As Gazan death, injury and destruction rises with little prospect of cease-fire, the UK’s loudest activists for Palestine continue to betray their cause.
Received by email.
The Palestinian plan to request UN recognition of its statehood has created intense controversy and challenged OneVoice. How should we position ourselves on the UN initiative? How could we place it in a broader perspective? And most importantly, how could we play a positive role in shaping the aftermath?
OneVoice always strives to bring ordinary citizens into a constructive conversation about the conflict and to mobilize them for action. During this tense period, we continue to work to reduce the frustration and pessimism on both sides and channel people’s energy into nonviolent actions that advocate for a two-state solution – the only stable, viable, and peaceful future for the beleaguered people of Israel and Palestine. No matter how the UN initiative is resolved, that will remain our course.
Only good faith negotiations will produce a mutually acceptable, comprehensive and permanent two-state solution – of that we remain certain. President Mahmoud Abbas agrees, having said last week, “Our first, second and third priority is negotiations. There is no other way to solve this. No matter what happens at the United Nations, we have to return to negotiations.” He also added, “We don’t want to isolate Israel but to live with it in peace and security. We don’t want to delegitimize Israel. We want to legitimize ourselves.”
OneVoice Palestine (OVP) launched its campaign to support the Palestinian bid with the primary intent to mobilize thousands of Palestinians behind the two-state solution. Their activities will lay the basis for nonviolent and constructive responses in the aftermath of the vote. OneVoice Israel (OVI) will soon begin their own campaign to keep the two-state solution alive, spotlighting the potential benefits for Israel of recognizing a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with all its neighbors.
Our Israeli activists are urging their leadership to take positive actions that can turn the UN initiative into a win-win for both sides and rekindle negotiations. Prominent members of Israel’s political and security elite, including OneVoice Israel board members, believe that a resolution that addresses issues of concern to Israel and paves the way for renewed negotiations would preserve the country’s interests and the two-state solution.
With our Israeli and Palestinian teams, we reached an unambiguous conclusion: Bringing the vision of a Palestinian state closer to realization is vital to counter absolutist agendas. We have watched with alarm the growing Palestinian disillusionment with the two-state solution, which threatens a peaceful and stable future for Israelis and Palestinians. We have seen growing frustration on both sides at the lack of tangible progress, all set against the backdrop of worrying developments that endanger the security of the entire region.
OneVoice continues to advocate for a negotiated resolution to the conflict, and we hope this Palestinian initiative can produce positive developments that are far superior to stagnation and prevent a steep deterioration into violence and extremism.
Already, OneVoice Palestine’s campaign shows encouraging results. Thousands have visited OVP’s Web site and read our common message that supports a negotiated two-state solution. Nearly 60% of them agreed that the Palestinian bid will help realize this goal. We will send updates of our activities and their impact over the coming weeks and welcome your questions and reflections. Thank you for your continued support.
Howard J. Sumka
OneVoice is an international grassroots movement that aims to amplify the voice of Israeli and Palestinian moderates, empowering them to seize back the agenda for conflict resolution and demand that their leaders achieve a two-state solution. For the latest updates, join us at blog.onevoicemovement.org.
Please consider signing this e-petition, asking the British government to recognize Palestine as a state and support its admission to the UN in September, as a step to reviving direct negotiations.
At Palestine Note, Joshka Wessels writes:
“Fahmi Manasra walks to the spring he remembers from his childhood. He was a young boy when he moved from Dheisheh refugee camp to the paradise of Wadi Fukin some 30 years ago. At the time, he felt like he was in heaven. He had wished to share this same feeling with his children but the spring is empty. Today, the spring and its reservoir are completely dried up. Nothing is left of the spring. Fahmi’s paradise is lost. The cause ? Construction of an expanding illegal Israeli settlement that is taking up land, drying up the springs and contaminating the soil.”
“During the years after the second intifada, it became clear that the increased settlement construction was severely damaging the environment. This alarmed both the Palestinian farmers and Israeli activists to take action. The environmental NGO “Friends of the Earth Middle East”, a unique organization with offices in Tel Aviv, Bethlehem and Amman, helped out with scientific research. The studies showed the large scale environmental impact by settlement activities.
A big shock came when people from Tsur Hadassah and Wadi Fukin were presented with the proposed plans for the Israeli separation wall. The building plans proposed a route that will cut the valley in two parts and destroy the environment even further. The village will become a prison, encircled by the wall and the settlement of Bitar Illit.
Alarmed by the developments, the Israeli activists and Palestinian farmers filed a case at the Israeli courts. They approached Israeli human rights lawyer, Michael Sfard, who also represents the Rachel Corrie case. Based on environmental grounds, they argued that the wall should not be build and settlement activity should stop. The process was lengthy. It included a petition in Tsur Hadassah and many rejections of the case. The group did not give up and went to the High Court and finally last year managed to get some positive verdict. The building of the Wall has now been frozen based on environmental grounds. How long this freeze will last is unclear. But the fact that they were successful in stopping the Wall gives some little hope.”
Human Rights Watch posts a letter to Hamas from Amnesty, B’Tselem, Gisha, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Gaza and others as the imprisonment of snatched 24 year old French-Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, without trial or access to his family approaches its 5th anniversary.
We hear much less about 26 year old Mohamed Abu Muailek, member of a Fatah unit who refused to fire rockets into Israel from the Gaza strip. This unfortunate and courageous man is a dissident on the terms of both Fatah and Hamas, and is unlikely to become a bargaining chip in any negotiations for prisoners’ release:
“They will say that I am a collaborator, and I don’t care much…because these are the basics of a real Muslim: to tell the truth and be a peaceful man—whether it kills him or gives him more life.”
Or BBC journalist Paul Martin, who went to testify on Abu Muailek’s behalf when he was eventually arrested as he feared. Martin himself was arrested on the spot and imprisoned for 26 days threatened with a death sentence. Abu Muailek’s trial is set to conclude in July. Collaboration is one of the most shameful crimes you could be charged with in Gaza. He is held incommunicado, is reported to have been tortured, faces possible execution, and Amnesty are following his case with concern.
Paul Martin’s film, Rocket Man Under Fire, is below. I recommend watching it in full. It is claustrophobic and its perspective of the containment of Gaza as something which, as well as effectively imprisoning all Gazans, also enables Hamas’ net to close around dissidents, is rare and valuable.
As Paul Martin observes, the Arab Spring has not reached Gaza. The only visitors who need not be afraid there are those who do not challenge Hamas.
Britain’s giant public sector union UNISON has just issued its long-awaited report on its delegation’s visit to Israel and Palestine.
The visit had been scheduled to take place a year ago, finally happened at the end of 2010, and the report has become available only now.
It is a long and detailed report reflecting the organization’s views of the conflict, but the really interesting bit — the surprising bit — was what happened when the UNISON team asked Palestinian trade unionists and Israeli leftists whether the union should sever its ties with the Histadrut.
The union had been instructed by its governing bodies to look into this very question.
It was, in some ways, the central question, the one that really mattered above all.
And the advice the union got from everyone it talked to was: don’t sever your ties with the Histadrut.
What the report says is so extraordinary that it needs to be quoted at length — and this passage should be shown to any union anywhere in the world that is thinking about cutting off ties with Israel’s trade unions.
Here is what they say:
There is much in the report that we wouldn’t agree with – including criticism of things we and others have written and said – but the bottom line is that when Palestinian trade unionists are asked, they turn out to be supporters of engagement with the Histadrut and urge unions everywhere to keep up their ties with the Israeli union federation.
- A peace proposal from former IDF chiefs based on Arab League plan
- UN endorses Palestinian statehood – Palestine Note
- Lieberman to be indicted for fraud – more on ModernityBlog (who neglected to report on the bathroom incident).
- An anti-discrimination ruling in Israel no thanks to the UNHCR – Noam Sheizaf
- Palestinians must protect free expression – Aziz Abu Sarah
- After the brutal murder of the Fogel family, the punishment of Awarta – Joseph Dana
- After the Palestinian democracy protests, other Palestinians resort to bombs – Gershom Gorenberg
- Wasatia and community – Dajani Daoudi
- What Egyptians want from Israel – Lisa Goldman interviews Ahmed Naje.
- No such thing as “just a slap” – looks more and more like open season on Israeli peace activists as Yariv Oppenheimer attacked
- This week’s edition of Bitter Lemons is on ‘Whither Syria’ – Elias Samo, Karim Emile Bitar, Rime Alaf, Nizar Abdel-Kader
- Report on the Convention on the Israeli Left – Gary Cohen
- “Until further notice, please consider me a reactionary” – Ofri Ilani
- On the defectors from Hamas’ national jihad to the global jihad – Amos Harel and Ami Issacharoff
- To free Israel from Gaza, recognise Hamas? – Uri Avnery
- Salafist militants who consider Hamas too moderate kidnap pro-Palestinian activist – the AP. Update: his name was Vittorio Arrigani, and his kidnappers have killed him horribly.
- A free and fair trade union election at Al Azhar University, Gaza City – Ma’an
- And check out the Green Party International email discussion if you prefer to read mainly about boycotting Israel and the urgency of its dismantlement.
Richard Goldstone has withdrawn the ‘deliberately targeted civilians’ part of his report on the fact-finding mission he led into Operation Cast Lead. He writes that Israel and the Palestinian Authority are conducting investigations, while Hamas has investigated nothing at all. He writes:
“That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying — its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.
The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”
“Simply put, the laws of armed conflict apply no less to non-state actors such as Hamas than they do to national armies. Ensuring that non-state actors respect these principles, and are investigated when they fail to do so, is one of the most significant challenges facing the law of armed conflict. Only if all parties to armed conflicts are held to these standards will we be able to protect civilians who, through no choice of their own, are caught up in war.”
An unsurprising outcry ensued, either with ideological objections to this revision, or to amplify the news that Israel had been vindicated of another unfounded charge, or to urge the world not to be diverted from the plight of 1.4 million Gazans, the violent deaths of over 700 people and the wider destruction of the conflict.
It’s worth mentioning that when the Israeli government of the time refused to cooperate with Goldstone’s investigation, several prominent Israelis (including for example Ami Ayalon) criticised this decision, arguing that Israel would be even more exposed to bias if it kept itself outside the process than if it went along with it. It’s also worth understanding the grounds on which the Israeli government refused to cooperate – that, as a UN Human Rights Council initiative, the investigation was biased from the start and would inevitably function to rubber-stamp a foregone conclusion against Israel (Goldstone denies this unequivocally).
Bias should never be a plausible excuse for cooperating with a United Nations body, but sadly it is all too plausible. Reflecting on the UNHCR, Jonathan Freedland writes in The Guardian:
“Many respectable folks have spent decades insisting that the “core issue” in the Middle East, if not the world, is the Israel-Palestine conflict – that it is the “running sore” whose eventual healing will heal the wider region and beyond.
That was always gold-plated nonsense, but now the Arab spring has come along to prove it. Now the world can see that the peoples of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain have troubles aplenty that have nothing to do with Israel. There could be peace between Israelis and Palestinians tomorrow, but it wouldn’t relieve those in Damascus or Manama or Sana’a from the yoke of tyranny. For them, Israel is not “the heart of the matter”, as the cliche always insisted it was. The heart of the matter are the regimes who have oppressed them day in, day out, for 40 years or more.
Yet it is not the suffering of these hundreds of millions of Arabs which has attracted the sympathy of the UN Human Rights Council. Nor has it stirred the compassion of left-leaning liberal types who pride themselves on their care for the oppressed. Few places get them excited the way Israel does.
So in 2009 Sri Lanka could kill between 7,000 and 20,000 civilians, displacing 300,000 more in its bombardment of the Tamils at about the same time as the Gaza conflict – but you will search in vain for the Goldstone report into Sri Lankan war crimes. Nor will you find Caryl Churchill writing a play called Seven Sri Lankan Children – asking what exactly is it in the Sri Lankan mentality that allows them to be so brutal.
There is no Goldstone or Churchill to probe the 4 million deaths in the Congo, the slaughtered in Darfur or the murdered in the Ivory Coast, let alone the civilian deaths inflicted by the US and Britain in Iraq and Afghanistan. No one is proposing an academic boycott of those nations or any of the other serial violators of human rights. Tellingly, two members of the four-person board of the LSE’s Middle East Centre are firm advocates of cutting all scholarly ties to Israel – but were only too happy for the college to receive £1.5m from the Gaddafi family.”
Jonathan Freedland’s point is that in order to demand justice for the oppressed, it’s necessary to address this double standard against Israel which diverts attention and resources from swathes of the world which require it.
A comparative search of different countries on the Green Party web site reveals the extent of the problem. Putting some energy into Green Party international policy for places other than Israel and the OPTs would be a good place to start.