Will unity of Palestinian parties survive hurdles and external meddling?

Palestine Updates 13/2017

Editorial Comment

In the midst of events and further attacks from Israel, a few things stand out. The Vatican now has an Embassy of Palestine in the Vatican. The call for sanctions gets louder and spreads wider. And, the UN urges parties not to take unilateral actions.

On the ground, Palestinians stand determined to get as close to a normal life as is possible under all the restraints – “Soft Hands”, an exhibition held at the Stars Entertainment Centre by the beach in Gaza City, has been showcasing the traditional crafts and arts of the Palestinian people, many of whom rely on these traditional handicrafts to make a living and preserve their culture and identity.

Consistent with its political behaviour, Israel persists with more brutality. In Gaza the electricity crisis is a source of great hardship to over a million and a half Palestinians. The crisis has deepened in the past couple weeks. Residents now get power for just three to four hours out of every twenty-four. The reduced power supply is partly the result of the trouble that Gaza’s electric authority has in purchasing enough diesel over payment of fuel taxes imposed by Israel.

At the macro level, the main Palestinian parties have agreed to form a national unity government prior to the holding of elections, after three days of reconciliation talks in Moscow involving rival groups Fatah and Hamas. The agreement reached in Moscow has two components: holding a unifying Palestinian National Council that includes Hamas and other groups in the PLO, and forming a Palestinian unity government including all parties with representation in parliament.

The non-official talks in Moscow sought to restore the unity of the Palestinian people and representatives came from Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other factions. The last time the Palestinians staged elections in which both Hamas and Fatah took part was in 2006, when Hamas won the poll in Gaza.

“The new government would be responsible for reunification between the West Bank and Gaza, and preparing the grounds, hopefully within six months, to conduct elections,” says Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti. He admits: “One challenge is to overcome the factionalism that has unfortunately prevailed in the Palestinian community, and to hold the national interest above party interests…Secondly, there are some countries around us that would not like us to be unified, especially Israel, so we can be certain of external interventions and pressures, as has happened before, to try to prevent this agreement from being implemented.”

If the deal is implemented, it is unlikely to win the Palestinians any favours in Israel. It would be good from the Palestinian point of view though. But it would provide yet another excuse for Israel to not go to negotiations. Israel and the Quartet, including the United States, hold fast to their position that they won’t talk to Hamas till Hamas recognizes Israel and renounces the use of terror. Hamas is unlikely to oblige. The deal is not done and dusted as yet.

We conclude with a touching article by Jonathan Cook “Why Palestinian Children Throw Stones”? It is a must-read.

Please read and distribute.

Ranjan Solomon

Catholic Bishops visiting Holy Land: Christians must oppose Israeli settlements

Christians have a responsibility to oppose the construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, bishops from the US, Canada and Europe said. This was after a visit to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, where an Israeli blockade has made it difficult to get supplies for reconstruction of buildings destroyed by Israeli shelling. “This de facto annexation of land not only undermines the rights of Palestinians in areas such as Hebron and East Jerusalem but, as the UN recently recognized, also imperils the chance of peace,” said bishops who participated in the Holy Land Coordination this week.

“So many people in the Holy Land have spent their entire lives under occupation, with its polarising social segregation, yet still profess hope and strive for reconciliation. Now, more than ever, they deserve our solidarity,” said the statement, issued on Thursday at the end of the visit.

The statement was signed by representatives of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community and the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, as well as bishops from the United Kingdom and other European countries.
Read more on the catholic herald.

Pope Francis inaugurates Palestinian Embassy to Vatican
Pope Francis received Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Vatican and formally inaugurated the new Embassy of the State of Palestine to the Holy See. The new Palestinian embassy, said Abbas, “is a sign that the Pope loves the Palestinian people and peace.” The Vatican recognized the state of Palestine about a year and a half ago. Abbas also said that he hopes “other states will follow the Holy See’s example…We are proud to be the birthplace of Christianity and about having one of the oldest Christian communities in the world.”

The Holy See began referring to Palestine as a “state” as of November 2012, when the United Nations voted to recognize it as a nonmember observer state, but only formally recognized Palestinian statehood in a legal document in May of 2015. The Holy See established formal diplomatic relations with the State of Israel in 1993, and early the next year the Vatican set up a nunciature in Israel and an Israel established an embassy to the Holy See.

In his yearly address to the diplomatic corps over a week ago, Pope Francis launched an appeal for peace in the Middle East, specifically summoning “Israelis and Palestinians” to resume talks aimed at finding “a stable and enduring solution” to conflicts.
Read report and view video in Britebart website and Vatican sources

West won’t end Israeli-Palestinian conflict – Sanctions only feasible way out
Stephen Lendman, author and radio host says the EU and the US have shown that they are not serious to settle the conflict between Palestinians and the Israeli regime. “There is no chance in the world [because] the European Union (EU) won’t do anything, Trump won’t do anything and the conflict will go on for another four years,” he said. Trump has appointed two orthodox youths as his ambassador to Israel and chief negotiator, respectively, supporting unlimited settlement expansions, which means the prospect for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is zero.” According to the Lendman, the sole policy that can settle the conflict is imposing international sanctions against the Israeli regime in order to push it to end occupation of Palestine.
Read more on the press tv website

Palestinian justice student organization denied by Fordham University
A group of students that wanted to create a SPJ club was denied by Fordham University after the school had deliberated the group’s application for more than a year, subjugating the group’s application to intense scrutiny, including multiple reviews and hearings. The students representing the group expressed dismay at the school’s decision, saying that Fordham stifled free speech.

Palestine Legal, a nonprofit organization that gives legal advice for groups expressing support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, said the decision made by the university violates free speech and academic freedom. A university may lose its federal funding if it treats a student differently because of his/her national origin, resulting in a denial of a student’s educational activities,” the group said in a statement.
Read Middle Easy Eye report on the news

Gaza’s traditional handicrafts fight back 
“Soft Hands”, an exhibition held at the Stars Entertainment Centre by the beach in Gaza City, has been showcasing the traditional crafts and arts of the Palestinian people, many of whom rely on these traditional handicrafts to make a living and preserve their culture and identity.

Yara Al-Kafarneh, the exhibition’s coordinator and head of public relations, told MEMO that the exhibition aimed to promote a large segment of Gazan society, especially women looking to make a living in order to provide for their families. The exhibition is a place for them to exhibit their products and crafts, which vary from traditional embroidery, clothing, eastern and western foods, and also some imported clothing.

These exhibitions, along with other fairs that provide platforms for Gazans to showcase their crafts, are held to promote the culture of traditional Palestinian embroidery and arts. According to the organizers, these traditions are fighting to survive against Western notions of fashion and clothes that are currently predominant in Gazan society.
Read article and view pictures in the Middle East Monitor

Senior UN envoy cautions against ‘unilateral’ action in Middle East in UNSC

In his first briefing of the year, Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told the Council that tensions flared following the December adoption of resolution 2334 (2016). “In the aftermath of the vote, emotions on the ground have been heightened,” Mr. Mladenov said, adding that “divisive positions risk destroying the prospects for peace.”

“All stakeholders must avoid any unilateral action that would prejudge a negotiated final status solution.” Among other issues raised in his briefing, Mr. Mladenov noted that for the first time in two decades preparations are underway for a regular session of the Palestinian National Council. He encouraged all factions to work towards genuine reconciliation.
Read UN report as well as a report from Press TV

Israel cannot shirk its responsibility for Gaza’s electricity crisis
Gaza’s electricity crisis, a source of great hardship to over a million and a half Palestinians, has grown worse in the past couple weeks, so that residents now get power for just three to four hours out of every twenty-four. The reduced power supply is partly the result of the trouble that Gaza’s electric authority has in purchasing enough diesel to run the power station, due to a financial dispute between the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip over payment of fuel taxes imposed by Israel.

This dispute may soon be resolved, but the present crisis is simply an extreme version of the ongoing situation in the Gaza Strip, where residents have not had a consistent power supply for years, and lengthy blackouts are a daily occurrence. Therefore, even if the current dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is resolved, Gaza residents will remain without access to a regular supply of electricity, a basic right that is considered a given, certainly in developed twenty-first century countries.
Read more on the btselem website

Why Palestinian Children Throw Stones
by Jonathan Cook*

This photo was taken in Kfar Qaddum last month. The boy and his friends aren’t there to bait Israeli soldiers or indulge a bout of anti-semitism. Jews from the violent – and illegal – settlement of Kedumim have taken over their farm lands. Kedumim’s expansion has been further used to justify the army closing the access road in and out of Qaddum. The village is being choked off at the throat. In short, these villagers are being ethnically cleansed.

Parents living in such circumstances do not have the privilege of concealing from their children what is happening. Everyone in the village knows their community and its way of life are being extinguished. Israel is determined that they will leave so that the Jewish settlers next door can grab their land. Israel expects these villagers to join the rest of the aid-dependent Palestinian population in one of the ghettoized towns and cities in the bantustans of the West Bank.

Even little boys understand the stakes. And unlike your child, this one knows that, if he doesn’t resist, he will lose everything he holds dear.

*Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism.
Read full article in The Dissident Voice

Israel Begins Ethnically Cleansing Bedouin Community Inside
Israel to Build Jews-Only Town
Newest Israeli human rights abuses raise severe questions about the country’s claim to be a democracy.
Read full description in Alternet