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Monday, September 12, 2011

Palestine takes presidency of Arab League

Published Sunday 11/09/2011 (updated) 12/09/2011 19:56
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas takes part in the Arab summit in
Saudi Arabia, March 28, 2007. [MaanImages/Pool/PPO/Omar Rashid]
CAIRO (Ma'an) -- Palestine took presidency of the Arab League on Sunday as the council met for its 136th session in Cairo.

Palestine's representative Barakat al-Farra replaced Oman's representative as president of the Arab League. On Tuesday, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki will take over as president of the ministerial council.

Al-Farra said he hoped the 136th session would meet the Arab people's ambitions, the official PA news agency Wafa reported.

"Everybody is looking forward to this session which coincides with major events in the Arab world, namely the Arab Spring, and so it should meet ambitions," Al-Farra said.

Regarding Palestine, the session should offer political support to the upcoming bid for full UN membership, he said.

Al-Farra highlighted that Arab countries should support the PA financially as the government has struggled to pay civil servant wages. The Arab League should support Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, he added.

"Arab countries that have not fulfilled their pledges made during the successive Arab League summits should pay their dues, and there should be extra financial aid to thwart Israel's threats to cut off tax revenues to the PA," Al-Farra said.

The media in Arab countries should help the PA to spread a clear message to the international community confirming that the Palestinian right to self-determination is inalienable and guaranteed by UN resolutions, he added.

Permanent representatives, foreign ministers and the Arab League follow-up committee will hold meetings on the sidelines of the council's session.

Palestinian activists seek state recognition from EU

A giant Palestinian flag is displayed outside the European Commission
headquarters in Brussels September 12, 2011. Non-governmental
organisation was protesting to demand European leaders
recognize Palestinian statehood. [REUTERS/Thierry Roge]
Published yesterday (updated) 12/09/2011 20:32

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -- Pro-Palestinian activists raised a giant Palestinian flag on Monday in front of the European Council building in Brussels.

The 20 meter flag was unfolded by activists from the Avaaz Palestine campaign and Belgian artist Alain de Cleck who simultaneously delivered 913,171 signatures to the EU petitioning for member states to recognize Palestine.

Diplomat for the Palestinian delegation to the EU, Majed Bamya, said it was a historical moment.

"It is a very important moment in our history, where we are seeking international recognition for our state that we've been building for two decades now. And this means that the EU should stand on the right side of history. To support this recognition. They have helped us politically and financially to build a state."

"They have acknowledged our right for self determination three decades ago. It's time to implement this right. And to fulfill it. And this will happen at the UN. We all have a meeting with history," said Bamya standing in front of the giant flag.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reaffirmed his support for an independent Palestinian state on Friday ahead of discussion at the UN headquarters in New York Sept. 19.

"There will be pressure. There is an American position we need to deal with. We are talking to the Americans. This serves the purpose of peace. It is in line with international law. We are speaking about 1967 borders which are recognised internationally. This is a matter of international consensus that the Palestinians have a right to statehood," added Bamya.

"These shouldn't be empty words and the Israelis have to understand that the international community needs to step in. We need them to step in not only for the Palestinian peoples but for all the peoples of the region including the Israeli people,"

The United States said explicitly it would use its veto in the Security Council to stop any Palestinian bid for full UN membership if the matter went ahead.

Avaaz said YouGov/IFOP opinions polls carried out in Germany, France and UK showed the majority of people were in support of Palestinians having their own state and called for the UN resolution for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

Leading EU countries support Palestinian statehood bid in UN, poll says

  • Published 17:51 12.09.11
  • Latest update 17:51 12.09.11

Survey taken on behalf of the global political web movement Avaaz shows majority of citizens in Germany, France, and U.K. support recognition of future Palestinian state.

By Danna Harman and The Associated Press
The majority of citizens in Germany, France, and the U.K. support the planned Palestinian statehood bid in the United Nations, a new poll indicated on Monday.
A new opinion poll published Monday shows that a majority of people in Germany, France and Britain – three countries that are critical votes in the battle over the Palestinian bid for statehood – all want their leaders to vote in favor of a UN resolution to support recognition of a Palestinian state when it's discussed in New York.
Mahmoud Abbas AP Sept. 25. 2010
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaking at the UN General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2010
Photo by: AP
The survey, which was carried out online by YouGov in Britain and Germany, and Ifop in France, on behalf of the global political web movement Avaaz - which is conducting an online petition in support of a Palestinian state - shows that in Germany 84% supported Palestinian statehood and 76% believed Germany should act now to recognize; in the U.K. the figures were 71% and 59%; and in France the figures were 82% and 69% respectively.
Ricken Patel, Executive Director of Avaaz, said in a statement: "The overwhelming majority of the British public have spoken - now David Cameron must listen."
"The Prime Minister has a clear choice: stand with the British public, and 126 other nations to support a Palestinian state and a new path to peace, or side with the US government which continues to push a failed status quo,” Patel added.
Avaaz says it is planning to deliver more than 913,000 signatories backing what it describes as "this new opportunity for freedom" to the European parliament.
Spain is openly backing the recognition, with Sweden, Portugal, Norway, Malta, Belgium and Luxembourg seemingly leaning in that direction.
France and Britain in turn have both said they would prefer to see meaningful negotiations on the basis of the pre-1967 borders with agreed land swaps, but have hinted they may vote for enhanced status for the Palestinians without such a prospect.
Germany, like Italy, Holland, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria has said they oppose the move.

Undercover Forces Kidnap Five Youths In Gaza

 Sunday September 11, 2011 06:36author by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies 
Eyewitnesses reported on Saturday evening that an undercover unit of the Israeli army infiltrated an area east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and kidnapped five Palestinian youths, the Palestine-Info reported.

File- Soldiers Kidnapping A Palestinian Teen
File- Soldiers Kidnapping A Palestinian Teen

Security sources in Gaza confirmed the attack, and stated a number of armored Israeli military vehicles carried out a limited invasion into Al Qarara town, near Khan Younis, while the undercover units kidnapped the five teens.

Soldiers opened fire at random while withdrawing from the area; no injuries were reported.

Eyewitnesses said that Israeli drones and Apaches choppers were flying over the area while the army was operating in it. The whereabouts of the kidnapped teens remain unknown.

Can US Congress see beyond the orchestration and opulence in Tel Aviv?

9 September 2011
What view of the occupation did US representatives see on their lobby-funded junkets last month?
Americans are frustrated, angry and disappointed in the political leadership of our country. We are enduring one crisis after another: housing, war, jobs, budget, debt and deficit. We are also shouldering our own personal and professional crises. We are governed by political ideologies that are inflexible, uncompromising and that ignore the long-term well-being of our country.
Yet, with all of these pressing and unrelenting national challenges, a record 81 House members, about a fifth of the chamber, spent a week in Israel last month, courtesy of a foundation set up by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the largest pro-Israel lobby group in the US.
As a participant in the Interfaith Peace-Builders’ African Heritage Delegation to Israel/Palestine, who recently returned from a two-week fact-finding study tour, I can attest that Israelis have their own urgent and pressing issues to deal with: ongoing maintenance of the 63-year-old occupation (yes, it dates to the 1948 ethnic cleansing of approximately 750,000 Palestinians), expensive and unjust military rule over the Palestinian people in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, seized in 1967, massive Israeli youth protests regarding the rising cost of housing, food, and gas, and the ongoing oppression of Jews of color and Palestinians citizens of Israel. 

Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., one of the Democrats who visited Israel, said that he was looking forward to learning about Israel’s business and commercial sectors as well as the latest tools and technology the country is using to fight terror, but what did he really see? I doubt he saw and experienced what the 14 members of the African Heritage Delegation witnessed. 

More than likely, his delegation saw and experienced the beauty and opulence of Tel Aviv. They enjoyed the finest of foods and perhaps sampled wines from the colonized Golan Heights. They probably witnessed well-orchestrated military exercises and political speeches. I suspect they did not hear, as we did, from Palestinians who are displaced from their homes, whose lands, farms and olive trees have been confiscated or from the mothers who worry about their sons being bullied, abused and imprisoned by the Israeli police using the most technologically advanced counterinsurgency practices.
I’m sure they did not see, as my delegation did, the rationing of water to Palestinians, the daily blackouts of electricity or the lack of health care services to the elderly or those suffering from post-traumatic occupation stress syndrome. No doubt, they did not meet Palestinians, as we did, inHebron who live each day under the assault of angry, militant Jewish settlers.
Democracy means more than voting rights
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who led one of two Republican delegations, stated, “I am pleased to be bringing so many of our new Members of Congress to Israel so that they can learn firsthand about Israel and the important role our key ally plays in the Middle East. The United States and Israel share similar core values of democracy, human rights and a strong national defense.”

Yet Israel is not living up to the definition of a democracy. Israel has dominated Palestinians for 63 years while illegally occupying the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza for the past 44 years. It routinely denies full participation of Palestinian citizens of Israel. Inside Israel, it is well documented that Jews of color (Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews), African Palestinians and non-Jewish residents are treated as second- and third-class citizens with diminished human and civil rights. Democracy means more than voting rights for Palestinian citizens. There must be equality under the law, yet that is significantly absent in Israel and dramatically lacking in how Israel administers the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

There is simply too much at stake in America for our congressional members to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders without the complete picture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The situation is vastly different from the one Israel’s prime minister depicted recently to Congress.
What if we stopped the $3 billion in aid?
What if we stopped the $3 billion in aid we give to Israel annually and used the savings to create a national jobs-deficit reduction program? Our African Heritage Delegation believes, as many Americans do, that we need a jobs growth and deficit reduction program here at home now. This is the time to reallocate financial resources to American families and communities and to fix our obsolete, dilapidated infrastructure.

The two-tier system of law Israel has established in the occupied West Bank, documented by Human Rights Watch, recalls the Jim Crow laws of the American South and the discriminatory practices of apartheid South Africa. Our members of Congress should loudly reject such discrimination. And they should spend more time with constituents in dire need of their leadership as well as modeling democratic values in their respective congressional districts.

Rev. Carolyn L. Boyd lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to dominate UN racism conference

9 September 2011
The September meeting is the third review conference of the Durban Declaration; the second was held in Geneva in 2009.
UNITED NATIONS, (IPS) - A high-level UN meeting on racism, scheduled to take place later this month, looks set to be dominated by questions relating to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
Expressing fears that the meeting might turn out to be anti-Israel, several Western states, including Canada, Germany, the United States, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Australia, have indicated they will not participate.
The boycott is the result of an intense campaign by Israel, which has branded the meeting “anti-Semitic” even before it could get off the ground.
Still, an overwhelming majority of the UN’s 193 member states — along with dozens of human rights activists and organizations — are expected to actively participate in the meeting, scheduled to take place on 22 September during the 66th session of the UN’s General Assembly.
The Israeli government has objected to the meeting, which will mark the tenth anniversary of the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) on racism, primarily on the grounds that it may single out Israel for criticism for its discriminatory practices against Palestinians.
A mass pro-Israel rally against the high-level meeting and efforts by thePalestinian Authority to secure international recognition of a Palestinian state is to take place outside the United Nations on 21 September.
Joseph E. Macmanus, acting assistant secretary for legislative affairs at theUS State Department, has said that the United States will not participate in what he called “the Durban Commemoration” meeting.
Last December, the US voted against the resolution establishing this event because “the Durban process included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we did not want to see that commemorated,” he said.
Right-wing governments back Israel
Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies in the Department of History at Columbia University, said it is not surprising that Israel should have been supported by the governments of Italy, the Netherlands, Canada and the Czech Republic, all of them right-wing and all hostile to Palestinian aspirations, in opposing an effort to commemorate a landmark event in the global struggle against racism.
The incessant effort to smear the Durban conference by Israel and its allies is intended to distract attention from the systematic legalized discrimination which is inherent not only in the 44-year old occupation of the territories seized in 1967, but also in Israel’s treatment of 20 percent of its own citizens who constitute the Arab minority,” he added.
The upcoming meeting, also called Durban III, is the third review conference of the Durban Declaration, the second (Durban II) being held in Geneva in 2009.
Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s deputy representative at its office at the United Nations, said, “We of course hope all governments will take part in Durban III and renew their efforts to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action [DDPA].”
She said true conviction in combating racism requires governments to be there, to stand up for what’s right, and to reject forcefully what’s objectionable.
Governments need to demonstrate that, in spite of any political controversy around the commemoration, they’ll remain committed to combating racism, including commitment to the DDPA,” she declared.
Special hostility for Israel?
Chris Toensing, executive director and editor of the Washington-based Middle East Report, said that Israel’s objection, as usual, will be that Israel is singled out for criticism in the Durban Declaration in a way that smacks of special hostility for Israel among the drafters and, by extension, the UNGeneral Assembly.
He said Israel will not dispute the specific charge in the declaration, namely that Palestinians are under “foreign occupation” and therefore are denied many basic national and human rights.
So the objection is a diversionary tactic meant to shift attention away from Israel’s policies,” he said.
That said, he pointed out, it is true the declaration does not name another specific location of race-based discrimination in the contemporary world.
At the least, the drafters made a tactical error here, if their intent was to help the Palestinian cause, because Israel’s objection is technically sound, he added.
The Holocaust is the only specific example of genocide listed in the declaration, appearing after enslavement of Africans and colonialism as historical evils that the declaration seeks to redress.
Though one might argue that the Holocaust, in scale and mechanisation, should indeed be considered sui generis, in the context of the declaration, the mention of the Holocaust appears to be an attempt to ‘balance’ the mention of Palestinian suffering,” said Toensing.
By the same token, he argued, it is not clear why anti-Semitism or Islamophobia should be given specific mention, when there are so many other specific types of racial-religious prejudice in today’s world.
In a letter to New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Macmanus of the State Department said: “We share your concern about the Durban commemoration’s timing and venue as just days earlier, we will have held solemn ten-year memorials for those murdered in the September 11 terrorist attacks.”
In 2009, after working to try to achieve a positive, constructive outcome in the Durban Review Conference [Durban II], “we withdrew from participating because the conference reaffirmed the original 2001 Durban Declaration, which unfairly singled out Israel and included language inconsistent with UStraditions of robust free speech.”
All rights reserved, IPS - Inter Press Service (2011). Total or partial publication, retransmission or sale forbidden.