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Teen Murders: There is a Way out…

Official statistics have revealed that over 1500 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli occupation forces since September 2000.  It is the equivalent of one Palestinian child killed by Israel every three days for almost 13 years. The number of children injured by the Israelis since the start of 2000 has now reached 6,000. Almost half of the Palestinian population is under the age of 18. (Source: Middle East Monitor).

   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGirls on their way to school in the troubled Palestinian city of Hebron in the West Bank. They are accompanied to and from their school daily by ecumenical workers. Israeli settlers marked the steps to the school in Israeli national colours.

Moreover, hundreds of Palestinian children are detained under circumstances that violates international law. The chilling documentary “Stone Cold Justice” on ABC Australia TV suggests that Israel targets Palestinian youth (as the upcoming generation) in particular. To view click here, but please note that viewer discretion is advised.

What is the bottom line in this horrible time of atrocious teen murders in Israel and in Palestine? In his latest book, Dr Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian theologian from Bethlehem makes a courageous point:

Sometimes, when I hear some Jewish people talk, I fell as if they speak with a monopoly on victimhood. And sometimes I feel that some Palestinians feel that they must compete with the Jews over who is the greater victim….Playing the role of victim might assist those who are oppressed gain some sympathy but not necessarily respect. (2014. Faith in the Face of Empire.)

What I find amazing and inspiring, are the voices from within Palestine – those who have been oppressed in so many ways for decades without meaningful intervention by the world. From within their suffering they show us the way to respect, honor and dignity. They take the lead where world powers fail. The question is: Will we listen and more importantly, will we act?

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For such a time as this, what is required? Says Rev.Dr. Naim Ateek, founder and president of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem:

For the last three months, approximately 200 Palestinian administrative detainees have been on a hunger strike to protest their detention without charge or trial.

On May 15, 2014, on Nakba day, a few weeks before the kidnapping of the three young Israelis, the Israeli army killed two Palestinian teenagers near Ramallah in cold blood.

On Monday evening, June 30, the Israeli army found the bodies of the three missing Israeli teenagers. On Tuesday morning, July 1, the Israeli army killed a 16 year old Palestinian in Jenin and some settlers tried to snatch a 9 year old boy in Beit Hanina, but he was rescued by his mother and some passersby. Early Wednesday morning July 2, settlers kidnapped a 17 year old boy from Shufat, killed him and burned his body. In addition, over the last two weeks over 10 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army some of them quite young and over 500 detained and hundreds injured.

We grieve with all the families – Palestinians and Israelis. We condemn the killings whether by the Israeli army, the unruly settlers, extremist Palestinians or unknown suspects. We uphold the sanctity of all human life Israeli as well as Palestinian, Jew as well as Muslim, Muslim as well as Christian.

For those who have eyes to see, all the killings that have taken place were senseless and the major culprit is the right-wing Israeli government. Its policy has been a total rejection of peace on the basis of the demands of international law. It refuses to share the land and accept a sovereign Palestinian state on only 22% of historic Palestine that is willing to live in peace next to Israel. The government of Israel believes that it can turn back the wheels of history and create an ethnic/religious state. It believes that it can impose its will on the Palestinians because it possesses the military power and the technology that is needed.

This cannot happen. It is on the wrong side of history. History itself is against it, not only the Palestinians. The future of the world is for multi-ethnic, multiracial, and multi-religious communities living together. History is for diversity and not for uniformity. Israel’s right wing government is the culprit. It is responsible; it is the offender. It is cheating the Israeli and Palestinian youths of life because it is charting an ethnic and racist course of history that is untenable.

The good people of Israel, Palestine, and the international community must put a stop to this madness. Long ago Jesus quoted the Psalmist saying, “The meek will inherit the land.” The meek are the people of the land and they are the Israelis and the Palestinians, but they are not the arrogant exclusivists of this world. The exclusivists will eventually pass away and someday new leaders will emerge, an Israeli Abraham Lincoln, or an Israeli De Klerk who will lead Israel to peace based on sharing the land where every person – man and woman, Israeli and Palestinian – will live as equal citizens with human dignity.

We call on our Palestinian sisters and brothers to continue resisting every act of injustice with nonviolent action; our religious leaders, Muslim and Christian, to raise the prophetic voice against injustice and oppression; and the Palestinian Authority to remain steadfast in its commitment to a unified government.

If the Israeli government wants peace, it must be transformed. It needs to believe in the power of peace that is based on justice and equality. For such a time as this, Israeli leaders need the courage and the will to do the following:

  1. They need to realize that violence can only beget violence and that despair can only beget desperate actions. Therefore the state must stop the cycle of violence and the cycle of vengeance.
  2. They need to address the root causes of the problems: racist laws, the military occupation, and the illegal settlements.
  3. They need to stop all collective punishments, arbitrary killings, and extra judicial executions and let the rule of law take its due course. It is unjust to punish innocent persons for the actions of a suspected few.
  4. They need to work with the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority to find the resolution of the conflict on the basis of international law that will guarantee the needs of peace and security for both Israel and Palestine.

We lament the inaction of world leaders in the face of the entrenchment of the occupation. They need to realize that ultimately the resolution of the conflict requires outside intervention. World powers helped create the conflict and world powers must help resolve it.
For such a time as this, “He told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

Israeli-soldiers-guard-Pa-007Israeli soldiers stand guard over Palestinian children arrested in the West Bank city of Hebron. Photograph: Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA

Dr. Mitri Raheb argues that freedom is the very thing that the people in the Arab world yearn for, but what they have, are systems of fear:

There will be no true Arab Spring in the Middle East until we break out from the bondage of the security state as well as of oppressive “divine rights” to a wide open space where human lives and security are protected, where freedom is free to blossom, and where human rights become sacred.

My perspective is that all is interconnected and therefore we have the task of dissolving systems of fear within and around us. Along with this spiritual task, we have the responsibility to amplify voices of reason, and to lobby our religious leaders, politicians and the business world to stop the injustices.

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Start acting by appealing to the BBC to highlight the more than 1,500 Palestinian children killed by the Israeli ‘Defence’ Force since 2000, and to appeal for restraint and peacemaking rather than condoning ‘Inevitable’ Collective Death Sentence!” on Change.org: click here.

 

Kidnapped Kids / Kidnapped Society: A Legal Response or Collective Punishment?

Violence is NOT our solution! Violent acts are not heroic, brave, or honorable.

When will this insanity ends? asked Prof Mazin Qumsiyeh.  I share his anguish. Violence creates violence! It destroys us!

On finding the bodies of the three Israeli settler teenagers, Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel said:

“Deep grief. The people of Israel were unified in prayer, unity that should remain at all times. In war, as in war, the terrorists should be hit mercilessly on one hand and provide a proper Zionist response on the other. The eternal nation is not afraid of a long journey.” (Source: BBC).

There is outrage in Israel and in the world about these deaths, and a deafening silence on the multiple murders and destruction in Palestine. Said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

“We will bring the boys to be buried in Israel. Hamas is responsible – and Hamas will pay. May the memory of the three boys be blessed.”

The murder of the teens is deplorable and my heart goes out to their families and friends. But let us remember that neither the person(s) responsible for these killings nor the motivation (criminal or political) for it have yet been identified. And even if it is clear who did it and for what reasons, it can never justify Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians or any other kind of violence against civilians.

Hamas has strongly denied any involvement in the abductions. Yet for the last two weeks, Israeli occupation forces have been striking different areas of the Gaza Strip, claiming that they are targeting Hamas’ infrastructure. Scores of causalities, including another death on Friday, have been reported as a result of the Israeli attacks. (source: Middle East Monitor 30 June 2014).

Yifrah_2959998bA ball of fire is seen following an Israel airstrike in Rafah, Gaza. Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Israeli planes struck 34 sites in Gaza early on 1 July 2014 hours after the bodies of three teenagers were found in the West Bank. The airstrike killed a Palestinian from Khan Younis and wounded three others, including one with critical injuries.

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Since the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers on Thursday 12th June Israel has meted out brutal violence against Palestinians not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank where five Palestinians have been killed:

  • Mustafa Husni Aslan (22 years) died Wednesday 25th June after five days in intensive care. He was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers at Qalandia refugee camp on 20 June.
  • Ahmad Sabarin (20 years) was shot in Al-Jalazun refugee camp (17 June).
  • Mohammad Dudeen (15 years): was shot in Dura (20 June).
  • Ahmad Said Suod Khalid (27 years) was shot Al-Ein refugee camp (22 June).
  • Mahmoud Tarifi, (30 years) was shot in Ramallah (22 June).
  • Two more people have died of heart attacks following Israeli Forces raids.

Former political prisoners have been particularly targeted, and at least 52 of those released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit exchange have now been re-arrested.

Says Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh from Bethlehem, West Bank:

Dozens of Palestinian homes were demolished in the past two weeks. Over 570 more Palestinians were kidnapped in these two weeks making more than 6000 abductees languishing in Israeli gulags/prisons. 1500 Palestinian homes invaded without due process. 12 million native Palestinians still await their freedom from colonial occupation and displacement. And Israeli leaders are promising to “do more” (genocidal mayhem?). When will this insanity end?

Can it end by negotiations between occupied and occupier; negotiations that have been going on for 22 years while Israel gets $12 billion profit every year from its occupation? (that is not counting the billions from US taxpayers).

When will Israel be led by people like the previous speaker of the Israeli Knesset Avraham Berg.

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Listen to his wise words:

“Here are Israel’s shallow prime minister and the bumbling police, the masses who cling to futile prayers and not to a moment of human peace. Here are the country’s hypocritical chief rabbis, who just a month ago demanded promises from the pope regarding the future of the Jewish people, but in their daily lives remain silent about the fate of the people who are our neighbors, trampled beneath the pressure of occupation and racism under the leadership of rabbis who receive exorbitant salaries and benefits….Despite the enormous and inspiring success of Breaking the Silence (an NGO that collects testimony from soldiers who’ve served in the West Bank), our own total silence is still the loudest thing around us. We are willing to go out of our minds over one odd and troublesome Pollard, a lone kidnap victim or three kidnap victims, but we are incapable of understanding the suffering of a whole society, its cry, and the future of an entire nation that has been kidnapped by us. This, too, needs to be said and heard during this moment of clarity — and as loudly as possible.” (“The Palestinians: A kidnapped society: We are incapable of understanding the suffering of a society, its cry, and the future of an entire nation that has been kidnapped by us” by Avraham Berg in Haaretz.)

And how about the inspiring, wise words of Catholic Patriarch Michel Sabbah writing from Jerusalem congratulating Muslims on the start of Ramadan:
“We all are sectarian, Christians or Muslims. We all need to continuously purify the faith in us to overcome the sectarian. The believer is one who remembers God and sees all as his creation… He sees any other as a brother or sister… I hope that we all become believers, and our faith overcomes all sectarian tendency.”

Peace in Jerusalem = peace on earth.

Ramadan Kareem to our Muslim Brothers and Sisters

And to all: Stay human!

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine

What makes a nation better and stronger: dealing with the issue, burying it in the sand, or using it as a pretext to suppress others? According to AMEC the Israeli government announced ‘Operation Brother’s Keeper’ – the most extensive military deployment on the West Bank since the second intifada:

Israeli officials said the operation had two objectives: to find the missing settlers; and to crack down on Hamas. Thus, the operation must be understood in the context of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s failed peace initiative, and the decision by Fatah and Hamas to form a unity government. The operation has substantially targeted Hamas: 500 abductions/arrests have already occurred; 354 of these are Hamas members and twelve are parliamentarians who could have served in a unity government.

The Israeli government has always opposed an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. For Israel, the prospect of a unity government between Fatah and Hamas, which has financial backing from the EU, moral support from the Arab world, and political acceptance from the USA, poses a huge threat. The agreement between Fatah and Hamas, fragile though it is, has the potential to shift the status quo towards a settlement favouring Palestinian statehood. A unity government would imply the inclusion of Hamas under the PLO umbrella, thus politically unifying all parties representing the Palestinian people.

In this context, Israel’s policies of occupation and expansion in the West Bank would be impossible to implement. Moreover, with Islamic militancy growing in the region, a West Bank government that includes Hamas would be seen as doubly threatening by Israel. It was therefore strategically necessary for Israel to crack down on Hamas before a unity government was formed. Operation Brother’s Keeper allowed Israel to deal a military blow to Hamas while the movement is being strangled by Egypt’s new border policy, the closure of its offices in Syria, and by the limited support it now received from Iran and Hizbullah.

The Israeli military operation has been condemned by the United Nations as alarming. If Israel truly wants peace, why then should they object to peace amongst Fatah and Hamas?

israel 2Peace for the “self” only is not true peace.  (Photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

All lives, irrespective of a person’s nationality, carries the same value. Let us not honour these lives by destroying others.

Dr Mitri Raheb: Losing the Sting of Empire

What can unlock victimhood? What can break the cycle of oppression? A visit by a Palestinian theologian to South Africa’s wintery Western Cape gave me some insights.

Dr. Raheb comes from Bethlehem in the West Bank of Palestine – a city under a harsh military rule. Israel’s occupation has a daily effect on the lives of its citizens as minute by minute Israel violates countless human rights laws as opposed to administering the land on behalf, and to the benefit of, the Palestinians as specified by international law. “Occupied” in Bethlehem, as in all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem means “oppressed”. But this is not what I want to talk about.

Did we listen to Raheb because he is the most widely published Palestinian theologian to date? Or because he has received many international awards for his work? We listened to him, almost spellbound, but for different reasons. He was invited by the Centre of Christian Spirituality and Kairos Southern Africa to conduct the third Steve de Gruchy memorial lecture in Cape Town, and also held talks at Stellenbosch University and at  the University of the Western Cape. He visited the construction site of the Palestinian Museum – a first for the world, preached to an Anglican congregation in Athlone and shared a meal with members of Cape Town’s Jewish Board of Deputies and some members of the Muslim and Christian communities.

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328Raheb (left) in conversation with Dr Anwah Naggia (right) at the building site of the world’s first Palestine Museum. The panels in this representation of the Israeli Wall are precise replicas of the originals in the Israeli Wall. They were erected on Saturday, 7 June 2014 in Cape Town.

Why be spell-bound if he sketched a situation where all seems lost? Almost everything is taken by Israel whilst the world powers keep silent. Hope seems almost gone. Israelis and Palestinians have failed to achieve the state project on which they worked so hard to achieve. That is, if they are frank with themselves. The Israeli apartheid system, the Palestinian mini-state in Gaza and the ‘Palestinians ‘holes in the cheese’ of the West Bank are not the dream for which people fought. It is necessary to admit this hard and painful truth and to start looking for new models of co-existence. (Raheb 2014:84). Many of us are already familiar with this depressing story.

And yet….

The art of survival and starting anew is a highly developed from of expression in Palestine, and one I see daily. People’s lives, businesses, and education are interrupted by wars and the aftermath of wars over and over again, and yet I witness people refusing to give up, taking a deep breath, and beginning again. Logically, it is foolish, and yet there is deep wisdom in such a course of action. I’m often asked by visitors how I can keep going…..The answer to that is not psychological but theological: There is no way to understand and face the status quo but at the logic of God. (Raheb 2014:89)

To have a political solution that entails full and equal citizenship for Palestinians in a state where their rights and dignity are protected and valued, is a long overdue and a practical necessity he argues. But the question “When will we have a state?” is by far not the only one. More important is to envisage what will bring peace and dignity that outlasts any empire or any state. This answer he finds in his interpretation of the Bible. Although Raheb explains his perspective in Christian terms, I would like to think that the principles may also apply to those from other faith traditions who aspire to human dignity.

Through his interpretation of the Bible, Raheb transcends victimhood. By not defining defeat by the empire as the ultimate defeat, the sting is gone and a new beginning is possible. To Raheb Jesus’ mission was to restore a sense of community and to empower people to become ambassadors of his much wider kingdom. This is the territory we should aspire to! Such healing of the self, on a very deep level of existential belonging, is the very thing that creates space within oneself and for others. If we have enough space to both receive and give grace, we can stop the vicious cycle of oppression.

324This statue at the University of the Western Cape depicts the joy and pride of a mother (a domestic worker) at the graduation of her son. It is symbol of defeating systemic oppression (apartheid).

It is almost impossible to convey all that he said in a few words here. If you decide to order his latest book Faith in the Face of Empire, you will not be disappointed. It is available on Amazon and on Kalahari (for South Africans).

More about Dr Raheb:

I first met him in April 2011 when he formed part of the Kairos Palestine delegation that launched the Afrikaans version of their statement: A Moment of Truth and in December 2012 I listened to his address at the Kairos for Global Justice conference. His publications include 16 books of which the latest Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes (2014, Maryknoll: Orbis Books) is a challenging view of how the reality of empire shapes the context of the biblical story and the ongoing experience of Middle East conflict.

Dr. Raheb’s work has received wide media attention from major international media including CNN, ABC, CBS, 60 Minutes, BBC, ARD, ZDF, DW, BR, Premiere, Raiuno, Stern, The Economist, Newsweek, and Vanity Fair. He has also received several awards for his work. For his interfaith work towards peace in Israel-Palestine he received the “International Mohammad Nafi Tschelebi Peace Award” of the Central Islam Archive in Germany (2006); for his ‘distinguished service to church and society’ the Wittenberg Award from the Luther Centre (2003); and for his ‘outstanding contribution to Christian education through research and publication’ an honorary doctorate from Concordia University in Chicago (2003).

Dr. Raheb is the President of Diyar Consortium and of Dar al-Kalima University College in Bethlehem, as well as the president of the Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land in addition to being the Senior Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, Palestine.

Dutch Reformed Church leader speaks up on Israel-Palestine

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Says Dr Braam Hanekom, Vice Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church – the institution that once supported South African apartheid:

“(T)he majority of ordinary people, both Israelis and Palestinians, are sick and tired of the conflict and want to move on.”

This follows after the last South African president under undemocratic rule, Dr FW de Klerk, warned that Israel risks heading toward complete apartheid.

In an opinion article in the Jerusalem Post published on Thursday 12 June 2014, Dr Hanekom shared some of his impressions after a recent visit to Israel and the West Bank of Palestine. It was his second visit to the area. In December 2012 he formed part of a delegation of senior clergy that also visited Palestine and Israel. At the time Dr Hanekom commented as follows:

“It was a tremendous privilege to visit Palestine in this time of Advent. I am more convinced than before that the non-violent alternative of faith, hope and love that the Palestinian Christians show us is the way forward.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHanekom (far left), listening to a human rights attorney talking on the circumstances of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons.

When FW de Klerk warned about apartheid in Israel, Mohammed Madani, a senior Palestinian official in charge of outreach to Israeli society said:

“When the leader of the former apartheid regime in South Africa warns Israel of going down the road to this style, it should listen to him carefully because he knows what he is talking about.”

I am keen to hear how you perceive the following article by Dr Hanekom:

Israel and Palestine: Is there a way forward – A South African perspective
By BRAAM HANEKOM
06/12/2014 21:41

After 20 years of democracy in South Africa, I still see the psychological scars of the struggle. I recognize similar patterns in Israel and Palestine.
Finding a solution is not the end of a problem but the key to a new and sometimes difficult journey… but then a journey with hope.

It is always difficult and dangerous to try to be a prophet and broker a peace process after a relatively short exposure to any conflict. Recent political developments also filled many people with despair about the future. So let me first clarify my position: I don’t want to be a judge and I have been part of enough conversations to understand how difficult and dangerous it becomes when you engage in tit for tat arguments on who is right or wrong. Although I do have some very concrete ideas on the way forward, I am not a politician and would therefore refrain from giving any detailed ideas on policies and strategies. What I would like to do, is to give a South African perspective on some personal observations and maybe one or two long term strategies.

After 20 years of democracy in South Africa, I still see the psychological scars of the struggle. I could not help but recognize similar patterns in Israel and Palestine.

It already looks ominous and is of great concern to me. One must understand that irrespective of the political solutions that are found, the real healing will take place on a humane and psychological level.

I may be wrong, but as an outsider, it seems to me that the majority of ordinary people, both Israelis and Palestinians, are sick and tired of the conflict and want to move on. Unfortunately they are held hostage by politicians and extremists. I wonder what the result of a free referendum would be, even though some people would argue that such a referendum is impossible.

I believe however that we must immediately start an extensive process of dialogue between a younger generation of Palestinians and Israelis. That does not mean that any political process must be stopped or delayed. Many years ago, believe it or not, there were similar initiatives in SA that were stopped by the Nationalist Party government! Surely international funds could be made available for such an initiative. A new generation of Palestinians and Jews must be educated to live with a new and more positive understanding of one another.

In SA we have a saying that racism is like “knowledge in the blood.” Children grew up with it. Intervention must come at an early age. But how on earth will they learn to love one another if they are not allowed to meet with one another? Furthermore, I believe that the Israeli education system and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) who receive international money to help build the Palestine education system, must be monitored very carefully for any ideas or material that might fuel wrong and dangerous perceptions of the other.

I believe that the UN must immediately create a Human Rights Commission / watchdog tasked to monitor any form of hate speech and bring that to the attention of the international community. In SA this has become the norm of the day. Those individuals who continue with their hate speech are our real enemies.

Maybe the most important thing to realize is that neither a one state solution nor a two-state solution will solve anything if the two nations do not reconcile with one another. Their lives are too intertwined and they live in too close proximity to think that a mere separation or a one man, one vote democracy will solve the problem. I have heard the word “reconciliation” not enough during my visits. It will have to become part of the daily rhetoric.

In South Africa, we still continue to work on reconciliation on a daily basis. I firmly believe that Israel and Palestine are home to enough God-fearing Jews and Muslim people who understand the principle of human dignity and mutual respect. May we bring them together and rally them for the common good of everyone living in Israel and Palestine.

Dr. Braam Hanekom is the vice moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. It is a church with a million members which once supported Apartheid, but has since then made some radical changes and is currently working industriously on healing, restoration and reconciliation. Dr. Hanekom recently visited both the West Bank and Israel.

What does Palestine’s signing of 15 international treaties mean?

On 01.04.2014 the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed letters of accession to 15 multilateral treaties and conventions. Why did they do this and what does it mean for the peace process?

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Israel accuses Palestine of “unilateral” behaviour. Yet this is not true. Palestine may sign these treaties and conventions since they obtained observer state status in the UN General Assembly in November 2012. This in turn means that Palestine’s step is not “unilateral”, but indeed a right granted to them by the global society.

As published on Thursday, 03 April 2014 on the Palestine News Network, Ramallah:

Abbas and Saeb (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File)

How are these letters of accession linked to the negotiations process?

In July 2013, the PLO took the difficult decision to postpone accession to multilateral treaties and conventions in exchange for the release of 104 pre-Oslo prisoners in four stages. In fact, the release of pre-Oslo prisoners is a commitment Israel had already made 20 years ago as part of the Palestinian Israeli interim accords (Oslo accords), again in 1999 through the Sharm al-Sheikh Agreement and a third time at the beginning of the current negotiations.

The release of prisoners was not formally linked to the negotiations process.

The fourth and final release of 30 prisoners was set to take place on March 29th 2014. When Israeli officials indicated that Israel would not go through with the release, the PLO asked that the US administration ensure that Israel fulfills its commitment. Since Israel failed to release the last group of prisoners, the State of Palestine is no longer obliged to postpone its rights to accede to multilateral treaties and conventions.

The nine months is not over yet. Doesn’t this mean the Palestinians are breaking their commitment?

No, this does not mean that negotiations process is over. President Abbas made this point clear during his announcement on Tuesday April 1st. Indeed, the PLO remains committed to this nine month process, which ends on April 29. Despite the escalation of oppressive Israeli policies such as the killing of Palestinian civilians, settlement construction, raids on vulnerable communities, arbitrary arrests and detentions, home demolitions and the removal of residency rights, we remained committed to the negotiations process and supported US efforts.

Which treaties and conventions did President Abbas sign?

President Abbas signed letters of accession to the following 15 multilateral treaties and conventions. These treaties and conventions will help to protect and promote basic rights of the Palestinian people and will enable the State of Palestine to be a responsible actor on the international stage:

  • The Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 and the First Additional Protocol
  • The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations
  • The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in armed conflict
  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
  • The Hague Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annex: Regulations Concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land
  • The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties
  • The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
  • The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  • The United Nations Convention against Corruption
  • The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
  • The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

What happens now?

The letters of accession have been handed over to the relevant parties.

There are a total of 63 treaties, conventions and agencies that the State of Palestine may join and will do so in the best interests of its people, as and when it sees fit. This is a right that all UN member and Observer states have.

Isn’t this just a unilateral step so the Palestinians can reject an agreement?

No. This is the fulfillment of Palestine’s right and has nothing to do with negotiations or the reaching of an agreement. As President Abbas expressed during the announcement, the Palestinian position remains unchanged. The PLO seeks to achieve an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 border with East Jerusalem as its capital with a just solution to the refugee issue based on UN General Assembly resolution 194. It will use all legal means to achieve this, including negotiations and peaceful popular resistance.

Doesn’t this undermine US and international efforts?

No, Palestine does not want to clash with anyone. The tools it uses are legitimate and non-violent. The PLO bases its action on international law and the fulfillment of the long overdue and inalienable rights of its people.

These treaties are vital to continued Palestinian institutional building, good governance and the upholding of human rights, all of which form the basis for an independent and sovereign State of Palestine. Palestine will pursue this non-violent track, including all possible diplomatic venues, in a way which serves the best interests of its people and the cause of a just peace.

On the other hand, Israeli actions, including unrelenting settlement construction during this entire process, has undermined US and international efforts.

What does this mean for the peace process? Are the negotiations over?

No. The PLO is committed to negotiations until the 29th April, as agreed.

The Israeli government needs to understand that negotiations are a non-violent tool to achieve peace, and not a smoke screen for continued human rights violations and the expansion of settlements that makes a two-state solution increasingly impossible.

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Senior SA clergy who suffered under apartheid comment on Israel

Their words are clear. In brief, yet powerful clips, several senior South African theologians, including the new President of the South African Council of Churches Rev Zipho Siwa, talk about Israel’s oppression of Palestinians as apartheid.

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The upcoming Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW, 10 – 16 March) is an excellent opportunity for South Africans to educate themselves on what happens in Palestine-Israel, they said.

Click on these links to hear what people who suffered under apartheid in South Africa say about Israeli apartheid.

Bishop Zipho Siwa

Rev. Dr. Frank Chikane

Rev Dr Moss Nthla

Rev Pieter Grove

Archbishop Dr. Thabo Makgoba

I am so very, very aware that many well-meaning South Africans maintain myths on Israel and Palestine. When I read their comments on my blog and in the media, it often feels like a physical pain in my stomach.  How can we, a people with a legacy of apartheid, not educate ourselves on Israel’s abuses? Not in terms of what happened in South Africa, but in terms of how international law defines apartheid? I call on you – use the Israeli Apartheid Week or any other reliable source of information such as the United States (www.ochaopt.org) to inform yourself.

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SA’s ruling party supports Israeli Apartheid Week

iaw South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) declared their unequivocal  support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination. In support for the upcoming Israel Apartheid Week(10 – 16 March) they said:

The ANC recognises that the international anti-Apartheid movement and sanctions campaign was shouldered, taken on and defended by thousands of ordinary citizens from numerous countries around the world. These ordinary citizens, made our struggle, their life. We are forever indebted to them.

Today we humbly continue the internationalism of our movement in lending our solidarity to the people of Cuba, Western Sahara, Swaziland, Palestine and other struggling people.

The ANC is proud to join the over 75 South African organisations, trade unions, civil society groups, schools, universities, religious communities, NGOs and other formations in participating in this year’s 10th International Israeli Apartheid Week. The vast array of participating organisations is an indication of our vibrant democracy.

The ANC is unequivocal in its support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination, and unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel.

In participating in IAW this year we recall the words of our late President, Oliver Tambo: “The ANC feels most honored…to address the international community…on the important question of Palestine – a question with which the people of South Africa fully identify”.

Issued by
Obed Bapela
Chairperson of the ANC NEC SubCommittee on International Relations

Enquiries
Keith Khoza 0828239672
Khusela Sangoni 0728545707

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Obama’s confidence on violating international law

So military intervention and yet another violation of international law is the only option according to President Obama? More war for peace?  I usually try to avoid anger, but I find his position outrageous.  We as global citizens need to reject his position unequivocally!

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I am not the only one to think so.  Click on the link below to listen to a short extract from Obama’s shocking announcement on Sunday 1 September, with commentary from an American who does not agree with his president:
Obama is confident about violating international law.

This is not the first or only example of how the US (and therefore Obama) willingly violates international law. The US administration currently tries to broker a peace settlement between Israel and Palestine without, for example, enforcing Israel to stop building settlements that are in clear violation of international law.

How does one make sense of a president of a major world power (also awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace) who says he is confident to ignore the United Nations?  Is it because he and his administration has vetoed the UN so many times in the past and get away with breaking the law in forging their relations with Israel?  What is the source of this confidence?

PS To read the strong statement by Kairos Palestine and Kairos South Africa’s response, click here.

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The US wants Peace. Really?

In the latest Palestinian-Israeli peace talks the USA is serious about talking, but not  about peace.  Israel is serious about peace and talking, but not the kind that will benefit Palestinians, only the kind that will buy them more time to build more illegal settlements.  Where does this leaves us who advocate for a just peace?

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John Kerry looks on as Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat shake hands. (Photo: CNN)

The USA’s carefully honed public image is that of a wise, morally sound brother who wants to make the world a better place.  Like a business with a branding strategy, they are methodical and deliberate in managing these perceptions. To mind comes the vibrant, attractive man who recently inspired audiences in South Africa with his insistence on human rights and self-determination.  I am talking about US President Obama on his recent visit to my country.

President Barack Obama looks at a computer with youths as he tours the Desm

Obama looks at a computer with youths as he tours the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation youth centre and takes part in a health event in Cape Town (Photo: The Guardian)

I really wanted to like Obama and in fact initially I did ….. until I realised the discrepancy  between what he says and what he does.

When Obama talks about “human rights”, he does not refer to these rights as defined in international law.  The US administration does not insist that these laws apply to all countries and all people. In fact, the USA consistently vetoes those UN resolutions that aim to hold Israel accountable to international human rights and humanitarian laws (there are many of them – see the list on Wikipedia). In addition, the USA administration sponsors Israel annually with  billions of US dollars.

Article 49 of the Geneva Convention specifies that an oppressor (in this case Israel) may not transfer its civilians to the occupied territory.  Phyllis Bennis (Institute for Policy Studies, USA) who also recently visited South Africa, explained as follows:

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If the USA were serious about peace, Bennis said, they would tell Israel: Stop building your settlements on Palestinian land (granted, the USA has done it many times).

When Israel then responds by refusing (like they have been doing all along) a serious USA would then stop (1)  their funding of the State of Israel and (2) their protection of Israel in the United Nations.

But the USA says and does none of this.  Instead they continue to fund and protect Israel.  It makes one think, doesn’t it?  What’s in it for the USA?

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When the peace talks fail (because chances are good that Israel’s “peace proposal” will not take cognisance of applicable international law) the United States Congress will shrug their shoulders and the world will continue to  think that it is impossible to get peace in the Middle East even with the gracious help of the US. This will then clear the way for both Israel and the USA to continue to get what they want: grab land (Israel) and gain power and resources (the USA).

The US does not care what happens to Palestine as there is simply “nothing in it” for them – no oil, no gold, no diamonds.  This big brother is only interested in its own agenda.  They care for Israel as they value what Israel can do for them (their dirty work) whilst the Americans maintain a nice image and expand their power and financial foothold worldwide.

Bennis remarked that Kerry once more prefers the usual formulation as the US position…

…always formed as one word, “atwostatesolutionwithswaps”. Right. A two-state solution with “swaps” means Israel gets to permanently annex its city-sized settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, keep most of the 600,000 or so illegal settlers there, and maintain control of virtually all of Palestine’s water sources, while “swapping” some non-arable desert land probably abutting the Gaza Strip. And of course Kerry forgot to mention that the Arab peace plan also required a “just” solution of the refugee problem based on UN resolution 194 insuring Palestinian refugees the right to return and compensation. And a few other things Kerry probably just forgot. Great deal…

Why would Israel want to talk?  Because it wins more time for them to demolish Palestinian houses, to confiscate Palestinian land and to build illegal Israeli settlements.

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As for the US, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports:

Fears of fierce battle within the UN General Assembly between Israelis and Palestinians in September was one of the primary reasons for the sense of urgency to renew negotiations between the two sides, a senior White House official said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

I guess the US does not want to enter into yet another round of discussions in the UN now that the EU clearly stated their position on the illegality of the Israeli settlements.

Where does this leaves us?

With regard to Israel, we need to strengthen our Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions initiatives against Israel’s systemic violations of international law…..and we are….

With regard to the United States….I simply don’t know. The picture of a planet  where a world leader’s president (awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace) talks selectively about human rights and dignity as it suits his administration… AND gets away with it…. is bleak.

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We cannot, and should not, remain quiet.