Friday, September 23, 2011

Why Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' application for UN membership and forming a coalition with Hamas is the right move

Why the Palestinian bid for UN membership is the right move even though it will fail today

Today Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is applying to the UN for a Palestinian state. It’s a membership application which the UN is over 60 years late in granting due to repeated US vetoes (and almost certainly another today, though the General Assembly will vote in favour along with the majority of the Security Council). The same UN resolution that established a Jewish state in the former British Mandate (effectively colony) of Britain in Palestine also established a Palestinian state, but it has long since been entirely annexed by Israel (with the exception of Gaza, which is under blockade and constant attack). The West Bank, given to Palestinians by Jordan after Israel occupied it, has much of it (and the vast majority of it’s vital water supplies and farmland) taken by Israeli troops and settlers.

Abbas is well aware that the US will veto Palestinian membership at the UN. He knows that Israeli government funded lobbying, political donations and media propaganda from AIPAC (the American-Israeli Public Accounts Committee) and others means the US congress is bought up and US Presidents fear losing votes at home by opposing Israel. His move is still the right one though. It has got Israel-Palestine on the UN and the international media agenda. It's brought attention to the fact that Israeli governments, whether led by the Labor or Likud parties, are not willing to make any concessions in bilateral negotiations with Palestinians - and that no agreement that doesn't include Hamas can hold, any more than an international agreement negotiated with a US President but not approved by an elected Republican controlled congress could

That's why Obama and David Cameron's claims that this is the "wrong way" to try and get UN membership and a real Palestinian state is nonsense, largely motivated by fear of Israeli propaganda groups in their own country and funding for their parties from these groups. Palestinians have been trying to get concessions in bilateral negotiations for decades and haven't got anything because Israel is militarily far stronger and the most powerful foreign governments, instead of putting pressure on Israel to give the weaker side something, have made the scales even more imbalanced by wieghing in on the Israeli side

A majority of governments in the UN and the majority of world public opinion is overwhelmingly in favour of giving Palestinians a full, sovereign state on roughly the 1967 borders. So the UN and bringing international pressure on Israel to make concessions is the way forward.

Israeli government propaganda on how Palestinians supposedly rejected generous peace offers

There’s a story that claims Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Palestinians 95% of the West Bank in the Taba negotiations in January 2001. In fact Barak offered 76% in three parts surrounded by Israeli troops and settlements (1). Barak’s negotiator , Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, said the offer was “bullshit… not aimed to reach an agreement” but to “convince Israeli Arabs to vote” for Barak in imminent elections (2).

Some people claim Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “said he will accept a Palestinian state”. In fact he’s said Israel would keep settlements and troops inside and on the borders of the Palestinian “state”, which would have no military (3) - (4). It’s Oslo and Taba again – an offer of poor inner city apartheid style ‘homelands’ surrounded by Israeli troops and settlements.

Violence – Far More Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli forces than Israelis killed by terrorism

This is not to mention the fact that Israeli military artillery attacks, raids, bombing, kidnappings of Palestinian MPs and "targeted assassinations" (often by air strike on family homes) in Gaza have never ended. Nor have Israeli military shootings of unarmed Palestinians and children and teenagers for throwing stones in the West Bank ended. Nor have settlements or bulldozing of Palestinian houses. This is part of a long pattern of Israeli military indiscriminate fire combined with some clearly deliberate targeting of civilians - including Palestinian children shot in the head by snipers in the street, in school or in their homes, which is as much terrorism as anything Hamas or Islamic Jihad's armed wings do.

In December 2008 to January 2009 after Palestinian rockets killed one Israeli, Israeli air strikes, artillery shelling and ground forces in Gaza killed 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians with no involvement in the rocket fire - 300 of them children in war crimes reported by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights group B'T selem (5) - (6).

This, like Israeli military operations in Lebanon has been excused on the grounds that Hamas and Hezbollah supposedly caused all the civilian deaths by hiding among civilians. However Human Rights Watch reports based on research on the ground by former members of the US military found that in fact Israeli forces have repeatedly both deliberately targeted civilians in some cases and failed to make any attempt to avoid killing them in others (e.g by bombing houses with 1,000 pound bombs, shelling built up areas with heavy artillery). (See the blog post on this link (the section sub-titled 'Lie Three - Israeli Forces Don't Target Civilians' and sources 21 to 45 listed in it

B'Tselem also found that Israeli forces used Palestinian civilians as human shields forced to walk ahead of them at gunpoint, just as they had in Jenin and Nablus in 2002 (7).

Human Rights Watch investigators found Israeli forces shot and killed unarmed Palestinians including women and children who were waving white flags in multiple incidents during the Gaza war and found no evidence to substantiate Israeli military claims that Hamas fighters hid behind civilians (8).

The stated reason for the offensive (which began shortly before elections while the incumbent Labor government were behind the Likud opposition in the polls) was to prevent Palestinian terrorist groups' rocket fire out of Gaza. However the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website shows that in the six months before the Israel 'Operation Cast Lead' offensive (or 'Gaza war') only one Israeli civilian was killed by rocket fire from Gaza. Predictably the Israeli offensive led to a massive increase in rocket attacks in response, with three Israeli civilians killed by rocket fire from Gaza in the first three weeks of the offensive according to the same Israeli MFA website - an 2,400% increase in the rate Israeli civilians were being killed from 1 every 24 weeks to 1 every week - clearly a massive failure and counter-productive even before considering Palestinian civilian deaths.(9) Electorally it was a short-lived success though- Labor pulled ahead in the polls by looking supposedly 'tough on terrorism', but went on to lose to Likud in the elections anyway.

Israeli experts, including former Shin Bet and Mossad intelligence heads say accept Hamas offers of negotiations without preconditions

Israeli governments - whether led by the Labor, Kadima or Likud parties - have refused to recognise the result of the 2006 Palestinian democratic parliamentary elections which Hamas won, refusing repeated offers of negotiation from Hamas on the basis of the 1967 borders, imposing sanctions on the entire Palestinian Authority and collaborating with Mubarak and Bush to arm Fatah to produce a Palestinian civil war. Former heads of Israel’s Mossad and Shin Bet military intelligence are among those Israelis with the full facts who say negotiations with Hamas should begin without preconditions.

Even the former head of Israel's Shin Bet military intelligence, Shlomo Gazit, has called the pre-conditions the Israeli government has placed on negotiations "ridiculous, or an excuse not to negotiate" (quoted in the Jewish newspaper 'Forward') (10).

Efraim Halevy, former head of Mossad, says Israel should negotiate with Hamas who have shown they will keep peace agreements in the past (11).

Israeli historian and IDF veteran Avi Shlaim has written that "The only way for Israel to achieve security is…through talks with Hamas, which has repeatedly declared its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with [Israel] within its pre-1967 borders for 20, 30, or even 50 years." and that "In March 2007, Hamas and Fatah formed a national unity government that was ready to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with Israel. Israel, however, refused to negotiate with a government that included Hamas. ….It continued to play the old game of divide and rule between rival Palestinian factions." (12)

Israeli professor Yossi Alpher has pointed out that Israel did not demand full recognition before negotiations even began when negotiating peace with Egypt or Jordan - and that if it ihad there would probably never been peace.(13)

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami is among many Israelis saying full recognition should be the end point of negotiations, it can't be a precondition for them.(14)

No agreement that excludes Hamas, who won the last Palestinian parliamentary elections, can hold. It’s like demanding a US Democrat President make an international agreement that excludes any input from a Republican controlled congress - unrealistic and undemocratic.

Israel elects war criminals, Palestinians elect terrorists – time for war criminals and terrorists to sit down and end the killing with a peace that provides Palestinians with a real state on roughly the 1967 borders

Meir Dagan, who was sacked as head of Mossad in June this year by Netanyahu, says Netanyau and his Defence Minister Ehud Barak are "irresponsible" in their refusal to make serious concessions for peace with the Palestinians and "reckless" in pushing for war with Iran (15).

Dagan was appointed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (and never sacked by him) so he's not exactly a liberal or dove. Sharon was a serial war criminal (which is as usual for Israeli Prime Ministers as for Palestinian leaders to be on the political wing of groups with armed terrorist wings). What was unusual was that he committed probably more war crimes (including personally targeting and killing civilians) than any other Israeli Prime Minister. These ranged from involvement in terrorism by Zionist militias against Arabs and the British before 1948, through to massacres during the 1948 war, massacres of villagers like that at Qibya in the West Bank in 1953 ( a massacre which Sharon personally took part in as an officer) and the killing of Egyptian prisoners of war and Sudanese migrant workers during the 1956 Suez war with Egypt (16) - (19). Most notoriously he was the architect of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon when he broke a ceasefire agreement under which PLO forces left by allowing Phalangist (fascist Christian Lebanese) militias to enter the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps to massacre civilians. Even an Israeli government inquiry found him personally responsible for the massacre (20). He continued ordering war crimes as Israeli Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006, including bulldozing Palestinian houses with people inside them and having Palestinian civilians, wounded fighters and ambulance crews shot in Jenin and Nablus in April 2002.

Yet Sharon was treated by US Presidents as an “ally against terrorism” and never seemed to see the hypocrisy when he condemned Palestinian terrorist attacks targeting civilians.

Nor did anyone place sanctions on Israel or refuse to negotiate with Israel until Sharon was no longer Prime Minister. Given this how can Israel and the US have a veto on who Palestinians elect. There is no side with clean hands in this conflict. All of them have blood on them. Negotiations without pre-conditions are the only way to end it.

There’s no excuse for targeting civilians, but Israel’s military has killed more civilians than all Palestinian terrorist groups combined.

Many Israeli politicians were terrorists to get their own state in the 1940s

In the late 1930s and 1940s when Zionist terrorists were killing British and Arab soldiers and civilians to get their own state, one Zionist newspaper (that of the 'Lehi' Jewish underground in Palestine) claimed “terrorism is …part of the political battle…against the occupier”. Future Israeli Prime Minister Yitzakh Shamir (he was Israeli Prime Minister twice), who ordered the assassination of UN envoy Bernadotte Folke in 1948, said that killing British soldiers by terrorism or killing civilians in “professional warfare” was “the same from a moral point of view”. So much for the differences between the Israeli government and Palestinian terrorist groups. When they had no state they did the same (21) - (23).


(1) = Professors Mearsheimer, John J. & Walt. Stephen (2007) ‘The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy’,Chapter 3, page 104 of hardback edition

(2) = Clayton E. Swisher (2004) ‘The Truth about Camp David’ Nation Books, New York, 2004,  Chapter 14 / Epilogue – The Politics of Blame,  page 403 (read this page online at )

(3) = Globe & Mail (Canada) 24 May 20011 ‘Transcript of Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to U.S. Congress’, , “In any real peace agreement, in any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel's borders. Now the precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We'll be generous about the size of the future Palestinian state. But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4th, 1967…. Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967....Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel….But Israel under 1967 lines would be only nine miles wide. So much for strategic depth. So it's therefore vital -- absolutely vital -- that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized, and it's vital -- absolutely vital -- that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River.

(4) = Haaretz 14 Jun 2009 ‘Full text of Netanyahu's foreign policy speech at Bar Ilan’, , ‘I spoke tonight about the first principle - recognition. Palestinians must truly recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. The second principle is demilitarization. Any area in Palestinian hands has to be demilitarization, with solid security measures.’

(5) = Amnesty International 02 July 2009 ‘Impunity for war crimes in Gaza and southern Israel a recipe for further civilian suffering’,

(6) = Amnesty International 02 Jul 2009 ‘Israel/Gaza: Operation "Cast Lead": 22 days of death and destruction’,

(7) = B'T selem 2009 'B'Tselem's investigation of fatalities in Operation Cast Lead',

(8) = HRW 13 Aug 2009 'Israel: Investigate ‘White Flag' Shootings of Gaza Civilians',

(9) = Israel Foreign Ministry ‘Victims of Palestinian Violence and Terrorism since September 2000’,

(10) = Forward 09 Feb 2007 ‘Experts Question Wisdom of Boycotting Hamas’,

(11) = Interview with Efraim Halevy in Mother Jones Magazine 10 Feb 2008 ‘Israel's Mossad, Out of the Shadows’,

(12) = Guardian 07 Jan 2009 ‘How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe’, by Professor Avi Shlaim ‘Like other radical movements, Hamas began to moderate its political programme following its rise to power. From the ideological rejectionism of its charter, it began to move towards pragmatic accommodation of a two-state solution. In March 2007, Hamas and Fatah formed a national unity government that was ready to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with Israel. Israel, however, refused to negotiate with a government that included Hamas. ….It continued to play the old game of divide and rule between rival Palestinian factions.’

(13) = Forward 20 Oct 2006 ‘Preconditions for a Problematic Partner’,

(14) = Times 26 Feb 2009 ‘Peace will be achieved only by talking to Hamas’,

(15) = 03 Jan 2011 'Israel government 'reckless and irresponsible' says ex-Mossad chief',

(16) = Ilan Pappe (2006)'The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine', One World, Oxford, 2006 - on the massacres of Palestinians by Zionist militias (many of whom would become the Israeli military and politicians) during the 1948 war)

(17) = Finkelstein, Norman (2003) 'Image and Reality of the Palestinian Conflict' (2nd edition), Verso, London and New York, 2003, Chapter 3 (massacres by Zionist/Israeli forces during the 1948 war and the 'Plan D' behind them to drive out as many Arabs as possible)

(18) = LA Times 16 Aug 1995 'Israel to Probe Deaths of Egyptian POWs in '56 : Sinai: At Cairo's request, defense officials will investigate general's claim that scores were shot.'

(19) = Shlaim, Avi (2000) 'The Iron Wall - Israel and the Arab World', Penguin paperback, London, 2001,Ch2, pages 90 -93 (on the 1953 Qibya massacre by an Israeli unit led by Sharon in the West Bank, then part of Jordan)

(20) = Shlaim, Avi (2000) 'The Iron Wall - Israel and the Arab World', Penguin paperback, London, 2001, Ch10, p416 - 417 (on Sharon and Sabra and Shatila massacres)

(21) = (bombing of the King David Hotel by Zionist militias) ; also see (truck bombing of British police station in Palestine by the Lehi Zionist militia in 1947)

(22) = Heller, Joseph (1995) ‘The Stern Gang – Ideology, Politics and Terror 1940 – 1949’ Frank Cass paperback edition, p115 (on Lehi militia’s newspaper article - full quote can be read online on this link - )

(23) = Bethell, Nicholas (1979) , The Palestine Triangle: The Struggle between British, Jews, and the Arabs, 1935–48, Deutsch, 1979 page 278 (Shamir quote - full quote can be read online on this link - )

No comments: