Eyewitness report Palestine 20 years after Oslo –no justice, no peace!/FRFI 235 Oct/Nov 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013

 

I visited the West Bank recently, just before the 20 year anniversary of the Oslo ‘peace’ accords in September. Two decades on, the US, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are engaged in ‘talks about talks,’ while Israel continues its settlement building and ethnic cleansing operations. As Western backed leaders hold discussions in luxurious locations, the occupation is intensifying for the people of occupied Palestine.

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Palestine: More peace talks leading nowhere /FRFI 234 Aug/Sep 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 234 August/September 2013

On 19 July US Secretary of State John Kerry declared, ‘I am pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.’ This required yet another climb down by the supine pro-imperialist leadership of Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) whose public position since the end of the last talks in 2010 was no further negotiations without a complete suspension of Zionist settlement construction. New settlement building is taking place all the time, and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was reported in the Israeli paper Haaretz as boasting to his Cabinet, ‘I pulled the Palestinians down from the tree of preconditions; I didn’t agree to a further freeze of building in the territories; I refused the release of 120 prisoners before the talks began; and the 1967 borders are not mentioned.’

In contrast the PA has agreed that for the duration of the negotiations it will not join any international organisations, in particular the International Criminal Court, where as an observing member of the UN, it could bring charges against Israel for war crimes. Abbas and the PA agreement to hold talks with Israel is a stab in the back for all Palestinians. All resistance forces, Islamic and national, have condemned Abbas, Fatah and the PA. Islamic Jihad declared, ‘There is national Palestinian consensus to refuse negotiations, but the PA responds to American pressures and blackmail’ while the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said that any return to negotiations is ‘committing political suicide providing a cover for the government of occupation, ultra-extremism and settlements ...’

Ethnic cleansing of the Bedouin people

On 15 July demonstrations took place across Gaza, the West Bank and inside Israel against the Prawer Plan, Israeli racist legislation legitimising the destruction of 35 ‘unrecognised’ Bedouin villages in the Negev (Naqab) desert in the south of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of up to 70,000 Bedouin from there. The ethnic cleansing policies Israel has long implemented against Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, labelling Palestinian homes as ‘unrecognised’ then demolishing them to clear areas for Zionist settlement, are being turned against the Arab Bedouin population.

The villages in the Negev, many of which pre-date the establishment of the state of Israel, have never had access to any state infrastructure. They are not connected to water supplies, electricity, sewage or the road network and have no state education or health facilities. By labelling these villages as ‘unrecognised’, Israel is trying to force the Bedouin from their traditional lands to increase commercial farming and to build a number of new Israeli/Jewish settlements in their place.

On 15 July, the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee representing Arabs within Israel called a general strike against the Prawer Plan and organising 15 demonstrations within Israel. Demonstrations took place in Jaffa, Sakhin and Galilee in the north of Israel and in Beersheba, the largest city in the Negev. Demonstrators carried Palestinian flags and were attacked by the Israeli police, with up to 20 arrested in Beersheba. In a positive development, demonstrations against the Prawer Plan also took place in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The PFLP issued a statement emphasising the importance of all Palestinian people standing together, ‘the Prawer Plan is just one more aspect of the Nakba, part and parcel of the policy of displacement and land theft that began with the entry of Zionism into Palestine and the establishment of the racist Zionist entity over the land of Palestine’. To illustrate what the intentions of Israel are, the day after the protests took place Israeli forces demolished the Bedouin village of Araqib for the 53rd time since July 2010. But after the Israeli army had left, the villagers once more began rebuilding their homes and animal shelters.

While the Zionists try to ethnically cleanse the Bedouin in the Negev, just across the Green Line in the West Bank they are forcing Palestinian families from their homes in ‘unrecognised’ villages in the hills south of Hebron. As freelance journalist Jonathan Cook wrote: ‘Were it not for the razor wire, giant concrete blocks, steel gates, watchtower and standard-issue surly teenage soldier, it would be impossible to tell at what point the barren uplands of Israel’s eastern Negev give way to the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank. The military checkpoint of Shani vaguely marks the formal demarcation between Israel and occupied Palestinian territory, but in practical terms the distinction is meaningless. On either side of the Green Line, Israel is in charge.’

Just as Palestinian villages in the West Bank have been subjected to years of racist attacks from Zionist settlers, so the Bedouin are now also being attacked by racist settlers. On the night of 20 July armed settlers attacked the Bedouin village of Rakhama damaging property, attacking livestock and verbally assaulting villagers.

Alongside this ethnic cleansing, Israel has engaged in a massive programme of settlement construction in the occupied territories. The Israeli group Peace Now reports that settlement construction in the West Bank during the first quarter of 2013 was at a seven-year high with 865 housing units started, triple that for the same quarter of 2012. However, Netanyahu’s government’s promotion of settlement construction took a public blow when the European Union on 16 July issued a Commission Notice stating that from 2014 EU grants could not be used to fund projects based in territory occupied by Israel since 1967. The Notice was clear that these territories comprised the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and West Bank including East Jerusalem. For the first time in a long while, an international body with economic clout seemed to be taking real action against Israel’s gobbling up of Palestinian territory.

Solidarity with the Palestinian people demands that we continue to campaign on the streets for a complete economic, cultural and sporting boycott of Israel.

End British imperialist support for Israel!

Bob Shepherd

UEFA out of Israel! Israel out of Palestine!/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

FRFI activists in London and Manchester are participating in the international campaign to demand that UEFA pull its Under-21s final football tournament out of Israel, where it is due to be held from 5 to 18 June 2013.

In London, on 24 May, activists assembled outside St Pancras International station to receive around 40 activists from several European countries, mainly France, who arrived to cheers and chants of Free Palestine! Boycott Israel! We then set off for a 250-strong march to Grosvenor Hotel in Park Lane where the UEFA annual congress was taking place. FRFI was among the coalition of groups which organised the day of action, along with Football Beyond Borders and Red Card Israeli Racism – which held a five-hour rally outside the hotel. A small group of intrepid activists even managed, later, to get past security and protest at the UEFA dinner itself. In front of guests including David Beckham and Alex Ferguson, one got onto the platform to denounce Israel and another stood behind UEFA president Michel Platini holding a flag.

On the march, despite the pouring rain protesters, many in Palestinian football shirts, chanted energetically, handing out ‘red card’ postcards to be sent to UEFA urging it to relocate the tournament. We then marched to Marks and Spencer in Marble Arch, where for nearly 13 years, FRFI’s campaign Victory to the Intifada has held weekly pickets calling for a boycott of M&S, Britain’s biggest corporate sponsor of Israel. FRFI activists submitted a letter to CEO Marc Bolland, calling on the corporation to cuts ties with Israel. M&S is also a supplier to the English Football Association, which backs the UEFA Under-21s in Israel.

Drenched but in high spirits, the march arrived in Park Lane to join more protesters for a rally. Among the speakers was Mahmoud Sarsak, a Palestinian footballer, who spent three years in prison without charge and was only released in July 2012 after a 92-day hunger strike. Mahmoud spoke about the brutality of the Israeli occupation and the importance of international solidarity. The goalkeeper of the Palestinian Olympic team, Omar Abu Rouis, and Ramallah FC player Mohammed Namer remain imprisoned in Israel. A state which abducts athletes should not be allowed to host international sporting events. FRFI activists also spoke from the platform.

A week earlier, on 18 May, FRFI activists in Manchester organised a rolling picket of Adidas and McDonald’s, corporate sponsors of the UEFA games. They moved on to protest outside M&S, with a final rally at the National Football Museum which received support of many young people angry at the treatment of the Palestinians.

Future events

Manchester FRFI will be holding another rolling picket on Saturday 8 June.

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 07519 427 093.

London FRFI is holding two events in June:

Picket of M&S, Thursday 6 June 6-8pm (and the first Thursday of every month), outside M&S, Oxford Street (Marble Arch end)

Discussion meeting: ‘Why we must boycott Israel’ (organised in conjunction with Football Beyond Borders), Wednesday 12 June 7pm, Room G50 SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, WC1N 0XG. Speakers: Barnaby Mitchell from FRFI; Tom and Lucas from Football Beyond Borders; Helen Yaffe, Leicester University, on lessons from the anti-apartheid movement.

Contact FRFI: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,

Football Beyond Borders: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Palestine: Zionist settlers on the rampage/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

On 16 May the Israeli government announced it would legalise four settlement outposts on the West Bank. These settlements were constructed unofficially and, in 2003, the then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised to demolish them as part of the ‘Road Map for Peace’. The reality of an Israeli government ‘promise’ can be seen in this little episode: pledge to do something, don’t do it for ten years and then do the reverse. The announcement followed on from the government’s approval for around 300 new housing units in the Beit El settlement just outside Ramallah, increasing the size of that settlement by around a third.

These Israeli actions are not just a slight to US President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, but a major problem for imperialism’s plans in the Middle East. Since Obama’s visit to Israel in March, Kerry has been to and fro trying to get new peace talks going between Palestinian President Abbas and Israel. As Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, ‘I do believe you have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. Over the past two years they have built institutions and maintained security on the West Bank that few would have imagined a decade ago’. For this relationship to continue, Israel had to ‘recognise that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace’.

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot participate in any new peace talks unless there is at least a perception that settlement expansion has been halted. Since Obama’s visit, Fayyad has quit as Prime Minister but it seemed an unofficial deal was in place as Netanyahu had not approved any new settlement plans until these two announcements. Combined with Israel’s bombing of Syria, the decision adds to the growing destabilisation of the region.

Using as an excuse the stabbing to death of a settler in the West Bank, since 30 April Jewish settlers have engaged in a wave of violent racist attacks on the Palestinian population, safe in the knowledge that the Israeli army will protect them.

On 8 May, when the Zionists celebrate the occupation of the whole of Jerusalem in 1967, fascist settlers marched through the city chanting ‘death to Arabs’ and ‘Jerusalem is ours’. Some wore T-shirts displaying the demolition of the Dome on the Rock Mosque, one of Islam’s most important religious sites. They attacked Palestinian shops and called for the expulsion of all Arabs and Palestinians from the city. In the days before, the Israeli police allowed large groups of fascist settlers to force their way into the Al Aqsa compound, which contains the Dome on the Rock, to shout racist abuse at Muslim worshippers. Police attacked a Palestinian counter-protest with pepper spray and arrested over 20 people, including journalists. On 20 May Israel banned a United Nations commission from visiting Jerusalem to investigate alleged violations of religious freedom for both Christians and Muslims.

Racist settlers have been particularly active around Nablus. On 11 May some 50 settlers marched into the village of Burin after setting fire to the village’s wheat fields. When confronted by local Palestinians, the Israeli army arrived on the scene and fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the villagers. Two days later, settlers destroyed fruit saplings, slashed tyres, vandalised and desecrated graves and sprayed racist graffiti in the village of Sawiya. There was another attempt to set fire to wheat fields on 20 May around the villages of Immatin and Fara’ta. Israeli occupation forces prevented Palestinian villagers from dowsing the flames. Similar attacks have taken place in the villages around Hebron/Al Khalil with crops set alight and olive trees uprooted.

Israel is also attempting to demolish eight villages south of Nablus which it has declared ‘illegal’. Elders in these villages have title deeds which date back to the Ottoman Empire but which are being dismissed by Israel. On 21 May Israel demolished four Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, making around 30 people homeless. Israel claims the homes had been built without any permit. According to the UN, 33% of all Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem lack an Israeli building permit, placing 93,100 people at risk of being made homeless. The Zionists refuse 95% of all Palestinian applications for building permits in East Jerusalem.

Boycott Israel!

Bob Shepherd

Obama re-affirms support for Israel

Obama’s visit to Israel in March was designed to reassure Israel that they still play a central role in imperialism’s plans to control the Middle East and Central Asia. It was also an opportunity for Obama to point out to the Zionists that they won’t find a more pliant and servile Palestinian leadership than Abbas and the current Palestinian Authority (PA).

Obama’s speech in Jerusalem on 21 March was deliberately phrased in a pro-Zionist language. Full of distortions and outright lies, it praised the ‘achievements’ of Israeli democracy, equated Jewish culture with Israel and highlighted the shared interests of Israel and the US, only adding the plight of the Palestinians for liberal effect.

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