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Home arrow Blog arrow August 2009 arrow August 13, 2009

August 13, 2009
August 13, 2009: The Brutal Truth 
I will be offline until Sunday-and leave with gratitude to the New York Times for publishing the following which precedes
"TIME FOR ISRAEL TO COMPLY WITH THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS"


The Two-State Solution Doesn’t Solve Anything

By HUSSEIN AGHA and ROBERT MALLEY
New York Times Op-Ed August 11, 2009


THE two-state solution has welcomed two converts. In recent weeks, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas’s political bureau, have indicated they now accept what they had long rejected. This nearly unanimous consensus is the surest sign to date that the two-state solution has become void of meaning, a catchphrase divorced from the contentious issues it is supposed to resolve. Everyone can say yes because saying yes no longer says much, and saying no has become too costly. Acceptance of the two-state solution signals continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle by other means.

Bowing to American pressure, Mr. Netanyahu conceded the principle of a Palestinian state, but then described it in a way that stripped it of meaningful sovereignty. In essence, and with minor modifications, his position recalled that of Israeli leaders who preceded him. A state, he pronounced, would have to be demilitarized, without control over borders or airspace. Jerusalem would remain under Israeli sovereignty, and no Palestinian refugees would be allowed back to Israel. His emphasis was on the caveats rather than the concession.

As Mr. Netanyahu was fond of saying, you can call that a state if you wish, but whom are you kidding?

As for Hamas, recognition of the state of Israel has always been and remains taboo. Until recently, the movement had hinted it might acquiesce to Israel’s de facto existence and resign itself to establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. This sentiment has now grown from hint to certitude.

President Obama’s June address in Cairo provoked among Hamas leaders a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. The American president criticized the movement but did not couple his mention of Hamas with the term terrorism, his recitation of the prerequisites for engagement bore the sound of a door cracked open rather than one slammed shut, and his acknowledgment that the Islamists enjoyed the support of some Palestinians was grudging but charitable by American standards. All of which was promising but also foreboding, prompting reflection within the Hamas movement over how to escape international confinement without betraying core beliefs.

The result of this deliberation was Hamas’s message that it would adhere to the internationally accepted wisdom — a Palestinian state within the borders of 1967, the year Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas also coupled its concession with caveats aplenty, demanding full Israeli withdrawal, full Palestinian sovereignty and respect for the refugees’ rights. In this, there was little to distinguish its position from conventional Palestinian attitudes.

The dueling discourses speak to something far deeper than and separate from Palestinian statehood. Mr. Netanyahu underscores that Israel must be recognized as a Jewish state — and recalls that the conflict began before the West Bank or Gaza were occupied. Palestinians, in turn, reject recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, uphold the refugees’ rights and maintain that if Israel wants real closure, it will need to pay with more than mere statehood.

The exchange, for the first time in a long while, brings the conflict back to its historical roots, distills its political essence and touches its raw emotional core. It can be settled, both sides implicitly concur, only by looking past the occupation to questions born in 1948 — Arab rejection of the newborn Jewish state and the dispossession and dislocation of Palestinian refugees.

Both positions enjoy broad support within their respective communities. Few Israelis quarrel with the insistence that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state. It encapsulates their profound aspiration, rooted in the history of the Jewish people, for a fully accepted presence in the land of their forebears — for an end to Arab questioning of Israel’s legitimacy, the specter of the Palestinian refugees’ return and any irredentist sentiment among Israel’s Arab citizens.

Even fewer Palestinians take issue with the categorical rebuff of that demand, as the recent Fatah congress in Bethlehem confirmed. In their eyes, to accept Israel as a Jewish state would legitimize the Zionist enterprise that brought about their tragedy. It would render the Palestinian national struggle at best meaningless, at worst criminal. Their firmness on the principle of their right of return flows from the belief that the 1948 war led to unjust displacement and that, whether or not refugees choose or are allowed to return to their homes, they can never be deprived of that natural right. The modern Palestinian national movement, embodied in the Palestine Liberation Organization, has been, above all, a refugee movement — led by refugees and focused on their plight.

It’s easy to wince at these stands. They run against the grain of a peace process whose central premise is that ending the occupation and establishing a viable Palestinian state will bring this matter to a close. But to recall the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian clash is not to invent a new battle line. It is to resurrect an old one that did not disappear simply because powerful parties acted for some time as if it had ceased to exist.

Over the past two decades, the origins of the conflict were swept under the carpet, gradually repressed as the struggle assumed the narrower shape of the post-1967 territorial tug-of-war over the West Bank and Gaza. The two protagonists, each for its own reason, along with the international community, implicitly agreed to deal with the battle’s latest, most palpable expression. Palestinians saw an opportunity to finally exercise authority over a part of their patrimony; Israelis wanted to free themselves from the burdens of occupation; and foreign parties found that it was the easier, tidier thing to do. The hope was that, somehow, addressing the status of the West Bank and Gaza would dispense with the need to address the issues that predated the occupation and could outlast it.

That so many attempts to resolve the conflict have failed is reason to be wary. It is almost as if the parties, whenever they inch toward an artful compromise over the realities of the present, are inexorably drawn back to the ghosts of the past. It is hard today to imagine a resolution that does not entail two states. But two states may not be a true resolution if the roots of this clash are ignored. The ultimate territorial outcome almost certainly will be found within the borders of 1967. To be sustainable, it will need to grapple with matters left over since 1948. The first step will be to recognize that in the hearts and minds of Israelis and Palestinians, the fundamental question is not about the details of an apparently practical solution. It is an existential struggle between two worldviews.

For years, virtually all attention has been focused on the question of a future Palestinian state, its borders and powers. As Israelis make plain by talking about the imperative of a Jewish state, and as Palestinians highlight when they evoke the refugees’ rights, the heart of the matter is not necessarily how to define a state of Palestine. It is, as in a sense it always has been, how to define the state of Israel.

Hussein Agha is a co-author, with Ahmed S. Khalidi, of "A Framework for a Palestinian National Security Doctrine." Robert Malley, the director of the Middle East Program at the International Crisis Group, was a special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs to President Bill Clinton from 1998 to 2001.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/11/opinion/11malley.html?_r=1


ADDAMEER (Arabic for conscience) Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association (Addameer) is a Palestinian non-governmental, civil institution which focuses on human rights issues. Established in 1992 by a group of activists interested in human rights, the organization’s activities focus on offering support for Palestinian prisoners, advocating for the rights of political prisoners, and working to end torture through monitoring, legal procedures and solidarity campaigns.


Addameer Public Statement: 60 YEARS LATER: TIME FOR ISRAEL TO COMPLY WITH THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS

12 August 2009

As the world marks the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions today, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association (Addameer) renews its urgent call for Israel to respect the Conventions’ provisions in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) – including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Addameer also urges the Conference of High Contracting Parties, which has not met since 2001, to reconvene to address their responsibilities under the Conventions by ensuring Israel’s compliance with all appropriate provisions.

The four Geneva Conventions were adopted on 12 August 1949 by the representatives of 48 states convened in Geneva, Switzerland. Applicable in the OPT in the context of Israel’s ongoing belligerent occupation, the Conventions today are one of the major sources of international humanitarian law and are binding upon all 194 states as signatory state parties, making them universal. The Fourth Convention aims at protecting civilians during times of armed conflict who are “in the hands” of the enemy, notably those residing in occupied territories.

In the shadow of this anniversary, violations of international humanitarian law by Israel continue with frightening impunity:

·         Israel continues to use administrative detention in direct contravention to the Geneva Conventions – on a widespread and illegal basis, as a means of collective punishment and as a substitution for criminal prosecution when there is insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction before the illegally-operated military courts discussed further below. There are currently at least 440 Palestinians from the West Bank and East Jerusalem being detained in administrative detention by Israel, of which three are women and one is a child under the age of 18. All are detained without charge and without any real ability under the law to challenge their detention.

·         The Israeli military court system, which has prosecuted hundreds of thousands of Palestinians since its 1967 inception, including more than 150,000 since 1990, operates with an utter disregard for international law and fair trial standards. The Geneva Conventions provide that, as an Occupying Power, Israel has the right under international humanitarian law to establish military courts in the OPT. However, applicable international humanitarian and human rights law restrict the jurisdiction of such courts, and guarantee certain fundamental fair trial rights. Problems persist in both regards.

o   The jurisdiction of the Israeli military courts, as set forth in Military Order 378, is far broader than the powers granted to military courts in the Fourth Convention: Article 66 of the Fourth Convention states that military courts are to try cases involving violations of criminal security legislation only, but Section 7(b) of Military Order 378 also gives the military courts wide-ranging jurisdiction to hear offenses totally unrelated to those matters. Offenses prosecuted in the courts include traffic violations, as well as offenses stemming from nonviolent assembly, and nearly all forms of civic and political expression and association. Military Order 378 also provides shockingly broad territorial jurisdiction to the military courts, which is not restricted to offenses that were prima facie committed within the OPT itself, but also includes offenses committed anywhere else.

o   Substantial fair trial issues also remain, with partial or total circumvention of the following rights, among others: the prompt notice of criminal charges; the right to prepare an effective defense; the right to trial without undue delay; the right to interpretation and translation; the privilege against self incrimination; a presumption of innocence; the right to call and examine witnesses; and, the right to an independent and impartial judiciary.

·         All but one of the more than 17 prisons, four interrogation centers and three provisional detention centers where Israel detains and interrogates Palestinian prisoners are located inside Israel. Moreover, the one prison located inside the 1967 borders of the West Bank, Ofer, is still located inside an Israeli military base, on the Israeli side of the Annexation Wall, and is therefore similarly inaccessible to Palestinians from the West Bank. This is a direct violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an Occupying Power must detain residents of occupied territory in prisons inside the occupied territory. Conversely, Israel’s continued colonization of the OPT with its own citizens is in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Convention, which provides that the Occupying Power must not transfer parts of its own civilian population into the occupied territory.

o   The practical consequences of this system carry additional implications under the Conventions, in that many Palestinian prisoners do not receive family visits as their relatives are denied permits to enter Israel on “security grounds”. Since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, relatives of prisoners and detainees who reside in Gaza have been prevented from visiting their family members held in Israeli detention in violation of respect for their family rights, enshrined in Article 27 of the Fourth Convention.

·         Although the Geneva Conventions prohibit torture and cruel or degrading treatment, and Israel’s own High Court outlawed the use of torture in its landmark 1999 decision in The Public Committee Against Torture v. The Government of Israel, unlawful interrogation techniques remain in use in Israel. The methods of torture and ill-treatment most frequently alleged to take place during interrogation include: prolonged constraint of movement in an uncomfortable position causing physical pain, (such as tying the suspect to a chair with the hands behind the back, throughout hours or days of interrogation); sleep deprivation; beatings and long periods of solitary confinement in small, windowless and, often, cold cells. Less common since the 1999 High Court ruling, but still allowed to continue, are the so-called ‘military interrogation’ techniques, which are applied in combination with the methods already mentioned above. These techniques primarily involve the use of painful stress positions such as the “banana” position, where the detainee is bent backwards over the seat of a chair causing pain to the back, or the “frog” position where the detainee is forced to stand for prolonged periods against a wall with bended knees. Detainees also report the use of tight handcuffs placed on the upper arm for extended periods.

·         On 27 December 2008, Israel launched an aggression they termed “Operation Cast Lead,” a large-scale aerial and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, which killed at least 1,380 Palestinians, including 431 children, and left more than 5,380 wounded. The Israeli military attacks also resulted in the widespread destruction of civilian and commercial infrastructure, including homes, schools, factories and mosques. Israel displayed a contemptuous disregard for international humanitarian law during this illegal offensive, utilizing human shields and displaying a disproportionate and often indiscriminate use of force against densely populated civilian areas throughout the Gaza Strip. The ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip – which entered its third year in June 2009 – and the high degree of control exerted over the civilian population have precipitated a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions and belie any assertions by Israel that the area is independent and no longer an Israeli-occupied territory.


Addameer therefore urges Israel to comply immediately with all provisions of the Geneva Conventions in the entirety of the OPT. Addameer further urges the High Contracting Parties to reconvene to establish immediate and effective measures that can be taken under the framework of the UN to ensure Israel’s compliance with its legal obligations and to bring to an end the violations of international humanitarian law currently being committed with impunity in the OPT. Addameer lastly urges individual initiatives by High Contracting Parties aimed at monitoring compliance by Israel and ensuring respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention under Article 1, and at holding perpetrators of grave breaches responsible under Article 146.

 
For more information, please contact:
Addameer Prisoner and Human Rights Association
Tel/Fax: +972 (0)2 296 0446/+972 (0)2 296 0447
Email:   Website: www.addameer.info


   
 
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