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News from Palestine: Erekat quits over Palestine Papers

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  • Zafar Khan
    Erekat quits over Palestine Papers Chief Palestinian negotiator resigns, saying source of Al Jazeera s revelations was in his own office. Last Modified: 13 Feb
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 13, 2011
      Erekat quits over Palestine Papers
      Chief Palestinian negotiator resigns, saying source of Al Jazeera's revelations was in his own office.
      Last Modified: 13 Feb 2011 01:56 GMT


      Saeb Erekat, the Palestine Liberation Organisation's chief negotiator, has resigned from his post, after it emerged that the source of the Palestine Papers leak was in his own office.

      The decision was announced on Saturday, at the same time as a Palestinian Authority (PA) official announced that the body would be holding presidential and legislative elections before September this year.

      Erekat said his resignation came as a result of an internal investigation into the Palestine Papers, a set of leaked documents that was released by Al Jazeera.

      Erekat, who has retained his position in the PLO's executive committee, said the investigation showed that the papers were leaked from the Negotiations Support Unit, which he heads.

      Earlier, he had said he would bear all responsibility if any security breach was found in his office.

      Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, welcomed the resignation, saying that negotiations led by Erekat had not been "in the national interest".

      Al Jazeera's Cal Perry in Ramallah said that there was a feeling among Palestinians that the peace process was at an impasse.

      "There is clearly a feeling here on the ground that the peace process has broken down, that there is no more point in negotiating unless the Israelis are willing to bring more to the table," he said.

      On the matter of Erekat's successor, he said that his sources were saying "there's no point. Why would we have a chief negotiator if there are no negotiations?"

      Hanan Ashrawi, who is on the PLO's Executive Committee, told Al Jazeera that the peace talks were in trouble long before the Palestine Papers were released.

      "There has not been a [peace] process. There have been sporadic attempts by the Americans to replace substance and objectives with negotiations, as though that was the end.

      "We said no to that; either you make Israel comply to the freeze and stop all settlements and you articulate the objectives and the terms of reference [of the negotiations] with in a specific time frame, or there is no use of entering into an endless process which Israel exploits in order to create facts on the ground and to annex East Jerusalem," Ashrawi said.

      Elections called

      The news of Erekat's resignation almost overshadowed the PA's election announcement.

      "The Palestinian leadership decided to hold presidential and legislative elections before September," Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior aide to Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president, said.

      Rabbo said the PA was urging all sides to "put their differences aside", in a reference to the West Bank-based government's rival Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip.

      Hamas has rejected the call for elections.

      "They cannot do an election in the West Bank, leaving Gaza. Without internal Palestinian reconciliation, nothing can happen here or there. The people who are supporting Hamas in the West Bank are representing the majority of the Palestinian people, and they will not participate," Hamas' Zahar told Al Jazeera.

      "Hamas will not take part in this election. We will not give it legitimacy. And we will not recognise the results," Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, told the Reuters news agency.

      He termed the process "invalid", saying that Abbas had "no legitimacy and is not fit to organise such elections".

      Members of the PLO executive committee said they saw the elections as an opportunity to end divisions.

      Bassam Salhi, a member of the Palestinian People's Party, said that whoever gains a majority after the elections will be empowered to make decisions on unresolved issues, including security.

      Al Jazeera's Perry said there was "hope [that] by September they can mend those bridges and go forward with the elections".

      He added, however, that even local elections that were due to be held on July 9th were currently shrouded in uncertainty, as Hamas does not believe that those polls will be free and fair.

      Erekat's 'responsibility'

      Announcing his resignation on Saturday, Erekat said that he was assuming "responsibility for the theft of [the] documents from his office", which he claimed had been "deliberately" tampered with.

      Last month, Erekat accused Al Jazeera of taking part in a campaign to overthrow the PA after more than 1,600 confidential files on the negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli officials were made public by the network.

      The documents, shared by Al Jazeera with the UK's Guardian newspaper, exposed concessions to Israel in 10 years of secret peace talks, embarrassing and angering the PA leadership.

      At the time, Erekat accused Al Jazeera of attempting to discredit the peace process and provoke people into "a revolution against their leaders in order to bring down the Palestinian political system".

      He insisted that the PA's position on Jerusalem, refugees and borders during peace negotiations was based on internationally recognised principles.

      Responding to news of the resignation, PJ Crowley, the US state department's spokesman, said the matter was an internal Palestinian issue, and that the US would continue to work with the PLO.

      "Our objective remains the same: to seek a framework agreement on the core issues and to achieve a two-state solution," he said.

      Erekat finally hits the mark
      By Teymoor Nabili in
      Middle East
      on January 27th, 2011.


      fter days of furiously shooting the messenger, (in truth, simply making public a privately held belief), the Palestinian Authority may, finally, be seeing the real value of the Palestinian Papers.

      Talking to the Guardian, Saeb Erekat nails the key issue:

      "What should be taken from these documents is that Palestinian negotiators have consistently come to the table in complete seriousness and in good faith, and that we have only been met by rejection on the other end,"

      No denying there are still serious questions to be asked about the whole process and the way the PA has dealt with the negotiations, (and indeed with their own constituents,) but the bottom line is surely this:

      "Conventional wisdom, supported by the press, has allowed Israel to promote the idea that it has always lacked a partner. If it has not been before, it should now be painfully obvious that the very opposite is true. It is Palestinians who have lacked, and who continue to lack, a serious partner for peace."

      Until now, the media has uniformly interpreted these papers as evidence of failure on the Palestinian side; perhaps that focus might now switch to what the paper's reveal about Israel's role in all of this.

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      Israel demolishes homes and classroom in West Bank village
      Children taught outdoors after bulldozers reduce unauthorised buildings to rubble


      In a bleak but beautiful landscape of undulating stony hills I watched a group of Palestinian schoolchildren take their lessons yesterday in the open air next to a heap of rubble that, until this week, was their classroom.

      This is the village of Dkaika, about as far south in the West Bank as you can get. It's a community of around 300 people, without electricity or running water, whose days are spent tending their herds of goats and sheep and trying not to attract the attention of nearby Jewish settlers.

      On Wednesday, at about 7.30am, a convoy of military vehicles and bulldozers arrived to tear down 16 homes, an animal pen, a store and one of the village school's classrooms. All were subject to demolition orders, granted because the structures were built without permission, which is almost impossible for Palestinians to get around here. Dkaika is in Area C, under full Israeli military and civil control, which accounts for 60% of the West Bank.

      At the time there were dozens of children inside the school. The soldiers tried to prevent the its three teachers from entering the building. Sulaima Najadah, 38, who has taught English at the school since last September, told me that he sneaked in to reassure the crying children.

      "I was in this class," he said, pointing to the pile of twisted metal and masonry. "The soldiers took us out by force."

      The teachers were handcuffed and blindfolded in front of their pupils before the bulldozers moved in. One girl, Mariam Odeh, 13, said she had been afraid the classroom would be demolished over their heads.

      Twelve-year-old Nayfeh Ka'abneh lost her home as well as her classroom. That night she slept in a tent. "It wasn't comfortable," she said, shyly twisting the ends of her headscarf. "We want to rebuild our home."

      In another tent, with a rug laid over bare stony ground and a small fire burning in a corner, Fida Najada, 24, said she had no money to reconstruct her home. Her husband, who was tending herds far from the village, did not yet know it had been demolished. Pregnant and with a small boy clinging to her legs, Najada had no idea how long she would have to live under canvas.

      Between 50 and 60 people were made homeless by Wednesday's demolitions, adding to the 478 - many of them children - displaced in Area C in 2010, according to figures from the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The number for the previous year was 319.

      Residents had believed the demolition orders were on hold while a plan to regularise the village was considered by the Israeli authorities.

      They did not deny that buildings were erected without permission. Palestinian building is rarely approved in Area C, in contrast to permits for settlement expansion.

      The area has been inhabited by Palestinians since the Ottoman era, locals said. Its population swelled when families moved across the Green Line from the Negev after the war in 1948.

      A spokesman for the Israeli military told me yesterday afternoon he would make inquiries about the demolitions. I will post any comment from the IDF on the thread below when it comes through.

      Hopes of Gaza cast in lead
      Israel is gearing up for another major offensive into Gaza, yet the world community still remains bafflingly silent.
      Richard Falk Last Modified: 04 Jan 2011 14:11 GMT


      It is dismaying that during this dark anniversary period two years after the launch of the deadly attacks on the people of Gaza - code-named Operation Cast Lead by the Israelis - that there should be warnings of a new massive attack on the beleaguered people of Gaza.

      The influential Israeli journalist, Ron Ren-Yishai, writes on December 29, 2010, of the likely prospect of a new major IDF attack, quoting senior Israeli military officers as saying "It's not a question of if, but rather of when," a view that that is shared, according to Ren-Yishai, by "government ministers, Knesset members and municipal heads in the Gaza region".

      The bloody-minded Israeli Chief of Staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi, reinforces this expectation by his recent assertion that, "as long as Gilad Shalit is still in captivity, the mission is not complete". He adds with unconscious irony, "we have not lost our right of self-defence".

      More accurate would be the assertion, "we have not given up our right to wage aggressive war or to commit crimes against humanity".

      And what of the more than 10,000 Palestinians, including children under the age of 10, being held in Israeli prisons throughout occupied Palestine?

      Red herrings

      Against this background, the escalation of violence along the Gaza/Israel border should set off alarm bells around the world and at the United Nations.

      Israel in recent days has been launching severe air strikes against targets within the Gaza Strip, including near the civilian-crowded refugee camp of Khan Younis, killing several Palestinians and wounding others.

      Supposedly, these attacks are in retaliation for nine mortar shells that fell on open territory, causing neither damage nor injury. Israel also had been using lethal force against children from Gaza, who were collecting gravel from the buffer zone for the repair of their homes.

      As usual, the Israeli security pretext lacks credibility. As if ever there was an occasion for firing warning shots in the air, it was here, especially as the border has been essentially quiet in the last couple of years, and what occasional harmless rockets or mortar shells have been fired, has taken place in defiance of the Hamas effort to prevent providing Israel with any grounds for the use of force.

      Revealingly, in typical distortion, the Gaza situation is portrayed by Ashkenazi as presenting a pre-war scenario: "We will not allow a situation in which they fire rockets at our citizens and towns from 'safe havens' amid [their] civilians."

      With Orwellian precision, the reality is quite the reverse: Israel from its safe haven continuously attacks with an intent to kill a defenceless, entrapped Gazan civilian population.

      Silence is complicity

      Perhaps, worse in some respects than this Israeli war-mongering, is the stunning silence of the governments of the world, and of the United Nations.

      World public opinion was briefly shocked by the spectacle of a one-sided war that marked Operation Cast Lead as a massive crime against humanity, but it has taken no notice of this recent unspeakable escalation of threats and provocations seemingly designed to set the stage for a new Israeli attack on the hapless Gazan population.

      This silence in the face of the accumulating evidence that Israel plans to launch Operation Cast Lead 2 is a devastating form of criminal complicity at the highest governmental levels, especially on the part of countries that have been closely aligned with Israel, and also exhibits the moral bankruptcy of the United Nations system.

      We have witnessed the carnage of 'preemptive war' and 'preventive war' in Iraq, but we have yet to explore the moral and political imperatives of 'preemptive peace' and 'preventive peace.' How long must the peoples of the world wait?

      It might be well to recall the words of one anonymous Gazan that were uttered in reaction to the attacks of two years ago: "While Israeli armed forces were bombing my neighbourhood, the UN, the EU, and the Arab League and the international community remained silent in the face of atrocities. Hundreds of corpses of children and women failed to convince them to intervene."

      International liberal public opinion enthuses about the new global norm of 'responsibility to protect,' but not a hint that if such an idea is to have any credibility it should be applied to Gaza with a sense of urgency where the population has been living under a cruel blockade for more than three years and is now facing new grave dangers.

      And even after the commission of the atrocities of 2008-09 have been authenticated over and over by the Goldstone Report, by an exhaustive report issued by the Arab League, by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, there is no expectation of Israeli accountability, and the United States effectively uses its diplomatic muscle to bury the issue, encouraging forgetfulness in collaboration with the media.


      It is only civil society that has offered responses appropriate to the moral, legal, and political situation. Whether these responses can achieve their goals, only the future will tell.

      The Free Gaza Movement and the Freedom Flotilla have challenged the blockade more effectively than the UN or governments, leading Israel to retreat, at least rhetorically, claiming to lift the blockade with respect to the entry of humanitarian goods and reconstruction materials.

      Of course, the behavioural truth contradicts the Israeli rhetoric: sufficient supplies of basic necessities are still not being allowed to enter Gaza; the water and sewage systems are seriously crippled; there is not enough fuel available to maintain adequate electric power; and the damage from Operation Cast Lead remains, causing a desperate housing crisis (more than 100,000 units are needed just to move people from tents).

      Also, most students are not allowed to leave Gaza to take advantage of foreign educational opportunities, and the population lives in a locked-in space that is constantly being threatened with violence, night and day.

      This portrayal of Gaza is hardly a welcoming prospect for the year 2011. At the same time the spirit of the people living in Gaza should not be underestimated.

      I have met Gazans, especially young people, who could be weighed down by the suffering their lives have brought them and their families since their birth, and yet they possess a positive sense of life and its potential, and make every use of any opportunity that comes their way, minimising their problems and expressing warmth toward more fortunate others and enthusiasm about their hopes for their future.

      I have found such contact inspirational, and it strengthen my resolve and sense of responsibility: these proud people must be liberated from the oppressive circumstances that constantly imprisons, threatens, impoverishes, sickens, traumatises, maims, kills.

      Until this happens, none of us should sleep too comfortably!

      Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).

      He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.

      The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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