Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hussein Ibish: Of Course Settlements Are Illegal... That's not an opinion. That's a legal and political fact.

The Middle East peace process

Could two become one?
Israel’s right, frustrated Palestinians and assorted idealistic outsiders are talking of futures that do not feature a separate Palestinian state. It is a mistake


Content Section

Of Course Settlements Are Illegal

Mar 15, 2013

One of the most tiresome things about a long-term engagement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the endless need to push back against those who insist on living in a more pleasurable but entirely fictive alternate reality. For many on both sides, the realities on the ground, or the legal and political facts, are simply too painful or disruptive to be acceptable. So they neurotically retreat into an alternate universe in which everything feels better.
There are innumerable examples of this on the Palestinian side, but among hard-core supporters of Israel, one of the most persistent imaginary realities is that there is no occupation and/or Israeli settlement activity is not prohibited by international law. Writing in the Jewish Journal, the reliably hawkish David Suissa has just engaged in an extended exercise in this kind of sophistry.

The reason this is such a persistent shibboleth of hawkish pro-Israel propaganda is that occupying powers are bound to abide by the extensive international law and treaty obligations delineating the rights and responsibilities that accrue to this status. And the problem is that so much of what Israel has been doing in the occupied Palestinian territories is in direct and undeniable contravention of international law.

Like so many before him, Suissa makes two manifestly false claims. First, he flatly denies the territories are occupied. Second, he asserts that Israel has "a legal right to settle in the West Bank." He urges Israel to find a good lawyer to make these claims. But no serious attorney is going to take on this case, because it can't possibly be maintained.

The fact that the territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war are occupied and that Israel is the occupying power is affirmed by a mountain of United Nations Security Council resolutions (the very body authorized by the U.N. Charter to make such determinations). These resolutions were all voted for or permitted, and sometimes drafted, by the United States.

They begin with Security Council Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967. 242 begins by “Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war," which means that Israel cannot claim to have acquired any territory in the 1967 war. This is a central pillar of the U.N. Charter itself. Second, 242 calls for the "Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict."

So the very first Security Council resolution following the 1967 war clearly identifies the territories as occupied, and Israel as the occupying power. There followed a mountain of subsequent Security Council resolutions—all voted for or approved by the United States—which reiterate that the territories are occupied and Israel is the occupying power.

Of particular note is Security Council Resolution 476 (1980), which "Reaffirms the overriding necessity to end the prolonged occupation of Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem." So the U.N. Security Council was thoughtful enough to clarify that not only is Israel the occupying power in all the territories conquered in 1967, and obliged to end its occupation of them, but also specified that this includes Jerusalem.

There are many other aspects of international law that affirm the occupation as a legal and political fact, including the advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice on the West Bank separation barrier. The bottom line is that it is a legal and political fact, not an opinion or subject of dispute, that the territories seized in 1967 are under occupation and Israel is the occupying power. One may have one's own opinions, but not one's own facts. And in the matter of law, we have competent authorities that serve as arbiters of international legal and political fact, including the Security Council and the ICJ. Indeed, no competent authority has ever challenged this idea, although biased individuals have tried to argue against it with any amount of spuriousness.

Having established that the territories are occupied, and that Israel is indeed the occupying power, there can be no question that settlement activity is strictly prohibited. The clearest prohibition comes from the Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 49, Paragraph 6, which reads: "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."
Some apologists for the settlement project have tried to argue that "transfer" in Paragraph 6 only refers to involuntary transfer, not voluntary settlement. This is clearly false. First, there are numerous other provisions in the Convention that prevent involuntary transfer of civilians. Second, the concurrent Red Cross commentary intended to serve as a contemporaneous explanation for the thinking informing each aspect of the Convention deals with Paragraph 6 at length.

This vital commentary demonstrates that Paragraph 6 was adopted to protect the human rights of the civilian population living under occupation, not civilian citizens of the occupying power: "It is intended to prevent a practice adopted during the Second World War by certain Powers, which transferred portions of their own population to occupied territory for political and racial reasons or in order, as they claimed, to colonize those territories. Such transfers worsened the economic situation of the native population and endangered their separate existence as a race."

As a further clarification, the commentary adds, "It should be noted, however, that in this paragraph the meaning of the words ‘transfer’ and ‘deport’ is rather different from that in which they are used in the other paragraphs of Article 49, since they do not refer to the movement of protected persons but to that of nationals of the occupying Power."

In other words, according to the Red Cross, which oversaw the drafting of the Convention, Article 49, Paragraph 6 is intended as a human rights protection for people living under foreign military occupation who have the right not to have their land colonized. This is precisely what Israel is doing, and as noted above, as an occupying power they are fully bound to respect all of the Fourth Geneva Convention, including Article 49, Paragraph 6. The settlement project is thus not only strictly prohibited, it is illegal because it is a direct violation of the human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

From the outset of the occupation and the settlement project, the Israeli government has been aware of this. A top-secret memorandum from September 18, 1967 by T. Meron, a Legal Adviser to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is blunt about the legal situation facing the prospect of settling the occupied territories. 

Meron determined that, "The prohibition [against settlement activity in Article 49] therefore is categorical and not conditional upon the motives for the transfer or its objectives. Its purpose is to prevent settlement in occupied territory of citizens of the occupying state. If it is decided to go ahead with Jewish settlement in the administered territories, it seems to me vital, therefore, that settlement is carried out by military and not civilian entities. It is also important, in my view, that such settlement is in the framework of camps and is, on the face of it, of a temporary rather than permanent nature.”
So, from the outset, the Israeli government was fully aware that, at least from the point of view of international law and the unanimous consensus of all other governments, its settlement project was, by definition, illegal.

The final refuge that Suissa and many others, including some he cites, seek in trying to deny the legal and political fact of occupation and the prohibition against settlement activity and so much of the rest of what Israel has done in the occupied Palestinian territories, is to claim that there is no occupation because there was no clear sovereign in the territories in 1967. However, there is no aspect of international law that requires a clearly established prior sovereignty for a territory to be considered under military occupation. These arguments have never held any water in the Security Council, at the ICJ or any other international or multilateral legal or diplomatic body, or with any government outside of Israel.

Indeed, even the government of Israel itself is ambiguous about whether the territories are occupied or not. Sometimes it openly cites the ongoing occupation to justify military activities—such as some instances of the seizure of land for military purposes—or other measures that are, in fact, consistent with the rights of an occupying power under international law. But it simultaneously denies there is any occupation when it comes to settlement activity and other human rights abuses against Palestinians prohibited to occupying powers under international law.

Suissa insists there is no occupation but a "dispute." We hear this a lot from supporters of the occupation, settlements and annexation. But if there is a “dispute,” it is not between Israel and the Palestinians or the Arabs. It is between Israel and every single other government and international authority in the entire world.

It's a little bit like proclaiming that while everyone else observes the sky is obviously blue, I insist it is green, and therefore this somehow constitutes "a dispute." This is not a dispute. It is a willful and manipulative distortion of clearly established facts in a self-serving manner by an interested party that is trying to rationalize actions that are manifestly illegal. These actions—especially settlement activity in areas under military occupation—have been prohibited specifically because they are a gross human rights violation.

The experience of World War II demonstrated that peoples living under occupation must be protected from having their lands seized from them and colonized through force of arms. In the immediate aftermath of that terrible conflict, this was explicitly and categorically codified in the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory.

That's not an opinion. That's a legal and political fact.

Friday, March 15, 2013


a poem
by Anne Selden Annab


Brokers of Deceit... how pro-Palestine activists
undermine diplomacy and peace
in the Middle East

time and time again
handing Islamists weapons
at every turn:

Research aimed to blast America
shaped to alienate-
to close minds
and doors...

Take free speech here
minus accountability
and good manners
and use it to imprison
Palestinians there
in endless despair
and self defeat.

Slavery... a poem by Anne Selden Annab

Plantation economics prove
that demographics
do not create equality,
or momentum for justice.

Demographics then
meant the slave owner had more slaves
to buy and sell and breed, more fields worked
making more incentives for those in power
to protect their wealth and way of life.

In hindsight it is easy to assume that ending slavery
was inevitable... but if that were so
slavery would have never ever started

and nine year old girls today
would not be sold into marriage.

*It's been five years since Nujood Ali became known as the world's youngest divorcee after escaping the man who bought her as a child bride aged nine... Yemen's youngest divorcee says father has squandered cash from her book

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Obama tells Arab-American leaders trip will show commitment to statehood

Obama’s Israel Itinerary Includes Some Standard Stops, but Not Others ...As for the Church of the Nativity, the official said, visiting it is appropriate since the basilica, which dates from 327 A.D. and is believed to be the oldest continuously operating Christian church in the world, has profound meaning for millions of Christians. It also symbolizes the rights of Christian minorities in the Arab world, he said.
Geography plays a part, too: the church is in Bethlehem, in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank. The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, would most likely play host to Mr. Obama.
“It creates a sense of parity for the Palestinians,” said Ghaith al-Omari, the executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine. “It gives the visit a cultural component, rather than simply a couple of closed-door meetings with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.”
Ron Kampeas
Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
March 11, 2013 - 12:00am

President Obama told Arab-American leaders that his trip to Israel and the Palestinian areas would demonstrate U.S. commitment to partnering with the Palestinian Authority to bring about a state.

"The President noted that the trip is not dedicated to resolving a specific policy issue, but is rather a chance to consult with Jordanian, Israeli, and Palestinian Authority officials about a broad range of issues," a White House official said after Monday's meeting with an array of Arab-American organizational leaders.

"He underscored that the trip is an opportunity for him to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to the Palestinian people – in the West Bank and Gaza – and to partnering with the Palestinian Authority as it continues building institutions that will be necessary to bring about a truly independent Palestinian state."

The official also re-emphasized the Israel focus of the trip, as outlined last week in a similar meeting with Jewish organizational officials.

"He also noted that the trip is an opportunity for him to reiterate America’s commitment to Israel’s security, and to speak directly to the Israeli people about the history, interests, and values that we share,” said the official.

Ziad Asali, the president of the American Task Force for Palestine, told JTA that the White House meeting lasted about an hour, and that much of it was in the form of questions and answers. He said there were about a dozen participants.

Obama's remarks were off the record, but participants could describe their own comments.

"The United States, through sustained, balanced, constructive engagement, can facilitate a peaceful, lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- a resolution that is essential to long-term security in the Middle East," said a joint statement from the American Task Force for Palestine, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Arab American Institute and the American Federation of Ramallah Palestine released after Monday's meeting.

The statement added that the groups "look forward to using this meeting as a springboard for robust ongoing conversations on U.S. policy in the Middle East."

Asali said he stressed in the meeting the importance of renewing Israeli-Palestinian talks.

"Over the last period there has been a lot of deterioration, and the tide has to be stemmed," Asali said.
In his meeting with Jewish groups, Obama said the prospects for renewing such talks were not good right now, but did not count out returning to the process within a year.

James Zogby, the Arab American Institute president, said he noted that Obama would address Israelis and would not have the opportunity to deliver a similar speech to Palestinians, but counseled means of sending a direct message to the Palestinians.

"There are ways to speak to the people directly," Zogby told JTA. "There are  things to say to the people to help restore the sense of confidence they have in the future."

Zogby said he advised a trip to a church or a Palestinian economic venture.

Obama reportedly is considering visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

"If they go to the Church of the Nativity," Zogby said, "there's a whole lot they'll be able to see on the way there."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My letter to the NYTimes RE Is Any Hope Left for Mideast Peace?

RE Is Any Hope Left for Mideast Peace?

Dear Editor,

Fantasizing that a cruel situation is "ultimately unsustainable" is wishful thinking, not fact based analysis.  Bad can always become substantially worse... and so can the very real plight of the Palestinians.

Many tempting albeit totally counter productive ideas have been undermining peace in the Middle East, but few are as subversive as the manic efforts of one-state activists on both sides who foolishly scorn diplomacy and reasonable efforts to actually end the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

Sovereign and sustainable Palestinian statehood is not a sure thing, but it does become more possible and more promising when more people are inspired to invest emotionally and financially in a real Palestinian state.

According to a joint statement from the American Task Force for Palestine, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Arab American Institute and the American Federation of Ramallah Palestine regarding a recent highly relevant meeting with Obama ( Obama tells Arab-American leaders trip will show commitment to statehood ) "The United States, through sustained, balanced, constructive engagement, can facilitate a peaceful, lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- a resolution that is essential to long-term security in the Middle East" 

Anne Selden Annab

President Hosts Arab American Meeting Ahead of Middle East Trip

UN: Palestinian militants likely killed Gaza baby

Hussein Ibish: Hamas’s Desengaño With Morsi

On Questioning the Jewish State by Joseph Levine in the NYTimes

Omar Baddar: What It Will Take To Break The [Israel-Palestine] Stalemate

UNICEF: Israel mistreats Palestinian children in custody

ATFP's Ziad J. Asali: Ending the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Jerusalem man forced to demolish his own home

An overwhelming exodus from Syria

The Telegraph: Good-and-evil caricatures of the Israel-Palestine conflict are costing lives...

Palestine's Maen Rashid Areikat: Achieving Peace Is the Priority... "My advice is to look at the effort of peace making as a win-win situation for all."

Settlers and other Israelis have long complained that they do not like Palestinians traveling side by side with them on their buses...


".... it being clearly understood that nothing
          shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious
          rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine..."
What is an Israeli settlement

"Legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Thomas Jefferson

The Office of International Religious Freedom (   Given the U.S. commitment to religious freedom, and to the international covenants that guarantee it as the inalienable right of every human being, the United States seeks to:
Promote freedom of religion and conscience throughout the world as a fundamental human right and as a source of stability for all countries

Palestinian Refugees(1948-NOW) refused their right to return... and their right to live in peace free from religious bigotry and injustice.

The Golden Rule... Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

"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
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.

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.

Emanating from the conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties, the council:
1. Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well.
2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:
I- Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.
II- Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.
III- The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
3. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:
I- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.
II- Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.
4. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.
5. Calls upon the government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighbourliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity.
6. Invites the international community and all countries and organisations to support this initiative.
7. Requests the chairman of the summit to form a special committee composed of some of its concerned member states and the secretary general of the League of Arab States to pursue the necessary contacts to gain support for this initiative at all levels, particularly from the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the Muslim states and the European Union.

Monday, March 11, 2013

President Hosts Arab American Meeting Ahead of Middle East Trip

Today, President Obama met with Arab American community leaders in advance of his trip to the Middle East.

We are pleased to have shared with President Obama our recommendations for the vital message that he should convey to the Palestinian people.  Today’s meeting was an important opportunity for Arab Americans to share our views, and continue to serve as a bridge between the US and the Arab World.

Our meeting underscored the President's recognition of the importance of our community's contributions to discussions of policy in the region.

The United States, through sustained, balanced, constructive engagement, can facilitate a peaceful, lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--a resolution that is essential to long-term security in the Middle East. We thank President Obama for engaging Arab American leaders in this critical dialog, and we look forward to using this meeting as a springboard for robust ongoing conversations on US policy in the Middle East.

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
American Federation of Ramallah Palestine
American Task Force for Palestine
Arab American Institute

UN: Palestinian militants likely killed Gaza baby

11-month-old Omar al-Masharawi killed.... in Gaza City
JERUSALEM (AP) — A U.N. report indicates an errant Palestinian rocket, not an Israeli airstrike, likely killed the baby of a BBC reporter during fighting in the Hamas-ruled territory last November.

The death of Omar al-Masharawi, the 11-month-old son of BBC stringer Jihad al-Masharawi, became a symbol of what Palestinians see as Israeli aggression during eight days of fighting that killed more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis. A woman was killed alongside the baby.

Israel launched hundreds of airstrikes to stop Palestinian rocket salvos.

The U.N. office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a March 6 report that the incident was caused by "what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel."

Hamas had no response Monday. BBC officials were not immediately available for comment.

The Pro-Palestinian Left's Hamas Blindspot
March 11, 2013

Many on the global left overlook the misdeeds of Hamas, which is, after all, Palestine’s version of the religious right, not because it has the correct values but because it has the correct enemies.

Hussein Ibish: Hamas’s Desengaño With Morsi

Palestinian girls walk in front of a photograph of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi shaking hands with the Palestinian Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, in Gaza City on August 29, 2012. (Mohammed Abed / AFP / GettyImages)

English has by far the largest vocabulary of any language, but there are still times when we have to look beyond its confines to convey a particular meaning. There is a Spanish word, desengaño, which connotes a combination of disappointment, disenchantment, disillusionment and despair, for which we have no precise English equivalent. And this, surely, best sums up the current attitude of the Hamas rulers in Gaza towards Egypt's new government.

Many Hamas leaders were apparently convinced that the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere would mean a radical transformation of its fortunes and hold the key to its eventual victory over secular nationalists for control of the Palestinian national movement. At a minimum, they expected the new government of President Mohammed Morsi would adopt a much friendlier foreign policy, ease the blockade, pressure Israel and provide Hamas with a steady stream of support.
As the months have dragged on, it's become clear that this not only isn't the case, but that the Morsi government is at least as problematic from Hamas's perspective as its much-hated Mubarak predecessor. The recent flooding of Gaza smuggling tunnels by the Egyptian military with raw sewage (in contrast to Mubarak's occasional use of tear gas), pursuant to an Egyptian court order to close all such tunnels, is only the last straw.
Egypt has moved to stop the transfer of all goods, including huge shipments of fuel, through the tunnels and has again closed the Rafah border crossing. The Egyptian side of the blockade has never been so intense. These actions have had a devastating effect on the Gaza economy. They have brought reconstruction efforts almost to a halt, and sent the price of cement and building materials soaring. And they are costing both Hamas and Gaza businesses at least hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more, in lost revenues.
Moreover, Egypt reportedly recently refused to allow Hamas to establish a formal office in Cairo. Even more insultingly, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood officialsreportedly urged Hamas to abandon "armed struggle" against Israel and follow their example and "implement jihad in other ways." Hamas, of course, denies these reports, but they scan perfectly with all other available information and political logic.
Several Hamas leaders in Gaza have erupted in anger in recent days, in spite of obvious efforts for many weeks to contain their rage and express "understanding" of Egypt's predicament. Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar expressed the group's growing infuriation by declaring, "The previous [Egyptian] regime was cruel, but it never allowed Gaza to starve." Yet Hamas leaders, including Al-Zahar, continue to pin their hopes on an eventual transformation of the Egyptian policy and, in spite of everything, pledge undying support for Morsi.
After all, what other choice do they really have? From a practical point of view, the answer is to increase trade with Israel, and Israeli-permitted exports to Europe and elsewhere. And, to their considerable chagrin and embarrassment, this is exactly what Hamas leaders have been doing, insofar as the Israelis have allowed it. AsThe Economist noted, this "makes Hamas more dependent on—and subservient to—Israel, to ensure vital supplies continue," as opposed to what they expected to be their new major partner and, indeed, salvation: the Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo....READ MORE

Sunday, March 10, 2013

On Questioning the Jewish State by Joseph Levine in the NYTimes

Joseph Levine is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he teaches and writes on philosophy of mind, metaphysics and political philosophy. He is the author of “Purple Haze: The Puzzle of Consciousness.” 

The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers on issues both timely and timeless: