December 26, 2012 by Ramzy Baroud
It must have been 2007, although I cannot remember the exact date. I do recall getting lost in what seemed like a futile search for the headquarters of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Rome. There was a meeting of NGOs and some General Assembly body, consisting of several UN ambassadors, dedicated to the ‘Question of Palestine’. I was asked to attend on behalf of one NGO. Timidly, I agreed.
Knowing in advance how such meetings often conclude – reiterating old statements, rehashing old text, reaffirming this and reasserting that – I still attended. The subject of the discussion was the Palestinian refugees, who, for most Palestinians, aside from Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, still represent the core of any just solution to a decades-long Palestinian struggle for freedom and rights. I was compelled by a greater sense of urgency than the need to restate and reconfirm official UN text. A few days earlier in London, I had received a worrying call.
The caller was a young Palestinian man named Hossam who was stranded at the Jordan-Iraq border. Two of his brothers had been killed in Iraq in recent months. One was executed in the Baladiat neighborhood in Baghdad, which then hosted mostly Palestinian refugees. The other was killed by US forces.
December 10, 2012 by Thomas Hauschildt
“Yes, the occupation will continue, the settlements will continue, the crimes of the settlers may continue, but there will be consequences.”
– Saeb Erekat, Palestinian negotiator.
To the delight of many states and the dismay and indignation of some, Palestine has made a step forward on the international stage. Last week, the UN General Assembly accepted the request which granted Palestine the status of a “non-member observer State”. Palestine’s role at the UN will not undergo a drastic change, but the International Criminal Court might be mentioned more often in the future when we read about the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Palestine is now eligible to sign the Rome Statute of the ICC with possible consequences for Israel. These consequences might appear in the form of Palestinian demands to investigate and prosecute alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes conducted by Israel.
Palestine recognized the ICC’s jurisdiction already in 2009, albeit unsuccessfully as the ICC rejected the unilateral declaration on the grounds that Palestine does not fulfill the basic prerequisite of being a state. Importantly, the ICC claimed that in the case of a dispute about the question whether an applicant does meet the requirements attributed to statehood, the UN Secretary General, who receives the instrument of accession, would follow the advice of the UN General Assembly. The Assembly has now spoken and decided in favor of Palestine. The ICC was established by the Rome Statute and is tasked to hold individuals accountable for crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, aggression, and genocide. Palestine is likely to address crimes on its territory such as forced displacement and persecution. Israel, which is not a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, would struggle to justify these alleged crimes as military necessity.
December 6, 2012 by Ramzy Baroud
Palestine has become a “non-member state” at the United Nations as of Thursday November 29, 2012. The draft of the UN resolution beckoning what many perceive as a historic moment passed with an overwhelming majority of General Assembly members: 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions.
It was accompanied by a passionate speech delivered by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. But decades earlier, a more impressive and animated Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat sought international solidarity as well. The occasion then was also termed ‘historic’.
November 15, 2012 by Daniel Donovan
The latest news coming out of Israel has revealed that the Israeli Foreign Ministry has proposed “toppling” President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority should Palestine’s bid for UN non-member observer status be approved when it is put to the General Assembly on November 29th.
Palestine is seeking non-member status with the United Nations as a step towards creating an independent Palestinian state, adhering to the pre-1967 Six Day War boundaries. This proposed area would include the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem—which would also serve as its capital.
November 9, 2012 by Ramzy Baroud
In Malaysia, a small group of community activists are busy at work developing projects that benefit most vulnerable members of Palestinian society in Gaza. Working under the umbrella of Viva Palestina Malaysia (VPM), the group shows solidarity through empowerment projects: interest free loans for micro projects, providing employment for women, supplying thousands of solar lamps aimed at ending the persistent darkness for many families, and more.
The overall value of the combined efforts of VPM is important, because it is long-lasting. But equally important, the channeled funds are not part of a political scheme nor are aimed to exact concession. This can hardly be said of much of the relationship between Palestinian leadership and society, and outside funds, which began pouring in, with a clear political manual that has been dutifully followed by those who provide the funds and those who receive them.
That relationship was once more a subject of scurrility and discussion following the recent visit by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, emir of Qatar to Gaza, which has been under an Israeli siege soon following Hamas’ victory in the general elections in 2006. The siege became complete in 2007, when Hamas clashed with its rival Fatah, perceived by Israel and the US as ‘moderate’.
November 2, 2012 by Ramzy Baroud
Apparently, ‘popular resistance’ has suddenly elevated to become a clash of visions or strategies between the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and its rivals in Gaza, underscoring an existing and deepening rift between various factions and leaderships. Addressing a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) meeting in Ramallah on July 2011, PA President Mahmoud Abbas sounded as if he had finally reached an earth shattering conclusion, supposedly inspired by the ‘Arab Spring.’ “In this coming period, we want mass action, organized and coordinated in every place…This is a chance to raise our voices in front of the world and say that we want our rights.” He called on Palestinians to wage “popular resistance”, insisting that it must be “unarmed popular resistance so that nobody misunderstands us,” (Reuters). He made a similar call at the UN General Assembly in September.
It was Abbas’ way of escaping forward. He needed to quell the mounting anger and resentment of his lacking leadership. His message targeted and continues to be aimed at dual audiences: Palestinians, thus the word “resistance” and international, thus ‘non-violence’ and “so that nobody misunderstand us.”
July 3, 2012 by Ramzy Baroud
Will the Arab Spring serve the cause of Palestine?” is a question that has been repeatedly asked, in various ways, over the last year and a half. Many media discussions have been formulated around this very inquiry, although the answer is far from a simple “yes” or “no.”
Why should the question be asked in the first place? Hasn’t the Arab link to the Palestinian struggle been consistently strong, regardless of the prevalent form of government in any single Arab country? Rhetorically, at least, the Arab bond to Palestine remained incessantly strong at every significant historical turn.
June 27, 2012 by Ramzy Baroud
When Lebanese security reportedly killed 18-year-old Ahmad al-Qasim over a documentation dispute in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, the camp’s Palestinian refugee population erupted in anger and dismay.
Within a few days of the June 15 incident, the outrage had spread and more refugees were killed. Fouad Muhi’edeen Lubany was killed on June 18, as a crowd of mourning refugees attempted to bury the first victim of Nahr al-Bared, near Tripoli in the north. Another victim of the violence was Khaled al-Youssef, who was shot in Ein al-Hilweh refugee camp, near Saida, about 30 miles south of Beirut. More Palestinians were reportedly injured, along with three Lebanese security officers.
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon exist on the margins of a larger political question concerning the country’s irreconcilable sectarian, factional and familial divides. This makes it somewhat difficult to place the tragedy of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon within a single political context. Lebanon’s enduring conflicts and political alliances are in a constant state of flux. So when such events concerning Palestinian refugees in Lebanon take place, the issue becomes almost entirely hostage to political considerations and hyped factional sensitivities. Instead of attempting to uncover the best way to tackle the underpinnings of such dramas, or examining the relationship between economic, social and other forms of alienations and political violence, the priority repeatedly revolves around trying to cover the festering problem.
June 12, 2012 by Ben Campbell
Obama displayed an exceptional ability to inspire confidence in his promises during the 2008 campaign. One such promise was his pledge to actively pursue a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians—an issue he did not shy away from on the campaign trail. Although Obama implemented an assertive and logical plan to resolve the conflict early in his presidency (something his predecessors avoided), the administration’s policies and diplomatic efforts have proven strikingly unsuccessful.
What happened over the past three and a half years, and why did a well-intentioned and forthright policy go wrong?
November 28, 2011 by Scott Firsing
In a schoolyard battle, which kid always wins? The one with the biggest friends, of course. After picking up my daughter from school and observing the interaction of the children, it occurred to me that Palestine’s activities at the United Nations (UN) have become like a schoolyard fight between three three-year-olds; Palestine and Israel on their respective sides, the US in the middle.
It was reported weeks ago that Palestine would no longer be seeking full UN membership. This is after a draft report by a key UN Security Council committee revealed that members have not been able to reach consensus on whether the Palestinians’ UN statehood bid should be accepted.
November 3, 2011 by Jo Coghlan
UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has a number of objectives including: attaining education for all; mobilising science knowledge and policy for sustainable development; addressing emerging social and ethical challenges; fostering cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and a culture of peace; and building inclusive knowledge societies through information and communication.
It can now add state making to its list of objectives. As it has been reported: A state which doesn’t officially exist was granted membership of a UN body.” UNESCO voted 107 votes to 14 (with 52 abstentions) to admit Palestine as the 195th member state to U.N organisation. Because Palestine is not a member of the U.N. – it is not in fact a state – admission to UNESCO required a recommendation by the Organization’s Executive Board and a two thirds majority vote in favour by the General Conference of Member States present and voting (abstentions are not considered as votes).
October 13, 2011 by Richard Javad Heydarian
With the Arab uprisings gradually reconfiguring the regional political landscape, Israel is finding itself increasingly isolated. For at least a decade, Israel has identified Iran as its main strategic nemesis, but the Arab spring has rekindled simmering tensions between Israel on one hand, and Arab states as well as Turkey on the other.
The ongoing conflict within Syria could also jeopardize the implicit modus vivendi between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Israel, paving the way for a potential conflict in the future. The whole Arab landscape has actually shifted: the Hezbollah faction is playing a central role in Lebanese politics; the Egyptian public is demanding a reassessment of the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty; and the Jordanian government is facing growing domestic political pressure. Israel is grappling with a totally new emerging regional order.
September 23, 2011 by Esam Al-Amin
Today, September 23, Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas submits to the UN the application for Palestinian statehood for the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967. What are the implications of this effort? Does it serve the Palestinian cause? And why do Israel and the U.S. oppose this action? What’s the alternative?
Paradoxically, this month marks the eighteenth anniversary of when Abbas stood alongside Bill Clinton, Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn in a ceremony celebrating the signing of the Oslo Accords.
September 22, 2011 by Ramzy Baroud
When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decided to go to the United Nations to request the admission of Palestine as a full member, he appeared to have had an epiphany. Had he finally realized that for the past two decades he and his party, Fatah, have gone down a road to nowhere? That Israel was only interested in him as a conduit to achieve its colonial endeavor in the remaining 22 percent of historical Palestine? That his national project – predicated on the ever elusive ‘peace process’ – achieved neither peace nor justice?
September 21, 2011 by John Lyman
President Obama is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday in New York in a continuing bid to dissuade him from pressing ahead with U.N. recognition for a Palestinian state later in the week at the United Nations. Obama is already scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the historic vote. However, the vote could be delayed for weeks, according to reporting by Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.