Viser arkivet for stikkord icahd

Statement Regarding the Palestinian Statehood Initiative

Salvaging September: A ICAHD Statement Regarding the Palestinian Statehood Initiative at the UN

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) has been one of the leading critical Israeli peace and human rights organizations struggling for Palestinian rights during its more than 14 years of existence. ICAHD activists resist the demolition of Palestinian homes, both inside Israel and in the Occupied Territory, and together with our Palestinian and International partners, we have rebuilt 175 homes as political acts of resistance to Occupation. Besides our resistance efforts “on the ground,” we engage in a vigorous campaign of international advocacy on behalf of a just peace. In this we are aided by our branches abroad – ICA HD UK, ICAHD US and ICAHD Finland – as well as by hundreds of civil society groups around the world with which we work.

Where, then, do we stand on the question of the PLO/PA’s September initiative? As non-Palestinians, ICAHD activists do not advocate for a particular solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Overall, we subscribe to the three basic principles embodied in the Palestinian Civil Society Call: (1) ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
(2) recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
(3) respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. Believing t hat it is the Palestinian people’s right to determine what they consider a just peace and it is our role as their Israeli partners to support them – with one caveat: that any solution be inclusive of all the people residing in Palestine/Israel – we will follow the lead of our Palestinian partners regarding particular initiatives or resolutions to the conflict.

As non-Palestinians, we find ourselves in a bind regarding “September.” During the months leading up to the approach to the UN in late September, and especially in the last couple weeks, we have received mixed messages from our Palestinian civil society partners. Most Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Israel seem to be sitting out the September initiative at the UN – although Marwan Barghouti did issue an impassioned plea for international support and involvement from his prison cell. One influential Palestinian commentator has called September a “non-event;” others, especially in the Palestinian Diaspora, are act ively opposing it.

Even Abbas himself seems reluctant to go the UN. He recently told a group of visiting Israeli intellectuals that his post-September priorities are to “negotiate, negotiate, negotiate [with Israel].” But he is trapped by the high expectations the idea has generated around the world. The half-hearted juggernaut moves on towards the fateful date of September 21st.

Now, just two or three weeks before the approach to the UN, a fierce debate has erupted within the Palestinian community around a number of key questions:

Will the September initiative be based on the recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders? If so, then what does Abbas want to negotiate with Israel? Minor territorial adjustments or a return to the fruitless trap of negotiations of the past 20 years which render the 1967 borders irrelevant?

Who, in the absence of elections to the PNC or a referendum, has authorized Abbas to pursue a two-state solution? Even if he does approach the UN in his capacity as the head of the PLO and with the backing of its Executive Committee, will the Palestinian Authority, on becoming the recognized Government of the State of Palestine, replace the PLO and thus disenfranchise half the Palestinian people? In particular, would the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders compromise the refugees’ right of return and the national rights of Palestinians within Israel?

Does recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders foreclose forever the emergence of a single state in historic Palestine, be it democratic or bi-national, or will it permit further political efforts and evolution in that direction?

Until these questions are answered, it would be difficult for ICAHD to support the September initiative. This, however, raises two key issues. First, how do we deal with the fall-out of September? Regardless of internal Palestinian politics and the genuine problematics of Abbas’s approach to the UN, “September” is going to happen. With only a week to go, the PLO/PA’s game-plan is still not clear, but a General Assembly vote would undoubtedly see the vast majority of the international community recognizing Palestinian statehood within the 1967 borders.

What is our game-plan? How will we channel the energy, if not euphoria, of the “day after” – or the anger and despair if, in fact, nothing happens on the ground? While many Palestinian intellectuals and organizations of the left are critical of the initiative, the Palestinian “street” is nevertheless organizing for the non-violent assertion of their national rights, including marches on settlements. What can be done so as not to abandon them? And what about the expectations that have been raised amongst the thousands of activists around the world who have devoted so much time and effort to the Palestinian cause over the year s? If “September” simply fizzles, will they stay the course? Most important, what if the General Assembly vote does turn out to be a genuine game-changer, if it releases a political dynamic that neither the PA nor Israel nor any other actor can control – the resignation or collapse of the PA if, in fact, nothing does change in the occupied territory, perhaps triggering an Israel re-occupation of the cities of the West Bank and Gaza? How should we respond?

The second issue arises from the first: no struggle for Palestinian rights can be pursued without the leadership of the Palestinian people – which for ICAHD and many activists around the world, means our partner organizations on the Palestinian left, be they inside Palestine or abroad. The popular committees and other activists “on the ground” play a key role in keep the struggle alive and focused, but they have no political program. On the level of international advocacy, boycotts, divestment sanctions (BDS) has become a powerful campaign vehicle for raising public awareness of the Palestinian issue; in fact, ICAHD was one of the first Israeli organizations to endorse it. But, in the end, it is merely a tool. It cannot replace a multi-faceted political strategy.

Two requirements for an effective post-September program seem evident: our Palestinian civil society partners should articulate a clear vision of where they see the struggle headed, if not a detailed program; and all of us working for Palestinian self-determination – Palestinian, Israeli and international activists alike – should hold urgent and critical discussions regarding our next steps. Our activism and our campaigns need to be accompanied by Palestinian-led st rategizing, together with far more coordination and communication. We in ICAHD believe that the vote at the UN – or even a non-vote in the UN – is going be a game-changer. At least it is likely to clear the table of all the obstacles to pursuing a truly just peace: fruitless negotiations, the two-state “solution” and, very possibly, the PA itself, which has too long enabled Israel to prolong its occupation. We must be prepared for that shifting of the political ground. We must be pro-active, united and effective.

ICAHD, then, will respect the internal disagreement among its Palestinian partners. ICAHD has long argued that the two-state solution, which has anyway been buried under the Israeli settlements, cannot serve as a just and workable solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. We would have supported the initiative as a stage in achieving full national rights for the Palestinian people, but since our partners have raised concerns that the recognition of Palestinian state in the 196 7 borders will foreclose those rights, and given the level of opposition, ICAHD will basically “sit it out.” We find this a painful decision, because we believe that civil society engagement in the political process is crucial. Our dilemma certainly highlights the need for all of us to be more strategic and pro-active, so we don’t get caught in such political paralysis.

Remaining concerned over how to deal with the fall-out of the September initiative, we urge the convening of a regular forum of consultation among all civil society activists, which can be networked if the issue of leadership is a problem. We remain committed to the struggle for Palestinian self-determination. We stand in solidarity with the people suffering on the ground, in the refugee camps as well as in the occupied Palestinian territory, and we look forward to close cooperation as we develop effective political strategies for achieving a just peace and equality for all the people of Palestine/Israel.

Jeff Halper: The mounting despair in Palestine

OK, so the Palestinian Authority will not unilaterally declare an independent Palestinian state. In fact, the whole issue seems a misunderstanding. Concerned that the US has backtracked on a two state solution based on the 1967 borders and that Israel was getting the world used to the “fact” that the settlements and the Wall, rather than ’67 borders, now defined the parameters of a future Palestinian state (on only 15% of historic Palestine), the PA simply wanted the Security Council to reaffirm that principle. “What should we do while the Israeli government is busy with fait accompli actions,” asked Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, “but to turn to the Security Council to preserve the option of two states? We want the Security Council to declare that the two-state solution is the only option and that it would recognize the state of Palestine on the ’67 borders and to live side by side with the State of Israel.” The PA hoped, perhaps even expected, that the US would go along. Through an escalation of rhetoric this simple clarification became the basis of speculation, against the background of President Mahmoud Abbas’s threatened resignation, that the Palestinians would attempt to force the hand of the international community and announce the establishment of their state.

But what if it did happen? What if Abbas would actually announce the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, ask the nations of the world to recognize it and then apply for admission to the UN?

The Palestinians are caught between a rock and a hard place. The rock is the steadily tightening noose that is the Israeli occupation. Israel’s concentration of settlers in strategic blocs in East Jerusalem and the West Bank destroy any Palestinian territorial contiguity, and do so even if Israel removes the dozens of tiny settlements within the densely populated Palestinian “cantons.” Those settlement blocs have already been incorporated into Israel proper through the construction of some twenty-nine major Israeli highways, meaning that Israel has expanded organically from the 1967 Green Line to the border with Jordan. Even if the Separation Barrier is dismantled, the entire country has been fundamentally reconfigured; there is simply no more room for a coherent, viable, sovereign Palestinian state. And the suffering grows progressively worse. Hostile, callous Israeli soldiers continue to man hundreds of checkpoints throughout the Occupied Territories – checkpoints that, when incorporated into the Wall, take the form of massive terminals in which tens of thousands of men, women and children are subjected to long hours of waiting and humiliating treatment. The pace of house demolitions increases daily; 24,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel in the Occupied Territories since 1967, while Israeli courts have forced at least another 10,000 homeowners to demolish their own homes under threats of unbearable fines. The Palestinian presence in Jerusalem, the heart of Palestinian religious, cultural, political and economic life, is rapidly disappearing under a concentrated policy of settlement, expulsion of Palestinian residents from their homes and land expropriation intended, as Israel declares explicitly, to “judaize” the city. Without a meaningful Palestinian presence in Jerusalem there is no possibility of peace; indeed, no possibility to reconciliation between the West, which is seen as enabling Israeli expansion, and the entire Muslim world.

The hard place is the unlikelihood that negotiations with Israel, supported by the US and a compliant Europe, will go anywhere. The Oslo Process, which lasted seven years (1993-2000), saw Israel’s settlement population double to 400,000, while Palestinians found themselves imprisoned in Areas A and B – some 70 islands on but 40% of the West Bank – and that largest prison of all, Gaza. Oslo was followed by the Road Map which was followed by the Annapolis Process,” all leading to the present impasse in which the Obama Administration has announced it has no plan. “Peace process” or not, negotiations or not, stalemate or not, Israel has never been prohibited from continuing to establish “facts on the ground” intended to foreclose a truly sovereign Palestinian state.

For the most part the Palestinian people have resisted. Two intifadas (four if you include the 1936-39 revolt against British immigration policies and the inability of the Palestinian majority to make its voice heard, and the 1948 war), plus ongoing armed struggle and thousands of non-violent actions from rebuilding demolished homes to the Beit Sahour tax strike. Occasionally the Palestinian leadership took a bold initiative, as when it succeeded in bringing Israel’s construction of the Separation Barrier before the International Court of Justice and, subsequently, the UN General Assembly, where it was condemned by both bodies. The current campaign of boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) against key Israeli pillars of the Occupation and companies profiting from it represents yet another pro-active initiative of Palestinian civil society.

And then there’s the idea of unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, which the Palestinian Authority has floated, intentionally or not, over the past few weeks. It’s not a new idea. The PLO declared Palestinian independence back in 1988, but without reference to borders such a move had little effect. During Oslo, a frustrated Arafat again threatened to unilaterally declare Palestinian sovereignty, but was dissuaded by Israel and the US. What would make another attempt more significant? Several things:

Rather than a general declaration of independence, the Palestinian Authority would declare a Palestinian state within specified borders, those of 1967 (the 1949 armistice line), which have already been recognized de facto over the years, from UN resolution 242 to the Road Map. Specifying the borders is what would differentiate this initiative from previous declarations based on principle of independence but without territorial claims, the latter supported even by Israel since it relieves it of pressures to end the Occupation by giving the Palestinians symbolic sovereignty.

The reasoning behind such an initiative is clear: to reverse both the balance of power and the dynamics of the negotiations. Because it occupies Palestinian territory, Israel is able to negotiate from a position of strength, while the Palestinians, with no leverage whatsoever, have no way to pressure Israel to meaningfully withdraw. Appeals to international law, which would have leveled the playing field, were nullified after the US, de facto supporting Israel’s claim that there is no occupation, classified the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza as disputed territories. Instead of requiring Israel to relinquish its illegal settlements and other forms of control, this policy forces the Palestinians to negotiate every settlement, road and centimeter of land, unable in the end to compel Israel to make any concessions it does not want to make. By seeking international recognition of the Palestinian state within recognized borders, including membership in the UN, the Palestinians seek, finally, to end the Occupation while transforming Israel’s presence from that of an occupying power to one of an invader whose unilateral military and settlement activities, as well as its extension of its legal and planning systems into Palestine, constitute nothing less than an intolerable violation of Palestinian national sovereignty.

If the Palestinians’ declared their state within the boundaries accepted by the international community since 1967, it would be doing so not unilaterally but by agreement with the member states of the UN. The hope would be to secure American agreement, despite frantic Israeli attempts to head off such an initiative, after which the European countries would fall into place. The vast majority of countries in the rest of the world would at any rate recognize the Palestinian state.

Predictably, the US has rejected the rumoured (or floated) initiative. The State Department lost no time issuing a statement that “It is our strong belief and conviction that the best means to achieve the common goal of a contiguous and viable Palestine is through negotiations between the parties.” Two senators who happened to be in Israel, Kaufman and Lieberman, let it be known that the US would veto any such resolution in the Security Council. The EU immediately fell into lock-step, with the Swedish Foreign Minister, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, declaring that “conditions are not yet ripe” for such a move. Still, the Palestinians could decide to abandon – or at least balance – their long-standing American-centric approach to achieving self-determination by turning to the broader international community. Abbas is exploring such an option among the Arab, Muslim, Latin American, African and Asian blocs of nations. If the Security Council is unwilling to entertain such an initiative, the Palestinians, with broad-based international support, could turn to the UN General Assembly, which is empowered by a two-thirds majority to call a special emergency session and pass a resolution of approving the move, thus by-passing the US veto.

The Security Council cannot be by-passed completely; its approval is necessary before a state can become a member of the UN. But even a symbolic call from the majority of members in the General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and its urging the members of the Security Council to admit such a state into the UN would send a strong message to the Americans and their European clients. Unfortunately, the Palestinians’ declaration of statehood, in conformity to international agreements though it may be, conflicts with the concerns of other Security Council members regarding restive peoples in their own countries. Russia, which opposed the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo, faces similar actions in Chechnya, South Ossetia and elsewhere. China has a similar problem with the Uigars; France with Corsica; Britain (perhaps) with Wales and Scotland; Turkey with the Kurds; and so on. The US, which did support the Kosovars unilateral action and thus has no grounds to deny the Palestinians, nevertheless faces the perpetual challenge of Puerto Rican independence, not to mention the struggles of insurgents throughout the world. And yet, having the issue of Palestinian statehood come up before the Security Council – potential sponsors from among the rotating members might be Libya, Burkina Faso or Uganda – would spur a useful debate and help focus on the responsibility of Israel, the US and Europe for disappearing Palestinian rights. And, again and again, the Palestinians have to drive home forcibly and repeatedly that their declaration of statehood stands in complete conformity to the internationally agreed upon end-game of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. It is defiant only in the sense of their asserting their right to self-determination after years of being let down by the international community and having nowhere else to go.

Most important, such a Palestinian initiative would force a solution to their conflict with the Israelis. If it were to be accepted, years of drawn-out pseudo-negotiations and the deaths of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis could be avoided. It would also go a long way towards redeeming Obama’s Cairo address and, as is likely, would facilitate better relations with the Muslim world which would open new possibilities in regards to withdrawing militarily and achieving accommodation and stability. If the US agreed, of course, Europe, and perhaps Russia and China, would fall into place.

It should be remembered that in a two-state solution represented by the Palestinian declaration, Israel would remain on 78% of historic Palestine, despite the Jews becoming a minority population with the return of even some of the refugees – a pretty generous Palestinian compromise. Hamas rejected Abbas’s initiative by stating: If you want to declare a state, do so from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. Yet, if a Palestinian state would actually emerge on all the Occupied Territories, it is likely that Hamas could not stand in the way of popular support for it – including in the refugee camps. The state that then arises would have sovereignty over its borders with Egypt and Jordan and the ability to enter into foreign alliances. It would possess a coherent territory, control of its natural resources (including water, its airspace and the communications sphere), a viable economy (especially given the inclusion of the Old City of Jerusalem and Bethlehem as tourist venues) and East Jerusalem as its political, religious and cultural capital and the ability to repatriate refugees. None of these things will the Palestinians get in negotiations with Israel. Given an agreed upon quid pro quo such as a shared Jerusalem, an extra-territorial passage between the West Bank and Gaza and a qualitative exchange of territory, the Palestinians may cede to Israel certain symbolic sites: a special status in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the historic core of the Etzion Bloc, making such a settlement more palatable to them. While the remaining settlements would become part of Palestine, though the Palestinians would earn points if they invited the settlers to stay and live in integrated communities.

A unilateral declaration, if refused by the US with no prospect of genuine negotiations aimed at a Palestinian state in all the occupied territory within a strict time-line, would signal the definitive end of the two-state solution. At that point the Palestinians could unite on a program of a one-state solution, be it a democratic state of equal citizens or, more workable, a bi-national state. Crucial to this shift would be a vigorous Palestinian campaign showing that it was Israel that created a bi-national situation through its settlement project and Israel that eliminated the two-state solution, which the PLO had accepted way back in 1988. If Israel implements the steps it has threatened in response to a Palestinian declaration of independence – in particular the annexation of Area C, some 60% of the West Bank containing the settlements – the apartheid situation that emerges is clear and unacceptable even to the US and Europe. Israel has thereby torn the veil from the de facto apartheid that already exists and which Israel seeks to perpetuate. By its own hand Israel has reconfirmed the bi-national reality of Palestine/Israel and driven the stake into the heart of the two-state solution.

For all the risks it involves, a declaration of Palestinian statehood within the 1967 borders – which would garner recognition from the vast majority of states in the world – would seem a win-win proposition. At least it would break the vessels of an impotent, ineffective and less than honest American-led “peace process” that is going nowhere – indeed, can’t go anywhere because it requires a level of assertiveness on Israel, perhaps even the imposition of a solution, that is completely lacking in either the American or European governments. It would also galvanize the civil society forces abroad, initiating a kind of ultimate BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions) campaign. Given the failure of the Palestinian Authority to effectively communicate its case, a unilateral declaration would thrust the underlying issues of the conflict – and Israel’s responsibility in particular – into the limelight, generating the sort of discussion in the media and elsewhere that is sorely needed.

All this, of course, is a highly unlikely scenario, though given Abbas’s anger and frustration at the American’s failure to stop Israeli settlement building (as I write this the Israeli government has just announced the construction of 900 housing units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Gilo), it is not altogether inconceivable. Although indicative of mounting Palestinian desperation, not all Palestinians support such a move. Hamas has rejected it, saying the Occupation must end before a state is declared. Palestinian policy-makers fear that the declaration, if it is seen as merely symbolic, could lock the Palestinians into a position where Israel could claim they now have self-determination but without the ability to actually claim their borders – a limbo reminiscent of the “state without borders” formulation of stage 2 of the Road Map, seen as a mortal danger by Palestinians. And supporters of the one-state solution, primarily in the Palestinian Diaspora but increasingly in the camps and the Occupied Territories themselves, have already moved on. But something must be done, and given the failure of the international community to either protect the Palestinians or reign in Israel, I, for one, am at a loss to suggest alternatives that address the urgency of a way out of Israel’s growingly genocidal occupation.

(Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at <jeff@icahd.org>.)

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is based in Jerusalem and has chapters in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Please visit our websites:
www.icahd.org
www.icahduk.org
www.icahdusa.org

Jeff Halper on Netanyahu vs Obama

NETANYAHU CHOOSES WAREHOUSING

Jeff Halper

May 25, 2009

Would Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu say the magic words “two states” after his meeting with President Obama? All Israel held its breath. (He didn’t). The gap between the two is wider than those words could ever have bridged, however. Obama, I believe, sincerely – perhaps urgently – seeks a resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, a pre-condition, he understands, to getting on with larger, more pressing Middle Eastern issues. Netanyahu, who rejects even the notion of a Palestinian mini-state as grudgingly accepted by Barak, Sharon and Olmert, is seeking a permanent state of “warehousing” in which the Palestinians live forever in a limbo of “autonomy” delineated by an Israel that otherwise encompasses them. The danger, to which we all should be attuned, is that the two sides might compromise on apartheid – the establishment of a Palestinian Bantustan that has neither genuine sovereignty nor economic viability.

For his part, Obama seems to understand the strong linkage between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the hostility towards the West so prevalent in the Muslim world. His administration has been quite candid about the need to move forward on Palestine in order to deal with the Iranian nuclear issue, and his ability to withdraw from Iraq, stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan and deal with the challenge political Islam poses to the “moderate” Arab states also depend, to a meaningful degree, on forging a new relationship with the Muslim world , which requires an end to the Israeli Occupation.

Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have already presented the outlines of their new “reframing” of the conflict:

(1) The Iran threat is preeminent, uniting the US and Israel into a strategic alliance and completely overshadowing the Palestinian issue;

(2) Such “slogans” (as Lieberman characterized them) as occupation, settlements, settlers, land for peace and even the “simplistic” two-state solution must be abandoned in order to “go forward” according to a new slogan: “economy, security, stability” – meaning improving the Palestinian economy while ensuring Israel’s security. The stability that results (Lieberman invokes the “stable” situation between the Greek and Turkish populations of Turkish-occupied Cyprus as his model) will then somehow facilitate some future and vague peace process;

(3) Israel will continue to expand its “facts on the ground.” Just the day before the Netanyahu/Obama meeting the building of a new settlement was announced – Maskiot, in the Jordan Valley, the first settlement to be officially established in 26 years. Two days after returning from Washington, Netanyahu further declared: “United Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Jerusalem was always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned and divided.” It then announced that it will continue building within the “settlement blocs.” Just a month before, on the day Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell were to arrive in the country, the Israeli government announced that it would conduct massive demolitions of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem. This “in your face” approach signals the Administration that Israel is not about to accept dictates, as the Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon put it, testing just how assertive Obama will be.

(4) Both the US and Israel seek broader involvement in the peace process by the Arab states, but once again, Israel has its own particular spin on that. While the US is formulating a comprehensive approach to peace and stabilization in the entire Middle East region (which King Abdullah of Jordan calls a “57-state solution” whereby the entire Arab and Muslim worlds would recognize Israel in return for a genuine end to the Occupation), Israel’s formula of putting “economic peace” before any politically defined peace agreement tries to create a state of normalization between Israel and the Arab/Muslim world that would relegate the Palestinian issue indefinitely to the back-burner. Given the record of the so-called “moderate” Arab states, and given the opposition to a rising Iran they share with Israel, their involvement does not necessarily bode well for the Palestinians.

Then there all the mechanisms for delaying or undermining negotiations:

· Creating insurmountable political obstacles, such as the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.” Netanyahu well knows that the Palestinians will not accede to that, the fact that such recognition would prejudice the equal status of Palestinian citizens of Israel, a full 20% of the Israeli population, being an important consideration. The fear of further ethnic cleansing (“transfer” in Israeli parlance) is a real one. When she was Foreign Minister, Tsipi Livni stated clearly that future of Israel’s Arab citizens is in a future Palestinian state, not in Israel itself. And remember, last year the Israeli Parliament passed a law requiring a majority of two-thirds to approve any change in the status of Jerusalem, an impossible threshold. Similar legislation, supported by the government, will be passed on other issues such as dismantling settlements and ratifying any peace agreement.

· Delayed implementation. OK, the Israeli government says, we’ll negotiate, but the implementation of any agreement will wait on the complete cessation of any resistance on the part of the Palestinians. “Security before peace” is the way the Israeli government frames it. Since, however, there has never been any indication that Israel would agree to a viable Palestinian state, and since Israel views any resistance, armed or non-violent, as a form of terrorism, “security before peace” actually means “stop all resistance and you may get a state.” The catch here is that if Palestinians do stop their resistance they are lost. Without Palestinian pressure, Israel and the international community would lack any motivation for making the concessions necessary for a genuine solution. And even if an agreement is reached, “security before peace” means that it will not be implemented until Israel unilaterally decides the conditions are ripe. This so-called “shelf agreement” erects yet another insurmountable obstacle before any peace process.

· Declaring a “transitional” Palestinian state. If all else fails – actually negotiating with the Palestinians or relinquishing the Occupation not being an option – the US, at Israel’s behest, can manage to skip Phase 1 of the Road Map and go directly to Phase 2, which calls for a “transitional” Palestinian state before, in Phase 3, its actual borders, territory and sovereignty are agreed upon. This is the Palestinians’ nightmare: being locked indefinitely in the limbo of a “transitional” state. For Israel, such a situation is ideal, since it offers the possibility of imposing borders and expanding into the Palestinian areas unilaterally while seeming to respect the Road Map process.

Needless to say, all of this is to avoid a real two-state solution, the very idea of which is anathema to the Likud-led government. More than a decade ago Netanyahu set out his vision of Palestinian self-determination: somewhere between “state-minus and autonomy-plus.” The best, if bleakest term for what Israel is intending for the Palestinians is warehousing, a permanent state of control and suppression in which the victims disappear from view and their situation, emptied of all political content, becomes a non-issue.

Although the Obama Administration may truly desire viable two-state solution and even understands all Israel’s tricks, it is also clear that without significant pressure it cannot be achieved. And here is where the real problem arises. Israel’s trump card has always been Congress, where it enjoys virtually unanimous bi-partisan support. And Obama’s own Democratic Party, which received almost 80% of the Jewish vote in 2008, has always been far more “pro-Israel” than the Republicans. It may well be that Obama and Mitchell will try to take American policy in a new and more assertive direction and the leaders of his own party will balk, fearful of not being re-elected.

In this case, the “compromise” between the desire to resolve the conflict and the inability to move Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories so that a viable Palestinian state may emerge may be nothing less than apartheid. The difference between a viable Palestinian state and a Bantustan is one of details. Already signs are that the Obama Administration will allow Israel to keep its major settlement blocs, including a “Greater” Jerusalem, and prevent the Palestinians from having sovereign borders with the neighboring Arab states. Since few appreciate the crucial meaning of such details, Israel believes that it can finesse an apartheid situation in the guise of a two-state solution. Over the past decades the job of civil society has been to force governments to fulfill their responsibilities and enter into a political process that will actually lead to a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Now that that process is upon us, our task is now to keep it honest.

(Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at <jeff@icahd.org>.)

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is based in Jerusalem and has chapters in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Please visit our websites:
www.icahd.org
www.icahduk.org
www.icahdusa.org

Published here with the permission of Jeff Halper.

ICAHD CALLS FOR AN IMMEDIATE HALT TO ISRAEL’S POLICY OF HOME DEMOLITIONS

March 17, 2009

One can only describe Israel’s obsession with demolishing Palestinian homes in light of the exclusive Jewish claim to the entire Land of Israel harking back a century or more. It is not a policy specific to any particular time or place, nor is it confined to the Occupied Territories. In 1948 and for years after, Israeli governments systematically demolished more than 500 entire villages, towns, urban centers and neighborhoods, both to prevent the return of the Palestinian refugees and to take their lands and properties. Since the Occupation began in 1967, another 24,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished, including 4000 in the latest attack on Gaza. And in 2004, the Israeli government announced the establishment of a Demolition Administration within the Ministry of Interior; targeted for destruction are 20-40,000 homes of Israeli (Arab) citizens classified as “unrecognized villages.” (One Bedouin village in the Negev, al Twazil, has been demolished 18 times.)

It must be stressed that Israel has never explained or justified its long-standing practice of demolishing Palestinian homes by security. For the most part it has offered no explanations at all, treating the phenomenon as a purely internal matter. Occasionally it justifies the wholesale destruction of homes in military operations as “collateral damage.” According to Ha’aretz (15.2.09), “Israel Defense Forces investigations into last month’s offensive in the Gaza Strip indicate the army could face significant difficulties justifying the scale of destruction of civilian homes during the fighting. A military source involved in the investigation told Haaretz, “It’s clear to us that in a small portion of the combat sectors immeasurable damage was caused, and that is very difficult to justify from a legal perspective, particularly if such justifications are called for in legal proceedings with international organizations.” As for the thousands of homes demolished due to a lack of building permits, which Israel justifies on a legal basis, it neglects to say that its explicit policy since 1967 has been to deny permits to Palestinians, or to restrict them severely.

When one surveys the consequences of Israel’s house demolition policy from 1948 until the present, the conclusion is inescapable: a systematic and ongoing campaign is being waged to either rid the country of its Palestinian population or, failing that, to confine the remaining Palestinians to tiny, delimited, disconnected and impoverished enclaves, in Israel as well as in the Occupied Territories.

At this very moment, together with the “routine” demolitions that are the Palestinians’ daily fare, 88 homes in the Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem – the entire al Bustan quarter – are threatened with immediate destruction, as are two apartment buildings housing 34 families in the adjacent al Abbasiyya quarter. House demolitions in occupied East Jerusalem are illegal under international law, serve no obvious purpose, have severe humanitarian effects and fuel bitterness and extremism. They also violate the first phase of the Road Map. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) calls on the international community to enforce its stated opposition to this cruel policy and end it immediately.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is based in Jerusalem and has chapters in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Please visit our websites:
www.icahd.org
www.icahduk.org
www.icahdusa.org

Published with the permission of the ICAHD (The Israeli committee against house demolition)

A BONE IN AMERICA'S THROAT

Jeff Halper

Even before the voting began, Israeli politicians and pundits were asking: Will an Obama Administration be good for Israel? “Be good for Israel” is our code for “Will the US allow us to keep our settlements and continue to support our efforts to prevent negotiations with the Palestinians from ever bearing fruit?” For Americans the question should be: Will the Obama Administration understand that without addressing Palestinian needs it will not be able to disentangle itself from its broader Middle Eastern imbroglios, rejoin the community of nations and rescue its economy?

The Israel-Palestine conflict should be of central concern to Americans, near the top of the new Administration’s agenda. It may not be the bloodiest conflict in the world – its minor when compared to Iraq – but it is emblematic to Muslims and to peoples the world over of American hostility and belligerence. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not merely a localized one between two squabbling tribes. It lies at the epicenter of global instability. Go where you may in the world and you will encounter the same phenomenon: a sense that the suffering of the Palestinians represents all that is wrong in an American-dominated world.

As Obama comes into office, he will encounter a global reality very different from that of eight years before: a multilateral one in which a weakened and isolated US must find its place. He will discover that much of America’s isolation comes from the view that the Occupation of the Palestinian territories is, in fact, an American-Israeli Occupation. If restoring a weakened American economy depends on repairing relations with the rest of the world, he will learn that without resolving the Israeli-Palestine conflict he will not create those conditions in which the US will be accepted once more into the wider global community.

To be more specific, the Israel-Palestine conflict directly affects Americans in at least five ways:

It isolates the US from major global markets, forcing it to embark on aggressive measures to secure markets rather than peaceful accommodation;

It thereby diverts the American economy into non-productive production (tanks not roads), making it dependent upon deficit spending which only increases dependency upon foreign financing while diverting resources into the military rather than into education, health and investment;

Support for the Israeli military costs US taxpayers more than $3 billion annually at a time of deepening recession and crumbling national infrastructure;

It leads to an American involvement in the world that is mainly military, thus begetting hostility and resistance which produce the threats to security Americans so greatly fear; and

It ends up threatening American civil liberties by encouraging such legislation as the Patriot Act and by introducing Israeli “counterinsurgency” tactics and weaponry developed in the West Bank and Gaza into American police forces.

For many peoples of the world, the Palestinians represent the plight of the majority. They are the tiny grains of sand resisting what most Americans and privileged people of the West do not see. They are a people who are denied the most fundamental right: to a state of their own, even on the 22% of historic Palestine that Israel has occupied since 1967. For the majority of humanity that lives in economic and political conditions unimaginable in the West, the suffering caused by Israel’s occupation – impoverishment and a total denial of freedom that can only be sustained by total American support – is emblematic of their own continued suffering. Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians with the active backing of the US shows demonstrably the existence of a global system of Western domination that prevents others from achieving their own dreams of political and economic well-being.

Like a bone in the throat, the issue of Israel’s occupation can be neither ignored nor by-passed. To make things even more difficult, it is doubtful if a two-state solution is still possible, since Israeli settlement activity has largely eliminated that option. Whatever the eventual solution, if this most destabilizing of conflicts is not addressed, the US – even under Obama – will remain mired in conflicts with Muslim peoples and reviled by peoples seeking genuine freedom. Neither the US nor Israel will find the security they claim they seek. We live in a global reality, not a Pax Americana. The logic of the Bush Administration has run its course. No longer can the US throw its weight around in a War Against Terror. No longer can its involvement be purely military. The new logic that will accompany Obama into office can be summarized in one word: accommodation. And the US will not get to first base until it achieves accommodation with the Muslim world, which means ending the Israeli Occupation. What happens to the Palestinians takes on a global significance. Clearing the bone in the throat – that is, ending the Israeli Occupation and allowing the Palestinians a state and a future of their own – should be a top priority of the next American administration. Indeed, America’s attempt to restore its standing in the world depends on it. In the global reality in which we live, the fate of Americans and Palestinians, it turns out, are closely intertwined.

(Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He can be reached at <jeff@icahd.org>.)

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is based in Jerusalem and has chapters in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Please visit our websites:
www.icahd.org
www.icahduk.org
www.icahdusa.org

Fredsaktivist Jeff Halper arrestert

Jeff Halper, som besøkte Bergen i sommer, ble arrestert da han krysset grensen fra Gaza til Israel i dag. Halper er israelsk fredsaktivist, og leder aksjonen mot riving av palestinske hus. Han deltok da to båter med i alt 44 fredsaktivister fra 17 land brøt den israelske blokaden av Gaza sist lørdag. I tillegg til aktivistene, hadde de med seg en symbolsk last med høreapparater, for å markere at det er et stort, udekket behov for det i Midtøsten.

Halper ble igjen på Gazastripen da de to båtene vendte tilbake til Kypros, og ble arrestert av israelsk grensepoliti i dag.

Den internasjonale kvekerbevegelsen har tidligere foreslått Jeff Halper, som både har israelsk og amerikansk pass, som kandidat til Nobels fredspris. Han var i Bergen i juni, som Palestinakomiteens gjest.

-Håper på Obama

Jeff Halper, som leder den israelske aksjonen mot riving av palestinske boliger, håper at Barack Obama vil føre en politikk som fører til fred med palestinerne, hvis han blir USAs neste president. I kveld har han snakket på et åpent møte i rådhuskantinen i Bergen, etter invitasjon av Kirkens Nødhjelp, Norsk Folkehjelp og Palestinakomiteen.

Israelerne Jeff og Shosana Halper er på reise i Norge, for å skape internasjonal oppmerksomhet om hva som kan gjøres for å stanse rivingen av palestinske boliger i Israel og på den okkuperte Vestbredden. Siden 1997 har israelske myndigheter revet 18000 boliger. Halper leder Komiteen mot riving av hus, en organisasjon han var med å starte i 1997, det året håpet var ute for osloprosessen.

Halper er født og oppvokst i USA, men har bodd i Israel siden 1973. Han er professor i sosialantropologi, og har undervist ved flere israelske universitet.

De startet The Israeli Committee Agains House Demolitions (ICAHD) for å drive praktisk solidaritetsarbeid blant palestinerne. Tre ulike israelske myndigheter river palestinske boliger, i Israel, i Øst-Jerusalem og på Vestbredden. Så snart Halpers aktivister får melding om en riving, forsøker de å hindre den, ved å legge seg foran bulldozerne eller ved å lenke seg til huset.

De kommer ofte for sent. Da samler de inn penger for å bygge palestinernes hus opp igjen. Det er i strid med israelsk lov, og er derfor å regne som sivil ulydighet. Kirkesamfunn og fagforeninger over hele verden hjelper Halpers organisasjon med penger. EU-kommisjonen gir også pengestøtte, men kan ikke finansiere sivil ulydighet. Pengene til å bygge opp igjen hus som er revet, må derfor finnes på annet hold.

«Israel begrunner ofte sine handlinger med behovet for sikkerhet», sier Halper. Men rivingen av vanlige palestineres boliger, har ingen sikkerhetsbegrunnelse. Mange tusen palestinske familier lever med en trussel om at huset deres når som helst kan rives. De er ikke terrorister og rivingen begrunnes gjerne byråkratisk med at området er regulert til landbruk, og ikke til boliger. Bare i Øst-Jerusalem, med 220 000 palestinere, er det varslet at 22,000 boliger skal rives. Ingen får på forhånd vite, når det skjer.

Rivingen av vanlige palestineres hus er forferdelige overgrep og kynisk maktmisbruk fra israelske myndigheter side. Men fredsaktivistene kom til at det kunne være meningsfylt å aksjonere mot den omfattende rivingen av palestinske boliger. Det gir israelere mulighet til å se hvordan okkupasjonen arter seg, på nært hold. I Israel vekker rivingen ikke lenger oppmerksomhet i mediene. Men internasjonalt er det en økende oppmerksomhet.

Jeff Halper ble i 2006 foreslått til Nobels fredspris av den internasjonale kvekerbevegelsen. Han ser ingen løsning på konflikten mellom Israel og palestinerne, men så gjør han det likevel:
«Hvis Barack Obama vil trekke de amerikanske soldatene ut av Irak og Afghanistan, må han finne en løsning på konflikten mellom Israel og palestinerne. Den palestinske konflikten er som et bein som har satt seg i halsen. Det er ikke stort, men det har globale virkninger for forholdet mellom den muslimske verden og Vesten», sier Jeff Halper.

Du kan finne ut mer om Jeff og Shosane Halpers innsats på nettstedet til organisasjonen mot riving av palestinske boliger.