Al-Jaafari: “Our ambition is the highest by focusing on combating terrorism… we would like to remind that state terrorism is being practiced against Syria”

Source

Geneva, 19/5/2017 ~ Head of the Syrian Arab Republic delegation to Geneva Bashar al-Jaafari announced on Friday the end of the official meetings within the 6th round of the intra-Syrian dialogue held in the Swiss city with a final session of talks the delegation held with the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

“We have just concluded the last session with the UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, within the framework of the current Geneva round, which we agreed to call it the 6th round of Geneva. For us, as the delegation of the Syrian Arab Republic, the official meetings with the Special Envoy has ended at this moment and de Mistura as the special envoy will follow his contacts and meetings but this is another matter,” al-Jaffari said in a press statement following the end of the session.

“In this round, we discussed mainly one topic, which can be considered as the fruit that matured or resulted from this round. I mean expert meetings. One expert meeting was held yesterday between our experts and experts of the Special Envoy’s team and this is the only result that we came out with in this round,” he added.

In response to a question about the coincidence of the meeting with an American aggression and ISIS  massacre against Syrians in addition to the ambition of achieving better results in this round, al-Jaafari said that the delegation discussed during today’s session the U.S. attack on one of the Syrian Arab Army’s military points on al-Tanf road in the Syrian Badia, which took place Thursday evening.

“Minutes ago, we talked extensively about the massacre committed by the US aggression on Thursday in my country .The important thing is that our political ambition is the highest in terms of concerns within all parties involved. Our ambition is supreme because we want to constantly focus on the fight against terrorism“, he said.



Al-Jaafari pointed out that terrorism, represented by terrorist groups and the terrorism committed by countries and governments against Syria which includes the US, French and British aggression whether against civil or military targets, as what happened in Manbaj city when the French bombed the city and killed 200 civilians or as in Raqqa when the US raided the Deaf and Dumb school and as happened in al-Tharda Mountain in Deir Ezzor or as happened yesterday also.

“At every meeting, we would like to remind the attendees that state terrorism is being practiced against our country,” he added.

On setting a time limit for expert meetings and whether it would continue beyond the Geneva meetings, al-Jaafari noted that he did not say that, but, he added “I said that in this round there was only one meeting at the expert level, which was yesterday’s meeting. I mean between our experts and the experts of the Special Envoy, but the agreement is that these technical meetings take place during the rounds and not between or after them.”

“This is absolutely false,” al-Jaafari said in response to a question about some statements about the fallacies and that the meetings were focused on the issue of political transition and the nature of the government.

He clarified that Astana agreement on the de-escalation zones is about specific areas and not the entire Syrian territory, noting that the mechanisms of implementing the agreement have not been set yet.

“You should take into consideration that the main focus of the talks is the delegation as a whole. The expert meetings are detailed in a whole scene and therefore the important thing is the delegation’s meeting. The meetings of the experts are purely technical in order to find common points between the points related to the constitutional process, which are included in the paper of basic principles, and our political talks at the level of the delegation as a whole because the meeting of experts will be of a partial nature to take place within the framework of the meetings of the whole delegation,” he explained.

About US allegations about Sednaya prison, al-Jaafari said that this kind of allegation is not new and in every round of talks whether in Astana or in Geneva, and even before that, even in the Security Council, a massacre was carried out, adding that:

“only the nuclear weapon is left to hit us and they no longer have dangerous toys, but to use the nuclear and accuse us of using it.”

“The purpose of this fabricated story by the US intelligence is to increase the pressure on us politically as a government and secondly to prepare for the visit of US President Donald Trump to Riyadh because he talks about the establishment of a new Arab Islamic NATO, which is a funny story, funded by Saudi regime and Gulf countries who are ready to spend billions of dollars on the fabrication of wars in the region besides the existing wars,” he pointed out.

“This story is part of the general view of the pressure exerted on the Syrian government. It is no coincidence that this type of allegation appeared on the first day of our arrival in Geneva because it was intended to defame and exert pressure on us politically and to help the other extremist parties who reject the political solution in the escalation during the Geneva round,” he said.

Asked whether any of the four baskets were discussed, al-Jaafari said:

“in four days we did not discuss any basket of four baskets and we only talk about the subject of expert meetings.”

The  session of talks between the Syrian Arab Republic delegation and the UN Special Envoy for Syria was held earlier today at the headquarters of the United Nations in the Geneva.

Four sessions of talks were held between both sides over the past three days.

In a press conference following yesterday’s session, al-Jaafari said that the intensive consultations held between the UN Envoy and the Syrian Arab Republic delegation over the past two days resulted in reaching agreement to hold informal meetings between constitutional experts from both sides.

He added that the purpose of these meetings is to discuss the paper of basic principles, which includes in its articles appropriate points that serve as constitutional principles, referring to the basic principles paper which consists of 12 points where the elements related to the constitutional process will be dealt with.


ORIGINAL STATEMENT IN ARABIC:


SOURCES:
Manar/Ghossoun for Syrian Arab News Agency
Submitted by SyrianPatriots
War Press Info Network at :
https://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2017/05/20/al-jaafari/
~
Re-publications are welcome, but we kindly ask you,
to facilitate the correct information's diffusion,
to cite all these original links and sources.

Nearly 23,500 Cholera Cases, 242 Deaths in Yemen in Three Weeks: WHO

May 19, 2017

Cholera in Yemen

A cholera outbreak in war-ravaged Yemen has killed 242 people, and left nearly 23,500 others sick in the past three weeks alone, the World Health Organization said Friday.

The UN health agency said that in the past day alone, 20 cholera deaths and 3,460 suspected cases had been registered in the country, where two-thirds of the population are on the brink of famine.

“The speed of the resurgence of this cholera epidemic is unprecedented,” WHO country representative for Yemen Nevio Zagaria told reporters in Geneva by phone from Yemen, warning that a quarter of a million people could become sick by the end of the year.

Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread through contaminated food or water.

Reining in the disease is particularly complicated in Yemen, where two years of devastating Saudi-led war has left more than half the country’s medical facilities out of service.

Zagaria pointed out that humanitarian workers cannot access some parts of the country, and that the number of suspected cholera cases could be far higher than those registered.

Yemen’s conflict has killed more than 8,000 people and wounded around 40,000 since March 2015, according to the WHO.

Zagaria pointed out that many of the remaining health workers in the country had not been paid for seven months.

At the same time, he said, lacking electricity meant water pumping stations were only functioning in an intermittent way, and the sewer systems were damaged.

“The population is using water sources that are contaminated,” he said.

Zagaria said the United Nations agencies were preparing to “release an emergency response cholera plan in the next 48 hours,” aimed at dramatically scaling up the number of treatment centers and rehydration centers.

At the same time, he said there was a dire need for funding to help Yemen authorities to make the necessary infrastructure repairs.

“The spread of the disease is too big and they need substantial support, in terms of repairing the sewer system, … treating and chlorinating the water sources.”

Without dramatic efforts to halt the spread of the disease, “the price that we will pay in terms of life will be extremely high,” he warned.

Source: AFP

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Making America great… again?

May 16, 2017

by Ghassan KadiMaking America great… again?

The more pre-election, post-election and even post-inauguration promises that President Trump breaks, the harder he makes it for himself to “Make America Great again”. But this narrative herein is not based on the political rhetoric and broken promises, rather, it is about a hypothetical scenario that questions if America is realistically able to bring Trump’s slogan to fruition.

“Make America Great Again” is a catch phrase that implies a restoration process of a bygone station of greatness. So before one explores the chances of success of such an ambition, one ought to go back to the basics of how and when America was great in the first place.

Admittedly, America has historically been a country of dreams for many. The pop culture of the 1960’s has even had songs about wanting to live in America and surfing USA. The dream has been realistic and fathomable, especially for Europeans who wanted to seek a better life, and thus the flow of migration began as soon as settlement began, and that flow was later on mirrored by the rest of the world, and it did not stop as yet.

But historically also, America was never a dream for its native people; quite the contrary. The influx of white migrants into America has resulted in one of the greatest, bloodiest and definitely the longest lasting genocides that spanned for over four whole centuries.

As for the young African men and women, even boys and girls, who were raided and stolen from their tribes and villages, taken away from their parents, loved ones and friends, to be sold and traded as slaves, put to hard labour, raped and killed, there was nothing for them to dream for at all in regard to America.

A dream for some and a nightmare for others, it would be hard to say that defining America as a dream has ever been a description that has been ubiquitously endorsed during its early-mid stages of nation-building. Did the global consensus change later on?

As the new nation that became known as the United States of America became independent in the late eighteenth century, another century later, it suffered from a brutal civil war and the new nation was not really able to stand on its feet and have its place on the global scene until the union was saved and Lincoln managed to pass his 13th amendment.

As a result, America prospered, and later on, late in the nineteenth century, America became the biggest global economy, and in hindsight, the few decades that followed up until WWI, America came the closest ever to being great at different levels. President Woodrow Wilson made it clear that the USA did not join the war for any gain of territory or to build an empire. He was instrumental in setting up the “League of Nations”, the predecessor of the UN.

All the while ignoring that the 13th amendment did not stop racial segregation and we shouldn’t, ignoring that racial inequality persisted and we also shouldn’t, was this short period, the few decades spanned in between the presidencies of Lincoln and Truman enough to classify America as a great nation?

To answer this properly, we must define greatness from a humane perspective. After all, if we allow ourselves to base greatness on wealth, we will have to accept that the Rothschilds, the Soroses and the Rockefellers are the greatest people on earth, but are they? Who is a greater person George Soros or Jonas Salk who invented the anti-polio Salk vaccine and donated it to the world and refused to take any royalties?

The real greatness of people and nations ought to be gauged by their contribution to humanity, easing its pain, spreading knowledge, spearheading liberation and enlightenment, and not by their wealth.

Or is greatness a subject of might?

The post-WWII era in which America was elevated to the level of the world’s first nuclear power and most powerful nation, has left behind a legacy of wars that began in Korea and went on unstopped to Syria and counting, and has left a trail of destruction, tens of millions of civilians killed, mostly from impoverished developing countries. Economies were destroyed, infrastructures decimated, which again begs the question, how and when exactly was America ever great?

Whilst America did offer great opportunity for a great number of select people for a great number of years, based on the proper and relevant criteria of greatness, it can be fair to say that America was never really great.

Surely, many people were attracted to America to go and live there and partake in the big “American Dream”, be able to buy a Chevy, buy a house in the suburbs and send their kids to the best schools and universities in the world, all the while have the best doctors and hospitals at their beck and call. But in reality, what is the percentage of Americans who were able to afford those luxuries even during the years of economic boom?

Whilst it might be true to say that in the 1950’s – 1970’s or so, America might have had a living standard that was higher than most other nations, the standard is shrinking at an alarming rate. With nearly 50 million Americans currently on food stamps, it becomes imperative to realize that today’s USA is a country that is wrought with poverty.

But poverty is not America’s only current problem, and when Trump claims that he wants to” Make America Great Again”, assuming he means it, one wonders if he is simply talking about rebuilding America’s financial prowess.

So if Trump’s take on greatness stops with money, how far can the best ever financial reform process go? Not that there is any sign of it coming from the Trump administration, not that we can see that he is keeping his word by putting America first and stopping all wars, but we must remember that we are looking at a hypothetical situation here, one that has nothing to do with Trump.

In other words, is America able to become great again if Trump was indeed serious about his promise?

The formal and declared American debt stands at nearly $20 trillion dollars, and if calculated on a per capita basis, the figure amounts to $60,000 per every man, woman, and child. But this debt is the tip of the iceberg. With collapsing infrastructure like roads, dams, river levees, schools, airports etc, the restoration of those public facilities constitutes overhead costs that are not budgeted for. They are simply ignored and allowed to decay and rot. These are referred to as “unfunded liabilities”.

It is hard to put an accurate figure on the value of those unfunded liabilities and the estimates vary greatly from a low of $150 trillion to a high of $350 trillion. At the higher estimate figure, the individual debt balloons to nearly $9 million, again, for every man, woman and child. But even at the lower end, the per capita figure is shyly short of $4 million.

When we make balance sheets we have to look not only at liabilities, but also at assets. The estimate of America’s total assets is another elastic figure that also varies from $300 to $550 trillion. That said, if the liabilities figure is indeed in the vicinity of the high $350 trillion figure and that of assets is in the vicinity of the low $300 trillion, then America could well and truly be literally insolvent.

We must remember here that even if the high $550 trillion figure is the correct figure of assets, it does not truly mean much because much of the sub-estimates are based on untapped natural and human resources and are based on today’s value of commodities that can easily crash.

Apart from material assets, there was a time when people around the world talked about “the latest thing from America”. America was the world centre of research and development and innovation in all fields of science and technology, but today’s America does not produce enough engineers, doctors and scientists who can bear the load of a techno-financial revolution that can take America out of the trouble it is facing. When we look today at developments such as China’s massive ultra-fast railway, we can foresee that we are not far from talking about “the latest thing from China”.

On the other hand, the slick, “low budget”, and highly advanced Russian military technology has given America a run for its money. The Russians have been playing their game very smartly, exposing the Americans to a taste of what’s up their sleeve, and –God forbid- in the event of a major escalation between the two super powers, America may find itself with bases and fleets exposed as sitting ducks facing an invisible enemy. It is highly likely that the Russians are not trying to “show off”; as it were, but they are sending strong and clear messages of deterrence to their “American partners”.

Back to economy, it seems likely, as a matter of fact we can safely say that it is highly probable that the demise of the American economy has gone too far and beyond repair. It is also possible that Trump has come to this realization after his inauguration, and that after reaching this realization, he made his U-turn on his promises on the basis that all he has left up his sleeve is a stash of nukes and a mighty war machine.

To reconsider the definition of greatness, does President Trump believe that might alone brings greatness and that by escalating the global bullying role of the United States of America he is going to “Make America Great Again”?

America is certainly a nation that has the highest military budget, largest navy and more off-shore military basis than the rest of the world combined, it has had the world’s biggest economy for many decades and continues to enjoy this status, but has never been a great nation that has spread knowledge and wisdom to the rest of the world. It has used its military might in the past to pillage poor countries and its current financial woes are literally impossible to resolve.

But when it comes to military matters, what is pertinent is that most, if not all, American military ventures have failed to achieve their objectives. After reaching a stale-mate in Korea, a total defeat in Vietnam, after two decades into the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, America is still incapable of gaining the upper hand on the ground.

So if the military is the only trump card left up Trump’s sleeve in order to “Make America Great Again”, on what grounds is he basing his assumption that he can confront and subdue Russia and China combined given that the 125,000 strong American army that invaded Iraq in 2003 was not even able to control the streets of Baghdad?

Ironically, Obama and Trump have both won their campaigns using slogans that are based on desperation; from “Yes We Can” to “Make America Great Again”, the slogans were effectively used to lure in voters who cognize that America is in deep trouble and needs a saviour. Obama has failed and left America with twice the official debt that he inherited on his inauguration day, and Trump will not be able to do much, because like a rusty old car, America is too far gone, and I feel sorry for the good people of America, and there are many of them, including some very good and dear personal friends.

A MUST SEE: Father Mmanuel Musallam SPEAKING OUT on Nakba Day Plus ‘Peace” Photo Story

الاب منويل مسلم في ذكرى نكبة فلسطين هذا الخطاب القاه في المنتدى العربي الناصري

Treason’s Photo Story

==================

The Long Way to OSLO

Alan Hart the Linkman Between Perea And Arafat

Arafat: a Political Biography by Alan Hart

Old Posts 

Alan Hart and the Assasination of ABU JIHAD, ABU IYAD, ABU ALHOUL Paved the way to OSLO

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Zionist Treaty with the King of Treason

Clinton with Arab Traitors

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ABBAS and HAMAS

Palestine shall never die

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The Emperor Has No Clothes: Podcast on Israeli Apartheid

 photo noclothes_zps1utt9j5u.jpg

Under international law apartheid is considered a crime against humanity. A UN report documenting Israeli practices of apartheid came under immediate attack after its publication earlier this year. US Ambassador Nikki Haley leveled furious and virulent denunciations of it at the UN, while the authors were smeared as anti-Semites in the media.

Caving into pressure, UN Secretary General Antionio Guterres removed the report from the UN’s website, prompting the resignation of Rima Khalaf, head of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, the UN agency that produced the report. All this happened back in March of this year. I put up a post about it at the time recounting the controversy and describing some of the malicious accusations being hurled, but other than a couple of brief quotes I did not get into the contents of the report itself.

Recently, however, the Christian website We Hold These Truths posted a two-part podcast featuring a discussion–not only on the attacks against the report, but also delving into the nuts and bolts of the report itself.

“What’s so amazing about all these ad hominem attacks is that no one is countering any of the facts that are presented in the report,” comments Craig Hansen, the guest on the program. “I’ve been looking and I can’t find any source debunking any of the claims asserted in the report. They just don’t like the conclusion that Israel is an apartheid state.”

Hansen’s own conclusion, after reading the entire 74-page report: that “the emperor has no clothes.” Or to put it another way, Israel now stands exposed as an apartheid state. The authors of the report, Richard Falk, a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and a former UN Special Rapporteur in the Middle East, and Virginia Tilley, a Professor of Political Science specializing in the comparative study of racial and ethnic conflict at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, have left no stone unturned. As Hansen describes it, they have examined Israeli policies, laws that have been enacted and put in place over its entire history, and they have assembled enough evidence probably to convict the Zionist state of the crime of apartheid in an international court of law. Their findings, conclusions, and recommendations are all documented in detail in the report, he notes, and he discusses what some of those conclusions are.

For one thing–and this probably accounts for why the report was hammered and denounced so vigorously–all UN-member states, because apartheid is a crime against humanity, have an obligation, not just a moral obligation but a legal obligation, to oppose and obstruct apartheid wherever in the world, and in whatever country or territory, it may be practiced. The implications are obvious. Had the report been left to stand it could have led to a situation in which every single UN member state would not only have been justified in imposing sanctions on Israel, but would have, at least in theory, been legally bound to do so. It would, in effect, have been the BDS movement on steroids.

Another interesting aspect of the program is how the report was treated by the Christian Broadcasting Network, described by Hansen (accurately) as a “Christian Zionist mouthpiece.” On March 15, the same day the report was published, the CBN posted an article headlined, “Haley Accuses UN of Demonizing Israel,” the tone of which lauds the US ambassador while describing Falk as being “known for accusing America and her Jewish ally of being colonial empires.”

Counting oneself a Christian, while at the same professing support for Israel, as I’ve noted before, are mutually incompatible. You can either be a follower of the man who said “blessed are the peacemakers” or you can support the apartheid state, but you cannot do both. Maybe the UN report will help make this more clear to people. My hope is that a Christian Zionist or two (or three) will read the report or at least listen to the podcast.

At any rate, part one of the podcast can be found here.

Part two is here.

You can also go here to visit the We Hold These Truths website, and here to access the full UN report, entitled “Israeli Practices Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” in PDF form.

Power crisis hits Gaza hospitals as Israel tightens siege on sick

Source

8 May 2017

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is growing more dire against the dimming possibility of a reconciliation between the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority controlled by Mahmoud Abbas, and the Islamist movement Hamas, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, has warned.

UNSCO says the friction between the competing Palestinian regimes that operate under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip “have aggravated an already difficult situation in the Gaza Strip.”

One consequence is that for the last three weeks, Gaza’s electricity crisis has become even more severe, forcing hospitals to curtail services in an attempt to preserve limited fuel supplies.

The World Health Organization warned that all of Gaza’s public hospitals may be forced to suspend critical services, putting thousands of lives at risk.

These growing tensions culminated on 27 April, when the Palestinian Authority decided that it would no longer pay for the electricity Gaza receives from Israel.

Hamas called the move “a grave escalation and an act of madness.”

“Gaza will not kneel for collaborators with the occupation,” Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesperson, posted on Twitter.

PA pressure on Hamas

The step is likely part of the PA’s decade-long effort to force Hamas to cede control in Gaza. Hamas won parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2006, but was never allowed to fully assume power over the Palestinian Authority.

A partially successful US-backed putsch led to the split, with Abbas remaining in control of the PA in the West Bank, and Hamas controlling the interior of Gaza.

The Abbas-controlled PA works closely with Israeli occupation forces, while Hamas has continued to engage in armed resistance.

In early April, Abbas said he would take “unprecedented steps in the coming days to end the division” between the West Bank and Gaza.

The PA imposed sharp salary cuts on civil servants there, leading to mass protests. But Rami Hamdallah, the PA prime minister in Ramallah, said, as the BBC reported, that “the salary cuts would stay in place until Hamas moved towards reconciliation.”

Last week, Hamas announced a new charter ditching anti-Jewish language and formally accepting, as Abbas does, a two-state solution with Israel.

It also announced on Saturday that Ismail Haniyeh, its former prime minister in Gaza, has been elected as the movement’s overall leader.

One Israeli analyst suggested in the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz that Abbas’ crackdown on Gaza was part of an attempt to keep Hamas isolated and to curry favor with the new US president. Abbas met Donald Trump at the White House last week.

Hospitals at “minimal capacity”

Meanwhile, Gaza’s economy has been devastated by a 10-year Israeli blockade and repeated military assaults.

In mid-April, Gaza’s only power plant ran out of fuel after a three-month supply funded by Turkey and Qatar was depleted.

The PA has refused Hamas’ requests to reduce or eliminate the heavy taxes on diesel that fuels Gaza’s power plant, a provision UNSCO supports.

Gaza receives just over half of its electricity from Israel which has until now been paid for by the Palestinian Authority.

“Palestinians in Gaza, who live in a protracted humanitarian crisis, can no longer be held hostage by disagreements, divisions and closures,” Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said.

Gaza is already operating on a severe energy deficit. Its daily supply of electricity from Israel, Egypt and its sole, partially functioning power plant totals only 210 megawatts, while the population of two million requires 450 megawatts per day.

The shortfall means that people in Gaza without backup generators must function with no electricity for 12 to 18 hours a day.

While international assistance has managed to barely keep hospitals open by ensuring they have enough fuel for generators, Gaza’s precarious situation is clear.

Hospitals are currently working “at minimal capacity,” the UN humanitarian coordination agency OCHA reported last month.

Another dire health and environmental consequence is that faced with a lack of energy for water treatment, waste plants are discharging more raw sewage into the sea.

No exit for many

Emergency fuel supplies are only guaranteed through May, forcing hospitals to postpone surgeries and refer more patients outside Gaza, potentially exposing them to life-threatening delays or Israeli attempts at blackmail.

According to UNSCO, since 15 September 2016, Israel has significantly reduced approvals for Palestinians to leave Gaza, including patients.

Last December, Israel approved fewer than 42 percent of applications to leave Gaza for medical care, the lowest rate since 2009, according to UNSCO.

Meanwhile, Egypt kept the Rafah crossing, the only outlet for most of Gaza’s residents, completely closed for the entire month of April.

Letting Israel off the hook

UNSCO acknowledges that Israel’s blockade is responsible for severe impairment in every sector in Gaza, including education, health and agriculture, and urges the “international community” to support the lifting of Israel’s siege.

Yet it still presents the closure as a security measure for Israel.

UNSCO notes that this year marks 10 years of Israel’s closure on Gaza, which UNSCO describes as a response to Hamas’ “violent” takeover in 2007.

As well as ignoring the context of the intra-Palestinian fighting, this timeline ignores that the cut in exit permits began in the mid-1990s, sharply falling after Israel withdrew its settlers from Gaza in 2005.

In the face of the evidence that its prospects have all but vanished, UNSCO continues to insist that the “international community” commit to a two-state solution.

It notes that in the occupied West Bank, Israel’s construction of illegal settlements has surged since last September while the land where Palestinians live is shrinking.

The report confirms that it is “virtually impossible” for Palestinians to obtain building permits in Area C of the West Bank – the 60 percent of the occupied West Bank over which Israel exercises full control. More than 90 percent of applications for building permits are rejected by Israeli occupation forces.

Meanwhile, Israel continues to develop settlements in Area C.

UNSCO acknowledges that Israel’s settlements violate international law, but pointedly fails to call for any sanctions or consequences.

“It is critical that recent international initiatives to advance the prospects for peace translate into a legitimate process to end the occupation and achieve a final settlement to the conflict,” UNSCO implores.

What UNSCO does not explain is how such a “process” would occur in the complete absence of measures to hold the occupying power accountable.

 

Israel’s New Cultural War of Aggression

MAY 8, 2017

A few weeks ago my book Palestine’s Horizon: Toward a Just Peace was published by Pluto in Britain. I was in London and Scotland at the time to do a series of university talks to help launch the book. Its appearance happened to coincide with the release of a jointly authored report commissioned by the UN Social and Economic Commission of West Asia, giving my appearances a prominence they would not otherwise have had. The report concluded that the evidence relating to Israeli practices toward the Palestinian people amounted to ‘apartheid,’ as defined in international law.

There was a strong pushback by Zionist militants threatening disruption. These threats were sufficiently intimidating to academic administrators, that my talks at the University of East London and at Middlesex University were cancelled on grounds of ‘health and security.’ Perhaps, these administrative decisions partly reflected the awareness that an earlier talk of mine at LSE had indeed been sufficiently disrupted during the discussion period that university security personnel had to remove two persons in the audience who shouted epithets, unfurled an Israeli flag, stood up and refused to sit down when politely asked by the moderator.

In all my years of speaking on various topics around the world, I had never previously had events cancelled, although quite frequently there was similar pressure exerted on university administrations, but usually threatening financial reprisals if I was allowed to speak. What happened in Britain is part of an increasingly nasty effort of pro-Israeli activists to shut down debate by engaging in disruptive behavior, threats to security, and by smearing speakers regarded as critics of Israel as ‘anti-Semites,’ and in my case as a ‘self-hating,’ even a self-loathing Jew.

falkpalestine

Returning to the United States I encountered a new tactic. The very same persons who disrupted in London, evidently together with some likeminded comrades, wrote viciously derogatory reviews of my book on the Amazon website in the U.S. and UK, giving the book the lowest rate possible rating, This worried my publisher who indicated that how a book is rated on Amazon affects sales very directly. I wrote a message on my Facebook timeline that my book was being attacked in this way, and encouraged Facebook friends to submit reviews, which had the effect of temporarily elevating my ratings. In turn, the ultra-Zionists went back to work with one or two line screeds that made no effort whatsoever to engage the argument of the book. In this sense, there was a qualitative difference as the positive reviews were more thoughtful and substantive. This was a new kind of negative experience for me. Despite publishing many books over the course during this digital age I had never before had a book attacked in this online manner obviously seeking to discourage potential buyers and to demean me as an author. In effect, this campaign is an innovative version of digital book burning, and while not as vivid visually as a bonfire, its vindictive intentions are the same.

These two experiences, the London cancellations and the Amazon harassments, led me to reflect more broadly on what was going on. More significant, by far, than my experience are determined, well-financed efforts to punish the UN for its efforts to call attention to Israeli violations of human rights and international law, to criminalize participation in the BDS campaign, and to redefine and deploy anti-Semitism so that its disavowal and prevention extends to anti-Zionism and even to academic and analytic criticism of Israel’s policies and practices, which is how I am situated within this expanding zone of opprobrium. Israel has been acting against human rights NGOs within its own borders, denying entry to BDS supporters, and even virtually prohibiting foreign tourists from visiting the West Bank or Gaza. In a remarkable display of unity all 100 U.S. senators recently overcame the polarized atmosphere in Washington to join in sending an arrogant letter to the new UN Secretary General, António Guterres, demanding a more friendly, blue washing, approach to Israel at the UN and threatening financial consequences if their outrageous views were not heeded.

Israel’s most ardent and powerful backers are transforming the debate on Israel/Palestine policy into a cultural war of aggression. This new kind of war has been launched with the encouragement and backing of the Israeli government, given ideological support by such extremist pressure groups as UN Watch, GO Monitor, AIPAC, and a host of others. This cultural war is implemented at street levels by flame throwing militants that resort to symbolic forms of violence. The adverse consequences for academic freedom and freedom of thought in a democratic society should not be underestimated. A very negative precedent is being set in several Western countries. Leading governments are collaborating with extremists to shut down constructive debate on a sensitive policy issue affecting the lives and wellbeing of a long oppressed people.

There are two further dimensions of these developments worth pondering: (1) In recent years Israel has been losing the Legitimacy War being waged by the Palestinians, what Israeli think tanks call ‘the delegitimation project,’ and these UN bashing and personal smears are the desperate moves of a defeated adversary in relation to the moral and legal dimensions of the Palestinian struggle for rights. In effect, the Israeli government and its support groups have given up almost all efforts to respond substantively, and concentrate their remaining ammunition on wounding messengers who bear witness and doing their best to weaken the authority and capabilities of the UN so as to discredit substantive initiatives; (2) while this pathetic spectacle sucks the oxygen from responses of righteous indignation, attention is diverted from the prolonged ordeal of suffering that has long been imposed on the Palestinian people as a result of Israel’s unlawful practices and policies, as well as its crimes against humanity, in the form of apartheid, collective punishment, ethnic cleansing, and many others. The real institutional scandal is not that the UN is obsessed with Israel but rather that it is blocked from taking action that might exert sufficient pressure on Israel to induce the dismantling of apartheid structures relied upon to subjugate, displace, and dispossess the Palestinian people over the course of more than 70 years with no end in sight.

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.

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