Palestinians: is "keeping the lid on" a strategy?

All this talk about a possible Third Intifada…

One of the most irritating things about this discussion is the assumption that violence is the strategy of choice for Palestinians.

Palestinians are not ready for violence, and there are absolutely no indications either that they have in any way prepared for it. Moreover, the sentiment most often heard is a refusal to be the one to go out on the street to protest and get arrested, with all the consequences, while their families will be left alone without support and the others will stay in their offices and continue to be comfortable, making money…

But, the situation is getting worse and worse.

Nevertheless, this speculation about another Intifada is a classic example of “the boogeyman” approach: the suggestion is made that if x or y does not happen, then one’s worst fears will come true…

UPDATE: On Thursday 28 February, Dalia Hatuqa wrote about the Third Intifada speculation in The National here, saying that “Of late, Palestinians have become an afterthought for the Israeli public. This was evident in the latest Israeli elections … There is a too-little discussed acceptance in Israel that the denial of rights and the self-determination of millions of Palestinians is a normal status quo”. She added that ‘Neither Israel nor the PA has an interest in another intifada and, as long as security cooperation between the two continues, Israel can rest easy. But the ongoing policies of Israel’s occupation are unsustainable and it is clear that Palestinians will not tolerate them in perpetuity. As long as Israel continues to rely on carrots and sticks to temporarily quash popular outrage, the PA will be walking a fine line between an angry constituency and a demanding occupying force’. Meanwhile, she reported, “A senior Fatah official, Jibril Rajoub, went on Israel Radio to echo Mr Abbas’s statement, declaring ‘on behalf of the entire Palestinian leadership that there is no plan to lead to bloodshed’.”

Continue reading “Palestinians: is "keeping the lid on" a strategy?”

More on Israeli Stone Quarries in the West Bank: Yesh Din asks for wider review

The Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din has just filed a petition with Israel’s Supreme Court [High Court of Justice] asking for a further hearing in the case of Israeli-owned stone quarries operating in the West Bank.

Yesh Din first challenged the legality of Israeli quarrying activities in the occupied West Bank in a petition filed in March 2009.

The petition focuses on the specific case of the stone quarries, but it exposes many of the incongruencies and the quite deliberate ambiguities of the continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

On 26 December 2011, after almost two years of deliberation, a panel of judges of Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ), chaired by Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, “dismissed the petition and held that the quarrying activities are legal and do not violate the provisions of international law”.

Yesh Din has said that it considers that ruling “in our view both factually and legally mistaken”.

Yesh Din’s legal adviser, Attorney Michael Sfard indicated strong disagreement with the Supreme Court’s ruling by stating that ‘Quarrying natural resources in an occupied territory for the economic benefit of the occupying state is pillage”.

Yesh Din’s has posted its reaction to the Israeli High Court ruling on 26 December here.

Yesh Din has challenged, in the petition, the legality of Israeli actions during its prolonged occupation of a territory on which Israel evidently has an as-yet-unspecified claim.

Though Israel officially deals with the situation as an occupation, it avoids to the maximum extent possible using the word, or discussing the consequences.

Israeli arguments of ideological position generally say that the Palestinian territory is “disputed” rather than “occupied”.

Israel does not dispute, however, that its Ministry of Defense administers the West Bank.

And, the Israeli Ministry of Defense has installed a “Civil Administration” which restrictively regulates most aspects of Palestinian life in the West Bank. Israeli life in the West Bank, by contrast, is governed by Israeli law — in effect, creating a slow, partial, unclear and unofficial, but progressive, annexation.

While “facts on the ground” are proceeding apace, there has not yet been an official Israeli act of annexation. If and when annexation is declared, an international uproar can be expected.

Meanwhile, Palestinians argue that the Israeli creation of facts on the ground — particularly, though not exclusively, Israeli settlement-building — is intended to make the situation irreversible.

The exact nature of Israel’s claims to the Israeli/Jewish settlements that that the government has overtly and officially facilitated is still unstated.

It has become apparent that Israel does not want to evacuate not only the three or four major Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank, but also isolated settlements, and now even what have been called “unauthorized outposts”.

The new Yesh Din petition filed on January 10 asks for further Supreme Court review of the Israeli quarries’ continued exploitation of a Palestinian natural resource — by an expanded panel of judges.

In its new request, Yesh Din argues that “Relaxing the prohibition on harm to the capital of properties of the occupied territory lays the legal foundation for irreversible economic exploitation of occupied territory by an Occupying Power, despite the fact that the prohibition on such exploitation is amongst the primary objectives (and therefore amongst the primary principles) of the international law of occupation”

In fact, Yesh Din argues, the recent Supreme Court decision “permits the Occupier (in a prolonged occupation) to make use, for its own purposes, of plunder found in the occupied territory: to pump water found there, to transfer archeological findings out of the occupied territory, to exploit open spaces for waste disposal, to sell public property and other such irreversible acts which harm or alter the capital of public properties.”

To clarify the matter, Yesh Din said it is specifically requesting the High Court of Justice to hold a further hearing with a broader panel of judges, on the following questions:

  • What are the boundaries of the State of Israel’s authority in relation to its administration of the natural resources belonging to the territories occupied by Israel in ‘belligerent occupation’, and in this context, what is the relationship between Article 55 and Article 43 of the Annex to the fourth Hague Convention Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land (1907)?
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  • Specifically, does an Occupying Power, in a prolonged occupation, have the authority to grant its citizens, or corporations owned by its citizens and/or registered in the Occupying Power, rights to quarry natural resources in occupied territory in general, and in quarries which did not exist prior to the occupation, in particular?
  • In as far as an Occupying Power is permitted to grant rights to quarry natural resources in occupied territory, is this authority subordinate to the principle of ‘continuity’ or to the principle of ‘reasonableness’?
  • Does the fact that Israeli quarries provide employment opportunities for Palestinians and pay royalties to the Civil Administration make granting these rights an act which should be considered, from a legal perspective, “for the benefit of the local population”?

The full request [in Hebrew, for those who read Hebrew] is posted here.

We have written earlier posts about the Supreme Court ruling on the Yesh Din petition, here and here.

Continue reading “More on Israeli Stone Quarries in the West Bank: Yesh Din asks for wider review”

What is the occupation? Is it possible to laugh about it?

Suad al-Amiry, in her closing speech at an event organized by TedXRamallah, re-told the famous story about her dog and her dog’s Jerusalem passport, which says a lot both about the occupation [and about crossing Qalandia, the main and terrible checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem], and about becoming a writer, and much more:

[[ Sorry two facts here are confusing, perhaps just misspoken: (1) Suad explains that from Atarot, where she got Nura’s dog passport, you can go either to Ramallah or to Qalandia… (2) Suad says Israeli license plates are yellow, while Palestinian license plates are blue (they are green, with white)…]]

Bethlehem behind Israel's Wall

This is the Palestinian town of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank.

Israel built this Wall.

It was a unilateral decision, and a unilateral implementation of this decision.

A member of the Israeli military (IDF Col. Danny Tirza) chose the route of this Wall, almost all by himself…

Photos taken by Xavier Abu Eid, and posted on Facebook:

The Wall in Bethlehem

Photo of The Wall in Bethlehem by Xavier Abu Eid

Bethelehem behind Israel's Wall

Freedom - written on The Wall in Bethlehem

Please, don’t say you didn’t know…

Israeli Police – part of the problem

Yesterday, on Salah ed-Din Street (the Champs-Elysees or Fifth Avenue of East Jerusalem, only very crowded, quite delapidated, and not at all chic, unless you like good coffee), it was absolutely crowded with cars and pedestrians in advance of the coming week-long Muslim Eid holiday.

Even at the best of times, people don’t walk on the sidewalks in Palestinian areas. Usually, there isn’t very much of a sidewalk anyway. But, it’s just so much more convenient to walk on the streets.

Women in black robes made of synthetic fabric and embroidered in Turkey or China, with tightly wrapped synthetic scarves, were pushing their multiple young children out out ahead of them, in between parked cars, hoping to make the oncoming traffic stop to let them cross without any moment of waiting.

As is usually on busy days, there were no parking spaces, it was impossible to get close to the already-full parking lots, and there was a solid line of double-parked cars in the right-hand traffic lane.

As is also usual on Fridays during prayer time, when there are a lot of people travelling in their cars to get to Al-Aqsa Mosque, and on the eves of big holidays like the one coming up, there is a special police action to ticket cars. Hundreds of tickets can be issued in one fell swoop.

What happened yesterday is an undercover Israeli police unit, driving an Eldan rented car, swooped right in front of me when I was already in my car, seat belt buckled, and switching gears to move forward in traffic, after I stopped for an extremely brief period of time in front of the Educational Bookshop. The driver was wearing a black t-shirt and black sunglasses. The passenger was in a dark navy blue shirt and trousers, tucked into black combat boots. This was a uniform I had never seen before. He jumped out before his car even stopped, and raced towards me in a frightening and commanding way.

He had two other people he was accosting at the same time. So, he took my passport and walked off to deal with the other cases, and kept me waiting just as if I were at a checkpoint.

Continue reading “Israeli Police – part of the problem”

Israeli human rights groups testify to Turkel Commission on Flotilla fiasco

Three of Israel’s most distinguished and respected human rights groups testified before the Israeli-government-appointed Turkel Commission on Wednesday in a six-and-a-half hour marathon public session (with two 10-minute breaks).

One Israeli media report afterwards described the rather mainstream groups [(1) B’Tselem(2) Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and (3) GISHA] as “left-wing”, and B’Tselem’s Director Jessica Montell as a “radical leftist activist”, — which says a lot about the atmosphere in the country. See story here

The polarization increased geometrically after the massive Israeli military operation in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead [27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009] — during which Israel first announced its formal naval blockade of Gaza’s maritime space, on 3 January 2009, as the ground phase began.

And, the polarization was all too obvious in Wednesday’s hearing.

The Turkel Commission [website here – H/T to Jessica Montell] says it is an independent public inquiry looking into what they call the “maritime incident” of 31 May 2010 [or, the Flotilla fiasco] which occurred in the pre-dawn hours that day when Israeli naval missile boats and helicopter-borne Israeli commandos intercepted the Freedom Flotilla, and killed 9 men [8 Turkish, one American high-school student from a Turkish family] on board the larger Turkish passenger ship, the Mavi Marmara.

It is Israel’s main state-appointed body of inquiry on this matter, which was one of the main news stories in the world for several weeks.   An outpouring of international criticism followed the brutality of the interception.

GPO photo

The Commission’s website notes that it “was asked to relate to an assessment of the security circumstances of placing the maritime closure on the Gaza Strip and the maritime closure’s compatibility with the rules of international law”.

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Funerals under occupation, and across a Wall

Tamer Halaseh has written on his weblog at the end of August that “where I live in Al-Sawahra Al-Sharqiya, accompanying the deceased in their final trip is another story … After the wall was completed in our area and we were separated from our families and friends in Jabal Al-Mukabber, the Israeli occupation forces informed us that in cases of death we were to coordinate the funeral arrangements with the Israeli army so as to be allowed entrance into Jabal Al-Mukabber and reach our cemetery. This means that when someone dies from my side of the town, instead of mourning the dead and arranging for the funeral, we have to run and coordinate with the Israelis to get the needed funeral permits. Sometimes, mourning family members have to wait hours till the office of coordination opens so they can apply for permits. This is not all; as with Israeli military orders that keep changing like the weather, every time there is a funeral we discover there is a new regulation regarding the funeral permits. One time we were told that only those 45 years old and above will be allowed to pass the checkpoint and enter Jabal Al-Mukabber. Another time we were told that only very close family members such as brothers, children or grandchildren, would be allowed to pass. Yesterday, a relative and direct neighbor of ours died. When his children went to the coordination office to get the permits for the funeral, they were told that only 50 mourners would be allowed to pass to the cemetery”… Tamer’s post can be read in full here.

In a 2008 post, also about funerals under the new regime, Tamer wrote that “Yesterday my father’s cousin died. Normally, this event would host one problem, the death of a loved one. For us, we must get permission to go through the checkpoint to bury our loved ones in Jerusalem. The Israeli wall now separates us from the cemetery…
Continue reading “Funerals under occupation, and across a Wall”

News you won't see on Palestinian Television

This news was not reported on Palestinian Television today.

(On the 9pm Palestinian Television news, there was a brief video clip, without much detail, of Israeli forces in jeeps in Ramallah, but no mention of the detention of the international activist, or her imminent deportation …)

This news was received by an email entitled: “Israel stages night-time Ramallah raid to arrest an international solidarity activist“. According to the email, “The raid was conducted to apprehend Eva Nováková, a Czech citizen, who has been the International Solidarity Movement’s media coordinator for the past few weeks … Israeli soldiers raided the Ramallah home of Eva Nováková tonight at 3 am near the Manara square. [n.b. One of the things about this is that there are always, but always, Palestinian security forces stationed around Manara square… except possibly during an Israeli raid…]
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West Bank occupation: Nablus area Israeli settler shot, three Palestinian men killed in retaliation

An Israeli settler living in the Israeli settlement of Shavei Shomron deep in the West Bank, territory occupied by Israel in June 1967 (and claimed by the Palestine Liberation Organization for the future Palestinian state) was shot and killed on Thursday while driving on a road near where he has made his home.

The next day, Israeli settlers from Shavei Shomron reportedly carried out revenge attacks against Palestinian greenhouses and property west of Nablus.

At the same time, the Palestinian Authority reportedly rounded up and interrogated some 120-150 Palestinian “suspects”, and began an “investigation”.

According to a report on YNet, the English-language website of Israel’s largest-circulation Hebrew-language daily newspaper, “A Palestinian security source told Ynet Friday that many of the detainees being interrogated by Palestinian forces are car thieves, as the PA was attempting to locate the person or persons who sold the shooters the car used to commit the attack. Israel has permitted the Palestinian forces deployed in the area of Nablus to continue their activity beyond regular hours in order to allow them to continue their search unhindered. Under normal circumstances, PA security forces work until the early evening hours … The source added that the PA was skeptical regarding announcements by al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Fatah’s military wing, and the Islamic Jihad’s military wing, al-Quds Brigades, both of which claim responsibility for the attack. ‘We are focusing on intelligence for now, in order to get to anyone who can provide information on the vehicle trade and especially stolen vehicles’, he said. ‘This was probably the result of cooperation between criminal elements and elements interested in destabilizing security, which is nearly perfect in the West Bank’.”  This report can be read in full here.

Then, at dawn on Saturday, Israeli forces were sent to the Nablus homes of three Palestinian men who Israel later accused of being responsible for the killing.  All three Palestinian men — members of the Fatah movement led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — were killed on the spot.

Palestinian Fatah member Qaddura Fares told Al-Jazeera TV in Nablus a few hours later that if Israel had evidence against these three men, they should have been arrested and tried, but not killed.  Fares is a member of what is known as the “Young Fatah” movement, and is widely respected despite his failure to win a seat on the Fatah Central Committee during elections at the movement’s tightly-controlled general conference in Bethlehem last August that aimed to consolidate the control of President Abbas (Abu Mazen).

On Sunday, a day after the IDF raids that killed the three Fatah men, “The police forensics lab determined that one of the rifles seized from the Palestinian terrorists who were killed in Nablus Saturday was used in last week’s murder of Jewish settler Rabbi Meir Avshalom Hai in the West Bank. The M-16 rifle, which belonged to Tanzim member Anan Sabah, was found to be compatible with the bullet hells found at the scene of Hai’s murder. Sabah had been released from an Israeli prison as part of the amnesty deal with the Palestinian Authority in 2007, in which Israel agreed not to hunt down Palestinian gunmen who agreed to lay down their arms. ‘No two weapons leave the same indentation on the ammunition’, a police official said Sunday. The lab test results are admissible in court”.  This can be found on the Israeli website YNet here .

Family members of the three dead Palestinian men made angry criticisms of the Palestinian Authority which is also headed by Abbas, based in the West Bank’s de facto capital city, Ramallah.  The families were not alone in their anger.

Khaled Abu Toameh reported in the Jerusalem Post that “Some even claimed that the killing of the three Fatah operatives was carried out thanks to information provided by PA security forces in Nablus … Husam Khader, a top Fatah operative from the nearby Balata refugee camp, said many Palestinians were convinced that PA security services were involved, directly or indirectly, in the pre-dawn Nablus raid.   Many Palestinians were also ‘very angry because of continued security coordination between the PA security forces and the IDF’, he said.  Khader said Palestinians were also wondering why the PA security forces had disappeared from the streets of the city before and during the IDF operation … Yusef Farhat, a spokesman for Hamas, said that Abbas’s security forces tipped off Israel about the identity and whereabouts of the three Fatah men”.  This article is posted here.

UPDATE [30 DECEMBER]: IN A TELEPHONE INTERVIEW, HUSAM KHADER JUST SAID THAT HE NEVER SPOKE TO KHALED ABU TOAMEH, AND NEVER SAID THE REMARKS ATTRIBUTED TO HIM IN THIS JERUSALEM POST ARTICLE…

President Abbas did not make any official statement. [He may or may not be travelling (though the Presidential Security was in evidence out on the streets of Ramallah on Saturday).] Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh issued a statement saying that this development shows that Israel is not interested in peace.

Thousands of Palestinians accompanied the bodies (two were escorted from Nablus’ main Rafidiya hospital) to the cemetery for burial late Saturday morning.  Fatah called for a three-day period of morning, and almost all shopkeepers closed and shuttered their stores.  Even the businesses and the cinema in the vaunted new multi-story Nablus mall — touted as a symbol of Palestinian success under Israeli “leniency” in the West Bank as opposed to its tightened blockade of the Gaza Strip — were closed.

At the official condolences site set up at the Worker’s Center in downtown Nablus, men filed in to shake hands with a long receiving line of other men, then went inside to sit on plastic chairs for a few minutes, before filing out again. It was all very formal and rigid, illustrating the political dimension of the results of the IDF raids. Only the presence of two young pre-teen boys, distraught and crying, with red faces, showed the human cost.

Maan photo of Fayyad in Nablus to offer condolences

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, based in Gaza, later issued a statement saying that “Israeli undercover units extra-judicially executed 3 members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (the armed wing of Fatah movement) in Nablus.  The three victims in Nablus had been granted amnesty, in coordination with the Palestinian National Authority, and had been allowed to freely move and live normally.  Israeli occupation forces claimed that undercover unit fired at the three victims ‘as they refused to surrender’.  However, investigations conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) conclude that the three victims were executed in cold blood”.

According to its report, PCHR says that “In the West Bank, at approximately 02:00 on Saturday, 26 December 2009, Israeli occupation forces, including undercover units, moved into Nablus.  They positioned themselves near al-Nasser Mosque in the old town, where they surrounded and opened fire at a house belonging to the family of Ra’ed ‘Abdul Jabbar Mohammed al-Sarkaji, 40.  Using megaphones, they ordered al-Sarkaji out of the house.  As soon as he opened the door, Israeli troops opened fired at himHe was hit by a gunshot to the forehead and fell down.  Soon after, Israeli occupation forces fired at him from a very close range.  He was killed by 6 gunshots to the head, the chest, the left forearm, the pelvis and the left leg.  His wife, 32-year-old Tahani Farouq Ja’ara, was wounded by shrapnel to the leg.   At the same time, other Israeli units besieged a house belonging to the family of Ghassan Fat’hi Abu Sharekh, 38, near Qaderi fish market in the old town.  Through megaphones they ordered residents of the house to get out.  All the inhabitants left the building, Ghassan was the last to leave.  Once he appeared, Israeli occupation forces opened fire at him.  He was killed by 7 gunshots to the neck, the chest, the abdomen, the back and the left leg.   At approximately 02:30, Israeli occupation forces besieged Sobeh 5-storey apartment building in Kshaika Street in Ras al-‘Ein neighborhood in the southeast of Nablus .  They called through megaphones on ‘Anan Suleiman Mustafa Sobeh, 36, who lives on the second floor to get out and surrender to them.  They opened fire at the building.  At approximately 08:00, Israeli occupation forces withdrew from the area, and residents of the area found ‘Anan’s body on the roof of a car washing yard near the building. He was hit by several gunshots to the chest, the right shoulder, the neck and the lower jaw”.

The PCHR statement condemned “the policy of extra-judicial executions adopted by Israeli occupation forces against Palestinian activists, and asserts that this policy serves to increase tension in the region and threatens the lives of Palestinian civilians”.   It also called “upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop such crimes, and calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War to fulfill their obligation under article 1 of the Convention to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances”, and “to search for and prosecute those who are responsible for perpetrating grave breaches of the Convention”.

A U.S. official in  Washington made a phone call to an Israeli official on Saturday evening to ask what had happened, according to a report in the Israeli media.  [CORRECTION: Haaretz reported that Haaretz reported that it was told by a senior U.S. official that “We talked to both sides in order to get full information about what happened … We expressed our concern and encouraged both sides to continue their security cooperation”.]

At the start of the weekly meeting of the Israeli cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu stated: “I would like to commend the ISA and the IDF for the quick operation against the cell that murdered Rabbi Meir Avshalom Hai.  Our policy against terrorism is clear.  We will continue to respond aggressively – against any attack on Israeli citizens and against any firing of rockets or missiles at Israeli territory”.  [N.B., the firing of rockets or missiles refers to attacks coming from Gaza, not the West Bank…]

During the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu reportedly said that “one of the assassinated had been freed from an Israeli prison, highlighting the risks of the prisoner swap deal Israel is negotiating in a bid to free Gilad Shalit”.

Haaretz reported on Sunday that “Meir Hai, a 40-year-old teacher and father of seven, was killed when militants opened fire at his car car on the road between Shavei Shomron and the nearby settlement Einav in the West Bank.  He was alone in his car.  An IDF officer said that in the past week a roadblock had been removed on the road Hai was driving on, about 150 meters from where he was shot. The roadblock, known as the barrels roadblock, monitored traffic around Nablus in the direction of Tul Karm, the officer said.  The perpetrators are believed to have fled through where the roadblock used to be, to the village of Asira al-Shamaliyah. Over the past year, the number of terror attacks in the West Bank has dramatically decreased thanks mainly to the Shin Bet security service and IDF.  However, IDF officials say attempts to carry out terror attacks continue, especially those perpetrated by local individuals working alone”. This Haaretz article is published here.

Al-Jazeera reported on its website that “The Israeli military has said that the three men shot dead in Nablus were behind the killing of an Israeli settler on a West Bank road on Thursday.  It said a ballistic analysis showed that weapons found in the house of Anan Tzubach, one of the dead, were used to murder Meir Avshalom Hai, the settler … Family members of the three men said the troops entered without warning and killed all three in cold blood, insisting none had resisted arrest.  The Israeli military confirmed that none of them fired any shots at its soldiers and said only one of them was armed”.  This Al-Jazeera report can be viewed here.

Ma’an News Aency reported that “Director of the Palestinian Medical Relief Committees in Nablus Ghassan Hamdan told Ma’an that three Palestinian homes were besieged in the raid. He confirmed that Sukarji was shot in the head and chest ‘before the very eyes of his wife’. While the second man, Abu Sharkh, was removed from his home and shot outside … The home of Anan Subih in Ras El’ein was the third targeted location, where troops reportedly opened fire randomly on the building before entering. According to the Israeli military, ‘When he was killed, Annan Tzubach [Subih] was armed with a handgun and hiding two M16 assault rifles, an additional handgun, and ammunition’. The same statement, however, noted ‘During an attempt to arrest him tonight [Saturday], Annan was killed after an exchange of fire with the IDF while he was found in a hiding place along with weapons and ammunition’. Eyewitnesses described to Ma’an the siege launched on Ksheikiyya street in the Ras El’ein neighborhood where Anan Subih lives. Subih was an officer in the Palestinian Authority preventive security services in Nablus [N.B., other reports suggested that Subih was waiting to enter the Preventive Security Forces] . ‘Dozens of Israeli soldiers ransacked Anan’s home at 3:00am firing gunshots and grenades, causing a fire to break out in the next dor warehouse for plastic chairs. The soldiers [entered the building] demanding Anan, and when we told them he was at work with the security forces the soldiers evacuated all nine families who live in the building. We were gathered at the nearby home of the Al-‘Amoudi family’, Anan’s brother Nidal told Ma’an. Witnesses added that Israeli forces did not allow Palestinian fire fighters to access the area and put out the blaze”. This Ma’an report is published here.

The New York Times team in the region reported that “[IDF] Maj. Peter Lerner, spokesman for Israel’s Central Command, which controls the West Bank, said that its forces had spent the past two days looking for the killers of the settler, Rabbi Meir Hai, a 45-year-old teacher and father of seven, who was shot dead on Thursday as he drove near his home in the settlement of Shavei Shomron. The information gathered, he said, led them to three men in the city of Nablus early Saturday. Troops in jeeps descended on their homes and in each case, he said, the suspect was asked to give himself up. None did so, and all were shot dead. All three, he added, had been involved in anti-Israel violence in the past through activities in the Aksa Martyrs Brigade, a militia associated with the Fatah movement led by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. One of them, Annan Sleiman Moustafa Tsubakh, 36, was hiding with two assault rifles, two handguns and ammunition in a crawl space in his house when the Israeli troops found him. Major Lerner said that the three were the killers of Rabbi Hai and that they acted as an isolated cell rather than as part of some larger organization. Asked if the Israelis had coordinated with the Palestinian security forces that had been patrolling West Bank cities for a year and a half, he said no, that the army’s job was first and foremost to protect Israeli civilians. Ghassan Katib, spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said Palestinian security had been investigating the killing when the Israelis interfered. ‘This is what they do’, he said. ‘They kill people and then claim they were responsible. Our security forces had begun an investigation into the killing but the Israelis did not coordinate with us’.” The NYTimes report can be read in full here.

The Israeli website YNet reported that military sources “noted that despite the PA forces’ commendable conduct, the IDF had no choice but to independently act on apprehending the three persons responsible for the attack.  All three were killed by the IDF during military activity in Nablus Saturday morning.  IDF rejected Palestinian claims according to which there was no reason to kill the three.  The sources further noted that some 120 suspects have been detained by the Palestinian security establishment since the attack on Thursday, in an attempt to apprehend the responsible terrorist cell.  The fourth suspect reportedly turned himself in to the authorities prior to the Saturday military operation.  ‘They acted with determination, but alongside that we have the responsibility to act against whoever executed the attack and settle the score with them’, said a senior officer with the Central Command.  The defense establishment is investigating why the three, who are considered fairly mature, decided to execute the attack themselves, and why they acted so shortly after being released from the Israeli prison. A possible tie to Hezbollah was also being investigated.  The military activity became possible with the help of Shin Bet intelligence.  It began at 3 am Saturday and was carried out under the command of Shomron Brigade Commander Colonel Itzik Bar, who dispatched forces from the Duvdevan Unit and Kfir Brigade’s Nachshon Battalion to all three locations where the suspects were reportedly hiding.   ‘It was important to act correspondingly, because we believed there was a connection between all three suspects’, explained the senior officer.  The fact that the terrorists are not young, said the officer, indicated they have an extensive background in terrorist activities, as well as experience and knowledge.  ‘They acted in order to cover their tracks. The risk level in this operation was high because the three had access to weapons and would not hesitate to use them’, he said.  The military activity at the first two locations, where Raghsan Abu Sharah and Raed a-Sarkaji lived, was fairly short.  The two refused to leave their houses, and continued hiding inside even after IDF
forces used different methods including shots in the air in order to make the two surrender.  Abu Sharah sent his wife out to face the soldiers, but did not agree to step out himself.  ‘There are clear directives in these situations’, explained the senior officer, ‘after they refused to leave their houses and surrender, we entered. They continued hiding and endangering our soldiers, which made the shooting imperative’In the third location, where Anan Sabah was staying, the activity lasted a few hours, and included the firing of an antitank missile toward the house, in an attempt to force the suspect out. When we approached (to Anan Sabah), he Yelled ‘Allahu Akbar’ a few times and refused to step out.  There were also weapons in the house. The fact that no soldier was injured in the incident shows that we did not act too aggressively and that everything was done properly despite the extremely complex and dangerous mission,” he said.  Colonel Itzik Bar, which commanded the activity, also headed a 2004 operation, in which Abu Sharah’s brother, who was the former leader of the Tanzim in Nablus, was killed”.  This report can be read in full here.

Another YNet report said that “IDF Shomron Brigade Commander Colonel Itzik Bar arrived Saturday night at the settlement of Shavei Shomron, where locals spoke of their sense of insecurity since the army removed roadblocks from roads throughout the West Bank as a gesture to the Palestinians”. here. An earlier version of this same YNet story reported that “Amidst increasing tensions between settlers and the defense establishment of the settlement construction freeze, the Yesha Council on Saturday expressed its satisfaction with the IDF’s swift retaliation against the Palestinians who executed the lethal shooting attack in the West Bank on Thursday, which left Meir Avshalom Hai of the Shavei Shomron settlement dead. However, the settlers also warned against the IDF’s removal of roadblocks, which they say facilitate the execution of terror attacks. At the end of Shabbat, some 120 Shavei Shomron residents, together with activists from the Samaria Settlers Committee gathered at the scene of the attack and protested against the removal of roadblocks. ‘We must prevent the next murder and close this roadblock again. If the government acts negligently and does not close it again, we will do it ourselves’, the settlers said … The council also conveyed a hint of a warning about the consequences a deal for the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit might have. ‘The murderers were released prisoners who returned to terror, and the State of Israel would be wise to internalize the necessary lessons’. Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika said the removal of roadblocks in the regional allowing Palestinian movement prepared the ground for the murder. ‘It has been proven once again that when the IDF is allowed to fight terror, it can crush it. Had the roadblocks not been removed, the murder, and the need to strike the terrorists, would have been prevented. I demand the prime minister put an end to this security negligence and immediately close the barriers which were removed in order to prevent more murders and attacks’.” This article can be found here.

On Sunday, as YNet subsequently reported, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear that Israel will insist that terrorists not return to action in the field as part of the prisoner swap deal for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. ‘As of now, there is no deal, and it is not at all clear if there will be a deal. It is clear that if we reach a practical proposal, I will bring it to the cabinet. But we still are not there and I don’t know if we will be’, Netanyahu told Likud ministers on Sunday. The PM linked Saturday’s killing of three al-Aqsa Brigades gunmen who were behind last week’s shooting death of settler Meir Avshalom Hai to the prisoner swap negotiations. According to him, ‘One of the cell terrorist cell members who were killed had been released from Israeli prison. This is precisely the consideration standing against the Shalit deal … We will not agree to expose our citizens to terror’, Netanyahu said”. This YNet report is posted here.

So, the events in and around the once-proud but now much-diminished Palestinian West Bank city of Nablus — once a regional financial capital — have become convenient arguments of the Israeli right against the prisoner exchange deal being negotiated with Hamas, and against any lessening of the oppressive checkpoint regime in the West Bank …

Ma’an News Agency reported that “According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the attack follows the first week since the beginning of 2009 that Israeli military and security activities throughout the West Bank ended with no Palestinian casualties”. This was published here.

It is also worth putting this situation into context: the West Bank has been under a belligerent military occupation by Israel for over 42 years — since the June 1967 Mideast wart. Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered violations of the Geneva Convention [which somehow saw occupations as lasting, at most, one year…], as well as other provisions of international law. The First Palestinian Intifada against the Israeli occupation broke out in December 1987. Almost year later, on 15 November 1988, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat proposed (and the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Palestine National Council approved) the creation of a Palestinian state on the territory Israel occupied in June 1967 (meaning the West Bank, including East Jerusalem — and its Old City with extremely important religious sites — and the Gaza Strip). The Madrid Peace Conference convened in 1999 failed to make progress toward ending the occupation or the Intifada. The Oslo process that began with an exchange of diplomatic recognition between Israel and the PLO in September 1993 resulted in the creation of a Palestinian Authority that was supposed to exercise a temporary autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza [Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem was excluded], during negotiations that were to last five years. It was never stated, but it was certainly assumed by the Palestinians, that the result of those negotiations would be a state in five years’ time (that is, by 1999). The Road Map adopted by the Quartet of Middle East negotiations in 2003 (to defuse the Second Palestinian Intifada that started in September 2009 and threatened the region while the U.S. wanted to focus on eliminating the rule of Saddam Hussein in Iraq) suggested the formation of a Palestinian State by 2005. The Annapolis process launched in the final year of the administration of George W. Bush was aimed at the creation of a Palestinian State by the end of 2008. After his inauguration as new U.S. President in January 2009, Barack Obama made a big splash by trying to insist on a freeze of Israeli settlements, as a way to re-start direct Israeli-Palestinian talks that the Palestinians broke off after the start of a massive Israeli military operation against Gaza that began a year ago today.  But, the Defense Minister of Israel still rules the West Bank. And, the current Israeli government has only just barely decided to implement a temporary ten-month settlement “freeze” — except in Jerusalem (meaning the unilaterally-expanded Greater Jerusalem municipal area that includes some 60 square kilometers of land that was part of the West Bank until 4 June 1967 — after which, officials say, they will begin to build again… leaving less and less room for hope that there could ever be any viable Palestinian state.

The Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and lives – continued – 21 years after the Proclamation of a State of Palestine

Today is the 21st anniversary of the Proclamation, by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at a meeting on 15 November 1988 of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s National Council (PNC) in Algiers, of the still-unrealized State of Palestine.

Still, today is marked as Palestinian Independence Day, here in Ramallah and the rest of the West Bank, and in Gaza as well — and also in East Jerusalem (though there, where I also live, it will have to be surreptitiously, because the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, and the Israeli national and Border Police, are mobilized against any manifestation, however far-removed, of the “authority” of the Palestinian Authority…)

And today, we are informed by YNet, the Israeli English-language website of the country’s most popular Hebrew-language daily paper, Yediot Ahronot, that “Palestinian plans to possibly unilaterally declare a state continue to yield reactions in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to reject the increasingly strengthening Palestinian imitative during his speech at the Saban Forum in Jerusalem on Sunday“. YNet added that Netanyahu “will warn the Palestinians against moving forward with the initiative, emphasizing Israel’s objection, and will stress that the solution for the establishment of a Palestinian state can be found in negotiations with Israel. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned in a speech at the Saban Forum on Saturday that a withdrawal to the 1967 borders will not end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. ‘A return to 1967 borders and the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria will not end the conflict, but rather, shift it into Israel’s borders’, he said, adding that such circumstances would prompt Arab-Israeli demands for autonomy in the Galilee and the Negev”. This YNet report can be viewed in full here

Yasser Arafat himself was strongly warned against “unilaterally” declaring a state, as he had “threatened” to do, in 1999 and in 2000 (after the end of the five-year “transition” period of Palestinian autonomy that was agreed in the Oslo Accords, and just before the start of the Second Palestinian Intifada that was sparked by a militarized visit of Israel’s Ariel Sharon to the mosque plateau known to Palestinians as the Haram ash-Sharif, the third-holiest site in Islam, which Jews believe is the site of the Second and possibly also the First Jewish Temple, the central focus of the most sacred site in Judaism.)

Here are a few bare facts of the day from the English-language publication in Israel, the Jerusalem Post, (generally considered more right-wing than the English-language version of the Israeli paper, Haaretz). [The JPost and the Ma’an News Agency in Bethlehem are the only two media covering such news as this] —

(1) This report is talking about the Israeli-occupied West Bank:
Nov 15, 2009 8:09
IDF troops detain 4 Palestinian fugitives in West Bank ops
By JPOST.COM STAFF
“IDF troops detained four Palestinian fugitives Saturday overnight near Ramallah and Bethlehem. The military said all detainees were transferred to security forces for interrogation”. This JPost report can be read in full here.
These reports appear several times a week, sometimes daily. The Palestinians (men, usually) who are seized, often from their beds, are variously described as “suspects”, “fugitives”, “wanted”, and so on. No one ever really bothers to ask what happens to these people. Most often, they are eventually, if not immediately, taken out of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) to jails inside Israel, which is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. (Today it was reported that the Arab League has decided to request an advisory opinion from the UN’s International Court of Justice in The Hague about Palestinian and Arab (yes, there are others, from Lebanon, Syria, and other countries, some of whom are explicitly being held in exchange for release of information about missing Israelis) prisoners in Israeli jails

(2) This report is talking about the State of Israel:
Nov 15, 2009 9:48 | Updated Nov 15, 2009 9:52
Border Police arrest 252 illegals over weekend
By JPOST.COM STAFF
“Border Police arrested 252 illegal aliens over the weekend. The Palestinian illegals were working in Israel without permits. Three people were arrested for employing the illegals and thirteen on suspicion of transporting them”. This JPost report can be read in full here.
These reports appear once every couple of months. Often, the figures are larger — 1000 or 1,500 “illegal aliens” from the West Bank, who are working in Israel, often with the complicity of Israeli employers who can, among other things, pay them a lower wage with fewer benefits…

Then, let’s take a step back and try to understand what is going on here.

Suad Amiry, a Syrian-born Palestinian architect who came to Ramallah to teach at Bir Zeit in the 1980s and who now heads the Ramallah-based organization Riwaq, dedicated to preserving Palestinian architecture, has written a new book entitled Murad, Murad, about the life of Palestinian West Bankers who — despite The Wall and Israeli bureaucratic and military restructions — continue to try to work in Israel. (Her earlier book, Sharon and my Mother-in-Law, chronicled life under house confinement during the forceful military Israeli re-occupation of Ramallah in 2002). Suad Amiry said in an interview published in the Summer issue (number 38) of the Jerusalem Quarterly that: “We who are professionals in Ramallah are able to make a living away from Israel. It’s difficult to understanding the complexity of Murad and other workers’ relation to Israel. Murad went to Israel when he was 13. All his growing up happened there. He is oppressed, beaten, and lately has been put in prison – but in a strange way, Israel is also his home. In this contradictory relation, he is more like the Palestinians inside Israel”. The Jerusalem Quarterly interview reports that “Suad tells a story of lives that are largely invisible – invisible to her before her journey, and invisible to much of the Palestinian public, as well as to the world. She notes that when the Palestinian Authority didn’t pay salaries [to its employees, over half of whom work for the security services] for several months, it was the talk of the town. But Murad told her: ‘Why the big fuss? When we are thrown into prison, no one helps us’. In the year 2000, there were about 100,000 West Bankers workers in Israel, with many more family members dependent on their work. While numbers fluctuate today, it is no exaggeration to say that the lives and rights of a substantial proportion of the population are rarely acknowledged … Suad Amiry’s new book, Murad, Murad, scheduled for publication in Italian in the summer of 2009, is the story of her eighteen-hour journey in 2007 with Murad, an ‘illegal’ Palestinian worker and his friends, as they attempt to cross the ‘border’ into Israel and find work. Starting off at midnight from the village of Mazra el Noubani, in the Ramallah-area, a group of workers, accompanied by Suad in male disguise and Mohammed, Murad’s brother who is a colleague of Suad, set off in a rackety bus on a journey that resembled a maze, as they struggle to avoid army patrols, skirt the Wall, walk through ditches, orchards and tunnels to reach the ‘other side’ and work in Israel … Murad, who has worked in Israel since he was thirteen and is utterly determined to continue to work there, despite the enormous odds against him”. This is published in the Summer issue of Jerusalem Quarterly, and posted on the internet here.

Another article in the same issue of the Jerusalem Quarterly is an excerpt of remarks made earlier this year by leading Palestinian academic and writer, who has also participated in multilateral negotiations under the Madrid Process, Salim Tamari, in a discussion at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which were summarized in the Summer 2009 issue (no. 38) of the Jerusalem Quarterly, which he edits, for the Institute for Jerusalem Studies, which he heads. The Institute for Jerusalem Studies (a branch of the Institute for Palestinian Studies) was formerly located in Jerusalem, but was forced by Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement to re-locate to Ramallah. Salim Tamari is commenting, here, on an analysis also presented at MIT in a discussion last February at the Department for Urban Planning, by Israeli academic Eyal Weizman:
An Architectural Laboratory of the Extreme? Reflections on Weizman’s Hollow Land by Salim Tamari
“Eyal Weizman’s Hollow Land is the first systematic study of Israel’s regime of spatial control, combining the insights of political geography, architecture, semiotics, theories of counterinsurgency, and an appreciation for the shifting ideological tenants of Zionism and the history of settler regimes. It combines a majestic sweep of broad conceptual paradigms about population control, with a meticulous examination of the detailed mechanisms of such control and the thinking among military strategists who plan it, as well as their willing and unwilling accomplices among them. Those are the social scientists, contractors, and service providers who cater to their vision, and who often provide humanitarian services to mitigate the dire human costs and the disastrous results of these strategies. One of the most rewarding features of this study is the manner in which it posits architectural knowledge and affiliated disciplines in social science, engineering and politics as partners, willing or sometimes unconscious, in the process of colonial conquest. The study provokes a number of issues that are only partly examined, and in need of elaboration. Here are some of them, listed briefly as questions:

The Process of ‘Distanciation’. One of the most significant achievements of the Oslo Agreement from an Israeli governmental perspective (as pointed out in The Hollow Land) is the creation of a spatial geography of fragmentation in which the de-linking of the Palestinian and Israeli population has enhanced the legitimacy of occupation. This happened through withdrawal to the periphery of urban areas and handing over the administrative control and welfare of 80 percent of the Palestinians, in areas A and B, to the Palestinian Authority. In effect it created conditions for population control from a distance, either through surveillance and checkpoints, or through administrative autonomy by a non-sovereign Palestinian regime.

But the process is not complete. Rural areas in region C, the settlements, and the greater Jerusalem area (outside the municipal borders), remained zones of direct military control. Arab Jerusalem also continued to be ruled directly, but was separated both from other Palestinian communities and from Palestinian leadership. To a large extent the process removed the physicality of the confrontation and therefore made the tactics of civil insurrection and strategy of disobedience (which defined the first uprising) virtually impossible. No alternative resistance strategy since then evolved partly due to the absence of physical encounters, but also due to the absence of a leadership.

One area where I differ with Weizman is over the issue of the illusion of sovereignty, which he illustrated through the semiotics of the one-way mirror: the example from the pre-intifada period was the presence and power of Israeli officials at the King Hussein/Allenby bridge who used a one-way mirror to monitor (and approve or disapprove ) Palestinian passage. I do not believe that there was an “illusion of sovereignty” here, and it did not need the conditions of dusk to unravel the real power behind the mirror. What existed rather is rather a consensual delusion in which Palestinians (as in La Vita è Bella) shared in the self-deception in order to make life more tolerable knowing that they could not resolve the issue of sovereignty, given the existing power relationship between them and the Israelis.

Normalization of Occupation?

One consequence of removing the physical military presence in the major urban areas has been to create a sense of normalcy. Weizman refers to the normalization of the ‘absurd’ system of population control through filtering checkpoints. The system creates a mechanism of routinization of arbitrary military control that is internalized by the subject population, leading to protocols of acceptance through negotiating its loopholes (permits, exceptions, smuggling). But this system of normalization of oppression has built-in weaknesses that undermine its own sense of normalcy.

Two features of this system are its unpredictability and irrationalism. It is supposed to create mechanisms of control in order to prevent penetration, circumvention and deceit. But in overdoing its objective of population control it leads to immense resentment and conditions of rebellion. A relevant question here is why does the system resort to extreme humiliation of the population when such humiliation defeats its function of security control?

The question of agency in Weizman’s analysis is also problematic. The system of control chartered by the author produces an occupation regime that is all pervasive. Does the cunning adaptation of the subject Palestinian population to this regime through subversion of building regulation and getting around the blockade, constitute resistance to the regime, or a normalization of oppression?

The System is over-designed. Weizman skillfully draws an architectural system of control that is omnipotent and omnipresent. The regime of population control through the technology of monitoring and surveillance; of countless filtering systems; of segmented road systems; of counter-insurgency through predicting every possible contingency of the enemy and pre-empting it, is ultimately overdesigned. It ostensibly operates through open and closed spaces, underground and in the air, and through the bureaucratic regime of permits and civil administration. By investing so much conceptual capital in detailing its omnipotence Weizman produces a paradigm that is hermetically sealed and has the force of nature. There seems to be no escape from it.

Even on the intellectual plane, in this paradigm the military commanders have captured the terrain, utilizing critical theory, Foucault, Deleuze (and Marx, in the case of the Village Leagues) to (successfully) engineer a counter-revolutionary reality. The weakness of this paradigm is that it overdetermines the omnipotence of the hegemonic power by attributing to it exaggerated capacities of control both at logistic and intellectual levels. It leaves unexamined its own contradictions; its misadventures; its control by politicians who have myopic ideological visions, whose thirst for land grabbing will make them choke on excessive expansion of limited economic capacities; and who seem to behave as if they are independent from the world around them. But after all, as Weizman points out in “Demographic Architecture,” it is indeed remarkable that Israel’s planning policies in Jerusalem have not succeeded in transferring the requisite number of Palestinians outside of the city; even the most powerful do not operate in a laboratory where they control all the elements”. These comments, and more, can be viewed in full on the Jerusalem Quarterly website,
here.

NOTE: The Two-State Solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has, since the Second Palestinian Intifada, become the central credo of Israel and American diplomacy, and thus also of “international” efforts (backed by the European Union and the United Nations). However, there is still no Palestinian state. After returning to power in February general elections, the current Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu resisted for months agreeing to this Two-State formula, and only did so in a speech months later at Bar Ilan University, in which Netanyahu posed several major limiting conditions. Opposition leader (and former Israeli Defense Minister) Shaul Mofaz has just proposed Israeli support for a Palestinian State on 50-60 percent of the West Bank (excluding existing Israeli settlements, which would remain under Israeli sovereignty). As the climate has deteriorated, with intense Palestinian disappointment in the position of Barak Obama’s Administration, Palestinian negotiator Sa’eb Erekat has “threatened” that the Palestinian Authority is ready to jettison its commitment to the Two-State Solution, and to mobilize behind a theoretical “One-State solution” — by which is generally meant Palestinians and Israelis living together with full and equal rights, as if they had the choice… But this option it is not on the table. The only alternative to the Two-State solution now appears to be a continuation of more of the same, with continued direct Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem — now officially ruled by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, with limited autonomy given to the present Palestinian Authority and its security forces, and also of Gaza (where Hamas may or may not be allowed to continue its present “de facto” rule if it becomes a “responsible address” that Israel can count on to limit attacks against Israel. It is not terribly surprising that the powerful Israeli military leadership opposes ending the occupation — they feel more comfortable being in control, and they would like a 25, 50, or 100-year period to continue the current status quo, with checkpoints and all (perhaps even inside Israel, certainly also in the Golan Heights), to see if the Palestinians have peaceful intentions, these Israeli miltary officials say, after which they might begin to consider talking about territory. The impression is given that they would not mind if all of Israel, or even all of the world, became like the West Bank… But this current status quo is, simply, unsustainable. What will happen next is unclear…