The Facts on the Ground

By Tommy Sheppard MP. Tommy is MP for Edinburgh East, Vice-Chair of the Westminster All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Palestine and co-Spokesperson for SNP Friends of Palestine at Westminster.

 

The hills around Jerusalem were drenched in sun the last time I was here. It brought out their significance and history. This week, though, the Holy Land has been visited by a Scottish winter. As I peer through the steamed up windows of our VW Transporter, it’s decidedly dreich out there.

I’m here on a parliamentary delegation to see if the political mood matches the weather. The trip is organised by the Committee for the Advancement of Arab British Understanding (www.caabu.org) and Medical Aid for Palestinians (www.map.org.uk). Over four days we have a packed schedule of meetings with Palestinian and Israeli officials, human rights groups and the UK Foreign Office. We also get the chance to see first-hand what it’s like to live under a military occupation.

While we are here Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is being entertained in Washington by President Trump. In one of his typical glib moments Trump tells the press “I’m looking at two states and one state, and I like the one that both parties like.” As he says it the world’s press and diplomatic industry are desperately trying to decipher what he means: is this a change in US policy or not?

Tempting as it is to see this as another spontaneous and reactionary outburst, I think it’s Trump’s way of buying time. The new US administration hasn’t yet decided which way to go and maybe, just maybe, they are beginning to understand the consequences of giving the Israeli right what they want. Things do look, however, like they might begin to move.

2017 is a year of anniversaries. It is now 50 years since Israel won the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and was left in military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, collectively known as the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). It is the longest military occupation of modern times. This most intractable of disputes is fraught with the problems of competing descriptions of the same thing, competing realities.

Emmanuel Nahshon from the Israeli foreign office rejects the notion of occupation for starters. “How can this be occupied Palestine” he asks “when the West Bank was run by Jordan and the Gaza Strip by Egypt before the 1967 war?” It’s a disingenuous point. Sure, there’s never actually yet been a state of Palestine, but the territory in question was exactly where it was intended to be.

The Two State Solution

This was one of the key components of the Oslo agreement reached by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation the last time they tried to make peace back in 1994. As with so many other aspects of this debate you could say opinion is divided on the matter: Israel takes one view, the rest of the world has another.

The Oslo Accords saw the creation of a Palestinian Authority and the division of the West Bank into three zones. Areas A and B contained the cities and towns, with most of the population. Area C was the rest, comprising 62% of the land. This was placed under the administrative control of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) as agents of the occupying power. It’s hard to overstate the degree of compromise that the PLO made in 1994, they not only recognised the State of Israel but effectively conceded that it would occupy around 80% of historic Palestine.

The intention back in 1993 was that a process of transition would take place with the new PA gradually assuming responsibility for all of the West Bank and evolving into a new state of Palestine.  And there were to be further negotiations on a range of matters left undecided in Oslo: refugees, settlements and the status of Jerusalem being the main ones.

The creation of an independent state of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza living peacefully alongside a state of Israel based on the pre 1967 boundaries became known as the two state solution. This became the policy of pretty much everyone.

Two states is not a new idea. A hundred years ago then UK Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour’s declaration of support for a Jewish homeland also contained the qualification “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done that would be prejudice the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. As the British mandate came to a close in 1948, the UN proposed the creation of two states in the area: one Jewish, one Arab.

The objective of the two state solution is to do justice to competing territorial claims. But advocates of the policy ought to be clear that little would be achieved by creating two religious states, each armed to the teeth and living in seething tension with each other. It only works if the states respect each other and cooperate across the border. So if we talk about a Jewish state, or an Arab one, we should be clear we mean this in terms of the culture, history and demography of that country, but that civil and religious rights of everyone must be respected in a secular democratic society.

Permanent Occupation

The truth today is that only one of the two states exists. And that state is occupying the land intended for the other one. Until and unless the occupation ends, the two state solution cannot advance. Not only has the vision of Oslo not been realised, but Israel’s actions since have pushed it further and further away.

Over the last two decades Israel has used the zoning as a means to control the Palestinian population and ingrain and make permanent the occupation.  Most of the population has been hemmed into the urban areas A and B. On a map they look like an archipelago of Palestinian islands in a sea of Israeli occupied land.

In Area C two worlds exist.   Israel had commandeered much of the land as “state” land and then made it available to build residential settlements into which it moved Israeli citizens. This has been going on since the mid-70s and the existence of these enclaves throughout the West Bank was recognised in Oslo as an obstacle to be dealt with. Then there were about 200,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Today they are more than 600,000.

To the Palestinians – and to me –  this looks like a land grab. The UN has declared these settlements illegal and ruled them in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits an occupying power moving its civilian population into areas it occupies.

We drove through a couple of these settlements. There is nothing low key or temporary about them. Most are modern towns and cities replete with the entire service and tech infrastructure you’d expect in a first world country. Nearby industrial development provides work and means that the settlements now have their own economy and are not just commuter zones into Israel proper. Leisure centres and shopping malls offer a good quality of life and it’s all protected by the fourth most powerful military in the world.

There are about a hundred settlements which have been established by religious extremists without authorisation from the Israeli government. These are known as “outposts” and effectively they are groups of people taking the law into their own hands and trespassing on land which is mostly owned by Palestinian farmers.

In a hardening of the Israeli government’s position the Knesset passed a law two weeks ago which will retrospectively legalise these outposts. If it goes through they will be given the same status and protection as the “official” settlements. This represents a major victory for the hard right Jewish Home party which is a minor partner in Netanyahu’s coalition government. The policy will be challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court and the Attorney General has said he will  not defend it. It remains to be seen, however, whether Netanyahu will simply find himself another Attorney General.

Credit: Tommy Sheppard

Demolitions

At the same time at the Israeli authorities have allowed, indeed encouraged, settlements, they pretty much prohibit any development by Palestinians.  We met with the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) who monitor the situation in the oPt and are the go to people for statistics. They told us that in 2015 a total of 15 building permits were issued in the oPt to Palestinians. If people go ahead and put up a structure anyway, including in one farm we visited, installing solar panels, they will be served with a demolition order. Demolitions have been increasing in recent years and OCHA recorded over a thousand last year. This makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to run a business. It also makes it impossible for towns and cities to develop as the adjoining land is controlled by the Israelis.

We have also witnessed how settlements are used to make the occupation work. Each settlement will have a buffer zone around it in which Palestinians are forbidden. So because settlements are built on hilltops in the midst of Palestinian farms it forces the local population into less and less space. The IDF not only patrol the perimeters, they regularly raid Palestinian villages breaking down doors in the middle of the night and arresting young men.

On top of this there are increasing reports of violence perpetrated by settlers, many of who are religious extremists. We travelled to a farmers’ cooperative just outside Ramallah who have recently built a new olive oil pressing factory supported by Oxfam. (you can buy their oil here in Edinburgh at Earthy and Real Foods – or check out www.zaytoun.org). They told us of gangs of settlers setting dogs on families whilst they were bringing in the olive harvest and cutting or uprooting trees in the olive groves.

The often fractious interaction between settlers and Palestinians is not regulated fairly. Palestinians are subject to martial law and dealt with in the military courts; settlers are dealt with much more leniently under Israeli civil law. So if there’s a fight between a Palestinian and a settler, the soldier will always arrest the Palestinian. He may phone his commander and suggest the police are notified about the settler, but more often than not no action will be taken. Nothing makes the comparison with Apartheid more real than this.

Gerald Horton is a softly spoken Australian barrister who, for the last 11 years, has been running Military Court Watch, an organisation which defends Palestinians caught up in the military courts. He says he appreciates the massive challenge facing the IDF. “Their duty is to protect 400,000 Israeli settlers in the midst of a population of 2.8 million Palestinians who do not want them there. To do that you have to subdue the host population and break their will to resist. That is what the raids, arrests and detentions are all about. It’s not about upholding the rule of law.”

Red Tape and Humiliation

Underpinning the occupation is a vast array of red tape. Permits are needed for everything and are used to control movement and activity. Much of this just becomes a way of life: everyday minor injustices and petty humiliations.  It becomes normal for the five mile journey to work to take two hours because of checkpoints. You just accept that you cannot leave the West Bank. But sometimes the human effects are inhumane.

We visited Makassid general hospital, one of six in East Jerusalem, which specialises in paediatrics. We saw several premature babies on incubators. One was born at 29 weeks and will stay on oxygen until she reaches two kilos. Her mother came from Gaza to deliver her but had to return when her permit ran out. Now she cannot visit as the authorities say the baby is the patient and you have to be getting treatment to get a permit.

The doctors at Makassid also told us that a major problem they experience is “back to back transfers” of patients. This is where an ambulance from Gaza or the West Bank is stopped at a checkpoint and the patient is stretchered through the controls to a separate ambulance waiting on  the Israeli side. On average this takes 24 minutes and the delay has been fatal on occasion.

Daoud Nassar is a Palestinian farmer and head of the only Christian family left in the Palestinian village of Nahalin 9 kilometres south-west of Bethlehem. His grandfather bought the land in 1916 when the area was part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1991 the IDF declared the farm “state land” and sent him an eviction notice. But Daoud, unlike most farmers, had all the original deeds and decided to fight the notice in the courts. He’s been doing that for the last 25 years. He has also had 22 separate demolitions served on him for every structure on the farm, each of which he is resisting in the courts.

The day before we visited the IDF used bulldozers to block the road from the farm to Bethlehem. Daoud has been told it is for security reasons. He hopes to persuade the local commander to remove it – he is effectively cut off by road and visitors have to park at the roadblock and walk the final kilometre to the farm. Daoud explains how the roadblocks and checkpoints severely affect his work at harvest time. “During the grape season we pick early in the morning and try to get to market quickly. But sometimes we are held up for hours. We do not have refrigerated trucks  so in the hot sun the grapes spoil and by the time we get through they are sub-standard. “

Credit: Tommy Sheppard

He calls the farm the Tent of Nations and is campaigning throughout the country under the slogan “We refuse to be enemies”.  Listening to this gentle man tell his story with quiet determination I think the phrase “patience of a saint” could never have been more apt.

Jerusalem

The Israeli Government’s actions in Jerusalem do most to undermine a two state solution. Since East Jerusalem was annexed in 1967 the authorities have been pursuing the twin objectives of increasing the Jewish population of the city whilst simultaneously reducing the Arab population. This process is known as the Judaisation of Jerusalem.

For four decades Israel has been building settlements to the east of the city in the occupied West Bank. These are effectively suburbs of Jerusalem and right wing members of the Knesset are urging the government to now annex the occupied areas including the major settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. If that happens it will effectively cut the West Bank in two.

Inside the city the Palestinian area in East Jerusalem is under intense pressure. Sarit Michaeli from the Israeli Human Rights Organisation B’tselem (www.btselem.org) took us to the neighbourhood of Silwan lying in the shadow of the Al Aqsa mosque. We met community activist  Zuheir Rajabi who organises 81 families in this area of the old city. He’s lived there all his life but has now been served with an eviction notice on behalf of a Jewish trust which claims ownership from the nineteenth century. Like most of his neighbours he has no paperwork to prove his ownership of the property. Like most, he never thought he’d need it.

One by one Palestinian homes are being taken over by Jewish families who see themselves as the vanguard of the new Jerusalem. You can tell their homes from the massive blue and white Israeli flags in which thy are draped. These settlers seem to revel in the opposition they face from the long established Palestinian population, Zuheir claims they are determined to provoke a reaction. He points to the private security police which guard each settler family, paid for by the city council out of his taxes.

If there is to be a Palestinian state, then East Jerusalem would be its capital as the historic claims on this city are shared by both Muslims and Jews for whom it is equally significant. Judaisation is designed to prevent this from happening.

One state solution?

Israel has paid lip service to the idea of a Palestinian state even as its every policy seems to make this harder and harder to achieve. But now the coalition government may be ready to ditch the idea completely and pursue the objective of a greater Israel by annexing the Palestinian territories. I assume that this was on the agenda in Washington this week.

For the first time there is a majority in the Israeli cabinet which opposes a two state solution. This week several ministers took advantage of the Netanyahu visit to restate their vision. “Israel needs to say loudly and clearly: no to a Palestinians state, yes to an expanded, complete and united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty” says Transport Minister Yisrael Katz.  Education Minister Naftali Bennett who leads the extreme right party Jewish Home and is part of Netanyahu’s coalition, went further: “We need to say that everywhere, to every Christian and Muslim in Europe and to every Jew in Israel and in the world. The Land of Israel is ours. Period.”

Parties like Jewish Home are clear in their intention. The want to see a state of Israel which stretches across all of historic Palestine from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river. They want it to be a religious state where civil rights are related to Judaism. They are in a minority for now but there seems no doubt that opinion in Israel has shifted markedly to the right.

Most of the Israelis we met would describe themselves as liberal or left wing. I was intrigued to know how they saw things. Sarit from B’tselem says the word “left” is a dirty word in Israel at the moment so they don’t use it. “We are pessimistic but more resilient than ever” she tells me. Even with the shift to the right polls still suggest a majority of ordinary Israelis favour a two state solution and would end the occupation if it brought peace.

One of the many wonderful Israeli campaigners we met was Yehuda Shaul who founded Breaking the Silence (www.breakingthesilence.org.il) eleven years ago. It’s an organisation which records and publishes the testimony of formers members of the IDF and campaigns against the occupation. A cuddly bear of a man he talks incessantly, anxious to explain every detail of his argument. An IDF veteran himself Yehuda says he is treated like a traitor by many and there’s a campaign to outlaw his organisation which has so far told the stories of more than a thousand former soldiers. He says things will get worse before they get better but he is confident that his vies will prevail. “Don’t’ get me wrong” he says “I’m a Zionist. I believe in a Jewish homeland. But the occupation is destroying Israel. It will have to end.”

So with the mood in Israel hardening and the US considering policy change, what should the UK Government be doing? Well, first and foremost, we need to realise that Israel gets away with policies that the world consistently condemns because the world sits back and lets them. If we believe not just in a secure Israel but in justice for the Palestinians, it’s now time to apply some leverage.

At dinner I’m seated beside the UK’s deputy ambassador. He tells us that relations between the UK and Israel have never been better, describing a range of new trade agreements signed in recent weeks. In the next breath he tells us our government is putting pressure on the Israelis over the occupation and settlement expansion. I point out that these two things may contradict each other.

These are good questions he says, but really I should ask them of Number Ten.

So I will. Here’s four things I’ll be asking the UK Government in the year ahead.

  1. In marking the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, make it clear that there is unfinished business and it is now time to make things right for Palestine. And to make that clear the UK Government should officially recognise the State of Palestine as 136 other nations have now done.
  2. Having supported the UN resolution on 23rd December, now implement it. In particular, issue guidance to businesses making clear the difference between Israel itself and the occupied territories.
  3. Instead of sending observers to international peace talks, step up and take a leadership role. Britain, more than most, has a responsibility for the situation that we have in that part to the world today.
  4. Use aid money to support peace and human rights organisation in both Israel itself and in the occupied Palestinian territories.

We need to you to contact your MPs NOW!!

We need you to contact your Westminster MP immediately and implore them to attend the forthcoming backbench business committee debate this coming Thursday, 9th of February, and to urge the government to strengthen its policy on the issue of Israel’s illegal settlements.

In December 2016, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334 demanding that “Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” whilst also reaffirming the illegality of the settlements and their existence as a barrier to peace. This position corresponds with the longstanding UK Government position regarding settlements. Despite this, however, the UK Government continues to permit substantial trade with and financial support to settlements.

“There are…clear risks related to economic and financial activities in the settlements, and we do not encourage or offer support to such activities”

In March 2016, the Foreign Office released advice to businesses that stated “There are…clear risks related to economic and financial activities in the settlements, and we do not encourage or offer support to such activities”. The European Union has also insisted on the labelling of settlement goods and to ensure they are excluded from preferential status under the EU-Israel trade agreement. These policies are again reinforced by UNSC 2334 which called on states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”. These clear policies of the EU, the UN and the UK Government have yet to be translated into Government action to prevent goods from Israel’s illegal settlements from reaching the UK.

The impact of Israel’s settlement building is stark. Their construction results in dire consequences for Palestinians who face severe restrictions on their mobility, revocation of residency rights and destruction of livelihoods. Those living next to settlements face land confiscations, home demolitions and frequent attacks by settlers; this oppressive status quo exists alongside restrictive planning laws that force Palestinians into ever-shrinking ghettos. All this brings incredible suffering to the lives of Palestinians and makes any hopes for a just peace ever more remote.

The UK has the opportunity to take a new path. There is now an international consensus opposing Israel’s settlements, a universal recognition of their illegality and an acknowledgment of the enormous damage they inflict on Palestinians and the prospects for peace.

Joyous News From Palestine

by Craig Murray: Author, broadcaster and human rights activist, Craig was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and Rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010, and member of SNP Friends of Palestine.

 

Please do read the full text of Security Council Resolution 2334, passed on Saturday 24th December:

The Security Council,
Reaffirming its relevant resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 446 (1979), 452 (1979), 465 (1980), 476 (1980), 478 (1980), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003), and 1850 (2008),

Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming, inter alia, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force,

Reaffirming the obligation of Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and recalling the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice,

Condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions,

Expressing grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines,

Recalling the obligation under the Quartet Roadmap, endorsed by its resolution 1515 (2003), for a freeze by Israel of all settlement activity, including “natural growth”, and the dismantlement of all settlement outposts erected since March 2001,

Recalling also the obligation under the Quartet roadmap for the Palestinian Authority Security Forces to maintain effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantling terrorist capabilities, including the confiscation of illegal weapons,

Condemning all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction,
Reiterating its vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders,

Stressing that the status quo is not sustainable and that significant steps, consistent with the transition contemplated by prior agreements, are urgently needed in order to (i) stabilize the situation and to reverse negative trends on the ground, which are steadily eroding the two-State solution and entrenching a one-State reality, and (ii) to create the conditions for successful final status negotiations and for advancing the two-State solution through those negotiations and on the ground,

1. Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;

2. Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard;

3. Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations;
4. Stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-State solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two-State solution;

5. Calls upon all States, bearing in mind paragraph 1 of this resolution, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967;

6. Calls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, calls for accountability in this regard, and calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism;

7. Calls upon both parties to act on the basis of international law, including international humanitarian law, and their previous agreements and obligations, to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, with the aim, inter alia, of de-escalating the situation on the ground, rebuilding trust and confidence, demonstrating through policies and actions a genuine commitment to the two-State solution, and creating the conditions necessary for promoting peace;

8. Calls upon all parties to continue, in the interest of the promotion of peace and security, to exert collective efforts to launch credible negotiations on all final status issues in the Middle East peace process and within the time frame specified by the Quartet in its statement of 21 September 2010;

9. Urges in this regard the intensification and acceleration of international and regional diplomatic efforts and support aimed at achieving, without delay a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap and an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967; and underscores in this regard the importance of the ongoing efforts to advance the Arab Peace Initiative, the initiative of France for the convening of an international peace conference, the recent efforts of the Quartet, as well as the efforts of Egypt and the Russian Federation;

10. Confirms its determination to support the parties throughout the negotiations and in the implementation of an agreement;

11. Reaffirms its determination to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions;

12. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council every three months on the implementation of the provisions of the present resolution;

13. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

Given the difficulties of negotiating such resolutions between 15 states, the language is remarkably forthright. The relief of the UN Secretariat itself at the UN acting after eight years of US veto impasse, shines through the accurate but stark headline of the official UN press release on the resolution:

Israel’s Settlements Have No Legal Validity, Constitute Flagrant Violation of International Law, Security Council Reaffirms

In one sense the Resolution is a statement of the blindingly obvious. But it has had such a political impact because Israel, with its politics switched radically to the right by Eastern European immigration, had really come under Netanyahu to believe it could simply strangle the Palestinians acre by acre, and the neo-con political hegemony in the West was so unshakeable there could never be any comeback.

Trump’s apparent hardline Zionism since his election has been a disappointment and was not really prefigured by the balance of his past pronouncements, although as usual with him they are all over the place. But of course he now has no ability to revoke or undermine this resolution; there is no retrospective veto. I retain a hope that Trump will come to regard the US$34 billion a year the USA gives in military assistance to Israel a very strange way to spend the taxpayers’ money.

It might be argued that Obama’s decision not to veto the Resolution shows his true decent instincts once political machination is no longer a factor. I have been undecided whether he is a decent but timid man prepared to go along with the machinations of hard power without any fights that would make his own life less comfortable, or a total charlatan who was always just a puppet of the powerful. It took eight years for me to tend towards the slightly less appalling option. Certainly Hillary, an uncompromising Zionist who refused to condemn illegal settlements when Bernie Sanders did so, would have vetoed the resolution. In a strange way, Trump’s victory allowed it to pass; if Clinton had won, Obama would have very probably felt bound to defer to her wish to veto it.

My own view is that it is too late for a two state solution. I wrote recently of my work on apartheid South Africa, and I find the two state model proposed for Israel/Palestine irresistibly reminiscent of the Bantustan proposals of the apartheid South African government. There is no economically and politically viable state to be constructed out of the overcrowded and cut off territories of the West Bank and Palestine, even without the massive seizures of land and water resources that have occurred within them. To reverse enough of 1967 settlements for a viable Palestinian state in a two state solution wpuld involve an unacceptable further uprooting of people.

This next bit of my opinion angers some – but only some – of my Palestinian friends. I see a single, secular state as the only viable long term solution, but to negotiate this would entail accepting that a large number of post 1967 settlers should stay where they are. Not all, but it is very difficult to see how any agreement could ever be negotiated that does not accept most of the facts on the ground. I see a read across here from the Cyprus negotiations, where Greek Cypriots have a great difficulty in accepting that Turkish settlers must remain. And I believe that like Cyprus, a federal political solution which does not attempt to move populations around further, seems to me the best basis to move forward.

For me, the Security Council’s observation that Israeli settlements “are steadily eroding the two-State solution and entrenching a one-State reality” and the “cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-State solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two-State solution”, are accurate descriptions of a process which in fact has already gone beyond the point of no return. The irony is, of course, that it is the Israeli government who are horrified by the idea of a single state solution; yet they have made a two state solution impossible. That leaves them the choice of sharing the land with the Palestinians, and a settlement involving massive financial compensation, or continuing complicity in the slow genocide of the Palestinians herded into their ever shrinking territories.

The Security Council has shown Israel that the whole world is horrified by what they are doing to the Palestinians. It will take further time for the Security Council to acknowledge that their own proposed solution really is no longer viable.

UN Security Council passes resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlements.

The UN Security Council has this evening, 23/12/16,  passed a resolution, with 14 votes, condemning Israel’s illegal settlements in occupied Palestine, calling them a “flagrant violation of international law”.

It’s important to note that, in the final days of the Obama administration, the US abstained and did not veto the resolution.

The Egyptian-drafted resolution had been withdrawn after Israel asked US President Elect Donald Trump to intervene but it was tabled again by Malaysia, New Zealand and Venezuela.

The resolution as passed -

* “Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution.”

 
* “Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”

 
* Stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-state solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperiling the two-state solution.”

 
* “Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.”

 
* “Calls upon all States, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”

 
* “Calls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, calls for accountability in this regard, and calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism; and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric.”


 

O little town of Bethlehem…

Christmas in occupied Bethlehem.

It’s that time of year again when the thoughts of many, the world over, turn to Bethlehem. Towering walls and militarized fences now encircle Bethlehem, turning the 4,000-year-old city into a virtual prison for its Palestinian Christian and Muslim citizens. Bethlehem has only three gates to the outside world, all tightly controlled by Israeli occupation forces.

Israel has confiscated almost all the agricultural land in the area for illegal settlements, making it impossible for many Palestinian farmers to continue tending their land. Outside the town, the fields where shepherds once watched their flocks are being filled by Israeli housing units and roads barred to the descendants of those shepherds.

Christmas in occupied Bethlehem.

 

Have a Merry Christmas one and all.

‘Former Israeli soldiers speak out against the occupation’

In this article from AJ+, former Israeli soldiers are given a voice, an outlet, by Breaking the Silence to speak out against the unjust occupation of Palestine.

Carol Monaghan MP meets with Rohan Talbot from MAP & Yehuda Shaul from Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence
Carol Monaghan MP meets with Rohan Talbot from MAP & Yehuda Shaul from Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence
 
We were lucky enough to have co-founder of Breaking the Silence Yehuda Shaul with us at SNP National Conference in Aberdeen this time last year to speak to our members, MPs, MSPs & Cllrs from around the country.
Since then Yehuda has been on hand in occupied Palestine to give tours to a number of MPs who have travelled out to see for themselves the situation on the ground.
 
We praise the work that BtS are doing to expose the immoral occupation of Palestine against awful treatment by the Netanyahu coalition and its supporters.
 

Scottish Tories send first ever delegation to Israel…

This week the Scottish Conservatives sent their first ever delegation to Israel to build closer ties with the far right Israeli administration. The delegation consisted of nine Conservative MSPs, including several shadow cabinet ministers, the chief whip and the party’s director.

Conservatives

 

Whilst there they ‘met with Israeli MKs, local businessmen and security officials and received briefings by the IDF at the Syrian border.’

However I think we can be pretty sure that they would have made no effort whatsoever to visit occupied Palestine… to go and see how ordinary Palestinians survive in overcrowded refugee camps under constant terror day and night from the Israeli occupation forces.

You can also bet that the delegation of Tory MSPs never made arrangements to interview any of the Palestinian children presently illegaly held under administrative detention (imprisonment without charge) in Israeli prisons to find out about the heinous treatment they endure… to investigate the allegations of torture against these young children.

Do we expect any Parliamentary questions from the Holyrood opposition on these subjects when they return and get back to work? No, not likely! No, from what I hear we’ll see praise upon praise heaped onto the Israeli authorities… we’ll hear talk of the necessity to build more bridges with this under siege democracy, bullied by all of its violent neighbours, and we will, ironically, hear MSPs commend Israel for letting Turkish aid convoys into the besieged open air prison that is Gaza

 

‘Shooting the Occupation’

If you can make it, make sure you get along to Glasgow’s Govanhill Baths next Tuesday evening.

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Prize-winning Palestinian photographer Hamde Abu Rahma will be speaking about his experiences as a photojournalist in the occupied West Bank at the launch of his first solo UK exhibition.

Tuesday 09th September 6:30pm

Govanhill Baths
99 Calder Street
Glasgow G42 7RA

Google removes Palestine from its maps.

The Palestinian‬ Journalists’ Forum has denounced Google for deleting the name of ‪‎Palestine‬ from its maps and replacing it with ‪‎Israel‬.

Google
Credit: Middle East Monitor

In a statement released yesterday, the forum said Google’s decision to remove Palestine from its maps on 25 July “is part of the Israeli scheme to establish its name as a legitimate state for generations to come and abolish Palestine once and for all.”

 

Read more at Middle East Monitor:

New Israeli ‘Youth Bill’ permits imprisonment of Palestinian children.

Yesterday, 3rd August, the ‪‎Israeli‬ parliament passed a bill into law which would permit the imprisonment of Palestinian children aged 14 and younger.

The ‘Youth Bill’ allows Israeli authorities to imprison Palestinian children if convicted of “terrorism” against Israeli civilians or military personnel.

The intention of this new law is to punish primarily Palestinians from occupied ‪‎East Jerusalem‬. ‪‎Palestinian‬ minors from the occupied ‪‎WestBank‬ have long since been at the receiving end of the Israel occupation forces military court system.

Credit Ma'an News Agency
Credit Ma’an News Agency

 

Read the full story here:

Credit Ma’an News Agency