PA – just employees

If this is true — and there is no reason to think it is not (for one reason, it happened before) — this is a scandal. Not because, as the journalist who wrote the account in Haaretz might think, because the Arab states appear to be just out to get Israel. No — it is because the Observer of Palestine (Riad Mansour) is shamelessly betraying other Palestinians. He probably — certainly — acted on orders, from either acting foreign minister Riyadh al-Maliki, or even from President Mahmoud Abbas himself (who, last week, called immoderately for Hamas to be overthrown, after all).

[n.b. Neither Mansour nor Maliki are from Fatah, as Abbas is.]

Haaretz is reporting that “The Arab lobby at the United Nations, backed by Russia, foiled a Palestinian Authority initiative to include a condemnation of Hamas’ seizure of the Gaza Strip in a UN resolution against Israel. PA observer Riad Mansour sought to include a clause ‘expressing concern about the takeover by illegal militias of Palestinian Authority institutions in June 2007’ and calling for the reversal of this situation, but moderated the wording under Arab pressure. Russia had made it clear to the Arab delegates that it supported their opposition to a UN resolution including any condemnation of Hamas.
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Amnesty International: Palestinian are worn down by decades of occupation and now torn apart by factional strife

Amnesty International has just published a report saying that Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza are “Torn Apart By Factional Strife”.

Both sides – Fatah and Hamas – have shown “a flagrant disregard for the human rights of a civilian population already worn down by decades of Israeli occupation, military campaigns and blockades”, Amnesty International reported.

The international human rights advocacy organization added that one of the consequences has been “a sharp deterioration in the humanitarian situation of the 1.5 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip”.

The full report is published here.

Palestinian Prisoners release – update

UPDATE: The BBC is reporting that 29 Palestinian prisoners are now moving in an armoured bus toward the Gaza Strip. The Ramattan independent Palestinian news agency reports that the bus arrived at the Erez crossing at noon. The Maan independent Palestinian news agency says, however, that “Israeli forces have been firing heavily on the area surrounding the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, eyewitnesses told Ma’an reporter”. Yesterday, a 14-year-old boy was shot and wounded when he, with other family members, surged forward in anticipation of their loved ones’ arrival, and passed into an area that the IDF views as a no-go zone.

[One of the 30 originally approved for release has apparently left Fatah and joined Hamas, and the Israelis will not release anyone from Hamas, so only 29 instead of 30 prisoners are being released Tuesday. But, has anyone thought, if those reports from Gaza about Hamas repression of Fatah are true, what might be awaiting these releasees? Hamas leaders, however, have welcomed this release, as they say they have welcomed all releases of Palestinian prisoners, no matter how small.]

Earlier today, Kol Israel Radio reported that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, wrote a letter a few days ago objecting to the release of any Palestinian prisoners to Gaza, while IDF Corporal Gilead Shalit remains captive there. Shalit was siezed in June 2006.

Haaretz reports on Tuesday that there is anger at Ashkenazi among members of the Knesset for having circulated his letter among members of the Israeli Cabinet. These Knesset members say this action “may have delayed” the release yesterday of the 30 Palestinian prisoners who were scheduled to return Gaza. The list of Palestinian prisoners to be released had, actually, been previously approved by the “inner” or Security Cabinet, as well as by the full Cabinet. Haaretz says that Ashkenazi himself had also given his approval, but said in his letter that it is nonetheless immoral. The Knesset members apparently object to the military interferening in politics (!)

Haaretz also reports that a spokesperson for Israel’s President Shimon Peres refused to confirm whether this action was the reason Peres yesterday refused to sign the pardon for these Palestinians. Peres’ signature on the pardon is apparently required for the release of the Prisoners from Gaza to go through. As Haaretz explains today: “Peres’ signature was not required for the release of West Bank-based prisoners because the area is under the authority of the Israel Defense Forces and the men were freed in accordance with an order signed by an IDF general.”

These prisoners then underwent an “extra security check” on Monday.

The Haaretz story explaining the “legal and technical” issues holding up the release of some 29 or 30 Palestinians from Gaza is here.

This is a subtle new re-statement of the position still held by some in Israel (though nowhere else in the world) that Gaza is not under Israeli occupation, while the West Bank is.
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Haaretz ponders Israeli re-occupation of Gaza

Last update – 08:50 13/06/2007
ANALYSIS: Re-occupation of Gaza – is it the only way out?
By Danny Rubinstein, Haaretz Correspondent

The general collapse of government functions in the Gaza Strip Tuesday urged several senior Palestinian figures to seriously contemplate Professor Ali Jarbawi’s advice to disband the Palestinian Authority.

Even before the civil war which Hamas and Fatah are starting in the Strip, Professor Jarbawi of Bir Zeit University maintained that the Palestinian Authority was a mere illusion of power: occupation under the guise of self government, and therefore useless.

On Tuesday, a Palestinian journalist likened the Palestinian Authority to a smoke-belching car wreck, adding that it was time to toss the keys to the Israelis. His view is shared by many Palestinian civilians in Gaza, who in recent days have told the media that they are fed up. “We’ve had enough, we should be so lucky as to see the return of the Israeli occupation.”

The recent events we have been witnessing in Gaza are actually the disbanding of Palestinian rule. The primary reason for the break-up is the fact that Fatah, headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, has refused to fully share the PA’s mechanism of power with its rival Hamas – in spite of Hamas’ decisive victory in the January 2006 general elections.

Fatah was forced to overrule the Palestinian voters because the entire world demanded it do so. The United States, the European nations, most of the Arab leaders and, of course, the State of Israel, warned Fatah not to share power with Hamas.

And so, after the Israeli pullout, instead of becoming a model for Palestinian self-rule, Gaza turned into the exact opposite. Matters have come to the point where Hamas operatives attempted all through Monday and Tuesday to take by force what they believe they rightfully deserve”…
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