Thursday, December 29, 2016

ANALYSIS: Understanding the UN Security Council Resolution on illegl Israeli colonies

Dear friends,
as you will be aware the United Nations Security Council once again in recent vote confirmed that Israel's colonies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal and that Israel is in flagrant violation of international law.   As mentioned the other in my earlier post on the vote (which you can read here), I am posting a number of articles discussing the vote.

Since the vote was taken, Netanyahu, Israel and various Zionist organisations have reacted hysterically, which is not unusual.  The reaction of the Israeli leadership (whether it be Netanyahu or any of the Israeli Prime Ministers before him) to anything which does not reiterate or tow  the Zionist narrative or policy position is more often than not accompanied by temper tantrums and hysterics.  In this case, Netanyahu dragged the various ambassadors of the states the vote for the resolution in to harass them and has acted as no other US president before Obama has every abstained on a vote in regard to Israel. This is, of course, not true, as the articles below note.  As Barak Ravid notes in his explainer, which appeared in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz since 1967, every single US president has allowed the adoption of Security Council resolution.  While the US has indeed often veto resolution votes, various administrations have also allowed 47 to pass.

It should also be remembered that Obama in September okayed aid to Israel, at a level higher than any other President of the USA - a total 38 BILLION over the next 10 years.

His administration has made clear that they will continued to support this. 

Electronic Intifada's article on Obama handing Israel the largest military aid deal in history can be read here. 

I will follow up with another post or two over the next two days some articles discussing the resolution, Israel's reaction and the dead letter of the two state solution.

In solidarity, Kim


Can Trump's administration overturn the Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements? Why didn't Putin veto it? What are the short- and long-term implications? A guide to make sense of the mess.

Barak Ravid Dec 24, 2016 HAARETZ

The resolution against Israeli settlements adopted by the United Nations Security Council Friday sent out diplomatic, political and media shockwaves. After thousands of reports, analyses and spins, here is a guide to make sense of the mess.

*Is this the first UNSC resolution concerning Israeli settlements?

No. But it is the first to deal so specifically with the settlements in over 35 years. The previous such resolution, Resolution 465, was adopted by the Security Council in March 1980 (you can read it in full here). That being said, since 1980, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has undergone dramatic changes, the extent of the Israeli settlement enterprise has grown dramatically, and international community's focus on the settlements as a threat to the viability of the two-state solution has also increased markedly.

*Is this the first time an American president declines to veto a UNSC resolution on Israel-Palestine?

No. Since 1967, all U.S. presidents have allowed the adoption of Security Council resolutions. To this day, 47 resolutions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been adopted by the UNSC, all during the presidencies of presidents other than Obama. President George H. W. Bush allowed nine resolutions to pass during his presidency. During President Bill Clinton's presidency three resolutions were adopted by the UNSC. In fact, this is the first time Obama refrained from using the U.S. veto in the Security Council when it came to Israel since he entered the White House eight years ago. Last time a resolution on Israel was brought to a vote at the Security Council in February 2011, a resolution also concerning the Israeli settlements, Obama vetoed it.

*Did Obama break a decades-long tradition according to which presidents don't make policy changes in the interim between administrations?

No. Quite a few presidents have used the interim period between the election of a new president and his inauguration in which they are freed from political constraints to carry out far reaching foreign policy changes, including with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. For example, President Ronald Reagan used this interim period in 1988 to begin a dialog with the PLO. President Clinton used this period to present the "Clinton Parameters" in which he guidelines for the solving of key issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Does the resolution change the legal status of the settlements, which are already illegal under international law?

No. The Fourth Geneva Convention bans nations from the moving of populations into and the establishing of settlements in the territory of another nation won in war. An overwhelming number of countries have sided for years with the position that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal and constitute a violation of international law.

*What are the immediate ramifications of the UNSC resolution?

The resolution adopted by the Security Council will have no practical ramifications for Israel. The resolution doesn't include any coercive measures or define sanctions for those who violate it, except for a mechanism by which the United Nations' secretary general will submit a report on the state of settlement construction to the Security Council every three months. The reason for this is that the resolution was adopted under the United Nations Charter's Chapter 6, and thus is non-binding and only constitutes a show of intent and a recommendation. The resolution is a form of diplomatic message to Israel and sets the international consensus on the settlements and further isolates Israel with regard to this issue. In order for this resolution to become binding and to allow for coercion or the imposition of sanctions by the international community it would have to be adopted under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter.

*In the long-term, what are the possible ramifications?

In the medium-to-long-term the resolution may have serious ramifications for Israel in general and specifically for the settlement enterprise. The reason for this stems from the two main clauses of the resolution. The first clause states that the settlements have "no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law." The International Criminal Court in The Hague is currently conducting a preliminary investigation concerning a suit filed against Israel by the Palestinians. One of the issues raised in the suit is the construction of settlements. International law takes form through different measures including Security Council resolutions. Thus, this decision, at this time, could influence the preliminary investigation and could provide cause for the ICC prosecutor to order a full investigation of Israel settlement construction.

Another clause in the resolution calls on the nations of the world "to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967." This is a precedent in UNSC resolutions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and actually calls on countries to cut ties direct and indirect with the settlements. This clause may create a path for countries, international organizations such as the EU, and corporations to impose sanctions on the settlements. The Foreign Ministry's assessment is that the EU would have to pass a similar resolution in its institutions and base practical steps and legislation from it.

*Will President-elect Donald Trump's administration be able to overturn the resolution or pass an opposite resolution?

Theoretically yes, though in practice not really. In order to overturn the resolution Trump would have to pass an opposite resolution, which will in fact state that the settlements are legal and are not an obstacle to peace, get the support of at least eight members of the Security Council not including the U.S. and ensure that Russia, China, France, and the U.K. don't veto it. This is unlikely to say the least. Minutes after the resolution was adopted Trump tweeted that after January 20th, things in the UN will look differently. Trump will be able to influence the work of the UNSC from here on out, but history proves that there is a not insignificant chance that he too will find himself avoiding the use of a veto on the Israel-Palestinian issue.

*Will the Trump administration or Republican lawmakers stop the U.S. funding for the UN?

Some senior Republicans, including Lindsey_Graham, who is chairman of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, have already announced that they will take action to cut and even stop completely the U.S. funding of UN institutions in response to the adoption of the resolution. The U.S. has taken similar action with respect to the UN's cultural arm UNESCO, when it accepted Palestine as a full-pledged member. The result has been that the U.S. has lost its vote in UNESCO and its influence on the organization has dramatically ebbed. This adversely affected Israel, which could no longer count on the U.S. to stop anti-Israeli measures taken by UNESCO.

*If the relationship between Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin is so good, why didn't Russia veto the resolution?

The allegedly close relations between Netanyahu and Putin fall short when it comes to Russian interests and UN votes. Russia is one of the main supporters of the Palestinians over the last 50 years. During those years and today as well Russia has been voting against Israel in every possible international forum. It is possible that things will change in the future, but at least at this stage a Russian veto on a UNSC resolution concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict belongs to the realm of science fiction and not diplomacy.

Israel's colonies are illegal under international law.

Security Council Resolution 2334: An Old-New Approach to Palestine at the United Nations?

Following the passage of resolution 2334 by the UN Security Council on 23 December 2016 concerning Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine, it is useful to briefly address some of what it means in both legal and political terms. In short, the resolution can best be described as the embodiment of an old-new approach to one of the thorniest issues in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Legally, the resolution’s principal focus—Israel’s colonization of the occupied Palestinian territory with approximately 600,000 Jewish settlers since 1967—offers little new. In affirming the international illegality of the settlements, the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory through force, resolution 2334 merely repeats what the Council and other organs of the United Nations, including the General Assembly and International Court of Justice (ICJ), have repeatedly affirmed. In addition, like its predecessors, this resolution is not formally binding on states as a matter of UN law. Under article 25 of the UN Charter, only “decisions” of the Council are binding on Member States, and resolution 2334 was not drafted in the form of a decision. This does not mean that the resolution’s substantive affirmations of international law are not legally binding on states under general principles of international law, however, but only that the Council has not made it binding on them as Member States of the Organization. Moreover, this does not deprive the resolution of its essentially political character.

What lends the resolution some legal novelty resides not so much in its affirmations of relevant international law concerning the settlements, but in the scope of their recitation. No previous Council resolution has been as fulsome in its denunciation of the settlement enterprise as this, including through making clear linkages with other ongoing illegal actions of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) such as the construction of the Wall, confiscation of Palestinian land, demolition of Palestinian homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians. While not determinative, this resolution will not go unnoticed in other fora, including the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court who is currently engaged in a preliminary examination on whether to investigate the situation in occupied Palestine including the crime of civilian settlement of an occupied territory of the territory it occupies.

In one notable development, the resolution offers a first in calling “upon all States . . . to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.” This is important, for it affirms the Council’s view that third States should remain aware that their bilateral relations with Israel—political, civil, economic, social, cultural—cannot continue as usual. For far too long, Israel has been able to weather the occasional diplomatic and public relations fallout from its illegal and immoral policies in the OPT, knowing that this will result in little actual change in bilateral engagement with influential policymakers and business people in third States. This call by the Council therefore signals a shift with potential implications that can theoretically result in more robust legal, economic and political sanction of Israel abroad, including through measures encouraged by the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

Politically, the resolution’s repeated references to negotiations as the framework within which the end of Israel’s half-century occupation is a reflection of an old and, by now, bankrupt approach to this conflict at the United Nations. To be sure, negotiation is always the preferred option in the way of peaceful dispute resolution. In the face of drastically increased levels of violence in recent years, the Palestinian leadership’s continued commitment to a negotiated two-state resolution is nothing short of remarkable. But where there is a clear lack of good faith on the part of the infinitely more powerful party—as demonstrated in this case by calls by Israeli ministers to illegally annex portions of occupied Palestine, “legalize” settlement outposts that are, under Israeli domestic law, “unauthorized”, and publically reject the very notion of a Palestinian State being established—it is more than incredulous to continue the mantra of bilateral negotiation between that party and its captive interlocutor as the only means to ending the latter’s subjugation and the realization of peace for both. How does a weaker party successfully negotiate the return of stolen property with the more powerful one responsible for its theft? Based on the historical record, it is not certain whether any new form of multilateral negotiations can level the playing field. What is clear, is that as Israel’s regime of apartheid and colonialism in the OPT enters its fiftieth year, it is increasingly apparent that a much more principled approach to ending it forthwith—that is, decoupling its immediate end from bilateral negotiations which have enabled it to consolidate, not relinquish, control—is required.

In this regard, it is notable that the resolution calls upon all parties to launch credible negotiations “within the time frame specified by the Quartet in its statement of 21 September 2010”. In that statement, “[t]he Quartet expressed its strong support for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which can resolve all final status issues within one year” (emphasis added). Reference to this statement by the Council may signify a potential silver lining. In the event negotiations commence but are proven incapable of resolution within one year, the Council has left open the possibility of adopting more robust measures to end the occupation, including requiring that Israel do so unilaterally, unconditionally and forthwith. As I have argued elsewhere, even if a permanent member blocks such Council action, it is possible for other principal organs of the UN, including the ICJ and the General Assembly, to adopt such an approach. If they do, it is conceivable that a useful political momentum against the continued illegal presence of Israel in occupied Palestine can emerge within the United Nations, and one that requires Israel to end that presence unilaterally, based inter alia on precedents of Iraq’s illegal occupation of Kuwait, and South Africa’s illegal occupation of Namibia.

Finally, the significance of Israel not being able to rely on a United States veto of resolution 2334, although notable, is not without precedent nor does it signify any significant shift in their special relationship. To be sure, over the past eight years Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken great pains to publically undermine the Obama administration, most notably following US-led negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. Nevertheless, the administration’s complete capitulation to the Israel lobby was more than amply demonstrated by President Obama’s approval of a thirty-eight billion US dollars aid package to Israel in September 2016. By all accounts, President-elect Trump has made it clear that he will continue and even amplify this trend.

“The secret of change”, Socrates said, “is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”  While based on a great deal of old affirmations and positions of the United Nations on the question of Palestine, Resolution 2334 also offers some new elements that can prove useful in the way of ending Israel’s fifty-year occupation of Palestine. While healthy skepticism of the role of the United Nations in building the new is warranted, it is vital that we acknowledge the indispensability of that role in any way forward. In this respect, it is important to acknowledge the many doubtful voices that may find the real-world added value of international law, let alone Security Council resolutions, limited.

Given the relatively weak global reaction to the many Security Council resolutions that already exist on the question of Palestine, one could be forgiven in believing international law and the United Nations pointless at a time like this. But to take this view would be a crucial error, given that it would be based upon a mistaken impression that law and the United Nations, in and of themselves, offer the perfect remedy for internationally wrongful conduct. In a world still dominated by state sovereignty, obedience to law by states cannot be taken for granted. In the absence of a centralized and universally applicable source of coercive authority, therefore, adherence to international obligations is overwhelmingly less a matter of enforcement as it is observation. In such circumstances, and particularly where powerful states are involved, the successful use of international law and institutions depends as much, if not more, on concerted political will and action to ensure that enough of a cost is brought to bear on malfeasant, aiding or abetting states to ensure voluntary compliance. Viewed in this way, recourse to law, including through the United Nations, can offer incremental value added. Not as an end in and of itself, but rather as a tactical means to one. It is in this overall context that Security Council resolution 2334 should be viewed.

Monday, December 26, 2016

UNSC VOTE reaffirms Israel's colonies are illegal & a flagrant violation of international law

Dear friends,
no doubt you will have heard that the United Nations Security Council on 23 December passed a resolution reaffirming the illegal nature of Israel's colonies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  The resolution was passed with 14 nations voting in favour and the USA abstaining.

While the resolution has no mechanism to force Israel to dismantle its illegal colonies, the resolution is important on a symbolic level. While Resolution 2334 reaffirms the many other resolutions and votes taken on this issue by the UN and is framed within the context of the dead two state solutions, point 5 of the resolution: "Calls upon all States, bearing in mind paragraph 1 of this resolution, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967".

While the distinction between the two has always been noted in international law, placing emphasis on this reinforces that the Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza should not be viewed by states as simply an extension of the Israeli state. Israel has sought to conflate the two and for many years (decades), the EU, USA and other states actively turn a blind eye to this and treated the colonies as if they were part of Israel - for example, treating products/produce from Israel's illegal colonies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as if they were products of Israel and/or establishing favourable economic deals with illegal colonies.   This only began to change after the advent of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which demanded that this distinction be recognised and put Israel's colonisation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories back on the agenda, forcing the EU, its member nations and other nations to reaffrim this and take steps to make the distinction. 

The specific re-emphasis of this point in Resolution 2334 has the potential to positively impact on the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.  It reaffirms the legal legitimise of the tactics of the Palestinian BDS campaign, something which is of importance given the legal attacks on the campaign in not only the USA and UK, but also Europe and other countries. 

Over the next few days, I will be posting a range of articles/comment pieces discussing the resolution, what it means and doesn't mean. In the meantime, please find below the media statement from the UN on the vote, along with the full text of the resolution.

in solidarity, Kim


Israel’s Settlements Have No Legal Validity, Constitute Flagrant Violation of International Law, Security Council Reaffirms

14 Delegations in Favour of Resolution 2334 (2016) as United States Abstains

The Security Council reaffirmed this afternoon that Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had no legal validity, constituting a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders.

Adopting resolution 2334 (2016) by 14 votes, with the United States abstaining, the Council reiterated its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.  It underlined that it would not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the two sides through negotiations.

The Council called for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction.  It further called for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism.  The Council called on both sides to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric in order to de-escalate the situation on the ground and rebuild trust and confidence.

Also by the text, the Council called on all parties to continue to exert collective efforts to launch credible negotiations on all final-status issues in the Middle East peace process, and within the time frame specified by the Middle East Quartet (European Union, Russian Federation, United Nations, United States) in its statement of 21 September 2010.  It called upon all States to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.

Explaining her delegation’s abstention, the representative of the United States said it had been a long-standing position of her country that settlements undermined Israel’s security and eroded prospects for peace and stability.  She emphasized, however, that her vote today had not been straightforward.  Explaining that Israel had been treated differently from other States for as long as it had been a member of the United Nations, she noted that during the course of 2016, 18 resolutions adopted in the General Assembly and others in the Human Rights Council had all condemned Israel.  It was because of that bias that the United States had not voted in favour of the resolution, she said, emphasizing that her delegation would not have let the resolution pass had it not addressed terrorism and incitement to violence.

Malaysia’s representative said effective Council action must be taken without further delay to reverse dangerous trends on the ground that were threatening any possibility of a two-State solution.  Settlement activity constituted the single biggest threat to peace, and had led to settler violence, home demolitions and denial of development.  Decades of human rights violations had frustrated those with nothing to lose, leading to acts of violence, she said, adding that the resolution could give hope to the people of Palestine and Israel, the majority of whom still wanted peace and a two-State solution.

Israel’s representative said those who had voted “yes” to the resolution had voted “no” to negotiations, to progress and to a chance for better lives for both Israelis and Palestinians, and to the possibility of peace.  The resolution would continue to provide excuses for the Palestinians to avoid recognizing Israel’s right to exist, he said, adding that the Council had voted to condemn the State of Israel and the Jewish people for building homes in the land of Israel, and to deny “our eternal rights” in Jerusalem.  “We will continue to be a democratic State based on the rule of law and full civil and human rights for all our citizens,” he declared.  “And we will continue to be a Jewish State proudly reclaiming the land of our forefathers.”

The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said the Council’s action, while long-overdue, was timely, necessary and important.  The resolution required vigilant follow-up if it was to be meaningful and salvage a two-State solution from relegation to history’s archives.  Israel’s illegal settlements and its wall had undermined the contiguity of Palestinian land and isolated East Jerusalem.  To claims of bias, he said the only bias was against law, reason and the vision of two States as the most viable solution.

Egypt’s representative said the text expressed the painful reality of illegitimate settlements and confiscation of Palestinian land.  Noting that his delegation had been compelled to withdraw its own draft resolution, he emphasized that it was unacceptable for some Council members to have warned Egypt, recalling that his country had been the first to make peace with Israel.

Also this afternoon, Council President Román Oyarzun Marchesi (Spain) expressed appreciation for the contributions of Council members whose term would expire at the end of 2016 — Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela.

Also speaking today were representatives of New Zealand, Venezuela, France, China, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Russian Federation, Japan, Angola and Senegal.
The meeting began at 2:07 p.m. and ended at 3:50 p.m.

Action on Draft Resolution

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia), noting that he was a sponsor of the draft, recalled numerous calls over the years for urgent Council action to end illegal settlement construction, and said that a recent attempt to legalize settlements on Palestinian-owned land added to the urgency.  Effective Council action must be taken without further delay to reverse dangerous trends on the ground that threatened any possibility of a two-State solution.  While Malaysia would have preferred a more transparent and normal process of submitting the text to the Council, the present situation was unique, he emphasized, appealing to fellow Council members not to lose the opportunity to advance the peace.  The time to show that a two-State solution was not an empty slogan was now, he added.

GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) also noted his delegation’s sponsorship of the draft, expressed frustration that no draft on the Middle East had been adopted in the past eight years.  He surveyed the draft’s drafting and negotiation history, saying what was needed was a text that moved the peace process forward by building on the broad consensus that settlements were a major obstacle and that all violence must end.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), a third sponsor, said today’s action could be historic.  The decision to table the draft was important due to the ongoing expansion of settlements and in order to safeguard the Palestinian people and salvage the peace process.  The draft resolution reaffirmed the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live within secure borders, on the basis of the 1967 lines.  At the same time, it addressed the settlement problem and condemned violence.  There was wide consensus among Member States, the Secretary-General, other members of the Middle East Quartet and other stakeholders, he noted, urging adoption of the text.

The Council then adopted the draft resolution by 14 votes in favour with 1 abstention (United States).


AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said the text adopted today expressed the painful reality of illegitimate settlements and confiscation of Palestinian land.  The settlement question was one component of the final-status issues — that of borders.  Noting that his country, had been compelled to withdraw its own draft, he stressed that it was unacceptable for some Council members to have warned Egypt.  Recalling that Egypt had been the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, he said it believed in peace based on a two-State solution and the land-for-peace initiative.

SAMANTHA POWER (United States) said the immediate adoption of a freeze on settlements could create confidence, adding that further settlement activities were not necessary for Israel’s security.  President Ronald Reagan had said that in 1982, she recalled, noting that his words underscored her country’s commitment to a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians and highlighted its position that settlements undermined Israel’s security and eroded prospects for peace and stability.

She said that while her vote today was in line with her country’s bipartisan tradition, the vote itself had not been straightforward.  Explaining that Israel had been treated differently from other States for as long as it had been a member of the United Nations, she pointed out that in the course of 2016, 18 resolutions had been adopted in the General Assembly and others in the Human Rights Council, all condemning Israel.  Because of that bias, and some factors not included in the resolution, the United States had not voted in favour of the resolution, she said, explaining that her delegation would not have let it pass had it not addressed acts of terrorism and incitement to violence.

The issue of settlements was now putting a two-State solution at risk too, she continued.  The number of settlers had increased dramatically, and legislation now before the Knesset would legalize most of their outposts.  Emphasizing that one must make a choice between settlements and separation, she said her delegation had not supported the resolution because it was focused too narrowly on settlements.

She went on to stress that Palestinian leaders must recognize that incitement for violence eroded prospects for peace.  There had been hundreds of attacks, but rather than being condemned, the attackers were upheld as heroes.  Israel faced threats in a difficult neighbourhood, and the United States would not waver in its commitment to its security, she said, underlining that a two-State solution was the only path to peace for the people of Israel and Palestine.  It was up to them to choose that path.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) described the resolution’s adoption as an important and historic event, noting that it marked the first time that the Council had clearly stated the obvious:  settlement activities undermined a two-State solution.  Israel’s settlement building had accelerated, fuelling tension on the ground, and it was now part of a deliberate policy aiming to create facts on the ground in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.  Acts of violence, incitement and terrorism also undermined the chances for a two-State solution, he said, pointing out that the resolution strongly reiterated its condemnation of all acts of terrorism and called on the Palestinian Authority to discourage them.  The resolution was also meant to create the conditions for a resumption of negotiations.  Emphasizing that peace could only be based on a two-State solution, he said France would organize an international conference in Paris to re-launch the negotiation process.  Today’s resolution and the Paris conference were both aimed at reiterating support for a two-State solution, he added.

RAFAEL DARIO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), welcoming the resolution’s adoption, said it allowed the Council to emerge from inaction and work for the resumption of negotiations towards a two-State solution.  Of course that was just one step towards that goal, but it was necessary because it seriously affected both the Palestinian people and the prospects for peace, he said.  Israel must now end all illegal practices of the occupation, including its blockade on the Gaza Strip and all settlement activity.  Reiterating condemnation of all terrorism as well as all violations of the human rights of Palestinians, he said he was pleased that, as his country ended its term, the Council had finally acted on the settlement issue.

WU HAITAO (China), welcoming the adoption, said the resolution reflected the common aspiration of the international community.  He urged Israel to implement the resolution and called upon both sides to re-establish mutual trust so that a just and lasting solution could be reached in the form of two secure States coexisting peacefully.  China would continue to support efforts to achieve that goal, he pledged.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said the adoption reaffirmed the belief that a two-State solution was the only way to a just and lasting peace.  In that context, it was critical to end all terrorism and incitement, he emphasized, adding that it was also necessary to end the expansion of settlements.  The United Kingdom rejected all efforts to de-legitimize Israel, and it was as a friend of that country that it supported the resolution text, since it was in the best interests of both sides and renewed efforts for a peaceful two-State solution.  He stressed, however, that he did not anticipate an easy road to that goal.

LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay) said the resolution represented a critical effort to address negative trends in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.  Hopefully it would be a call for action towards the resumption of negotiations on a peaceful, negotiated two-State solution.  Uruguay would continue to support that goal, he pledged, noting that both Israelis and Palestinians deserved it, exhausted as they were by many decades of conflict.

VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation), explaining that he had been puzzled by the process around the resolution and by the haste with which it had been “pushed” to the vote, agreed  with other speakers that settlement activities undermined the chances for a two-State solution, as did acts of terror and incitement to violence.  Emphasizing that his country had been involved in the peace process for a long time, he said the work of the Middle East Quartet (European Union, Russian Federation, United Nations, United States) remained important and effective.  Its July report was still relevant, and implementation of its recommendations would help to return the process to the political track, he added.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said he was deeply concerned about the current stagnation in the peace process.  Noting that settlement activities were in violation of international law and had been eroding the viability of a two-State solution, he emphasized the importance of the parties committing themselves to the resolution.  Peace in the Middle East could only be realized through negotiations, he said, stressing that Japan would not recognize any unilateral change by either party that might pre-judge the final resolution of the conflict.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) said that after decades of paralysis the Council had finally taken effective action to reverse the negative trends threatening peace and a two-State solution.  Thanking Council members who had voted in favour of the resolution, he said he was encouraged by the restraint demonstrated by some permanent members.  Settlement activity constituted the single biggest threat to peace and a two-State solution, and had led to settler violence, home demolitions, as well as the denial of development.  Decades of violations of human rights violations had frustrated those with nothing to lose, which had led to acts of violence, he said.  The resolution could give hope to the people of Palestine and Israel, the majority of whom still wanted peace under a two-State solution.  The adoption was also a victory for people in Israel who still believed in living side by side in peace with the Palestinians and other Arab people.  While emphasizing the need to reflect on the collective failures of the past 50 years, he also cautioned that today’s resolution only addressed the symptoms and not the root causes of the conflict.

ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola), welcomed the resolution’s adoption, saying that the problem of settlements had continued for far too long.  It was disappointing that Israel disputed its illegality.  Urging both sides to refrain from unilateral actions that could hinder a two-State solution, he said that such a solution would require unity on the Council, among Palestinians and among Israelis.  Angola hoped today’s action was a first step in the right direction.

GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) said he was very pleased that during the last meeting of 2016, the Council had been able to take a positive step to save a two-State solution.  Settlements were a threat to that goal, but so were violence and terrorism, he said, adding that they also created false expectations on the part of Israelis and resentments on the part of Palestinians.  Today’s resolution confirmed principles that had long been accepted in the United Nations, he said, adding that, while more could have been done, the text was achievable “right now”.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal), welcoming the adoption, affirmed that the settlements were illegal under international law.  They encouraged violence against both Israelis and Palestinians, and harmed the aspirations of both to a peaceful future.  Renewing condemnations of all acts of terrorism and violence while expressing support for initiatives that could move the peace process forward, he called for the coordination of all such initiatives.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain), Council President for December, said he had voted in favour of the resolution because it would help to save the prospects for a two-State solution, which must be negotiated between the two sides.  However, the Council must fulfil its responsibilities and act on the basis of consensus and a balanced text that could move the process forward.  Spain had always affirmed the illegality of the settlements and condemned incitement to violence, he recalled, noting that today’s resolution was consistent with both positions.  Welcoming the Council’s breaking of its silence on the issue, he pledged that his country would continue to make whatever contribution possible to advance peace in the Middle East.

DANNY DANON (Israel) described today as a bad day for his country and the peak of hypocrisy.  The Council had wasted time to condemn Israel for building homes in the Jewish people’s historic homeland.  Those who had voted yes had voted no to negotiations, to progress and to a chance for better lives for both Israelis and Palestinians, he said, adding that they had voted no to the possibility of peace.  The resolution would continue to provide excuses for the Palestinians to avoid recognizing Israel’s right to exist, he said.  There had been a disproportionate number of resolutions condemning Israel and today’s text would be added to that shameful list.

He went on to call upon the Council to turn a new page and end the bias against Israel.  Today it had voted to condemn the State of Israel and to condemn the Jewish people for building homes in the Land of Israel.  Asking every voting member who had given them the right to issue such a decree, denying “our eternal rights in Jerusalem”, he expressed full confidence in the justice of Israel’s cause and the righteousness of its path.  “We will continue to be a democratic State based on the rule of law and full civil and human rights for all our citizens,” he emphasized.  “And we will continue to be a Jewish State proudly reclaiming the land of our forefathers.”

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said that the Council’s action, while long overdue, was timely, necessary and important.  Over the years, the delegation of the State of Palestine had made countless appeals for the Council to uphold its Charter duties, insisting on the need to confront Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and its relentless colonization of their land under a half-century of foreign occupation.  Those appeals had been calls for the Council to contribute to the cause of peace — for Palestine, Israel, the Middle East and the world, he said.

The resolution would require vigilant follow-up if it was to be meaningful and if it would salvage the two-State solution from relegation to history’s archives, he said.  Urgent efforts would be needed to reverse the dangerous, negative trends on the ground and to advance collective efforts to end the occupation that had begun in 1967.  For five decades, the occupation had persisted with full force, its illegal settlements and wall having undermined the contiguity of Palestinian lands and isolated East Jerusalem.  In response to claims of bias, he said the only bias taking place was bias against law, reason and the vision of two States as the most viable solution.

Urging the Security Council to stand firm by its decision, he expressed hope that the global call for an end to Israel’s settlement activities and violations would compel its compliance with the law, de-escalate tensions and bring an end to violence.  That would be vital for salvaging the prospects for peace and should be led by responsible Council action, including follow-up to the reports requested of the Secretary-General in relation to implementation of today’s resolution.  Recognizing the efforts of Arab States in the context of the Arab Peace Initiative, as well as those of France, the Quartet, Egypt and the Russian Federation, he called for intensified international and regional efforts to end Israel’s occupation and build a just and lasting peace in an independent, sovereign and contiguous State of Palestine, side by side with Israel and within secure and recognized borders.

Full Text of UN Security Council Condemnation of Israel, Resolution 2334

The full text of resolution 2334 (2016) reads as follows:

The Security Council,
Reaffirming its relevant resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 446 (1979), 452 (1979), 465 (1980), 476 (1980), 478 (1980), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003), and 1850 (2008),

Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming, inter alia, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force,

Reaffirming the obligation of Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and recalling the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice,

Condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions,

Expressing grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines,

Recalling the obligation under the Quartet Roadmap, endorsed by its resolution 1515 (2003), for a freeze by Israel of all settlement activity, including “natural growth”, and the dismantlement of all settlement outposts erected since March 2001,

Recalling also the obligation under the Quartet roadmap for the Palestinian Authority Security Forces to maintain effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantling terrorist capabilities, including the confiscation of illegal weapons,
Condemning all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction,

Reiterating its vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders,

Stressing that the status quo is not sustainable and that significant steps, consistent with the transition contemplated by prior agreements, are urgently needed in order to (i) stabilize the situation and to reverse negative trends on the ground, which are steadily eroding the two-State solution and entrenching a one-State reality, and (ii) to create the conditions for successful final status negotiations and for advancing the two-State solution through those negotiations and on the ground,

“1.   Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;

“2.   Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard;

“3.   Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations;

“4.   Stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-State solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two-State solution;

“5.   Calls upon all States, bearing in mind paragraph 1 of this resolution, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967;

“6.   Calls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, calls for accountability in this regard, and calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism;

“7.   Calls upon both parties to act on the basis of international law, including international humanitarian law, and their previous agreements and obligations, to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, with the aim, inter alia, of de-escalating the situation on the ground, rebuilding trust and confidence, demonstrating through policies and actions a genuine commitment to the two-State solution, and creating the conditions necessary for promoting peace;

“8.   Calls upon all parties to continue, in the interest of the promotion of peace and security, to exert collective efforts to launch credible negotiations on all final status issues in the Middle East peace process and within the time frame specified by the Quartet in its statement of 21 September 2010;

“9.   Urges in this regard the intensification and acceleration of international and regional diplomatic efforts and support aimed at achieving, without delay a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap and an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967; and underscores in this regard the importance of the ongoing efforts to advance the Arab Peace Initiative, the initiative of France for the convening of an international peace conference, the recent efforts of the Quartet, as well as the efforts of Egypt and the Russian Federation;

“10.  Confirms its determination to support the parties throughout the negotiations and in the implementation of an agreement;

“11.  Reaffirms its determination to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions;

“12.  Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council every three months on the implementation of the provisions of the present resolution;

“13.  Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Christmas Message from Occupied Bethlehem


Dear friends, 
once again its Christmas.  Shopping centres are full of lights and Christmas decorations.  Christmas cheers, carols and songs ring out.  In public squares and churches around the world, there are nativity scenes depicting the birth of Christ in a little town called Bethlehem. 

But Bethlehem, the one that exists in the popular consciousness, the one we see on the front of Christmas cards or the one Christians read about in the bible, is not the one that exists today.  The Bethlehem of popular consciousness is a peaceful little pastoral village, awash with shepherds and sheep, where angels came to herald the birth of the Christ.

The real Bethlehem, however, is very different.  After 49 years of Israeli's illegal occupation,  it continues to be a city under siege. It continues to be a city, where 25,000 Palestinians experience apartheid on a daily basis. 

Today Bethlehem, the city of Christ's birth, is surrounded by 18 illegal Israel colonies and the apartheid wall, cutting of the little town of Jesus from the rest of the Occupied West Bank and Occupied East Jerusalem.  Israel's occupation regime, apartheid wall and occupation military prevent Palestinian freedom of movement, freedom of worship and from freedom to live their lives as any of us would desire. Today, if Joseph and Mary were to make the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, they would not be able to reach the city or the manager where the bible tells us Mary gave birth to Jesus.

Today in Occupied Bethlehem, whether you are Christian or Muslim, you will be subject to restriction on your freedom of movement, subject to frequent home invasions, house demolitions, the arbitrary arrest family members and detention without trail.

The city of the Christ's birth is today completely encircled by Israel apartheid wall and 22 illegal colonies, preventing Palestinian freedom of movement and destroying Palestinian tourism and livelihoods. 

Vera Barboun, Bethlehem's first female Mayor (who was elected in 2012) in her annual Christmas message once again highlighted the Palestinian struggle, while also called for mercy, care and peace for all those suffering around the world.  Citing Palestinian Poet, Mahmoud Darwish poem "Think of Others", which admonishes those in power: "As you conduct your wars - think of others. Don't forget those who want peace", Baboun asked:
Let us think of the children who are the victims of war, families who are being detached and displaced from their origins, and countries that are being stratified. Here resides the cruelty of war because of which humanity falls to destruction and lose the meaning of mercy in our lives. Let us think of others, let us engulf them with love, and fill their hearts with hope".
She went on to call for an end to Israel's illegal occupation, saying:
"Let 2017 witness the end of occupation in Palestine, for what this year enfolds of unique symbolism recalling 100 years of Balfour declaration, 70 years for the decision of the partition of Palestine, 30 years for the first Palestinian Intifada, and 10 years for the Palestinian internal division. Yes, it is time for the world to stand together in unity to end the suffering of our Palestinian people, whose identity resides in the sustainability of their existence as people and land. 
Yes, it is from Bethlehem that we send a message of life in Christmas and throughout the year to all innocents suffering all over the world. We pray to our baby lord Jesus for peace would prevail in the year 2017 with courageous decisions and acts to achieve peace. We hope families would reunite on their land after having experienced the bitter refuge far from their homeland. We as Palestinians feel their misery as more than 6 million Palestinian refugees are still scattered in the world, dreaming to return home. In addition to the compulsorily deportees and prisoners in the Israeli prisons longing for their liberty and freedom.
It all began in Bethlehem, where the crib designates mercy and life. From that humble cradle God’s mercy emerged to humanity to give hope and serenity to those who need it, so that Mercy would indeed be the true meaning of Christmas.
Palestine is our homeland, Bethlehem is our town. Bethlehem is a house that lives hope, engulfed with the spirit of resilience and love, and prays for our homeland, its people, and the entire humanity. Merry Christms and Happy New Year"

Each year, Palestinian activists in Occupied Bethlehem also seek to highlight both the 
oppression that the Palestinian people face, while also celebrating their humanity.  Through their resistance and sumoud (steadfastness) to Israel's ongoing atrocities, war crimes and apartheid regime, the people of Palestine reaffirm their dignity and love of life. 

All protest photos: Oren Ziv, ActiveStills

On  23 December - once again - hundreds of Palestinians, joined by Israel anti-occupation activists and internationals, marched to Checkpoint 300, which blocks freedom of movement for Palestinians between Occupied Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities in the Occupied West Bank.  The Palestinian, Israel and international protesters sought to highlight Israel's continuing apartheid and occupation by pointing out that if Joseph and Mary would find it impossible to return to Bethlehem today from Nazareth because of Israel military checkpoints and apartheid wall.

Today as we celebrate Christmas, please also remember the people of Palestine and their struggle. And as we do, let us remember that  despite Israel's occupation and apartheid regime, that despite the restrictions on their freedom of movement, their freedom of worship, their freedom to live life in peace, the Palestinian people celebrate life. Not just every Christmas, but every day, every week, every month and every year.  They resist and demand dignity and celebrate joy and happiness with those they love, in spite of Israel's brutality and human rights abuses. 

Let us stand with them in the fight for dignity, human rights and self-determination. If you haven't already done so, please consider joining the Palestinian solidarity struggle. You can do this by joining a local Palestine solidarity group in your town or city, on your university campus or school or at your place of worship. If there is none, please consider setting one up.

If this is not your forte, you also can stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine by simply writing to your local newspaper and politician and calling on them to oppose Israel's occupation and apartheid regime. You can do this by posting information about the Palestinian struggle and Israel's occupation on social media and talking with your friends, family and colleagues about what is happening in Occupied Palestine.

Please also consider supporting the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which is a non-violent campaign which seeks to put pressure on Israel until it abides by international law.

For more information on the situation in Occupied Bethlehem, I have included below an article that was published in 2015, which gives a good overview of the situation in Occupied Bethlehem. Since it was written, the occupation has only deepened and the Palestinian people have been forced to endure even worse conditions both in Occupied Bethlehem but also the rest of the Occupied West Bank, Occupied East Jerusalem and in Gaza. 

I have also included below some of my previous Christmas posts about life and resistance in Occupied Bethlehem below, including photos and videos:

2015: Christmas in Occupied Bethelehm: Resistance and Life in Occupied Palestine!

2014: Images of Resistance: Christmas in Occupied Palestine 2014

2013: Christmas in Occupied Bethlehem: a living call for freedom and dignity

2007: Christmas in Occupied Bethlehem

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

For a Free Palestine in 2017!

In solidarity, Kim

    Checkpoint, Occupied Bethlehem

Stealing Bethlehem

By James Zogby - Maan News, 2 January 2015

For those who do not know the place, Bethlehem possesses a timeless quality, derived from these artistic creations. It is a place of mystery and contradictions.

It is the peaceful little town that played an out-sized role in history; the birthplace of Jesus, the child born in a cave, heralded by angels, and visited by shepherds and kings.

For hundreds of millions of Christians world-wide, these are the images that define Bethlehem. Sadly, in reality, all of this is but a fantasy, since the pressures of daily life confronted by the residents of this historic community paint a remarkably different portrait.

Suffering under an Israeli military occupation since 1967, Bethlehem is slowly being strangled. It is losing land to settlement construction, hemmed in by a 30 foot high concrete wall, stripped of its resources, and denied access to external markets. As a result, 25 percent of Bethlehem’s people are unemployed, while 35 percent live below the poverty level.

Before the occupation, for example, thousands of Palestinians in Bethlehem were employed as craftsmen known worldwide for their olive-wood and mother-of-pearl artifacts. Today, denied the ability to freely export and hurt by the instability of the occupation, that industry employs only a few hundred.

Similarly, Bethlehem’s tourism has suffered. Israeli companies that dominate that field bring tourists to stay in hotels in areas they control, making day trips to Bethlehem’s holy places. The crowds come to the town, but their revenues disproportionately go the Israelis.

The town has lost so much land to Israeli confiscation for settlement construction that, because it can no longer expand, it must build vertically. As a result, what is left of Bethlehem has become overcrowded, with traffic congesting its narrow streets.

Israeli leaders often complain that they must expand their settlements further so that their young can find housing. And they insist that they must continue to build their wall, in order to protect their people who live in these illegal colonies.

What they do not say is that the expansion of the mammoth projects at Har Homa, Gilo, Har Gilo, Betar Ilit, Giva’ot, and more are occurring at the expense of Palestinians living in the Bethlehem region. The Israelis call these colonies “neighborhoods of Jerusalem.” This is but a crude effort to obfuscate the reality that they are all built on Bethlehem area land — illegally confiscated by Israel and then unilaterally annexed to what they call “Greater Jerusalem.”

As a result, Palestinians now retain only tenuous control of 13 percent of the Bethlehem region — with the Israelis still threatening to take more. In fact, the 22 Israeli settlements built in the Bethlehem region, the roads that connect them, and the wall that protects them were all built on land taken from Palestinians.

And the new expansion plans for Jewish-only housing and the extension of the wall simply means that more land will be taken, leaving less for Palestinians

Look at a map and you will see that Bethlehem is but a few miles from Jerusalem. As late as 20 years ago, standing near Manger Square, one could look out over a green space, the hill of Jabal Abul Ghnaim, and see the Holy City. The trip, by car, was only 15 to 20 minutes.

Today, that view has been obliterated by the 30-foot-high wall, and that green space, where Palestinian families once picnicked, is now the site of the monstrous concrete settlement of Har Homa — home to 25,000 Israelis. As a result of the settlements, Jewish-only roads, and the wall, an entire generation of young Palestinians have grown up never having been to Jerusalem.

Not only that, but the entire population has been cut off from the city that was their metropole — the hub that provided them medical, social, educational services, markets and sources of employment, and venues for cultural and spiritual enrichment.

All that is now beyond their reach.

Today, the Palestinian population of the Bethlehem region is 210,000. There are over 110,000 Israeli settlers, with plans to double that number in the near future. Facing this human onslaught, Palestinians have taken their case to the World Court which ruled that the settlements and the wall are illegal — in clear violation of international laws designed after World War II to protect the rights of people living in territories occupied in time of war.

In response, Israel, with the backing of the US, acts with impunity continuing to build, to move its people into Palestinian land, and to take still more land.

Looming large over the lives of Bethlehemites is the Israeli plan to extend the wall in the north through one of the last remaining green spaces in the region. This portion of the wall is designed to zig-zag along a path that will cut through the vineyards and olive orchards of the Convent at Cremisan, separating the children of Beit Jala from their school, and confiscating land owned by 54 Palestinian families.

Once completed, the wall will allow the Israelis to expand and connect two settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo. It is, as described by Bethlehem’s mayor, Vera Baboun, “the final knot in the noose around the neck of Bethlehem.”

All this is happening while Christians in the West blissfully sing of the “peaceful little town,” not hearing the cries of its people. More disturbing is the degree to which policymakers and those who should know better deliberately turn a deaf ear to Palestinian appeals for recognition of their plight, thereby enabling the continuation of this injustice.

Meanwhile, in Bethlehem, hope gives way to despair and thoughts of peace to feelings of anger. Attention must be paid to this tragedy.

Just for a moment, think of Bethlehem and instead of imagining the shepherds and the angels, think of life as it is in that town today.

Imagine what you would feel if you lived in Bethlehem and saw your land taken to make way for homes and roads for another people. And imagine how you would feel if your sons and daughters were forced into exile to find employment, to make way for the sons and daughters of another people who have come to live on your land.

Then listen carefully and hear the cry of the people of that little town.

James Zogby is the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, the political and policy research arm of the Arab-American community.