Friday, October 19, 2012

Maen Rashid Areikat: Israeli settlements are no ‘secondary issue’


Letter to the Editor

Israeli settlements are no ‘secondary issue’

The Oct. 15 editorial “A U.S. ‘reset’ with Israel?” stated that President Obama “erred in centering his push for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on a secondary issue: Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank and Jerusalem.”

Illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory are not secondary; they are the crux of the Israeli-Palestinian problem and have been for the past two decades.

Israel’s settlements undermine the possibility of an independent Palestinian state ever coming into being. Moreover, the attack campaigns mounted by extremist settler groups against Palestinian farmers, holy sites and even olive trees (Palestinians’ most treasured crop), thanks to a lack of serious deterrence by the Israeli government, are making the settlement issue an existential threat to not only Palestinians but also the prospects of resolving this conflict altogether. In fact, many Israelis have been complaining about the destructive effect the settlers have had on Israeli society itself.

If anything, Mr. Obama didn’t make the settlements issue primary enough.

Maen Rashid Areikat, Washington 
The writer is chief representative of the general delegation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization to the United States.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Churches for Middle East Peace: Beginning of Harvest Season in Palestine Brings Violence

Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a coalition of 24 national Church denominations and organizationsincluding Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions. It works to encourage U.S. government policies that actively promote a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ensuring security, human rights and religious freedom for all people of the region.
 CMEP Bulletin
October 14, 2012

Violence Surrounds West Bank Olive Harvest
Start of Harvest Season Brings Violence
Further Reading

Beginning of Harvest Season Brings Violence

Every autumn, Palestinian farmers harvest olives from the trees in their groves, many of which go back decades. In recent years, these farmers have faced settler violence and intimidation in order to pick their olives, a crop that brought $100 million into the Palestinian economy in 2010 and sustains many families in the West Bank.

According to Rabbis for Human Rights, “Every year at this time Palestinian farmers from a number of villages across the West Bank receive threats to their safety, are denied access to their land or have their olives stolen, their trees poisoned, or even cut down altogether.” Last year, The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that over 2,500 olive trees were destroyed in September 2011, and 7,500 throughout 2011.

There were several attacks believed to be carried out by settlers during this first week of the harvest. Human rights groups are monitoring olive groves near Israeli settlements and documenting attacks by settlers. So far, according to B’Tselem:

Between October 7th and 10th, 2012, with the start of the West Bank's annual olive harvest, B'Tselem has documented five cases of injury to Palestinian farmers and their olive trees in the Ramallah and Nablus regions. In two incidents, settlers attacked farmers picking olives and damaged their yields. In three other cases, olive trees were discovered damaged or with the olives stolen, apparently by settlers.

In one incident B’Tselem documented, 220 trees were already harvested when farmers arrived to their grove and many of them were damaged. The perpetrators are unknown but B’Tselem points out that the owners of the land cannot reach it without prior coordination with the army because it is so close to an outpost. In al-Mughayir, northeast of Ramallah, a farmer discovered 100 of his trees were damaged, most were cut down at the trunk.

The groups are concerned about the inaction of security forces in the areas when these events occur. In B’Tselem’s roundup of the events, they note:
The direct attacks documented by B'Tselem occurred while members of the security forces were present. All the locations where damage to trees was discovered are familiar to the security forces as areas where Palestinians are subject to repeated harassment by settlers.

Not only are the attacks not stopped but the criminal investigations rarely find the perpetrator. Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group focusing on legal action looked at the cases of tree vandalism over the past seven years and only found one instance of an indictment out of 162 cases. In the report they conclude that, “The police's failure to enforce the law encourages such acts of vandalism, since the perpetrators are not punished.”
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there is an increased police presence in the West Bank and they are using more technology to stop these crimes.

Further Reading

Violence flared up between Israeli forces and Gaza militants as they exchanged fire. Israeli forces conducted strikes against two men they say are responsible for attacks, killing one and later targeted two mosques and a factory that injured five. Israeli military spokeswoman said the buildings were “Hamas posts” but did not elaborate. Hamas joined the Islamic Jihad to launch 30 rockets towards Israel that caused property damage but no casualties. Hamas’ inclusion is noteworthy and Y’net explains why they joined in.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the president of the Security Council regarding their failure to condemn the rocket fire from Gaza. He cited a double standard after the Security Council condemned Syria hours after a Syrian missile exploded in Turkey last week.

Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held captive in the Gaza Strip for over 5 years has given his most detailed interview since his release one year ago in a prisoner exchange.

Human Rights Watch is calling on Hamas to make widespread reforms after releasing a report accusing Hamas of arbitrary arrests and executing people over confessions extracted under torture in Gaza.


Raise Peace in the Holy Land this Campaign Season

 With the campaign season in full swing you have an opportuity to raise your concern for peace in the Holy Land in campaign-related ways. Incumbents and challengers are spending their time on the campaign trail talking with constituents like you.

Asking questions now, when candidates are asking for your vote, can influence their actions when they come to Washington. In town hall meetings, meet and greets, letters-to-the editor and through individual correspondence you can let your candidates know your concerns about the the role of the U.S. in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since many candidates are active on Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, and their campaigns monitor these sites closely, post one of these questions on your candidates’ pages.
Here are questions you may ask to find out more about their positions. Click here to download a copy of these questions.

1. As a Christian and supporter of Churches for Middle East Peace, I am concerned about the conflict in the Holy Land. What steps do you believe the U.S. government should take to encourage and support diplomacy between Israelis and Palestinians in order to find a peaceful and lasting resolution to the conflict that respects the rights and security of both peoples?

2. As a Christian and supporter of Churches for Middle East Peace, I am concerned about the continuing growth of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories and the future of a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. U.S. administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have endorsed a two-state solution. Do you support an Israeli and Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security and what steps should the United States government be willing to take to ensure a two-state solution is achieved?

3. As a Christian and supporter of Churches for Middle East Peace, I am concerned about the uncertainty of U.S. aid to Palestinians in the budget and how some lawmakers want to use the funds to score political points. Last year, several politicians supported cutting this funding for humanitarian aid, development and security to punish the Palestinians for pursuing recognition in the United Nations. Do you support continued aid to Palestinians at reasonable levels and what conditions do you think are appropriate to maintain aid to Palestinians in future budgets?

4. As a Christian and supporter of Churches for Middle East Peace, I am concerned about the status of Jerusalem, a holy site to Christians, Jews and Muslims. No country, including the U.S., has recognized Israel’s 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem and Palestinians insist that it must be the capital of their future state. U.S. administrations for decades have supported leaving Jerusalem as an issue for the parties to decide in final status negotiations and have avoided taking actions that may prejudice an outcome. Will you support the continuation of this policy and oppose unilateral provocative actions, such as moving the U.S. embassy, which will interfere with negotiations?

Please keep CMEP informed of your efforts to learn the positions of candidates in your area. Email Alex Stevens at alex(at) or call (202) 543-1222.

Thank you for raising the issue of peace in the Holy Land with your candidates.

UN envoy alarmed by reports of Israeli settlers attacking Palestinian farmers

Robert Serry, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. UN/P. Filgueiras
14 October 2012 – A top United Nations envoy today said he was alarmed at recent reports that Israeli settlers have repeatedly attacked Palestinian farmers in the West Bank, destroying hundreds of olive trees at the height of the harvest season.

“These acts are reprehensible and I call on the Government of Israel to bring those responsible to justice,” said the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry.

“Israel must live up to its commitments under international law to protect Palestinians and their property in the occupied territory so that the olive harvest – a crucial component of Palestinian livelihoods and the Palestinian economy – can proceed unhindered and in peace,” he said.

In a briefing to the Security Council last month, Mr. Serry had warned that the lack of progress between Israelis and Palestinians on the political track and the continuing conflict and occupation was putting at risk the viability of the two-State solution.

He added that the Palestinian Authority (PA) in particular, was experiencing the consequences of this risk in the form of a severe financial and economic crisis, and stressed that international donors and the Israeli Government should do more to alleviate the PA's burden and ensure its fiscal viability in the short and medium term.

The Israelis and the Palestinians have yet to resume direct negotiations since talks stalled in September 2010 after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Negotiators from both sides began preparatory talks at the start of January in Amman, under the facilitation of King Abdullah II of Jordan and that country's Foreign Minister, Nasser Judeh, with a view to a resumption of direct talks.

UN News Centre