Ben Gurion ’48 letter barred return to Haifa

Over many decades, Israel’s self-serving deceptions about the Nakba in 1948 have been exposed for the lies Palestinians already knew them to be.

It was long accepted in the west that, as Israel claimed, Palestinians left their homes because they had been ordered to do so by neighbouring Arab leaders. The lie usefully distracted diplomats and scholars from the much more pertinent question of why Israel had refused to allow 750,000 Palestinian refugees to return to their homes after the war finished, as international law demanded.

The myth about the Arab leaders’ order, which had been steadily undermined by the work of the “new historians” of the late 1980s, was decisively punctured two years ago by an Israeli scholar who was given the wrong file by Israeli army archivists. It showed the story of the Arab leaders’ order was concocted by Israeli officials.

The same files should also have ended an equally diverting and lengthy debate about how many Palestinian villages Israel ethnically cleansed in 1948. Most Palestinian scholars were agreed it was well over 500; Israeli experts variously claimed it was between 300 and 400. Not that hundreds of ethnically cleansed villages was not bad enough, but Israel was happy to engage in a debate designed to make Palestinians look like inveterate exaggerators. Again, Israel’s archives confirmed the Palestinian account, with 530 villages razed.

Now another, related deception has been exposed. For decades Israel’s supporters have been arguing that Haifa, one of Palestine’s most important cities, was not ethnically cleansed of its population. The tens of thousands of Palestinians who fled under Israeli attack in April 1948 were later urged to return, according to Israel’s supporters, but they chose not to. Further proof, it seemed, that the Palestinians had only themselves to blame for losing their homeland. They chose to stay away.

Strangely, none of Israel’s propagandists ever seriously tried to suggest that the other 700,00 or so Palestinian refugees had been invited back home. It seemed as if the welcome supposedly extended in Haifa was reason enough for all Palestinians in exile to put aside their fears of Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy at its new borders and make the journey home.

But now a letter signed by David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and the engineer of its ethnic cleansing policy in 1948, shows that, far from Haifa’s doors being thrown open, Ben Gurion ordered that the refugees be barred from returning.

Written on 2 June 1948, the letter was sent to Abba Khoushy, soon to become Haifa’s mayor. It states: “I hear that Mr. Marriot [Cyril Marriot, the British consul in Haifa] is working to return the Arabs to Haifa. I don’t know how it is his business, but until the war is over we don’t want a return of the enemy. And all institutions should act accordingly.”

Of course, that policy was not reversed after the war, as Ben Gurion hinted it might be. And one can wonder how much more specific his orders were to his army commanders if this was what he was telling civilian administrators.

The myth about Haifa was encouraged by Golda Meir, who wrote in her autobiography that Ben Gurion told her: “I want you to immediately go to Haifa and see to it that the Arabs who remain in Haifa are treated appropriately. I also want you to try and persuade the Arabs who are already on the beach to return home. You have to get it into their heads that they have nothing to fear.”

Meir added: “I went immediately. I sat on the beach there and begged them to return home… I pleaded with them until I was exhausted but it didn’t work.”

Heartbreaking – if only it were true.

How much longer must we wait to explode all the other myths associated with the Nakba, and much of Israel’s history ever since? More

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The Palestinian dimension of the regional energy landscape

“The dynamic regional context creates opportunities for synergies between Palestinians, Israelis and other regional actors in the field of energy,” Ariel Ezrahi, Energy Advisor at the Office of the Quartet Representative told the International Oil and Gas Conference on Thursday (20 November 2014).

Ariel Ezrahi

In his presentation to the conference at the Dead Sea in Israel, Ezrahi gave an overview of the Palestinian energy sector including the current capacities, future demand, and potential opportunities for investment and development. He said that development of the Gaza Marine offshore gas field would constitute an important source of revenue for the Palestinian Authority, and fuel Palestinian power generation projects for years to come. The Gaza Marine field would not only be a cost-efficient solution for domestic power generation, but also a more environmentally friendly solution than the present sources of fuel, said Ezrahi.

He also noted that the West Bank currently has no power generation capacity whatsoever. Electricity usage is currently around 860 megawatts, but demand in the West Bank alone is expected to reach around 1,300 megawatts in 2020. Gaza currently receives between 150 to 210 megawatts, while demand is closer to 410 megawatts. By 2020, Ezrahi said, demand will hit 855 megawatts.

“There is a lot of room for cooperation in the energy sphere between Palestinian actors and Israel and other regional counterparts. I think it’s a very exciting time and that the energy sector can hopefully act as a bridge to overcome some of the political constraints. And that would be in everyone’s interest,” he told participants.

“Israel needs to see the Palestinians as an asset as they strive to join the regional power grid, and as a bridge to the Arab world.” Ezrahi emphasised that the Gaza Marine field should not be seen as a competitor to Israel’s fields, but rather, it provides a potential additional source of gas and opportunities for cooperation between the neighbouring countries. More

Related Links

  • Presentation on the Palestinian dimension of the regional energy landscape
  • ‘Israel’s bridge to the Arab world: Palestinian natural gas?’ article in Haaretz English Edition
  • ‘Gaza marine development could help deliver Israeli security,’ article in Rigzone
  • Ariel Ezrahi interivew with TheMarker (Hebrew)

One has to question why Gaza and Palestine would want to give their energy generation to Israel, the occupying power, or in fact help Israel sell their gas through Egypt. Using the gas from the Gazan fields would at least give both Gaza and Palestine energy independance and insulate them from the withholding by Israel of their tax receipts, see http://is.gd/FPWOWr Editor

 

The injustices being inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians

Via Jonathan Cook, journalist

I did a brief speaking tour of Montreal and Ottawa in the spring during which I met many inspiring individuals finding their own ways to help from afar end the injustices being inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians.

One seminar I participated in was on the Jewish National Fund, a Zionist “charity” whose funds have been used to plant forests to conceal Israel’s eradication of Palestinian villages during and after the 1948 war and which continues to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from areas like the Negev, or Naqab.

It’s great to see that the organisers have put together a powerful short video presentation that shows pictorially what the JNF is really doing with those charitable donations.

UN Calls for Israel to ‘Renounce Nuclear Weapons

The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution on Tuesday demanding that Israel “renounce possession of nuclear weapons” and open its arms to global regulation.

The measure, which is non-binding, was approved 161 to 5, with the United States, Canada, Palau, Micronesia, and Israel voting “no” and 18 countries abstaining.

Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that refuses to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, with India, Pakistan, and North Korea also declining.

While Israel does not publicly acknowledge its nuclear arsenal, its existence is widely known. A reportreleased by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute this summer found that Israel unlawfully owns 80 nuclear warheads, making it the only Middle Eastern nuclear power.

Introduced by Egypt, the resolution calls for Israel to “accede to [the non-proliferation treaty] without further delay, not to develop, produce test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons, to renounce possession of nuclear weapons.” It also urges the state to subject itself to regulation by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the UN. More

 

Israel, U.S. attempting to prevent Geneva Convention summit on Palestinians

Israel and the United States are trying to dissuade the nearly 200 states that are party to the Fourth Geneva Convention from convening a special session in mid-December to address conditions in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, Israeli and Western diplomats told Haaretz Wednesday.

Government officials believe that convention sponsor Switzerland has come under strong pressure from the Palestinians and Arab states, and is expected to issue invitations to the conference within days.

In early April, following Israel’s refusal to free the last scheduled group of Palestinian prisoners, and its announcement that it would build 700 homes in East Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decided to sign, in the Palestinian state’s name, on 15 international conventions and ask to join them. One of them was the Fourth Geneva Convention, which deals with protecting the civilian population in fighting areas or occupied territories.

This move brought to a head the crisis that led to the collapse of U.S. efforts to extend the talks between Israel and the Palestinians. A few weeks later the Palestinians and Arab League asked Switzerland officially to call a conference of the convention signatories to discuss the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as the damage Israel caused civilians in Gaza.

So far four attempts have been made to convene the Fourth Geneva Convention – all of them in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The last attempt was made in 2009 after Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.

However, after consultations of the Swiss Foreign Ministry at the time, it was decided there wasn’t sufficiently broad international support for holding the conference. In 2001, on the other hand, after the outbreak of the second intifada, such a conference was held. Israel and the United States boycotted it.

Recently Swiss diplomats said their country, as the convention’s sponsor, couldn’t decide by itself on calling the conference again. So Switzerland began consultations with the other signatory states to see if enough of them were interested in holding the conference.

Switzerland distributed to all the signatories a proposal to hold the conference in Geneva in mid-December. The Swiss made it clear they wanted the event to focus on the upholding of international humanitarian law.

The Swiss proposal is for a three-hour conference at an ambassadorial level, with few speeches and no media coverage except for a statement to the press to be released at the end.

“We made it clear we didn’t want a political event or debate club, or a conference that would blame or criticize one of the sides,” a Swiss diplomat said.

Israel objected to the move strongly despite the low profile Switzerland suggested. Senior Israeli diplomats went to Bern and Geneva a few times in a bid to persuade the Swiss Foreign Ministry not to hold the conference, saying Israel would boycott it if it were held.

“They told us that holding the conference would help a one-sided Palestinian move intended to make Israel look bad and attack it in an international forum,” the Swiss diplomat said.

Updated draft refers to settlements

The conference cannot make binding decisions, but could increase international criticism of Israel’s policy in the territories, especially regarding the settlements.

The Israeli fear over the conference increased after Jerusalem received an updated draft of its proposed contents. Unlike previous versions, the updated draft was phrased in a very political way, mentioning Israel by name and referring in detail to issues like the West Bank settlements.

Israeli and Swiss diplomats said the United States, Canada and Australia were helping Israel and exerting pressure on Switzerland and other states to thwart the conference. Israeli diplomats said that despite the fact that the Americans have yet to make a formal decision on the matter, U.S. officials have told Switzerland they would boycott the conference if it is held. Canada has conveyed a similar message to Switzerland.

Speaking with Haaretz on Wednesday, Edgar Vasquez, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, affirmed the American disapproval. “We strongly oppose the convening of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions and have made our opposition unmistakably clear,” he said.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman held telephone conversations in the last few days with colleagues worldwide, asking them to object to the conference and declare they would boycott it if it is held. Also, Israeli ambassadors in several key Western states have been instructed to try to obtain a commitment from those states to boycott the conference.

The Palestinians, meanwhile, along with the group of Arab nations, are pushing for the summit to be held.

But the Israeli efforts look bound to fail. Israeli and Swiss diplomats estimate that the Swiss government will in the coming days announce the holding of the summit.

Western diplomats knowledgeable of the proceedings described the Swiss as determined to move forward despite the significant resistance by nations such as the U.S., Canada, Australia and others.

The Fourth Geneva Convention is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions, adopted in 1949, which deals with the protection of civilian populations residing in areas of armed conflict and in areas under military occupation. The treaty forbids harming any agents uninvolved in the fighting – which includes, in addition to civilians, captured and wounded soldiers.

In regarding to a state of protracted military occupation – such as exists in the West Bank – the treaty decrees that the occupying power must uphold the human rights of the occupied civilian population, and ensure its conditions of living. The treaty also forbids any and all movement of civilian population from within the borders of the occupying power into the areas under military rule – such as the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Israel is a party to the convention, but the Knesset has never legislated the treaty into Israeli law. Israel claims the treaty is not applicable to the West Bank or East Jerusalem, for it considers these areas to be “disputed,” and not as under occupation. Thus, Israel does not regard the settlements as violations to the treaty.

 

IDF trainer: ‘No need to resuscitate Palestinians’

An IDF medic was surprised to hear two new orders given by his superiors: only Jews are worthy of resuscitation, and that attackers who pose no threat should be shot dead.

New orders in the Israeli army? D., a medic in the infantry, was surprised last week to find out during training for an operation in the occupied territories that at least two orders typically given to soldiers have been refreshed.

“During the refresher course the instructor, who works as a medic on the base, told us that the orders of the IDF are not to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to people we do not know. When asked about it he said that it basically means that we do not need to resuscitate Palestinians,” says D., who took part in the course at the Lakhish base in southern Israel. D. has since then left for duty in the West Bank.

“It sounds strange but he repeated it twice, so I have no doubt that that was what he meant. I was very surprised by the order not to resuscitate anyone who needs it. Since then I have come to understand that Magen David Adom (Israel’s national emergency medical, disaster and ambulance service) came up with the order regarding mouth-to-mouth resuscitation several years ago. The emphasis on the Palestinians was probably the instructor “thinking ahead.” I assume that he goes these trainings all the time. That’s worrying.”

Furthermore over the course of the week, D. participated in a refresher on the rules of engagement, where he said he was given permission to kill people who pose no threat. “They told us that the order regarding someone who stabs, ditches the knife and begins running is shoot to kill. The company commander said he doesn’t want anyone like that “to see a judge.”

Did anyone protest or critique these orders?

“The company seemed very bitter over the rules of engagement. The company commander almost apologized every time he forbade. So when he finally gave us permission to shoot an unarmed terrorist, most of the company was okay with that.”

It was only two weeks ago that Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich gave a similar order to Israeli Police in the wake of the vehicular attack in Sheikh Jarrah. Two days later police shot Kheir Hamdan to death in Kafr Kanna.

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A policy such as this would be in contravention of International Humanitarian Law and Geneva Conventions.

The International Committee of the Red Cross states; Without renewed commitment from governments to address growing social inequities and other sources of instability in the region, any quest for peace and prosperity will remain elusive. As a neutral and independent humanitarian organisation, the ICRC can only remind the parties to these conflicts that without respecting the basic tenets of international humanitarian law (IHL) in these testing times, it is most unlikely that the various communities will find their way toward reconciliation or be prepared to share the burden of a just peace after decades of conflict. Considering that the customary core of that law is older than the state- based system itself, the specific nature and extraordinary significance of IHL in today’s armed conflicts provide a legitimacy beyond the current international system. Far from being outdated, humanitarian law is very much a contemporary and future-oriented body of law. Turning specifically to the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the particular challenges facing humanitarian action there cannot be tackled without an honest look at certain Israeli policies that have become key features of the occupation. Israel has exercised ‘actual authority’ 1 over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for almost half a century, making its presence in these areas one of the longest sustained military occupations in modern history. While the shape and degree of this military occupation have varied, Israel has continuously maintained effective control over the territories it occupied as a result of the Six Day War in 1967, and over the Palestinian population living there. The constant pressure that Israeli occupation has imposed on the Palestinian population has had a profound impact on both the Palestinian and theIsraeli economies, cultures, andsocieties.Beyondtherecurringexcessesof armed violence, the ensuing grief among the people affected, and the trauma among the broader community, the lack of progress on issues of major humanitarian concern further illustrates the inability of a generation of decision-makers to find constructive ways to bring concrete improvements to the lives of millions of Palestinians. See: Challenges to international humanitarian law: Israel’s occupation policy Download PDF

 

Why is a Colorado firm selling apartments in Israel’s illegal settlements?

The Colorado-based real estate firm RE/MAX is profiting from Israel’s relentless theft of Palestinian land.

Palestinians protesting Illegal settlements

Active in the Israeli market since 1995, RE/MAX sells and rents houses and apartments in colonies reserved exclusively for Jews in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Much of that work is coordinated in an office that the Israeli subsidiary of RE/MAX runs in Maale Adumim, a major settlement in the West Bank.

A United Nations report published last year suggested that the firm’s parent company in the US could be “held accountable” for assisting Israel’s crimes. RE/MAX International, which is headquartered in Denver, “has constant interaction and influence” over its franchises around the world. The company also provides “brand name affiliation,” training and other services, according to Richard Falk, the report’s author, who was then the UN special rapporteur for the West Bank and Gaza.

“Closet space” for settlers

On its website, RE/MAX offers properties in a number of settlement colonies in East Jerusalem, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. A four-room apartment with “lots of closet space” can be rented for 4,400 shekels ($1,100) per month. Among the apartment’s attractions listed by RE/MAX are proximity to the light rail system which links Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem to the city center.

Screen grab from RE/MAX Israel’s website

Such settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids an occupying power from transfering its civilian population into a territory that it occupies.

Proespective settlers with a larger budget were recently offered what RE/MAX describes as “a beautiful old Arab house” in the Abu Tor neighborhood for 7 million shekels ($1.8 million).

Posing as a prospective buyer, an Electronic Intifada reporter phoned Orly Raz, a RE/MAX agent for East Jerusalem. Raz said that “we have just sold everything” that the firm was handling in Abu Tor.

Claiming that he would be moving to Jerusalem in early 2015, the reporter enquired if there would be any legal difficulties in buying a house or an apartment that previously belonged to Palestinians. “You don’t have to worry about these things,” Raz replied. “All our properties legally belong to Jewish owners. They didn’t take them from anyone.”

“Of course, if you are worried about the ‘67 border line, this is not a good area to buy property,” she added.

“Check very carefully”

Raz then asked: “Are you Jewish?” When the reporter responded that he was not, she said: “You have to check the properties — if their owners say they can sell an apartment to non-Jewish people.” She added, however, that such conditions are not mentioned on the firm’s website.

When the reporter feigned surprise that a real estate firm might discriminate based on religion or ethnicity, Raz said: “I’m just saying this is an issue to check very carefully.”

Ateret Cohanim, a Zionist organization, has been known to buy Palestinian homes in Abu Tor, so that they can be passed on to Israeli settlers.

Abu Tor has also witnessed considerable brutality by Israeli forces against its Palestinian residents lately. In late October, Israeli police officers broke into a house of a Palestinian living in Abu Tor, shooting him dead.

And in the first week of November, two Palestinian buildings were demolished in Abu Tor at the instruction of the Israeli authorities.

RE/MAX has enjoyed fawning coverage in the Israeli press. In 2004, the newspaper Haaretz published a profile of Bernard Raskin, the chief executive of RE/MAX Israel. Zimbabwean-born Raskin claimed that his firm had become a leading player in the Israeli property market because its competitors had “no professionalism.”

During a 2013 real estate conference in South Africa, Raskin noted that the Israeli economy has not suffered as severely as many others during the recession of recent years. One problem he identified was that “there is generally a shortage of stock.”

He added, however, that “more and more building is taking place outside of Tel Aviv, where property is expensive.”

Money from crime

The Israeli authorities have ensured that RE/MAX will have new business, thanks to the ongoing expansion of Jewish-only settlements in East Jerusalem and the wider West Bank. Earlier this month, the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem municipality announced that it had rubber-stamped the construction of new housing units in Ramot, a settlement in East Jerusalem. RE/MAX is already active in Ramot.

Although the US government says it is opposed to the construction of Israeli settlements, it has refused to impose sanctions on Israel. Because of that refusal, RE/MAX can continue turning violations of international law into a money-making opportunity.

The Colorado headquarters of RE/MAX International did not respond to requests for comment.

While the company’s Israeli operations may have some autonomy, RE/MAX International cannot claim that these matters have nothing to do with it. As the UN made clear in its aforementioned 2013 report, RE/MAX wields considerable influence over its franchises around the world.

The Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement has succeeded in putting the spotlight on how corporations like Veolia and G4S aid the Israeli occupation. Given that RE/MAX is so directly involved in the settlements that are central to that occupation, there is a strong case for putting the firm under the same kind of pressure. More