Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 17 March 2017
Rima Khalaf (via Facebook)
A senior United Nations official has resigned, following pressure from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to withdraw the landmark report published earlier this week finding Israel guilty of apartheid.
Rima Khalaf, the head of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) which published the report, announced her resignation at a press conference in Beirut on Friday.
Reuters reports that Khalaf took the step “after what she described as pressure from the secretary-general to withdraw a report accusing Israel of imposing an ‘apartheid regime’ on Palestinians.”
“I resigned because it is my duty not to conceal a clear crime, and I stand by all the conclusions of the report,” Khalaf stated.
A full copy of the report is available below.
It concludes that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.”
It finds “beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crimes of apartheid” as defined in international law.
It urges national governments to “support boycott, divestment and sanctions activities and respond positively to calls for such initiatives.”
Palestinians warmly welcomed the report, but Israel angrily denounced it as akin to Nazi propaganda. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN demanded that the report be withdrawn.
That demand came just as the Trump administration announced a budget plan that includes sweeping cuts in US contributions to the UN.
Khalaf’s resignation indicates that Guterres acted obediently and swiftly to carry out the orders from the United States. In a tweet, the Anti-Defamation League, a powerful Israel lobby group in the United States, thanked Guterres for urging ESCWA to withdraw the report.
The Israeli government has long targeted Khalaf for retaliation for doing her job. In 2014, its UN ambassador demanded she be removed from her post for criticizing Israel’s policies of occupation and Jewish colonization of Palestinian territory at the expense of Muslim and Christian communities.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the civil society coalition that leads the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, condemned Guterres’ intervention.
“The fact that a UN secretary general has bowed to threats and intimidation from the Trump administration to protect Israel from accountability, yet again, is hardly news,” the BNC said. “The real news is that this time round, Israel, with all its influence in Washington, cannot put
the genie back into the bottle.”
“Palestinians are deeply grateful to ESCWA’s director, Dr. Rima Khalaf, who preferred to resign in dignity than to surrender her principles to US-Israeli bullying,” the BNC added.
Khalaf’s resignation, under pressure to suppress factual and legal findings unfavorable to Israel, will send a chilling message to other UN officials that they are better off serving those in power than in upholding any mandate to advance human rights and respect for international law.
“As Americans who have a constitutional right to criticize our own government, we certainly have a right to criticize and, if we choose, boycott a foreign government that is heavily subsidized by US taxpayers.”
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 25 July 2016
The United Electrical Workers backed BDS in a vote of delegates at the union’s August 2015 national convention in Baltimore. (via Facebook)
The United Electrical Workers backed BDS in a vote of delegates at the union’s August 2015 national convention in Baltimore. (via Facebook)
The National Labor Relations Board has reaffirmed its dismissal of charges against the United Electrical workers union because of its support for the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
The NLRB is the US federal agency that enforces the country’s trade union legislation.
In August 2015, the 30,000-strong United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, known as UE, became only the second national trade union in the US to back BDS by a vote of delegates at its annual convention in Baltimore.
In October, Shurat HaDin, a lawfare group with ties to Israel’s Mossad spying and assasination agency, filed a complaint against the union, claiming that its support for BDS amounted to a violation of the law against secondary boycotts.
In January, the labor board dismissed the complaint, stating it had investigated and found “there is insufficient evidence to establish a violation” of the law.
Shurat HaDin appealed the dismissal, but on 26 May the labor board’s general counsel issued a letter that the union says reaffirms the earlier decision to throw the case out.
Victory for BDS
UE national president Peter Knowlton welcomed the decision in a press release on Friday.
Knowlton said that UE had in the past “withstood attempts by the US government to silence us during the McCarthy era in the 1950s,” and was “unbowed by the latest attempt of a surrogate of the Israeli government to stifle our call for justice for Palestinian and Israeli workers.”
“The NLRB’s decision is a victory for the growing BDS movement across the US, which faces increasing political attempts to silence and intimidate critics of the Israeli government,” he added.
“As Americans who have a constitutional right to criticize our own government, we certainly have a right to criticize and, if we choose, boycott a foreign government that is heavily subsidized by US taxpayers,” Knowlton said.
The NLRB decision will encourage rank and file members in other unions who are battling bosses for the right to express and organize support for Palestinian rights.
The UE resolution that Shurat HaDin tried and failed to overturn calls on the US to end all military aid to Israel and for pressure on Israel “to end the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the siege of Gaza and negotiate a peace agreement on the basis of equality, democracy and human rights for the Palestinian and Israeli people, including Palestinian self-determination and the right of return for refugees.”
Unable to stem the growing grassroots support for Palestinian rights, and particularly the BDS movement, Israel and its surrogates have increasingly turned to repressive legislation and litigation.
Last month, Brooke Goldstein explained that the purpose of such lawsuits was to “make the enemy pay” – that “enemy” being comprised of practically anyone who organizes for Palestinian rights.
Goldstein, director of the Lawfare Project, a pro-Israel group founded with the support of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has also asserted that “there’s no such thing as a Palestinian person.”
John K. Wilson, an editor of Academe Blog, a publication of the American Association of University Professors, described the lawsuit as “frivolous litigation designed for the sole purpose of getting the government to suppress the freedom of speech of a private organization.”
But just this month, a one-person outfit called the Zionist Advocacy Center filed yet another frivolous lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs who are not even members of the American Studies Association.
Radhika Sainath, an attorney for the legal advocacy group Palestine Legal, told Inside Higher Ed that the complaint is “a meritless lawsuit based on a hypothetical injury that will be thrown out of court in a heartbeat.”
“There’s no such thing as a Palestinian person,” key Israel lobbyist says
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 25 June 2016
“Why are we using the word Palestinian? There’s no such thing as a Palestinian person,” Brooke Goldstein declared to enthusiastic applause at a meeting of key Israel lobby operatives in New York earlier this month.
Goldstein is the director of the Lawfare Project, a legal group that aims, in her words, to “make the enemy pay” – that “enemy” being mainly comprised of Palestine solidarity activists and students.
The Lawfare Project was founded with the support of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an important forum for anti-Palestinian organizing in the US.
The clip of Goldstein denying outright the existence of Palestinians can be seen above.
At the event, she and other Israel lobby leaders revealed their latest strategies to try to defeat the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
A 58-minute edited video of the event was originally published on YouTube by the Jewish Broadcasting Service on 16 June, but was hidden a day after the journalist Ben White and other supporters of Palestinian rights began to circulate it on social media, drawing attention to Goldstein’s negation of Palestinian existence.
The Electronic Intifada is republishing the whole video under the Fair Use doctrine of the US Copyright Act:
In her presentation, Goldstein acknowledged that efforts to promote Israel as a democracy with “great beaches” had failed to stem the support for Palestinian rights, so “we have to focus on the offense, on Islamists and how they violate the basic civil rights that liberals hold very, very dear.”
Efforts to exploit and promote Islamophobia as a way to build support for Israel are not new, but the New York meeting heralded a renewed push in that direction.
Following the advice of pro-Israel pollster Frank Luntz to appropriate leftist and human rights language, Goldstein said the anti-Muslim message would appeal to the sensibilities of liberal and progressive college students.
She argued that pro-Israel advocates had to speak about the BDS movement “in the terminology that Millennials will understand, which is the civil rights terminology.”
“[Students] want to be against apartheid? Let’s give them what to be against,” she said, “Let’s give them [sic] to be against Islamist gender, race and religious apartheid that is occurring in every single Muslim-majority country on the planet.”
As its contribution, Goldstein explained that her organization would be launching what she called “Islamist Apartheid Week” on campuses across the US, an apparent effort to counter Israeli Apartheid Week.
And while Goldstein markets herself as a “human rights attorney,” she proudly touts her friendship with Geert Wilders, the anti-Muslim Dutch politician who has been funded by a key player in the US Islamophobia industry.
Wilders’ anti-Muslim agenda is so extreme it has even been condemned by the Anti-Defamation League, a major pro-Israel group.
Goldstein was speaking at an event on 2 June titled “BDS: The new anti-Semitism?”
Organized by the World Zionist Organization, the American Zionist Movement and the UJA-Federation of New York, it was addressed by Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon.
It came just days after Israel’s major anti-BDS conference held at UN headquarters.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-president of the Conference of Presidents, told the meeting that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement was like a deadly disease.
“We let this cancer metastasize until now on campuses across the United States,” Hoenlein said.
He claimed that the BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality was indistinguishable from the persecutions Jews had faced throughout history.
“This started when the Romans changed the name of Judea to Philistia,” Hoenlein asserted in a bizarre appeal to ancient history and myth, “that was the beginning of BDS.”
But he was clear that the purpose of the New York gathering was to create a movement “that uses all of our resources, all of our energies” in order to “put an end to this threat.”
Hoenlein said that pro-Israel activists need to reach youth who “communicate in 140 letters,” an apparent reference to the social media site Twitter.
Overlooking the fact that this is the most diverse and integrated generation of American college students ever, Hoenlein went on to insult the intelligence of the very youth he wants Israel to connect with. “This is an ignorant generation, a superficial generation,” Hoenlein said.
The Lawfare Project’s Brooke Goldstein also indicated that her legal group was preparing another Title VI challenge against US universities, naming San Francisco State University and the University of California, Irvine, as likely targets.
In recent years, pro-Israel groups lodged complaints against several universities under Title VI of the US Civil Rights Act, alleging that administrators were failing to protect Jewish students from a hostile environment created by Palestine solidarity activists.
But these complaints were thrown out by investigators from the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
Goldstein’s revelation casts the latest attacks by pro-Israel groups on Palestine solidarity activists at UC Irvine and San Francisco State University in a new light.
Goldstein said her group was encouraging Jewish students on those campuses to file police complaints against Palestine solidarity activists, “so we can pressure the [district attorney] to bring criminal charges against those students, just like was done with Michael Oren’s speech.”
These cases would also presumably be used as the pretext for the Title VI complaints.
As anti-BDS forces are trying to get various levels of government to “outlaw” BDS, it appears that some corporations are getting the message.
Landmark boycott victory as G4S says it is leaving Israel
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 10 March 2016
G4S has been protested by Palestine solidarity campaigners worldwide.G4S, one of the world’s biggest security and imprisonment firms, has announced it plans to end all its business with Israel within the next 12 to 24 months. (Anne Paq, ActiveStills)
Palestinians are welcoming the news as a major victory and a sign of the powerful impact of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
But they also warn that pressure on the company must continue until it has actually ended its role in Israel’s violations of the rights of Palestinians, especially thousands languishing in Israel’s prisons.
The announcement makes G4S the latest multinational company – following transport and municipal services firm Veolia, telecom giant Orange and construction materials conglomerate CRH – to head for the exits in the wake of sustained campaigns by the BDS movement.
“Reputationally damaging work”
G4S announced on Wednesday that it plans to “exit a number of businesses,” including G4S Israel, US “youth justice services” and UK “children’s services.”
The Financial Times said that by ending these businesses, the company would be “extracting itself from reputationally damaging work.”
Since 2010, G4S has lost contracts worth millions of dollars as a direct result of activist campaigns.
Stop G4S, a global campaign endorsed by the Palestinian BDS National Committee, aims to hold the company accountable for providing equipment and services to Israeli prisons in which thousands of Palestinian political prisoners, children and administrative detainees are subjected to inhumane treatment.
G4S also provides equipment for checkpoints along Israel’s wall annexing Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and for its settlements built in violation of international law.
The firm also co-manages the Israeli police academy in Jerusalem.
Other lost clients include universities and trade unions. The Bill Gates Foundation and the United Methodist Church in the US divested major shareholdings from G4S.
“As at the height of the international boycott of apartheid South Africa, BDS pressure is making some of the world’s largest corporations realize that profiting from Israeli apartheid and colonialism is bad for business,” Mahmoud Nawajaa, a spokesperson for the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), said in a statement.
“Investment fund managers are increasingly recognizing that their fiduciary responsibility obliges them to divest from Israeli banks and companies that are implicated in Israel’s serious human rights violations, such as G4S and HP, because of the high risk entailed. We are starting to notice a domino effect,” he added.
But the BNC also sounded a note of caution, pointing out that G4S announced in 2013 that it would end its role in illegal Israeli settlements, checkpoints and one Israeli prison by 2015, but failed to implement the withdrawal.
In 2014, G4S announced it would not renew its contract with the Israel Prison Service, set to expire in 2017, but is yet to implement that decision, the BNC also noted.
“G4S has a track record of breaking pledges to end its participation in Israel’s crimes so BDS campaign pressure on G4S will continue until it actually sells its Israeli subsidiary,” Nawajaa stated.
“No immediate effect”
Sahar Francis, director of the prisoners rights group Addameer, also welcomed the news, but cautioned that “this has no immediate effect on those facing human rights violations inside Israel’s prisons today.”
“At a time when Israel is stepping up its campaign of mass incarceration as a way of repressing Palestinian society, G4S should end its role in Israel’s prison system immediately, as well as its role in maintaining Israeli checkpoints and illegal settlements,” Francis added.
There are currently 7,000 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, according to Addameer.
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem revealed last week that the number of Palestinians held by Israel on “security” grounds at the end of 2015 was at the highest level since July 2010.
Brad Parker, an attorney and international advocacy officer for Defense for Children International – Palestine, also pointed out that abuses continue.
“Ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces is widespread, systematic, and institutionalized in the Israeli military detention system, which relies on G4S equipment and personnel to maintain a number of Israeli prisons and interrogation centers,” Parker told The Electronic Intifada.
“While the planned pullout of G4S is welcome news, without justice and accountability and an end to prolonged Israeli military occupation, Palestinian child prisoners will continue to suffer ill-treatment and torture at the hands of Israeli forces.”
And campaigners are also pointing out that the abuses G4S is involved in range much further afield than Palestine.
“From the US to Palestine, from South Africa to the UK, G4S works across the world to maintain injustice and oppression. We remain determined to work closely with partners to hold G4S to account for its participation in human rights abuses,” the BNC’s Mahmoud Nawajaa said.
Nawajaa welcomed the news that G4S is getting out of the youth detention business in the US and the UK, “both of which have been shown to involve abusive practices by G4S and both of which are part of deeply racist incarceration systems.”
Sign of strength
October 1 – November 26
“Palestine Reading Group”
The Lakefront on Langdon,
Memorial Union, UW-Madison [Map]
7 to 8:30 pm
The International Socialist Organization and Students for Justice in Palestine-Madison are hosting a discussion group on Ali Abunimah’s new book The Battle for Justice in Palestine. The first meeting will discuss the Preface and Chapter 1 (pg xi – pg 20). We will continue to meet biweekly Wednesdays @ 7pm until we finish the book.
– Ali Abunimah, The Battle for Justice in Palestine
– Joseph Massad, Columbia University
– Alice Walker
– Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director, Jewish Voice for Peace
– Omar Barghouti, Palestinian human rights activist, author of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 10 September 2014
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
A new United Nations assessment published this week lays out the massive scope of the needs facing the nearly 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza following the “unprecedented” destruction wreaked by 51 days of Israeli bombing in July and August.
Israel’s assault – which it dubbed “Operation Protective Edge” – left at least 2,133 Palestinians dead and more than eleven thousand injured. More than 100,000 are permanently homeless as some 13 percent of Gaza’s housing stock – 44,300 housing units – was affected by the attack, with five percent rendered completely uninhabitable.
The UN report “Gaza Initial Rapid Assessment,” published by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), was conducted through August with the assistance of dozens of Palestinian and international aid agencies, organizations and experts.
It indicates that almost everyone in every part of Gaza faces some urgent need for basic protection, healthcare and rehabilitation, housing, water, food security or education.
The report came out the same day that the UN and the Palestinian Authority launched a $551 million emergency appeal to meet urgent humanitarian needs in Gaza.
The assessment also identifies the need for “legal support to address some of these protection needs, including pursuing accountability for alleged violations of international law resulting in deaths and injuries, as well as destruction of property as a result of the military operation.”
The siege is still the issue
These findings underscore the urgency of the call made by Palestinians in Gaza and human rights and humanitarian groups insistently: reconstruction, recovery and a normal, dignified life are impossible unless the siege is lifted.
There is a strong consensus in the international humanitarian aid industry that the siege must go.
“Only a full opening of all crossings to people and goods, including exports will enable Palestinian civilians in Gaza to restore their economy and escape the poverty the blockade has entrenched,” Oxfam has said. “The international community must press Israel for the blockade to be fully lifted, rather than only eased.”
And the International Committee of the Red Cross has long viewed the siege of Gaza as illegal collective punishment.
But since the 26 August ceasefire, uncertainty and mystery continue to shroud the understandings regarding the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza reached by Israel and Palestinian resistance organizations.
Although the ceasefire understandings were not made public, media reported that they “include opening all crossings to Gaza, allowing reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, allowing the entry of materials needed for reconstruction and permitting fishing for a distance of six to twelve nautical miles from shore.”
The parties to the deal also agreed to return to Cairo within a month to resume negotiations on a long-term truce. Those discussions have yet to begin, but a Hamas official said they would start in mid-September.
Little change at the crossings
What we do know is that the Rafah crossing for people between Egypt and Gaza continues to operate at very reduced capacity, and the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza remains the only goods crossing open.
Palestinian sources have told Gisha, an Israeli nonprofit organization that monitors and advocates for an end to the movement restrictions on Gaza, that there has been a slight easing of restrictions at Erez, the crossing for people between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
But in a post on its website today, Gisha says that such “fragments of information, the result of understandings that brought Operation Protective Edge to an end, serve only to remind us that critical decisions are being kept hidden from the Israeli and Palestinian public.”
Gisha points out that Erez, Kerem Shalom and Rafah “were technically ‘open’ before the fighting began, and, for the most part, while it was taking place.” Gisha explains (emphasis in original):
It isn’t about opening the crossings – it’s about who and what can move through them and in which directions. The media reported that the quotas for travel through Erez Crossing would be increased, but failed to mention that there were no quotas at Erez to begin with, except those governing travel for “merchants” (a slightly deceiving title for individuals who are mainly involved in the purchase of goods that are brought into Gaza), and that the problem with travel isn’t just with the number of people traveling, but rather the strict criteria that determine who is entitled to travel.
There was also talk of freer flow of goods through Kerem Shalom Crossing, but getting in more goods that are already permitted to enter won’t solve the problem. The focus should be on lifting restrictions on entrance of now very-badly-needed construction materials to Gaza, including the total prohibition on selling these to the private sector. “Freer flow” of goods must also include transport of Gaza-made and grown goods out of Gaza to its once primary markets in the West Bank and Israel.
For several years, Israel has effectively banned all imports out of Gaza. Last month Gisha published a position paper calling for an end to the “civilian closure” of Gaza and the policy of separation between Gaza and the occupied West Bank. The paper states:
Lifting the closure would make normal life possible: students from Gaza would be able to study in universities in the West Bank; construction workers would be able to make a living and rehabilitate Gaza; individuals would be able to reunite with relatives they have not seen for years, businessmen and women would be able to develop their businesses and access professional opportunities; farmers would be able to sell their produce and provide for their families. Improving conditions for the civilian population in Gaza does not necessitate compromising Israel’s security needs. On the contrary, in the long run, it is the only way to achieve sustainable security in the region.
In today’s statement, Gisha says that “Top military and defense ministry officials” in Israel “have acknowledged the urgent need for rebuilding in Gaza,” but so far there is not much sign of change.
“The delicate calm of the present has to be reinforced by a more long-term approach that would ensure the fighting doesn’t resume and gives real hope for a sustainable future,” Gisha says. But, the group argues, this fragile calm is jeopardized by the uncertainty over the crossings:
Friday, July 18: Mahmoud Abu Rahma from Rafah on WORT with Max Blumenthal
Saturday, July 19: Emergency Demonstration for Gaza
Thursday, July 24: Online Event: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions: A New Path to Peace
AND links on Gaza
Plus: Cartoon of the Week: What if…
Friday, July 18:
Mahmoud Abu Rahma of Al Mezan on WORT
12 noon on WORT Radio, 89.9 fm, Mahmoud Abu Rahma, communications and international relations director for the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, will be interviewed by A Public Affair host Esty Dinur about the current attack on Gaza. Aburahma recently wrote “Understanding Israel’s Actions”, which states: “It is essential that U.S. citizens understand that this conflict should not continue to be viewed as a symmetrical one any more. When they do not hear about it, there are vicious violations of international law against Palestinians every day; including closures/blockades, settlement activities (population transfer on our land) displacement, killings, detention and torture.” He will be joined by Max Blumenthal, author of “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel”. Be sure to tune in and call in at 256-2001 with your questions. You can also listen live online.
Saturday, July 19:
Emergency Demonstration for Gaza
11 am, corner of State Street and Mifflin Street, Capitol square, Madison
As of TODAY, BEFORE the launch of Israel’s ground offensive, at least 221 Palestinians have been killed, of Whom 179 Are Civilians, Including 45 Children and 32 Women, and 1,458 Others Wounded, Mostly Civilians, Including 432 Children and 298 Women (PCHR). One Israeli has been killed and a handful injured.
MRSCP asks you to join us as we support this demonstration at the Farmer’s Market to protest Israel’s catastrophic and expanding assault on Gaza. Look for our large Palestinian flag banner with the words “Solidarity with Palestine” on it. Please bring “every Palestinian thing you have” and make your own signs .
If you can’t come (and even if you can) please take a minute to take action on this alert from Peace Action: Call the White House comment line at 202.456.1111 and demand a ceasefire and suspension of U.S. weapons and military aid to Israel.
Thursday, July 24:
BDS: A New Path to Peace
An online lecture presented by The Palestine Center with speakers Lena Ibrahim and Andrew Kadi
12 – 1:00 pm Central Time
Watch Live at this link.
The 2005 call from Palestine Civil Society for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel has gained unprecedented momentum within the international community in recent years. Since 2005, universities, academic groups, banks and faith based organizations have all joined the BDS movement.
Lena Ibrahim and Andrew Kadi will provide personal testimony for why a grassroots BDS movement in solidarity with Palestinian Civil Society is a new means by which people can put pressure on the U.S., Israel, and the international community to achieve justice in Palestine. This comes in light of yet another failed state-sponsored peace process and escalation of violence against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
For more information visit: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions: A New Path to Peace.
- Article by Raji Sourani of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza: “We are just soft targets: we are very cheap”
- Check out Ali Abunimah’s blog at The Electronic Intifada
- For up to the minute news from a Palestinian perspective, visit Maan News Agency
- For detailed accounting of all incidents and casualties, meticulously documented, visit Palestinian Center for Human Rights and Al Mezan Center For Human Rights
Cartoon of the Week:: What if Mahmoud was named Jonah? | +972 Magazine Eli.Valley.Gaza.Leaflets.Vertical
France’s highest appeal court has ordered the country’s major Jewish organization to pay damages
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 11 Apr 2014
Article falsely claimed charity raised money for Hamas
In June 2010, CRIF, the main umbrella group for Jewish organizations in France, published an article by Marc Knobel alleging that the Committee for Charity and Assistance to the Palestinians – known by its French initials CBSP – was actually raising money for Hamas.
Youcef Benderbal, a CBSP official, was aboard the ship and among hundreds of passengers forcibly taken to the Israeli-controlled port of Ashdod.
In the days before and after the massacre, the Israeli government engaged in intense propaganda efforts to portray the people aboard the flotilla as dangerous extremists and terrorists.
According to its own website, CBSP, founded in 1990, supports initiatives for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan and such projects as constructing water purification equipment for Gaza.
Knobel has written a number of articles attacking the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and has called on French authorities to prosecute BDS activists – something the country’s judicial authorities have done vigorously.
The court ruled that the Knobel article’s “accusation that CBSP was collecting money for Hamas is defamatory” because no evidence had been provided to support the allegations, which had also been previously spread by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The judgment also found that the article’s claim that CBSP had been defined as a “radical” organization by French authorities was false, and therefore “defamatory.”
The court ordered the CRIF researchers who wrote and published the article to pay CBSP a total of 3,000 euros ($4,200) in damages.
The defamatory article has been removed from CRIF’s website.
CRIF has been involved in spreading false allegations on other occasions.
One year ago, CRIF president Richard Prasquier apologized for spreading the “false news” that Israeli film director Yariv Horowitz was “lynched” during a visit to France in what was widely claimed to be an anti-Semitic attack by “Arabs.”
Attack on Palestine groups
The defamatory CRIF article resembles a similar attack, also launched in 2010, against the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), an advocacy organization in London.
As The Electronic Intifada reported, the Israeli army published claims – without any substantiation – accusing PRC of being a “Hamas affiliate” that was “involved in initiating and organizing radical and violent activity against Israel in Europe.”
As I note in my book, UK authorities said they never received any information from Israel supporting these claims and never took any action against PRC.
That smear campaign was part of Israel’s strategy of “sabotage” and “attack” against the Palestine solidarity movement.
CRIF’s false allegations against CBSP look like they were part of a similar initiative aimed at discrediting civil society groups that keep Israel’s crimes against Palestinians in the public eye.
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 29 January 2011
We are in the middle of a political earthquake in the Arab world and the ground has still not stopped shaking. To make predictions when events are so fluid is risky, but there is no doubt that the uprising in Egypt — however it ends — will have a dramatic impact across the region and within Palestine.
If the Mubarak regime falls, and is replaced by one less tied to Israel and the United States, Israel will be a big loser. As Aluf Benn commented in the Israeli daily Haaretz, “The fading power of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government leaves Israel in a state of strategic distress. Without Mubarak, Israel is left with almost no friends in the Middle East; last year, Israel saw its alliance with Turkey collapse” (“Without Egypt, Israel will be left with no friends in Mideast,” 29 January 2011).
Indeed, Benn observes, “Israel is left with two strategic allies in the region: Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.” But what Benn does not say is that these two “allies” will not be immune either.
Over the past few weeks I was in Doha examining the Palestine Papers leaked to Al Jazeera. These documents underscore the extent to which the split between the US-backed Palestinian Authority in Ramallah headed by Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction, on the one hand, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, on the other — was a policy decision of regional powers: the United States, Egypt and Israel. This policy included Egypt’s strict enforcement of the siege of Gaza.
If the Mubarak regime goes, the United States will lose enormous leverage over the situation in Palestine, and Abbas’ PA will lose one of its main allies against Hamas.
Already discredited by the extent of its collaboration and capitulation exposed in the Palestine Papers, the PA will be weakened even further. With no credible “peace process” to justify its continued “security coordination” with Israel, or even its very existence, the countdown may well begin for the PA’s implosion. Even the US and EU support for the repressive PA police-state-in-the-making may no longer be politically tenable. Hamas may be the immediate beneficiary, but not necessarily in the long term. For the first time in years we are seeing broad mass movements that, while they include Islamists, are not necessarily dominated or controlled by them.
There is also a demonstration effect for Palestinians: the endurance of the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes has been based on the perception that they were strong, as well as their ability to terrorize parts of their populations and co-opt others. The relative ease with which Tunisians threw off their dictator, and the speed with which Egypt, and perhaps Yemen, seem to be going down the same road, may well send a message to Palestinians that neither Israel’s nor the PA’s security forces are as indomitable as they appear. Indeed, Israel’s “deterrence” already took a huge blow from its failure to defeat Hizballah in Lebanon in 2006, and Hamas in Gaza during the winter 2008-09 attacks.
As for Abbas’s PA, never has so much international donor money been spent on a security force with such poor results. The open secret is that without the Israeli military occupying the West Bank and besieging Gaza (with the Mubarak regime’s help), Abbas and his praetorian guard would have fallen long ago. Built on the foundations of a fraudulent peace process, the US, EU and Israel with the support of the decrepit Arab regimes now under threat by their own people, have constructed a Palestinian house of cards that is unlikely to remain standing much longer.
This time the message may be that the answer is not more military resistance but rather more people power and a stronger emphasis on popular protests. Today, Palestinians form at least half the population in historic Palestine — Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip combined. If they rose up collectively to demand equal rights, what could Israel do to stop them? Israel’s brutal violence and lethal force has not stopped regular demonstrations in West Bank villages including Bilin and Beit Ommar.
Israel must fear that if it responds to any broad uprising with brutality, its already precarious international support could start to evaporate as quickly as Mubarak’s. The Mubarak regime, it seems, is undergoing rapid “delegitimization.” Israeli leaders have made it clear that such an implosion of international support scares them more than any external military threat. With the power shifting to the Arab people and away from their regimes, Arab governments may not be able to remain as silent and complicit as they have for years as Israel oppresses Palestinians.
As for Jordan, change is already underway. I witnessed a protest of thousands of people in downtown Amman yesterday. These well-organized and peaceful protests, called for by a coalition of Islamist and leftist opposition parties, have been held now for weeks in cities around the country. The protesters are demanding the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Samir al-Rifai, dissolution of the parliament elected in what were widely seen as fraudulent elections in November, new free elections based on democratic laws, economic justice, an end to corruption and cancelation of the peace treaty with Israel. There were strong demonstrations of solidarity for the people of Egypt.
None of the parties at the demonstration called for the kind of revolutions that happened in Tunisia and Egypt to occur in Jordan, and there is no reason to believe such developments are imminent. But the slogans heard at the protests are unprecedented in their boldness and their direct challenge to authority. Any government that is more responsive to the wishes of the people will have to review its relationship with Israel and the United States.
Only one thing is certain today: whatever happens in the region, the people’s voices can no longer be ignored.
ALI ABUNIMAH, The New York Times, August 28, 2010
(Chicago) GEORGE J. MITCHELL, the United States Middle East envoy, tried to counter low expectations for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations by harking back to his experience as a mediator in Northern Ireland.
At an Aug. 20 news conference with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, announcing the talks that will begin this week, Mr. Mitchell reminded journalists that during difficult negotiations in Northern Ireland, “We had about 700 days of failure and one day of success” — the day in 1998 that the Belfast Agreement instituting power-sharing between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists was signed.
Mr. Mitchell’s comparison is misleading at best. Success in the Irish talks was the result not just of determination and time, but also a very different United States approach to diplomacy.
The conflict in Northern Ireland had been intractable for decades. Unionists backed by the British government saw any political compromise with Irish nationalists as a danger, one that would lead to a united Ireland in which a Catholic majority would dominate minority Protestant unionists. The British government also refused to deal with the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, despite its significant electoral mandate, because of its close ties to the Irish Republican Army, which had carried out violent acts in the United Kingdom.
A parallel can be seen with the American refusal to speak to the Palestinian party Hamas, which decisively won elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006. Asked what role Hamas would have in the renewed talks, Mr. Mitchell answered with one word: “None.” No serious analyst believes that peace can be made between Palestinians and Israelis without Hamas on board, any more than could have been the case in Northern Ireland without Sinn Fein and the I.R.A.
The United States insists that Hamas meet strict preconditions before it can take part in negotiations: recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by agreements previously signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which Hamas is not a member. These demands are unworkable. Why should Hamas or any Palestinian accept Israel’s political demands, like recognition, when Israel refuses to recognize basic Palestinian demands like the right of return for refugees?
As for violence, Hamas has inflicted a fraction of the harm on Israeli civilians that Israel inflicts on Palestinian civilians. If violence disqualifies Hamas, surely much greater violence should disqualify the Israelis?
It was only by breaking with one-sided demands that Mr. Mitchell was able to help bring peace to Northern Ireland. In 1994, for instance, Mr. Mitchell, then a Democratic senator from Maine, urged President Bill Clinton — against strenuous British objections — to grant a United States visa to Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader. Mr. Mitchell later wrote that he believed the visa would enable Mr. Adams “to persuade the I.R.A. to declare a cease-fire, and permit Sinn Fein to enter into inclusive political negotiations.” As mediator, Mr. Mitchell insisted that a cease-fire apply to all parties equally, not just to the I.R.A.
Both the Irish and Middle Eastern conflicts figure prominently in American domestic politics — yet both have played out in very different ways. The United States allowed the Irish-American lobby to help steer policy toward the weaker side: the Irish government in Dublin and Sinn Fein and other nationalist parties in the north. At times, the United States put intense pressure on the British government, leveling the field so that negotiations could result in an agreement with broad support. By contrast, the American government let the Israel lobby shift the balance of United States support toward the stronger of the two parties: Israel.
This disparity has not gone unnoticed by those with firsthand knowledge of the Irish talks. In a 2009 letter to The Times of London, several British and Irish negotiators, including John Hume, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the Belfast Agreement, criticized the one-sided demands imposed solely on Hamas. “Engaging Hamas,” the negotiators wrote, “does not amount to condoning terrorism or attacks on civilians. In fact, it is a precondition for security and for brokering a workable agreement.”
The resumption of peace talks without any Israeli commitment to freeze settlements is another significant victory for the Israel lobby and the Israeli government. It allows Israel to pose as a willing peacemaker while carrying on with business as usual.
As for Mr. Mitchell, since he was appointed Middle East envoy, he has so far enjoyed almost 600 days of failure. As long as the United States maintains the same hopeless approach, he can expect many more.
Ali Abunimah is the author of “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.”
Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company