Reports from Cairo that Hamas will join PLO [election planning/monitoring] commission

This is only a preliminary report… and is still Breaking News —

UPDATE: Nabil Shaath told journalists at a pre-Christmas in Bethlehem tonight [Thursday] that “I heard good news, basically, from Cairo … Hamas is willing to accept non-violence, basically, a long-term ‘hudna’, but they do not want us to talk about it very much … What these people in Gaza are really saying is that our right to armed struggle should not be abandoned, and we agree, but we choose not to exercise it”

The real question at stake in today’s meeting in Cairo was: will arrangements finally be made for Hamas to join the PLO, as previously agreed in Cairo in 2005 — and as suggested in a “reconciliation” agreement between Fatah and Hamas in late April, then encoded in a document signed in Cairo in early May?

Apparently, agreement on that has not yet been reached, but a small step has been taken to keep things moving — or to appear to keep things moving — in the right direction.

Today’s meeting of Palestinian political movements and “factions” in Cairo was chaired by Mahmoud Abbas, who is, simultaneously:
(1) Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO], recognized by the UN as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people;
(2) head of the largest Palestinian political movement Fatah, and
(3) … um … well … despite the fact that the mandate ran out either in January 2009 or January 2010, depending on one’s legal view … is still President of the Palestinian Authority set up by agreement under terms of the Oslo Accords [+ subsequent practice] between the PLO and Israel.

Last night, in Cairo, there was a previously-unannounced meeting of Abbas and Hamas’ Politburo Chief Khaled Meshaal.

Until now, the major obstacle to Hamas joining the PLO has been the objection of Fatah.

The problem existed even prior to the mid-June 2007 Hamas military rout [in Ramallah, it was called a “military coup”] of Fatah/PA Preventive Security Forces from Gaza, but that sealed the present division. PA President Mahmoud Abbas immediately responded to this “military coup” with his own “political coup”, dissolving a short-lived [3 months, to be precise] “National Unity” government [negotiated in Mecca by Saudi Arabia] — which was, like the two prior governments formed in the wake of the 2006 elections, led by Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. Hamas reportedly feared an imminent American backed military attack led by Fatah’s Mohammed Dahlan [then a star, now in disgrace].

In the aftermath, Abbas then set up an “Emergency Government”, and named Salam Fayyad as PA Prime Minister. The U.S. and other major donors celebrated with a major “love-in”, praising Fayyad, the American-trained Security Services, and showering Ramallah with donor funding.

Apart from that major rift, the core issue of contention about Hamas joining the PLO: Hamas wanted to have a proportion of seats in the PLO’s Palestine National Council [PNC] similiar to the proportion it won in the 2006 Palestine Legislative Council [PLC] elections = over 60%.

For Fatah, furious that it lost a great deal of ground to Fatah in those 2006 elections, that was, and is, unthinkable.

The most Fatah could agree that Hamas deserves was about 25% maximum.

This is where the new elections come in. Not only has the term expired for the PA President + the PA’s PLC… Fatah is somehow hoping that Hamas will lose any new elections it participates in. This would have the felicitous effect of confirming the correctness of Fatah’s stand [which has prevented Hamas from joining the PLO so far, even if Hamas wanted to]: Fatah firmly believes that Hamas deserves less [preferably, much less] than a majority stake in the PNC.

Basically, the position still is: if Hamas joins the PLO, it will have be on Fatah’s terms, already explained by PLO Chairman [and Fatah leader] Abbas.

As Nabil Shaath said in his remarks to journalists in Bethlehem on Thursday night, if I understood him correctly: Hamas “has to go back to where it was in 2006, apologize to the Palestinian people [for the events of 2007], and abandon all pretense to representing the Palestinian people”…

Does anybody seriously think Hamas is going to apologize for what happened in 2007?

The incremental step announced so far in Cairo — Hamas joining a PLO committee on elections — appears to suggest that some progress in Palestinian reconciliation is being made. [After all, it is something demanded by most Palestinians].

At the same time, the step announced does not yet trespass over the limit suggested by the US, which has said that Hamas must not join any new Palestinian government until it has acceeded to all three conditions set by the Quartet [and by Israel]:
(1) recognition of Israel [Netanyahu has officially set the barrier even higher, at recognition of Israel as a Jewish state];
(2) an end to “terrorism”;
(3) acceptance of all prior PLO agreements and positions.

If there is Hamas participation in a new Palestinian government prior to fulfilling those conditions, the U.S. has threatened a cut off of humanitarian funding to the PA…

Slowing down the arrival of day that decision may have to be taken, while keeping up the appearance of movement and progress towards reconciliation, is one of the main goals shared by the Fatah + Hamas, the two largest Palestinian movements participating in the current exercise.

Meanwhile, there will be a lot of gymnastically-contortionist statements involving circuitous positions of logic that will be advanced to explain all this…

Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo; will Egypt postpone Monday's elections?

To my surprise, though perfectly according to plan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas turned up in Cairo this morning to meet Field Marshall Tantawy, who as head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] of Egypt was handed the country when Husni Mubarak was forced to step down last February.

Abbas meeting Tantawi - photo via PalTelegraph

Abbas meeting Tantawi – photo via PalTelegraph here – presumably taken today

Apparently, Abbas arrived in Egypt Tuesday night.  He had to have travelled via Jordan — he certainly didn’t fly from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, and he didn’t drive through Gaza.

In the midst of chaos in [some, main] Egyptian streets, Abbas is supposed be on a four-day visit to Cairo, despite the chaos in the streets, and will meet Khaled Meshaal of Hamas tomorrow, after years of Egyptian negotiations to effect a “reconciliation” between Hamas and Fatah…

To go ahead with the reconciliation in the coming days, Abbas and Meshaal will have to ignore the sheer mayhem and brutality in the streets of Cairo and several other Egyptian cities, where vast quantities of what is reported to be an enhanced variety of tear gas has been mercilessly fired upon protesting citizens who are demanding a transition to civilian rule. and on uninvolved bystanders alike.

Egyptian military leaders are saying that “hidden forces” are behind the worst violence and the many civilian deaths — and not the military, which says it is responsible only for the tear gas…

One thing Abbas’ arrival in Cairo does mean is that Abbas was in Jordan on Tuesday, a day after receiving King Abdallah II in Ramallah on Monday.  [Did they meet again?]

King Abdallah’s “historical” visit was announced late on Sunday, and the whole thing is still a big mystery — more to come in a separate post.  The King flew by helicopter to Ramallah, and landed in the grounds of the Muqata’a Presidential palace.   When the King flew back to Amman, he met almost immediately with U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns — who himself had met Abbas on Sunday,  and then with Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu on Monday morning, perhaps just before Abdallah arrived in Ramallah…  And, there is no way that the Jordanian monarch could have flown across the West Bank without full Israeli approval.

The link between these events is: elections.

The proposed Fatah-Hamas reconciliation is supposed to involve agreement on new Palestinian elections — perhaps by next May — to overcome the split that followed the Hamas rout of Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security Forces, which an infuriated Mahmoud Abbas called a “military coup”, just before carrying out his own retaliatory political coup by dissolving a very short-lived National Unity government headed by Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh.  Abbas then appointed Salam Fayyad as Prime Minister of an “Emergency Government” which has basically remained in power until today [despite permutations].

Now, Hamas is reportedly still opposed to Fayyad continuing as Prime Minister, after the reconciliation — and there has been speculation that a replacement may soon be named [the most recent speculation involved Dr. Mohammed Mustafa, Economic Adviser to Abbas + head of the, um, non-governmental Palestine Investment Fund]. A new Palestinian Authority/PLO government would be composed only of “technocrats” [meaning, no one associated with Hamas, which would mean the re-imposition of strong new financial and other sanctions — that is, unless Hamas meets the “Quartet conditions: recognition of Israel, or its “right to exist”; renunciation of violence, and allegience to all previous agreements made by the PLO.

A new technocratic government would be charged with overseeing a transition to new elections.

UPDATE: It was reported from Cairo on Thursday morning, just before the Abbas-Meshaal reconciliation talks began, that the naming of a new Prime Minister would not be on the immediate agenda…]

Since the violent Hamas-Fatah break-up in June 2007, Mahmoud Abbas has, insisted on a return to the status quo ante as a prerequisite for any reconciliation with Hamas, meaning that Hamas must know its place, and not rule as a rival regime in Gaza.

By the terms of a previous reconciliation — the Cairo 2005 agreement — Hamas was supposed to be integrated into the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], in which Mahmoud Abbas has been Chairman of the Executive Committee since the death of Yasser Arafat in a hospital in Paris in November 2004.

[Abbas, like Arafat before him, has consolidated his hold on all three reins of Palestinian political power.  Abbas is also the head, by acclamation, of Fatah, which is the largest Palestinian political movement.   And he is the elected head of the Palestinian Authority, established by agreement bween the PLO + Israel under the Oslo Accords, which Hamas opposes — but Abbas’ term of office expired either in January 2009 or in January 2010, depending on which legalistic argument one backs. So, when there are new reports of Abbas resigning, the question has to be asked: from what, exactly?  The PLO, Fatah, or just the PA? In any case, Abbas has also said, previously, that he will remain in office until there are new elections.]

Hamas agreed to join the PLO — but has argued that it should have a percentage of seats in the PLO’s Palestine National Council [PNC] that would be proportional to the number of seats it won in 2006 elections for the PA’s Legislative Council [PLC] — in other words, over 60 percent.

Fatah was outraged — and Fatah officials maintained in recent years that they would never agree to Hamas having anything more than 25% of seats in the PNC.

The mandate for the 2006 PLO has also expired, without ever having many meetings, both because Israel arrested so many Hamas-affiliated parliamentarians that a quorum could not be met, but also because of the huge rift between Hamas and Fatah…

And Abbas has ruled by Presidential decree — which some fastidious Palestinian libertarians have quietly criticized.

Meanwhile, Abbas has cancelled Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections that he called for 24 January 2010, and he has also twice scheduled, and cancelled, local or municipality elections.

One of the major demands of the Palestinian “youth demonstrations”, whicht began in honor of the January 25 movement that filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square in Egypt [until Mubarak resigned in February], was an end to the Fatah-Hamas split.

Another of the demands was to hold elections — for the first time, ever — among Palestinians everywhere [and not just in the West Bank + Gaza] for the PLO’s National Council.

The reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo in May, and today’s follow-up “summit” [more than 6 months later] between Abbas + Meshall in Cairo was initially viewed as a response to the Palestinian “youth demonstrations” and to the “Arab Spring” developments in the region.  [One reason the reconciliation summit was delayed was to protect, or insulate, the “UN bid” from reprisals — which have since been imposed anyway, after the UNESCO vote to admit Palestine as a full member state nearly one month ago...]

In other, separate developments, Egyptians were supposed to begin voting on Monday 28 November in the first round of their new Parliamentary elections… though the preparations process has been rather back-room and secretive.

And tonight, Egypt’s Interior Minister called for a postponement due to the situation in the country.

UPDATE: On Thursday, a group of Egyptian political parties also called for a postponement of elections.

But, in reaction to the terrible violence over the last couple of days, the call in Tahrir Square has been, again: “Irhal” —  Go.  Just go.  Get out.

There is not a unified position on cancelling elections now.

So now, here are a few thoughts: is it just possible that a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation in Cairo tomorrow might have enough overwhelming popular appeal and regional magic to distract, and stop the bloodshed in Egypt?

By the same time tomorrow night, after all the violence and suffering and human loss in this region, will everything seem better [and not worse]?

Reality check: The U.S. is lobbying strongly against any reconciliation Palestinian government, which would mean a move toward new Palestinian elections [the visit of Burns to the region on Sunday + Monday was reportedly about that, and about the “UN bid” that Mahmoud Abbas filed in New York on 23 September for full UN membership]. At stake is another full-scale imposition of economic sanctions that will have a devastating impact on the situation in the West Bank, despite defiant Palestinian statements.

There is, of course, a major contradiction, at least in democracies, between supporting elections [as U.S. President George W. Bush did, prior to the 2006 Palestinian elections in which Hamas won a majority of seats in the PLC, dismissing some worry about the lack of Fatah popularity, and the possibility of Hamas gains], and then imposing sanctions because of who wins.

But, the U.S. is still calling for Egyptian elections.

Mark Toner, a U.S. State Dept spox, did so in an exchange with journalists at the daily briefing in Washington:

    “QUESTION: And you remain confident that this election will go on on time?

    MR. TONER: We continue to believe that it can go on, yeah.

    QUESTION: Are you still —

    QUESTION: (Inaudible) boycott the vote given the amount of violence and their distrust of the military?

    MR. TONER: Again, as Field Marshal Tantawi said yesterday, this is – he provided a path that talked about these elections, talked about a newly appointed civilian government, as well as a full transition to – or presidential elections by next summer. And this is the way that Egyptians can create the kind of democracy for which they’re protesting in Tahrir Square. It’s extremely important that they exercise their right to vote … He [Tantawi] did pledge to appoint a new cabinet and to hold presidential elections, as I talked – as I said, and proceed with parliamentary elections as planned. We believe that’s important. We also believe that it’s important that the SCAF ensure that free and fair elections proceed expeditiously, and that their security of these elections is ensured, and that – in an environment that’s free from any intimidation, and that

    this newly appointed civilian government be able to exercise real executive power immediately … What’s important, as I said, is that these elections be seen by the Egyptian people as credible and transparent. That’s the responsibility of the SCAF, to create that kind of atmosphere and that kind of environment, so that they’re – that these elections can be taken seriously by the Egyptian people, and again, building towards eventual presidential elections, a new constitution, et cetera, that will result in a true democracy for Egypt … And so we’re engaged with the Egyptian authorities. Again, our goal here is to provide whatever support we can so that credible, transparent elections can take place. But ultimately, this is something that the

    Egyptian people need to see done”.

The briefing transcript can be read in full here.

But, what about the Palestinian people?

Why the Palestinians cannot go to the UN Security Council + UN General Assembly at the same time

In a briefing called Saturday morning for “Arabic” journalists [only] in Ramallah, Nabil Shaath reportedly said — according to a account in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, published here — that
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “will apply for membership to the Security Council, which may take few days to bring it up for discussion and then a vote. However, he [Shaath] said, in case the Security Council stalls in its procedures and delays discussion of the membership application, the Palestinian Authority may then go to the UN General Assembly to ask for a non-member state post”.

Well, in order to do that, the Palestinians would have to withdraw any request they’d submitted to the UN Security Council — for the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly cannot both be “seized of” the same matter at the same time.

Why? Because the UN Charter says so, here, in Article 12 (1):

“While the Security Council is exercising in respect of any dispute or situations the functions assigned to it in the present Charter, the General Assembly shall not make any recommendation with regard to that dispute or situation unless the Security Council so requests.”

Once the Palestinians submit their request for full membership — which will be in the form of a letter to the UN Secretary General, who will forward it to the UN Security Council — then it would present problems to ask the UN General Assembly at the same time, or while the matter is still pending in the UN Security Council [which could effectively sit on it, for months or even years] to consider a request to upgrade the status of Palestine to observer [though still non-member] state.

One reason why it would be good strategy to go to the UNGA first, to upgrade observer status of Palestine to state [non-member], before going to UNSC, is:
– the UN Charter says, in Article 4(1) that

“Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states [emphasis added here] which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations”;

and Article 4 (2) says:

“The admission of any such state [emphasis added again] to membership in the United Nations will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council [emphasis added here, too]”…

(1) AMIR TURKI AL-FAISAL – VETO A STATE, LOSE AN ALLY, published on 11 September here.
(2) SIMONE DAUD [PALESTINIAN PROFESSOR] – a nom de plume – ARAB SOURCES: AZMI BISHARA ON PALESTINE’S UN BID [on Mondoweiss blog], published on 16 September, here

UNSG BAN says two-state solution to Israel-Palestinian conflict "is long overdue"

Was the UNSG taking a diplomatic half-step back from his earlier support for a long-overdue Palestinian State?

What he said, at a hastily-summoned press conference at UNHQ/NY on Thursday, was exactly this: “I am profoundly troubled by the lack of progress in the peace negotiations. It is vital that they resume. Ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieving a two-state solution is long overdue. Time is not our friend”.

[As we reported in our last post, on 10 September, here, what the UNSG BAN said in Australia that day was somewhat different. According to AFP, he said this: “The two state vision where Israel and Palestinians can live… side by side in peace and security — that is a still a valid vision and I fully support it… And I support also the statehood of Palestinians; an independent, sovereign state of Palestine. It has been long overdue“.]

The U.S. State Department spokesperson said last Thursday that the Obama Administration would use the American veto in the UN Security Council if the Palestinians pursued their announced intentention to seek full UN membership.

Though U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale are on their second trip to the region in as many weeks to try to avert the Palestinian move, Palestinian officials say they are going to pursue it — unless, of course, an excellent offer is made up until the last minute.

Even if a Palestinian State is somehow admitted as a full member of the UN Organization, Palestinian officials say, they intended to pursue negotiations with Israel on the next day…

Palestinian Authority [PA] Foreign Minister Riyad Malki told members of the Foreign Press Association [FPA – in Israel] at a briefing convened at FPA request on Thursday that at end of Mahmoud Abbas speech around midday on 23 September from the podium of the UN General Assembly in New York, after the very last sentence, Abbas – who is Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, in addition to acting President of the PA — will present the official request for the state of Palestine to be granted full membership to the UNSG”.

UNSG BAN Ki-Moon will be seated on an elevated table behind the podium. All Mahmoud Abbas will need to do is turn around and hand up the official Palestinian letter of request — and this will be in public, in full view of the whole world.

Continue reading UNSG BAN says two-state solution to Israel-Palestinian conflict "is long overdue"

Sabra + Shatila massacre – 28 years on

It was, as Franklin Lamb has written, “one of the most horrific crimes of the 20th century”

After the evacuation from Beirut [on a Greek ship, under a “UN umbrella”] of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) fighters along with their leader, the late Yasser Arafat, some of those left behind — those in Sabra + Shatila, a crowded Palestinian refugee camp on the southern outskirts of Beirut — were massacred over a two-day period while a few journalists and international medical workers tried to alert the world.

By the time anyone paid any attention, the killing was all but over, and only the bloated bodies remained.

An Israeli commission of inquiry concluded that Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s Defense Minister, who had led the Israeli Army out of its enclave in southern Lebanon in a rapid advance north to the Beirut, and then surrounded it, demanding — between the terror of massive bombings and announced attempts to assassinate Arafat (who, unaccountably, escaped) — that Arafat must cease hiding “behind the skirts of Lebanese civilians”.

Sharon’s assault on the eastern part of the Lebanese capital was apparently not authorized in advance by the Israeli cabinet [though then-Prime Minister, Menahim Begin, was informed of Sharon’s plan].

Israel accused the PLO of being behind a number of cross-border attacks, but it was reportedly an attempted assassination against Israel’s then-Ambassador to London [Shlomo Argov] which became the justification for Sharon’s massive reprisal.

[The Israeli diplomat was shot in the head and seriously wounded.  He needed nursing care for the remainder of his life, and died of his injuries in 2003.    The Abu Nidal organization, headed by a Palestinian mercenary, was reportedly hired for this assignment by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who was reportedly furious with the PLO’s Arafat at the time for trying to mediate the Iran-Iraq war.  Saddam believed that all Arabs ought to have totally backed Iraq in that war…]

Sharon (who remains on life support in a long-term care facility in Israel following a stroke in 2006) later — successfully — sued CBS Television and Time Magazine [in 1985], in for libel for reporting that he was directly involved in the Sabra + Shatila massacre.

Sharon prevailed.  [I  was one of only three journalists who attended and monitored that libel trial on a regular basis — and,  for lack of a babysitter, I sometimes had to bring my one-year-old son with me to court…]

Sharon won his libel suit because the court, upon examination, became convinced that Israeli researcher David Halevy had overstated his argument, without sufficient proof, of Sharon’s involvement in the massacre. Halevy’s notes, submitted as a research file to Time Magazine, were later written up by an editor; the subsequent published Time Magazine article was then cited as the source for a report by Mike Wallace on CBS News’ 60 Minutes Program.

Franklin Lamb, an American author of the book The Price We Pay: A Quarter-Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon, is also as well as Director, Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace, Beirut-Washington DC, as well as Board Member of The Sabra Shatila Foundation, and a volunteer with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign He was recently in Lebanon doing research for a new book, and compiled this account recalling what happened in Sabra + Shatila:

THE SHELTERS AND THE “AID WORKERS” – in horrifying detail

“In Shatila Palestinian refugee camp and outside Abu Yassir’s shelter, the bullet marks still cover the lower half of the 11 ‘walls of death’ where some of the dried blood is mixed and feathered in with the thin mortar. An elderly gentleman named Abu Samer still has some souvenirs of the event: three American automatic pistols fitted with silencers, a couple of knives and axes that were strapped to some of the killers belts as they quickly and silently shot, carved and chopped whoever they came upon starting at around 6 pm on Thursday September 16, 1982. Plus a couple of whisky bottles … Locating the 11 ‘walls of death’ requires help from the few older Palestinians who still live in this quarter … Zeina [last name not given, who reportedly lost her husband and two daughters during the massacre] recalls that it was late on a Thursday afternoon, September 16, that the Israeli shelling had grown intense. Designed to drive the camp residents into the shelters, almost all of which Israeli intelligence, arriving the previous day in three white vehicles and posing as ‘concerned NGO staff’ had identified and noted the coordinates on their maps. Some residents, thinking aid workers had come to help the refugees, actually revealed their secret sanctuaries. Other refugees, based on their experience in the crowded shelters during the preceding 75 days of indiscriminate, ‘Peace for Galilee’ Israeli bombing … suggested to the ‘aid workers’ that the shelters needed better ventilation and perhaps the visitors would help provide it. According to Zeina the Israeli agents quickly sketched the shelter locations, marked them with a red circle and returned to their HQ which was located less than 70 meters on the raised terrain at the SE corner of Shatila camp still known as Turf Club Yards. Today, this sandy area still contains three death pits which according to the late American journalist Janet Stevens is where some of the hundreds of still missing bodies of the more than 3,000 slaughtered are likely buried … Journalist Robert Fisk and others who studied these events, concur that more slaughter was done during the 24 hour period after 8 a.m. Saturday, the hour the Israeli Kahan Commission, which declined to interview any Palestinians, ruled that the Israelis had stopped all the killing. Eyewitness testimony also established that the ‘aid workers’ described by Zeina passed the shelter descriptions and locations to Lebanese Forces operatives Elie Hobeika and Fadi Frem, and their ally, Major Saad Haddad of the Israeli-allied South Lebanese Army. Thursday evening, Hobeika, de facto commander since the assassination the week previously of Phalange leader and President-elect Bachir Gemayel, led one of the death squads inside the killing field of the Horst Tabet area near Abu Yassir’s shelter. It was in 8 of the 11 Israeli-located and marked shelters that the first of the massacre victims were quickly and methodically slaughtered. There being few perfect crimes, even in massacres, the killers failed to find 3 of the shelters. One of the overlooked shelters was just 25 meters from Abu Yassir’s shelter. Apart from these three undiscovered hiding places there were practically no Shatila shelter survivors”…


“Munir Mohammad was 12 years old on September 16, 1982 …

At around about 8 p.m. on September 18 Munir Mohammad entered the crowded Abu Yassir shelter with his mother Aida and his sisters and brothers Iman, Fadya, Mufid and Mu’in … Munir later recalled events that night: ‘The killers arrived at the door of the shelter and yelled for everyone to come out. Men who they found were lined up against the wall outside. They were immediately machine gunned’. As Munir watched, the killers left to kill other groups and then suddenly returned and opened fire on everyone, and all fell to the ground. Munir lay quietly not knowing if his mother and sisters were dead. Then he heard the killers yelling: ‘If any of you are injured, we’ll take you to the hospital. Don’t worry. Get up and you’ll see’. A few did try to get up or moaned and they were instantly shot in the head.

Munir remembered: ‘Even though it was light out due to the Israeli flares over Shatila, the killers used bright flash lights to search the darkened corners. The killers were looking in the shadows’. Suddenly Munir’s mother’s body seemed to shift in the mound of corpses next to him. Munir thought she might be going to get up since the killers promised to take anyone still alive to the hospital. Munir whispered to her: ‘Don’t get up mother, they’re lying’. And Munir stayed motionless all night barely daring to breath, pretending to be dead. Munir could not block out the killers words. Years later he would repeat to this interviewer as we passed the Shatila Burial ground known as Martyrs Square:

    ‘After they shot us, we were all down on the ground, and they were going back and forth, and they were saying: “If any of you are still alive, we’ll have mercy and pity and take them to the hospital. Come on, you can tell us”. If anyone moaned, or believed them and said they needed an ambulance, they would be rescued with shots and finished off there and then… What really disturbed me wasn’t just the death all around me. I…didn’t know whether my mother and sisters and brother had died. I knew most of the people around me had died. And it’s true I was afraid of dying myself. But what disturbed me so very much was that they were laughing, getting drunk and enjoying themselves all night long. They threw blankets on us and left us there till morning. All night long [Thursday the 16th) I could hear the voices of the girls crying and screaming, “For god’s sake, leave us alone”. I mean…I can’t remember how many girls they raped. The girl’ voice, with their fear and pain, I can’t ever forget them’ …

Munir’s 15-year-old brother Mufid was among the first to enter Abu Yassir’s shelter, but he left and later appeared at Akka Hoppital with a gunshot wound. After being bandaged he left the hospital to seek safety and his family. No one has seen him since and for a long time Munir could not even mention him. According to camp residents, Munir’s older brother, Nabil, then 19 years old, being of fighting age would have been shot on sight by the killers. Aware of this, Nabil’s cousin and his cousin’s wife fled with him as the Israeli shelling increased and camp residents reported indiscriminate killing. The trio dodged sniper bullets to seek refuge in a nursing home where his aunt worked. Like Munir, Nabil soon learned that his mother and siblings were all dead … During the month following the 1982 Massacre, British Dr. Paul Morris treated Munir at Gaza Hospital approximately one kilometer north of Abu Yassir’s shelter, and kept the youngster under observation. Dr. Morris reported to researcher Bayan Nuwayhed al Hout (Sabra and Shatila: September 1982, Pluto Press, London, 2004) that Munir ‘will smile once in a while, but he doesn’t react spontaneously like others of this age, except just occasionally … Now in America, both Munir and Nabil are leading relatively ‘normal lives’ … Both brothers return to Shatila camp regularly”…

Franklin Lamb’s recounting of the Sabra + Shatila massacre, 28 years ago, on the outskirts of Beirut is published here .  (Thanks to Seham on mondoweiss…)

PLO Central Committee Extends Abu Mazen's term "indefinitely"

I think they mean until the next elections…right?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) himself set the elections for January 24 [throwing down the gauntlet to Hamas at a critical moment in the Egyptian-mediated efforts to reconcile Fatah and Hamas — something which Israel and the U.S., at least, do not really want].

Now, those elections seem to have been postponed indefinitely, too (though some reported rumors mentioned a date of June 28…)

In the interview that Abu Mazen gave to Haaretz, which was published today here , he gave the following clarifications about his position: “When asked if he would run for reelection, Abbas said: ‘No. That is my final position. It is neither tactics nor maneuvering’. Although he said he respects the position of Fatah, which has asked him to stay in office, Abbas said that ‘if I can’t reach my goals I see no reason to hold on to my chair. If there is progress in talks, that will be welcome. But if elections take place before talks resume, I will not be running’.

That seems to offer some wiggle room — does it mean that if talks resume before elections take place, Abu Mazen will reconsider? And, if that’s what he meant, that would suggest that his decision to resign intended as pressure on Israel (and Obama) — and not on his Palestinian critics and rivals…

The New York Times reported that “Neither Mr. Abbas nor the PLO’s Central Council, which met on Tuesday and Wednesday in the West Bank city of Ramallah, has announced a new date for elections. The council’s decision also extends the term of the Palestinian Authority’s parliament, although it is not functioning now because of the split between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas rejected the Central Council’s formula, saying its decisions were ‘illegal’ and a subversion of democracy. Mr. Abbas’s future is uncertain at a time when many Palestinians are losing faith in the idea of a negotiated peace deal with Israel … A few weeks ago, Mr. Abbas issued a decree for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held on Jan. 24. But Palestinian election officials subsequently said the voting could not be held because Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza, would not allow them to begin preparations for the elections there”. [And, as we have reported earlier, Abbas immediately agreed with the views of the Palestinian elections officials…] This NYTimes piece, by Isabelle Kershner, can be read in full here.

Politics as usual in Ramallah this weekend

The Jerusalem Post has a story today informing us that a report presented to members of the Israeli Knesset last Wednesday, and “compiled by the MACRO Center for Political Economics as part of its Position Papers on Social, Economic and Political Issues distributed to MKs and ministers on a biweekly basis to give them an overview of the major issues on the Knesset agenda”, has determined that “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s chances of being reelected are slim, and the likelihood the Palestinian Authority will be able to hold successful presidential elections in January is as low as ever“. The report added that “there is little legitimacy Abbas could expect to garner from the political contest. Last Thursday, Abbas indicated he wouldn’t run in the January elections, blaming the lack of diplomatic progress between the PA and Israel as the reason”… [However, contrary to what this article stated, the Palestinian Central Election Commission is not Hamas-run…] This JPost article can be read in full here.

At the PLO’s Palestine National Council (PNC) meeting in Ramallah today (held not in the Muqata’a, but this time in the more neutral venue of the Palestinian Red CRescent Society headquarters), Yasser Abed Rabbo, Secretary of the PLO Executive Committee, “announced that the PLO’s Central Committee would meet in December, when it would take ‘all means necessary’ to protect the institutions of the PA and presidency, and would ‘refuse any blackmail deals proposed by Hamas’,” according to a report published by Ma’an News Agency. According to Ma’an, the purpose of the PNC meeting was to commemorate “the fifth anniversary of the death of late President Yasser Arafat and the Declaration of Independence [that] rhe PNC passed … during its 19th session in Algeria on 15 November 1988”. Ma’an made no mention of any decision by the PNC on the issue of Palestinian President Abbas’ decision not to run in the next elections — or of Abbas’ subsequent decision to endorse the Palestinian Central Election Commission’s decision that it would be impossible, in the current conditions, to hold the elections that Abbas declared should be held on 24 January. [The PNC has more than 650 members world-wide, but there appeared to be something like 100 present at this session in Ramallah today.] This Ma’an report is posted here.

Hamas said earlier this week that it would prohibit commemorating the 1988 Proclamation of the State of Palestine, then reversed its decision today.

A report in Haaretz today says that a U.S. official told the London-based Saudi-owned “Pan-Arab” newspaper that the U.S. will not press for negotiations “before all sides are ready.” The same Haaretz report added that “Palestinian officials had said in talks with U.S. diplomats earlier this week in Ramallah that nothing short of an Israeli commitment to a complete settlement freeze would bring Abbas to reconsider his recently made threats of resignation”. This report can be viewed here.

Meanwhile, an annual event hosted by one of the weathiest Israeli-American businessmen, Haim Saban, has gotten underway, and, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post, “Unique to this year’s event, the delegates will travel to Ramallah on November 15 and meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad“. According to this report, “Slated to attend are former US president Bill Clinton, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham – the highest-level US delegation ever to attend the conference”. This report can be read in full here.

Yesterday, the JPost reported that JPOST “Construction projects are continuing to move forward throughout parts of the capital annexed after the Six Day War, The Jerusalem Post has learned, despite remarks made this week by Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Attias that not a single construction project had been authorized in the West Bank or east Jerusalem since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took office at the end of March. The construction work continues as Israel, the US and the Palestinians argue about all building beyond the pre-1967 Green Line, with the Palestinians demanding a full freeze as a precondition for resuming peace talks, the US urging a freeze but not as a precondition, and Israel expressing a readiness to weigh a freeze in the future … Haim Erlich, the coordinator for policy development at Ir Amim, an NGO which wants Jerusalem ‘equitably shared’ by Israelis and Palestinians, this week produced a list of more than 20 new projects in east Jerusalem that were currently being considered for approval by the municipality … ‘There were times when the Jerusalem municipality was not authorizing any building in east Jerusalem’, Erlich said. ‘And now they’re authorizing a number of projects. It shows that it is up to them, and they are making the decisions. Maybe the Housing and Construction Ministry isn’t directly involved, but construction projects are certainly going ahead’ … While the bulk of the ongoing housing projects are being built on privately-owned land and not officially subject to the Housing and Construction Ministry’s authorization, at least one of them – a three-pronged construction project for more than 750 housing units in the northeast Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev – has moved forward during Netanyahu’s term in office … Erlich added that the municipality’s district planning committee, through which all applications for building authorization must pass, was connected to the government. ‘Every project must go through the district planning committee, which is made up of government representatives’, Erlich told the Post on Wednesday”. This JPost report is published here.

The JPost also reported yesterday that “IDF troops used ammunition equivalent to live bullets against protesters at Ni’ilin on Friday, a site where a weekly protest by Palestinians and left-wing activists from Israel and abroad are held against the West Bank security barrier. The military ordinarily only uses protest-dispersal means such as tear gas canisters and a recently introduced ‘skunk bomb’ which is harmless but exudes a pungent stench. One Border Police officer was lightly hurt in Friday’s clash when he was hit by a rock. He was given preliminary treatment at the scene and later taken to a hospital. A rioter [sic] at Friday’s protest said the military fired ‘tutu bullets’, small metal pellets similar to those fired by BB guns but of a larger caliber (0.22 inches vs. the BB gun pellets’ 0.177 inches). The man said ‘tutu bullets’ have not been used against protesters since May. According to a press statement issued by left-wing NGO Betselem on July 9th, IDF Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avihai Mandelblit said in response to a query from the organization that ‘tutu bullets’ are not considered a protest-dispersal means. Mandelblit told Betselem back in July that the rules for using ‘tutu bullets’ are “‘estrictive, and parallel to the rules of engagement when using live ammunition’ … The IDF confirmed that 0.22 inch pellets were used on Friday. ‘The use of such ammunition is done against protesters where the use of violence has been ascertained, according to the restrictive protocol followed in incidents such as this’, a statement from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said”. This JPost report can be viewed here.

Today, Ma’an News AGency reported that “At least six demonstrators were arrested in the northern West Bank after they breached a section of Israel’s wall on Saturday, Palestinian and Israeli sources said. The protesters said they intended to march to lands that were left isolated behind the wall in Deir Al-Ghusun, northeast of Tulkarem, and managed to break open one of the barrier’s gates before Israeli soldiers invaded the village. One demonstrator was lightly injured after being struck with a rubber-coated bullet in the leg, onlookers said. ‘Today’s demonstration was the opening salvo for a public campaign by the Deir Al-Ghusun municipality and the affected farmers’, said Anarchists Against the Wall, an Israeli group, in a statement. ‘As the demonstration was coming to an end, a large group of soldiers surprised a group of the protesters by closing in on them from the direction of the village, and arrested 18 of the village’s youth’ … The wall in the area of the village cuts deep into West Bank land, leaving about 2,500 dunams (620 acres) of the village’s land on its west side, affecting 120 land owners, including dozens who have never received permits to tend to their farmland … Palestinian demonstrators breached the wall near Ramallah on Monday. Last Friday, protesters in the village of Ni’lin also managed to tear down a section”. The IDF reported that six persons “were detained for damaging the barrier” northeast of Tulkarem. This Ma’an report can be read in full here.

Worst Palestinian political crisis in years

There is chaos in Ramallah, as Palestinian politicians fumble for explanations of why — and even how — the Palestinian Ambassador in Geneva was authorized to withdraw support for a resolution he had been pushing to have the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva endorse the findings of the Goldstone Fact-Finding Mission that looked into last winter’s Gaza war.

Instead, members of the Islamic Conference and other countries in Africa and Asia tabled a motion — and this is what passed and was adopted instead — calling for the Human Rights Council to discuss the report again in March 2010.

“We just don’t know what happened”, said one official with the PLO’s Negotiations Support Unit in Ramallah.

“Nobody seems to know”, he said.

PLO Executive Committee meeting - Maan photo published on Electronic Intifada

On Sunday, Palestinian President Mahoud Abbas ordered — after consulting with the PLO Executive Committee and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad — an INVESTIGATION into how. exactly, the decision to withdraw support for resolution endorsing the Goldstone happened.

Then, Abbas travelled to Yemen.

Ma’an News Agency reported that “The secretary of the PLO Executive Committee, [Yasser] Abed Rabbo said in a statement that ‘after deliberating between President Abbas and members of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, President Abbas issued a decree to form a committee to find the reasons behind postponement of the debate on Goldstone’s report at the UN Human Rights Council” the statement added.

The three-member investigative committee is headed by PLO Executive Committee member Hanna Amireh, and includes Azmi Shuaibi, and  Rami Al-Hamdallah.  They are supposed to submit their report to the PLO EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE (and not to the public) in two weeks, according to the statement issued in Abed Rabbo’s name.

But, if the Palestinian president doesn’t know how such a momentous decision was made — an astonishing admission in itself —  then isn’t a little more urgency required?

Many Palestinian officials in Ramallah were not answering their phone on Sunday afternoon.  So far, no  official has made any explanation to the public — not even saying that “We don’t know what happened”.

UPDATE: CORRECTION ON TUESDAY 6 OCTOBER – APPARENTLY THE FATAH CENTRAL COMMITTEE DID NOT MEET, ALTHOUGH SOME OF THE MEMBERS HAVE MADE STATEMENTS: One knowledgeable Palestinian source said that the Central Committee had condemned the withdrawal of support for the resolution endorsing the conclusions contained in the Goldstone report. The Agence France Presse (APF) quoted recently-elected Central Committee member Mohammed Dahlan, here, as saying “he was against delaying the vote to endorse the report. ‘Fatah fully supports the Goldstone report. We don’t know the exact reasons for delaying (the vote)’, he told AFP on Saturday”.

Nasser al-Qudwa, former Palestinian Ambassador to the UN in New York, who subsequently served under his uncle, Yasser Arafat, as PA Foreign Minister, is another one of the newly-elected members of the Fatah Central Committee. He said “We issued an official statement on Friday that was clearly supportive of the report and its recommendations, and expressing great regreat at what happened. We also called for the Goldstone report to be upheld in different arenas”. He said on the phone on Sunday that he had told various Palestinian and Arab media that “what happened was wrong, and should be rectified”, and he said that some “follow-up ideas” were being considered.

Among the ideas he mentioned were: calling on the UN Secretary-General to present the Goldstone Report to the UN Security Council directly [we have already predicted, in our previous post, that this will not happen], or possibly calling for an extraordinary session of the Human Rights Council. But for the U.S., who has already complained that too much of the Council’s attention has been focused on Israel already, this will be a very objectionable . And, I wonder which members of the Human Rights Council would be willing to go along with another Palestinian move, just after this fiasco?

The Palestinian Ambassador in Geneva, Ibrahim Kraishi, apparently received instructions in writing — “an official paper from Ramallah”, the knowledgeable Palestinian source said — but it has not yet been made clear who sent it. “These are the worst days ever for the Palestinian Authority,” this source added. “Say anything you like, I can only agree with you … This is very painful”.

The Palestinian Ambassador in Geneva, Ibrahim Khraishi, is still there, and has not been recalled, this official said.

As we reported yesterday, here, he is the only Palestinian official whose fingerprints can be found on this move.

A demonstration has been called for Monday at noon in downtown Ramallah.  One big question is how the Palestinian security forces will behave.   In the past, they have been brutally repressive of any anti-regime demonstrations.

One likely fall guy, or scapegoat, appears at the moment to be Riyad Al-Maliki, who is the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister.  Reuters reported that “Abbas’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Malki, said the Authority agreed with postponing until March a vote that could lead to the Security Council referring Israel and Hamas to the International Criminal Court. Israel has denounced the report as biased”.  This report is posted here.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is also taking a share of the blame.

But, a few very well-connected Palestinian officials are pinning the blame squarely on the Palestinian Ambassador in Geneva. And YNet is reporting that “According to another PA official … the fact that Israel’s envoy to the UN in Geneva made the agreement public ‘complicated matters’ for the Authority and made it appear as though it were cooperating with Israel ‘at the expense of those who were killed in Gaza’.” This YNet story is published here .

So, by this reasoning if he had dissembled and lied and been vague, the Palestinian Ambassdor in Geneva would have done a good job?

However, Amira Hass reported in Haaretz on Sunday that “Palestinian sources told Haaretz that Abbas made the decision to delay the vote immediately after meeting with the U.S. Consul General last Thursday, without the knowledge of the PLO leadership or the government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and without any consultation … The Palestinian sources said they believed that the consul general had passed on an unequivocal request from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ensure that the document remain on the table at the Human Rights Council … Abbas on Saturday made his first direct comments about media speculation on the issue, saying that his initial position had been misrepresented and that this was not a case of him withdrawing his support for the Goldstone report”. Amira Hass also reported that this situation has “shocked the Palestinian public”. Her article can be read in full here.

AFP reinforced this line, reporting that a senior member of the PLO said, under condition of anonymity that “Abu Mazen (Abbas) was himself responsible for this decision … He was under pressure from many states, especially the United States and Britain”.

UPDATE: Abbas himself said in an interview shown on Monday on Al-Arabiyya TV and Al-Jazeera TV that it wasn’t such a big deal, that people should be patient, and that March 2010 is just around the corner.

Palestinian Economy Minister Basem Khoury resigned on Saturday in protest of the decision to withdraw support from the Goldstone report. Khoury had recently taken heavy flak for meeting Israeli Minister for “Regional” Cooperation, and had promised not to do it again in the current circumstances. Now, he has resigned.

Planning Minister Ali Jarbawi said “someone made a mistake” and that he would seek an explanation at a Cabinet meeting on Monday, according to the Associated Press (AP). The AP report added that “Abbas’ critics are unlikely to go after Abbas personally and are more likely to seek the dismissal of advisers seen as encouraging him to take the decision. Abbas aides have defended the decision, saying the Palestinians needed more time to win international support for the Goldstone report”. This AP report is posted here. This AP report also cast doubt on the reported motives for the resignation of the economy minister: “It was unclear whether the resignation was to protest Abbas’ decision, and Khoury declined comment”.

Palestinian Minister of Social Affairs Majida Al-Masri said Saturday that the official Palestinian stance on the UN-backed Goldstone report harmed Palestinian national interests and embarrassed supporters of the Palestinian people, according to a report by Ma’an News Agency which added that “The first member of the caretaker government to speak out against the Palestine Liberation Organization move, Al-Masri … called the stance of the Palestinian ambassador to the UN ‘contradictory to Palestinian national consensus’, and a move that ‘angered friends and allies of the Palestinian people’.  Al-Masr is, a member of the politburo of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).  Ma’an noted that ” DFLP leaders also accused the PLO, of which Hamas is not a member, of making a decision that ‘deepened Palestinian rivalry and posed questions about the motives for such a stance and the decision makers who gave directives’.”   Ma’an’s report can be read in full here.

In another report, Ma’an noted that “A spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) slammed the role of the Palestinian Authority … and described the PA decision as ‘irresponsible’ and one that deeply harms the Palestinian struggle … In his statement, the PFLP spokesperson said the PA request to delay the Goldstone report was putting to waste what could have been a major tool in the Palestinian struggle, and in fact encourages Israel and Israeli forces to continue to practice oppression against the Palestinian people. ‘There are no justifications for these actions’, a statement said.”   This Ma’an report added that “When probed for a rationale PA sources said they wanted ‘unanimity’ in the Human Rights Council on the report, and noted discussion on the matter would have a negative influence on the peace negotiations.   This Ma’an report is posted here.

The only explanation that has given for the decision to withdraw support from the vote is “American pressure”.

The U.S, Administration seems not to have correctly calculated the Palestinian public reaction, and its revulsion against this move. The Palestinian Authority is in danger of losing legitimacy.

Families in Gaza who lost relatives, and who also lost their homes and sources of livelihood were devastated by the decision. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh joined them at a press conference in Gaza City to denounce what had happened. Haniyeh reportedly called the decision to withdraw Palestinian support for the Goldstone report “reckless and irresponsible”.

Palestinian Academic Salman Salman said at the end of a three-day conference on “the fading prospects for a state” at Al-Quds University in Abu Dis, outside Jerusalem, on Saturday that “It was stunning to see what happened yesterday on TV, the withdrawal of the resolution … It never happened before. Why? Because it might make Israel angry? If so, what kind of peace do we think we will have?”

One respected Palestinian journalist said on the phone on Sunday that he was angry — and that everybody he knows is angry. “I think it’s a catastrophe”, he added.

Another Palestinian journalist who works with the Palestinian Media Center said angrily on the phone that “the PA leadership knows very well what is behind the decision”. Although Palestinian Ambassadors are supposed to be appointed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) — the body that concluded the Oslo peace agreements with Israel. and that was recognized by Israel. As a result of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was established as an interim authority in the occupied Palestinian territory. According to the Oslo Accords it is not supposed to conduct foreign policy. But, this journalist noted, it is now a “mixture”, and the PA Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki is appointing ambassadors with the full knowledge of Israel, he noted, without any apparent problem,

Last week, as we reported here Haaretz reported that the Israeli Defense Minister had made it clear that Israel would not agree to release telecommunications frequencies to the Palestinian Authority unless the Palestinians dropped attempts to get the International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate last winter’s 22-day IDF Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. If Israel does not release the frequencies by October 15, the Wataniya mobile phone company set up between Palestinian and Kuwaiti, then Qatari, investors, will hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for substantial financial penalties due to the delay.

On October 1, Jerusalem-based Ben Lynfield had an excellent report in The Independent saying that “Israel is threatening to kill off a crucial West Bank economic project unless the Palestinian Authority withdraws a request to the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged Israeli crimes during last winter’s Gaza war. Shalom Kital, an aide to defence minister Ehud Barak, said today that Israel will not release a share of the radio spectrum that has long been sought by the Palestinian Authority to enable the launch of a second mobile telecommunications company unless the PA drops its efforts to put Israeli soldiers and officers in the dock over the Israeli operation. ‘It’s a condition. We are saying to the Palestinians that “if you want a normal life and are trying to embark on a new way, you must stop your incitement”, Mr. Kital said. “”We are helping the Palestinian economy but one thing we ask them is to stop with these embarrassing charges”. As long as the Wataniya Mobile company is unable to begin its operations, communications costs are likely to remain inordinately high for Palestinian businesses and individuals. But thwarting the company benefits four unauthorized Israeli operators who make sizeable profits in the Palestinian market using infrastructure they have set up in the illegal Israeli settlements across the West Bank … The Israeli stance on the frequencies marks a flouting of the efforts of the international community’s Middle East envoy, Tony Blair, who last month urged that the’is very aware’ there will be no release unless the Palestinians drop their request to the ICC”. Ben Lynfield’s report in The Independent can be read in full here.

The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah reported on 2 October, citing in part Ben Lynfield’s story in The Independent, that “Although the PA acted under US pressure, there are strong indications that the commercial interests of Palestinian and Gulf businessmen closely linked to Abbas also played a part”.  The Electronic Intifada story is here.

However, it is not likely that even the financial penalties that MAY be chalked up by delays in the Wataniya deal are enough to have justified the very substantial political costs that the Palestinian Authority may pay after having withdrawn its support for a UN Human Rights council resolution endorsing the Goldstone report.

There may be quid pro quo that were offered that have not yet publicly been revealed.

But so far, the only change is that Israeli sources are reporting that they expect negotiations with the Palestinians to resume this week during, or right after, a forthcoming visit by U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell. But, it was not the Israelis who broke off the talks, but the Palestinians, and during the very IDF military operation against Gaza that the Goldstone report is all about. This would, then, be yet another Palestinian concession…

Meanwhile, the political crisis that is developing now is threatening the very legitimacy of the Palestinian leadership. The U.S. and any others involved in putting this pressure on the Palestinians may have badly miscalculated.

Hamas, Fatah + Palestinian Factions agree to try to form one government

After the first day of full meetings in Cairo today on national reconciliation, the main Palestinian factions — including hitherto bitter rivals Hamas and Fatah — said they had reached agreement in principle on a new government.

There is not yet agreement on what kind of new government it should be.
Continue reading Hamas, Fatah + Palestinian Factions agree to try to form one government

Who do Palestinians think is going to clean up after them, their Mothers?

Here, we are told, there are other problems that are bigger, more important, more pressing than pollution and the environment. “Politics”, for example, is both the explanation of what is wrong, and of why we can do nothing about it.

Yet, every hour of every day, the problem is growing.

Who do Palestinians think is going to clean up after them?

Why can’t Palestinians take care about their garbage, and throw it away properly?

Here, in Jerusalem, the conventional Palestinian wisdom is that the “municipality” — that is, of Jerusalem, Israel — refuses to come to Palestinian areas because (1) they discriminate against Arabs, (2) have an enormous disdain for Palestinians, or (3) are afraid of Palestinians.

The municipality takes our money (Arnona, the municipal tax), but refuses to provide us services, many Palestinians say. A few Palestinians say: we pay Arnona, but we refuse to ask the municipality for services, because we may be accused of “collaboration”.

In the meantime, the landscape of Palestinian areas is littered — littered — with garbage. It is, I am sorry to have to say, disgusting.

Our efforts to conduct an informal poll about this, it must be reported, have resulted in more resentful or sullen silences than useful answers.

You can just imagine the confused and very annoyed reactions I’ve gotten when I ask, provocatively, “Who do Palestinians think is going to clean up after them, their Mothers?”

In a local shop, I said no thank you, I don’t need a plastic bag for my purchases — and I was told, with the best of intentions — that it was unseemly for a lady to walk around with her purchases, without a plastic bag. So, I will do what I did in Geneva, which is to carry my own bags when I am going shopping. Except for when I forget.

Large parts of the urban and suburban Palestinian landscape is littered with blowing plastic bags — mainly blue, or black — mainly in the hot and arid days of summer.

Plastic bags are caught in the branches of trees, and remain there.

Workmen who came to my new apartment would open packages of supplies — and then throw them on the floor of my apartment. I was supposed to pick up after them! Could they really have no idea how insulted I felt? Well, no, explained one friend — if they were working in the home of a rich person, they would do a terrific clean-up after themselves. So, it is an issue of respect, as I suspected.

And so, as suspected, this garbage problem is a real manifestation of a general lack of respect …

A real and effective political struggle would have to deal with this. And the real liberation of Palestine will have to have a real struggle against throwing garbage everywhere, without picking it up!

It is noticeably cleaner in the West Bank than in East Jerusalem and its suburbs.  (Of course, it is  clean in West Jerusalem.  But Israel does have quit a lot of pollution issues –particularly untreated sewage, and not only along its Mediterranean coast…

A friend who lives in Beitin village, just outside Ramallah (but now a 45-minute drive away, rather than the 3-minute drive it always was before, because of Israeli blocked roads to protect the growing Israeli settlement of Beit El) said that the municipal council leader has lead a three-year, but eventually successful, campaign against garbage littering in their village. He went to the Mosque, eventually, and made numerous speeches with explanations. After a three-year campaign, there is now progress. But there are still problems, she reports — school children buy small bags of chips after school, and just disdainfully throw the bags right on the ground. (As if they were some big pashas, with slaves to pick up in their wake.) Still, the overall problem is nevertheless reduced. “My sister-in-law used to throw her household garbage (very loosely wrapped in a store’s plastic bag, so that it would splatter on impact) OFF THE ROOF! [n.b., this was 2.5 stories up, above the street.] It was my Mother (the sister-in-law’s Mother-in-law) who changed this, by shouting at her every morning to clean up her garbage”.

Of course, the Mother-in-law has to be progressive, and convinced, as is Umm Tamim …

I just spotted this, on the blog Aquacool, being written by a “transplanted” Palestinian-Jordanian now living with her husband and son in Tunisia: “One can still see people throwing garbage out their car windows; a study showed that Arabs alone throw away around 25 billion plastic bags on daily basis!…”
Continue reading Who do Palestinians think is going to clean up after them, their Mothers?