This is an interview, undertaken at the beginning of June 2011 between Global Policy Forum associate Harpreet Paul and UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk. Falk calls the unlawful Israeli blockade of Gaza "a very explicit form of collective punishment that is unconditionally prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention." He also talks about the role of the UN in the conflict, the expected Palestinian declaration of unilateral statehood and the role of civil society action in demanding a just resolution to the conflict. (Global Policy Forum)
This timeline shows the history of Israel-Palestine from ca. 1300 to ce. 2006. (Presbyterian Church)
Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, explores the history of the Israeli occupation and the incidents leading up to the invasion of Gaza in December 2008. For 18 months the Israeli government imposed a blockade on Gaza, rendering the entry of food, medicine and fuel nearly impossible. Falk entertains an alternative perspective to the "exceedingly pro-Israeli media lens" by saying that Hamas, the elected government, was willing to extend the truce with Israel and had largely complied with the conditions of the ceasefire. He concludes that Israel uses overwhelming force and victimizes the people of Gaza "for reasons remote from the rockets and border security concerns."(Huffington Post)
This primer, published by the MERIP, provides an extensive historical background for understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It covers the period from the late 19th century through the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) of September 2000.
This primer documents the historical background leading up to the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) in September 2000, and traces events through the spring of 2002. During that period of time, over 1400 Palestinians and nearly 450 Israelis were killed in the conflict. (MERIP)
Hamas, controlling the Gaza Strip, and the Palestine Authority, controlling the West Bank and representing Palestine in international fora, have still not agreed on what a future Palestinian state should look like. But the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and the successful UN bid for an upgraded status triggered a sense of unity in Palestine. On the other hand, however, the Arab Spring has shifted the balance of power in the region, lessening the pressure on Hamas to make efforts towards reconciliation. A unified leadership would give Palestinians more weight in the Middle East peace process. (Al Jazeera)
“The road is hard, but the destination is clear: a secure Jewish state of Israel and an independent, prosperous Palestine”, these were Obama’s words at the General Assembly on Tuesday. This Guardian article discusses the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. Last week, the World Bank has declared that it is impossible for Palestine to grow economically if Israel keeps on occupying the West Bank. While the Palestinian Authority (PA) believes in a two-state solution dependent on western support, an increasing number of Palestinians are considering the adoption of a one-state solution. (Guardian)
Criticism of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is rising worldwide. Following the country’s anti-apartheid policy, South Africa has passed a decision that requires Israel to label products either as made in Israel or made in the illegal settlements in the West Bank. Although this move has been met with extensive criticism, including comparisons between South Africa and Nazi Germany, many European counties have followed South Africa’s example. This article discusses whether this shift could lead Israel to respect international law and cease its occupation of Palestine. (RamzyBaroud.net)
On May 15, the New York Times published an article by Aaron David Miller entitled “Preserving Israel’s Uncertain Status Quo.” Miller’s picture of Israel as a struggling democratic state facing external threats presents the usual bland confection. Miller fails to address the genuine threats that are affecting hopes for peace and promoting extremist ideas within the country: Israeli police attacks on J14 demonstrators in Tel Aviv; trends towards greater economic inequality, the expansion of the separation wall, the continued siege of the Gaza Strip; and Israel's categorical backing of violent West Bank settlers. (Counterpunch)
A recent government-initiated report released by an Israeli judge determined that Israel is not occupying the Palestinian territories. Under international law, however, Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and Gaza as well as in the newly seized territory are illegal and in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Shortly after the release of the report, Israel has initiated a campaign against OCHA, the UN agency reporting on the humanitarian consequences of the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Israel is now threatening to withdraw OCHA’s staff visas. (Middle East Online)
June 14 marked the fifth anniversary of the Israeli siege on Gaza, where more than 1.6 million people have been under blockade in violation of international law. Israel’s response to the siege, backed by the US and other Western powers, compares Hamas as an “internationally recognized terrorist organization” to Israel’s “sustainable democracy.” While every humanitarian and political crisis in the region, such as the one in Libya and Syria, has attracted international attention, Gaza has failed to even appear on the Security Council agenda.(Middle East Online)
This PalestineChronicle.com article reports on the Israeli government’s decision not to evacuate illegal settlements on private Palestinian property on April 27. Settlements, which have taken over much of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, were allegedly established for security reasons. Although illegal settlements violate international law, the US’ constant threat of using the veto on Security Council actions critical of Israel prevents the Palestinian leadership from drafting any version of a UN censure of the settlements. (PalestineChronicle.com)
Israel has recently announced that it will release 1,023 Palestinian prisoners while Hamas agreed to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. This “prisoner swap” shows Israel’s control over Palestinians’ daily lives and political authority. This deal also highlights changing patterns in the region. Following the Arab Spring, Egypt and Turkey are acting as mediators between Hamas and Fatah while Israelis are challenging Benjamin Netanyahu’s power. (Foreign Policy in Focus)
A group of UN independent experts dispute the Palmer Report’s conclusions on the Gaza flotilla incident, stressing that the Report fails to recognize Israel’s blockade as central to a closure policy which deprives Palestinian civilians of fundamental human rights, dignity, and basic welfare. In contravention of international humanitarian law, Israel’s siege of Gaza is extracting a human price which the experts measure in terms of food, water, health, and poverty. Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have experienced declining and subsistence standards below minimum levels for many years and should have the right to an adequate standard of living. (UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food)
In response to the upcoming Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood at the General Assembly in September, Israeli officials are contemplating annulling the 1993 Oslo Accords. In this op-ed piece, former Israeli official Dov Weisglass denounces this plan to “punish” Palestinian efforts at the UN. According to him, annulling the Oslo Accords will not serve to punish the PA, but rather force Israel to govern the day-to-day lives of millions of Palestinians while damaging diplomatic efforts toward a two-state solution. The Israeli Civil Administration would again become responsible for all Palestinian civilian services in the Judea, Samaria, and Gaza territories at a time when Israeli citizens are demanding more services within Israel. (YNetNews.com)
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip in Palestine. The area has been under blockade since 2007. Earlier this year, Israel allowed some civilian goods to enter Gaza. The Middle East Quartet (the diplomatic grouping comprising the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States) has said “considerably more” needs to be done, however. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also voiced concern about Israel’s continued settlement expansions on Palestinian occupied territory in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Israel is unlikely to end the blockade in Gaza and stop its settlement expansions, making it probable that the Palestinians will take action on statehood at the UN this September (2011). (UN News)
Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told the UN Security Council that the political process to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in "profound and persistent" deadlock. Israel’s refusal to freeze settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory makes the possibility of negotiations untenable. Serry said that the Palestinian Authority has developed sufficient institutions for a functioning state and is ready to "assume the responsibilities of statehood" in the near future. However, without more formal recognition Palestinian state building is reaching the limits of achievement. Serry called upon the international community to help create a credible way forward. (UN News)
The Israeli government has said a UN vote on Palestinian statehood would be meaningless, whilst at the same time saying it would represent an "existential" threat to Israel itself. The author of this article points out that it was the UN General Assembly in 1947 that decided there should be two states. The UN therefore constitutes the perfect forum for Palestine’s grievances. The Palestinian move to seek recognition of statehood at the UN, and ideally membership in the UN, is a belated gesture of frustration with the obvious failure of direct negotiations. Israel continues to build settlements and occupy Palestinian land whilst Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, is dedicated to establishing peace with Israel. The UN remains the only forum in which to try and achieve it. (Huffington Post)
Many people suspect that the Palestinians intend to make a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN in September 2011. International lawyer, Martin Wählisch, outlines real possibilities open to the Palestinians in light of the fact that membership to the UN requires an invitation from the UN Security Council and the US has already stated that it will veto any request for membership. This article discusses the possibility of the Palestinians obtaining a “Uniting for Peace” declaration or “non-member state status” through the UN General Assembly. (Open Democracy)
The author of this article states that very little attention has been paid to Palestinian rights, their plight under occupation and in exile, and their search for dignity as a people. The US has refused to hold Israel to international legal norms and, instead, remains a strong supporter of Israel, turning a blind eye to its crimes and its continued settlement and colonization of illegally occupied lands. The UN General Assembly is likely to vote to recognize Palestine as an independent state in September (2011). The US has said they will veto any resolution on Palestinian membership to the UN. If the US fails to take a more balanced approach to the current conflict, it will become increasingly unable to influence the future course of the conflict. This would put larger US security and economic interests in the region in jeopardy, in a rapidly democratizing Middle East. (Open Democracy)
A number of peaceful flotillas carrying humanitarian aid and letters of solidarity have been attempting to reach Gaza, Palestine, to raise international awareness about the unlawful blockade there. In May 2010, the Israeli military showed an excessive use of force against peace activists on board a Turkish flotilla, nine people died. The US President has said Israel has the right to defend itself and that flotillas attempting to reach Gaza constitute an act of provocation against Israel. However, the ships carry no arms (only aid and letters of solidarity to the besieged residents of Gaza) and do not plan to enter Israeli territorial waters. (Foreign Policy in Focus)
On June 15, 2011, the US State Department released a statement by Esther Brimmer (Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs) entitled “Multilateral Cooperation between the United States and Israel: Fighting Delegitimization, Moving Forward Together.” The statement had been delivered at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (NEP) and it illuminates Washington’s “unbreakable” and “ironclad” bond with Israel. This Global Policy in Brief blog responds to some of the contentions in the US State Department statement. (Global Policy in Brief)
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) reported that 304 adults and children have been displaced or affected by demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this year. Under Israeli zoning policy in the occupied Palestinian territory, Palestinians are only allowed to build in 13 per cent of occupied East Jerusalem and 1 per cent of the Israeli controlled territory in the West Bank, which is already heavily built up. Palestinians who are refused permits are forced to build illegally and then face either having the Israeli authorities destroy their homes, or to destroy their homes themselves. Under international law, Israel must ensure that persons under its jurisdiction enjoy the fulfillment of their human rights, including the right to housing, health, education, and water. UNRWA called on Israel to respect its legal obligations. (UN News)
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, condemned Israel’s killing of civilian protestors in the Golan Heights (an area occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed by Israel in a move that has not been recognized internationally). Between 30 and 40 protestors were reportedly killed by Israeli security forces in May 2011. Navi Pillay reminded the Government of Israel that it has a duty to ensure that its security personnel do not use excessive force. The use of live ammunition against unarmed protestors, resulting in large numbers of deaths and injuries, raises the question of unnecessary and excessive use of force by Israel. (UN News)
According to studies done in Israel and one by AIPAC in the US, there are a rising number of Israelis considering leaving the country “if current social and political trends continue.” The number of Israelis who hold second passports is rising and the rate is accelerating annually. As this article highlights, there are many reasons for an increased in the number of Israelis seeking secondary passports, but the common theme is that the current situation seems untenable in the long term. (Countercurrents.org)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a speech to US Congress, placed a number of onerous pre-conditions that it says Palestine must accept in order for Israel to engage in peace negotiations. The pre-conditions effectively quash the likelihood of a diplomatic solution to the crisis in the near future. Abbas and other Palestinian leaders also have demands. For example, they insist that Israeli settlement expansion in occupied land cease before peace talks resume. The UN's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, has also called upon the international community to take urgent action to compel Israel to end its confiscation and occupation of Palestinian land. (CS Monitor)
Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and president of the Palestinian National Authority, says Palestine’s admission as an independent State at the United Nations would change the nature of its relationship with Israel. Independent statehood would give Palestine rights to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, with human rights treaty bodies, and at the International Court of Justice. Abbas calls upon the international community to recognize the State of Palestine on the 1967 border and contends that the General Assembly had, in 1947, decided upon partitioning the region into two states – a promise that has, so far, been unfulfilled. (New York Times)
The UN's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, marks the sixty-third anniversary of the Nakba, the catastrophic beginning of the Palestinian tragedy of dispossession and occupation, by calling on the international community to take urgent action to compel Israel to end its confiscation and occupation of Palestinian land. At the same time, Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, hopes Israel will look carefully at the key humanitarian concerns of demolitions and displacement in the West Bank. (UN)
There were mass protest marches at Israel’s border on Nakba day (May 15, 2011). The protests illustrated Arab dissatisfaction with the deadlocked efforts to establish a Palestinian state. Protests also came from the Syrian frontier and the Israeli-held Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed in a move that has not been recognized internationally. 15 people were killed in the mass marches. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is pursuing alternative routes to statehood after a breakdown in peace talks with Israel, quickly embraced those who tried to breach Israel’s borders. (Irish Times)
A year ago this month, Israel attacked a humanitarian convoy on its way to Gaza in international waters, killing 9 civilians. For decades, Israel has been hijacking international vessels throughout the Mediterranean and kidnapping or killing passengers. Despite the impunity with which Israel operates, civil resistance to Israel’s actions continues to grow. In mid-May 2011, as Hamas and Fatah negotiate internal unity and Egypt moves to permanently open Gaza’s southern border, the international solidarity movement musters an even greater flotilla of ships to challenge Israel’s illegal actions against Palestinians. (Agence Global)
George. J. Mitchell Jr., the former senator who brokered peace in Northern Ireland, is resigning as the chief US envoy to the Israelis and Palestinians amid growing frustration over the impasse in peace talks. The US president announced the resignation and referred to US support for a two-state solution to the conflict. Mr. Mitchell had largely abandoned his diplomatic efforts after failing to persuade Israel to freeze the construction of settlements in Palestinian territories last year. Palestinian residents have been forced from their homes or face the prospect of having their houses and schools demolished to make way for Israeli settlements. (New York Times)
Israeli authorities plan to demolish a Palestinian Bedouin village, Umm al-Hieran, to make way for a new Jewish town. Residents have submitted a motion against the demolition to the Israeli Supreme Court. It is, reportedly, possible to pursue the plans for a Jewish town without demolishing Umm al-Hieran by moving the plans by 300 meters. Palestinian Bedouin village’s are facing a wave of destruction suggesting that the Israeli government has a larger plan to concentrate Bedouin citizens on as little land as possible and build Jewish communities there instead. (Inter Press Service)
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, may make a unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence from Israel at the UN general assembly this September (2011). British Prime Minister, David Cameron, warned the Israeli head of State, Binyamin Netanyahu, that Britain may support Abbas’ declaration if Israel does not take part in substantive peace negotiations with the Palestinians to create a two state solution to the current crisis in Israel, Palestine and the occupied territories. (The Guardian)
At the end of last month, more than 70 percent of medicines donated for Gaza were dumped because they were past their expiry date - $25 million wasted. The medicines sit at the border, waiting to be let through the blockade, until they are expired and thrown out. However, there are no expiry dates on the 10 000 coffins donated to Gaza which do eventually make it to those who need them. Gaza needs 110 types of medicines and 123 types of medical equipment over the next few months, but the announced easing of the blockade has not brought in more supplies. (IPS)
The UN Human Rights Council has issued a 56-page report that finds evidence to support prosecutions against Israel for "wilful killing" and torture committed in the raid on the flotilla on May 31. The report condemns the commandos claim to use force to defend the blockade on the grounds that the blockade itself is made unlawful by the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Israel has denounced the the findings of the UN Human Rights Council as having a "politicised and extremist approach." Hamas has welcomed the inquiry's findings calling on the international community to take action by bringing Israeli commanders to trial. (Commondreams.org)
Israeli servicewomen have begun to voice their opposition to the army's treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories. The handful of women who have spoken out against the Israeli Defense Forces have been criticized for being disloyal to the army. Many women in the IDF already feel intense pressure to act "manly" and tough, and they worry that voicing their opinions will be seen as a sign of weakness in addition to a betrayal of the army. Although these women's views may not represent those of all Israeli soldiers, their eye-witness experiences suggest that the IDF's self-proclaimed title of "most moral army in the world" is misleading, if not entirely farcical. (The Observer)
A group of lawyers petitioned the Israeli High Court, charging that Israel had violated the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea by capturing ships in international waters. The petitioners charge that Israel engaged in acts of piracy. The State will have to provide a legal justification to the High Court of Justice on Tuesday morning for its takeover by force of eight ships which were on their way to deliver humanitarian goods to Gaza Strip.
The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development voted unanimously to admit Israel on Monday. The OECD's decision drew criticism from NGOs and Palestinians because Israel's policies towards Palestine completely disregard "OECD values." OECD membership will increase foreign investment in Israel, effectively legitimizing and providing funds for the continued illegal annexation of Palestinian territories. (New York Times)
In this lecture, John Meashimer discusses some potential future methods Israel may employ to deal with the Palestine questions. The author engages with the possibilities of ethnic cleansing and apartheid, addressing their likelihood and political ramifications. Mearsheimer believes that in the absence of a two-state solution, a fully fledged apartheid state is most likely; noting that, an apartheid state - to some extent - already exists. (Al Jazeera)
The Israeli soldiers who killed four Palestinian civilians last month received only minor reprimands for their actions. Israel's Military Chief stated the incidents "could have ended differently," but that was as far as the punishment went. The four Palestinians were killed in two separate events, twenty four hours apart. In the first, two teenagers were shot with live ammunition, despite orders to use rubber bullets. In the second, two Palestinians were shot as they approached a check-point "behaving suspiciously." (Independent)
Israel has failed to provide a credible and sufficiently thorough report on its Gaza military assault last January. Amnesty International states that the report does not meet international standards of "independence, impartiality, transparency, promptness and effectiveness." Notable areas omitted include: attacks on UN buildings, civilian casualties, unwarranted damage to medical infrastructure and the use of white-phosphorous. (WAFA)
A high-ranking Israeli commander from "Operation Cast Lead" has verified that he did not regard the military principle of means and intentions when calling in drones and helicopter attacks. Means and intentions refers to the military rule of not targeting an individual unless they are armed and explicitly intend to use that weapon. Other Israeli commanders have tried to defend the actions as pre-emptive. (Independent)
The Goldstone report soberly examines the evidence for war crimes during the attack on Gaza. Though allegations are made against both Palestinians and Israelis, the lion's share of condemnation is placed against Israel. Israel has fought back, with the Israeli government publically denouncing the report as biased. The authors propose that Israel's refusal to accept past human rights violations presents a risk to the very concept of human rights.
The Israeli Supreme Court has condemned illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and has ordered the evacuation of some. This action questions the Israeli government's plan to expand the settlements. By occasionally passing judgment in favor of dispossessed Palestinians and proclaiming their eviction illegal, the Supreme Court strengthens the legality of the remaining majority of occupation-stated cases, argues the author. (Common Dreams)
Powerful states have stood by idly as Gaza's economy and livelihood have collapsed. While the government of Israel continues its closure of the Gaza strip, critical movements have gathered force in Israel, the US and across the globe. These movements, led by prominent politicians, academics, Nobel Peace Prize winners and veteran activists, oppose the injustice and are working cooperatively to supply humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. (Common Dreams)
Breaking the Silence has collected testimonies from 30 Israeli soldiers. Its report challenges the Israeli army's contention that it abided by international law in its conduct of the January Gaza war. Testimonies describe the many Israeli violations, including the use of Palestinian human shields and the failure to distinguish between civilians and combatants. (The Independent)
The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) controls the type and amount of food allowed to enter the occupied territories of Palestine. Products are placed on and off the forbidden list of 'luxury goods' in a manner which make COGAT's rules and bans seem both unpredictable and nonsensical. But by artificially creating demand for some goods in Gaza, it allows Israeli farmers to get rid of their surpluses, thus stabilizing prices in Israel. (Ha'aretz)
The UN Human Rights Council published a report concluding that Israel committed several human right violations against unarmed civilians. Council members are calling for an international investigation into the Israeli assault. Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, disputes the Israeli claim that it was difficult to distinguish between civilian and military targets, recalling that Israel started the assault knowing it would be impossible to differentiate between civilians and the military in such a densely-populated area. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, also reported on war crimes committed against children in Gaza. In conclusion, the Human Rights Council has asked the UN Security Council to set up an ad hoc criminal tribunal, to investigate the severity of these crimes. (Frontline)
During the 3 week assault on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 the Israeli defense force deliberately fired white phosphorus into civilian areas. White phosphorus is illegal if used in civilian areas, because of its devastating effects on the human body. This Human Rights Watch report asks the US to stop delivering white phosphorus to Israel and notes that Israeli senior commanders must have approved the use of white phosphorus and must be held accountable for these war crimes.
Israel has received large amounts of military aid from the US ever since the proclamation of the state of Israel in 1948. As of 2009 the US gives Israel US$30 billion of military aid on an annual basis. This article shows that the white phosphorus used by Israeli forces in the 2008-09 siege on Gaza was made in the United States and came from the US Company Raytheon. The use of white phosphorus is illegal under international law and Amnesty International claims that Israeli armed forces are responsible for "direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects in Gaza, and attacks which were disproportionate or indiscriminate." (Guardian)
This Times article reports that the International Criminal Court (ICC) might begin an investigation of Israel and its actions in the Gaza assault. According to leading NGOs, the Israeli army used white phosphorus in its military offenses, which is illegal under international law. Israeli forces also fired into civilian areas, denied medical aid to Palestinians, inhibited the mobility of ambulances and fired at people carrying white flags. The ICC Prosecutor, therefore, aims to investigate Israeli leaders and army officials on charges of war crimes.
This timeline gives a clear overview of the Israeli military attack on the Gaza strip, which started with air strikes on December 27, 2008. The timeline also shows a lack of action by the Security Council to halt Israel's aggression and to allow humanitarian aid from entering Gaza. The total dead toll is estimated at 1,200 - more than half of them women and children. (Al Jazeera)
In this article Rashid Khalidi, Professor of Arab studies at Columbia University, points out facts about Gaza that people tend to forget. He explains that the majority of Gazans do not live in Gaza by choice, but because the Israeli army drove them there in 1948. Since 1967 Israel occupied Gaza and even after the withdrawal in 2005 it still largely controls the territory. Khalidi states Hamas' rocket response stems from a history of continued occupation and is in reaction to the Israeli blockade that prohibits the flow of fuel and electricity into Gaza. (New York Times)
While the Israeli siege in Gaza continues, aid organizations complain about the impediment to full humanitarian assistance, in a conflict in which women and children make up 40 percent of the casualties. The International Committee of the Red Cross sharply critiqued Israel's action stating it had failed to comply with its humanitarian obligation under international law. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) suspended its humanitarian action after one of its staff members was killed apparently by Israeli gunfire. (New York Times)
Arab nations demanded a Security Council statement calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas in Gaza. The US blocked approval contending that such a statement "would have no underpinning for success and would not do credit to the council." Other council members, including France, were in favor of "an immediate, permanent and fully respected cease-fire." (Associated Press)
Author Robert Fisk comments on the December 2008 Israeli air strikes on Gaza and recalls the historical plight of Palestinian refugees. Fisk argues that among the one and a half million Palestinian refugees crammed into Gaza, 80 percent of those families once lived in what is now Israel. Condemning both Western and Arab countries for failing to restrain Israel, Fisk concludes that "Gaza was always an insurrectionary place" and "is not going to be tamed now." (Independent)
The Middle East faces severe drought, especially in Syria, Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel controls more than 85% of the water in the occupied West Bank, where one third of the Palestinians do not have access to proper water supplies and sanitation services, because Israel does not issue licenses. Moreover, Israel's military activities pollute the ground water in the West Bank, resulting in significant environmental damage. (Middle East Times)
Israel continues to use tactics of war contrary to the rules of humanitarian law by attacking and killing innocent Palestinian citizens, thereby negatively affecting the peace process. A 2006 Israeli Supreme Court judgment ruled that the government must establish a committee to investigate these Palestinian deaths, but Israel has yet to set up such a team. (International Relations and Security Network)
Karen AbuZayd, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) stated that the Gaza strip will face a humanitarian disaster if Israel continues to block humanitarian goods from entering the territory. Israel says it closes Gaza's borders to curb rocket attacks by Hamas, but withholding food, medicines and fuel from the inhabitants of a territory constitutes collective punishment, an action that is illegal under international law. (ZNet)
David Kretzmer, an Israeli law professor, urged the Israeli Attorney General to investigate possible war crimes by Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz. Kretzmer states that Mofaz violated humanitarian law in 2001 by ordering Israeli forces to kill a daily minimum of 70 Palestinians. The Israeli professor also says that reports from Israeli newspaper Haaretz from 2001 and 2002 raise suspicions that Mofaz ordered Israeli soldiers to shoot at every armed Palestinian, irrespective of their threat to Israeli forces. (Independent)
The European Union (EU) misses an opportunity to act as an independent mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Author George Joffé argues that the EU defers to US policy in the Middle East, believing that Europe needs US military support to ward off the perceived threat of "global terrorism." As a result, the EU excludes Hamas from constructive peace talks, and perpetuates a humanitarian crisis in Gaza by denying finance to the democratically elected Hamas government. (FRIDE)
This article by Seumas Milne argues that it is unjust for Israel to invoke self-defense to use force in Gaza – a blockaded territory under Israeli practical and legal occupation. The article notes that the weight of casualties lie on the Palestinian side by forty to one, with over a fifth of those killed being children. Milne suggests that Israel should take up Hamas' offer of a truce; a solution which is supported by 64% of Israelis, but rejected by Washington. (Guardian)
The Quartet, composed of the EU, Russia, UN and US, elected former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to serve as their new Middle East peace envoy. Blair's supporters point to qualifications such as a long-standing interest in the Middle East, and experience with peace negotiations in Northern Ireland. But Britain's involvement in Iraq and Blair's closeness to the US and support of Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas make him a controversial candidate. (Guardian)
Following several days of Israeli military actions in Gaza, UN officials have called on the Israeli government to cease hostilities. While the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories urges the Security Council to act, the top UN body agreed to discuss the violence in Gaza. This Security Council decision coincides with mounting requests for the organization's intervention in the Palestinian Territories to enforce the cease-fire. (UN News)
This Daily Star - Lebanon article suggests that the UN Security Council should send an international peacekeeping force to monitor the border between Gaza and Israel. In light of the UN involvement in Lebanon, observers call for a similar level of commitment from the international organization in the Palestinian Territories. The establishment of an international force would help to break the vicious circle of violence fostered by attacks on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, the article says.
A UN rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories calls on the Security Council "to assume responsibility for finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict instead of leaving it to the diplomatic Quartet." He believes the influential Quartet, including the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States, acts partially when it imposes economic measures on the Hamas government. According to the UN official, the situation in Palestinian territories has worsened since June 2006, and requires talks between Israel and Palestinians on a permanent status accord. (UN News)
The UN special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights condemns Israel for its military actions and blockade of Palestinian territories. The UN expert also accuses Canada, the US and Europe of cutting aid funds to the Palestinian Authority. Both factors contribute to the suffering of the Palestinian people, according to the special rapporteur. In a report, he portrays the standards of human rights in the territories as intolerable. (BBC)
In this Maxims News piece, the former head of the UN's weapons inspection team in Iraq, Hans Blix, analyzes the motives behind Middle Eastern actors' actions and their actual outcomes. Citing Israel's intervention in Lebanon, he concludes that no parties have achieved their expected goals through military actions. Blix wonders whether the players involved in Middle East conflicts should, "in the future, increase their readiness to enter into talks without first going through a phase of suffering, death and destruction."
To end division between their various factions and to establish a common front, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails produced this "National Conciliation Document." While the document offers implicit recognition of Israel by its endorsement of a two-state solution along the 1967 borders, a major policy change for Hamas, Tel Aviv rejected it for not explicitly recognizing Israel or denouncing terrorism. (Translation by Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre)
UN envoy to the Middle East Alvaro de Soto criticized Israel's decision to withhold $50 million in funds to the Palestinian Authority (PA) following the electoral victory of Hamas, a terrorist organization according to Israel, the EU, and the US. De Soto called Israel's move to freeze the funds "premature" and declared that it ran counter to the policy agreed to by the international "Quartet" of the UN, EU, US and Russia. The Quartet had decided that international funding should be judged against the willingness of the Hamas government to renounce violence, recognize Israel and sign up to past agreements between Israel and the PA. (Independent)
The Guardian asserts that the Bush administration and other pro-Israeli groups were instrumental in blocking UN Relief and Works Agency head Peter Hansen's reappointment because he was "biased and soft on 'terrorists.'" But Hansen, who condemned the Israeli government for destroying Palestinian homes and aiming fire at UN-run schools, says his "job was to represent refugees."
Foreign Policy in Focus argues that Washington endorsed Israeli aggression in the Occupied Territories because of "the American drive to control the world's oil reserves." In explaining the United States' support of Israel, one must not assume that "foreign policy is all about partisan politics and God."
Israeli public opinion shows growing despair with continuing violence, but how will this change manifest itself in political terms, asks Uri Avnery. Avnery urges the Israeli left to channel this political force. (Gush Shalom)
Yedioth Ahronoth extensively documents the thoughts and current initiatives of four prominent Israelis who previously held high rank in the country's General Security Service, or Shin Bet.
In this interview, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia weighs in on his predecessor Mahmoud Abbas as well as Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat. (Washington Post)
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia sought consolidation of security forces under one authority, but Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat succeeded in keeping the commands separate. Arafat furthermore placed a hand-picked successor in the post of Interior Minister. (Associated Press)
Once the most egalitarian society in the developed world, Israel is now among the least so. In the West Bank and Gaza, 60 percent of Palestinians live below a poverty line of 60 dollars. But also in the rest of Israel, people suffer from the government's decision to shrink its role as a welfare provider to force people back into the labor market. (Inter Press Service)
Israel and militant Palestinian factions take different approaches to international inaction in the Middle East crisis. The former continues escalated repression, while the latter engages in escalated violence. Israeli air strikes on Syria will not stop Palestinian suicide bombers, but will only bring more actors into the conflict, says the Electronic Intifada.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered Israeli forces to strike targets in Syria in the first overt aggression against the country since the 1973 October War. Arab analysts hypothesize three basic reasons behind the decision to attack. (New York Times)
An Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution is "probably already doomed," argues Tony Judt in the New York Review of Books. Judt insists that a bi-national solution is both more desirable and more appropriate in the era of the secular state.
25 Israeli Air Force pilots joined the ranks of the "refuseniks" by signing a letter resolving not "to continue to harm innocent civilians" by conducting attacks on Palestinian population centers. This article, translated from Yediot Aharonot, includes a text of the letter and provides the reaction of the Commander of the Air Force.
The BBC highlights behind-the-scenes struggles between Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Analysts worry that Arafat seems to prioritize his political future over Palestinian hopes for a better future.
The editor of Challenge, a leftist magazine covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, discusses issues including the post-Oslo "peace process" and the response of the Israeli left to the US-led war in Iraq. (Middle East Report Online)
A representative from Terre des Hommes assesses the impact of Palestinian unemployment that has reached 50%. In addition, the UN Relief and Works Agency reports that Palestinian children show substantial symptoms of stress and depression. (Palestine Media Center)
This article from the Middle East Report Online highlights Israeli Supreme Court inaction in human rights issues such as the "neighbor procedure" by which the Israeli Army uses Palestinian civilians to perform military operations. According to human rights groups, "human shields" more accurately describes this procedure.
The Knesset passed a bill that prevents Palestinians married to Israelis from obtaining residency permits for Israel. A spokesman from the Israeli rights group B'tselem denounced the law, exclaiming, "this is a racist law that decides who can live here according to racist criteria." (Associated Press)
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel blames the Sharon government for weakening the foundations of human rights in Israel and the occupied territories. Its report also highlights Israeli army violence against civilians, stressing that the army cannot excuse such violence as "operational necessity." (Independent)
A senior Palestinian cabinet member urges the US administration to provide financial assistance to the devastated Palestinian economy and to intervene if the road map's progress stalls. (Associated Press)
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected a request by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to sever ties with Yasser Arafat, president of the Palestinian Authority. The UK government's continuing rapport with Arafat increases tension in an already fragile UK-Israel relationship. (Guardian)
Azmi Bishara argues that the US and Israel have a specific political objective to pit Palestinian security organs and militant groups against each other. Bishara stresses the importance of a unified Palestinian strategy to clarify common objectives and methods of resisting the occupation. (Al-Ahram)
Palestinian and Israeli poverty have both increased over the past two years, but the Palestinian population bears the brunt of the problem. Conn Hallinan argues that Israeli government policy of expanding settlements and subsidizing settlers "threatens to destroy the Israeli economy." (Foreign Policy in Focus)
The Guardian reports that President George W. Bush remains naive about the details of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to diplomats, President Bush responds to "one of the world's most intractable problems in a superficial way which holds out little hope of success."
This note summarizes the difficulties NGOs have had in gaining access to the Palestinian territories. The problems include visa denials for NGOs not affiliated with the Israeli government, screening of aid workers in the Gaza Strip and entry restrictions at Ben Gurion international airport in Israel. (Association for International Development Agencies)
According to a new plan drafted by the Israel Defense Forces and the foreign and defense ministries, Israel will now bar international pro-Palestinian activists from entering the country and will try to expel activists from Europe, Canada, and the US who are already in Israel and the Occupied Territories. (Ha'aretz)
Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement has decided to back the new cabinet proposed by incoming Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), increasing the chances that the new team of ministers will win approval in a parliament vote. A "yes" vote could pave the way for the publication of the "roadmap" to peace by the US. (Ha'aretz)
The current dispute between Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, which in the short term threatens the so-called "roadmap" for peace, is also threatening to become the most serious political crisis assailing the Palestinian leadership since the Lebanon war. (Al-Ahram Weekly)
Israel seriously plans to restart an oil pipeline that once transferred oil from Iraq to Israel. According to an Israeli minister, the US would back this project, but its realization would also require Syria's consent, putting Damascus on the list of US targets. (Asia Times)
At a roundtable organized by the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram Weekly, Edward Said and a number of political analysts debated ways to respond to what they saw as "the two major catastrophes currently facing the Arab world, the US-led war against Iraq and the Israeli war against the Palestinians.
Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories fear the ramifications of a US-led war against Iraq. Possible scenarios range from the imposition of more stringent closures and curfews by the Israeli Defense Forces to the mass expulsion of Palestinians. (Ha'aretz)
Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old college student from Olympia, Washington, was killed when she was run over by an Israeli army bulldozer. She was trying to stop the bulldozer from tearing down a house in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza. (Associated Press)
Mordechai Vannunu was jailed in 1986 for publishing photographs of Israel's nuclear bomb factory at Dimona. His case has raised questions about the Israeli government's policy of nuclear secrecy, which positions it outside of international treaties. (BBC News)
According to a new report from the World Bank, Israeli-imposed closures in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are continuing to cause severe economic problems for Palestinians. Half the Palestinian population is now living on less than two dollars a day. (BBC News)
In a piece originally written for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Tel Aviv University Professor Tanya Reinhart reports on continuing human rights abuses against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and the crisis facing UNRWA, which may be bankrupt by the end of the month. (UNRWA)
Stephen Zunes analyzes President Bush's speech outlining his vision of the Middle East in the aftermath of a possible US invasion of Iraq and criticizes the President's failure to engage seriously with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Foreign Policy in Focus)
Martin Woollacott argues that the Bush administration's current attempt to ignore the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict could give way to a "project to permanently suppress the Palestinian people" if the US can implement its plans for a new world order in the Middle East. (Guardian)
According to UN figures, malnourishment in the Occupied Territories is getting worse, and the UN Relief and Works Agency is on the verge of running out of food stocks. UN officials say that the situation is "a political problem, a problem completely created by human actions." (Guardian)
By claiming that the downfall of Saddam Hussein could somehow be the start of "a new stage for Middle East peace," President Bush showed himself to be either deliberately duplicitous or very badly informed about the Palestinian question, according to Simon Tisdall. (Guardian)
Akiva Eldar, a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, writes that President Bush's recent address on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which endorsed the policies of Ariel Sharon and linked the peace process to a possible US-led war against Iraq, has threatened to put an end to the vision of establishing an independent Palestinian state.
Amnesty International calls for human rights observers to be sent to Israel and the Occupied Territories, and for human rights to be placed at the center of any negotiations or peace talks. Thus far, "the international community has failed the Palestinian and Israeli victims" by not insisting on the upholding of human rights. (Amnesty International)
In this briefing, Human Rights Watch urges the Commission on Human Rights to address the human rights and humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and Gaza with a resolution that condemns human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties and calls on the international community to meet its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure the protection of civilians in circumstances of armed conflict and belligerent occupation.
In his first significant remarks about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in eight months, President Bush focused largely on Iraq, claiming that removing Saddam Hussein could set the state for peace between Israel and what he called a "viable" Palestinian state. (New York Times)
Israel's Defense Minister has declared that after a war on Iraq, the US should turn its attention to Iran. "We have great interest in shaping the Middle East the day after" a war, he declared. (New York Times)
The full text of President Bush's speech to the American Enterprise Institute. In his first significant remarks about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in eight months, President Bush focused largely on Iraq, claiming that removing Saddam Hussein could set the stage for peace between Israel and what he called a "viable" Palestinian state. (CBS News)
Adam Hanieh, a researcher and human rights worker in Ramallah, suggests that the impending war against Iraq will give Israel an opportunity to further implement a system of total control over Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, through a total "lockdown" of the population. (Middle East Report Online)
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) has said that because its international appeal for funding has fallen on deaf ears, it will run out of food stores by the end of March. More than a million Palestinians already suffer from malnutrition levels comparable to those in Congo, according to the UN. (Guardian)
The Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights is seeking a court order to force the Israeli government to provide gas masks to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories in the event of a US-led war against Iraq. (BBC News)
Akiva Eldar, a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, argues that Ariel Sharon's government is trying to ward off questions about its own violations of non-proliferation treaties and Security Council resolutions by linking Yasser Arafat to Saddam Hussein.
After a possible US invasion of Iraq and a regime change, the Israeli government has plans to expel the Palestine leader Yasser Arafat. (Miami Herald)
In a letter sent to the French newspaper Le Monde, Tanya Reinhart, a professor of linguistics at Tel Aviv University, writes in support of the calls by British and French academics for institutional academic boycotts of Israeli universities that followed Israel's "operations" in Jenin in April 2002. (ZNet)
Due to the rising violence in the Middle East, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urges Palestine and Israel to adopt a comprehensive approach to reconciliation that addresses political, security and economic issues in parallel. (IRNA)