zaterdag 3 oktober 2009

Palestinians and Americans both help Israel to bury its crimes and continue the occupation with impunity

Handshake before a largely ceremonious meeting.

It is really unbelievable to what length the Palestinian Authority of Abu Mazen is prepared to forego on Palestinian rights and pinciples. Less than two weeks after Abu Mazen dropped his demand that Israel freeze its building program in the settlements and Jerusalem and agrees to a largely ceremonial meeting in New York with Obama and Netanyahu, the same Palestinian Authority (or PLO, what is about the same at this moment) drops its backing for a resolution that would have opened the possibility that Israel for the first time in its history would have faced international pressure to account for its numerous violations of human rights like in Gaza.
No voting on this resolution in the UN Human Rights Council almost certainly means no action on the Goldstone report and no Israeli accountability. And no accountability means impunity and impunity means continuation of Israeli policy on the same footing. Talk about postponement of voting procedures untill March are just 'kalam fadi' as the Egyptians say, idle talk. Small wonder that the PA's conduct drew sharp criticism of people and organizations like Mustapha Barghouti of the palestinian Initiative, the Palestinian Communists, the PFLP and a spokesman for the Hamas-government in Gaza who called it 'a betrayal of the Palestinian cause'. Also all Palestinian human rights organizations issued a common statement under the title 'Justice delayed is justice denied'in which they called the PA's decesion 'an insult of the Palestinian people'.

In the meantime it seems as if he PA, shocked by the responses, tries to undo some of the effects. Abu Mazen's right hand man, At-Tayeb Abdel-Rahman (picture) Friday, out of the blue, made a statement that the PA still does demand that Israel freezes its building in the settlements. Abbas himself made a rather ridiculous claim, during a reception for the 18 women that Israel set free in exchange for a video the Hamas released of the captured sergeant Gilad Shalit, that 'efforts will continue to get more prisoners free', although everybody knew that the PA played no role in this exchange (it seems to have been German mediation).
And then there was also Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah who went as far as denying that the Palestinian Authority had dropped its support for the Goldstone report. He said the postponement of the vote came 'after a request from Russia, the United States, and Europe, in a move that was welcomed by other parties at the UN Human Rights Council." Also Saeb Erakat, top negotiator of the PLO, had denied on Thrusday that there was any change in the Palestinian position. Both Abu Rudeinah and Erakat failed, however, to explain why the PLO's ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim Khraishi, was quoted on Thursday night as saying that "we decided to defer the matter" when asked by reporters that he was planning such a move.

All reports point in the direction of American pressure as the main reason for the unbelievable Palestinian move. And for sure the Americans were instrumental, as was to be expected from the moment that Susan Rice, the US-ambassador at the UN expressed her 'serious concerns' about the 'unbalanced' Goldstone report and other US-officials uttered concerns for 'the peace process'. What we don't know is what kind of pressure Israel applied, although we do know as the Electronic Intifada's Ali Abunimah points out, (and I also mentioned yesterday) that possibly Israeli threats concerning a new telephone provider played a role. According to Haaretz there was a deadline for the start of this company, Wataniya (see logo) on 15 October and if that was going to be missed, the PA would contractually have had to repay $ 300 million in investments that had already been made. Haaretz (quoted here by me) and The Independent of 1 October both mentioned Israeli threats that Israel would not relinquish band width for the company, unless the PA withdrew its backing for a resolution on the Goldstone report in the UN Human Rights Council, something that Nabil Shaath, the PLO's 'minister of Foreign Affairs' called 'blackmail' only one day before the PLO withdrew its backking for the resolution.
Abunimah adds that Wataniya 'was described last April by Reuters as an "Abbas-backed company" which meant that it is a joint venture between Qatari and Kuwaiti investors and the Palestinian Investment Fund with which one of Abbas' sons is closely involved. Moreover, Reuters revealed that the start-up company apparently had no shortage of capital due to the Gulf investors receiving millions of dollars of "US aid in the form of loan guarantees meant for Palestinian farmers and other small to mid-sized businesses" (See "US aid goes to Abbas-backed Palestinian phone venture," Reuters, 24 April 2009).

Whatever the reason, this is what Abunimah has to say about Abu Mazen and his collegues - to which I have nothing to add:
'The PA's betrayal of the Palestinian people over the Goldstone report, as well as its continued "security coordination" with Israel to suppress resistance and political activity in the West Bank, should banish all doubt that it is an active arm of the Israeli occupation doing tangible and escalating harm to the Palestinian people and their just cause.'

This been said, there remains one culprit about whom as it seems sofar not too many people have made comments. And that is president Obama, who in his Cairo speech on 4 June among a lot of promises about changing and improving the way the US handles its relations with the muslim world, also vowed to work hard to end the injustices of which the Palestinians are suffering. It is difficult to see how he is going follow up on this promise if he constantly backs away from applying even the flimsiest pressure on Israel. No settlement freeze, no support for Goldstone's suggestion to pressurize the Israelis to start a serious inquiry into the conduct of the Gaza-war themselves, no green light for the Palestinians to take action.... It seems that Netanyahu can have his way with this American administration as pleases him.
Would Obama really, seriously believe that he could ever achieve anything at all by furthering negotiations between two parties who are so notoriously unequal in power as the Israelis and Palestinians, if he sticks to this attitude? I think that he is far too intelligent for that. Which makes it even more alarming. Is it just lack of experience in handling his (pro-Israeli) staff, wariness for possible (electoral) consequences if he takes a tougher stand, or the same hesitancy and trouble with making the decisive moves at the right time that seems to bedevil him in the case of the health insurance file? Who knows, but extremely worrysome it is.

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