Thursday, June 28, 2007

in the meantime...

see article below; i had also witnessed this in Bethlehem checkpoint. around 3 weeks ago, as i was crossing the checkpoint, there was a woman trying to pass with her three children. she was biping under the metal detector, so the soldiers asked her to go to a little room for strip seach.
the three children were left outside the room, they were very scared. I tried to stay with them but a female soldier shouted at me to go. I tried to protest in vain, and at the end i had to go. as i was continuing my way, I heard the soldiers women screaming louder and louder. i understood that the woman refused to strip. then as i was asking some explanation to some soldiers, some male soldiers passed in front of me. they started to shout as well. I asked to a Palestinian in the queue to translate. He said that the soldier was saying: "i will come in and take your clothes off myself!".

Israeli army forces women to strip at Bethlehem checkpoint

author Thursday June 28, 2007 16:36author by Nissren Abu Ghazalah - IMEMC Newsauthor email ghassanb at imemc dot org Report this post to the editors
"It seems that there are plans to topple the honor of Palestinian girls in the clutches of the Israeli intelligence through blackmail at checkpoints and military crossings, and I don’t doubt that inside the inspection rooms there are cameras video taping girls undressing."


These were the words of Manal, a young Palestinian lady from Bethlehem, in the southern part of the West Bank. She is describing what happened to her last weekend at the Israeli military crossing known as 300 located at the entrance of Bethlehem. This checkpoint cuts Bethlehem from its sister city, Jerusalem.

Manal witnessed a new episode of racist Israeli methods, and this will not be the last time. She said, "I arrived with one of my friends to the Bethlehem checkpoint, and after crossing several inspection points, we waited a little while, and while we were waiting, a group of female university students came out from one of the side rooms in tears. When we asked them why they were crying, they replied that they had been forced to strip naked during inspection. "

Manal continued: "I can not describe what happened to the students! They were forced to strip naked collectively in one of the rooms after women soldiers intimidated them." She added, "The female soldier asked me and my friend to enter the room for inspection, but we refused. She said that we can enter separately to be strip searched, and when we refused again she screamed at us and called us al kind of swear words. Then we got detained inside one of the room at the checkpoint, and after a number of phone calls to human rights organizations my friend and I were allowed to leave the checkpoint."

Manal added that "On this particular day men were not inspected, but only women. This confirms that the Israeli authorities had serious intentions to humiliating us". The young Palestinian lady also noted that, "if there were security reasons for this inspection, why not search all the people? Anyhow, don't the Israeli authorities refuse to grant permission for Palestinians who have security records to cross at this checkpoint? Apart from this we had already entered a number of checkpoints unscathed before this strip search; all these factors raise suspicions".

Manal also stressed that stopping people at the Bethlehem checkpoint and only letting them go through after passing inspection procedures is normal, but forcing women to strip search is a new phenomenon in Bethlehem. This causes real fears among women that this procedure will become normal in the future.

Jamal Zahalka, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament received complaints about this matter. He responded by filing an investigation letter to the Israeli Security Minister Ehud Barak. Zahalka commented on the Israeli soldiers' demeaning act by saying, "There is no end to the moral degradation of the occupation, he who forces women to strip has sunk to the lowest morals level. He is a lowlife. We must stop this shameful action immediately."

Translated by Ghassan Bannoura – IMEMC News Room

category jerusalem | human rights | news report

in the meantime...

Israeli troops invade Qalqas, south of Hebron; arrest 60 Palestinians, among them, 18 children
Date: 28 / 06 / 2007 Time: 17:32
تكبير الخط تصغير الخط
Hebron - Ma'an – At dawn on Thursday, Israeli military forces stormed the village of Qalqas, south of Hebron, arresting 60 people, taking them to an unknown area.

Local sources reported to Ma'an that a large military force arrested 18 children, including three tawjihi students. A teacher and two university students were also seized. Most of the abducted citizens were cousins and relatives of one another.

In Idhna, to the west of Hebron, Israeli troops arrested a further three Palestinian citizens and seized large quantities of copper, belonging to the detainees.

Security sources reported to our correspondent that the troops raided houses and arrested yet more citizens, and confiscated large quantities of copper.

Monday, June 25, 2007

On the verge of catastrophe in Gaza

Oxfam condemns the caging of Gaza, demands immediate reopen

author Monday June 25, 2007 10:12author by George Rishmawi - IMEMC Newsauthor email george at imemc dot org Report this post to the editors
Oxfam International, condemned aid blockade of Gaza that is leaving more than 1.3 million Palestinians on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. Oxfam, a humanitarian aid agency, called on all actors in the conflict to ensure that urgently needed food, medicine and water supplies are allowed into the Gaza Strip immediately.


Oxfam’s call which comes as Israeli and Palestinian leaders meet today in Egypt, demands that reopening of the Gaza borders be a top priority on the agenda to allow essential supplies to enter.

Failing to do so, the entire region’s economy and basic services such as health and water systems will collapse.

“The international community is closing its eyes to its humanitarian obligations and allowing the suffering to intensify. Aid is being drip-fed across the border. The entrapment of Gaza is completely unacceptable. We urge the key players to resolve what has been a completely avoidable crisis,” Jeremy Hobbs Director of Oxfam International said.

Only 20 trucks a day are permitted t enter Gaza Strip, however, to meet peoples essential needs, Oxfam says, at least 100 trucks per day are needed, as there are just days until food supplies will run out, fuel is scarce and essential medicines are also critically low.

In addition to the supply issue, Oxfam pointed out a serious problem with the sewage in the Strip.

Oxfam pointed out that The Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) who is an Oxfam-Partner operating the Beit Lahia Sewage Works fear that the works could burst swamping up to 10,000 in sewage and contaminate the water supplies of 300,000, creating a public health crisis.

The CMWU has been waiting for over three months for $500,000 worth of equipment. There are only 10 days of chlorine supplies left and people may soon have to start to drink contaminated water.

Hobbs added, “Withholding aid as a political weapon is bringing untold suffering to an entire population. This shames the international community. Water equipment has been waiting at Gaza’s border for more than three months. These sanctions must cease immediately.”

Oxfam expressed concerns, that the dire situation in Gaza Strip will be ignored in Sharm Al-Sheikh summit. Therefore, it calls on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to lift the blockade immediately and also calls on the Palestinian Authorities to ensure that publics service workers and humanitarian agencies can distribute urgently needed materials.

category international | peace process | news report

Friday, June 22, 2007

Um Salamoneh weekly Protest

(c) Anne Paq/; Um Salamoneh; 22 June 2007.

Sous un soleil brulant, la manifestation hebdomadaire contre la construction du Mur s'est encore déroulée, à Um Salamoneh. Comme chaque semaine, les soldats israeliens etaient aussi au rendez-vous, avec leur armes tandis que les Palestiniens et internationaux brandissaient des pousses d'arbres qu'ils voulaient replanter sur leur terres desormais innacessibles. Ils ne sont pas allés bien loin; et se sont heurtés à la haie de soldats.
Des arbres ont été plantés là, symboliquement; comme pour dire nous replanterons encore et encore. Comme d'habitude au bout d'un moment les soldats ont commencé à charger violemment, et ont arrêté deux Israeliens....rendez vous pris pour la semaine suivante.

Under a very burning sun, the weekly demonstration against the construction of the Wall took place in Um Salamoneh. As every week, the Israeli soldiers were waiting. Their number were equal as the number of demonstrators. The soldiers have their arms while Palestinians and internationals were carrying trees, to be replanted on the lands they cannot access anymore. We did not go very far as the soldiers stopped us rapidly. Trees have been planted there. it was all symbolic as for sure they will be uprooted as soon as we will turn our back. whatever. it was all about to say that again and again we were replant...
as usual, after a while the soldiers violently pushed away the protestors, and arrested two Israelis....see you again next week.

Um Salamoneh weekly Protest

(c) Anne Paq/, Um Salamoneh 22 June 2007

Um Salamoneh weekly Protest

(c) Anne Paq/ Um salamona; 22 June 2007.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Whose Coup, Exactly?

In this Opinion/Editorial from the Electronic Intifada, Virginia Tilley deals with the questions at hand...

Whose Coup, Exactly?
Virginia Tilley

Having sacked Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and dissolved his democratically-elected government, Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas has now installed Salam Fayyad as the new Prime Minister, to the clear delight of the West. Mutual accusations are hurled by Abbas and Haniyeh that the other side launched a coup against the legitimate authority. Nevertheless, now a fresh line of grave Palestinian faces has lined up before the cameras as Fayyad's new "emergency government" is sworn in. That the new PA has virtually no power in the West Bank, and none at all in Gaza, is the first glaring problem with this pageantry. (Bitter jokes about a 'two-state solution' consisting of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have circulated.)

An international community worried by the 'coup' accusation might endorse the Fayyad government as the seemingly correct position. But the 'coup' claim stumbles over a basic problem -- that Abbas's appointing a new prime minister was itself entirely illegal. The new 'emergency government' is illegal, too. According to the Basic Law of Palestine (as amended in 2003), which serves as the constitution of the PA, Abbas can do neither of these things. Nor can the new 'emergency government' claim any democratic mandate. This means that Abbas and the Fayyad government are ruling by decree, outside the framework of the Basic Law. So on what basis is that government supposed to govern -- and on what basis are foreign governments supposed to deal with it?

According to the Basic Law, Abbas has violated a whole stream of Articles as well as the spirit of its checks and balances, which were designed during the Arafat era partly to limit the power of the presidency. With full US and Israel support (if not their insistence), Abbas has baldly trashed numerous provisions of the Basic Law, including:

The President can sack his Prime Minister (Article 45) but he cannot legally appoint a new Prime Minister that does not represent the majority party (i.e., Hamas).

In the event that a President sacks the PM, the Government is considered to have resigned (Article 83), but the serving Cabinet (here, the Hamas-led Cabinet) is supposed to govern until a new Cabinet is confirmed by the Legislative Council (Article 78).

Only the Legislative Council can confirm the new PM and Cabinet and the new officials cannot take their oaths (Article 67) or assume their duties (Article 79) until this is done. We might now look for the Fayyad government to go to the Legislative Council for post hoc approval, but if the Legislative Council cannot vote for lack of a quorum -- because too many of its members are in jail or refuse to participate -- then the Cabinet cannot be legally confirmed. The Basic Law provides no remedy for conditions where the Legislative Council cannot vote to confirm the Cabinet or the actions of the President.

The President can rule by degree during emergencies (Article 43) but the Legislative Council must approve all these decrees at its first meeting.

The President cannot suspend the Legislative Council during a state of emergency (Article 113).

The President has no power to call early elections, either.

The Basic Law has no provision whatsoever for an "emergency government."

What does this mean for the PA? It is no longer the same animal. The Fayyad government is the step-child of an extra-legal process with no democratic mandate. The whole manoeuvre is not precisely a palace coup, but it is something like it.

What does this mean for the world? Foreign governments now confront one of the most unwelcome events in international diplomacy -- the sudden transformation of a government into a different kind of government. As in any revolution or coup, diplomatic recognition of Salam Fayyad's "emergency Government" as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people must now be reassessed. For example, by what authority does the "emergency government" act in the name of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza? What capacities and responsibilities does the "emergency government" now have? On what legal and political bases are diplomatic relations to be sustained?

We must admit that these are legal but also political questions. The PA is the invention of the 1993 and 1995 Oslo Accords (it was supposed to serve for a period "not exceeding five years") But the Basic Law was developed later, to confirm and ensure its democratic character. This set of laws represented a Palestinian state-building measure, providing a start-up framework for Palestinian democracy in anticipation (or at least affirmation) of eventual Palestinian statehood. Hence the Basic Law refers in its introduction to the 1995 Oslo 2 accord but also invokes the Palestinian people as its ultimate political authority (Article 2: "... the people are the source of power ..."). Governments may therefore attempt to justify sustaining relations with the new Fayyad government out of solidarity with the Palestinian national effort -- albeit one in crisis.

Still, in attempting this, foreign governments now face dubious and perplexing options:

They could suspend diplomatic relations with the Fayyad government, on grounds that it is illegal, and deal with the elected Haniyeh government. But this might cripple their communication with Ramallah at a critical time and put them at odds with the US and Israel.

They could sustain diplomatic relations with the Fayyad government, accepting its claim that the Hamas government launched a coup, but they would then be endorsing a government that is violating its own laws and has itself effectively pulled a coup.

They could accept the new Fayyad government on condition that it now obey other provisions of the Basic Law, such as gaining Legislative Council approval and/or calling new elections. But the Basic Law doesn't allow the Cabinet to call new elections and this new Cabinet doesn't have any legal standing to govern anyway. (It's also hard to see how new national elections could be held when the Haniyeh government refuses to recognize the new Cabinet and conditions in both territories are so contrary to free and fair elections.)

They could pull a classic diplomatic side-step by calling the situation a temporary constitutional crisis and maintaining relations with both sides, but this tactic will quickly bog down because present events look more like the complete collapse of the Basic Law and its framework.

Facing this mess, they could do a back-step: suspend formal diplomatic relations but maintain communication with both sides, pending further developments, but what about those formal agreements (exchange, trade, security, diplomatic representation) they may have signed with the PA? Which side is truly representative and to whom are they accountable?

There are other legalistic maneuvers they could try, such as treating the PA under terms established by the Oslo Accords or the Gaza-Jericho agreement of 1994. But none of those documents provide for a prime minister or any of the procedures being acted out in Ramallah.

In short, the diplomatic landscape is now in utter disarray. The Fayyad Government has no democratic mandate, is not operating by the very rules that establish its democratic legitimacy, and so is only a facsimile of the 'government' with which many of the world's states established diplomatic relations. It does not help that the United States, an obedient Europe, and legless Arab states have trotted up to anoint it as the sole legitimate authority. Nor does it help to pretend that Hamas -- a broad movement with popular legitimacy -- will simply disappear through decrees from Abbas and some nice political theatre.

It is not clear how long this flimsy diplomatic pretense can hold up to scrutiny by a skeptical world. Nor is it clear what political costs foreign governments will have to absorb if they try to play along with it -- especially when the now-traumatized Palestinian people, in the territories and in Diaspora, begin protesting their government's being hijacked by anti-democratic figureheads for Israeli and US agendas. Being targeted as supporting this pantomime government was not the goal of those governments who recognized the PA to support the Palestinian people. As UN official Alvaro De Soto put it in his eloquent 'End of Mission Report' this May, 'It may be better to be the one who raises questions about the Emperor's new clothes than to be ridiculed as the naked Emperor oneself.'

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Towards a Geography of Peace: Whither Gaza?

Towards a Geography of Peace: Whither Gaza?
Ilan Pappé, The Electronic Intifada, 18 June 2007

Pièce jointe au format texte brut [ Consulter et sauvegarder dans l'ordinateur ]

In Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, a man sits next to a wall that
reads in Arabic, "No to internal fighting. Yes to fighting the
occupation." 16 June 2007. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

The Gaza Strip is a little bit more than two percent of Palestine.
This small detail is never mentioned whenever the Strip is in the news
nor has it been mentioned in the present Western media coverage of the
dramatic events unfolding in Gaza in the last few weeks. Indeed it is
such a small part of the country that it never existed as a separate
region in the past. Gaza's history before the Zionization of Palestine
was not unique and it was always connected administratively and
politically to the rest of Palestine. It was until 1948 for all intents
and purposes an integral and natural part of the country. As one of
Palestine’s principal land and sea gates to the world, it tended to
develop a more flexible and cosmopolitan way of life; not dissimilar to
other gateways societies in the Eastern Mediterranean in the modern
era. This location near the sea and on the Via Maris to Egypt and
Lebanon brought with it prosperity and stability until this life was
disrupted and nearly destroyed by the Israeli ethnic cleansing of
Palestine in 1948.

In between 1948 and 1967, Gaza became a huge refugee camp restricted
severely by the respective Israeli and Egyptian policies: both states
disallowed any movement out of the Strip. Living conditions were
already harsh then as the victims of the 1948 Israeli politics of
dispossession doubled the number of the inhabitants who lived there for
centuries. On the eve of the Israeli occupation in 1967, the
catastrophic nature of this enforced demographic transformation was
evident all over the Strip. This once pastoral coastal part of southern
Palesine became within two decades one of the world's densest areas of
habitation; without any adequate economic infrastructure to support it.

The first twenty years of Israeli occupation at least allowed some
movement outside an area that was closed off as a war zone in the years
1948 to 1967. Tens of thousand of Palestinians were permitted to join
the Israeli labor market as unskilled and underpaid workers. The price
Israel demanded for this slavery market was a total surrender of any
national struggle or agenda. When this was not complied with -- the
'gift' of laborers' movement was denied and abolished. All these years
leading to the Oslo accord in 1993 were marked by an Israeli attempt to
construct the Strip as an enclave, which the Peace Camp hoped would be
either autonomous or part of Egypt and the Nationalist camp wished to
include in the Greater Eretz Israel they dreamed of establishing
instead of Palestine.

The Oslo agreement enabled the Israelis to reaffirm the Strip's
as a separate geo-political entity -- not just outside of Palestine as
a whole, but also cut apart from the West Bank. Ostensibly, both the
Gaza Strip and the West Bank were under the Palestinian Authority but
any human movement between them depended on Israel's good will; a rare
Israeli trait and which almost disappeared when Benjamin Netanyahu came
to power in 1996. Moreover, Israel held, as it still does today, the
water and electricity infrastructure. Since 1993 it used, or rather
abused, this possession in order to ensure on the one hand the
well-being of the Jewish settler community there and on the other in
order to blackmail the Palestinian population into submission and
surrender. The people of the Gaza Strip thus vacillated in the last
sixty years between being internees, hostages or prisoners in an
impossible human space.

It is within this historical context that we should view the violence
raging today in Gaza and reject the reference to the events there as a
campaign in the 'war against terror,' an instance of Islamic
revivalism, a further proof for al-Qadia’s expansionism, a seditious
Iranian penetration into this part of the world or another arena in the
dreaded Clash of Civilizations (I picked here only few out of many
frequent adjectives used in the Western media for describing the
present crisis in Gaza). The origins of the mini civil war in Gaza lie
elsewhere. The recent history of the Strip, 60 years of dispossession,
occupation and imprisonment produced inevitably internal violence such
as we are witnessing today as it produced other unpleasant features of
life lived under such impossible conditions. In fact, it would be fair
to say that the violence, and in particular the internal violence, is
far less than one would have expected given the economic and social
conditions created by the genocidal Israeli policies in the last six

Power struggles among politicians, who enjoy the support of military
outfits, is indeed a nasty business that victimizes the society as a
whole. Part of what goes on in Gaza is such a struggle between
politicians who were democratically elected and those who still find it
hard to accept the verdict of the public. But this is hardly the main
struggle. What unfolds in Gaza is a battleground between America's and
Israel's local proxies -- most of whom are unintentionally such proxies
but none the less they dance to Israel's tune -- and those who oppose
it. The opposition that now took over Gaza did it alas in a way that
one would find very hard to condone or cheer. It is not the Hamas'
Palestinian vision that is worrying, but rather the means it has chosen
to achieve it that we hope would not be rooted or repeated. To its
credit one should openly say that the means used by Hamas are part of
an arsenal that enabled it in the past to be the only active force that
at least tried to stop the total destruction of Palestine; the way it
is used now is less credible and hopefully temporary.

But one cannot condemn the means if one does not offer an
Standing idle while the American-Israeli vision of strangling the Strip
to death, cleansing half of the West bank from its indigenous
population and threatening the rest of the Palestinians -- inside
Israel and in the other parts of the West Bank -- with transfer, is not
an option. It is tantamount to "decent" people’s silence during the

We should not tire from mentioning the alternative in the 21st
century: BDS -- Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions -- as an emergency
measure -- far more effective and far less violent -- in opposing the
present destruction of Palestine. And at the same time talk openly,
convincingly and efficiently, of creating the geography of peace. A
geography in which abnormal phenomena such as the imprisonment of small
portion of the land would disappear. There will be no more, in the
vision we should push forward, a human prison camp called the Gaza
strip where some armed inmates are easily pitted against each other by
a callous warden. Instead that area would return to be an organic part
of an Eastern Mediterranean country that has always offered the best as
a meeting point between East and West.

Never before, in the light of the Gaza tragedy, has the twofold
strategy of BDS and a one state solution, shined so clearly as the only
alternative forward. If any of us are members in Palestine solidarity
groups, Arab-Jewish dialogue circles or part of civil society's effort
to bring peace and reconciliation to Palestine -- this is a time to put
aside all the false strategies of coexistence, road maps and two states
solutions. They have been and still are sweet music to the ears of the
Israeli demolition team that threatens to destroy what is left of
Palestine. Beware especially of Diet Zionists or Cloest Zionists, who
recently joined the campaign, in Britain and elsewhere against the BDS
effort. Like those enlightened pundits who used liberal organs in the
United Kingdom, such as The Guardian, to explain to us at length how
dangerous is the proposed academic boycott on Israel. They have never
expended so much time, energy or words on the occupation itself as they
did in the service of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. UNISON,
Britain’s large public service trade union, must not be deterred by
this backlash and it should follow these brave academics who endorsed
the debate on the boycott, as should Europe as a whole: not only for
the sake of Palestine and Israel, but also if it wishes to bring a
closure to the Holocaust chapter in its history.

And a final small portion of food for thought. There are quite a few
Jewish mothers and wives in the Gaza Strip -- some sources within Gaza
say up to 2000 -- married to local Palestinians and parents to their
children. There are many more Jewish women who married Palestinians in
the Palestine countryside. An act of desegregation that both political
elites find difficult to admit, digest or acknowledge. If despite the
colonization, occupation, genocidal policies and dispossession such
harmonies of love and affection were possible, imagine what could
happen if these criminal policies and ideologies would disappear. When
the Wall of Apartheid is removed and the electric fences of Zionism
dismantled -- Gaza will become once more a symbol of Fernand Braudel's
coastal society, able to fuse different cultural horizons and offer a
space for new life instead of the war zone it has become in the last
sixty years.

Ilan Pappe is senior lecturer in the University of Haifa Department of
political Science and Chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian
Studies in Haifa. His books include, among others, The Making of the
Arab-Israeli Conflict (London and New York 1992), The Israel/Palestine
Question (London and New York 1999), A History of Modern Palestine
(Cambridge 2003), The Modern Middle East (London and New York 2005) and
his latest, Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Crocodile Tears – By Uri Avnery

Crocodile Tears – By Uri Avnery

Date: 16 / 06 / 2007 Time: 18:12

WHAT HAPPENS when one and a half million human beings are imprisoned in a tiny, arid territory, cut off from their compatriots and from any contact with the outside world, starved by an economic blockade and unable to feed their families?

Some months ago, I described this situation as a sociological experiment set up by Israel, the United States and the European Union. The population of the Gaza Strip as guinea pigs.

This week, the experiment showed results. They proved that human beings react exactly like other animals: when too many of them are crowded into a small area in miserable conditions, they become aggressive, and even murderous. The organizers of the experiment in Jerusalem, Washington, Berlin, Oslo, Ottawa and other capitals could rub their hands in satisfaction.
The subjects of the experiment reacted as foreseen. Many of them even died in the interests of science.

But the experiment is not yet over. The scientists want to know what happens if the blockade is tightened still further.

WHAT HAS caused the present explosion in the Gaza Strip?

The timing of Hamas' decision to take over the Strip by force was not accidental. Hamas had many good reasons to avoid it. The organization is unable to feed the population. It has no interest in provoking the Egyptian regime, which is busy fighting the Muslim Brotherhood, the mother-organization of Hamas. Also, the organization has no interest in providing Israel with a pretext for tightening the blockade.

But the Hamas leaders decided that they had no alternative but to destroy the armed organizations that are tied to Fatah and take their orders from President Mahmoud Abbas. The US has ordered Israel to supply these organizations with large quantities of weapons, in order to enable them to fight Hamas. The Israeli army chiefs did not like the idea, fearing that the arms might end up in the hands of Hamas (as is actually happening now). But our government obeyed American orders, as usual.

The American aim is clear. President Bush has chosen a local leader for every Muslim country, who will rule it under American protection and follow American orders. In Iraq, in Lebanon, in Afghanistan, and also in Palestine.

Hamas believes that the man marked for this job in Gaza is Mohammed Dahlan. For years it has looked as if he was being groomed for this position.

The American and Israeli media have been singing his praises, describing him as a strong, determined leader, "moderate" (i.e. obedient to American orders) and "pragmatic" (i.e. obedient to Israeli orders). And the more the Americans and Israelis lauded Dahlan, the more they undermined his standing among the Palestinians. Especially as Dahlan was away in Cairo, as if waiting for his men to receive the promised arms.

In the eyes of Hamas, the attack on the Fatah strongholds in the Gaza Strip is a preventive war. The organizations of Abbas and Dahlan melted like snow in the Palestinian sun. Hamas has easily taken over the whole Gaza Strip.

How could the American and Israeli generals miscalculate so badly? They are able to think only in strictly military terms: so-and-so many soldiers, so-and-so many machine guns. But in interior struggles in particular, quantitative calculations are secondary. The morale of the fighters and public sentiment are far more important. The members of the Fatah organizations do not know what they are fighting for. The Gaza population supports Hamas, because they believe that it is fighting the Israeli occupier. Their opponents look like collaborators of the occupation. The American statements about their intention of arming them with Israeli weapons have finally condemned them.

That is not a matter of Islamic fundamentalism. In this respect all nations are the same: they hate collaborators of a foreign occupier, whether they are Norwegian (Quisling), French (Petain) or Palestinian.

IN WASHINGTON and Jerusalem, politicians are bemoaning the "weakness of Mahmoud Abbas".

They see now that the only person who could prevent anarchy in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank was Yasser Arafat. He had a natural authority. The masses adored him. Even his adversaries, like Hamas, respected him. He created several security apparatuses that competed with each other, in order to prevent any single apparatus from carrying out a coup-d'etat. Arafat was able to negotiate, sign a peace agreement and get his people to accept it.

But Arafat was pilloried by Israel as a monster, imprisoned in the Mukata'ah and, in the end, murdered. The Palestinian public elected Mahmoud Abbas as his successor, hoping that he would get from the Americans and the Israelis what they had refused to give to Arafat.

If the leaders in Washington and Jerusalem had indeed been interested in peace, they would have hastened to sign a peace agreement with Abbas, who had declared that he was ready to accept the same far-reaching compromise as Arafat. The Americans and the Israelis heaped on him all conceivable praise and rebuffed him on every concrete issue.

They did not allow Abbas even the slightest and most miserable achievement. Ariel Sharon plucked his feathers and then sneered at him as "a featherless chicken". After the Palestinian public had patiently waited in vain for Bush to move, it voted for Hamas, in the desperate hope of achieving by violence what Abbas has been unable to achieve by diplomacy.

The Israeli leaders, both military and political, were overjoyed. They were interested in undermining Abbas, because he enjoyed Bush's confidence and because his stated position made it harder to justify their refusal to enter substantive negotiations. They did everything to demolish Fatah. To ensure this, they arrested Marwan Barghouti, the only person capable of keeping Fatah together.

The victory of Hamas suited their aims completely. With Hamas one does not have to talk, to offer withdrawal from the occupied territories and the dismantling of settlements. Hamas is that contemporary monster, a "terrorist" organization, and with terrorists there is nothing to discuss.

SO WHY were people in Jerusalem not satisfied this week? And why did they decide "not to interfere"?

True, the media and the politicians, who have helped for years to incite the Palestinian organizations against each other, showed their satisfaction and boasted "we told you so". Look how the Arabs kill each other. Ehud Barak was right, when he said years ago that our country is "a villa in the jungle".

But behind the scenes, voices of embarrassment, even anxiety, could be heard.

The turning of the Gaza Strip into Hamastan has created a situation for which our leaders were not ready. What to do now? To cut off Gaza altogether and let the people there starve to death? To establish contacts with Hamas? To occupy Gaza again, now that it has become one big tank trap? To ask the UN to station international troops there - and if so, how many countries would be crazy enough to risk their soldiers in this hell?

Our government has worked for years to destroy Fatah, in order to avoid the need to negotiate an agreement that would inevitably lead to the withdrawal from the occupied territories and the settlements there. Now, when it seems that this aim has been achieved, they have no idea what to do about the Hamas victory.

They comfort themselves with the thought that it cannot happen in the West Bank. There, Fatah reigns. There Hamas has no foothold. There our army has already arrested most of Hamas' political leaders. There Abbas is still in power.

Thus speak the generals, with the generals' logic. But in the West Bank, too, Hamas did win a majority in the last elections. There, too, it is only a matter of time before the population loses its patience. They see the expansion of the settlements, the Wall, the incursions of our army, the targeted assassinations, the nightly arrests. They will explode.

Successive Israeli governments have destroyed Fatah systematically, cut off the feet of Abbas and prepared the way for Hamas. They can't pretend to be surprised.

WHAT TO DO? To go on boycotting Abbas or to provide him with arms, to enable him to fight for us against Hamas? To go on depriving him of any political achievement or to throw him some crumbs at long last? And anyway, isn't it too late?

(And on the Syrian front: to go on paying lip service to peace while sabotaging all the efforts of Bashar Assad to start negotiations? To negotiate secretly, despite American objections? Or continue doing nothing at all?)

At present, there is no policy, and no government which could determine a policy.

So who will save us? Ehud Barak?

Barak's victory in this week's Labor Party leadership run-off has turned him almost automatically into the next Minister of Defense. His strong personality and his experience as Chief of Staff and Prime Minister assure him of a dominant position in the restructured government. Olmert will deal with the area in which he is an unmatched master - party machinations. But Barak will have a decisive influence on policy.

In the government of the two Ehuds, Ehud Barak will decide on matters of war and peace.

Until now, practically all his actions have had negative results. He came very close to an agreement with Assad the father and escaped at the last moment. He withdrew the Israeli army from South Lebanon, but without speaking with Hizbullah, which took over. He compelled Arafat to come to Camp David, insulted him there and declared that we have no partner for peace. This dealt a death blow to the chances of peace, a blow which still paralyzes the Israeli public. He has boasted that his real intention was to "unmask" Arafat. He was more of a failed Napoleon than an Israeli de Gaulle.

Will the Ethiopian change his skin, the leopard his spots? Hard to believe.

IN THE dramas of William Shakespeare, there is frequently a comic interlude at tense moments. And not only there.

Shimon Peres, the person who in 55 years of political activity had never won an election, did the impossible this week: he got elected President of Israel.

Many years ago, I entitled an article about him "Mr. Sisyphus", because again and again he had almost reached the threshold of success, and success had evaded him. Now he might feel like thumbing his nose at the gods after reaching the summit, but - alas - without the boulder. The office of the president is devoid of content and jurisdiction. A hollow politician in a hollow position.

Now everybody expects a flurry of activity at the president's palace. There will certainly be peace conferences, meetings of personalities, high-sounding declarations and illustrious plans. In short - much ado about nothing.

The practical result is that Olmert's position has been strengthened. He has succeeded in installing Peres in the President's office and Barak in the Ministry of Defense. In the short term, Olmert's position is assured.

And in the meantime, the experiment in Gaza continues, Hamas is taking over and the trio - Ehud 1, Ehud 2 and Shimon Peres are shedding crocodile tears.

Uri Avnery is the head of the Israeli peace movement, Gush Shalom, and a former member of the Israeli Knesset.

Friday, June 15, 2007

somebody from UN speaks out

UN envoy: anti-Hamas rhetoric undermines democracy

Ian Black, Middle East editor
Wednesday June 13, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

File photo of the newly retired United Nations Middle East envoy, Alvaro de Soto.
File photo of the newly retired United Nations Middle East envoy, Alvaro de Soto. Photograph: Katia Christodoulou/EPA
Alvaro de Soto, the just-retired UN coordinator for the Middle East, has warned that international hostility to the Palestinian Hamas movement, now fighting in the bitterly escalating civil conflict in Gaza, could have grave consequences by persuading millions of Muslims that democratic methods do not work.

The Peruvian diplomat's sensational valedictory dispatch, written last month and published exclusively in the Guardian today, traced increasingly violent responses to the victory of the Islamist group in the Palestinian elections in January 2006.

These included a continuing boycott of the freely-elected government - which he admits has had "devastating" consequences, which have contributed to the current violence between Hamas and Fatah.

"The steps taken by the international community with the presumed purpose of bringing about a Palestinian entity that will live in peace with its neighbour, Israel, have had precisely the opposite effect," he wrote in his confidential internal memo.

The US and Israel had both erred in seeing Hamas as a passing phenomenon, the envoy argued. "Hamas is deep-rooted, has struck many chords, including its contempt for the Oslo process, and is not likely to disappear," he wrote.

"Erroneous treatment of Hamas could have repercussions far beyond the Palestinian territories because of its links to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose millions of supporters might conclude that peaceful and democratic means are not the way to go."

In a key passage that may already have been overtaken by the rapidly deteriorating situation, Mr De Soto wrote: "Hamas is in effervescence and can potentially evolve in a pragmatic direction that would allow for a two-state solution - but only if handled right.

"If the Palestinian Authority passes into irrelevance or collapses (as now seems likely) calls for a one-state solution to the conflict "will come out of the shadows and enter the mainstream."

Mr De Soto is critical of the UN as well as of the US and Israel. He also attacked the Palestinians' record on violence directed at Israeli civilians as "patchy at best, reprehensible at worst" and described the Hamas charter as "abominable" while highlighting the movement's "alleged links to an Iranian regime which makes bloodcurdling statements about Israel."

"Palestinian terror strengthens the hardliners and weakens the peace camp in Israel," he wrote, but added: "If Israel was less heavy-handed about the way it conducts its military business, and... was seen to be moving earnestly to end the occupation, it would aid rather than handicap its legitimate fight against terrorism."

The effect of the quartet's intense focus on Hamas, (which still refuses to formally recognise Israel or renounce violence), was to take all pressure off Israel, Mr de Soto argued. That allowed the construction of yet more Israeli settlements and the separation barrier, which have in turn damaged the slim hopes that a viable Palestinian state can ever be created.

It would need a "Sherlockian magnifying glass," to find allusions to Israel's failure to comply with its "road map" obligations.

"No amount of magnification" would find references to its responsibilities as an occupier to ensure the welfare of Palestinian civilians."

On the UN and Israel he wrote: "We are not a friend of Israel if we allow it to fall into the self delusion that the Palestinians are the only ones to blame, or that it can continue blithely to ignore its obligations under existing agreements without paying an international diplomatic price in the short-term and a bitter price regarding its security and identity in the long-term."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Because we need it/ Parce que nous en avons besoin

L'envoyé de l'ONU accuse Washington d'avoir encouragé le chaos palestinien

L'envoyé de l'ONU accuse Washington d'avoir encouragé le chaos palestinien
LE MONDE | 14.06.07 | 14h45

près deux années passées comme envoyé spécial du secrétaire général de l'ONU au Moyen-Orient, Alvaro de Soto dresse, dans un rapport confidentiel de fin de mission daté du 5 mai et révélé le 13 juin par le Guardian, un constat dramatique et désabusé sur le conflit israélo-palestinien.

A tel point que ce Péruvien qui, pendant vingt-cinq ans, s'est évertué à trouver une solution aux conflits de la planète, se demande s'il est nécessaire de pourvoir au remplacement de son poste (ce qui est déjà fait en la personne du Britannique Michaël Williams) et au maintien du Quartet, cette entité constituée par les Etats-Unis, l'ONU, la Russie et l'Union européenne. A tout le moins, "le rôle des Nations unies devrait être sérieusement revu", fait remarquer le diplomate international, dans un texte de 51 pages particulièrement amer et pessimiste où il fait part de ses désillusions.

Passant en revue tous les événements qui ont émaillé son mandat, M. de Soto constate, comme il l'a déclaré récemment au quotidien Haaretz, que "la situation est extrêmement volatile lorsqu'il n'y a pas de progrès dans le processus de paix et que le boycottage de l'Autorité palestinienne se poursuit".

A ce propos, il dénonce la suppression de l'aide directe de la communauté internationale, dont "les conséquences ont été dévastatrices sur le plan humanitaire et dans l'affaiblissement des institutions palestiniennes". "Les mesures prises censées conforter les Palestiniens qui avaient le désir de vivre en paix avec leur voisin ont eu l'effet contraire." Avant d'ajouter que "les eurocrates ont réalisé qu'ils avaient dépensé plus d'argent en boycottant l'Autorité palestinienne que lorsqu'ils la soutenaient et qu'en la contournant, cela n'a pas permis de la consolider, mais que cet argent a été investi à fonds perdu".

"J'éprouve une grande tristesse", avait-il dit en quittant ses fonctions. Ayant travaillé au Salvador, à Chypre, il fait remarquer que le retrait israélien de la bande de Gaza, qui a soulevé tant d'espoirs, a été utilisé par Ariel Sharon "pour obtenir des concessions importantes des Etats-Unis alors que la construction de "la barrière de sécurité" se poursuivait et que des colons s'installaient en Cisjordanie". De fait, constate M. de Soto, la bande de Gaza est devenue "une prison à ciel ouvert" et le processus s'est enlisé d'autant que le Hamas a remporté les élections générales du 25 janvier 2006.

Analysant la mise en place du processus de boycottage du Mouvement de la résistance islamique qui avait gagné démocratiquement les élections, M. de Soto estime que le rejet de l'issue du scrutin par la communauté internationale, qui l'avait pourtant appelé de ses voeux, a été une erreur. "Le Hamas évoluait et pouvait encore le faire et nous devions l'encourager dans cette évolution, de sorte qu'un dialogue puisse s'instaurer dans lequel l'ONU aurait eu un rôle à jouer."

"Nous parlons au Hezbollah et nous avons raison de le faire car c'est important et qu'il n'y a pas de solution au Liban sans cette organisation. Ce devrait être la même chose avec le Hamas", tranche M. de Soto. Au lieu de cela, Israël a poursuivi sa politique "des faits accomplis" qui rend de plus en plus difficile, voire impossible, la création d'un Etat palestinien viable dont les diplomates ne cessent de parler sans que rien ne se concrétise d'une manière ou d'une autre. Au contraire. Alvaro de Soto rapporte que "les Américains ont poussé à une confrontation entre le Hamas et la Fatah" et, s'interroge-t-il, "je me demande si les autorités israéliennes réalisent qu'elles récoltent ce qu'elles ont semé et qu'elles encouragent systématiquement le cycle violence-répression au point qu'il se nourrit de lui-même".

Dans ce testament accablant sur les incapacités des uns et des autres à vouloir résoudre ce conflit, une mention particulière est adressée aux Etats-Unis, qui dictent leur volonté au Quartet et à Israël, et qui se sont "réfugiés dans une position de rejet, dans laquelle ils sont prisonniers, en insistant sur des préconditions dont on sait qu'elles ne sont pas réalisables".

"L'expérience démontre que ces préconditions sont habituellement un masque du manque de volonté de négocier. Comme le disait Colin Powell, ancien secrétaire d'Etat américain, vous ne pouvez négocier lorsque vous dites à l'autre partie "Donnez-moi ce à quoi des pourparlers vont aboutir avant que ceux-ci ne commencent"."

Alvoro de Soto déplore qu'au cours des deux années qu'il a passées dans la région, l'ONU a "traité Israël avec une extrême considération, presque de la tendresse", et qu'il doit être mis fin à cette situation "d'autocensure". "Je ne crois honnêtement pas que l'ONU rende service à Israël en ne parlant pas franchement de ses manquements dans le processus de paix. Nous ne sommes pas un ami d'Israël si nous permettons à ce pays de s'autosatisfaire que les Palestiniens soient les seuls à blâmer, ou que ce pays puisse, avec légèreté, continuer à ignorer ses obligations liées aux accords passés, sans payer un prix diplomatique à court terme et un prix beaucoup plus élevé en matière d'identité et de sécurité à plus long terme."

Michel Bôle-Richard
Article paru dans l'édition du 15.06.07

Monday, June 11, 2007

demonstration in tel aviv/ manif a tel aviv

(c) Anne Paq/ ActiveStills, Tel Aviv, 9 June 2007.

demonstration against 40 years of occupation. at most 2,000 people...Tel aviv has 1.5 million inhabitants/ Manifestation contre 40 ans d' mieux 2,000 manifestants, alors que tel aviv compte 1.5 millions d'habitants.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Um Salamoneh weekly Protest

(c) Anne Paq/
Um Salamoneh, Friday 8 June 2007

Lors de la manifestation non-violente organisée par les habitants du village de Um Salamoneh contre le Mur, les soldats israéliens ont une nouvelle fois fait preuve d'une grande violence. 7 personnes, 4 Palestiniens et 3 Israeliens ont été violemment apprehendés, certains avant même le début effectif de la manifestation. Un cameraman a été aussi attaqué.
Les manifestants se sont retrouvés coincés, les soldats les empechants d'emprunter la route pour rentrer dans leur village, tandis qu'un colon est venu tranquillement observer la scene, dans une zone qui etait censée etre une zone fermée militairement (et donc interdite aux civils).
La manifestation avait reuni plus d'une centaine de personnes, notamment des Palestiniens venus de Hebron.

Israeli army attacks non-violent protestors at Umm Salamoneh

author Friday June 08, 2007 17:03author by John Smith & Ghassan Bannoura - 1 of International Middle East Media Center - IMEMC Editorial Group Report this post to the editors

On Friday, Palestinian residents of the West Bank village of Umm Salamoneh, located to the south of Bethlehem, carried out their weekly demonstration against land confiscation and the construction of the illegal wall that will isolate the village from its rightfully-owned agricultural land.

As it has done in the past, the Israeli army established a network of checkpoints and roadblocks around Umm Salamoneh, closing it to activists seeking to join the villagers in their non-violent protest.

In addition to closing off the area, the Israeli army kidnapped 2 local organizers, identified as Mohammed Brejieah and Abdullah Hajaj, as they travelled to the demonstration on Friday morning.

Despite the efforts of the military, the protest went ahead as planned and local residents were joined by a number of international peace activists.

After Friday prayers, the demonstrators marched towards the land scheduled for confiscation. On their way, the group was stopped by soldiers, who beat both protestors and journalists covering the action.

Eyewitness told IMEMC that a military force surrounded the demonstrators on all sides, preventing them from either moving forward or returning to the village.

After a brief scuffle which saw five Israeli activists kidnapped, the organizers decided to bring the demonstration to a close.

Um Salamoneh weekly Protest

(c) Anne Paq/
Um Salamoneh, Friday 8 June 2007

Um Salamoneh weekly Protest

(c) Anne Paq/ActiveStills
Um Salamoneh, Friday 8 June 2007.