Friday, August 27, 2010

What the Palestinians need now is concrete support, not cynicism or subversive criticism.
Abbas needs to be backed

By Ahmad Y. Majdoubeh

In the Arab world, most people who talk or write about the envisaged involvement of Palestinians in direct negotiations with Israel without preconditions or a clear roadmap express either much fear or much scepticism.

While these are justified to a degree, they should not prevent the Arabs from backing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fully, since go he will.

The fear and the scepticism stem from a number of reasons. First, the Palestinians are not in the best of positions because of the paralysing division between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas. It is indeed a big shame that after seven decades of Palestinian-Israeli conflict the Palestinians are still divided in ways that affect them negatively.

There is a difference between a Palestinian president going to negotiations with all Palestinians rallying behind him and one leaving behind a divided house.

Second, many people have doubts about the present Israeli government’s seriousness about peace or about its sense of honesty and fairness.

Will the present Israeli government see the Palestinians as true peace partners (and thus exercise a degree of fairness in tackling issues and show an acceptable degree of sympathy with Palestinian demands), or will it view the talks as an opportunity to dupe the Palestinians again?

There is a big difference between negotiating in good faith, and attempting to coerce and pressure. Many view Benjamin Netanyahu’s government as seeking to do the latter.

Third, Israel’s insistence that Palestinians come to the negotiating table with no “preconditions” or framework is seen by many as divorcing matters from their vital contexts.

Israelis and Palestinians have been negotiating peace (on and off) for almost two decades now. The Arab-Israeli conflict is older than seven decades. Several important advances, legal documents, resolutions (including those of the UN), agreements, have been reached. Should all these be ignored, and the negotiators start from square one? This does not seem to be logical at all.

Indeed, there are many compelling reasons why Abbas should not be going to direct negotiations under these conditions. Having said that, however, and since the Palestinian president is going to the negotiating table anyway, it is not useful to keep talking about Palestinian involvement in the negotiations as a mistake, and about the uselessness of such talks - dooming the outcome to failure even before the start of the negotiations.

What is useful is for the Arab countries to exercise all diplomacy, to exert all possible efforts and all pressure, both regionally and internationally, to enable Abbas to succeed in his mission.

There is much the Arabs can do, in terms of diplomatic dialogue and pressure, which would make Abbas’ presence at the negotiating table stronger and more assertive.

There are so many advocates of peace in the US, Europe, Asia and the rest of the world (even in Israel itself) whose help should be rallied to enable the Palestinians to achieve an honourable result from the talks.

If Abbas is going without Hamas’ backing, at least he should go with enough Arab backing. What the Palestinians need now is concrete support, not cynicism or subversive criticism.

27 August 2010

My letter to the New York Times RE For Once, Hope in the Middle East By Martin Indyk

RE: For Once, Hope in the Middle East By Martin Indyk

Dear Editor,

A just and lasting peace in the Middle East depends on FULL respect for universal basic human rights, including but not limited to the Palestinian refugees very real right to return to original homes and lands- as promised by international law all along.

"On the record, because it is politically incorrect to say otherwise, all of them would say 'Yes, we would return to Palestine'. But once you sit with them in private, you hear a very different point of view," says political analyst Sami Mubayyed. BBC News Lure of the homeland fades for Palestinian refugees

A compassionate combination of return, relocation and resettlement options will empower a stable and secular two state solution to help end the Israel/Palestine conflict at a grass roots level.... "What is important is that individual refugees decide for themselves which option they prefer – a decision must not be imposed upon them." Refugees and the Right of Return

Anne Selden Annab

"The United Nations had certainly not intended that the Jewish State should rid itself of its Arab citizens" 5 May 1949 Application of Israel for admission to membership in the United Nations

Refugees and the Right of Return

"Palestinian refugees must be given the option to exercise their right of return (as well as receive compensation for their losses arising from their dispossession and displacement) though refugees may prefer other options such as: (i) resettlement in third countries, (ii) resettlement in a newly independent Palestine (even though they originate from that part of Palestine which became Israel) or (iii) normalization of their legal status in the host country where they currently reside. What is important is that individual refugees decide for themselves which option they prefer – a decision must not be imposed upon them."

THE Arab Peace Initiative

Refugees, Borders & Jerusalem...

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."Eleanor Roosevelt

In 1948 United Nations (page 4 on the PDF file ) Mediator Count Folke Bernadotte pointed out that "It would be an offence against the principles of justice if those innocent victims [Palestinian refugees] could not return to their homes while [Zionist] immigrants flowed into Palestine to take their place."

UN Resolution 194 from 1948 : The refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible

The Palestinian State and Institution Building Program
Documents detailing the state and institution building program of the 13th Palestinian Government, including the overall plan and priority interventions for 2010.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Daoud Kuttab: Can peace be still reached?

Can peace be still reached? Daoud Kuttab
The Jordan Times
August 26, 2010 - 12:00am

Under much pressure, Palestinian leaders buckled and accepted to hold direct talks, but most Palestinians believe that the intended talks are nothing but a photo opportunity that aims to create the impression of a peace process while avoiding making any substantive commitments.

Conditions do exist that can result in both success and failure of the upcoming talks. On the positive side, there is a much greater chance of a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with a rightwing than with a centrist or centre-left Israeli government. The centrist Kadima will surely provide a safety net if hardline members of the right wing refuse to vote for any agreement brokered by Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

Also on the positive side is the fact that the Palestinians are much more confident yet reasonable in their expectations. Gone are the bravado talks of the Arafat era, and there is no attempt to use the political and the military arsenal simultaneously. Now under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, it is clear that the Palestinians are committed to the political track only. Under Abbas and his Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the security situation has dramatically improved, even by the admission of members of th? Israeli army. On the ground, Palestinians led by the energetic Fayyad are putting more effort in building and preparing for statehood than in cursing the occupation.

Finally, on the positive side, the fact that the US will be a direct partner at the talks, with a seat at the table, means that the moment of truth has come and that both Israelis and Palestinians will have to present realistic, flexible and pragmatic positions every time they make an offer to the other side.

But despite these positive elements, a number of negatives facts continue to provide plenty of opportunities for failure.

Settlements continue to be the most obvious point of contention. The fact that Israel has refused to commit to a settlement freeze before the beginning of the direct talks is worrisome to Palestinians. Having won that battle, it is unlikely that the Israelis will accept at the negotiating table what they refused before getting into talks, unless they get a major bonus in return.

Palestinians will not reward what they consider theft of their land, in violation of the Geneva Conventions. It is more likely that Israel will choose areas to allow settlement activities, presumably?in the settlement blocks closest to Israel rather than in outlying and isolated settlements. Will Palestinian negotiators accept that and move on, or will they take a principled stand despite the pressures?

Jerusalem will also continue to be a major stumbling block. Nothing has happened since 2000 to indicate any change on either side vis-ˆ-vis this sensitive and contentious issue. The fact that Israel is poised to deport a number of elected Palestinian legislators from East Jerusalem simply because of their thoughts and ideas will not be conducive to productive talks on Jerusalem.

On the issue of the right of return for refugees, the present Israeli government also is inflexible.? Netanyahu’s insistence on the Jewishness of Israel has been clarified in recent days to mean that not a single Palestinian refugee will be allowed back to the state of Israel. It has been accepted thinking that a deal in which Israel would take historical and humanitarian responsibility for causing the refugee problem, coupled with an international scheme as well as the acceptance of Israel to allow over a?period of time tens of thousands of refugees (mostly from Lebanon) under the family reunification process, could be the formula that solves this contentious issue.

While the crux of the success will depend on the courage and creativity of the negotiators, there is no doubt that outside parties, especially the radicals on each side, have the ability to sabotage any beginnings of an agreement. Therefore, it is crucial to keep most of the negotiations outside public discussions and to present whatever agreement is reached to the public as a package deal that neither side can cherry pick from.

Finally, much of the success or failure of the direct talks will depend on the role of the international community in general and on the American position in particular. The idea of having a one-year limit allows for that talks to be concluded within the period that follows the mid-term elections and before the beginnings of the 2012 presidential elections. The clout that the president of the United States can use in this situation is tremendous, and if it can be devoid of domestic and political constraint?, all the better.

My letter to the Washington Post RE G. Will's In the Mideast, the peace process is only a mirage

RE: In the Mideast, the peace process is only a mirage

Dear Editor,

George Will obviously wants the peace talks to fail, and he is doing what he can to make that a reality. He joins many nay sayers and extremists on all sides who seek to stop progress.

American Task Force for Palestine's Hussein Ibish wisely points out in his recent analysis "Israeli and Palestinian extremists are attempting to sabotage negotiations before they begin" that "For Hamas, I think it can be assumed that if they ever seize control of the Palestinian national movement, they will be not only ready, but possibly even eager, to negotiate with Israel as the focus most of their energy on the project to “Islamize” areas under their control, which seems to be what they care about the most. Their main political aim is the defeat and marginalization of the PLO, and to secure their own control of the Palestinian national movement."

Today's best hope for a just and lasting peace really is a negotiated settlement establishing a secular two state solution to once and for all END the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Anne Selden Annab

My letter PUBLISHED Al-Ahram: Reasonable right

Reasonable right

Sir-- Re 'Disemboweling the right of return' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 19- 25 August) the right of return is a reasonable right and a universal basic human right clearly affirmed by international law. People worldwide regardless of race, religion, or nationality should simply support this basic human right regardless of race, religion or nationality.

Depicting Israel's refusal to respect this basic human right as a war between "the US and Israel" and Arabs and Muslims -- or however you want to help define the supposed clash of civilisations -- confuses the issue, and very much undermines potential sympathy for the very real plight of the Palestinians.

International cooperation is crucial in order to once and for all end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the very real suffering of countless innocent and increasingly vulnerable people.

Palestinian refugees need as many options as possible. Palestinians should not be forced to remain in impoverished refugee camps. Palestinians need to be free to move on collectively and individually, free to return to what is now Israel to become Israeli if that is what some want, or free to relocate to help build a sovereign Palestinian nation- state living in peace alongside Israel, or free simply to live elsewhere.

Anne Annab

"I do not say: the sky is gray"

"When the sky appears gray
and I see a flower suddenly grew
from the cracks of a wall,
I do not say: the sky is gray
but contemplate the flower
...and say to it: What a beautiful day!"

--Mahmoud Darwish

( thanks to my facebook friends Fayeq Oweis for the Mahmoud Darwish quote & Thameen Darby for the Palestinian poppy in bloom)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

PRESS RELEASE: On the Conviction of Abdallah Abu Rahmah

For Immediate Release
August 25, 2010

Palestine Liberation Organization
General Delegation to the United States

The General Delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the conviction of Abdallah Abu Rahmah by an Israeli military court yesterday.

Mr. Abu Rahmah, an internationally respected leader of the non-violent movement against the wall that Israel is building on land belonging to the village of Bilin in the occupied West Bank, was convicted on a trumped up charge of "incitement" and organizing illegal demonstrations. Mr. Abu Rahmah, who will be sentenced next month, faces a possible ten-year jail sentence.

Lady Catherine Ashton, the European Union's representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, issued a statement declaring, that "The EU considers Abdallah Abu Rahmah to be a human rights defender committed to non-violent protest," adding that the EU was "deeply concerned that the possible imprisonment of Mr. Abu Rahmah is intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the separation barriers in a non-violent manner."

Mr. Abu Rahmah, a 39-year-old schoolteacher and father of three young children, has been in an Israeli jail since his arrest last December.

We call on the Israeli government to release Abdallah Abu Rahmah and all other Palestinian political prisoners from its jails immediately in accordance with international law and as a gesture of goodwill towards the peace talks that are about to begin in Washington.

For more information contact:

Christopher Hazou
Communications Officer
General Delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the U.S.
1320 18th Street, NW
Suite 200, Washington, DC
(202) 974 6360

Direct talks, yes, but with state-building too

Hussein Ibish
NOW Lebanon
August 24, 2010 - 12:00am

The resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in early September offers significant opportunities and pitfalls for all parties.

For the Obama administration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announcement of the talks represents the culmination of almost a year of intensive diplomacy. Whether or not the United States has a backup plan if talks founder is entirely unclear. The administration’s assumption appears to be that direct talks will generate their own dynamics; but if they don’t, it’s not evident what the next American step will be.

Nonetheless, the administration deserves credit for having revived diplomacy, which was interrupted for several years, under inauspicious circumstances. In a rare, extremely significant joint display of support for these efforts, the American Task Force on Palestine issued a statement welcoming negotiations in conjunction with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella group that represents a range of mainstream Jewish-American organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, Hadassah, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, among others. The statement endorsed a two-state solution and urged the parties to show courage, flexibility and persistence.

Crucially, Clinton indicated that the United States was pursuing a multi-track policy. She stressed the need to “to help Palestinians build the institutions of their future state, an effort which must continue during the negotiations.” Washington has understood that diplomacy must be augmented with state-building in the West Bank, for political and strategic reasons, and that this is not merely an economic development project, but also an indispensable component in the quest to end the conflict.

It is also a sign of American recognition of a point Palestinians have been implicitly making for a year now: that early progress in top-level diplomacy is unlikely given the political weaknesses of leaderships on both sides and the enormous differences between them on aspects of a final-status agreement, especially the future of Jerusalem. Therefore, constructing the framework of a Palestinian state at this juncture might be as significant, if not actually more so, than what can be achieved at the bargaining table, at least initially.

For the Palestinians, the Quartet statement was essential to making the return to negotiations politically palatable. In particular, the Quartet’s reference to a one-year timeline recognizes Palestinian concerns that talks should not be open-ended. The statement affirms that talks “can” be concluded within a year, but not that they “should” or “must” be. It is an aspirational sentiment rather than a set deadline, but acknowledges legitimate Palestinian concerns.

Palestinians have received other assurances and guarantees both verbally and in writing, but these have not been made public. However, it does not appear that they have yet secured an effective enforcement mechanism that can hold the parties accountable for fulfilling their commitments. This has been an important Palestinian position, and will undoubtedly be a prerequisite for success as talks continue. It is probably the single most important role the US can play at this stage, but implementing it will mean overcoming significant Israeli resistance.

As for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the achievement of direct talks without any public preconditions – notwithstanding the obvious private commitments that have been made to Washington on a number of issues, including settlements – represents both an important victory and, potentially, a very dangerous development.

Until now, Netanyahu has been generally able to triangulate between the demands of his right-wing coalition partners and Washington’s expectations based on American national interests. If the Palestinians play their cards right, such maneuvering should become more difficult to sustain, and it would appear that the PLO position on final-status conditions is much closer to the American one than is the Israeli position. This is a new and unusual development, although it does not undermine the special relationship between Israel and the United States.

There is a consensus in Washington that it is essential, not optional, for the US to help achieve an end to the conflict, therefore to also end the Israeli occupation. This potentially provides the Palestinians with crucial leverage over Israel. However, to take advantage of this, the Palestinians must convince the Americans that they are strategic and political partners, willing to take politically costly decisions in the interests of reaching common objectives.

While major progress at the early stages of negotiation is extremely unlikely, so is a spectacular meltdown, as neither party wants to be perceived as having sabotaged the negotiations. The ability to assign blame for failure is probably the single biggest card that the US possesses, though it will be highly reluctant to use it, especially against Israel. However, it should be enough to keep the balls in the air for now, allowing state-building in the West Bank to steadily improve the strategic landscape in which negotiations take place, while also laying the groundwork for a successful peace agreement.

ATFP is strictly opposed to all acts of violence against civilians no matter the cause and no matter who the victims or perpetrators may be. The Task Force advocates the development of a Palestinian state that is democratic, pluralistic, non-militarized and neutral in armed conflicts.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My online comment RE Amal Jadou's EXCELLENT letter in the Washington Post

Your Comments On...

How George Will muddled the Mideast picture

Regarding George F. Will's Aug. 19 op-ed column, "Skip the lecture on Israel's 'risks for peace ":

annieannab wrote:

Good to see this revealing letter by Amal Jadou regarding Palestine- and how George Will's op-ed got so much so very very wrong. Hussein Ibish also has an excellent essay on the topic well worth reading :

Why does George Will hate Israelis so much?

Amal Jadou's EXCELLENT letter

How George Will muddled the Mideast picture

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Regarding George F. Will's Aug. 19 op-ed column, "Skip the lecture on Israel's 'risks for peace' ":

Mr. Will began by enumerating the number of Israelis killed during the second intifada, while ignoring the far greater number of Palestinians killed during the same period. Rewriting history, including the talks at Camp David in 2000, Mr. Will claimed that Israel captured the occupied territories "in the process of repelling the 1967 aggression." In fact, it was Israel that initiated the 1967 war, not the Arab states.

But the most egregious of Mr. Will's many misleading statements was that the "creation of Israel did not involve the destruction of a Palestinian state." While technically correct -- there was no Palestinian state prior to the creation of Israel in 1948 -- it is breathtaking in its intellectual dishonesty. A Palestinian "state" may not have been destroyed, but more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were systematically expelled and more than 400 Palestinian towns and villages wiped off the face of the earth. Today we call this "ethnic cleansing."

Mr. Will concluded that "patronizing American lectures" about peace are "obscene." The real obscenity is Mr. Will's astonishing ignorance of history and his callous disregard for the suffering of millions of human beings.

Amal Jadou, Washington

The writer is deputy chief of the Palestine Liberation Organization's general delegation to the United States.


Refugees and the Right of Return

Palestinian refugees must be given the option to exercise their right of return (as well as receive compensation for their losses arising from their dispossession and displacement) though refugees may prefer other options such as: (i) resettlement in third countries, (ii) resettlement in a newly independent Palestine (even though they originate from that part of Palestine which became Israel) or (iii) normalization of their legal status in the host country where they currently reside. What is important is that individual refugees decide for themselves which option they prefer – a decision must not be imposed upon them.