All posts tagged statehood

A Wave of Palestinian Activism

Protesters wave Palestinian flags in Bil’in / Dylan Collins

On 29 November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voiced resounding approval for a resolution that upgraded the Palestinian Authority to the status of observer state, recognizing its sovereignty within the 1967 borders: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem as its capital.

The following day little changed: Israeli institutions in the occupied territories remained unscathed, including the winding strings of heavily-populated Jewish settlements, military checkpoints strategically dotted across the map, the several hundred kilometer long separation wall, and a number of segregated highways.

Israeli officials reacted by announcing 3,000 new settlement units in the keystone E1 area of the West Bank. In the face of international criticism, PM Benyamin Netanyahu defiantly vowed to press on.  “Today we are building and we will continue to build in Jerusalem and in all areas that are on the map of the strategic interests of the State of Israel,” he told a weekly cabinet meeting on 2 December.

Tensions continue to rise as Israeli military forces have enacted a harsh crackdown in the West Bank, launching sweeping arrest campaigns. As of February, Addameer Prisoner Support Network documents that 4,812 Palestinians were being detained in Israeli prisons, 219 of which were children and 178 of which were being held in administrative detention without trial or charge. Since November, the total number of prisoners increased by 282, including 55 additional children and 22 more administrative detainees.

Additionally, at least seven Palestinians died at the hands of Israel thus far this year. According to Israeli NGO BTselem, five unarmed Palestinians were shot and killed by the Israeli military in January alone. The latest, 23-year-old Mohammed Asfour, died on 7 March as a result of being “shot in the head with a rubber-coated metal bullet” two weeks earlier.

In the face of these steadily intensifying challenges, Palestinian activists in the West Bank have in turn responded by accelerating several creative forms of direct action that have belatedly gained attention in recent years.

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Six Questions for Dr. Hanan Ashrawi

Hanan Ashrawi / Wikimedia Commons

I sat down with Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, at her Ramallah office. We shared a plate of “healthy stuff,” fresh fruits and vegetables — in contrast to the cigarette smoke-filled rooms of the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters, the Muqata — and discussed the PLO’s strategies for 2012.

1. You were in Cairo three weeks ago for Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks. How are the unity talks being affected by the Quartet’s January 26 deadline?

Dr. Ashrawi: I don’t even think about it as a deadline, because I would hate to link our own internal domestic issues to what the Quartet says. Frankly speaking, the Quartet hasn’t been doing anything. It’s just all show and no substance; all talk and no action. And I don’t see why we should adopt their deadlines knowing that they’re not doing anything, and all they’re doing is asking us to negotiate. And they should know better because they are seeing what’s happening on the ground…. We don’t have anything against talks. But we have something against talks that are used for a pretext to provide Israel with cover — legal cover, protection, and time to destroy the two-state solution…. Now either they rectify the negotiations, the so-called process, or we look for something else.

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Five comments on Palestine joining UNESCO

So the UNESCO’s general conference has voted to admit Palestine as a member. The U.S. government has made good on its Congressionally-mandated commitment to withhold its dues payments to UNESCO. Israel has come up with a cute PR line (UNESCO is supposed to be about science, not science fiction), Europe is hopelessly split — oh, and the Palestinian territories are still occupied.

Nevertheless, there are a few signposts for what might be coming down the pike worth paying attention to after today’s vote:

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Letter to President Abbas

I write this letter on the eve of your request for full UN membership. I feel compelled to express my support, not as a Palestinian sympathizer or as a pro-Israel supporter, not even as a political scientist, but as an average human being that knows the difference between right and wrong, integrity and hypocrisy,morality and national interests.

I have been following your government’s PR campaign for weeks, if not months now. Your conflict with the Israelis has been an endless source of professional and personal interest to me.

I can imagine the tremendous amount of pressure you are under at the moment; taking on the most powerful state in the world cannot be easy. Even if you knew ahead of time what the general tone of the president’s speech at the UN General Assembly would be, it could not have made you feel good to hear that on the one hand, the U.S. supports the uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Egypt, and on the other hand, your pursuit for a UN seat is somehow unworthy of American support.

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"If they can get what they want without concessions, why negotiate?"

Presidential hopeful Rick Perry asks a great question, “If they [Palestinians] perceive they can get what they want from the U.N. without making any concessions why should they negotiate with Israel?

It is a great question.  But let’s take a more balanced look at it.  If Israel can get what it wants— land, water, and prevention of violent attacks— by delaying any real compromise, why should it negotiate with the Christian and Muslim families of Palestine? 

It seems that Israeli leaders have figured out that they can achieve security and control of the natural resources of Palestine through settlements, separations walls, and disproportionate violence, so why should Israel even consider serious negotiations—negotiations that would address the right of return of Christian and Muslim Palestinian families who were violently expelled from their homes and villages in 1948, negotiations that would demand equal treatment of Jews, Christians and Muslims—with Palestinian leaders. 

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