Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dear President Obama, Israel's ongoing land grabs are wrong- and illegal.... and immoral.

unwra photo: A Palestine refugee woman cut off from her home by the “Green Line” – the armistice line established after the 1948 Arab Israeli war.

letter I sent my elected leaders
Israel's ongoing land grabs are wrong- and illegal.... and immoral.

President Barack Obama
Sen. Arlen Specter
Sen. Robert Casey
Rep. Todd Platts

February 27, 2010

Please do what you can to convince Israel to back off, to end the occupation and Apartheid in the Holy Land.

Please insist that Israel respect international law and the Palestinians basic human rights.

Specifically right now the Israeli military is trying to implement a decision to confiscate community and privately held property belonging to the community and families in the Palestinian Christian town of Beit Sahour, not far from Jerusalem. Included in this swath of land is the treasured Peace Park, which serves as a community space, park and recreational facility where Palestinian families gather daily.

Please contact Israelis that you know and firmly ask them to do all they can to make sure that Israel stops usurping Palestinian land- and destroying Palestinians homes and communities.

Anne Selden Annab
Mechanicsburg , PA

Playgrounds for Palestine CALL TO ACTION for Palestinian Christian town of Beit Sahour... Statement by Kairos Palestine.

. . . helping children reclaim their childhoods

February 27, 2010

We are sending out this CALL TO ACTION to alert our supporters about a troubling development in the Oush Grab Peace Park, the site designated for a 2010 PfP playground installation.

The Israeli military is trying to implement a decision to confiscate community and privately held property belonging to the community and families in the Palestinian Christian town of Beit Sahour.

Included in this swath of land is the treasured Peace Park, which serves as a community space, park and recreational facility where Palestinian families gather daily and was to be the site of one of PfP's next playgrounds.

We ask you to call and write to Israeli officials in order to protest this action, call upon them to stop the construction of the watchtower, prevent settlers from attacking the park, and cease any idea of building a settlement in the site.

Follow the link and enter zip for to contact local congressmen -
Call the Israeli ambassador 202 364 5500 or email
Email the Consulate General of the US, Jerusalem -
Call the Israeli consulate in Philly 215 977 7600
Contact the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Near East Affairs - Jeffrey D Feltman 202 647 7209

Injustice in Beit Sahour
A Statement by Kairos Palestine

(Jerusalem 20.03.2010) As described by town residents, Ha'aretz,Ma'an News, and other sources in recent days, Israeli soldiers and bulldozers arrived on February 10 at a family recreation park in Beit Sahour – a town slightly east of Bethlehem in the West Bank, and the site of the former army base Osh Grab, which was abandoned by the IDF in 2006 – and declared it a closed military zone.

KAIROS Palestine condemns this action and calls upon churches worldwide to advocate for the Christians and all residents of Beit Sahour and intervene in the damage, present and projected, wrought upon their home.

Since 1967, Beit Sahour, one of the last Christian majority towns in the West Bank, has repeatedly lost land to the Jerusalem municipality and to the nearby settlement of Har Homa. Much of the remaining land was occupied by an Israeli military base, Osh Grab. After the army evacuated the base in 2006, the Beit Sahour municipality regained control of the land – largely private plots and some public ones. (That said, all of the land remained part of what Israel calls Area C, keeping it under harsh regulation by the Israeli State.) The municipality renovated the public land, built a recreational park and playground – the "Peace Park" – and was planning to build a hospital as well.

Over time, fanatical Jewish settler groups have often threatened to take over the site, protested there as part of their aggressive claim as its "true" owners, and even physically vandalized the park, as they did last month. As it stands, Israel's stated intention is to build a new watchtower: a troubling reassertion of a military presence in Beit Sahour. The other worry is that this could pave the way for a new settlement, which nearby settlers have been demanding for years. As Amira Hass writes in Ha'aretz, "The Beit Sahour residents have no reason to doubt either the settlers or the Har Homa neighborhood committee chairman, who declared that 'This could become a reality, just as Har Homa spilled beyond what was planned and expected.'"

Either way, this new display of control on the part of the State – arriving with bulldozers, excavating the site around the park, prohibiting the entry of the Beit Sahour residents and various internationals who came to protest, declaring the land a closed military zone – is a grave affront. It is painful and unjust for some reasons of specific import to Christians (who form 80% of Beit Sahour); others are simply questions of humanity and legality, crucial for both Christians and Muslims.

First, the park area lies between two sacred sites: "Shepherds Field" and the place, as told in the Bible, where Boaz fell in love with Ruth. These are places of immense spiritual significance, and the State's commandeering of the land is profoundly distressing. (As we wrote in the Kairos Document, "freedom of access to the holy places is denied under the pretext of security.") Second, the takeover is yet another example of the way Israeli occupation displaces us, divorces us from our basic rights of mobility and autonomy, and enforces a divisive view of human interaction that perverts the Word of God and the love and compassion it calls us to.

We request the solidarity of churches in the international community: to support us, to intervene in this latest encroachment on Beit Sahour and prevent it from continuing, and to speak out against the occupation in all such instances. We ask individuals and communities worldwide to contact Israeli officials and condemn their actions, to write the mayor of Beit Sahour and express support, and engage in other such forms of outreach and network-building.

As we make these requests, we quote again from the KAIROS Document itself to remind ourselves and each other of what is at stake and what we must call for:"

Our connectedness to this land is a natural right. It is not an ideological or theological question only…[w]e suffer from the occupation of our land because we are Palestinians."

And finally: "We also declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God…and distort [s] the divine image in the human beings living under both political and theological injustice."

Please join KAIROS Palestine in condemning these oppressive actions in Beit Sahour and working to restore the justice that is both our calling and our right.

We ask you to call and write to Israeli officials in order to protest this action, call upon them to stop the construction of the watchtower, prevent settlers from attacking the park, and cease any idea of building a settlement in the site.

Please make appeals to:

[Ehud Barak] Minister of Defense, Ministry of Defense,
37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya, Tel Aviv 61909, Israel
Fax: +972 3 691 6940
Salutation: Dear Minister

Israeli Ambassador in your respective country

Copy to the:

Mayor of Beit Sahour
Kairos Palestine:

KAIROS Palestine is a group of Palestinian Christians who authored "A Moment of Truth" – Christian Palestinian's word to the world about the occupation of Palestine, an expression of hope and faith in God, and a call for solidarity in ending over six decades of oppression – and published it in 2009.

From our board member, Nathan Dannison, more information at –

Here is a great background video re: the site:
and more background information from decolonizing architecture:

Here's two articles regarding my non-violent protest and its result:

Here are some photographs of the event: (scroll forward to see more)

Here are my relevant blog entries:

Here is some troubling information regarding the current state of affairs:

Also –

Photos of popular resistance including tearing down the apartheid fences in Bilin

Beit Sahour: a new struggle by Ben White - 21 February 2010 11:49, The Newstatesman

Job Creation Programme Helps to ‘Green Palestine’...& more from unwra

"Yesterday, on an olive grove designated for the outskirts of the village, with the roofs of the Yitzar settlement clearly in view, Shenstone planted a small sapling and delivered a message of support for Palestine refugees and citizens: “This is their land. I wish them all the strength and will to stay.” She added: “This is not charity. This is a project for people to make their own work and to live their own lives, on the land that is theirs.” "

Job Creation Programme Helps to ‘Green Palestine’

25 February 2010

East Jerusalem


Support line launches for domestic violence victims

24 February 2010

As an emergency telephone line for victims of domestic violence launches in Syria, a pioneering project is training lawyers, social workers and volunteers to support affected women.

City of Mud

18 February 2010

Hassan al-Err is the head of a family of seven who are preparing to move into a mud house built by UNRWA in the Gaza Strip. UNRWA has resorted to building with mud because other building materials are not available.

Filippo Grandi: Defending Palestinian Refugees’ Rights

18 February 2010

Filippo Grandi was clearly prepared for his new mission. Defending and preserving the rights and interests of Palestinian refugees.

More Articles

Official Statements

“Permanent status issue” of refugees

17 February 2010

International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace. The urgency of addressing the “permanent status issue” of refugees

Response to the Huffington Post

09 February 2010

The recent article on US funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) recycles baseless and damaging allegations which belie the co-operative and supportive relationship between UNRWA and the US Government, our single largest donor.

Commissioner-General’s inaugural letter to staff

26 January 2010

At the beginning of my tenure as Commissioner-General, it is important – I believe – that I share with you my initial thoughts as we prepare to confront together the challenges of the coming years.

More Official Statements

Friday, February 26, 2010

from Growing Gardens for Palestine: Freedom to me is ... (a poem)

Freedom to me is
the ability to err
and apologize...

Freedom to me is the right
to change my mind-
change my hairstyle
change my clothes
change my mood
change my purse
the right to explore ideas
and formulate my own
and the right to change my mind
and maybe yours...

The Right To Respect
the Right To Return
& The Golden Rule...

Freedom to me is
the right to admire beauty
and invest in dignity

Freedom to me is
the awareness
of change
and changing awareness

Freedom to me is
finding hope
no matter what or where...

Freedom to me is to honor
my own heritage
and hearth

My family- and yours
our marriage
all marriage...

and the intriguing history
of humankind.

poem & picture copyright ©2010 Anne Selden Annab

"Whereas, any University investments in entities contributing to human rights violations by either Israelis or Palestinians is inappropriate"

University of Michigan-Dearborn Student Government Passes Divestment Resolution
Thursday, 25 February 2010

University of Michigan – Dearborn Student Government
General Assembly Resolution # 2010-003

Whereas, this wise body has been known to be one of strong moral and social conscience and has in the past supported justice and international law, and

Whereas, U.N General Assembly Resolution 194 resolves that the Holy Places – including Nazareth – religious buildings and sites in Palestine should be protected and free access to them assured, in accordance with existing rights and historical practice, and

Whereas, U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 further resolves that all refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be provided for the destroyed properties of those choosing not to return and for loss of, or damage to property that under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible, and

Whereas, the aforementioned situations prove that Israel clearly and inexcusably is in continued violation of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194, and

Whereas, Israel is further in violation of many related U.N. resolutions, including Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, and 446, and

Whereas, Israel is further in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which calls on all occupying powers to protect the rights and well-being of the occupied population, and

Whereas, the U.N.’s own assessment, the Goldstone Report, found evidence of potential war crimes and crimes against humanity, and

Whereas, University of Michigan Regent policy, as expressed in their meeting of March 16, 1978, states:

“If the Regents shall determine that a particular issue involves serious moral or ethical questions which are of concern to many members of the University community, an advisory committee consisting of members of the University Senate, students, administration and alumni will be appointed to gather information and formulate recommendations for the Regents’ consideration.”; and

Whereas, there are serious moral and ethical questions concerning the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and

Whereas, the University is known to have several million dollars of investment in corporations that sell weapons, goods, and services to Israel—including BAE, Raytheon, Boeing, General Electric, United Technologies, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman, among others–whom in turn uses the weapons, goods, and services inhumanely and

Whereas, any University investments in entities contributing to human rights violations by either Israelis or Palestinians is inappropriate,

THEREFORE be it Resolved, (1) that the University of Michigan-Dearborn Student Government will lead a movement to collect petition signatures calling on the Board of Regents to form such an advisory committee, and

Be it further Resolved, (2) that the University of Michigan-Dearborn Student Government calls on the Board of Regents to create an advisory committee to determine if any University investments are questionable and in need of appropriate corrective actions, and

Be it further Resolved, (3) that on behalf of the students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, we will urge this committee to recommend immediate divestment from companies that are directly involved in the ongoing illegal occupation, because we deem these investments to be profoundly unethical and in direct conflict with the mission of this University.

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world...

UN Resolution 194 from 1948

Thursday, February 25, 2010

United Nations 2010 International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures

The UN General Assembly has proclaimed 2010 the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures and has designated UNESCO to play a leading role in the celebration of the Year - capitalizing on the Organization’s invaluable experience of over 60 years to advance “the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples”.

In line with UNESCO’s mandate, this International Year is both the culmination of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001–2010) - and the starting point of a new strategy.

In a shifting international context, UNESCO gives increased importance to this theme which is at the forefront of the objectives of its Medium-Term Strategy for 2008–2013: “The fostering of cultural diversity and of its corollary, dialogue, thus constitutes one of the most pressing contemporary issues and is central to the Organization’s comparative advantage”, that is, recognizing the great diversity of the world’s cultures and the links uniting them.

The mosaic The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell depicts people of different nationalities standing together with the inscribed words "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

My letter to BC Heights RE Trio of experts in Middle Eastern politics in a panel discussion on “U.S.-Israeli Relations: Past, Present, and Future.”

RE: Panel Talks U.S.-Israeli Ties: Tuesday, Boston College played host to a trio of experts in Middle Eastern politics in a panel discussion, “U.S.-Israeli Relations: Past, Present, and Future.”

comment i left to be posted online

I am not so sure that American politicians and presidents are "committed to the survival of Israel" as much as they are aware that Israel will survive, and that political reality needs to shape our approach to the Israel/Palestine conflict. Good to see that Hussein Ibish was part of the panel- I think he & the ATFP are doing a amazing job trying to help America understand and support Palestine and a two state solution for everyone's sake.

Anne Selden Annab

'Good Defeats Evil', by Georgian artist Zurab Tsereteli, a rather controversial gift from the Soviet Union in 1990. It conjures the legend of St. George slaying the dragon, with nuclear arms filling the role of the slayed beast.

My letter to the Guardian RE Palestine's strongest weapon is peace by Ghassan Khatib

Let Us Beat Swords Into Plowshares

RE: Palestine's strongest weapon is peace, We cannot pretend occupation doesn't exist, but we can continue to build the institutions of state without violence by Ghassan Khatib

Dear Sir,

Thrilled to see "Palestine's strongest weapon is peace" by Ghassan Khatib exposing the growing movement to fully focus in on positive efforts to build a real Palestinian state.

It takes much more strength of character- and more imagination for sure, to step away from the endless complaints and cycles of violence, rage and righteous indignation generated by the Israel/Palestine conflict- but for everyone's sake firm support for a two state solution is the right thing to do: A sovereign Palestine and a sovereign peace really are worth our time and trouble... a secular and lasting peace with justice on all sides of every border will have many positive ramifications.

A Golden Rule Peace for ALL the children of the Holy Land. Let Israel be Israel and let Palestine be Palestine- each in their own way respecting international laws, basic human rights, human dignity- and human ingenuity.

Anne Selden Annab

Growing Gardens for Palestine

Palestinian Prime Minister to Israeli Leaders: We are Building a State While Under Occupation to End the Occupation

"By turning their attention to establishing the administrative and infrastructural framework of such a state, responsible Palestinians are doing their part to build the infrastructure of peace. They are paving their own way for the people of the Middle East to live in peace with security and dignity for all." Ziad Asali, President of the American Task Force on Palestine in the Huffington Post

Palestinian Prime Minister to Israeli Leaders: We are Building a State While Under Occupation to End the Occupation

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Home Evictions: Living the Unimaginable By Hajr Al-Ali for MIFTAH

Date posted: February 24, 2010
By Hajr Al-Ali for MIFTAH

Imagine one day that your home is invaded and you and your family are forced onto the street. Imagine now, that others are allowed to occupy your house, one which has belonged to your family for generations. Imagine that every day since then, your family is subjected to harassment by both the police and the new occupants of your home; that the paltry tent you set up for shelter is repeatedly torn down.

For Nasser Ghawi, his wife, and their five children, this is not hard to do. First evicted in 2002, and after nearly a decade of battling in Israeli courts for the right to keep their home, they were once again forcefully evicted on August 9, 2009. Since then, they have been living in a tent across the street from their home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Recently, this tent was destroyed by Israeli police for the twelfth time. Having personally met Nasser’s family, a group of friends of mine coordinated a small fundraising initiative to buy Nasser and his family another two tents, but to no avail. We learned soon after that Israeli police had confiscated both, one in the morning and the other in the evening of the same day. When asked what he needed, Nasser finally said, “Chairs. We need chairs to sit on.” For most of the day, Nasser sits in front of his house, newly decorated with Israeli flags, watching as Jewish settlers unabashedly go in and out, often stopping to verbally assault him and his family. Still, despite this, despite the verbal taunts, stints of imprisonment and violence from police and settlers – one of whom threatened him with an M-16 - Nasser refuses to leave, remaining on his property as a form of protest against the injustice of Israel’s “second Nakba.”

Refugees from the 1948 war, Nasser’s family is among those Palestinians who were evicted from their homes, mainly in west Jerusalem and Haifa, and relocated to east Jerusalem through a joint project between the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the Jordanian government in 1956. Now, after 53 years of building a life in Sheikh Jarrah, they are once again experiencing the trauma of Israel’s policy of forced homelessness through the state’s plan to embed a new Jewish settlement in the neighborhood. In all, Israel has unlawfully expropriated 35 percent of east Jerusalem for this colonial project.

Unfortunately, the Ghawis are not alone. They are among the 28 families in Sheikh Jarrah alone, including the Al-Kurds and the Hanouns, who – after battling settler claims to the land in state courts for 37 years - are currently living in makeshift tents. In December, nearly 20 settlers, accompanied by private armed security and Israeli police forces, entered the Al-Kurd’s house and began emptying it of the family’s possessions. In July, Israeli courts ruled that Maher Hanoun would be imprisoned indefinitely and his family forcefully removed unless they gave up their keys and left “voluntarily.”

It’s almost comical how Israeli forces throw around the word “voluntarily” and “choice” regarding Palestinians. When Nasser Ghawi asked the police where he should live after being evicted, they replied, “We don’t care. It’s your choice. You can move to Jordan, to Saudi Arabia. It’s up to you.” There’s nothing voluntary about being forced out of your home with a gun stuck in your face, as others are moved into your home by their simple claim that they have “rightful ownership of the land as Jewish people.”

The twisted reality of these families is written all over the faces of their children. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to go to school and return to a tent, next to the home you are barred from entering simply because another family and another child is considered superior because they are Jewish. Daily, these children witness the gross injustice of displacement - including the strain of financial loss and physical and social upheaval – leaving them the most vulnerable to family and community tensions. Caught in the battleground of their homes and suffocated by their tumultuous living conditions, according to Save the Children, these children have a higher likelihood of experiencing symptoms of withdrawal, somatic pain, anxiety, depression, delinquency and violent behavior.

Ultimately, the situation of such families is unimaginable for privileged outsiders such as myself, who are able to return safely to their homes. Each time I’ve visited Sheikh Jarrah, I leave with a rock the size of a fist lodged in my chest and my throat dry. The injustice is so blatant. As I listen to friends brainstorm ways in which we can provide assistance to the families affected in Sheikh Jarrah, I am infuriated by the knowledge that the neighborhood is amongst a long list of areas that Israel has targeted for expanding its illegal settlements through forced evictions. According to the United Nations, Israel has forcibly evicted or demolished the homes of more than 600 Palestinians, half of them children, in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the past year. However, despite Israel's continued aggression, families such as the Ghawis, Al-Kurds, and Hanouns continue to resist, even if it comes in the form of flimsy, plastic chairs.

Hajr Al-Ali is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

By the Same Author:

The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy



An independent, democratic and sovereign Palestinian state, which grants Palestinians their basic rights, preserves their dignity, and enjoys international recognition and respect.


Established in Jerusalem in December 1998, with Hanan Ashrawi as its Secretary-General, MIFTAH seeks to promote the principles of democracy and good governance within various components of Palestinian society; it further seeks to engage local and international public opinion and official circles on the Palestinian cause. To that end, MIFTAH adopts the mechanisms of an active and in-depth dialogue, the free flow of information and ideas, as well as local and international networking.


  1. To disseminate the Palestinian narrative and discourse globally to both official and popular bodies and decision-makers
  2. To empower effective leadership within all components of Palestinian society in order to enhance democracy and good governance and raise public awareness concerning the rights and responsibilities of good citizenship
  3. To influence policy and legislation to ensure their safeguarding of civil and social rights for all sectors and their adherence to principles of good governance
  4. To bolster MIFTAH's capacity and its capability to achieve its objectives and mission efficiently and effectively

Board of Trustees ...etc

Israel's conditions make talks with the Palestinians futile By Rami G. Khouri

Israel's conditions make talks with the Palestinians futile
By Rami G. Khouri
Commentary by
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The contrast is startling between the slow pace of attempts to restart talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas and the relentless Israeli drive on many fronts to dominate and effectively destroy the concept of a distinct and sovereign Palestinian people in the historic land of Palestine. Israeli actions in recent weeks clarify the futility of trying to negotiate peace with an Israeli state that wages war on the idea that Palestinians have national rights in the same land that Israel claims as its exclusive patrimony.

Recent Israeli actions include driving Palestinians out of their homes in East Jerusalem and replacing them with Zionist settlers; assassinating a Hamas leader in Dubai; attacking targets in the Gaza Strip while maintaining the siege there; continuing to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank; and, most recently last week, declaring two sites in occupied Hebron and Bethlehem as part of Israel’s eternal national heritage.

The two sites are the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, that is thought to be the burial place of Abraham and that Israelis call the Cave of the Patriarchs, and the shrine in Bethlehem called Rachel’s Tomb. The Israeli declaration does not change anything on the ground for the moment, because the Israeli Army is in full control of the sites. Its significance is in the signal it sends to Palestinians that if the Arab-Israeli conflict is ever resolved through negotiations, this will only happen according to rules dictated by Israel that give priority to Israeli-Zionist claims.

The Israeli decision prompted young Palestinians to clash with Israeli troops in Hebron. On Monday, the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the declaration “shows there is no genuine partner for peace, but an occupying power intent on consolidating Palestinian lands.”

The Israeli move is so provocative that it even sparked some life in the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert H. Serry. He declared: “These sites are in occupied Palestinian territory and are of historical and religious significance not only to Judaism, but also to Islam, and to Christianity as well. I urge Israel not to take any steps on the ground which undermine trust or could prejudice negotiations.”

The startling aspect of all this is that it occurs while both sides look toward the United States to continue efforts to rekindle Israeli-Palestinian talks. There is no possible way that the US or anyone else could realistically reconcile the two parallel dynamics that are under way – engaging in negotiations that seek to achieve the legitimate and equal rights of both parties, and a process of Zionist colonization and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that has been going on for a century or so.

No wonder the chief Palestinian negotiator described the Israeli decision to keep control of archaeological and tourist sites as “part of the continuing Israeli settlement enterprise.”

The Palestinians view Israeli actions in this light, as part of a long process of evicting the Palestinians from their ancestral lands and making room for Zionist Jews to come from abroad and reclaim what they consider to be their ancestral land. Valiant attempts to negotiate a resolution to the conflict have failed, and will continue to fail if the negotiating process largely reflects the same imbalance on the ground that is manifested in the unilateral Israeli actions that we have recently witnessed on a continuous basis.

That imbalance sees Israel maintain the status quo through its superior military power, its ability to control the movement of people in and out of Palestinian areas, and its reliance on unilateral actions that respect only Israel’s own priorities, rather than the dictates of peacemaking through negotiations that affirm the validity of parallel Israeli and Palestinian national narratives.

The futility of negotiating peace under these conditions is obvious to any but the most politically blind. The two most important players dealing with the Palestinians – Israel and the United States – remain unwilling to come to terms with the single most important issue for the Arabs, which is the continuing ethnic cleansing and refugee status of the Palestinians; and they refuse to deal seriously with pivotal actors like Hamas in Palestine and Hizbullah in Lebanon.

Such distortions in the negotiating context are depressing enough for anyone who seeks a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; they are infinitely more troubling when we realize that they are coupled with continued Israeli predatory and unilateral moves on the ground, and an apparent American penchant for acquiescence rather than transformation in dealing with this situation.

Rami G. Khouri is published regularly by THE DAILY STAR.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

We shouldn't rush into negotiations by Ghassan Khatib ...Bitterlemons (Analysis)

We shouldn't rush into negotiations
February 22, 2010

Ghassan Khatib
Bitterlemons (Analysis)
February 15, 2010 - 12:00am

In spite of the failure of US-led international efforts to secure the necessary conditions for a successful renewed peace process, pressure is increasing on the Palestinian side to accept going to negotiations anyway. This is in spite of continued Israeli settlement expansion and without any Israeli commitment to specific terms of reference such as previously signed agreements, the 2003 Quartet roadmap or relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

This pressure raises an important question for both politicians and analysts. Is it wise to resume negotiations even without ensuring that the necessary ingredients for success are present? Or is it better to continue efforts to ensure that any renewed negotiations would have at least a minimal chance of success?

Some argue that delaying the resumption of negotiations would only contribute to the trends of radicalization on both sides and give space for the creation of negative facts on the ground, more settlements, more settler-only roads and more military checkpoints. Resuming negotiations now, this school of thought holds, is the best chance of creating a positive atmosphere to neutralize all these negative developments.

Others argue that previous experience has shown that resuming negotiations without the necessary preparation and a minimum chance of success will not only be a waste of time, but will further enhance the positions of the radical elements on both sides against negotiations in general and encourage them to pursue alternatives to a peaceful negotiating process.

This was most obvious on the Palestinian side during the last round of negotiations, the Annapolis process, when the failure of one-and-a-half years of negotiations to a large degree weakened the public position of the leadership involved in the talks and bolstered the argument of Hamas and others, which were able, yet again, to say "we told you so".

But second, and more important, the negotiating process never neutralized the much more damaging developments on the ground, where Israeli settlement building does more than any argumentation by any party to undermine prospects for peace and the credibility of negotiations.

A renewal of negotiations under similar circumstances now will only give the international community the false impression that progress is being made and that the parties now need to be left on their own to negotiate with no external interference. This, of course, simply provides Israel cover to make its vastly greater power felt by pushing ahead and further changing the reality on the ground, whether with settlements or in other ways.

That's why there has to be a new and different approach to international mediation led by the United States. And this should include pursuing a political agenda that concentrates on the fundamental aspects of the conflict rather than practical and minor details.

Since there is international consensus that the peace process is about creating two states, and since the international community does not recognize the Israeli occupation of the territories, including East Jerusalem, that are supposed to make up the Palestinian state, then a more promising approach is clearly not hard to shape.

First, negotiations should be about the realization of the two-state concept and particularly the establishment of a Palestinian state. As long as Israel is engaging in activities on the ground that undermine this aim, it should have to do so in the face of a clear international vision vis-a-vis the future of Palestinian-Israeli relations.

Second, the international community needs to continue giving the necessary support for Palestinian efforts to build institutions of state to ensure that Palestinians can live in dignity and ultimately prepare for statehood.

If the international community continues to allow itself to be taken in by the Israeli tactic of engaging on small, practical, non-political issues, however, it will only provide Israel with the space it needs to maintain and consolidate its expansionist settlement project while bolstering Hamas and others who oppose a negotiated peace process. This way we will continue to see greater radicalization alongside a concomitant reduction in opportunities to secure the kind of negotiations that have any chance of success.

In all, it is preferable that we continue to work on preparing the ground for successful negotiations, including increasing efforts to secure a complete settlement freeze in addition to setting agreed terms of reference, than to resume talks for the sake of having a process

Israel, the Palestinians, and the One-State Agenda- Speaker: Hussein Ibish, Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine

Israel, the Palestinians, and the One-State Agenda
Wednesday, February 10, 2010, 5:30PM
Cabot Intercultural Center, 702, The Fletcher School

Speaker: Hussein Ibish, Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine
Co-Sponsors: Middle Eastern Studies Major and the International Relations Program


Hussein Ibish, author of several studies on anti-Arab discrimination, delivered a talk on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his perception of the proposed "one-state solution." Ibish currently serves as the Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine and the Executive Director of the Hala Salaam Maksoud Foundation for Arab-American Leadership, and has published widely on topics related to political freedom and the Middle East. Ibish discussed his book, What's Wrong With the One State Agenda?

Ibish's book examines the arguments espoused by Palestinian activists, chiefly those on college campuses in the United States and the United Kingdom, for abandoning the goal of a creating of a single democratic state in all of Israeli and the occupied Palestinian territories. Ibish rejects the one-state solution as untenable, and believes it is a "strategic blunder for Palestinians and friends of Palestine." Yet the pro-Palestinian camp has never before challenged this goal of seeking an independent Palestinian state by replacing Israel with a single unified state that includes rights for its refugees. Instead, the idea's main critics have been on the Israeli right and historians such as Benny Morris, whose book rejecting the one-state solution is denounced by Ibish as "a racist tract, assuming that Palestinians are an incorrigible people who are unfit to be dealt with."

The idea of a single bi-national state is not new–Jewish settlers in the 1930s discussed it–but it has never been a significant part of the Israeli political discourse. Ibish attributes the intellectual and emotional impact of the second intifada's shocking violence to the emergence of the one-state idea as a potential solution. The second intifada led to the rise of Hamas in the Palestinian territories, the election of a right-wing Israeli government, and the rise of intense religious rhetoric on both sides.

Ibish points out that the vast majority of Israeli Jews would never accept a one state solution, because it would mean the end of their state. The idea of ceding Gaza to Egypt and the West Bank to Jordan is equally untenable because it would pose an existential threat to both countries. Like the one state solution, this is not really a "solution" at all because one or more of the parties will never agree to it without some sort of compulsion. Most fundamentally, Ibish asks that if Israel has not been compelled or convinced to end the occupation thus far, how can it be compelled or convinced to dissolve itself through one state solution?

Ibish believes that there is a responsibility incumbent on all actors in the conflict, as well as outside observers, to do all that they can to end the occupation. Otherwise, he feels the inevitable conclusion will be a religious war. Peace becomes impossible only when a majority of people think it is, and Ibish does not believe that we are at that hopeless juncture yet. While both sides want peace, the problem is that they do not believe each other.

According to Ibish, ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is unlikely, difficult, and easy to reject as unworkable. Ibish explains: "But I think we have to make it work. We can make it work. Because the alternative is extremely gruesome and difficult for everyone." He feels that adding the bottom-up, institution building agenda enacted in August 2009 in the West Bank, which compliments a top-down, diplomatic agenda and has real political implications, can be transformative. This method of institution building can unilaterally build the framework of a Palestinian state, in spite of the Israeli occupation, along with support from the outside world, and under American protection. "You can think of it as the Palestinian answer to settlement building – and it is actually that," he says of this two-pronged peaceful and diplomatic strategy for bringing about an eventual end to the conflict.

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A Palestinian woman reacts next to cut olive trees in the northern West Bank village of Burin, near Nablus, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010. According to Palestinian farmers, Jewish settlers from the nearby settlement of Yitzhar cut more than 40 olive trees in the village. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

A Palestinian woman reacts next to cut olive trees in the northern West Bank village of Burin, near Nablus, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010. According to Palestinian farmers, Jewish settlers from the nearby settlement of Yitzhar cut more than 40 olive trees in the village. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

Statement by UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, following the Israeli heritage sites decision and tensions in Hebron

Statement by Robert H. Serry, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, following the Israeli heritage sites decision and tensions in Hebron

Jerusalem, 22 February 2010. I am concerned at the announcement of the Israeli government regarding holy sites in Hebron and Bethlehem and the heightened tensions that have resulted. These sites are in occupied Palestinian territory and are of historical and religious significance not only to Judaism but also to Islam, and to Christianity as well. I urge Israel not to take any steps on the ground which undermine trust or could prejudice negotiations, the resumption of which should be the highest shared priority of all who seek peace. I also call for restraint and calm. As I underscored in my visit to Hebron last week, I would like to see more positive steps by Israel to enable Palestinian development and state-building in the area and throughout the West Bank, reflecting a genuine commitment to the two State solution.

For further details please contact:

Richard Miron
Chief Public Information Officer

UNWRA: International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace- The urgency of addressing the “permanent status issue” of refugees

"If we are serious about these solemn commitments, and truly devoted to the cause of peace, then the least we can do is to give refugee issues prominence in the peace process, and afford Palestine refugees the dignity of being heard."

“Permanent status issue” of refugees

International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace
The urgency of addressing the “permanent status issue” of refugees

Qawra, Malta, 12 and 13 February 2010

UNRWA statement
(Delivered by Michael Kingsley-Nyinah, Director of the Executive Office)

Excellencies, distinguished colleagues,

On behalf of UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi, I thank the Palestinian Rights Committee and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean for inviting UNRWA to contribute to this discussion. Our thanks also go to our hosts, the Government of Malta, for sharing with us the hospitality of this beautiful island.

Since taking up his functions in January this year, UNRWA’s Commissioner-General has signaled his readiness to maintain the momentum of protection and human rights advocacy, in a manner consistent with UNRWA’s humanitarian and human development mission. This role includes highlighting the situation faced by Palestine refugees in the occupied Palestinian territory and across the region, as well as calling attention to their entitlements under international law and practice. UNRWA’s responsibilities also entail encouraging States to respect and comply with human rights and international humanitarian law obligations as these pertain to the situation of Palestine refugees.

It is in the spirit of these mandated roles that UNRWA presents to this distinguished gathering its perspectives on the Palestine refugee issue – an issue which we believe has its proper place within the framework of the search for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From UNRWA’s vantage point, the need to confront the refugee question is immediate, immense, and deserving of urgent international attention.

I shall begin with general observations about the consequences of refugee situations and the resulting imperative that conflict resolution processes must address refugee issues stemming from the conflicts in question. I shall argue that the link between genuine conflict resolution and refugee issues applies to Palestine refugees and I shall briefly explore the implications of excluding the Palestine refugee question from the current search for peace in the Middle East. I will conclude by suggesting some areas to which the international community must turn its attention if the refugee issue is to be placed where it belongs, namely at the core of the peace process.

Refugee movements occur when the protection that people should enjoy in their places of origin is disrupted by persecution, armed conflict or other upheaval, threatening lives and liberty and compelling them to seek safety in countries other than their own. In that sense, refugees are both a symptom of malaise in the state of human rights in their places of origin and a consequence of those protection failures. I draw particular attention to the several human and international consequences that flow from involuntary flight, all of which are aggravated in proportion to factors such as the circumstances triggering flight and precluding return, the duration of a given refugee situation, and the numerical size of the refugee movement in question.

One of these consequences is the sense of disorientation and dispossession suffered by refugees, individually and as a community. Refugees are cast adrift from the anchors of home, historical rootedness, livelihood and belonging. In place of these markers of identity and human security, they live with a lingering awareness of injury, a psyche of dislocation and an overwhelming longing for that which is lost. Many are often vulnerable to poverty and violence and they survive precariously, without guarantees of state protection or inclusive citizenship.

Beyond these human consequences, refugee situations also unsettle the often fragile equilibrium of international relations and trigger issues of regional and international concern. In several instances, including the conflicts in Sierra Leone, Iraq, Haiti in 1993, Afghanistan and Rwanda, the UN Security Council has regarded various combinations of armed conflict, human rights abuses and large refugee movements as threats to international peace and security.

Another notable consequence is the impact of refugee situations on host countries and communities. Countries that host refugees grapple with substantial financial and economic effects. They may also confront new social and demographic forces which often exert complex influences on sensitive national and regional interests. Moreover, the responsibilities of the international community and its diverse actors are invariably engaged by refugee situations. States mobilize as financial donors and initiate action in the political and diplomatic spheres, while aid agencies strive to mitigate human suffering within their respective mandates. Inevitably, international efforts to meet the challenges of refugee situations absorb substantial financial and human resources which might otherwise have been expended to advance long-term development goals for the benefit of all.

When we consider these and other implications of refugee situations, we begin to see the force of the argument that any attempt to resolve a conflict must include attention to the related situation. This argument is driven by compelling logic and is supported by the broad sweep of human experience. In our modern era of international relations, refugee issues have generally been acknowledged to deserve a significant place on the agenda of efforts to resolve conflict and achieve security and peace. Indeed, there have been instances where the UN Security Council took the view that durable solutions for the displaced were an essential prerequisite for restoring regional peace.

The factual and policy nexus between refugee issues and conflict resolution is reinforced by a legal and protection dimension which takes as its point of departure the human impact of exile I mentioned earlier. Whenever forced movement occurs, you have human rights violations. And where there are violations, there are entitlements to redress under international law. Redress for the losses sustained as result of conflict and conflict-induced exile should therefore be a key plank in the drive for a negotiated peace. Seeking to reverse wrongs, remedy rights violations and allay perceptions of injustice can only bolster the chances of securing lasting peace.

Excellencies, distinguished colleagues:

The connection between effective conflict resolution and addressing refugee issues has been demonstrated time and time again in conflicts which have been settled with the help of international mediation. We hold the view that the Israeli-Palestinian context is no exception. The human impact - the sense of loss - is still strongly felt across Palestine refugee communities. In common with refugees elsewhere, this has left Palestine refugees with enduring nostalgia, underpinned by a perpetual sense of being out of place and out of time.

For refugees residing in the occupied Palestinian territory, the awareness of deprivation is sharpened and entrenched by the frequent experience of armed conflict and its effects, by multiple displacement episodes, by dire humanitarian conditions and by severe restrictions on movement and fundamental freedoms. Palestine refugees in Lebanon have also been through more than their fair share of armed conflict over the years. Despite UNRWA’s efforts and the Lebanese government’s steps towards expanding socio-economic opportunities for refugees, abject poverty and wretched living conditions remain for most of them, serving to cement further the vulnerability of their communities.

Refugees residing in Jordan and Syria enjoy a wide range of rights and freedoms that have helped to mitigate the hardships of displacement. Many are granted economic rights and access to the employment market, and the stability of these countries means they are spared the trauma of armed conflict. Among the relatively less disadvantaged are the refugees in Jordan who enjoy the privileges of special categories of Jordanian nationality.

The advantages of residing in Jordan and Syria are welcome and beneficial. Yet they do not obscure the vulnerability inherent in the refugee label. Neither do they detract from the distinctness of thee refugee identity.

The refugees and host communities share an implicit understanding that the sojourn of Palestine refugees is temporary – and that this transient state is unchanged by the lengthy duration of their exile. As a corollary, “refugee consciousness” is strong among Palestinians, including the younger generation. The passing years have left intact a sense of injustice, a demand for acknowledgement and a desire for their travail to be justly resolved. Across the Middle East, Palestine refugees define themselves (and are defined by others) by reference to the historical experience of exile.

My remarks so far have established that refugee situations are among the most substantial symptoms and consequences of conflict, and that efforts to resolve conflict must proceed in tandem with action to confront refugee issues. These considerations raise two questions for our attention. To what extent is the Palestine refugee issue reflected in the search for a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? And what role can the international community play to ensure that refugee issues are give their proper place on the peace agenda? Allow me to offer some thoughts on these matters.

With regard to the place of the refugee issue in the peace process, the facts are well known. Immediately following the events of 1948, the refugee question was at the forefront of global mediation efforts under the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine. From the late 1980’s onwards, the tide of attention turned to other aspects of the conflict, as various incarnations of diplomatic activity centered, correctly, on the goal of two States living side by side in mutual peace and security, but without clarity as to the place of Palestine refugees in this vision.

In the course of this evolution, the refugee issue was assigned to “permanent status negotiations” alongside questions related to “…Jerusalem, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbors, and other issues of common interest”. According to the 1993 Declaration of Principles, these issues were to be addressed by the parties at a later stage.

In the wake of these developments, “permanent status negotiations” have been slow to progress, leaving the refugee issue indefinitely in suspense. The result, the views of refugees too often go unheeded. Their interests and concerns remain overlooked.

This approach serves no one’s interest. We may be paying a heavy price for embracing an exclusive approach which disallows Palestine refugees a voice in the quest for a peaceful settlement.

Distinguished colleagues:

If we appreciate the nexus between conflict resolution and the refugee issue, we can better accept the logic of inverting the conventional wisdom so that the admittedly difficult questions of displacement can share center stage with other pressing items and transitional details. UNRWA appeals to each of you and to the international community to give these points consideration in revisiting the current approach to negotiations.

We call for a process that is inclusive in its representation and comprehensive in its coverage of priority issues, including the question of Palestine refugees. We call attention to the fact that under universal refugee protection principles, informed individual choice is the foundation on which durable solutions for refugees are implemented and redress provided, and we maintain that this principle should equally benefit Palestine refugees. Given the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian context, informed choice must be the essence of any effort to sift through and clarify the range of varying Palestinian expectations and rights. With these precepts in view, we support the initiation of arrangements to ascertain and record refugee interests and concerns.

Such arrangements should include mechanisms that will project the refugee perspective into the negotiation arena in a manner that protects and promotes their ability to exercise informed choices. We acknowledge that a process inclusive of the refugee constituency would pose significant challenges. Yet we believe that those challenges are surmountable, provided we remain guided by relevant principles and by the benefits of enhanced legitimacy which an inclusive approach will bring to the negotiation process and to its outcomes.

Those benefits should not be underestimated. The refugees of whom we speak constitute a substantial reservoir of human capital across the Middle East, and they stand poised to contribute significantly to the socio-economic viability of the region and of a Palestinian State. Those registered with UNRWA are currently around 4.7 million strong, with an additional four to six million estimated to reside in the Palestinian Diaspora. Given their numbers and human development potential, Palestine refugees are a formidable constituency for peace with a substantial stake in the Israeli-Palestinian future. Excluding the refugee voice disenfranchises the refugee constituency, which means we forego a wealth of insights and risk the credibility and sustainability of the peace process.

Palestine refugees – their human rights, their aspirations and their concerns – are bound to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in complex and profound ways that place them in a position to influence the realization of durable solutions. The Palestine refugee presence is a stark reality, a reality whose significance and power genuine peacemaking efforts can no longer afford to ignore. Recognizing and harnessing the refugee constituency is a necessity that is consistent with principle, and which could also pay handsome dividends to the credibility and efficacy of the search for peace.

For over sixty-years, Palestine refugees have endured the indignities and insecurities of exile in an environment often steeped in instability and conflict. As an international community, we often proclaim our commitment to address their anguish and to resolve their plight, and we profess allegiance to the UN Charter objective of settling disputes by peaceful means “…in conformity with the principles of justice and international law”.

Distinguished colleagues:

If we are serious about these solemn commitments, and truly devoted to the cause of peace, then the least we can do is to give refugee issues prominence in the peace process, and afford Palestine refugees the dignity of being heard.

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