Why was Hussam Khader sentenced by an Israeli military court in the West Bank to six months' administrative detention???

Hussam Khader in left front in handcuffs  - photo by Maan

Hussam Khader, in left front in handcuffs, carrying his belongings in a bag – photo by Maan News

The story — but not the reason, or the explanation — is published by Maan News Agency, which reported that  “Israel’s Salem military court sentenced Fatah leader Hussam Khader to 6 months of administrative detention in a decision signed Thursday. The brother of the elected official, Ghassan Khader, said the judge who signed the order declined to give a reason for the decision … Administrative detention is allowed under Israeli military rule in the West Bank and Gaza, permitting the detention of Palestinians without charge for a period of up to six months, a term which is indefinitely renewable. It is based on the Law of Emergency Powers, adopted by the Israeli Knesset in 1979“. This is posted here.

UPDATE: Hussam Khader’s family have said that they still have hope. They say that they have been told that the judge in the military court has asked the same question we’ve asked — and has given the military prosecutor 72 hours to explain the reason, to explain why the Army, or the Ministry of Defense, or the security services, want Hussam Khader to be detained and locked away. The judge has asked for an answer on Monday. After he gets the answer, the judge will either confirm the sentence, cut it, or eliminate it entirely and release Hussam Khader. In the meantime, Hussam Khader is in Megiddo Prison in Israel, just on the edge of the northern West Bank.

UPDATE TWO: Maan has updated their story to say that so far, or in effect, Hussam Khader’s detention has only been extended for 72 hours. But, this makes their report unclear, as it doesn’t really explain the fuller picture …

There have been a series of IDF detentions of Hamas-affiliated politicians and elected members of the Palestine Legislative Council in the northern West Bank in recent weeks. Hussam Khader is the only Fatah politician to be arrested. He was an elected member of the PLC when he was last arrested in 2003, and he was still in jail and could not run in the following elections in 2006, so he was not a member of the most-recently-elected Palestinian parliament. He was last released from jail in September 2008, and has now been detained for the 25th time in his life.

Our post on the circumstances [as recounted by his family] of the IDF raid in which Hussam Khader was detained a week ago Thursday is published here.

Indefinite postponement for Palestinian West Bank local + muncipal elections

Palestinian local and municipal elections set for 17 July in the Israeli-occupied West Bank were suddenly and abruptly postponed indefinitely on Thursday 11 June.

In the absence of an official explanation, there were many others. The most credible was that Fatah learned, through polls, that it would not win, even though Hamas had said it would boycott the balloting, which would have been held only in the West Bank.

The earlier calculation was that these elections would bring a clear victory for Fatah and secular leftist forces in the West Bank, which would bring a new Hamas-free local government across the Israeli-occupied territory — paving the way for a new era.

But, many Palestinians scorned this tactic as unfair and undemocratic.

In February, shortly after the local elections (which have now been postponed) had been scheduled for 17 July, the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) said it “absolutely rejects holding elections in local council, or any other elections, whose results are known in advance. Under the current situation, the results of such elections and the identities of winning political parties are known even before holding such elections”.

PCHR spelled out the problem with unusual frankness in its February statement: “the Palestinian Government in Gaza is not expected to accept holding local elections in Gaza based on a decision taken by the Government in Ramallah. Subsequently, the decision taken by the Cabinet in Ramallah, if implemented, will be effectively applied to local councils in the West Bank only, and no elections will be held at the same time in the Gaza Strip; a fact which the Government in Ramallah realizes. It is impossible to hold transparent and impartial elections that reflect the electorate’s will without providing appropriate conditions and freeing public liberties, which means stopping human rights violations, including stopping political arrests; respecting the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to freedom of association; and ensuring free political activities for all political parties and factions. These conditions are not available now in the Palestinian arena under the ongoing political division, which has caused unprecedented deterioration in the human rights situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip”.

But, in the meantime, there were more complications.

Continue reading Indefinite postponement for Palestinian West Bank local + muncipal elections

Fatah and Hamas – Yasser Abbas and the house built for his father, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in Gaza

Other excerpts:
Part 4: Separation of Powers in Ramallah
Part 3: Business and Businessmen in Palestine
Part 2: Fatah and Hamas – what’s the problem?

Yasser Abbas is the second son of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (known as Abu Mazen, after the given name of his oldest son, Mazen, who died following surgery in Qatar some years ago).  He is also an international businessman who is based in Palestinian West Bank, but who also travels frequently.

Last December, he spoke to me at length in his office in Ramallah about his businesses (Falcon Holding Company), his views, and the development of Palestine.

A few days later, when Israel launched a massive military attack against Gaza — Operation Cast Lead — from 27 December to 18 January, I took a decision not to publish anything from the interview at the time, in case it might have inadvertently made anyone more vulnerable, or anything worse.

Now, as Fatah and Hamas are on the verge of possible reconciliation — or a possible slide to the worse — Yasser Abbas’ views give us an insight into the mind-set in Ramallah:

(Marian Houk) Question: In every country in the world, of course, Presidents and leaders have relatives who make their living. But the question is – your position gives you so much more influence, how do you decide, for you what’s ethical, and what’s not ethical? How do you make these decisions? How do you decide how you’re going to function?

(Yasser Abbas) Answer: Well, first of all, the first company that I’ve ever established in my life – no, it’s not the first company, I established one in Canada, but maybe the second company I established in my life was in Palestine, in Ramallah, 1996, when Mahmoud Abbas was not the President, not the Prime Minister. He was Secretary-General of the PLO. I decided to open a company, and to go and compete like any other company in the market. And there you go, it happened. And from 1996 until 2000, we had those rosy years that we’ve never seen back again. Everybody was working. So we went and started bidding, and we started making relations with international companies coming from outside, like any other engineering office. So, that’s the way I started, and that’s the way I do business here, in Palestine. I can claim that all my projects that I take are competitive bidding. Nobody has any privilege to me, personally, to come and tell me, “I will give you this”, or “I will give you that”. Nobody has any power to do so. I have no power over anyone, and I mean anyone, to tell them, “This project is mine, nobody touches it”. Or, “I have a concession on such-and-such sector, and nobody touches”. I don’t have that. I challenge, I challenge, though you, publicly, anyone – anyone – who can come to me and point his finger at me to tell me, “I, or we, or such-and-such agency or ministry, gave you the job”, or “I have a concession on any sector of this economy”. I challenge him.

After the coup, Hamas – before they went into the Presidential headquarters – they went into my store, and they robbed it: goods, desks, office equipments, computers, worth half a million dollars. So I had the great lost [the greatest loss], money-wise, out of all the Palestinians, as an individual.

Q: Yours was the greatest loss?

A: Yes – as an individual. I’m talking about, as an individual. Maybe other companies lost much more than me, companies.

Q: What was the company?

A: Falcon, Falcon Tobacco Company – we are the importers of British-American tobacco. We have negotiated this, and it is one company, and it is not the monopoly of the importation of cigarettes in the world. I hope you understand this. British-American is one company. Philip Morris is another company. Gauloise is another company. And all the other importation from Israel is another company. So. it’s a big, broad market. BAT – British-American Tobacco – happens to be one of the largest in the world. We are their importers since nine years. Hamas went into my stores and robbed all my stores, and our loss was greater than any other.

Q: They took cigarettes?

A: Yes, and they sold them in the market. That’s one of the things.

Q: You know, when I was there, right after the coup, first we were met when we arrived in the parking lot by these people who careened up, some of them had black uniforms, and some of them looked like Taliban … with different layers of robes, and vests, and turbans. It was a little bit tense. And then, I asked them where they got the car – and they said, “from Abu Mazen”…

A. You know, they took Abu Mazen’s house.

Q: This is what I wanted to tell you. Then, we went to the house.

Continue reading Fatah and Hamas – Yasser Abbas and the house built for his father, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in Gaza

Nabil Shaath: Israel must stop all settlement activities including in Jerusalem — without loopholes

The recent Fatah General Conference held in Bethlehem was very important, and the results were “good, but not excellent”, Shaath said. “You can’t get excellent results with a 20-year hiatus (from the last general conference)”. Shaath said “it was not really a coup d’etat … and not an indicator there was a revolt, but an indication of the need to rejeuvenate using the wisdom of the older members”. He noted that “probably the average age of the Central Committee members dropped from 63 to 57 — we’re talking about very experienced people”.

Shaath revealed that “there is a planned trip to Gaza soon of some of the new Fatah Central Committee members, including me — but as Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) said, [this should not be a one-time event, and] the Central Committee should be in and out of Gaza all the time”. This trip could even be before the end of Ramadan, Shaath said.

And, Shaath said, there will be a big Palestinian delegation at the UN General Assembly high-level debate in mid-September, and “we will be moving on all fronts, making efforts to get the American government, Europe, Russia, China, and Japan” to put pressure on Israel in order to bring about a “categorical stop to all Israeli settlement activities [in Palestinian land seized in 1967], including in Jerusalem” — and “without any loopholes”.

“We are not going to consider any limited settlement freeze, or any nuanced cessation, or any regional implementation — i.e., excluding Jerusalem”, Shaath said.

Shaath said that he was in complete agreement with the article by Akiva Eldar published in Haaretz today, in which Eldar wrote “If there is any truth in the reports that came out of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Europe – that the United States agreed Israel can go on building in East Jerusalem – the headlines should have read ‘Obama has pulled out of the Middle East peace process’.”

Eldar also wrote that “During the negotiations with Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, the Palestinians agreed to exchange the territory of the settlements that are adjacent to the eastern side of the Green Line with territory on the western side of the line. On the other hand, the sensitive issue of sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem and the city’s holy sites, as well as the fate of a quarter-million Palestinians who were ‘annexed’ unilaterally into the State of Israel (as permanent residents) remains in dispute. The American position has been and remains that East Jerusalem is occupied territory whose future will be decided in negotiations between the two sides. Like the other countries of the world, and the UN Security Council, the United States has never recognized Israel’s decision to annex 64.4 square kilometers of the West Bank and join them to the 6.5 square kilometers that were part of Jerusalem’s administrative authority under Jordanian rule … We think that if we say ‘united Jerusalem, the capital of Israel’ frequently enough, the world will get used to the fact that this territory is ours (the semantics have led to a report on the Voice of Israel on the rise of Israeli exports to ‘Judea and Samaria’). It has not happened yet, and that is a good thing. Two U.S. presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, did not approve the resolution passed by Congress in 1995, declaring that ‘unified Jerusalem’ is the capital of Israel. They stated that moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem will undermine the chances for a permanent resolution to the conflict, and thus harm the national security of the United States. Unfortunately, both turned a blind eye to construction in the West Bank settlements and the Palestinian neighborhoods that Israel defines as ‘East Jerusalem’.”

Eldar said in his article that during Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous tenure as Prime Minister, “In July 1997 he decided to stop construction at a Jewish site in the heart of the neighborhood Ras al-Amud, and to evacuate the families who moved in … The head of the Shin Bet security service at the time, Ami Ayalon, warned the prime minister in a report that Jewish construction in the neighborhood would stir riots in the territories. Since the current Palestinian leadership has renounced violence, it is possible that an American acquiescence to the continued Jewish penetration into Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem will pass peacefully. However, a substantive change of such magnitude in the U.S. position regarding a national/religious issue that is so explosive would cause the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, among other efforts, to crash and burn … We must hope that the news that Obama has backtracked on East Jerusalem is merely the wishful thinking of opponents to a compromise that come from the western part of the city”. This Akiva Eldar article can be viewed in full on the Haaretz website here.

[However, settlement expansion is continuing in Ras al-Amud today. The former police station — which has now been moved to the E-1 area at the beginning of the year, despite Israeli assurances to former U.S. Secretary of State lin mid-2008 that the move was in the far distant future — has been prepared for demolition, with the windows and doors removed, a Palestinian resident of the area said. And there is evidence of preparation to expand the “Maale Zeitim” settlement housing. “Then, the two areas will be joined”, this man said — and his house would be surrounded. “I am now convinced that the Israelis see no future with Palestinians in this land”. ]

Shaath, in his remarks to members of the Foreign Press Association (FPA) at a briefing today at the Grand Park Hotel in Ramallah, said that “Abu Mazen is ready for these negotiations and is not putting precondition, but he is calling on the Israeli government to avoid “a repetition of its shameful way, as [former Prime Minister Ehud Barak] did in 1999, when he renegotiated agreements previously made by Netanyahu then he did the same thing concerning Syria first in Shepardstown and then in Geneva, and then also to the Palestinians at Camp David”.

No, Shaath said, what should be done is either you finish up previous business and go on to a new stage, or any efforts will be “as fruitless as everything since Camp David”, and there would be another nine years without any progress or results.

However, Shaath said, Netanyahu’s current offer “to restart negotiations ‘without preconditions’ is a horrible thing, because it means starting anew again” — which he said the Palestinians were unwilling to do.

The election of Barack Obama to replace George W. Bush has brought “hope for a fresh re-start to the peace process”, Shaath said,

“We want Obama to come with a clear sentence repeating what is in the Road Map and in the Annapolis Declaration: ‘there should be absolutely no settlement activity, including natural growth, and this does not allow continuing what is already under construction’,” Shaath said.

But, he said, “to bank on the fact that violence has been defeated is very stupid”.

The Mitchell report blamed Israeli settlement activity and the resulting violence, for the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, Shaath said, and “it’s ridiculous to go on with talks now … while the land is vanishing every day”.

Shaath said that “We would [only] accept a temporary freeze if it is related to the signing and implementation of a peace agreement that would mean an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 border with some minor negotiated swaps”.

“This is the policy of the new Fatah Central Committee, of the new Executive Committee of the PLO, it is in the political program agreed at the Fatah Conference in Bethlehem, and this is the policy of the entire Palestinian people”, Shaath told the journalists.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said at the regular meeting of the Israeli government on Sunday, as reported in the cabinet communique, that “On the diplomatic issue, my meeting with [former Senator] Mitchell, contrary to the rumors, stories and reports that I am not responsible for, but I am responsible for what I am telling you now, there are no agreements or decisions; there is an attempt to bridge between the two goals that we would like to hold to and maintain simultaneously: The first is to launch a peace process, a diplomatic process
between us and the Palestinians that will – of course – also include the Arab countries. The second as to do with our desire to see to the minimal existential needs of the settler public. As to this, there are all sorts of attempts to reach an understanding and reduce gaps but we are not there yet.”

Political trauma in Palestine

Earlier this week, Farouq Kaddoumi (or Qaddumi), also known as Abu Lutuf, one of the original founding members of the largest Palestinian “faction”, Fatah, and one of the senior leaders in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) made a statement to journalists in Amman, Jordan that has created turmoil in the Palestinian political scene.

Continue reading Political trauma in Palestine