The Reality of the “Geneva Accord”

Al-Awda, 5 December 2003

The Geneva Accord was signed Monday, December 1, 2003, amid great media and political fanfare. The 50-page document lays out a plan for a presumed “peace agreement” between Israel and the Palestinian people. We, the undersigned, consider this initiative as inconsistent with the prerequisites of a just and durable peace for the following reasons:

1. It attempts to nullify the Palestinian right of return, both as a collective national right and as an individual right. By doing so, it strengthens existing attempts to relocate and scatter Palestinian refugees throughout the world and gives credence to plans to abrogate international law pertaining to the inalienable nature of the Right of Return. The net result would be to extract the very anchor of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination: the indivisible oneness of the Palestinian people and their right to their homes, properties and homeland.

2. It provides a Palestinian-Arab cover for the exclusive nature of the Israeli polity as a “Jewish State”, thus abrogating the national character of the Palestinian people within 1948 borders. It therefore fails to recognize the right of the 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel to live in a democratic state for all its citizens: Jews and Palestinians, and it sets stage for mass transfer and ethnic cleansing in the future to maintain demographic Jewish dominance.

3. It accepts the reconfiguration of Jerusalem based on Israeli annexation plans, and grants Palestinian-Arab legitimacy to the colonial process that altered the Arab character of Jerusalem, making it impossible for the Palestinians to exercise control over “East Jerusalem,” not to say anything about “West Jerusalem,” which was conquered and ethnically cleansed in 1948.

4. It permanently accepts the presence of the vast majority of Israeli settlement colonies, particularly those that surround Jerusalem from the east, south, north and northwest, where most post-1967 settlers live, and alters the geography of Palestine to accommodate such colonial seizures.

5. It codifies a process that would limit the upper ceiling of a potential Palestinian polity to a truncated and demilitarized entity void of sovereignty, and sets in motion a process of expanding Israeli political oversight and control over any potential Palestinian entity.

6. It paves for an economic/political relationship that subordinates the Palestinian people to an exclusive and dominant Israeli polity, thus strategically de-linking the Palestinians from the Arab people and subjugating the national interests of all Arabs to the singular power of an Israeli-US alliance.

7. It allows for Israeli military and economic penetration and permanent outposts into the presumed Palestinian entity.

8. It leaves open all Israeli claims to the region’s water resources, natural wealth, and airspace. The text makes several references to annexes, but these issues have, in effect, been deferred, and may become the “final status” issues of the Geneva understanding.

9. It dilutes the international consensus on the conflict and attempts to transform the basis of the Palestinian struggle from one of national self- determination and return to that of modified civil rights within a prescribed political framework.

10. Most importantly, it weakens the national unity and resolve of the Palestinian people leading to the potential defeat of the current Intifada in the same manner Madrid and Oslo destroyed the first a decade ago.

11. It diminishes European commitment to Palestinian sovereignty, and most importantly, it expands the margin of Palestinian concessions, which have been bottoming out during the past two decades, making it very difficult for future Palestinian negotiators to back away from these concessions, including the renunciation of the Right of Return.

12. It assumes the Palestinian victims of Israel are the criminals, and the new judges allegedly more liberal than previous ones in the sentencing.

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The killing fields of Rafah

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, Nov 30, 2003
  
Quietly, far from the public eye, Israeli soldiers continue killing Palestinians. Hardly a day goes by without casualties, some innocent civilians, and the stories of their violent deaths never reach the Israeli consciousness or awareness. If there is one consistent piece of data in the current intifada, it is the number of Palestinian casualties: dozens a month, unceasingly.

There were 30 in November, 57 in October, 33 in September. In May and June, the number of casualties reached 60 a month (all data supplied by B’Tselem). While Palestinian terror shocks us with its brutality, the daily killing of innocent Palestinians in far greater numbers is ignored – unless it is a case of an army operation as in Nusseirat refugee camp in October.

Here’s a list of victims from the last month, taken from the margins of the daily newspaper chronicles: A 32-year-old motorcyclist shot to death in the chest after soldiers said he tried to escape a checkpoint near Iskar refugee camp; a 10-year-old boy from Sejaya in Gaza who was bird hunting with a slingshot near the separation fence around Gaza, killed by a tank shell fired at him; an eighth-grader from Barukin, near Jenin, who threw stones at soldiers, shot dead; a youth shot to death during “disturbances” after the funeral of his friend in Jenin; a taxi driver and father of six shot to death in Tul Karm by soldiers who thought he was trying to get away; a 15-year-old killed in Yata during some arrests; a nine-year-old killed by IDF fire in Rafah; and three Palestinians who were on their way to the holiday dinner last Wednesday in Gaza, killed by soldiers who claimed they thought the three were an armed cell.

The IDF admitted the next day that they were “accidentally” killed. But a day later, Brigadier General Gad Shamni, commander of the Gaza forces in the Strip hurried to say the soldiers actually behaved correctly. Even though three innocent people were killed, he didn’t even think it was a mistake.

Life in the killing fields of Rafah, for example, is as cheap as the hundreds of houses that have been demolished there for various, strange reasons. Just a few days ago, the IDF demolished the home of someone in their custody whom the army claimed was responsible for the smuggling tunnels. There’s no need for blood on the hands to justify demolishing a person’s house in the current intifada. Only someone who has lately visited Rafah can understand how cheap life has become in this remote place, where there’s practically no building that has not been damaged.

Last weekend, the BBC broadcast a program titled “When the killing is easy” about the killing of British TV cameraman James Miller, the death of International Solidarity Movement volunteer Rachel Corrie under a bulldozer, and the shooting of ISM peace activist Tom Hurndall, who has been rendered a vegetable by his injuries. All three incidents happened within a few weeks in Rafah.

The TV cameras caught Miller walking in the night to his death: wearing a flak vest marked with fluorescent ink identifying him as a journalist, white flag in hand, walking slowly and cautiously, calling out to the soldiers in the armored personnel car facing him so they calm down. Then, the sound of a shot in the dark, and then another and Miller falls, dying in the dirt. The single bullet that struck his neck was well-aimed.

The soldiers in the APC had the best night vision equipment and it is difficult to assume that they were unable to identify their victim as a journalist. Maybe they did not want to kill a journalist, maybe they thought it was a Palestinian pretending to be a journalist, but there is no doubt he was not endangering any of their lives inside the APC. They could have warned him to halt, they could have only wounded him. Hurndall was also an innocent victim of the easy fire. A bullet struck him in the head and he’s now a vegetable.

In effect, there is no difference between how Miller was killed, how Hurndall was wounded and how the three Palestinians were shot dead last Wednesday, except for the fact that a movie was made about Hurndall and Miller, because they are not Palestinians. When soldiers know they will not be prosecuted – and usually no investigation will even take place – for killing an innocent foreign photographer or innocent Palestinians on their way to a festive dinner, they are getting a license to kill from their commanders.

In the eyes of a soldier’s commander, at most he made a mistake. When Brigadier General Shamni announced his soldiers operated “correctly” by killing three unarmed residents, he paved the way for the next unnecessary killing.

If there’s no investigation and no punishment, it means nothing wrong happened. If the pilots are allowed to kill 10 civilians for a single wanted man, obviously the killing of a single innocent resident is inconsequential. Thus the line blurs between killing and murder. What was the sniper’s bullet that struck Miller in the neck? In the complacent response, the IDF’s senior command sends a worrisome message to its soldiers. No instruction booklet about what is allowed and not allowed and no day of discussion about “respecting human dignity” that certain units in the territories have lately taken will erase the damage of the sweeping license to kill that the IDF grants 19-year-olds in the territories.

Wisconsin Bookstore’s Fight for Free Speech Victorious

David Grogan, American Booksellers Association, Nov 12, 2003

On Thursday, November 6, Madison, Wisconsin’s Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative and a local newsweekly were able to convince Madison Area Technical College (MATC) to reverse its decision to impose restrictions on a speaking event about the Middle East, featuring noted writer and University of Chicago researcher Ali Abunimah. MATC had attempted to limit the scope of the talk and to deny Rainbow’s request to sell books in conjunction with the event after some residents protested the talk due to Abunimah’s pro-Palestinian point-of-view. However, faced with an unexpected backlash from the public, MATC decided at the last moment to proceed with the event as scheduled the evening of November 6.

The speaking engagement featuring Abunimah was scheduled as part of MATC’s “Reporting From the Middle East,” which is sponsored in part by Rainbow Bookstore, and also is part of MATC’s Global Horizon lecture series. However, some in the community who vehemently opposed Abunimah’s point-of-view on the Middle East exerted pressure on MATC to cancel, or at the very least, limit what Abunimah could talk about at the event. Subsequently, the college “sent an e-mail to Abunimah telling him what he could and could not speak about,” Allen Ruff, Rainbow’s events coordinator, told BTW.

When Abunimah was informed of the restriction, he told The Isthmus, a Madison alternative weekly newspaper, that it was “an outrageous violation of my First Amendment rights and the rights of the community to engage in dialogue and debate about matters of public interest.”

While Ruff said he did not know who in Madison had exerted pressure on the school, The Isthmus quoted Steve Morrison, executive director of the Madison Jewish Community Council, as saying he perceived a lack of balance in the Global Horizon series. Morrison said he told MATC’s events coordinator, Geoff Bradshaw, and MATC acting president Roseann Findlen, that his concerns regarding Abunimah would be mitigated if his talk were limited to media issues, the newsweekly reported.

In addition to the attempt to restrict Abunimah’s speech, MATC administrators also put a ban on literature tables in the building where Abunimah’s talk was being held. “We asked [Bradshaw] if this edict applied to us, and he checked and came back to us with a compromise — that we could only sell books by Abunimah,” Ruff reported. But while Abunimah had published many articles, he had not authored any books. As a result, MATC decided Rainbow could not have a table of books at the event. “We usually have a broad range of books relating to a topic [at similar events],” he said. “We had planned to test [the school decision] by having a table anyway.”

Faced with MATC’s pronouncement, Ruff notified the local lawyers guild and the ACLU. Isthmus picked up the story and published an article the morning of Abunimah’s talk. In a quick turn of events, a few hours later MATC’s Student Life Administrator “called me saying it was all a miscommunication, and to proceed as previously planned,” he said. “Word got out about this potential for suppression, and it swelled the crowd at the event. There was no opposition [to Abunimah] in the crowd.”

The fact that the event went off without restrictions and was a huge success was “certainly a victory in this post-Patriot Act period,” Ruff said. “We have to defend ourselves against any attempt to curtail any speech, especially political speech. People will now think twice about such blatant attacks on First Amendment rights.”

Israeli chainsaw massacre

Palestinian farmers seek protection against settlers

The Globe and Mail, 12 November 2003

Einabus, West Bank – Men with chainsaws turned Fawzi Hussein’s olive into a wasteland overnight – 255 trees cut down at the trunks, fruit-laden branches wilting on a West Bank slope, at the height of the harvest season.

The suspected culprits: militant settlers who have been harassing Palestinian farmers for years, especially in the past three years of fighting. Human rights groups say it is part of an attempt to drive Palestinians off their land.

The destruction of about 1,000 trees in three villages, including Mr. Hussein’s, was on an unusually large scale. It prompted an outcry in Israel, with settler rabbis calling it a sin and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promising to
track down the vigilantes.

It also heightens fears that this kind of extremism – albeit of a tiny minority among the 220,000 Jews in the West Bank – is a harbinger of the resistance the Israeli government could face if it tries to uproot settlements in a land-for-peace deal.

There have been hundreds of settler attacks, including rampages through Palestinian villages, since fighting broke out in 2000. A Palestinian human-rights group says 25 Palestinians have been killed by settlers in the past three years. Palestinian gunmen, in turn, have targeted settlements, killing dozens of residents.

Palestinian officials and Israeli opposition leaders say Israeli security forces are mostly choosing to ignore attacks by settlers and are doing little to protect Palestinian civilians – one of the duties of an occupying power.

“Settlers succeed in murdering, uprooting trees and attacking Palestinians without the army and the police controlling them,” said legislator Ran Cohen of the dovish Meretz party and a colonel in the Israeli army reserves.
Police say they have established a special unit and filed 85 indictments in 2003. Spokesman Doron Ben-Amo says attacks have dropped from 350 last year to 192 this year, suggesting that “maybe the settlers are beginning to understand that there are laws.”

Mr. Hussein, the olive farmer, is from the village of Einabus near Nablus. His grove is on a slope near the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar, whose people are known for their militancy.

On Oct. 27, Mr. Hussein, several Israeli peace campaigners and a journalist were visiting the grove when seven settlers approached wielding clubs.

“They started threatening us and pushing us and throwing rocks,” said Arik Ascherman, leader of the Rabbis for Human Rights. “I was kicked a couple of times and hit by a rock and pushed down a couple of times.”

The attackers fled when police showed up.

Mr. Ben-Amo said several settlers were questioned but none was arrested. Mr. Ascherman said he offered to identify the attackers in a lineup but police never got back to him.

Police say they are trying hard, but lack the staff to protect all farmers at all times. Military officials say that farmers are offered escorts on request but that few Palestinians respond. After 36 years of occupation, many Palestinians distrust the Israeli authorities.

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Israeli Roulette

Uri Avnery, CounterPunch, November 7, 2003

In the Six-Day War, hundreds of Israeli soldiers were murdered while storming the Sinai desert, the West Bank and the Golan heights.

In the Yom-Kippur War, more than 2000 Israeli soldiers were murdered in the defense of the conquered territories.

In the 18 year long Lebanon War, more than a thousand Israeli soldiers were murdered while conquering and occupying South Lebanon.

They would have been surprised to learn that they were “murdered”. Perhaps they would have been insulted. After all, they were not helpless Jews in the ghetto who were killed during a pogrom by drunken Cossacks. They fell as soldiers in war.

Now we are back in the ghetto. Again we are poor, fearful Jews. Even when we are in uniform. Even when we are armed to the teeth. Even when we have tanks, airplanes, missiles and the nuclear option. Alas, we are murdered.

The application of the verb “murder” to combat soldiers who fall in action is a semantic novelty of the present intifada in the Sharon era. It was very conspicuous last week, in the wake of two military incidents.

In the Palestinian village of Ein Yabroud, three soldiers were ambushed and killed. Their job was to safeguard the road to the nearby settlement Ofra, north of Ramallah. They were patrolling the main street of the village on foot, following their regular route. On the way back, three Palestinian fighters lay in wait for them, killing three and wounding one. The attackers got away.

A classic guerilla engagement. Not terrorism. Not an attack on civilians. The action of guerilla fighters against armed soldiers in an occupied area. If it had involved German soldiers in France or French soldiers in Algeria, nobody would have dreamed of saying that they were “murdered”. But on our television, military correspondents talked of the three being “murdered” by “terrorists”.

A few days later, an even more shocking event took place. One single Palestinian fighter cut through the fence of Netzarim settlement in the Gaza Strip, entered a military camp and killed three soldiers–one male, two female. He was pursued and killed.

In connection with this event, too, the military correspondents said on TV, without blinking, that the three were “murdered” by “terrorists” in a “terrorist” action.

Murder? Terrorism? Against soldiers in uniform? Inside a fortified settlement?

It is worth analysing this incident in order to understand the current military campaign as a whole.

Netzarim is a small, isolated settlement on the sea shore, in the heart of the Gaza Strip, far from any other settlement. It was implanted in the middle of a Palestinian population of a million and a quarter, half of them refugees, in the most densely inhabited place on earth. A whole battalion of the IDF defends it, and that is not enough. To reach it from Israel, one has to cross the entire width of the Gaza strip. All traffic is by armored vehicles. Up to now, more than twenty soldiers have been killed in the defense of the settlement and the road leading to it.

Crazy? The settlers themselves maintain that it was the army that had demanded to set up the settlement as a base for observation and control. The fanatical nationalist-religious founders have since disappeared, their place taken by adventurers who risk their own lives and the lives of their children–not to mention the soldiers, male and female, who have no choice. The government sacrifices them on the altar of the settlement.

The Palestinians, of course, suffer more than anyone else. Any who come near the settlement are shot. Anything that was standing or growing nearby, or along the road, has been destroyed or uprooted long ago. This week, the army demolished two Palestinian high-rise apartment blocks, each 12 floors high, some hundreds of meters from the settlement, because from there the goings on in the settlement could be “observed”. This is typical: like a cancer in the body that gradually extends its malign influence, every settlement slowly destroys its surroundings in an ever-widening circle.

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EU poll labels Israel world’s biggest threat to world peace

AFP, 04 Nov 2003

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Union scrambled to contain the fallout from a public opinion poll that — to Israel’s fury — labelled the Jewish state the biggest threat to world peace.

The United States was just behind Israel in the global danger league, in joint second place with North Korea and Iran, according to the “Eurobarometer” poll requested by the European Commission.

The results were part of a survey last month on Europeans’ attitudes in the aftermath of the Iraq war, which also found that more than two-thirds of EU citizens think that the US-led war was wrong.

The Israeli embassy in Brussels voiced outrage at the findings, which said that 59 percent of Europeans see Israel as a threat to world peace.

“Europeans seem blind to Israeli victims and suffering. Instead, they have put the Jewish state below the level of the worst pariah state and terror organizations,” it said in a statement.

“We are not only sad but outraged. Not at European citizens, but at those who are responsible for forming public opinion,” the embassy added.

“Israel’s desperate struggle for peace and security for its people has been distorted beyond recognition in often one-sided and emotionally charged media coverage.”

The poll had already prompted angry reactions after details were leaked by the Spanish daily El Pais last week.

The Israeli ambassador to Italy — which currently holds the EU presidency — told the daily Il Messagero Monday that the poll could have significant diplomatic consequences.

“It seems to me that the only aim of this poll was to denigrate Israel at a very delicate time, and I think it will it much more difficult for Europe to fulfill its ambition to play a part in the peace process,” said Ehud Gol.

The EU’s Italian presidency tried to play down the results, insisting they did not reflect the official EU position.

“The result of the survey, based on an ambiguous question, does not reflect the position of the European Union which has been voiced on numerous occasions,” Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in a statement.

“The EU is all the more annoyed since it is fully aware that the Israeli population is hit hard by terrorism,” it said, criticising the “false signal” that the survey sent out.

According to the Eurobarometer poll, based on interviews with 500 people in each of the 15 EU states, some 59 percent of Europeans replied “yes” when asked whether or not Israel presents a threat to peace in the world.

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