Mandate for Palestine - July 24, 1922

Mandate for Palestine - July 24, 1922
Jordan is 77% of former Palestine - Israel, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza comprise 23%.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

FIFA : Palestine and Reality

[Published June 2010]

The World Cup presently being contested by 32 countries in South Africa has already achieved a certain amount of notoriety and controversy for the number of red cards and yellow cards handed out - or failed to be handed out - to offending players by referees whose interpretations of the rules continue to come under ever increasing scrutiny.

The referee’s decision is final - as Australia’s Harry Kewell found out - when sent off for a handball in the drawn game against Ghana.

Australia’s head of national teams John Boultbee explained:

At the moment, there is no avenue for challenging a referee’s decision apart from in cases of mistaken identity,”

Perhaps FIFA needs to look at a real case of mistaken identity within its own ranks arising from its admission of the Palestinian Football Federation as a member of FIFA in 1988 in contravention of FIFA’s own governing articles.

Article 10.1 of FIFA’s constitution provides:

Any Association which is responsible for organising and supervising football in its country may become a Member of FIFA. In this context, the expression “country” shall refer to an independent state recognised by the international Community.

Despite the most intensive and concerted diplomatic efforts conducted since 1993 - no country named “Palestine” has yet been created or recognized as an independent state or territorial entity. The chances of this occurring are next to nothing.

Yet FIFA has created its own state of “Palestine” by denoting its:

(i) Area - as being 6326 square kilometers
(ii) Main cities - as being Nablus, Jericho, Hebron, Gaza, Bethlehem and Ramallah
(iii) Population - as being 3.38 million
(iv) Currency - as the Palestinian Pound
(v) Neighbouring countries - as being Egypt, Jordan and Israel

No map is provided to let the soccer fraternity or anyone else for that matter into FIFA’s creative geographic ingenuity. It is nothing but a figment of FIFA’s vivid imagination.

Based on the statement by FIFA that “Palestine” is a country located between Egypt, Jordan and Israel - one might conclude that in FIFA’s view “Palestine” is the area today called the West Bank and Gaza. The area approximates in size to that designated by FIFA and the main cities identified by FIFA could appear to confirm that view.

The issue becomes clouded however when one considers FIFA’s claimed population of “Palestine”. The 500000 Jews living in the West Bank don’t seem to be included in FIFA’s population statistic. One must wonder why there has been this deliberate exclusion. Does FIFA believe the West Bank should be Judenrein and that Jews don’t count and are not to be counted in the population of “Palestine”?

FIFA really embarks on a voyage of pure fantasy when declaring Palestine’s currency to be the Palestinian pound.

There is no such currency. There once was - but it is defunct. You can see it in a museum-like Lucite case outside the Ramallah office of Jihad al-Wazir - described as “a central banker without a bank” - alongside coins from Alexander the Great.

What possessed FIFA to indulge in this political madness remains unexplained. Certainly an explanation is called for.

Perhaps FIFA would do well to heed the words of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Zuhair Mohsen who told the Dutch newspaper Trouw in 1977:

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct Palestinian people to oppose Zionism.

“For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa,Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”

The creation of Mohsen’s Palestinian state still remains unfulfilled to this day - except in the warped view of FIFA.

If FIFA is looking for any statement more contemporary on the subject - it might like to consider the statement by Palestinian Arab journalist Khalid Amayreh who recently stated:

“... the Jordanian and Palestinian peoples are the two most homogeneous and closest Arab peoples, given their ethnic, cultural and religious commonality. We are actually one people, as Arab clans on both sides of the River Jordan have one common ancestry.

This indisputable fact should debunk all the myths about any proclaimed intrinsic distinctiveness, let alone contradictions, between Jordanians and Palestinians.

Has FIFA unintentionally been duped into creating a State that does not exist despite the current efforts of the Quartet - America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - to bring it to fruition during the last seven years?

It is poor form for FIFA to not play by its own admission rules - yet expect World Cup players to abide by its playing rules.

Hopefully my appeal to FIFA will not be drowned out by the vuvuzeelas presently making their presence felt at the World Cup tournament. Failure to correct the current situation or amend its Constitution should result in FIFA getting a red card.

Playing football - not politics - should be FIFA’s only focus.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Gaza - Red Cross Plays Politics And Ignores Evacuation

[Published June 2010]

The Red Cross - like the United Nations - has unfortunately chosen to play the political card in calling for Israel to end its blockade of Gaza - rather than using its prestige and influence to call for the Gazans to be given the opportunity to be evacuated from Gaza until the political situation is resolved.

The political standoff in Gaza is complicated, has been ongoing since 2007 and is unlikely to be resolved for a considerable period of time.

The disputants and disputes are many and varied - but all involve Hamas as the current governing authority in Gaza in dispute with:

1. Israel - as it seeks to end Hamas political control in Gaza, stop the firing of rockets from Gaza into civilian population centers in Israel, foil the ongoing attempts at terrorist incursions into Israel from Gaza, and procure the release of its captured soldier Gilad Shalit who has been denied visits from the Red Cross for the last four years

2. The Palestinian Authority - as it seeks to regain political control of Gaza since its loss to Hamas in a bloody coup in 2007 and to confirm its authority to control the direction and enforcement of any decisions to be made in the ongoing negotiations with Israel for the “two state solution”

3. Egypt - as it resists efforts to lift its blockade of Gaza which it has been enforcing jointly with Israel in its own national interest since 2007

4. America and the European Union - as they continue to grapple with how to deal with Hamas - declared to be a terrorist organization by them.

The ending of the blockade will not make these disputes disappear overnight. It will only strengthen Hamas and serve to make these disputes even more difficult to resolve. It will afford Hamas the opportunity to build up its military power and allow the free entry of terrorists into and out of Gaza.

Neither Israel nor Egypt will end their blockade although they have already taken steps to ease their effect. Any such steps will not greatly help reduce the shambles that Gaza has become.

Stuck in the middle are Gaza’s residents. They cannot be considered entirely blameless for the precarious position in which they find themselves.

On not one but two occasions Gazans have elected Hamas to power over its rival Fatah - the party chaired by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

In municipal elections held in the 10 districts comprising Gaza in January 2005, Hamas won 75 seats out of the 118 seats contested.

This result was then replicated in elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council in January 2006 when Hamas won 15 out of the 24 seats in Gaza with Fatah winning only 6. Hamas captured 74 seats to Fatah’s 45 seats out of the 132 seats contested in the West Bank and Gaza.

Hamas can certainly claim it has a mandate to rule as Gaza’s government. However no opportunity has been given to Gazans to say whether they wish Hamas to continue in power - and there is no indication Hamas will give them that opportunity in the near future.

The release of a report this week by an Israeli human rights organization - B’Tselem - shows the price Gazans are paying at this very moment and underscores why evacuation must be offered to them as an immediate option.

The report states that :

1. 98 percent of Gaza residents suffer from planned blackouts lasting up to eight or ten hours a day. The other two percent of the population do not receive any electricity at all

2. At the end of 2009, 93 percent of the wells were found to be polluted with high quantities of chloride and nitrates, far in excess of the World Health Organization’s recommended levels. The water supply is defective, and thousands of residents are not even connected to the water grid. Waste treatment has also been affected: every day, some 100,000 cubic meters of untreated, or partially untreated, wastewater flow into the sea.

3. Since January 2009 fishermen are not allowed to go more than three nautical miles from the coast. The waters within this range yield a meager supply of fish, and fishermen find it difficult to make a living and to meet the demand for fish.

4. 95 percent of the factories and workshops are closed. Tens of thousands of persons have lost their livelihood, and unemployment now exceeds 40 percent. As a result, more than 70 percent of the population depends on aid from international organizations to obtain food.

5. Exports of manufactured goods and agricultural produce other than strawberries and flowers is prohibited.
Hamas is now holding Gazans to ransom in its bid to maintain and increase its political power in Gaza as it refuses to accept from Israel any permitted humanitarian aid such as foodstuffs and medicine intercepted by Israel on the Gaza flotilla and the Rachel Corrie last week.

Hamas’ refusal to allow the delivery of such aid should be reason enough for the Red Cross to call for the evacuation of Gaza’s civilian population. Hamas is now blatantly attempting - for political reasons - to bite the humanitarian aid hand that feeds its citizens.

Knowing the straits Gazans are in - the Red Cross can only be seen as complicit in any further suffering of Gaza’s civilian population if it fails to call for such an evacuation.

Playing the blame game and attempting to place the responsibility for the current problems in Gaza on Israel alone - when other nations are just as involved in bringing Hamas to its heels - is not going to solve the Gazans’ suffering.

Taking action now to evacuate the Gazans will relieve that suffering until the political issues have been resolved. Perhaps Hamas will attempt to stop Gazans being evacuated. Perhaps many will not want to leave.

Until the Red Cross canvasses these options no one will really know.

What is critically important however is that the Red Cross gets on its moral high horse and calls for evacuation - and soon. That does not mean ceasing to call for both Israel and Egypt to ease - or end - the blockade. But no easing - or even an end to the blockade - can terminate the massive humanitarian problems publicly revealed in B’Tselem’s report in the short term.

Evacuation is an option that must be pursued - and the Red Cross should be in the vanguard demanding it be implemented.

Failure to do so will define the Red Cross as completely lacking in impartiality. It will endanger the proud record the Red Cross has established as a humanitarian organization assisting and relieving human suffering - irrespective of the politics that create those humanitarian problems.

Trying to play the political card will only ensure that the Red Cross will become another victim in the ongoing conflict between Hamas and its political adversaries

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

United Nations Must Liberate Gazans - Not Gaza

[Published June 2010]

The statements issuing from senior United Nations officials following the two failed attempts by the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza during the past week were strident and uncompromising - but entirely misdirected and unhelpful in seeking an end to the misery and suffering being endured by Gaza’s civilian population.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon headed the protests condemning Israel’s failure to allow the blockade to be breached stating:

“The long-running closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is counter-productive, unsustainable and wrong. It punishes innocent civilians. It must be lifted by the Israeli authorities immediately.”

The Secretary General was supported by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco who told the UN Security Council that :

“today’s bloodshed would have been avoided if repeated calls on Israel to end the counterproductive and unacceptable blockade of Gaza had been heeded…the blockade is unacceptable and counterproductive and must end.”

Not wishing to be left out on a limb - Richard Falk - the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory - characterized the blockade of Gaza as a

“massive form of collective punishment… Unless prompt and decisive action is taken to challenge the Israeli approach to Gaza all of us will be complicit in criminal policies that are challenging the survival of an entire beleaguered community,”

Strangely missing from all three statements was any mention or criticism of:

(i) Egypt - which had also been maintaining the blockade of Gaza for as long as Israel.

(ii)Hamas - which had assumed control of Gaza in 2007 after a bloody internecine struggle with the Palestinian Authority - leading to the joint blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt in an attempt to restrict the flow of arms, war materials and terrorists into Gaza.

(iii)The FGM - whose motives in organizing the attempted breaches of the blockade went far beyond those of a humanitarian organisation purely seeking to end the suffering of the Gazans.

The FGM’s end game is identical to that of Hamas - the destruction of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people. This is not a secret agenda but is made very clear in its mission statement which declares:

“6. We recognize the right of all Palestinian refugees and exiles and their heirs to return to their homes in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories; to recover their properties, and to receive compensation for damage, dispossession and unlawful use of such property. This is an individual and not a collective right, and cannot be negotiated except by the individual”

The FGM is perfectly entitled to espouse such views. However the insistence on this right of return has been one of the main stumbling blocks in arriving at the “two-state solution” over the last 17 years.

Israel will not accept this demand - whether it is sought to be enforced by individuals or by either Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. Compensating both Palestinian Arab refugees as well as Jews who fled Arab countries following the 1948 War through the establishment of an international claims tribunal offers a possible way forward.

However if return - rather than compensation - is to be pressed then it can only ever come about as a result of conflict - which will make the current humanitarian problem in Gaza pale into insignificance by comparison with the humanitarian crisis that would be created if force was employed to achieve this objective.

Breaking the blockade will greatly strengthen Hamas in pursuing the right of return that the FGM also openly calls for - by allowing Hamas the freedom to bring into Gaza whatever weapons and terrorists it wants.

The FGM does not seem to be too concerned that in seeking to end the suffering of the Gazans this might become the prelude to inflicting suffering on the Israelis as Hamas pursues its stated aim of liberating Palestine.

The Gazans therefore remain stuck between Israel and Hamas as human shields to deter any military efforts by Israel to defeat this Hamas end game. Their plight has become increasingly evident since Israel’s unsuccessful attempt to rid Gaza of Hamas control in January 2009.

The UN are being taken for fools and need to rethink their attitude to Gaza.

If the UN truly wishes to end the privation and suffering of the Gazans then there is only one way out of the current predicament - the evacuation of the Gazans from Gaza.

The Gazans are in a situation fraught with danger as they live between two combatants - Israel and Hamas . Gazans need to be offered the opportunity to evacuate Gaza to safer havens until it is safe for them to return to Gaza.

Evacuation through Egypt to those countries willing to accept the evacuees should not be beyond the capacity of the 191 countries that make up the UN. Certainly the 57 states that comprise the Organization of the Islamic Conference must play a leading role in accepting the evacuees.

Israel was able to absorb one million refugees from Russia. It should not be beyond a concerned world to accommodate a similar number of Gazan evacuees on a temporary basis until circumstances permit their return to Gaza.

Certainly many Gazans will not want to be evacuated - but all should at least be given the opportunity to do so by the UN.

Israel will not be ending its blockade though it may well ease it. However useless calls such as those emanating from the Secretary General and his minions calling for an end to the blockade will continue to be rejected - with good reason - by Israel.

Israel is entitled in its national interest to do everything in its power to blunt Hamas and secure the safety and security of all Israelis - both Jews and Arabs.

Instead of futilely continuing to challenge Israel’s approach to Gaza - the UN should try to do something positive to end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Failure to implement a policy of evacuation of Gaza’s civilian population will indeed make the UN complicit in failing Gaza’s beleagured community when it had the opportunity to end their current suffering - but did nothing constructively to do so.

The UN at the very least must follow the practice of its own High Commissioner for Human Rights — Navi Pillai - who at the height of the Sri Lanka conflict in 2009 called for the evacuation of the entire civilian population by land or sea.

Failure to similarly do so now in the case of Gaza will condemn the UN as a totally impotent, biased and irrelevant body.

Gaza Gazing And Hamas Blockading

[Published June 2010]

Any sense of perspective or calm consideration of the tragic events that took the lives of nine people and wounded scores of others has flown out the window following Israel’s interception of a flotilla of vessels attempting to break through a naval blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza.

The concept of the presumption of innocence apparently has no application where Israel is concerned - as the rapidly growing number of demonstrations now taking place around the world have already declared Israel guilty of crimes against humanity, piracy, banditry and state sponsored terrorism - aided and abetted by unsubstantiated and unverified statements issuing from many of the delegations at the Security Council.

It must be remembered that this naval blockade was part of a land and sea blockade that was implemented by Israel and Egypt in 2007 following the bloody overthrow of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza by Hamas - an organisation pledged to carry out the destruction of Israel and now in charge of an area of territory from which it was free to carry out its stated objective.

The Palestinian Authority had refused to surrender power to Hamas despite being rejected by the voters in January 2006 - a rift that still remains unhealed today.

The governments of the European Union, Israel, Japan, Canada, and the United States classify Hamas as a terrorist organization. The United Kingdom and Australia classify only Hamas’ military wing as a terrorist organization.

Israel’s reasons for justifying and imposing the blockade were to prevent Hamas from obtaining weapons, armaments and war materials that could be used by it in attempting to carry out its threats to end Israel’s existence as a Jewish State.

Israel has - nonetheless - continued to allow the supply of food and humanitarian aid on a needs basis to the civilian population caught in the middle of this conflict. Restricting such supplies has been the subject of many complaints - especially in preventing the entry of cement and building materials which Israel considers might be used for military rather than civilian purposes.

No food shortage in Gaza

Well over a million tons of humanitarian supplies entered Gaza from Israel over the last 18 months equalling nearly a ton of aid for every man, woman and child in Gaza. Millions of dollars worth of international food aid continually flows through the Israeli humanitarian apparatus, ensuring that there is no food shortage in Gaza.

Egypt’s reasons for imposing and continuing the blockade were entirely different as Egypt’s Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit explained in January 2009 in the following report:

“(Egypt) cannot open Rafah [crossing from Egypt to Gaza - ed] unless Abbas’ Palestinian Authority - which runs the West Bank - controls the crossing and international monitors are present.

He said Hamas wants Rafah opened because it would represent implicit Egyptian recognition of the militant group’s control of Gaza. Of course this is something we cannot do, Aboul Gheit said, because it would undermine the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and consecrate the split between Gaza and the West Bank.

Aboul Gheit said Egypt had proposed that Arab foreign ministers who gathered in Cairo a day earlier request Hamas allow Palestinian Authority control of Rafah. But Syria rejected the proposal, he said”

Israel has justified its interception of the flotilla and the subsequent events that occurred as being legal in international law.

Israeli spokesman Mark Regev explained the legal basis for Israel’s claim to ABC Lateline interviewer Leigh Sales:

LEIGH SALES: Does Israel agree that this incident occurred in international waters?

MARK REGEV: Do you know, according to international law that question is irrelevant, because if you know your international humanitarian law, the San Remo memorandum states, specifically 67A, that if you have a boat that is charging a blockaded area you are allowed to intercept even prior to it reaching the blockaded area if you’ve warned them in advance, and that we did a number of times and they had a stated goal which they openly expressed, of breaking the blockade. That blockade is in place to protect our people.

LEIGH SALES: So Israel believes that it has fully complied with international law in this circumstance?

MARK REGEV: 100 per cent correct. If you look at international law, if someone is breaking your blockade, intends to do so, has been warned, you are allowed to intercept, and that’s exactly what we were doing.

The following night Ms Sales interviewed Diana Buttu a Canadian-Palestinian lawyer and former spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization when the following exchange took place:

DIANA BUTTU: Most people are feeling both anger, outrage and also very vulnerable because this is not the first time that Israel has violated international law. The difference this time is that Israel seems to be going to extreme lengths to not only violate international law, but maintain a blockade that the world has deemed to be a crime against humanity. So, people are feeling that unless the world steps for now and actually stops Israel, that many more of these crimes can and will continue to happen.

LEIGH SALES: On this point about international law, on the program last night Mr Regev said that Israel had acted legally under international law because he said that you are allowed to intercept somebody who’s breaching your blockade or intends to do so if you have warned them. What do you say to that?

DIANA BUTTU: That’s actually incorrect; legally incorrect and factually incorrect. On the legal side of things, as Israel should perhaps know, any blockade that is imposed on a country is considered to be an act of war. So the fact that Israel has declared a blockade on the Gaza Strip is itself an act of war, and Israel should know this because in 1956 when the Egyptians declared that they were going to impose a naval blockade on Israel, the Israeli Army declared war against Egypt, backed by several nations.

But more importantly, and I think that this is the key part of this, is that Israel seems to forget that it is in occupation of Gaza. So you can’t declare war on a territory that you are already occupying. It’s actually to the contrary: Israel as an occupier is supposed to be providing the very things that they are not providing. They’re supposed to provide medical aid, they’re supposed to provide food, assistance.

Israel totally withdrew its civilian population and armed forces from Gaza in 2005. If ongoing occupation in 2010 is the only basis of questioning Israel’s legal right to impose its blockade then those crying for Israel’s blood really need to think again.

There obviously first needs to be some consensus on what the international law is and then to determine whether it has been breached by either the flotilla or Israel. Given the nature of the conflict and the conflicting parties these two simple ways forward will probably be immersed in a welter of claim and counterclaim with no positive outcome.

Such is the nature of the conflict between the Jews and the Arabs - and so will it unfortunately continue until some peaceful solution is found.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Jordan Jump Starts Political Power Play For West Bank

[Published May 2010]

One would imagine that any statement by one of Jordan’s political elite recalling - or calling once again for - the reunification of Jordan with the West Bank - would generate a great deal of media comment and international political interest.

This is especially so given the parlous state of the proximity negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the future sovereignty of the West Bank.

The news that Jordan might be once again eliciting an interest in returning to the West Bank was - surprisingly - first reported by the London based Arabic newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi. It did not even rate a mention in the Jordan Times or any of the many international news services based in Jordan that must have surely been covering an occasion of great national significance where the comments were made on 25 May - Jordan’s Independence Day.

The al-Quds al-Arabi article was - however - subsequently picked up the Israeli press including the Jerusalem Post, Y Net and Arutz Sheva.

Arutz Sheva’s report stated:

“Jordan’s head of senate Taher al-Masri addressed an audience of approximately 1,000 attendees celebrating Jordanian independence, including King Abdullah II and his family, envisioning “the two united banks, with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan emerging on both banks of the holy river.”

The Jerusalem Post had a different take:

“Taher al-Masri, head of the Jordanian Senate, spoke at a ceremony commemorating the country’s independence day and reportedly referred to the emergence of a “union” on both banks of the “holy Jordan river” - though apparently not a political one.”

The fact that such a high ranking Jordanian parliamentarian had even mentioned what was previously a taboo subject in Jordan made the Jerusalem Post further comment:

“Abdullah’s father Hussein renounced Jordan’s claim to the territory [West Bank] in 1998 [in fact it was 1988 - editor], and al-Masri’s comments mark the first reference by a high-ranking Jordanian official to the issue since then”

Y Net was even more upbeat as it reported:

“In a ceremony commemorating Jordan’s independence day, Taher al-Masri, head of the country’s senate, spoke of the “state of two united banks,” London-based al-Qudsal-Arabi reported on Wednesday.

This is a rare and surprising statement, which may be interpreted as granting legitimization to the viewpoint that the Palestinian residents of the West Bank are part of the Hashemite Kingdom.”

Y Net further commented:

“There are also those that may interpret al-Masri’s comments as more than a claim to responsibility over the Palestinians, but also as territorial ambitions in the West Bank. Jordan’s official stance rejects any such claims in light of its peace agreement with Israel.”

The Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty - however - does not prevent Jordan making any territorial claims to the West Bank.

Tucked away in Annex 1(a) to the Peace Treaty is clause 2 [A] 7:

“The orthophoto maps and image maps showing the line separating Jordan from the territory that came under Israeli Military government control in 1967 shall have that line indicated in a different presentation and the legend shall carry on it the following disclaimer:

“This line is the administrative boundary between Jordan and the territory which came under Israeli military government control in 1967. Any treatment of this line shall be without prejudice to the status of the territory.”

With this clause in place - sovereignty in all or part of the West Bank could be reclaimed by Jordan at any time with Israel‘s concurrence - notwithstanding that Jordan withdrew any such claim in 1988. Such a demand would not result in a breach of the terms of the peace treaty with Israel.

Taher Al- Masri has subsequently tried to clear up his reported comments - telling Ammon News that his statement

"The rise of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan with its two arms on both banks of the Holy Jordan River,“- came in the context of a historical recount that began by speaking of the Great Arab Revolt, the creation of the Kingdom, noting the catastrophes that struck the region, and ending with describing Jordan as a “miracle.”

In playing down the Israeli press’s treatment of his comments Ammon News continued:

"It is noted that although all three Israeli media outlets cited al-Quds al-Arabi for their report on Senate President’s statements, they all failed to note that, in his reference to the united banks, Masri was ‘recalling’ how the Hashemite Kingdom on both sides of the Holy Jordan River was able to rise above the recurrent catastrophes and crises that have struck the area since Israeli’s inception, and that Jordan has ‘won the bet of unity, where everyone contributed to building the nation and reinforcing its achievements,”

The Jordan Times simply omitted any mention of al-Masri’s explosive remarks blandly reporting:

“Senate President Taher Masri also delivered a speech highlighting the importance of the Independence Day and achievements realised in Jordan over the past 64 years.

In his speech, Masri remarked that when Jordan achieved its independence more than six decades ago, the leadership and the people of the country undertook their responsibilities to start the ongoing development process.

The wars and the catastrophes that took place in the region over the years made many people across the world think that the fate of Jordan was at stake, but Jordan won the bet and unity between Jordanians has become stronger, he stated, adding that Jordanians will continue to protect the Kingdom’s independence and maximise Jordan’s achievements because they believe in their national unity as the first guarantee for building a stronger Jordan."

In the midst of all this bizarre spin and confusion there are two incontrovertible facts:

(i)A subject never discussed in Jordan since 1988 was raised by the Jordanian Senate President at a function hosted by Jordanian Prime Minister Samir Rifai on Jordan’s Independence Day - one of the most important dates in Jordan’s diplomatic calendar.
(ii) Jordan’s King and Queen were present when it was delivered - as were Arab and foreign ambassadors, religious leaders, military and security officers.

Whether al-Masri was recalling the good old days between 1950-1967 when the West Bank was unified with the East Bank as one territorial unit - called Jordan - or whether he was suggesting Jordan once again reunify with the West Bank Arab population is beside the point.

What is significant is that after so many failed attempts to resolve the conflict between Arabs and Jews over the last 130 years - Senator al-Masri has now publicly put forward Jordan’s historical record in the West Bank to justify replacing the Palestinian Authority as Israel’s negotiating partner - when the fruitless negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are inevitably declared dead and buried.

King Abdullah’s silence and tacit approval of al-Masri’s speech is sufficient to indicate that a sea change is taking place - and it needs to happen soon if the current impasse in the West Bank is to be ended peacefully.

West Bank - Loose Lips Increase Incitement Against Israel

[Published May 2010]

Semantics has played and continues to play a very important role in attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel as the Jewish National Home.

The recent decision by two Arab Parliament Committees calling on all Arab League members to halt “all direct and indirect contacts with Israel” highlights the dangers inherent in the use of loose - but deliberately and carefully chosen - language.

The reasons for that decision were explained in the following communique:

“All relations should be severed in protest of the policy of expulsion Israel carries out in Palestine, the latest decision being the expulsion of tens of thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank into Gaza, which is a new chapter of ethnic cleansing,” the panels said, in reference to two military orders enforced in April which expanded the definition of an “infiltrator,” thereby rendering potentially thousands of Gaza residents in the West Bank susceptible to deportation.”

In reaching this decision they were no doubt encouraged by the following comments made by the executive director of the Palestine Center - Yousef Munnayer. Commenting on the same military orders Munnayer wrote:

“There is little doubt that Israel has both the motive and the tendency to use these types of policies as tools for ethnic cleansing. With such ambiguity in these orders, a history of ethnic cleansing and the capacity to carry out such horrific acts, the world should be very wary of what is happening in the Israeli occupied West Bank where Israel is charged under international law with the protection of the native population and not its endangerment”

Munnayer no doubt had been encouraged to propound such views following earlier comments made by Nabil Abu Rudeina - the spokesman for Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas - who said in relation to the delivery of dozens of Court ordered eviction notices to Arab residents and threatened house demolitions for illegally built structures in East Jerusalem:

“It is an organised campaign of ethnic cleansing,”

Not unremarkably - generalised claims that Israel is engaging in ethnic cleansing are now regularly appearing in articles such as that written by Sam Bahour - a Palestinian-American management consultant living in Ramallah - who writes:

“... the tools of boycott, divestment and sanctions are much more powerful non-violent methods than negotiating in vain with a government bent on ethnic cleansing.”

The term “ethic cleansing ” was defined by a 1993 United Nations Commission to mean:

“the planned deliberate removal from a specific territory, persons of a particular ethnic group, by force or intimidation, in order to render that area ethnically homogeneous.”

Certainly people are entitled to question and criticise anything the Israeli Government does - and the issue and enforcement of the military orders in question is a matter of legitimate public debate.

But for the Arab League and commentators like Munnayeh to describe such military orders as “a new chapter in ethnic cleansing” or as “tools for ethnic cleansing” is outrageous.

The implementation of those military orders against illegal Arab residents cannot possibly result in the West Bank becoming “ethnically homogeneous”. Enforcement of those orders cannot possibly result in 2.5 million Arabs being removed from the West Bank. That is a canard - pure and simple.

Even more preposterous is the Palestinian Authority spokesman’s claim that Court ordered evictions after hearings between disputing litigants amounts to “ethnic cleansing”

How can the enforcement of eviction orders - or even the demolition of a few dozen illegally built houses - against a small number of unsuccessful litigants amount to rendering East Jerusalem “ethnically homogeneous”?

The Arab League and the Palestinian Authority are playing with fire in using such language. It is clearly intended to incite the civilian Arab populations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to violence in the fear that Israel has embarked on a campaign to rid the West Bank and East Jerusalem of its Arab populations.

The history of Arab rioting in Palestine following incitement by the ruling Arab authorities in 1920,1929 and 1936 is well documented.

The need to avoid the use of incitement and hostile propaganda has long been recognised and deemed essential to achieve any peaceful resolution of the Arab- Israeli conflict.

The Oslo Accords (1993) stipulate:

“Israel and the Council [Palestinian Authority - ed] shall seek to foster mutual understanding and tolerance and shall accordingly abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda, against each other and, without derogating from the principle of freedom of expression, shall take legal measures to prevent such incitement by any organizations, groups or individuals within their jurisdiction.”

President Bush’s Roadmap (2003) specifically provides:

“All official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel.”

Maybe the Arab League and the Palestinian Authority might claim they are using the term “ethnic cleansing” to convey a meaning different to that defined by the UN Commission.

If this is indeed the case then it is incumbent on them to define what they mean when they use it to berate Israel for implementing policies with which they disagree.

In the absence of any such explanation one can only reasonably conclude that the two Arab political organizations most intimately involved in securing a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict are adopting the language of incitement to deliberately railroad any such solution.

It is difficult to control individuals who recklessly and with apparent malice use the term “ethnic cleansing” to incite and vilify. They need to be individually confronted and exposed.

The Arab League and the Palestinian Authority are entirely different cases.

The fact that they can continue to make these statements without challenge by interested parties such as America and the European Union - indicates the slippery slide to the edge of the abyss that Israel and its Arab protagonists are fast approaching.

Loose lips sink ships. They can also sink any hope of a peaceful resolution of the 130 years old dispute between Arabs and Jews.

Obama - Dancing With The Devil In The West Bank

[Published May 2010]

As the proximity negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority continue to meander aimlessly along the road to nowhere - two remarkable articles written this week by the Palestinian Arab journalist - Khaled Amayreh - indicate the direction that America and Israel need to follow if they wish to see a possible end to the 130 years conflict between the Jews and the Arabs in former Palestine.

Amayreh is certainly no friend of America or Israel. He despises and loathes both of them intensely.

Of America he has had this to say:

“America is the author of 60 years of suffering, death, bereavement, occupation, oppression, homelessness, and victimization.

America is the usurper of my people’s right to human rights, democracy, civil liberties, development, and dignified life.

America is the abettor and financier of Israeli occupation, apartheid, repression, terror, and land theft.

America is the protector, maintainer, sustainer and guarantor of despotism, dictatorship, dynastic fiefdoms, and brutal autocracies, theocracies, oligarchies, and monarchies in the Muslim world.”

On Israel he is equally condemnatory - writing this week in an article “Zionism must be abolished if real peace is ever to have a chance” :

“In 1948, the forces of Zionist terror ethnically cleansed more than 90% of Palestinians in pre-1967 Palestine, banishing them to the four winds. Now, they are dreaming or probably planning to do it again, and they want to ‘transfer’ millions of Palestinians to ‘the desert’ in order to maintain Israel’s pure Jewish identity and have more ‘Lebensraum’ for ‘God’s chosen people.’

Yes, despite the passage of nearly sixty years of ‘Jewish Statehood,’ Israel’s undeclared but ultimate goal remains the expulsion of most or all Palestinians from the area extending from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea."

How to avoid this looming catastrophe was to be explained by Amayreh in a second article published almost simultaneously titled - “Jordanian-Palestinian Unity Must Be Restored”.

In prescribing his solution - Amayreh was prepared to tell a few home truths that the Arabs have been deliberately suppressing for decades when he stated:

“... the Jordanian and Palestinian peoples are the two most homogeneous and closest Arab peoples, given their ethnic, cultural and religious commonality. We are actually one people, as Arab clans on both sides of the River Jordan have one common ancestry.

This indisputable fact should debunk all the myths about any proclaimed intrinsic distinctiveness, let alone contradictions, between Jordanians and Palestinians.

It should also demolish all parochial ideologies such as territorial nationalism, namely exaggerated Palestinian and Jordanian nationalisms, ideologies that grow out of fanatical tribalism which Islam condemns as acts of Jahilyya or ignorance.”

This unity of the Arab people living on both sides of the Jordan River needed to now be revived in Amayreh’s view to prevent what he believed was to be the wholesale expulsion of the West Bank Arab population:

“Palestinians should welcome and encourage any Jordanian orientation to cancel or reconsider, even if gradually, the unwise Jordanian decision of 1989 to dismantle the administrative and legal ties with the West Bank. The Re-institution of these ties should strengthen the Palestinians’ ability to survive and thwart Zionist efforts to empty our homeland of its real people.

In the final analysis, the people of Jordan and the People of Palestine can’t and will not have separate fates. According to the Islamic prophecy, the liberation of Palestine from the hands of Zionist Jews, will come from the east, namely from Jordan .

Our fate, our kismet is that we are one people. We must not escape this ineluctable fate.”

One can certainly ask - if Amayreh is so wrong in his assessments of America and Israel’s future intentions - how can he be so right on the unity of the Arab populations living on both banks of the River Jordan?

The answer is to be found in the history, geography and demography of “Palestine” in particular:

(i) that Transjordan comprised 78% of Mandate Palestine from 1920-1946
(ii)that Transjordan occupied the West Bank in 1948
(iii)That the West Bank was unified with Transjordan on the East Bank in 1950 and the name Transjordan was then changed to Jordan.
(iv) That the two united banks of the River Jordan constituted a single territorial entity from 1950 until Israel conquered the West Bank in 1967.
(v) That West Bank Arabs enjoyed equal civil rights with East Bank Arabs as Jordanian citizens until 1988.
These facts certainly appear to have escaped President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special Envoy George Mitchell. Maybe they are totally ignorant of them. Amayreh certainly isn’t.

For the wrong reasons Amayreh has nevertheless postulated the right direction which must be taken to resolve the current conflict - the division of sovereignty of the West Bank between Israel and Jordan.

This solution is readily achievable by redrawing the boundary between these two successor States to the Mandate that already possess sovereignty of 94% of Mandate Palestine between them.

What of the PLO and its offspring - the Palestinian Authority (PA) - the “johnny come lately” organization cobbled together in 1993 under the now thoroughly discredited Oslo Accords?

Amayreh pulls no punches when he points out:

“The PLO used to be a true representative of the Palestinian people. But this was when the PLO still retained it national chastity. Now, in my opinion, the PLO lost much if not all of its national honour, if only by indulging in manifestly treasonous acts such as the so-called security coordination with Israel. Some Palestinians are already calling the PA, the daughter of the PLO, a Palestinian “judenrat”.

On the PA being a corrupt organization - Amayreh is equally critical:

“For the Palestinian Authority to truly and sincerely fight corruption, it would have to demolish the entire Palestinian Authority apparatus because corruption, in its various forms, is the other side of the Palestinian Authority regime. In fact, there is an umbilical relationship between the Palestinian Authority and corruption. This might sound as an exaggeration to many, especially in the West. But this is taken for granted here. In short, corruption infests every aspect of the Palestinian Authority so much so that only a thorough and complete overhaul of the Palestinian Authority would stem the plague of corruption.”

There is no love lost between Amayreh and the PA. On 22 January 2009, Amayreh was arrested by the police forces of the PA. He was questioned and imprisoned in a blacked-out room for two days.

Are these views of such a rabid American and Israel hater likely to influence a change of direction by America and Israel? Only time will tell.

President Obama - and the Quartet - would do well to heed Amayreh’s message - even though the devil himself is dancing there in the detail.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Obama Accelerates, Israel Graduates, The West Bank Separates

[Published May 2010]

The announcement on 10 May that Israel has been invited to become a member of the Organisation For Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) has been interpreted by many as being a “reward” for Israel entering into proximity talks with the Palestinian Authority.

Nothing could be further from the fact.

The OECD decided to open accession discussions with Israel in May 2007. A Roadmap adopted at the end of November 2007 set out the terms, conditions and process for accession, including in-depth reviews by 18 OECD Committees. Israel has completed all 18 accession reviews in under three years.

The OECD will welcome Israel at an event on 27 May. An Accession Agreement - scheduled to be signed in Israel on 29 June - will formally acknowledge Israel’s membership of the OECD.

Today the OECD presently comprises 31 countries - including Canada - committed to providing the best possible education, health and employment opportunities for their citizens.

The admission of Israel to the OECD is a direct blow to those seeking to delegitimize Israel by imposing boycotts, undertaking divestment and attempting to exclude Israel from organizations such as the OECD.

Israel’s already impressive credentials were highlighted by the OECD when announcing:

“The accession reviews of Israel have also been valuable for OECD countries—the OECD has learned from Israel’s experience in certain areas, such as in the policy areas of innovation and scientific and technological policy. Total civilian R&D expenditures were 4.7 % of GDP in 2007, giving Israel the highest R&D intensity in the world. It accounts for the third highest number of scientific articles per million population and has an impressive patenting performance in science and technology. Performance in certain high technology sectors, notably biotechnology, is also particularly strong “

This is remarkable praise and acknowledgment for outstanding achievements in the face of the refusal of the Arab League - with the exception of Egypt and Jordan - to recognise Israel’s existence since its creation 62 years ago.

It is also noteworthy that not one of the 21 member States of the Arab League is a member of the OECD - despite the vast wealth generated from oil revenue in many of those States.

One can only imagine the heights to which Israel would have ascended had not so much of its GDP been squandered on fighting its neighbours and remaining in a constant state of alert by tying up its citizens in compulsory military service.

Significantly the OECD also made the following announcement:

The question of the geographical scope of statistical data provided by Israel, which include data on the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank, was the subject of lengthy discussions within the OECD. A footnote will be included in all OECD documents containing statistical data on Israel stating that the data are supplied by and under the responsibility of the Israeli authorities and that their use by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

The use of the words “international law” is a welcome inclusion and a recognition of the need to abide by and be cognisant of existing international law in any future negotiations on the status of the West Bank.

It is a pity the OECD statement chose not to identify the applicable international law - which includes

(i) the San Remo Conference,
(ii) the Treaty of Sevres,
(iii)the Mandate for Palestine,
(iv) the United Nations Charter and
(v) Security Council Resolution 242.

Under Article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter Israel is legally entitled to encourage close settlement by Jews in areas of the West Bank that are State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.

The OECD has acknowledged - by omitting any reference to Gaza - that Gaza is an area outside the physical control of Israel . This confirms Israel’s position that it is no longer responsible for - or obligated in any way to look after - the future welfare of Gazan Arabs after its total withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.

Hamas has governed Gaza since forcefully removing the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Hamas must accept the consequences of that decision and Gazan Arabs the consequences of having elected Hamas. Gaza needs to conduct its future trade, seek freedom of passage and growth through its common border with Egypt and not rely on Israel to provide any of its existing or future needs.

Israel’s admission to the OECD comes at an important time as Israel steels itself to make further concessions to the Palestinian Authority without any meaningful tangible concessions being received in return.

“Goodwill gestures” will be sought by the Obama administration from Israel - as Obama and his administration accelerate into the proximity negotiations.

These will include

(i) the release of more prisoners,
(ii) removal of more checkpoints,
(iii)the extension of full Palestinian Authority civil and security control beyond Area A - the 17% of the West Bank which currently houses 55% of the Arab population of the West Bank - into Area B - which constitutes 24% of the West Bank and 41% of its Arab population where the Palestinian Authority does not presently exercise security control
(iv) Curbs on construction of houses and public facilities for Jews in Area C - the remaining 59% of the West Bank where only 4% of the Arab population lives and where the Palestinian Authority possesses no civil or security control.

It would appear that Obama has effectively given up on Gaza and the two-state solution.

Obama will be happy to achieve some movement in the West Bank concessions that Israel will concede to maintain the relationship it has with America. Not all will be accepted by Israel - especially those that will impact on Israel’s security or hinder or impede its growth.

Whilst this will create the impression of movement - which Israel can probably afford to some degree—it will not lead to a final settlement of the division of sovereignty of the West Bank between Jews and Arabs.

However any such concessions will help to ease the current restrictions prevailing on travel and lessen the inconvenience in the daily lives of the West Bank Arab population in moving from one part of the West Bank to another. It will enable the Palestinian Authority to assume full responsibility over an increased majority of the West Bank Arab population.

A new separate Arab State between Jordan and Israel will remain a pipe dream destined to failure. Any progress made in the proximity talks will not help advance the realisation of that goal. The parties will still remain poles apart on the terms that each can agree on to bring the two-state solution to fruition.

In the meantime - Israel will get on with its own nation building and consolidation as a scientific, intellectual and technological powerhouse for others to aspire to and emulate.

Obama, The West Bank And A Tale Of Two Letters

[Published May 2010]

“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead” — Benjamin Franklin

President Obama seems to have become embroiled in an exercise in deceit that could spell the end of his - and America’s - role as an honest broker in the proximity talks planned to start shortly between Israel and the Palestinian Authority sitting in separate rooms whilst America shuttles back and forth between them.

Letters are integral to understandings and agreements between parties to such negotiations and are designed to confirm and guarantee what once might otherwise have been the subject of a verbal wink or nod.

Trust these days is very limited and reliance on verbal undertakings is a risky business - especially where the Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned.

When a letter is suggested as having been given secretly to one side without being disclosed to the other - a crisis is more than likely to ensue.

President Obama seems to have stumbled into this dangerous minefield.

On 20 April 2010 in a well publicized letter to Alan Solow - the Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations - President Obama wrote:

“I am deeply committed to fulfilling the important role the United States must play for peace to be realized, but I also recognize that in order for any agreement to endure, peace cannot be imposed from the outside; it must be negotiated directly by the leaders who are required to make the hard choices and compromises that take on history.”

The import of this statement seemed clear and unambiguous. The parties alone would negotiate directly on the terms of any agreement. The United States would have a role in putting forward its own proposals but would not attempt to impose any terms on a reluctant party.

It didn’t take long for that notion to be possibly dissipated.

Writing in the International Herald Tribune on 27 April 2010 journalist Roger Cohen reported:

“Last week, a letter from President Barack Obama was conveyed to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. In it, I understand, Obama spoke of his very strong commitment — unprecedented commitment — to a two-state peace and said that if Israel seriously undermines trust between the two parties, the United States will not stand in the way of a United Nations resolution condemning that.”

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor was quick to issue a denial:

“This report is inaccurate. Our policy about issues relating to Israel at the U.N. is clear and will not change. We will continue to speak out strongly for Israel’s right to self-defense and to oppose efforts to single Israel out unfairly for criticism,”

Interestingly however Vietor didn’t deny the existence of a letter being given to Abbas and also said,

“We’ve asked both sides to take steps to rebuild trust and proceed with proximity talks. We’re not going to get into the details of those requests because we think they should be discussed in private diplomatic channels.”

Israel should be concerned at the fact that a letter might exist - whose contents have been withheld from it by the White House - which seemingly gives assurances to the Palestinian Authority that the United States might well attempt to impose a solution on Israel by threatening to vote in a certain way at the United Nations if Israel refuses to accept any particular American proposal put during the proximity talks that Israel finds objectionable.

This can hardly be seen to be an exercise in building trust - rather the direct opposite.

Some deal involving a moratorium on building construction in East Jerusalem by Israel as a result of tacit understandings between Israel and America may well have been the catalyst for the issue of this letter to induce the Palestinian Authority President to get off his high horse and agree to the proximity talks.

Israel could have assured America that whilst Israel would suspend any building in East Jerusalem - it could not be seen to have done so openly for domestic political reasons.

Such a behind the scenes deal could have been done between Israel and America - backed up by a letter of assurance from the White House to Abbas that if Israel dared turn one sod of soil in East Jerusalem during the proximity talks then the Palestinian Authority could get the Arab League to run off to the United Nations to procure a resolution censuring Israel that America would not veto.

Then again the letter could be far more sinister and threatening in content - assuring the Palestinian Authority that America would not support Israel in the United Nations if Israel turned down a suggested American - or even Palestinian Authority - proposal that America thought should be part of a peace settlement.

Back channels, secret deals and vehement denials are a normal part of international diplomacy and can generate their own web of deceit.

However in the present case there is a somewhat unique situation developing - a published letter is being possibly countermanded by an unpublished letter given to one side only in the dispute just a few days later.

Israel may well have received a copy of the unpublished letter and accepted its contents without demur. Then again Israel may not have.

Those not privy to what is in the unpublished letter can - however - only speculate about its contents and the effect it might have on the proximity negotiations.

If such speculation reflects unfairly on one or more of Israel, America and the Palestinian Authority - then the affected parties have no one but themselves to blame for the consequences of their clandestine actions.

Perhaps the fog may lift - if America is called on to support Israel at the United Nations should any moves to censure Israel be proposed during the proximity negotiations.

It would appear that the tale of the two letters has not yet ended - and will not go away until the contents of the second letter are publicly revealed.

Hopefully it will not take the demise of two of the parties for the secret to get out.