In an otherwise uninteresting commentary published as an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Dennis Ross, adviser to several American presidents on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, suggested that … as Israel’s Supreme Court has just recommended that there should be “no additional quarries” in the West Bank that are Israeli-owned, there is now some sort of “opening” for Palestinian ownership!
[Have we mentioned how much the terrible Qalandia checkpoint is clogged up by the huge double-dump truck convoys loaded with cut stone and spraying rock dust all over the area? These huge stone transport trucks mix with tens of thousands of stressed and some crazed-aggressive drivers, on a two-lane road — with just one lane in each direction. Many tens of thousands of people, and perhaps more, are forced to drive on this dreadful route around or through Qalandia every single day, for lack of any alternative routes…]
Ross’ piece in the Washington Post is entitled, How to break a Middle East stalemate…
It is an astonishing reading of the Israeli Supreme Court ruling.
In effect, as we have written earlier [on December 28] here, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by Tel Aviv-based lawyer Michael Sfard on behalf of the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din against the Israeli exploitation of Palestinian natural resources in the occupied West Bank. The only argument from the Yesh Din petition retained by the Israeli Supreme Court is that there should be no more Israeli-owned stone quarries. The Israeli government supported that argument in the Yesh Din petition, too — so it wasn’t really very hard for the Israeli Supreme Court to back it.
But, for Dennis Ross to extrapolate from that Israeli Supreme Court decision rejecting the petition, and argue that the Israeli Supreme Court has now opened the way to Palestinian ownership, is a surprising logical leap.
Dennis Ross wrote [referring to the Haaretz story here as his source], in his Washington Post opinion piece:
To give one example, there are Palestinian stone masonry factories in Area A, but Palestinians have limited access to the rock quarries in the West Bank, which are in Area C. In a case brought against Israeli ownership of the rock quarries, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled late last month that no additional quarries should be Israeli-owned. That ruling creates an opening for private Palestinian ownership, should any new quarries be established — and there clearly is room for more”.
Continue reading Dennis Ross: Palestinians should set up their own stone quarries in the West Bank!
American-Palestinian businessman Sam Bahour, an involved commentator living in Ramallah, has written an Op-Ed piece taking a look at the challenges facing the Egyptian protests through the lens of the Palestinian experience. Sam’s article can be read in full here or here.
Here are some excerpts:
“What we are witnessing is the removal and replacement of leaders, not an upgrading of the political systems that allowed someone like the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to remain in power for 30 years and then have the audacity to position his son to succeed him, while the Egyptian people sank into deepening poverty. Unrest across the region will force these reactionary regimes to make some minimal changes, such as introducing term limits, which should have been done decades ago. But these knee-jerk legislative changes are solely aimed at persuading the demonstrators to go home.
“Likewise, no one should belittle the fact that hundreds of thousands of average citizens are challenging their governments in the streets. This is not like demonstrations as we know them in western countries. It is the real thing. Serious conviction – and sustained repression – is the prerequisite to get many people to challenge a police state that ignores even the most basic human rights.
Continue reading Sam Bahour: looking at the Egyptian protests through a Palestinian lens
American-Palestinian businessman Sam Bahour, living in Ramallah, writes in Haaretz today another version of his recent analysis criticizing “feel-good plans” to solve the Middle East morass by providing jobs (primarily factory assembly-line jobs) to Palestinians in the West Bank to invest them into salaries, pensions (and, ultimately, even mortagages — something previously unheard-of in Palestinian areas) as a way to make impossible, for financial considerations, any further resistance to the continued effects of occupation, and continued denial of human and political rights.
Sam notes that “These mega-employment projects present a serious challenge to those who are striving to build an independent and viable economic foundation for a future Palestinian state. Because the zones will be dependent on Israeli cooperation to function, and because they will exist within an Israeli-designed economic system that ensures Palestinian dependence on Israel, they cannot form the basis of a sovereign economy. Relying on them will perpetuate the status quo of dependency and risks further entrenching Israel’s occupation, albeit possibly under another name, like statehood … Although the sectorial theme of each zone, assuming it has already been decided, has not been made public, if existing zones (such as the maquiladoras in Mexico, or those in Jamaica ) are any indication, the zones in Palestine will host “dirty” businesses – those that are pollution-prone and sweatshop-oriented. Jordan’s Qualified Industrial Zones provide a regional example. Like many others around the world, they are notorious for their exploitative labor practices. According to two consultants to the Israeli government, the West Bank zones, several of which are already under construction, are planned to employ 150,000-200,000 Palestinians, nearly the same number that used to travel daily to Israel for work before the second intifada”.
His analysis in Haaretz can be read in full here.
A 14-month old boy died of tear gas inhalation in the Isawiyya neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Friday. The toddler was apparently at home when the tear gas was fired [by Israeli Border Police], though Israeli media reports misleadingly suggest that the child died “during a riot”. YNet is also reporting here that “a possibility that the infant’s death was accidental – as a result of a gas leak at his home – is also being investigated”. An Israeli police spokesperson told the media that no report of an infant’s death has been received.
[And, a 20-year old fishermen was reported killed by Israeli fire on the Gaza coast on Friday.]
Earlier in the week, two men were killed in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan at 4 a.m. on Wednesday. A private Israeli security guard driving alone in the neighborhood said he felt threatened and feared for his life when he came upon the men, and fired.
Normally, people should be able to be out on the streets at 4 a.m. without fear of being shot and killed as a suspected threat. One victim had a criminal record — and a screwdriver and a knife in his pocket — YNet reported.
But, there has been no call yet for any investigation into this killing.
UPDATE on SUNDAY 26 SEPTEMBER: Lisa Goldman has just reported in +972 magazine that the Association for Civil Rights in Israel has formally requested a [police only?] investigation. Her article is posted here.
A spokesperson for the private security agency which employed the man who did the shooting told YNet that “The guards asked for permission to use crowd dispersal means, but were turned down, so the only weapon left is a pistol … The security guards’ job is to safeguard the [n.b. – Jewish] residents’ lives and property. They should not have to deal with disturbances.” This is posted here.
Continue reading 14-month old child dies of tear gas inhalation in East Jerusalem + more
A new crop of billboards has gone up at strategic locations around Ramallah — that is, at the entrances to the city, where diplomats from donor countries is most likely to see them.
The second target seems to be the cadres of the Palestinian Authority’s various Ramallah-based ministries.
The billboards, sponsored by USAID, show headshots of various young people. Next to their faces are [in Arabic] the words:
“I’m very happy…about my new school…”etc.
This promotional campaign must have cost many, many tens if not hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars.
The new schools (seven of them, constructed by USAID and handed over to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank in 2009) are great.
These USAID ads are patronizing, stupid and embarassing.
A few hours after these billboards were visible, the U.S. announced that invitations were being sent to Israel and to the current Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to come to Washington D.C. on 2 September for a [re]-launch of direct talks.
Continue reading Happy smiling faces?