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At least 10,000 Israeli people demonstrated on the evening of Saturday, August 4, against the escalating military repression of Israels Prime Minister Ariel Sharon against the latest 10-month long intifada of the Palestinian people.
"The size of the rally took us by surprise, since the peace movement has been virtually paralysed since the start of the intifada and in the face of the growing violence," said Aryeh Arnon, one of the Tel Aviv rally's organisers. "The rally gives voice to the feeling that the national unity government led by Ariel Sharon is leading the country towards disaster," the economics lecturer at Beer Sheva university in southern Israel said.
The rally, held under the slogans "No to a pointless war," and "We don't want to kill or die for the settlements", was organised in front of the Defence Ministry by the Peace Now group, which opposes the Jewish settlements built in the Palestinian territories. The demonstrators carried flags calling for the deployment of international monitors, as well as banners showing a Palestinian and Israeli flag on two interlocking pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
"The liquidation of Palestinian activists is the only policy the government has and it leads nowhere," Yossi Sarid of the opposition Meretz party told the demonstration. "Opposition to the liquidations is growing in Israel, not just for moral reasons but because it provokes bloody reactions from the Palestinians and because they hit innocent civilians and political representatives," Aryeh Arnon said.
The Israeli army stepped up its policy of so-called "targeted killings" of Palestinian activists on Saturday, firing rockets which injured a militant in the entourage of Palestinian leader Marwan Barghuti in the West Bank town of Ramallah. The attack came just four days after an Israeli helicopter killed eight Palestinians in Nablus, including two young brothers who were sprayed by shrapnel.
The Israeli cabinet has given the green light to the policy of so-called "intercepting terrorists". Such killings are carried out by the Israeli army, or by Shin Bet, Israel's security services, known as the Shabak. The Shabak is thought to have a large network of Palestinian agents on the West Bank.
The assassinations carried out under the "targeted military actions" are also carried out by tank fire or rockets fired from helicopter gunships, as happened in Nablus. There are also other methods. In Bethlehem, eyewitnesses said a local Islamic Jihad commander had a narrow escape when four men threw off Arab disguises and opened fire. The four were assumed to be from Shin Bet. In another operation, an Islamic militant on the West Bank died when the headrest in his car blew up. Israeli security experts say that Shabak has a large number of fluent Arabic speakers, able to pass themselves off as Palestinians and go freely about the West Bank. It is being reported in the press that the Israeli government is considering launching a devastating military attack aimed at destroying the Palestinian Authority and even assassinating Yasser Arafat.
Defying international criticism, Ariel Sharon said on Sunday that Israel would continue hunting down what he called "terrorists". The Israeli Prime Minister was speaking from Jerusalem shortly after a Palestinian gunman opened fire from a car at soldiers standing near the heavily guarded Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv, wounding 10 people, including eight soldiers. He was shot and critically injured himself. A short time later an Israeli missile strike killed a member of the Islamic group Hamas in the West Bank, witnesses said.
The assassinations ordered by Ariel Sharon have killed more than 60 activists in the 10-month-old intifada. At least 540 Palestinians, 130 Israelis and 13 Israeli Arabs have been killed since the uprising erupted in September after peace talks became deadlocked.
Ariel Sharon also rejected the suggestion of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat that the United States and other nations put an international observer team into the region, pointing to the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers near the Lebanon border in October, a case which the United Nations conceded on Friday it had mishandled. The United Nations has some 3,600 peacekeepers patrolling the Lebanese-Israeli border.
While the White House said on Friday the United States remained opposed to the so-called "targeted killings", Vice President Dick Cheney commented that Israel had "some justification".
WDIE utterly condemns the calculated assassinations carried out by the Israeli government. The policy of "peace-brokering" of Anglo-US imperialism and other big powers has been shown to be completely bankrupt, denying the Palestinian people their rights, interfering in the region, and siding with the Israeli government. WDIE supports every effort made by the Palestinian and Israeli peoples to resolve the situation which imperialism has created, live in peace and security, and recognise the sovereignty of the Palestinian people in their own state.
By Akiva Eldar, Ha-Aretz, July 24, 2001
WDIE is reproducing the following document for the information of our readers.
Members of the panel of experts working alongside the Palestinian negotiating team, who have American passports in their possession that open Israel Defence Forces roadblocks, have embarked in recent weeks on a round of appearances throughout Israel. They lecture at living room meetings in homes in Herzliya and meet with forums of confused intellectuals in Jerusalem.
The questions repeat themselves: There is always someone who will ask why Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat reacted with such violence to the very generous proposals of former prime minister Ehud Barak? Had they really been prepared to accept Barak's proposal for an exchange of territories? And how could a pointed question about the right of return fail to be asked?
The young Palestinians, among them a legal adviser from New York and a doctoral student in law from Oxford, pull out an answer in excellent English to every question.
When Barak embarked on a spate of attacks against Arafat under the heading "I exposed his true face," the members of the Palestinian panel decided that this time they would not neglect Israeli public opinion. Under the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) logo, they collected the typical questions asked by Israeli listeners and next to them detailed the Palestinian positions and their version of Camp David and the events that snowballed from it.
Their version, especially concerning the map that Barak proposed there, is quite close to the one that Robert Malley, former US president Bill Clinton's special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs, is now publishing in the world press (to Clinton's displeasure).
The weak points in their 11 replies, from the perspective of the Israeli questioner, remain in the areas of the violence and the right of return. It is difficult, and perhaps impossible, to explain the transition from the blow-up of the negotiations to the blowing-up of explosive devices. It is not easy to go along with the right of return while convincing suspicious Zionists that they are planning to send the refugees to Canada, with no right of return.
But the importance of the document is in the obvious effort the Palestinians are making to rehabilitate the trust in them among supporters of compromise in Israel and to allay their anxieties. If this publication is put together with the little ladder Arafat has been given in the form of observers in the territories, and if Arafat does indeed make use of it to stop the violence the document can perhaps boost the trampled status of talks and a compromise. The document was written both in Hebrew and in English. The following is the English version:
1. Why did the Palestinians reject the Camp David Peace Proposal?
For a true and lasting peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, there must be two viable and independent states living as equal neighbours. Israel's Camp David proposal, which was never set forth in writing, denied the Palestinian state viability and independence by dividing Palestinian territory into four separate cantons entirely surrounded, and therefore controlled, by Israel. The Camp David proposal also denied Palestinians control over their own borders, airspace and water resources while legitimising and expanding illegal Israeli colonies in Palestinian territory. Israel's Camp David proposal presented a `re-packaging' of military occupation, not an end to military occupation.
2. Didn't Israel's proposal give the Palestinians almost all of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967?
No. Israel sought to annex almost 9 percent of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in exchange offered only 1 percent of Israel's own territory. In addition, Israel sought control over an additional 10 percent of the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the form of a "long-term lease." However, the issue is not one of percentages the issue is one of viability and independence. In a prison for example, 95 percent of the prison compound is ostensibly for the prisoners cells, cafeterias, gym and medical facilities but the remaining 5 percent is all that is needed for the prison guards to maintain control over the prisoner population. Similarly, the Camp David proposal, while admittedly making Palestinian prison cells larger, failed to end Israeli control over the Palestinian population.
3. Did the Palestinians accept the idea of a land swap?
The Palestinians were (and are) prepared to consider any idea that is consistent with a fair peace based on international law and equality of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. The Palestinians did consider the idea of a land swap but proposed that such land swap must be based on a one-to-one ratio, with land of equal value and in areas adjacent to the border with Palestine and in the same vicinity as the lands to be annexed by Israel. However, Israel's Camp David proposal of a nine-to-one land swap (in Israel's favour) was viewed as so unfair as to seriously undermine belief in Israel's commitment to a fair territorial compromise.
4. How did Israel's proposal envision the territory of a Palestinian state?
Israel's proposal divided Palestine into four separate cantons surrounded by Israel: the Northern West Bank, the Central West Bank, the Southern West Bank and Gaza. Going from any one area to another would require crossing Israeli sovereign territory and consequently subject movement of Palestinians within their own country to Israeli control. Not only would such restrictions apply to the movement of people, but also to the movement of goods, in effect subjecting the Palestinian economy to Israeli control. Lastly, the Camp David proposal would have left Israel in control over all Palestinian borders, thereby allowing Israel to control not only internal movement of people and goods but international movement as well. Such a Palestinian state would have had less sovereignty and viability than the Bantustans created by the South African apartheid government.
5. How did Israel's proposal address Palestinian East Jerusalem?
The Camp David Proposal required Palestinians to give up any claim to the occupied portion of Jerusalem. The proposal would have forced recognition of Israel's annexation of all of Arab East Jerusalem. Talks after Camp David suggested that Israel was prepared to allow Palestinians sovereignty over isolated Palestinian neighbourhoods in the heart of East Jerusalem, however such neighbourhoods would remain surrounded by illegal Israeli colonies and would remain separated not only from each other but also from the rest of the Palestinian state. In effect, such a proposal would create Palestinian ghettos in the heart of Jerusalem.
6. Why didn't the Palestinians ever present a comprehensive permanent settlement proposal of their own in response to Barak's proposals?
The comprehensive settlement to the conflict is embodied in United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338, as was accepted by both sides at the Madrid Summit in 1991 and later in the Oslo Accords of 1993. The purpose of the negotiations is to implement these UN [Security Council] resolutions (which call for an Israeli withdrawal from land occupied by force by Israel in 1967) and reach agreement on final status issues. On a number of occasions since Camp David especially at the Taba talks the Palestinian negotiating team presented its concept for the resolution of the key permanent status issues. It is important to keep in mind, however, that Israel and the Palestinians are differently situated. Israel seeks broad concessions from the Palestinians. Israel has not offered a single concession involving its own territory and rights. The Palestinians, on the other hand, seek to establish a viable, sovereign state on their own territory, to provide for the withdrawal of Israeli military forces and colonies (which are universally recognised as illegal), and to secure the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes they were forced to flee in 1948. Although Palestinian negotiators have been willing to accommodate legitimate Israeli needs within that context, particularly with respect to security and refugees, it is up to Israel to define these needs and to suggest the narrowest possible means of addressing them.
7. Why did the peace process fall apart just as it was making real progress toward a permanent agreement?
Palestinians entered the peace process on the understanding that (1) it would deliver concrete improvements to their lives during the interim period, (2) that the interim period would be relatively short in duration i.e., five years, and (3) that a permanent agreement would implement United Nations [Security Council] Resolutions 242 and 338. But the peace process delivered none of these things. Instead, Palestinians suffered more burdensome restrictions on their movement and a serious decline in their economic situation. Israeli colonies expanded at an unprecedented pace and the West Bank and Gaza Strip became more fragmented with the construction of settler "by-pass" roads and the proliferation of Israeli military checkpoints. Deadlines were repeatedly missed in the implementation of agreements. In sum, Palestinians simply did not experience any "progress" in terms of their daily lives.
However, what decisively undermined Palestinian support for the peace process was the way Israel presented its proposal. Prior to entering into the first negotiations on permanent status issues, Prime Minister Barak publicly and repeatedly threatened Palestinians that his "offer" would be Israel's best and final offer and if not accepted, Israel would seriously consider "unilateral separation" (a euphemism for imposing a settlement rather than negotiating one). Palestinians felt that they had been betrayed by Israel who had committed itself at the beginning of the Oslo process to ending its occupation of Palestinian lands in accordance with Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
8. Doesn't the violence which erupted following Camp David prove that Palestinians do not really want to live in peace with Israel?
Palestinians recognised Israel's right to exist in 1988 and reiterated this recognition on several occasions including Madrid in 1991 and the Oslo Accords in September 1993. Nevertheless, Israel has yet to explicitly and formally recognise Palestine's right to exist. The Palestinian people waited patiently since the Madrid Conference in 1991 for their freedom and independence despite Israel's incessant policy of creating facts on the ground by building colonies in occupied territory (Israeli housing units in Occupied Palestinian Territory not including East Jerusalem increased by 52 percent since the signing of the Oslo Accords and the settler population, including those in East Jerusalem, more than doubled). The Palestinians do indeed wish to live at peace with Israel but peace with Israel must be a fair peace not an unfair peace imposed by a stronger party over a weaker party.
9. Doesn't the failure of Camp David prove that the Palestinians are just not prepared to compromise?
The Palestinians have indeed compromised. In the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians recognised Israeli sovereignty over 78 percent of historic Palestine (23 percent more than Israel was granted pursuant to the 1947 UN Partition Plan) on the assumption that the Palestinians would be able to exercise sovereignty over the remaining 22 percent. The overwhelming majority of Palestinians accepted this compromise but this extremely generous compromise was ignored at Camp David and the Palestinians were asked to "compromise the compromise" and make further concessions in favour of Israel. Though the Palestinians can continue to make compromises, no people can be expected to compromise fundamental rights or the viability of their state.
10. Have the Palestinians abandoned the two-state solution and do they now insist on all of historic Palestine?
The current situation has undoubtedly hardened positions on both sides, with extremists in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories claiming all of historic Palestine. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the Palestinian Authority or the majority of Palestinians have abandoned the two-state solution. The two-state solution, however, is most seriously threatened by the on-going construction of Israeli colonies and bypass roads aimed at incorporating the Occupied Palestinian Territories into Israel. Without a halt to such construction, a two-state solution may simply be impossible to implement already prompting a number of Palestinian academics and intellectuals to argue that Israel will never allow the Palestinians to have a viable state and Palestinians should instead focus their efforts on obtaining equal rights as Israeli citizens.
11. Isn't it unreasonable for the Palestinians to demand the unlimited right of return to Israel of all Palestinian refugees?
The refugees were never seriously discussed at Camp David because Prime Minister Barak declared that Israel bore no responsibility for the refugee problem or its solution. Obviously, there can be no comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without resolving one of its key components: the plight of the Palestinian refugees.
There is a clearly recognised right under international law that non-combatants who flee during a conflict have the right to return after the conflict is over. But an Israeli recognition of the Palestinian right of return does not mean that all refugees will exercise that right. What is needed in addition to such recognition is the concept of choice. Many refugees may opt for (i) resettlement in third countries, (ii) resettlement in a newly independent Palestine (though they originate from that part of Palestine which became Israel) or (iii) normalisation of their legal status in the host country where they currently reside. In addition, the right of return may be implemented in phases so as to address Israel's demographic concerns.
In a referendum on July 29, the people of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques unequivocally reiterated their demand that the US Navy get out now. The peoples of Vieques voted by about 68 per cent to demand the Navy clean up and immediately return the land it has occupied for 60 years for its war games and bombing exercises. About 9,100 people live on Vieques, with another four million on neighbouring Puerto Rico.
On July 27, in preparation for the expected referendum victory, hundreds of residents of Vieques climbed the island's Mount Carmelo, cheering as the blue and white Vieques flag was unfurled. As more than 50 people hoisted the flag, Father Nelson López, the Catholic pastor of Vieques, spoke: "As we lift this flag, we lift our souls, our faith, our hope for a better Vieques without the Navy. A Vieques where people live in peace and love, developing themselves to earn their daily bread. Vieques Sí! Navy No!"
More than 80 per cent of some 5,900 eligible voters participated in the referendum which was called by Puerto Rican Governor Sila María Calderón and supported by the Puerto Rico legislature. The referendum is non-binding under US law, unlike a federally-binding referendum, agreed upon by the Clinton administration, which is scheduled for November 6.
Governor Calderón explained that she called for the July 29 referendum because the US government referendum is unjust. That referendum will only give voters the choices of stopping the Navy military exercises in 2003 or continuing indefinitely, with no option of an immediate withdrawal. It has been widely denounced, not least of all because of its insulting offer of more federal aid if the people of Vieques opted to have the Navy stay.
Governor Calderón pointed out that while the July 29 referendum may not have the force of law in the US, "it has a moral force and gives the people a chance to express themselves freely. That is the importance of this vote, that the people's voice be heard in Puerto Rico, Washington and the entire world." Political analyst Jan García Passalacqua pointed out, "Vieques is a symbol for national affirmation against the United States. The people have found a way to express their rejection of colonialism without having to choose between the options for political status."
In contempt of the unequivocal demand of the people of Vieques, the US Navy on August 1 began another round of exercises on the Puerto Rican island. The people of Vieques have vowed to step up their opposition to the Navy's occupation. In June, about 60 protesters were arrested by the US authorities for trespassing after illegally entering the range.
Environmental lawyer Robert F Kennedy Jr, who served 30 days in prison for trespassing on federal land in an intrusion that stopped Navy exercises for some hours in April, told a rally to welcome him home to New York that it has been his duty to stand up for the people of Vieques. "It's a decision that I never thought twice about," he said. "It has been one of the best things that's ever happened to me." Robert F Kennedy encouraged protesters to do what they could to stop the bombing and exercises.
Robert Rabin, a leading activist on the island, pointed out that work around the referendum carried out last weekend has strengthened and broadened the base of support for activists carrying out civil disobedience. Even before the bombing started, seven activists were arrested for breaking into the Navy grounds and heading for the bombing range to act as "human shields" to interrupt the exercises. On August 2, US Navy personnel fired tear gas and US Marshals fired beanbag and foam rubber projectiles at eight journalists and five protesters on Vieques. Anti-Navy activists said the protesters were peaceful and unarmed. The US Navy said that demonstrators threw rocks and home-made bombs at the Camp Garcia base throughout Thursday night and early Friday. By Friday morning, 19 protesters had been detained, it said. Some were thought to have invaded Navy land, trying to reach the range and stop the exercises.
The US Navy defended its actions. "The use of force was appropriate because a flare was launched at them, the protesters were tearing down federal property and rocks were being thrown," spokesman Bob Nelson said. But journalists said protesters had no tools to rip the fence and did not fire a flare. "Now, the Navy fired on people who were clearly journalists," said Father Nelson López. "The Navy sees everyone on the other side of the fence as an enemy." "Nobody was throwing rocks," said Amy Toensing, 31, a US free-lance photographer. "They were just yelling 'Navy go home' and they (security forces) started spraying pepper spray." Protesters say there are 23 activists still on Navy land, intending to place themselves in the line of fire to stop the bombing. "The Navy says they're protecting the law. What kind of law is that?" said Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano. "They are trying to use force to stifle people's rights to express themselves."
US Navy spokesperson Katherine Goode said of the wargames, "We're not here to do anything other than be a good neighbour and train our soldiers and marines, and we try to do that with as little impact on the local community as possible." Vieques Commissioner Juan Fernandez said the exercises "will be an all-out war scenario" involving the "most complete and dangerous" manoeuvres. The Navy said there would be ship-to-shore shelling, air-to-ground bombing and beach assaults involving 23,000 sailors, marines and army soldiers, making the war exercises the biggest since civilian guard David Sanes Rodriguez was killed by Navy bombs in 1999.
The exercises are the final training for the Theodore Roosevelt battle group, which is reported to be heading next to either the Persian Gulf or the Mediterranean. Navy spokesperson Bob Nelson said, "If something were to happen in the Persian Gulf, this is the final step in training that prepares the troops to carry out an effective combat campaign."
The US Navy and the Bush administration have tried to dismiss the July 29 referendum as having "no impact on the Navy or our focus". White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer also said there would be no change in the Bush administration's plans. Referring to Bush's announcement in June that the Navy would pullout in 2003, Fleischer said it was "a recognition of the fact that people of Puerto Rico have concerns on this issue. But so, too, is it important to make certain that our military is trained until an alternative is found." The 2003 pullout, also an option on the July 29 referendum, received less than two per cent of the votes, while 30 per cent voted for the Navy to stay indefinitely.
On August 1, the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee approved an amendment which would require the US Navy to certify it had found a replacement of "equal or superior level of training to Vieques" before it could end its wargames there. The amendment also says that even if the new conditions are met and training operations end on Vieques, the Navy would retain jurisdiction over the site for "possible future reactivation". The Committee's amendment would also cancel the scheduled November referendum on the US Navy's occupation of Vieques. The Navy is currently bound under US law to abide by the results.
WDIE denounces the continued US Navy exercises in Vieques, which have for so long caused so much devastation to the health and well-being of the people of the island and destroyed the island's natural environment. WDIE gives every support to the struggle of the people of Vieques and Puerto Rico to rid themselves of US imperialist domination.
Medical secretaries across the North of Glasgow, including four major hospitals have voted 91.3% in favour of strike action. The 300 medical secretaries action will start on Wednesday, August 8, with three full days strike. Emergency cover will be provided.
The UNISON Branch has been pursuing a regrading claim for all medical secretaries for 14 months. The Trust have failed to resolve the dispute and the secretaries have rejected any notion that the recent National Framework proposal comes anywhere close to meeting their demands, which are:
Until conclusion of this dispute, there will be a strict work to rule. This will involve:
The UNISON Branch says that it is to be hoped that the Trust will make an offer that avoids any disruption. However, as one of the medical secretaries, Frances Lyall, said, "It seems that the only way the Trust are going to understand the value of what we do is by us not being there."
Carolyn Leckie, Branch Secretary said, "It is regrettable that we are forced to take this action as it will inevitably cause disruption. But the ability of the NHS to provide a service in the future is being put in jeopardy by failure to pay medical secretaries the correct salary to reflect the importance and complexity of the work they do. Recruitment of Medical Secretaries and other NHS staff is becoming increasingly difficult. If this problem is not solved now, there will be very few people left willing to work in the NHS."
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