Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

Reply to Sunday Times re Palestine against the wall

DEIR YASSIN - startling evidence
About Maurice Ostroff

January 25, 2011
The Editor
Times Live

The major portion of Mr. Kgosana's article "Palestine, against the wall" (Times Live Jan. 22) is commendably informative and factual, but it is unfortunately misleading in certain aspects because of what is omitted.  He may nevertheless be forgiven for these omissions because they are no doubt unintentional due to lack of knowledge of some highly relevant facts.
Fir example Mr. Kgosana's refers to the "wall" with no mention of its origin or purpose. The fact is that this security barrier was erected to counter terror attacks which had killed and wounded thousands of Israelis. Its effectiveness has been confirmed by none other than the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Abdallah Shalah. Interviewed in Damascus by the Qatari newspaper Al-Sharq  he said "..the enemy [Israel] .. built a separation fence in the West Bank . We do not deny that it limits the ability of the resistance to arrive deep within [Israeli territory] to carry out suicide bombing attacks" (Al-Sharq, March 23, 2008 ).
Dennis Ross, summed it up in an August 4, 2003 Wall Street Journal commentary titled "When is a Fence not a Fence?" He  wrote "Truth be told, those responsible for the fence are Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. Their terror produced the impulse for the fence. If violence were not a threat, the fence would not be necessary."
Mr. Kgosana accepts the Palestinians' claim that Jerusalem is their legitimate capital whereas that claim has no validity in law, history or even religion. Since the most insistent Muslim claim to Jerusalem is on a religious basis, it is relevant to note that Mecca, not Jerusalem, is the most sacred city in Islam. Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran. 
By contrast, Israel's claim to the West Bank and Jerusalem is firmly based not only in history and religion but also in international law. There has been a Jewish presence in Jerusalem since the days of King David and through the centuries Jews have prayed daily for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. In dividing the former Ottoman Empire, the 1920 San Remo Conference granted exclusive legal rights in Palestine including the territory now known as Jordan to the Jewish people while giving the lion's share comprising Syria, Lebanon, Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Arabia to the Arabs. Significantly, this San Remo resolution is binding. It was incorporated in the British Mandate, which incorporated the Balfour Declaration and the Covenant of the League of Nation's that charged Britain with establishing a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.  Many international jurists such as the late Professor Julius Stone and Dr. Jacques Gauthier have concluded that Israel's presence in the West bank and Jerusalem is completely legal in terms of international law.
It is nevertheless possible that in a negotiated peace settlement, Israel may agree to a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, despite no legal obligation to do so.
Having been comrades in arms, the ANC's empathy for the PLO is understandable but it is important to realize the limitations in drawing lessons from South Africa's experience as the philosophy and outlook of the ANC are vastly different from those of the PLO and Hamas. The hate-filled PLO and Hamas covenants bear no resemblance to the lofty aims of the ANC’s Freedom Charter. While the ANC Charter states “South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation - not war” article 9 of the PLO Charter declares bluntly that the armed struggle is not merely tactical, it is the overall strategy. Article 19 rejects outright, the 1947 UN partition of Palestine, implying that liberating Palestine means destruction of the entire Jewish state.
Let's hope that Mr. Kgosana's statement that Fatah has denounced the armed struggle is accurate, despite the statement by former PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei (Abu Alaa) that armed resistance is still acceptable as long as it is beneficial to the Palestinians' interests. [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 5, 2010]
The irrationality of Hamas, so different from the sober tone of the ANC Charter,  is illustrated by obsessive phobia about freemasons, rotary clubs, Lions and similar organizations, promising that the day Islam is in control, these organizations, will be obliterated.
On a positive note, let's hope that the ANC leaders' visit to Ramallah will be followed by a visit to Israel with emphasis on the positive aspects of relations between our two countries which could lend synergy to the contribution South Africa, the PA  and Israel can jointly make towards a peaceful Middle East.  Let's build on the little known but successful Training Programs for Black South Africans in leadership agriculture and organization that were held in Israel during the apartheid era despite the objections of the then SA government and the work that The Center for International Cooperation ("MASHAV") has carried out over the years in technology-transfer activities in 30 different African countries. 

Sunday Times - Times Live

Palestine, against the wall
Jan 22, 2011 11:27 PM | By Caiphus Kgosana

On a visit to Palestine, Caiphus Kgosana finds that the armed struggle against Israel is slowly giving way to an international campaign along the lines of the anti-apartheid movement in an attempt to end the occupation

CHANGING VIEW: The shadows of Palestinian children are cast on a wall bearing an anti-Israel mural in Gaza City, where a shift towards an isolationist campaign against occupation is under way Picture: REUTERS

Palestine's resistance to Israeli occupation faces many obstacles, including internal division and a lack of unified support from Arab states.

An ANC delegation is visiting Fatah, the Movement for the National Liberation of Palestine, in Ramallah, the West Bank city known as the temporary capital of Palestine and the headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority - the de facto government led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

Fatah is the largest of the political groupings that form the Palestinian Liberation Organisations .

Countries that recognise the Palestinian state have set up missions in Ramallah, which is separated from Jerusalem by a 12m-high concrete wall set about with barbed wire.

Palestinians regard Jerusalem as their legitimate capital and often refer to a time when the remains of their late leader, Yasser Arafat, will be reburied in the holy city.

The 20-strong ANC delegation includes representatives of trade union federation Cosatu, the SA Communist Party, the ANC's youth and women's leagues, business and civil society.

They engage in an intense discussion with their Fatah hosts on the genesis of the Palestinian struggle and lessons that can be drawn from South Africa's successful resistance to apartheid.

Having denounced the armed struggle as a means of achieving an independent Palestine, Fatah has opted to adopt the anti-apartheid movement model which exerted pressure to internationally isolate apartheid South Africa, to force it to adopt full democracy.

The strategy focuses strongly on pushing for a boycott of all products from Israeli settlements as well as a cultural boycott, encouraging international companies to disinvest from companies based in Jewish settlements and to convince the world to apply punitive sanctions against Israel.

The Fatah movement has long accepted that Israel's superior fire power and the geographical composition of the Palestinian state - including the West Bank and the Gaza strip - make it difficult to wage an armed struggle because it is too easy for Israel to isolate opposition and conduct ground and air raids.

Among those present at the meeting with the ANC delegation is Dr Nabil Shaath, a charming, authoritative figure. A former foreign minister of Palestine, Shaath is chairman of the foreign relations committee of Fatah.

"There is no balance of power," says Shaath.

"One side has a historical claim to the land but the other has all the guns and power, so it's difficult to achieve equity, it's difficult to achieve peace. That doesn't mean we should own weapons, it means our struggle should be shaped by people of the world who want peace and international law to prevail."

For Palestinians, an acceptable solution would be recognition of their right to self-determination, the immediate halting of all Jewish settlements on the West Bank and Israel's withdrawal from the area and from the Gaza strip, which were annexed during the Six-Day War of 1967 when Israel quickly defeated the united armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

Following its 1967 victory, Israel began constructing Jewish settlements which now cover 87% of the West Bank and are surrounded by a wall that will run for 810km once completed. Hundreds of army checkpoints control access and movement.

About 76000 Jewish housing settlement units have been built since the occupation, with 15000 more under construction.

The Gaza strip, under the control of the radical liberation movement Hamas, has been besieged by the Israeli army and is subject to random shelling.

Millions of Palestinians living on the West Bank close to Jewish settlements are threatened daily with eviction, despite the settlements being considered illegal under international law.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, an academic from the University of Bethlehem, describes this as a campaign to rid the West Bank of all people of Arab descent.

"They want the land but they don't want the people that come with it," he says.

Qumsiyeh says he believes the Palestinian people have every right to protect themselves from Israeli aggression by any means, including taking up arms, but concedes that it's a difficult and extremely costly route to take.

In contrast, the ANC's struggle against the apartheid regime was multipronged and included the armed struggle - which many argue was largely ineffective. It also comprised internal resistance and disobedience campaigns as well as international isolation of the racist state.

The latter strategy, although likely to be successful in the end, can be a time-consuming process that demands patience, persuasion and coercion.

Applying it to the Palestinian struggle could also prove tricky because of the situation in the movement and the wider region.

The first disadvantage is the disunity among the Palestinian liberation movements - particularly Fatah and Hamas.

When Hamas won the 2006 elections in the Gaza strip, it agreed to a power-sharing deal but staged a military coup in 2007 which brought down the unity government.

It immediately isolated all its political opponents and created parallel institutions to those created by the Palestinian National Authority.

Efforts by Egypt to broker a truce between Hamas, Fatah and other smaller liberation organisations failed.

At the same time the Arab world is largely ineffective and fragmented over the Palestinian issue, with neighbouring states mainly interested in safeguarding their own interests. This means countries that should be key allies, such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, end up bowing to US pressure to grant concessions to Israel - sometimes at the expense of the Palestinians.

The US - even under the current administration - remains the biggest supporter of the Israeli government and has shielded it from international accountability.

ANC international relations manager Ribbon Mosholi, who is leading the fact-finding mission to Palestine, agrees that disunity among the formations fighting for Palestinian liberation is a drawback that makes it difficult to adopt an effective strategy.

This disunity and the lack of concrete support from Arab states will make it difficult to recreate an effective resistance campaign along the lines of the anti-apartheid movement, she adds.

"We need to be frank with the Palestinians. We knocked on every door and we managed in the long run to make sure that the whole African continent, bar a few states, was with us. In the end most Western countries were embarrassed to vote against us during UN deliberations on SA."

Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti of the global Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions coalition says people never believed in the '60s and '70s that apartheid would crumble, but relentless international pressure eventually led to its dismantling.

He says the same pressure applied globally will eventually force Israel to back down and that South Africa under the ANC has a critical role to play in this regard.

For now, however, the future looks imperfect for besieged Palestinians who seem to have very few friends willing to openly cross swords with the US and Israel.

    * Kgosana's trip was sponsored by the Foreign Relations Commission of the Fatah Movement and the Palestinian Embassy in SA.



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