation Organization’s 1988 Declaration of Independence — is in Ramallah for a few days.

He will be speaking at a conference at Bir Zeit University this [Tuesday] morning [co-sponsored by the Bir Zeit University Institute of Law + the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung] on “The Quest for Palestine Statehood: Legal, Political and Economic Implications”.

At an appearance at the [Quaker] Friends Meeting House in Ramallah [arranged by the independent Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq] on Monday night, Quigley said that the Palestinian right to statehood existed before or prior to — and without reference to — the UN General Assembly’s Resolution 181 [adopted 29 November 1947], but he noted that the PLO relied upon Resolution 181 as the basis for their claim to statehood in 1988.

Asked [by Sam Bahour, who was in the audience] if UNGA Resolution 181 is legal, if it had a legal foundation, Quigley replied that it was adopted as a recommendation, as a suggestion to 2 parties, as a proposal to the two parities, to deal with the situation by partition, with economic union and respect for the rights of everyone. [The situation = Britain announced after the Second World War that it wanted to get out of its responsibility for the Mandate of Palestine that it acquired from the League of Nations after the First World War].

So, Quigley continued, this UNGA Resolution 181 was viewed very clearly as a recommendation, but because it was rejected by Arab countries, the major powers a few months later put it aside.

Quigley then suggested that what gave UNGA Resolution 181 legality, or legitimacy [he avoided specifying the term] was the PLO’s acceptance of it, over 40 years later, as the basis for the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988.

In terms of the unfulfilled Palestinian right of Self-Determination, Quigley said that it would have been better supported if the PLO had not, in 1988, confined its territorial claim to the West Bank and Gaza — it could have, at that time, called for Self-Determination in much larger territory.

However, he said, having made the determination in 1988 that they would establish their independent state within the borders / armistice lines that existed before the June 1967 war, it would be very difficult [if not impossible] for the Palestinians to go back on this now.

He did note that Israel became UN member in 1949 without specific mention of territory [or borders]; Israel’s subsequent occupation of territory in 1948 [after the departure of British forces] beyond the delimitation proposed in the UNGA resolution’s 1947 partition plan, has “never been dealt with in any way”.

It is very hard to argue that Jewish settlers in the West Bank have a right or claim to territory there on the basis of Self-Determination — especially, he said, since the International Criminal Court has now solidified the position of the Geneva Conventions, and also of customary international law [including the Hague Convention of 1907, which Israel does accept], that establishing settlements under a military occupation is a war crime.

The real problem, Quigley added, is that it will be very difficult for the Palestinians to gain jurisdiction over Israel in in international fora, because Israel opts out from the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in every international human rights treaty except the Genocide Convention.

In contrast to the positions held by some in the audience in Ramllah, Quigley said that the PLO’s “UN bid” — its filing of an application for full membership on 23 September — will enhance its ability to represent Palestinian interests.

If anything, Quigley said, Palestinian statehood enhances representation for the Palestinian diaspora. He argued that some Palestinian complaints [including the fears of diaspora about their lack of representation] with regard to the recently-submitted “UN bid” are “internal questions”.

Just because there hasn’t been a very effective effort made in the past to implement the rights of those outside, doesn’t mean that they still won’t be in the future, Quigley noted. “All I’m saying is that Palestine as a state will be in a stronger [and better] position to do so”, though it remains to be seen what will happen.

He also noted that there doesn’t seem to be any indication of an attempt to abandon the Palestinian right of “repatriation”.

And, he said, Palestinian complaints that there should have been greater consultation before making the UN bid is also an internal Palestinian matter, while “at an international level, a state representing a population that acquiesces in its control — even if it doesn’t like what that state does — is capable of taking such actions”.

Continue reading “John Quigley, international law professor, on Palestine — in Palestine”

The day of the big prisoner swap [ok, yes, it's an "egregious" term]

23:55 pm: A Tweet from Turkish journalist @MahirZeynalov says that 11, not 10, Palestinian released prisoners has arrived in Ankara: “11 released Palestinian prisoners make sajdah right after they leave the plane in Ankara’s airport. Palestinian Amb. to Turkey met them”. UPDATE: The additional person appears to be a woman — perhaps the one [or one of the ones, but I think it was in the end only one] who refused to be sent to Gaza this morning, and Egypt reportedly agreed to take her. [If so, it must be Mariam al-Tarabeen, or Tarabini...] But, perhaps Egypt agreed to take her to the Cairo airport, on the condition that Turkey would be the ultimate destination, or receiving country.

21:15 pm: At least one of the Palestinian prisoners released today, a woman who is now in Gaza, was on the hunger strike that began on 27 September — Wafa al-Bis was hospitalized in Gaza tonight, according to a report by WAFA picked up and posted here. It seems that she was one of the women prisoners who initially refused to be released into Gaza, if I correctly understood earlier Tweet by @dimaeleiwa.

19:05 pm: Just realized, listening to replay of Noam Shalit’s remarks to public in Mitzpe Hila, he said his son Gilad suffers from lack of sunlight [that was kind of obvious today], from after-effects of shrapnel wounds [how did he get these shrapnel wounds?] , and from isolation — including because he did not speak the language and could not communicate with OTHER PRISONERS. What OTHER PRISONERS was Gilad Shalit held with?

18:15 pm:: Live event in Gaza, address by Hamas’ Ismail Haniyah shouting angrily — apparently in answer to criticism that Hamas has benefitted — by saying that all factions were consulted and involved, Palestinians are one people. Al Jazeera [+ some other TV channels] break away from Haniyeh speech just after he says Chris Bandak, a Palestinian Christian [from Bethlehem] who had been serving three [3] life sentences “is now here with us”. Al Jazeera International goes directly to public remarks being made in Mitzpe Hila in northern Israel by Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father, who mentioned that his son still suffers from shrapnel injuries [shrapnel? Couldn’t have been from the operation when he was captured, could it? Was it, instead, from IDF’s Operation Cast Lead? — there were reports he had been injured] and from having been in near-total isolation…

16:30 pm: IDF says Gilad Shalit has completed medical exams and will fly to family home in Mizpe Hila soon. Arrived after 17h00 — holding up well, greeted by crowd waving lots of large Israeli flags. Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister said that 10 released Palestinian prisoners are being flown from Cairo to Turkey — for 5-year stay! UPDATE: Palestinian TV reports on night news that the Turkish FM had a phone conversation today with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Continue reading “The day of the big prisoner swap [ok, yes, it's an "egregious" term]”

On the eve of the prisoner exchange deal: 477 Palestinians (1st installment) for Gilad Shalit

According to a report in Haaretz, here, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal and deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk “are expected in Egypt later Monday, to welcome the 40 prisoners whose release Israel has conditioned upon deportation from the Palestinian territories“.

Earalier, Haaretz reported in another story that “the spokesperson for the military wing of Hamas, Abu Obeida, said on Monday that Israeli and Egyptian representatives would meet once a year in order to estimate the status of the 40 prisoners due to be deported overseas. Abu Obeida said that, according to the deal’s terms, some of the deportees will return to the West Bank following several years abroad. He also said that Israel at first demanded that 260 Palestinian prisoners be deported, a number which Hamas narrowed down to the final 40. The Hamas official also claimed that each and every of those scheduled to be deported has agreed to the move, as well as their respective families. He claimed Hamas was successful in receiving 90% of its demands”. This is reported here.

However, Ma’an News Agency reported here that “In a statement relayed by his lawyer Elias Sabagh, [prominent Fatah prisoner Marwan] Barghouti said he had learned of the deal from media reports. Prison leaders — including Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine secretary-general Ahmad Saadat — were not involved in negotiations, Barghouti said. Further, prisoners who will be exiled under the agreement were not informed of the decision. Over 200 prisoners will not be released to their homes, but will be deported to Gaza or abroad”.

The list of Palestinian prisoners who are being released in this first installment of the two-part deal to free a total of 1027 Palestinians, in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, is posted on the website of the Israeli Prison Service, here.

The Israeli Prison Service website notes that:
– “Prisoners number 1 to 131 on the list will return to their home in the Gaza Strip.
– Prisoners 132 to 186 will return to their home in Judea & Samaria [the West Bank] or in East Jerusalem.
– Prisoners 187 to 241 will return to their home in Judea & Samaria [the West Bank] or in East Jerusalem subject to restrictions, as specified in the agreement.
– Prisoners 242 to 281 will be sent abroad.
– Prisoners 282 to 299 will be sent to the Gaza Strip for three years.
– Prisoners 300 to 444 will be sent to the Gaza Strip.
– Prisoners 445 to 450 will return to their home in Israel.
– Prisoners (female) 451 to 477 will return to their home in Judea & Samaria, in the Gaza Strip and in East Jerusalem, except prisoner 473, who will be sent to Jordan, and prisoner 474, who will be sent to the Gaza Strip”.

Only 27 out of some 35 or so female prisoners are being released.

The Defence for Children International [DCI] organization noted here, that no children, none, are being released in this first installment — contrary to initial reports and expectations. According to DCI-Palestine, there are 164 Palestinian children now in Israeli jails [and notes that “seventy-six of these children have been sentenced, whilst 88 children are being held in pre-trial detention”], while ADDAMEER has listed 176 Palestinian child prisoners.

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem lists its statistics here.

Two Palestinian human rights organizations issued a statement Tuesday to highlight their concerns and condemn those aspects of the deal that are fundamentally at odds with international law”.

Sahar Francis, Director of one of the groups, the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, noted that “of the first 477 prisoners to be released, 205 of them will not be reunited with their families as their release has been made contingent on their deportation or transfer, both of which are in violation of international law. Of the West Bank prisoners, including East Jerusalemites, 18 will be transferred to the Gaza Strip for a period of three years while an additional 146 will be forcibly relocated there on a permanent basis. A further 41 prisoners, including one woman, will be deported outside of the oPt, to as-of-yet unknown third countries”.

She said that this exile, whether in Gaza or in other countries, “effectively serves as an extension of their previous isolation from their homeland and families and in many cases can be seen as a second prison sentence”, and added that “These terms violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits forcible transfers and deportations of protected persons, a proscription that is part of customary international humanitarian law. Unlawful deportation or transfer also constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention (GC IV) and qualifies as one of the most serious war crimes. Given the stark asymmetry in power, resulting from the belligerent occupation, between the Palestinian and Israeli parties involved, neither the potential ‘consent’ of the prisoners nor the fact that the deal was negotiated by a Palestinian authority can serve as justification for the deportations as this contravenes the spirit of articles 7, 8 and 47 of the GC IV concerning the inviolability of the protections afforded by the Convention”.

The statement, also signed by Shawan Jabarin, Director of Al-Haq, added that “These political prisoners—arrested on the basis of Israeli military orders that criminalize any form of opposition to the occupation; tried by Israeli military tribunals that do not conform to international due process standards or held in administrative detention without charge or trial; and imprisoned in harsh and illegal detention conditions that have recently led them to launch an open-ended hunger strike—are entitled to justice. Before the attention they have received as a result of the exchange deal wanes, it is imperative to demand a fair and permanent resolution to their plight, in the form of unconditional release, in compliance with international humanitarian law”.

What will happen if the ICRC interviews these released prisoner who are supposed to be sent into exile, and asks them if they agree — but they say No? Will they be returned to prison?

Deportation is also a very grave violation of Phase One of the Road Map, adopted in 2003 by the Quartet [U.S., E.U., Russia, and the UN] which both Israel and the Palestinians are [or were] supposed to fulfill…

But Hamas has not accepted the Road Map.

Media focuses on prisoner release, as hunger strike enters danger zone on 20th day

The prisoner exchange in which Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured in late June 2006, by Palestinian fighters from Gaza in a cross-border raid near the Kerem Shalom crossing, and presumably held in Gaza since then, is to be exchanged for some 1027 Palestinian prisoners in two installments, with the first group of 477 of what the Israeli Prison Services called “Security Prisoners” to be released by tomorrow [Tuesday] — is going on over the heads of between 100 and 300 other Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails.

There has been no independent medical visit — and no lawyers visits, either — to the Palestinian hunger-striking prisoners, who are now in their 20th day of an open-ended fast.

This is entering the danger zone. By the 21st day, a hunger strike can be life-threatening.

UPDATE TWO: Ma’an reports Tuesday here that prisoners gathered in one Israeli prison had only suspended their hunger strike for 3 days. An SMS from Ma’an just reported that although PFLP leader Ahmad Saadat was moved out of isolation into a regular cell at Ramle prison, he is continuing his hunger strike. Earlier reports, yesterday, were that Ahmad Saadat was moved to the Ramle prison hospital…

UPDATE: This evening [Monday], the Palestinian Authority Minister for Prisoner Affairs, Issa Qaraqaa, reportedly announced that the hunger strike was ending, as the Israelis have agreed to end the policy of solitary confinement… On Sunday, one of the more senior Palestinian prisoners, PFLP leader Ahmad Saadat, was moved to a prison hospital as his health reportedly deteriorated. Reuters reported that Qaraqaa “said that inmates not being released had ended a hunger strike as part of the deal after Israel agreed to return their conditions to what they were prior to Shalit’s abduction”. This is reported here.

A PLO briefing about the Palestinian prisoner’s hunger strike was held last week, in response to public restiveness over the hunger strike, which has barely, if at all, made it into the Israeli or mainstream Western media.

At this PLO briefing, the mainstream media (2 or 3 French journalists, actually) only wanted to know whether Hamas won and Abbas lost, in the prisoner exchange deal that is expected to bring Shalit back home to Israel.

In his five+ years in captivity (Shalit was 19 when he was seized), he has had no visit from any independent outside observer, including the International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC], and had only two long-delayed exchanges of letters with his family.

Haaretz reported this evening here that “Shalit, now 25, was captured in 2006 by militants who tunneled into Israel from the Gaza Strip and surprised his tank crew, killing two of his comrades … Israel’s Prison Service has bused the 477 Palestinian prisoners under heavy guard to two holding facilities ahead of their release. On Tuesday, some of the Palestinians will be brought to Egypt’s Sinai desert, where the exchange for Shalit will take place. Some of those prisoners will be taken to the Gaza Strip and others will be exiled abroad. Shalit will be flown to an air base in Israel to be reunited with his family. A smaller group of prisoners on the release roster will be taken from Israel to the West Bank, where they will be welcomed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Hamas rival, and their families. In the second stage, expected to take place in about two months, the remaining 550 Palestinian prisoners will be freed, officials said”.

At the PLO press conference in Ramallah last week, Palestinian human rights attorney Sahar Francis [Director of ADDAMEER] said that since a deal has been made to release Gilad Shalit, there is no reason for Israel to continue the punitive reprisal measures instituted in recent months against Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails (instituted as retaliation for Shalit’s isolation and continued captivity).

Sahar Francis said that the ICRC should in principle have access — but she added that the ICRC has told ADDAMEER that they have only one — one! — medical doctor here, who can hardly visit all 22 prisons in Israel where Palestinians are being held.

So far, Sahar said, the ICRC doctor has only gone to the medical offices at the Israeli prisons where Palestinian hunger-strikers are being held, and merely reviewed the medical records provided by the Israeli Prison Service, without any physical examination — or even seeing the patients… On top of that, the ICRC has not revealed what it found, on the basis of its usual practice of “confidentiality”, which helps the Swiss organization to maintain its neutrality, and [it believes] its access.

Some prisoners have been moved to formerly empty prisons, to isolate them during their hunger strike, she added.

A day later, ADDAMEER issued a statement of extreme concern about the condition of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike during 3-day shut-down from Thursday 13 October, for Jewish holiday of Sukkot + Jewish Shabbat weekend, saying that “until at least Sunday 16 Oct, there will be no independent monitoring of, or contact with, hunger striking prisoners”, and that until Sunday at the earliest “it will be impossible to verify if salt has been returned to prisoners”. ADDAMEER therefore urged “the ICRC to intervene with the Israeli Prison Service to allow them to visit prisons during the Sukkot holidays”. That apparently did not happen.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel said they had tried without success to make medical visits to Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, and that 26 Israeli physicians + 16 interpreters volunteered to examine Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, but their formal request [submitted 4 October] to enter prisons was denied [on 11 October] — but will be resubmitted. “We call on the Israeli Prison Service [IPS] to refrain from causing further harm to prisoners participating in hunger strike” + closely monitor their medical conditions. PHR-Israel said that the Israeli Prison Service should provide professional medical assistance to hunger-strike prisoners “as needed + as agreed by the individual”. According to PHR-Israel: over 300 Palestinian prisoners are now on open hunger strike with no fixed end date, who will continue “until demands are met or lives are lost”.

These are strong and dire warnings from ADDAMEER and from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel about the situation of Palestinian prisoners now on hunger strike in Israeli jails.

PHR-Israel noted that hunger strikes bring ethical dilemmas, including the issue of force-feeding shackled prisoners, and dual loyalty of physicians employed by the Prisons Service. Dr. Ruhama Marton, who founded PHR-Isr, said the organization was trying to ensure there won’t be force-feeding of Pal prisoners on hunger strikes. She added that “Though hunger strikes contrarary to our principles as MDs dedicated to saving lives, we respect patients will”…

Yesterday (Sunday), the first day of the Israeli work week, PHR-Israel said they were still being denied access to the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.

The demands of the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike were for a repeal to the punitive reprisal measures, in particular an end to solitary confinement, strip searches, use of force [including tear gas and beatings] against prisoners, and a return of the prior conditions (meaning to be allowed again to pursue educational studies, have books and reading materials, etc.)

Steve Jobs

The amazing, wonderful, and moving life story of Steve Jobs [Apple] in a post by Juan Cole on his blog, Informed Comment, this morning [overnight on the West Coast of the US], after the announcement that Apple’s Steve Jobs had died — peacefully, his family said — following a long illness:

“…Jobs’s technological vision, rooted in a concern for how people use technology or could use it more intuitively, profoundly altered our world. He used to say that those who had never had anything to do with the counterculture had difficulty understanding his way of thinking.

Jobs was the biological son of Joanne Simpson and Abdulfattah Jandali (a Syrian Muslim then graduate student in political science from Homs, which is now in revolt against the Baathist regime).

That is, like Barack Obama, Jobs was the son of a Muslim.

Simpson young and unmarried, gave Jobs up for adoption, but she and Jandali later wed and gave Jobs a half-sister. He never appears to have met his father a political scientist who later went into the casino business, but he did get to know his half-sister Mona. That is, Jobs’s childhood was wrought up with a) Muslim immigration to the United States and b) the sexual revolution, both phenomena of the 1950s that accelerated in subsequent decades. Of course, these two parts of his heritage had only an indirect impact on him.

His adoptive parents were Paul Jobs and Clara Hagopian Jobs (his adoptive mother would therefore be of Armenian heritage.)

Jobs dropped out of college, gathered Coca-Cola bottles to turn them in for money, got free meals from the Krishna Consciousness Society (“Hare Krishnas”), and later made a trip to India, where he converted to Buddhism. I’d be interested to know how that happened. There is very little Buddhism in India. Tibetan Buddhists have centers in places like Varanasi (Banares) in North India, because these monks are political or cultural exiles from Communist China. The Dalits or ‘untouchables’ of western Indian have had a conversion movement to Buddhism. Jobs is said to have gone with a college buddy to see a Hindu guru devoted to the monkey-god, Hanuman. I really wonder whether the Buddhism was not encountered in the US rather than in India, though the trip to India may have influenced his decision.

So the whole world made Jobs, and he remade the world.

Homs in Syria is the city of his biological paternal forebears. It produced scientists and historians. Hilal al-Himsi, who died in the 9th century, translated from Greek into Arabic the first four books of Apollonius’s work on the geometry of cones.

Indic spiritual traditions were important to Jobs, especially Buddhism. The quest for states of altered consciousness, which characterized some in my generation, was central to his creative vision.

The DOS operating system was something that only an engineer could love, a set of odd commands entered on a blinking line against a black backdrop. Jobs preferred icons, and changed computing forever…”

Juan Cole’s reflections on Steve Jobs, dead today at the age of 53, is posted here.