Posts Tagged ‘Palestinian rights’

How surrendering Palestinian rights became the language of “peace”

February 5, 2010

Joseph Massad, The Electronic Intifada, 27 January 2010

One of the ways the prejudiced Oslo “process” has survived is through the creation of a Palestinian Authority upon which tens of thousands depend for their livelihood. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

The 1993 Oslo agreement did not only usher in a new era of Palestinian-Israeli relations but has had a much more lasting effect in transforming the very language through which these relations have been governed internationally and the way the Palestinian leadership viewed them. Not only was the Palestinian vocabulary of liberation, end of colonialism, resistance, fighting racism, ending Israeli violence and theft of the land, independence, the right of return, justice and international law supplanted by new terms like negotiations, agreements, compromise, pragmatism, security assurances, moderation and recognition, all of which had been part of Israel’s vocabulary before Oslo and remain so, but also Oslo instituted itself as the language of peace that ipso facto delegitimizes any attempt to resist it as one that supports war, and dismisses all opponents of its surrender of Palestinian rights as opponents of peace. Making the language of surrender of rights the language of peace has also been part of Israel’s strategy before and after Oslo, and is also the language of US imperial power, in which Arabs and Muslims were instructed by US President Barack Obama in his speech in Cairo last June.

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Columbia demands justice for Palestine

March 6, 2009

NEW YORK–Students at Columbia University are taking up the fight for Palestinian rights and have begun organizing around a set of demands for the university’s divestment from Israel.

The students’ demands, released on March 2, include full disclosure of Columbia’s budget and endowment, a public forum on divestment, partnership with a Palestinian university, scholarships for Palestinian students and statements of support for Palestinian academic freedom and self-determination.

Students plan to host a forum on March 4, on “Columbia University’s Relationship to Palestinian rights.” A rally in front of the administration building is planned for the next day.

This comes just two weeks after more than a hundred Columbia University faculty members signed a letter demanding that the university’s president take a stand for academic freedom in Palestine.

The faculty letter, now signed by 132 professors, points out that Columbia’s president, Lee Bollinger, has frequently “expressed [his] views in public on questions of academic freedom in the Middle East. Yet [he has] remained silent on the actions by Israel that deny that freedom to Palestinians.” In 2005, Bollinger helped organize a group of university presidents across the U.S. to denounce a British professors’ union that had voted to consider a boycott of Israel.

Bollinger came to Columbia with a reputation as a liberal, after his defense of affirmative action as the president of the University of Michigan. But he has alienated progressives on campus over a number of issues. He angered many faculty members by launching an investigation of Middle Eastern Studies professors who were attacked in a film by an off-campus group, the David Project, for their pro-Palestinian views.

A final straw for some came when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited campus in 2007, and Bollinger–who has treated visiting U.S.-friendly dictators like Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf with kid gloves–denounced the Iranian leader with an introduction that repeated discredited neoconservative talking points blaming Iran for the U.S. failure in Iraq.

Soon afterward, more than a hundred professors signed a letter criticizing Bollinger for refusing to defend the independence of Columbia’s tenure process, failing to consult with faculty and having effectively “allied the university with the Bush administration’s war in Iraq.” Many of the same professors have signed on to the more recent letter around Gaza.

In the past, Columbia has hosted pro-Palestine scholars like Edward Said, Joseph Massad and Rashid Khalidi as well as pro-Israel forces. In recent years, pro-Palestine activists on campus have often been on the defensive–in the face of the David Project’s campaign and a more recent attempt to deny tenure to Nadia Abu El Haj–but that period may be ending.

According to Rahel Aima, a member of Students for a Democratic Society, “Recent events in Gaza have changed the campus climate…despite Israel’s attempt to keep its actions out of the sight of the media, the Internet has brought war crimes in Gaza into homes in the U.S., as television did for Vietnam.”

If students, faculty and workers who want justice in the Middle East can take advantage of this new atmosphere, substantive change may be coming.

Settlement expansion plans

February 28, 2009

B’, Feb 27, 2009

Following the Oslo agreement, Israel made a commitment to the United States that it would not build new settlements or expand existing ones, except to meet “natural growth.” This narrow allowance, never defined, was utilized by Israel to greatly expand settlements and build new settlements, such as Modi’in Ilit.

In April 2003, Israel for the first time undertook to freeze settlement activity, including natural growth. The commitment was made in the framework of the “road map” agreed to by Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and the Quartet (the US, the European Union, the UN, and Russia), which provides an outline for achieving a two-state permanent resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In November 2007, at the joint declaration made at the Annapolis Conference, in which Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the Quartet, and Arab League states took part, Israel confirmed its commitment to the road map’s principles.

Despite its commitment to freeze building in settlements, protocols of the Supreme Planning Committee, in the Civil Administration, reveal plans for substantial expansion of settlements. The relevant protocols, of the Supreme Planning Committee’s Environment Subcommittee, were made in 2007 and 2008 and dealt with the treatment of sewage of settlements. B’Tselem received these protocols under the Freedom of Information Act. The plans uncovered also relate to anticipated expansion of settlements lying east of the route of the Separation Barrier, which some, most Israeli politicians present as Israel’s future border. These plans are in their initial planning stage, and none have been approved by the political echelon. However, the fact that the primary planning body in the West Bank considered plans to build thousands of housing units in settlements indicates that the West Bank’s planning bodies flout the official Israeli commitment not to expand settlements in the coming years.

The settlement of Gevaot. Photo: Eyal Reuveni, B'Tselem.
The settlement of Gevaot. Photo: Eyal Reuveni, B’Tselem.

Examples of settlement-expansion planning follow.

  • In the Eztion Bloc, a neighborhood, containing 550 apartments, is planned for the Gevaot area of the Alon Shvut settlement. Plans for building in this area, which currently is home to only twelve families, call for the building of 4,450 apartments. The construction has not yet been approved by the Defense Ministry, but the Environmental Subcommittee approved construction of a sewage-treatment facility, intended for 800 to 1,000 apartments, for the new neighborhood. At the hearing, it was also decided that the facility would treat the sewage from the adjacent Beit Ayin settlement. According to the protocol, 2,000 new apartments are planned for construction in Beit Ayin, which currently has some 120 families.
  • In the RimonimandEinav settlements, which lie east of the Separation Barrier, sewage treatment has been arranged as a first stage in advancing building plans. In Rimonim, 254 new apartments are planned, and in Einav, two plans for additional construction The jurisdiction area of the settlement Mevo Dotan which is also east of the barrier, is expected to expand.
  • The Ma’aleh Adumim municipality prepared a sewage-treatment plan for the settlement, including the planned construction of 3,500 apartments in E-1, in the framework of treatment of the sewage from SHAI [Samaria and Judea] Police Headquarters, which was moved to E-1.
  • In Kfar Adumim, the Subcommittee approved a sewage-treatment plan based on a projected doubling in size of the settlement, to 5,600 residents, in “the coming years.”
  • The Civil Administration’s planning office instructed the Eshkolot settlement to treat its sewage in accordance with the “full occupancy” plans of the settlement, which are expected to quintuple the settlement’s population.

Building of settlements breaches international humanitarian law, which prohibits the occupying power to transfer its population to occupied territory and to make permanent changes there.

Establishment and expansion of the settlements result in continuous and extensive infringement of Palestinian rights, among them the right to self-determination, the right to equality, the right of property, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to water, the right to sanitation and the right to freedom of movement.

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