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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 4, 2009 @ 8:56 pm

    Gaza, Hamas and UNRWA

    Deaglán de Bréadún

     I was tied up with other matters so did not see the original story on the wires. But just when I thought I was being over-critical of Hamas, I received the following statement in my email from Proinsias De Rossa, Labour MEP for Dublin, who has been a longtime sharp critic of the Israeli Government over its treatment of the Palestinians.
    The De Rossa statement said: The confiscation today by the Hamas-run police and Ministry of Social Affairs in Gaza of UNRWA humanitarian aid is an indefensible action declared Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa, who said this evening that Hamas must not undermine the international organisation that has been steadfast in its unwavering support for the people of Gaza throughout the recent Israeli aggression. Interfering in this way with the United Nations is a breach of international law and is not acceptable. 

    Speaking from Strasbourg following an address to the European Parliament by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Mr De Rossa stated that “The International Community has been firm in its appreciation and admiration of the work of UNRWA and its staff, who face many life-threatening challenges on a daily basis in Gaza. Challenges that have included providing refugee for almost 51,000 people at the peak of the recent crisis and food aid for 750,000 people on an ongoing basis.”

    Mr. De Rossa also called upon all Palestinians to now stand by UNRWA and demand the immediate return of the 3,500 blankets and 406 food parcels to the organisation in order to allow them to be distributed to the five hundred needy families that they were intended for.

    Mr. De Rossa concluded that “It is imperative that the people of Gaza, particularly women and children be spared further suffering and the distribution of humanitarian aid must not be hindered by the antics of political factions in Gaza for their own gain. I feel strongly that all efforts to work together in preventing further human suffering and human rights violations must be fostered and during my visit to Gaza next week with my European parliament colleagues will meet with UNRWA and other organisations to assess the current humanitarian situation and the action needed by the International Community in bringing a lasting peace to the people of Gaza”

    Deaglán writes: It is not so long ago that I filed a piece to The Irish Times from Strasbourg (see below) in which De Rossa attacked the Israeli attitude to the Palestinians in Gaza but Hamas seems intent on losing friends and alienating support. What say  you, Betterworld Now

    November 16, 2006

    Gaza is a prison camp, says De Rossa

    BYLINE: Deaglán de Bréadún, Foreign Affairs Correspondent, in Strasbourg

    The Palestinian people were being starved and massacred in the “prison camp” of Gaza, Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa told the European Parliament in a debate on the Middle East.

    “Gaza is a prison camp for 1.3 million Palestinians and it is sealed tight by the state of Israel. The occupants of this camp are being systematically starved, their health and education infrastructure is being destroyed and their economy is being laid to waste. At the same time they are being massacred,” said Mr De Rossa, who represents Dublin.

    “Up to 80 men, women and children were killed in the past week, with over 300 killed since the summer, when Israel used its attack on Lebanon as a cover for a parallel assault on Gaza. And this is being done by a state which claims to be the only democracy in the region. This in my view is a shameful expression of democracy,” he added.

    Similar sentiments were expressed by his constituency colleague, Eoin Ryan of Fianna Fáil, who said he had viewed a documentary on Gaza at the parliament the day before and listened to colleagues who had recently visited the region.

    “I was shocked at what I saw and heard, the sheer brutality that has been inflicted on Palestinian civilians. Both sides have to realise that the only solution is to sit down and talk. Dialogue is the only way forward.”

    Mr Ryan also condemned yesterday morning’s rocket attack on the Israeli city of Sderot, in which a woman was killed.

    • Robespierre says:

      In the words of our former leader Liam Cosgrave, I don’t see why they can’t be more Christian towards one another

    • Jonathan says:

      The cynicism of an organization like Hamas should never be underestimated. It suits them down to the ground to have their people suffer – look at all the sympathy they get. There are no demonstrations in Hyde Park when everything’s fine. And this is proof of that.

    • IrishWhiskey says:

      Hamas is a particularly ruthless organisation. On one hand it provides services and much-needed security to the people of Gaza and on the other it suppresses dissenters violently. Fatah likewise.
      A few points, however, are salient. Firstly, in the 2006 election, Hamas dropped its charter policy on calling for the destruction of Israel, instead backing the Saudi peace plan (in what Norman Finkelstein calls the ‘peace offensive’). Secondly, during the summer hudna (ceasefire), not a single rocket was fired by Hamas into Israel and no Israeli was killed. (The current media offensive intentionally ignores this and spokesmen change the subject when confronted with this fact.) In return, Israel broke its promise to lift the siege, halting fruit and vegetable exports at border crossings until they rot. Also, Israel intentionally broke the ceasefire on 4th November as (according to Ha’aretz), it had been preparing for an all-out assault on Hamas, going as far to build a mock city in the Negev. Lastly, I think it is obscene that Israel is able to break international maritime law by ramming and boarding aid ships sailing to Gaza. The latest (largely-unreported) incident happened yesterday. Israel’s policy is to keep Gaza in a state of humanitarian crisis; a form of collective punishment carried out by a country given favoured status by the EU, UEFA and Eurovision.
      Lara Marlowe is correct in her analysis. The only solution is to force a two-state solution on both sides, monitored by the UN. The US could do this tomorrow. If Israel continues on its current path, the inevitable result will be a single apartheid state which is something everyone says they don’t want.

    • IrishWhiskey says:

      I’d like to ask supporters of Israel’s latest assault on Gaza this question.
      Why were greenhouses, irrigation systems and farm animals destroyed? Why was the only grain milling plant in Gaza destroyed?
      In some instances, every building in a village was razed. Why?

    • Deaglán says:

      A pro-Israeli organisation sent me a copy of an Open Letter to a Citizen of Gaza, reprinted from the Israeli newspaper Maariv and said to have been written by an Israeli reserve soldier to the person whose home he occupied during the recent assault. It is a good example of how clever and well-organised the Israelis are, on the media side. Two extracts follow:-

      As soon as you agree with me that Hamas is your enemy and because of them, your people are miserable, you will also understand that the change must come from within. I am acutely aware of the fact that what I say is easier to write than to do, but I do not see any other way. You, who are connected to the world and concerned about your children’s education, must lead, together with your friends, a civil uprising against Hamas.


      Even before Hamas took control of Gaza, during the time of Yasser Arafat, millions if not billions of dollars donated by the world community to the Palestinians was used for purchasing arms or taken directly to your leaders’ bank accounts. Gulf States, the emirates – your brothers, your flesh and blood, are some of the richest nations in the world. If there was even a small feeling of solidarity between Arab nations, if these nations had but the smallest interest in reconstructing the Palestinian people – your situation would be very different.
      You must be familiar with Singapore. The land mass there is not much larger than the Gaza strip, it is considered the second most populated country in the world. Yet, Singapore is a successful, prospering, and well managed country. Why not the same for you?

      Deaglán writes: The letter does not go into the possibility that the “Citizen of Gaza” or his immediate forebears probably fled or were evicted from the family home in what is now Israel, maybe not so far from where he lives now.

    • IrishWhiskey says:

      Interesting letter, Deaglán, from many angles. Firstly, it is unlikely to have been written by an ‘ordinary’ Israeli soldier and more likely to have come from Dan Gillerman’s new PR department.
      Gaza has been controlled by Israel since the unilateral withdrawal of settlers. It is not credible to equate Singapore with Gaza. This sort of comparison is likely to appear in very pro-Israeli government blogs (Melanie Philips, LGF, etc.). The people of Singapore are not stateless. Despite Wye River and Oslo, settlement expansion has expanded, West Bank aquifers are controlled by Israel. Tony Blair even scuppered a deal the PA had with Egypt to bring Gaza’s natural gas ashore in Egypt. Blair prefers an Israeli deal.
      Deaglán, I don’t know if you heard any Sri Lanka spokesmen recently, but they are phrasing their assault on the Tamils using the same language used by the Israelis. “We are fighting terrorists”. “We don’t intentionally target civilians”, etc. etc.

    • Joanna Tuffy T.D. says:

      Irish Whiskey,

      How do you force a two-state solution?

    • Deaglán says:

      Here is the letter in full. Even if it was written by a Reserve Soldier, he’s clearly “on message”. Maybe he is a PR man in civilian life. I’m not sure what “citizen” of Gaza means as I understand Palestinians cannot even get passports.

      Originally published in Maariv, Jan. 25, 2009

      An Open Letter To A Citizen Of Gaza:

      I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home

      By: Yishai G (reserve soldier)

      Hello,

      While the world watches the ruins in Gaza, you return to your home which remains standing. However, I am sure that it is clear to you that someone was in your home while you were away.

      I am that someone.

      I spent long hours imagining how you would react when you walked into your home. How you would feel when you understood that IDF soldiers had slept on your mattresses and used your blankets to keep warm.

      I knew that it would make you angry and sad and that you would feel this violation of the most intimate areas of your life by those defined as your enemies, with stinging humiliation. I am convinced that you hate me with unbridled hatred, and you do not have even the tiniest desire to hear what I have to say. At the same time, it is important for me to say the following in the hope that there is even the minutest chance that you will hear me.

      I spent many days in your home. You and your family’s presence was felt in every corner. I saw your family portraits on the wall, and I thought of my family. I saw your wife’s perfume bottles on the bureau, and I thought of my wife. I saw your children’s toys and their English language schoolbooks. I saw your personal computer and how you set up the modem and wireless phone next to the screen, just as I do.

      I wanted you to know that despite the immense disorder you found in your house that was created during a search for explosives and tunnels (which were indeed found in other homes), we did our best to treat your possessions with respect. When I moved the computer table, I disconnected the cables and lay them down neatly on the floor, as I would do with my own computer. I even covered the computer from dust with a piece of cloth. I tried to put back the clothes that fell when we moved the closet although not the same as you would have done, but at least in such a way that nothing would get lost.

      I know that the devastation, the bullet holes in your walls and the destruction of those homes near you place my descriptions in a ridiculous light. Still, I need you to understand me, us, and hope that you will channel your anger and criticism to the right places.

      I decided to write you this letter specifically because I stayed in your home.

      I can surmise that you are intelligent and educated and there are those in your household that are university students. Your children learn English, and you are connected to the Internet. You are not ignorant; you know what is going on around you.

      Therefore, I am sure you know that Quassam rockets were launched from your neighborhood into Israeli towns and cities.

      How could you see these weekly launches and not think that one day we would say “enough”?! Did you ever consider that it is perhaps wrong to launch rockets at innocent civilians trying to lead a normal life, much like you? How long did you think we would sit back without reacting?

      I can hear you saying “it’s not me, it’s Hamas”. My intuition tells me you are not their most avid supporter. If you look closely at the sad reality in which your people live, and you do not try to deceive yourself or make excuses about “occupation”, you must certainly reach the conclusion that the Hamas is your real enemy.

      The reality is so simple, even a seven year old can understand: Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip, removing military bases and its citizens from Gush Katif. Nonetheless, we continued to provide you with electricity, water, and goods (and this I know very well as during my reserve duty I guarded the border crossings more than once, and witnessed hundreds of trucks full of goods entering a blockade-free Gaza every day).

      Despite all this, for reasons that cannot be understood and with a lack of any rational logic, Hamas launched missiles on Israeli towns. For three years we clenched our teeth and restrained ourselves. In the end, we could not take it anymore and entered the Gaza strip, into your neighborhood, in order to remove those who want to kill us. A reality that is painful but very easy to explain.

      As soon as you agree with me that Hamas is your enemy and because of them, your people are miserable, you will also understand that the change must come from within. I am acutely aware of the fact that what I say is easier to write than to do, but I do not see any other way. You, who are connected to the world and concerned about your children’s education, must lead, together with your friends, a civil uprising against Hamas.

      I swear to you, that if the citizens of Gaza were busy paving roads, building schools, opening factories and cultural institutions instead of dwelling in self pity, arms smuggling and nurturing a hatred to your Israeli neighbors, your homes would not be in ruins right now. If your leaders were not corrupt and motivated by hatred, your home would not have been harmed. If someone would have stood up and shouted that there is no point in launching missiles on innocent civilians, I would not have to stand in your kitchen as a soldier.

      You don’t have money, you tell me? You have more than you can imagine.

      Even before Hamas took control of Gaza, during the time of Yasser Arafat, millions if not billions of dollars donated by the world community to the Palestinians was used for purchasing arms or taken directly to your leaders bank accounts. Gulf States, the emirates – your brothers, your flesh and blood, are some of the richest nations in the world. If there was even a small feeling of solidarity between Arab nations, if these nations had but the smallest interest in reconstructing the Palestinian people – your situation would be very different.

      You must be familiar with Singapore. The land mass there is not much larger than the Gaza strip, it is considered the second most populated country in the world. Yet, Singapore is a successful, prospering, and well managed country. Why not the same for you?

      My friend, I would like to call you by name, but I will not do so publicly. I want you to know that I am 100% at peace with what my country did, what my army did, and what I did. However, I feel your pain. I am sorry for the destruction you are finding in your neighborhood at this moment. On a personal level, I did what I could to minimize the damage to your home as much as possible.

      In my opinion, we have a lot more in common than you might imagine. I am a civilian, not a soldier, and in my private life I have nothing to do with the military. However, I have an obligation to leave my home, put on a uniform, and protect my family every time we are attacked. I have no desire to be in your home wearing a uniform again and I would be more than happy to sit with you as a guest on your beautiful balcony, drinking sweet tea seasoned with the sage growing in your garden.

      The only person who could make that dream a reality is you. Take responsibility for yourself, your family, your people, and start to take control of your destiny. How? I do not know. Maybe there is something to be learned from the Jewish people who rose up from the most destructive human tragedy of the 20th century, and instead of sinking into self-pity, built a flourishing and prospering country. It is possible, and it is in your hands. I am ready to be there to provide a shoulder of support and help to you.

      But only you can move the wheels of history.

      Regards,

      Yishai (Reserve Soldier)

    • IrishWhiskey says:

      Jonna Tuffy, it would be straightforward.
      Firstly, the EU could reverse its position towards Hamas and could break the illegal sea blockade. (An aid ship was fired on, boarded and its crew beaten this week. All video, photographic and communication equipment was confiscated. All this happened in international waters). Israel’s favoured trading status with the EU would be suspended pending the withdrawal from illegal settlements. Of course, in conjunction, Hamas and Fatah would participate in new elections. (Abbas’ term expired on 9th January). Israel was one of the few countries that refused to boycott apartheid South Africa and last week, South African port workers refused to unload an Israeli cargo.
      Have you any alternative proposal or are you happy with the status quo?

    • Joanna Tuffy says:

      IrishWhiskey,

      What you have set out is not the same as forcing a two-state solution. By the way I am surprised that Lara Marlowe would want the US to “force” solutions on other countries. You can’t force a two-state solution, unless you mean by armed force, and with resulting civil wars, which I presume you don’t from what you set out above.

      In relation to elections, Abbas extended his term as President, and it is a matter of legal interpretation as to whether he was entitled to do so or not. It was probably the wisest thing for him to do considering the timing of the ending of his term.

      Hamas would have to adopt a two-state solution to be part of that solution. The PLO officially adopted a two-state solution in 1988. The PLO officially recognised the State of Israel in 1993.

      I understand Abbas made as a condition of a unity government with Hamas that Hamas officially recognise Israel. All of this will have to be negotiated, and preferably before elections, if Hamas and Fatah are to work together towards a two-state solution.

      Withdrawal from settlements, unless voluntary, would have to be part of a negotiated settlement. Sanctions to force withdrawal will probably harden the stance of settlers and make the problem even harder to solve.

      I am not in favour of the status quo. I want a peaceful outcome, with two states, Israel and Palestine co-existing side by side. Sanctions could be tied into a peace process, the parties agreeing to those sanctions from the outset. I am very wary of the idea of sanctions to force a peace process. I do not think such an approach would be practical, apart from other reservations I hold.

      Joanna

    • Eoin Lynch says:

      I’m not in the least surprised by this report as UNRWA have acknowledged in the past that they employ Hamas members.What I am surprised is UNRWA reaction, as they have suspended all aid to Gaza until Hamas return the stolen goods.This is bizarre as these are the same retaliatory tactics that the Israelis have employed and these tactics have always been condemned by the UN!

      Irish Whiskey- You conveniently leave unmentioned Israel’s other relationship with Africa. Thousands of Israeli experts advised the newly-independent African states on the introduction of new technology and crops,the establishment of agricultural farms, the creation of medical and educational facilities. It was Israelis that helped to establish national lotteries in Benin, Central African Republic and Togo.This co-operation was ended on the insistence of the oil-rich Arab states. Also when Ben Gurion visited Johannesburg in 1953 he asked the assembled clergymen there how do they explain the fact that Moses married a black woman?

      Also your premise that it is Israel who is preventing the creation of a two-state solution is simply false.The Israeli cabinet in 2000 voted in favour of Ehud Barak’s two-state solution as negotiated with Arafat. It was the Palestinians that turned down the offer because of the Israeli refusal to allow the the right of return as this would spell the end of the Israeli state.

      What is needed is for the Palestinians to demonstrate to Israel that they are willing to live in peace and co-existence with the Israeli people. They need to unite behind Abbas to make him their Sadat.

    • IrishWhiskey says:

      Joanna,

      there was a government of national unity, but Israel, the US and (shamefully), the EU refused to negotiate with it.

      I certainly don’t think Abbas was entitled to extent his term with the swish of a pen. The same laissez-faire attitude won’t be shown towards Hamas when they are up for re-election.

      Eoin,
      I didn’t intentionally omit anything regarding Israel’s activities in Africa. One might ask if lotteries serve well the poorest members of society. The US and China also have large interests in Africa which are not necessarily in the best interests of Africans.

      Few regard Israel’s expanding illegal settlement activity and house demolitions as anything other than a plan to create facts on the ground. Today, extremist settlers are occupying more Palestinian lands near Bethlehem. And it is you who state that Arafat turned down Barak’s offer solely on the lack of agreement on the right of return. Gush Shalom has an excellent flash animation” of this solution, in which Palestinians had no control over their external borders with Egypt and Jordan.

      It is a sad reflection on where we are today that we can’t even agree on established facts and legalities.

      We can nevertheless all agree that a viable two-state solution (based on 1967 borders [with minor adjustments] and a shared Jerusalem) is what both sides deserve.
      I believe that a failure to act on settlements will leave Israel with a one-state solution. That would be a disaster for everyone, Israel included.

    • Joanna Tuffy says:

      IrishWhiskey,

      As I said regarding Abbas that is a matter of legal interpretation. I couldn’t make a judgment on that but I think he most likely did the right thing by extending his term for the moment.

      As for your second point it would be wrong of the EU to have formal links with an organisation whose official position is that Israel be eliminated and Jews killed.

      Just on the suspension of the EU-Israel agreement that you mentioned earlier. Could you suspend an agreement that did not contemplate such a suspension? My view is that the agreement in itself is a good thing and the more that we in Europe can do to build relations with both Israel and the Palestinian territories the better. Israel needs to feel less isolated, not more, and building relationships give us a better chance of having an influence regarding a peace process (I hope).

      Joanna

    • IrishWhiskey says:

      Joanna,

      According to Palestinian law, the speaker should have become interim president. Abbas just decided to extend his term. Perhaps, you could provide a reference to back up your claim?

      You have misrepresented Hamas’ position. In the 2006 elections, Hamas dropped its call for the violent overthrow of Israel and, as Sir Jeremy Greenstock noted on the BBC Today programme, Hamas never adopted the oft-quoted Charter. I do agree that Hamas isn’t an ideal partner but I think you have to accept their deeds (maintaining a summer ceasefire until violated by Israel) and words (agreeing to the Saudi peace plan).

      I fail to see why the EU should give favoured trading status to Israel, which can only be considered a rogue state that violates international laws with impunity. I refer here to administrative detention without trial (where torture is permitted), house demolitions, extra-judicial assassinations, settlement expansion and the appropriation of land using the ‘barrier’.
      Suspension of the EU-Israel agreement seems wholly appropriate in these circumstances.

      Joanna, what should the map of an independent Palestinian state look like?

      IrishWhiskey.

      (Although irrelevant, I should point out that I am not a member of any political party, organisation or pressure group.)

    • Joanna Tuffy T.D. says:

      IrishWhiskey,

      I understand that there was a provision whereby Abbas could extend his term so I am presuming he did so within the terms of that provision. I could be wrong.

      Dropped the call from where? I would think they would need to go a lot further than dropping a call from election literature, if they are serious about changing their stance.

      I can’t answer your last question, because I believe negotiations are the way to achieve it. The process that leads to a Palestinian State should be as fair and inclusive as possible, and I wouldn’t rule out anyone participating, in that regard, but you have to sign up to a peace process to be part of it.

      Joanna

    • Deaglán says:

      Looks like I might have been a bit premature in writing off Tzipi Livni’s chances of leading the next Israeli Government. One of the offshoots (and presumably one of the reasons for) the Gaza onslaught. I happen to know she is well aware of the generally unfavourable attitude of Irish public opinion towards Israel.

    • IrishWhiskey says:

      Livni’s assault of Gaza may have won her more seats, but the far right has prospered with Netanyahu’s Likud and Lieberman’s Beitenu. I can’t see Moldovan Lieberman’s racist policies fitting in with Kadima, and Labour lost ground. The Palestinian-Israeli parties certainly won’t join a government with Livni as they hold her responsible for the Gaza assault, so we are back to the religious parties like Shas.

      Actually, I am hoping for Likud/Beitenu coalition with the ultra-religious. It may give the West a chance to reverse its current failed policies.

      Joanna,

      sadly, you didn’t answer any of my questions.

      The PCHR issued a paper regarding Abbas’s extension. The PLC speaker described it as “a violation of the law”.

      Hamas’ moderated election manifesto, participation in democratic elections and maintenance of a summer hudna (cease fire) doesn’t seem to be enough for you.
      What else could they do to gain legitimacy?
      [Please read David Rose's Vanity Fair piece before you mention the phrase 'Gaza coup']

      Meanwhile Gaza remains under illegal siege with FreeGaza aid ship Tali shot at, boarded and its crew beaten and hijacked in international waters. Their communications equipment, phones and cameras were all broken or stolen. It had already been inspected for weapons by Cypriot authorities.

    • Joanna Tuffy T.D. says:

      IrishWhiskey

      That is an interesting paper by the PHCR that you refer to:

      http://www.pchrgaza.org/Interventions/p_p_president's.htm

      My reading of it is that the Paper says the constitutionality of extending the President’s term would be a matter for the Palestinian High Court acting as the Constitional Court to determine. The Paper goes on to say that free and fair elections would be impossible in current conditions.

      In concluding the paper states that the PHCR:

      “4- Affirms its full support for Presidential Elections, but not before the conditions and environment allow for free and fair elections reflecting the will of the entire electorate. The first condition is the consensus between Fatah and Hamas to hold these elections.

      5- Warns strongly against appointing the Acting PLC Speaker as a new President if it is not possible to hold Presidential Elections before 10 January 2009. This will only lead to further fragmentation and destruction of the ruling institutions in the PNA, including the destruction of the Presidency, and will enforce a new status-quo where there are two Presidents, one in Gaza and another in the West Bank.”

      The paper suggests a consensus between Fatah and Hamas is needed, and from reports I have read Abbas is requiring that Hamas officially recognise Israel. They could take that step towards gaining legitimacy.

      Joanna

    • Eoin Lynch says:

      Irish Whiskey,

      You seem to be a complete Hamas apologist.

      Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, stated on the day of the 2006 election that Hamas was committed to the ideology of its 1988 charter and would not change a single word.

      Hamas have not endorsed the Saudi peace plan and they consistently broke the ceasefire. Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Hamas of waging a deliberate campaign to kill or maim scores of Palestinian opponents in the Gaza Strip since the end of December. “Hamas forces and militias in the Gaza Strip have engaged in a campaign of abductions, deliberate and unlawful killings, torture and death threats against those they accuse of ‘collaborating’ with Israel, as well as opponents and critics.” Hamas also ban publications and jail cartoonists in absentia that criticise this fundamentalist Islamist group.

      The reason that the Rafah crossing is closed is that the EU monitors left after Hamas staged their coup in Gaza.

      Hamas needs to renounce its charter, stop its rocket attacks, make an accommodation with Fatah and recognise Israel’s right to exist.

      Hamas’s history of suicide bombings and their goals as outlined in their charter should be repugnant to everyone and supporting Hamas is not the same thing as supporting the plight of the Palestinian people.

    • IrishWhiskey says:

      Joanna,

      The most recent document to which I referred is http://www.palestinianbasiclaw.org/pchr-position-paper-controversy-over-end-of-presidential-term-in-office

      It would seem as if Hamas has already stated that it would recognise Israel inside its recognised borders. Syria also. Incidentally, this is the stated position of the EU and international legal opinion, namely, that the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza all remain occupied.

      I read today that Israel is still refusing to allow paper into Gaza. This means that schools cannot function. I would hope that you would join me in unreservedly condemning this petty act.

      I would hope that you were saddened to see the racist Beitenu party’s rise in Israel. Ironically, as pointed out by Juan Cole, most progress towards peace is achieved when a right-wing government is in government as the West (particularly the US) is more aware of Israel’s expansionist actions.

    • Joanna Tuffy T.D. says:

      IrishWhiskey,

      The link I gave above doesn’t seem to work but I got the paper by searching the PCHR (Palestinian Centre for Human Rights) and as far as I can make out it is exactly the same paper you link to. And the quotes I have above from the paper are contained in the paper you link to. In the paper you link to, the PCHR says that the conditions are not right to hold free and fair elections. In the paper the PCHR says that a consensus is needed between Hamas and Fatah before elections can be held. It gives the opinion that the constitutionality or otherwise of the extension of the President’s term should be judged by the Palestinian High Court acting as the Constitutional Court. But it notes that neither Fatah nor Hamas are likely to refer the matter to that court. The main gist of the paper as I see it is that the split between the two groups is not helping the Palestinian people.

      The PLO officially recognised Israel and officially adopted a two-state solution and that is the background to the very structures that Hamas got elected within, so the reported requirement of President Abbas that Hamas officially recognise Israel makes sense.

      I don’t know of that issue you mention, and have no background information, but if it is true that this has happened, for no justified reason, I condemn it.

      I personally am disappointed in the outcome particularly because Labour and Meretz did not do well. What you say about right wing Governments hasn’t been true of Israel because most progress for peace and for the Palestinians was made under the then Israeli premiership of Labour’s Yitzhak Rabin and the then Palestinian Presidency of Yasser Arafat. And according to an article in the Irish Times last week Yasser Arafat told a reporter for the Arabic daily newspaper Al-Hayat that he regretted not accepting the deal offered by Labour’s Ehud Barak in 2000:
      http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2009/0209/1233867927213.html.

      But as regards your last point about the US I would say from what I have read and heard on the media from key associates of President Obama that the US President and his team are well aware of obstacles such as you mention to a peace process, whoever the protagonists in the new Government turn out to be. But there is a related point to the one you refer to Juan Cole making and that is that sometimes the apparently most intractable parties to a peace process turn out to be the ones who make the most progress. And our common ground is that we do not rule out any possibilities in that regard.

    • IrishWhiskey says:

      Eoin,

      Please cite a comment by me being an “apologist for Hamas”. I utterly reject that accusation.

      In April 2008, al-Zuhar wrote:
      “A “peace process” with Palestinians cannot take even its first tiny step until Israel first withdraws to the borders of 1967; dismantles all settlements; removes all soldiers from Gaza and the West Bank; repudiates its illegal annexation of Jerusalem; releases all prisoners; and ends its blockade of our international borders, our coastline and our airspace permanently. This would provide the starting-point for just negotiations and would lay the groundwork for the return of millions of refugees. Given what we have lost, it is the only basis by which we can start to be whole again.”

      I agree with that 100%. So does the international community.

      In April 2008, Ha’aretz quoted Khaled Meshal as accepting Israel inside 1967 borders. Also, in Ha’aretz, Shimon Peres has said that he doesn’t accept all of the Saudi peace plan.

      Next, the ceasefire. Israel broke the summer ceasefire (Guardian 5th Nov 2008, also More4 interview with Mark Regev). In mid December, Israel refused to reinstate the cease fire as it wasn’t prepared to open its borders.
      If the security of its people was a priority, Israel would have opened its borders as agreed because during this period, not a single Israeli was killed by a rocket from Gaza and Hamas fired none.

      Finally, regarding the Gaza ‘coup’, I refer you to David Rose’s Vanity Fair article.

      Israel wasn’t and isn’t prepared to deal with a Palestinian government of national unity. Instead it is pursuing a policy of collective punishment against 1.5 million human beings, illegally blockaded by air, land and sea.
      In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the terror of house demolitions, arbitrary road blocks and detention are what Palestinians have to bear. The recent 60 Minutes piece neatly showed us the situation in Hebron where Israeli soldiers routinely occupy a family home.

      Hamas isn’t an ideal partner as both it and Fatah have both been parties to gross violations of human rights, but by driving Hamas towards the extremists, Israel seems to be pursuing a policy of divide and conquer which is not in its interest if it wishes to remain a Jewish state. (Unless, that is, you support Lieberman’s expulsion proposal).

      Palestinians have offered and maintained ceasefires. Palestinians have accepted the Saudi peace plan with a recognition of the right of return (in place of actually returning). They have even offered a land swap comprising a couple of settlement blocks in exchange for comparable land.
      I don’t see what else they can offer. Do you?

      Uri Avnery sums up my feelings pretty well: http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1234043355


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