Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Iraq Conference, LeVine, Gulags, Afghanistan, Gaza

1) Here is an announcement for an Iraqi resistance conference, which is interesting if only because a number of people appear to be insufficiently afraid of US retaliation to hold such a conference in public. This is another sign that some kind of "tipping point" has been turned, and it's not Cheney's:

Recognizing the mounting strength of the Iraqi Resistance and the looming departure of the defeated American-Anglo occupation forces from Iraq, the Centre for Arabic Unity Studies organized a symposium on "The Future of Iraq" that was held in Beirut, Lebanon during July 25 - 28 , 2005. Its first related symposium was on "The Occupation of Iraq : Its Ramifications on the Arab world and Regionally and Internationally" that was held in Beirut during 8 - 11 March 2004.

While the first symposium dealt extensively with Iraq under the occupation discussing more than 20 scholarly papers that were published in a 1088 pages proceedings, the second symposium dealt with Iraq after the occupation.

108 Iraqi patriots (with about 40 PhD holders, and about half of the attendees came directly from Iraq) participated in the second symposium. They represented a wide spectrum of political parties, religious societies and independents. Their common denominator was their complete and unequivocal support for the Iraqi Resistance, the firm rejection of the occupiers' agenda for Iraq and the refusal to participate within the political guidelines set by Bremer's Orders** and Noah Feldman's vision of what they consider to be an "Iraqinized Occupation", including the sham "elections" of last February, the contorted and still-born "constitution" that is presently being conceived and the forming of a "sovereign Iraqi government" that is intentioned to serve the occupier's wishes.

In preparing for this second symposium, the Centre for Arabic Unity Studies had asked highly qualified Iraqi experts in their field of specialization and with extensive professional experience to prepare papers in the following areas in order to serve as guiding posts for the patriotic government of Iraq that will take control of Iraq after its Liberation:

1 - The Constitution 2 - The law for a national elections committee 3 - The law for the elections of parliament members 4 - The law for forming societies and political parties 5 - The re-enactment of the reconstruction effort 6 - The oil industry and oil policy 7 - The Kurdish issue 8 - The reforming of the Iraqi army 9 - The media and the press 10 - Debts, reimbursements and reparations

During the first day of the symposium, the participants joined committees that discussed in detail the prepared papers and offered their comments on the topics 5 - 10 above. The first four topics were discussed by all present over the next day and a half in detail after reading verbatim important topics, such as the constitution. Many important comments and editions were offered, discussed and accepted or rejected in an exemplary debating fashion thanks to the firm, fair and experienced elucidations of the chair, Dr. Khair Al-Din Hassib, the Head of the Centre for Arab Unity Studies. Finally, the summaries of the discussions of the various committees that met on the first day were presented and rectified with additional comments and points.
The symposium ended with the participants' voted wish to have the Centre publish in its own name the final versions of the papers that would include the input of the participants and to distribute them over the Internet and inside Iraq. This is a clear message to the occupiers that there is an alternate Iraqi force that fully supports the Iraqi Resistance, that does not accept or participate with the occupation and who is preparing for the considered future of a Liberated Iraq.

Dr. Hassib then invited those who wished to meet together to discuss the formation of a United National Front of parties, societies and independents who share the common belief in their support of the Iraqi Resistance and their struggle for the liberation of Iraq, to do so over the next day and a half. Dr. Hassib merely offered the administrative and secretarial services of the Centre for Arab Unity Studies but without its direct participation in these sessions. The spirit of Dr. Hassib's firm, orderly and constructive debate prevailed and the discussions were open, frank and heated but civilized at points. A final declaration was discussed and agreed upon, and the consensus prevailed that an elected committee, whose members were returning to Iraq, would follow-up the intentions of the declaration under the umbrella of the National Iraqi Establishing Conference that already exists in Iraq. A second committee, whose members were Iraqis living abroad, was selected to promote the activities and disseminate news of the committee that is returning to Iraq in the mass media and the Internet. A web site will soon follow...

2) Mark LeVine editorial:


Guest Editorialby
Mark LeVine
Prof. Dept of History UC Irvine,
author, Why They Don't Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil (Oneworld Publications, 2005)

' Just over two years ago I organized a forum of leading younger Muslim activists at the Central University in Budapest. Among those present were the Swiss born scholar Tariq Ramadan and the Moroccan political and social activist Nadia Yassine. Both, in very different ways, are at the center of the Bush Administration's confusing policy of labeling certain Muslim religious leaders and organizations as "moderate" and others as "extremists" and attempting to isolate or support them based on this determination.

Last year the State Department revoked a visa granted to Dr. Ramadan, preventing him from accepting a prestigious professorship at Notre Dame. Last month it offered some support for Yassine, who is under indictment in Morocco for daring to suggest at a conference at UC Berkeley we both attended that a republican form of government would better serve Morocco's citizens than its monarchy.

The divergent treatment of Yassine and Ramadan demonstrate why this latest attempt to rein in growing antipathy towards the US across the Muslim world is doomed to fail: the support for moderate figures is inconsistently given, not backed up by changes in American policy, and easily subverted by the larger strategic and ideological agenda of Bush Administration officials.

Ramadan, whose grandfather Hassan al-Banna was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, is considered the most important Muslim religious intellectual in Europe. He has written and spoken extensively on the need for Muslims to avoid building a "ghetto Islam" and to work with people of all faiths to build a culture of peace and justice.

Indeed, when I was invited to a workshop organized for CIA and State Department officers on Islam in Europe a senior official explained to me "We know Ramadan is the real deal. How can we tell what other figures in Europe are like him and not being duplicitous?"

Yet days before he was to move to Indiana to take up his position at Notre Dame the Bush Administration revoked his visa on the unsubstantiated charge that he was a "secret supporter of al-Qa'eda." The real reason would seem to be his outspoken criticism of the Israeli and US occupations, despite the fact that Ramadan has explicitly recognized Israel's right to exist, warning his followers against "simplistic and superficial anti-Americanism," and vociferously opposes terrorism.

Sadly, a potential ally in the war on terror is now another casualty, right at the time--as the London bombings have shown--when honest voices who understand the emerging generation of Western Muslims are desperately needed.

Nadia Yassine, as a leading spokesperson of the Moroccan Justice and Development movement, is one of the most visible and powerful women in the Muslim world. Equally at home quoting Noam Chomsky and Islamic law, in our forum in Budapest she joined Ramadan in criticizing Muslim leaders who've "hijacked" Islam as harshly as she condemns US policy in the Muslim world.

Perhaps since Yassine has no plans to move to the United States and teach impressionable college students the US Embassy offered a few words of support before her trial despite her strong rebuke of American foreign policy. Or maybe it was to answer criticism of its tepid support of pro-democracy protesters elsewhere in the Muslim world. Strategically, the pressure on the Moroccan government is part of the larger strategy of convincing governments to work with so-called "moderate Islamists" who oppose violence, even if they don't explicitly support US policies.

The hope would seem to be that bringing moderates like Yassine into the political process will further "moderate" their views and even improve their attitudes towards US policy in the region. Such hopes are Pollyannish at best and patronizing at worst.

The reality is that the US can't have it three ways: it can't ostracize some figures, offer support for others with
nearly identical views, yet at the same time provide hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars of aid to the governments that oppress them. As Nadia Yassine explained to me, "I have no confidence in American foreign policy." Why should she as long as we are supporting the government that's trying to jail her for speaking her mind?

America has to choose: either we continue supporting corrupt, authoritarian and often brutal governments or we support democracy and justice for the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa. There can be no middle ground; no lofty rhetoric undermined by realpolitik; no exceptions because of "security" or "strategic" considerations--They are what got us into this mess in the first place.

The former path means continued double standards and hypocritical policies, and with them a further erosion of support for the United States that will strengthen groups like al-Qa'eda and prolong the war on terror indefinitely. The latter means curtailing our economic, military and political support for the governments of the region, including Israel's, until they actually promote peace, justice and democracy.

The second path is much more difficult, precisely because it involves an actual, substantive change in US policy. But as both Ramadan and Yassine made clear in Budapest, it will also win us many new allies, including some now considered enemies. Without them, the war on terrorism cannot be won. '

3) News from the dirty war:


Suspect's tale of travel and torture

Alleged bomb plotter claims two and a half years of interrogation under US and UK supervision in 'ghost prisons' abroad

Stephen Grey and Ian Cobain
Tuesday August 2, 2005
The Guardian

A former London schoolboy accused of being a dedicated al-Qaida terrorist has given the first full account of the interrogation and alleged torture endured by so-called ghost detainees held at secret prisons around the world.

For two and a half years US authorities moved Benyam Mohammed around a series of prisons in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan, before he was sent to Guantánamo Bay in September last year.

Mohammed, 26, who grew up in Notting Hill in west London, is alleged to be a key figure in terrorist plots intended to cause far greater loss of life than the suicide bombers of 7/7. One allegation, which he denies, is of planning to detonate a "dirty bomb" in a US city; another is that he and an accomplice planned to collapse a number of apartment blocks by renting ground-floor flats to seal, fill with gas from cooking appliances, and blow up with timed detonators.

In an statement given to his newly appointed lawyer, Mohammed has given an account of how he was tortured for more than two years after being questioned by US and British officials who he believes were from the FBI and MI6. As well as being beaten and subjected to loud music for long periods, he claims his genitals were sliced with scalpels.He alleges that in Morocco he was shown photos of people he knew from a west London mosque, and was asked about information he was told was supplied by MI5. One interrogator, he says, was a woman who said she was Canadian.

Drawing on his notes, Mohammed's lawyer has compiled a 28-page diary of his torture. This has been declassified by the Pentagon, and extracts are published in the Guardian today.

Recruits to some groups connected to al-Qaida are thought to be instructed to make allegations of torture after capture, and most of Mohammed's claims cannot be independently verified. But his description of a prison near Rabat closely resembles the Temara torture centre identified in a report by the US-based Human Rights Watch last October.

Furthermore, this newspaper has obtained flight records showing executive jets operated by the CIA flew in and out of Morocco on July 22 2002 and January 22 2004, the dates he says he was taken to and from the country.

If true, his account adds weight to concerns that the US authorities are torturing by proxy. It also highlights the dilemma of British authorities when they seek information from detainees overseas who they know, or suspect, are tortured.

The lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, says: "This is outsourcing of torture, plain and simple. America knows torture is wrong but gets others to do its unconscionable dirty work.

"It's clear from the evidence that UK officials knew about this rendition to Morocco before it happened. Our government's responsibility must be to actively prevent the torture of our residents."

Mohammed was born in Ethiopia and came to the UK aged 15 when his father sought asylum. After obtaining five GCSEs and an engineering diploma at the City of Westminster College in Paddington, he decided to stay in Britain when his father returned, and was given indefinite leave to remain. In his late teens he rediscovered Islam, prayed regularly at al-Manaar mosque in Notting Hill, and was a volunteer at its cultural centre. "He is remembered here as a very nice, quiet person, who never caused any trouble," says Abdulkarim Khalil, its director.

He enjoyed football, and was thought good enough for a semi-professional career. "He was a quiet kid, he seemed deep thinking, although that might have been because his language skills weren't great," says Tyrone Forbes, his trainer.

In June 2001 Mohammed left his bedsit off Golborne Road, Notting Hill, and travelled to Afghanistan, via Pakistan. He maintains he wanted to see whether it was "a good Islamic country or not". It appears likely that he spent time in a paramilitary training camp.

He returned to Pakistan sometime after 9/11, and remained at liberty until April 2002 - during which time, US authorities believe, he became involved in the dirty bomb and gas blast plots. His alleged accomplice, a Chicago-born convert to Islam, Jose Padilla, is detained in the US. Mohammed says interrogators repeatedly demanded he give evidence against him.

Mohammed was arrested in Karachi while trying to fly to Zurich - and thus entered a "ghost prison system" in which an unknown number of detainees are held at unregistered detention centres, and whose imprisonment is not admitted to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

His brother and sisters, who live in the US, say the FBI told them of his arrest in summer 2002, but they were unable to find out anything else until last February. In recent days the Bush administration is reported to have lobbied to block legislation, supported by some Republican senators, to prohibit the military engaging in "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment", and hiding prisoners from the Red Cross.

Mohammed alleges he was held at two prisons in Pakistan over three months, hung from leather straps, beaten, and threatened with a firearm by Pakistanis. In repeated questioning by men he believes were FBI agents, he was told he was to go to an Arab country because "the Pakistanis can't do exactly what we want them to".

The torture stopped after a visit by two bearded Britons; he believes they were MI6 officers. He says they told him he was to be tortured by Arabs. At one point, he says, they gave him a cup of tea and told him to take plenty of sugar because "where you're going you need a lot of sugar".

He says he was flown on what he believes was a US aircraft to Morocco, while shackled, blindfolded and wearing earphones. It was, he says, in a jail near Rabat that his real ordeal began. After a fortnight of questioningand intimidation, his captors tortured him with beatings and noise, on and off, for 18 months. He says his torturers used scalpels to make shallow, inch-long incisions on his chest and genitals.

Throughout, he was accused of being a senior al-Qaida terrorist and accomplice of Padilla. He denies these allegations, though he says that while tortured he would say whatever he thought his captors wanted. He signed a statement about the dirty bomb plot. At one point, he says, interrogators told him his GCSE grades, and asked about named staff at the housing association that owns his bedsit and about a man who taught him kickboxing in Notting Hill.

After 18 months, he says, he was flown to Afghanistan, escorted by masked US soldiers who were visibly shocked by his condition and took photos of his wounds.

During five months in a darkened cell in Kabul, he says he was kept chained, subjected to loud music, and questioned by Americans. Only after he was moved to Bagram air base was he shown to the Red Cross. Four months later he was flown to Guantánamo.

Mr Stafford Smith was first allowed to see him two months ago. He said there were marks of his injuries, and he is pressing the US to release the photos taken in Morocco and Afghanistan.

Asked about the allegations, the Foreign Office said the UK "unreservedly condemns the use of torture". After
consulting with the Home Office, MI5, and MI6, a spokesman said: "The British government, including the security and intelligence services, never uses torture for any purpose. Nor would HMG instigate or condone the use of torture by third parties.

"Specific instructions are issued to all personnel of the UK security and intelligence services who are deployed to interview detainees, which include guidance on what to do if they considered that treatment in any way inappropriate."

The FBI, the US justice department, the Moroccan interior ministry and the Moroccan embassy in London did not return calls. The CIA declined to comment.

4) Blumenthal Op-Ed:

The situation in Afghanistan is one of barely managed chaos

Sidney BlumenthalThursday July 21, 2005

On the day of the London bombings, President Bush proclaimed: "The war on terror goes on." Through the 2004 campaign, his winning theme was terror. He achieved the logic of a unified field theory connecting Iraq to Afghanistan by threading terror through both, despite the absence of evidence. He insisted that if we didn't fight the terrorists there, we would be fighting them at home. In January, the CIA's thinktank, the National Intelligence Council, issued a report describing Iraq as the magnet and training and recruiting ground for terrorism. The false rationale for the invasion had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. With his popularity flagging, Bush returned to the formulations that succeeded in his campaign.

In Bush's "global war on terror" (Gwot), Iraq and Afghanistan present one extended battlefield against a common enemy - and the strategy is and must be the same. So far as Bush is concerned, it's always either the day after 9/11 or the day before the Iraq invasion. Time stands still at two ideal political moments. But his consequences since are barely managed chaos.

"I was horrified by the president's last speech [on the war on terror], so much unsaid, so much disingenuous, so many half truths," said James Dobbins, Bush's first envoy to Afghanistan, now director of international programmes at the Rand Corporation. Afghanistan is now the scene of a Taliban revival, chronic Pashtun violence, dominance by US-supported warlords who have become narco-lords, and a human rights black hole.

From the start, he said, the effort in Afghanistan was "grossly underfunded and undermanned". The military doctrine was the first error. "The US focus on force protection and substitution of firepower for manpower creates significant collateral damage." But the faith in firepower sustained the illusion that the mission could be "quicker, cheaper, easier". And that justification fitted with Afghanistan being relegated into a sideshow to Iraq.

According to Dobbins, there was also "a generally negative appreciation of peacekeeping and nation building as components of US policy, a disinclination to learn anything from ... Bosnia and Kosovo".

Lack of accountability began at the top and filtered down. On the day of President Hamid Karzai's inauguration in Afghanistan, in December 2001, Dobbins met General Tommy Franks, the Centcom commander, at the airport. As they drove to the ceremony, Dobbins informed Franks of press reports that US planes had mistakenly bombed a delegation of tribal leaders and killed perhaps several dozen. "It was the first time he heard about it. When he got out of the car, reporters asked him about it. He denied it happened. And he denied it happened for several days. It was classic deny first, investigate later. It turned out to be true. It was a normal reflex."

Democracy was an afterthought for the White House, which believed it had little application to Afghans. At the Bonn conference establishing international legitimacy for the Kabul government, "the word 'democracy' was introduced at the insistence of the Iranian delegation", Dobbins points out.

However, democracy - now the overriding rationale for the Gwot - does not include support for human rights. "In terms of the human rights situation in Afghanistan, Karzai is well meaning and moderate and thoroughly honourable," said Dobbins, "but he's overwhelmed."

Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon and the White House removed restraints on torture. "These were command failures, not just isolated incidents ... You didn't have the checks and balances. They've had consequences in terms of public image." In April, the US succeeded in abolishing the office of the UN rapporteur on human rights for Afghanistan.

Dobbins believes that the operation in Afghanistan has improved, but that the administration "hasn't readily acknowledged its mistakes, and corrected them only after losing a good deal of ground, irrecoverable ground ... most of the violence is not al-Qaida type, but Pashtun sectarian violence. It's not international

Facts on the ground cannot alter Bush's stentorian summons to the Gwot. "This is a campaign conducted
primarily, and should be, by law enforcement, diplomatic and intelligence means," Dobbins said. "The militarisation of the concept is a theme that mobilises the American public effectively, but it's not a theme that resonates well in the Middle East or with our allies elsewhere in the world."

"We're taking the fight to the terrorists abroad, so we don't have to face them here at home," Bush declared in June - and repeated endlessly - finally appearing vindicated with the London attacks. London, like Iraq and Afghanistan, is "there", not "here".

7 Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, is author of The Clinton Wars

5) Gaza disengagement plan FAQ's, quite informative:

From The Palestinian Technical Team on Israel's Evacuation

Israel's Unilateral "Disengagement" - Answers to Frequently Asked Questions-----------------------------------------------------

“[The] formula for the parameters of unilateral solution are: To maximize the number of Jews; minimize the number of Palestinians; not to withdraw to the 1967 border and not to divide Jerusalem.”
– Ehud Olmert, Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister[1]

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the Israeli "Disengagement" Plan?

The Israeli "disengagement plan" (unveiled by Israeli PM Sharon in December 2003) is a unilateral two-part plan: (1) the evacuation of all Israeli colonies from the Occupied Gaza Strip (with a total settler population of 7,300) and four small colonies in the northern Occupied West Bank (with a total settler population of 475); (2) the ongoing colonization of the West Bank and its ancillary construction of the Wall, designed to fragment Palestinian communities.

The term "disengagement" is a misnomer: it implies that Israel will no longer control the Palestinians. Yet, under the terms of Israel’s plan, Israel will retain complete control over the Occupied Gaza Strip as it will control all borders and crossing points (thereby controlling the movement of goods and people), Palestinian airspace and water space. Israel has also reserved itself the right to reinvade the Occupied Gaza Strip at will thereby ensuring its military control over the area. In effect, what Israel aims to isolate the Occupied Gaza Strip and cut it off from the rest of the world.

Why is Israel carrying out this Plan?

The Plan is part of Israel’s long-term strategy to rid itself of as many Palestinians as possible while retaining as much Palestinian land as possible. By evacuating Israel’s colonies in the Occupied Gaza Strip, Israel can divert attention away from its ongoing colonization in the Occupied West Bank. In exchange for evacuating colonies in the Gaza Strip (a mere 4.8 percent of Occupied Palestinian Territory), Israel will continue to build its colonies and Wall in the Occupied West Bank, taking more than 45 percent of Occupied Palestinian Territory.

What will happen to the Israeli colonies?

The Israeli government has taken a unilateral decision to demolish the structures in the colonies, including houses.

But can’t the houses be used to resettle Palestinians?

Not really. The Occupied Gaza Strip is 365 km2, and has an estimated Palestinian population of 1.3 million, living on 55 km2 of built-up land, making the Occupied Gaza Strip the most densely populated place on earth. In twenty years, the population of the Gaza Strip is expected to reach 2 million Palestinians.

Israel’s colonization of the Gaza Strip was carried out in a horizontal fashion: Israel’s colonies take up approximately 20 percent of the land of the Gaza Strip and house a mere 7,300 settlers in 2,800 houses. These 2,800 houses will not be able to meet the housing demands of the burgeoning Palestinian population. Instead, the land upon which the colonies sit can be used to build high-rise apartments to house more people while simultaneously freeing land for investment purposes to rehabilitate the Palestinian economy.
Where will the rubble be taken?

For environmental reasons, the rubble (approximately 80,000 tonnes) cannot be reused and therefore it must be disposed of in a manner that is not hazardous. The PA insists that the rubble cannot be stored in Gaza (for environmental, health and space reasons) and therefore it must be transported out of the Gaza Strip.
Will the land evacuated by Israel return to its rightful owners?

Yes. Ninety-five percent of the land upon which Israel’s colonies and military installations are built is "state land" and accordingly will revert to the public domain upon evacuation. The remaining five percent of the land belongs to private Palestinian owners who will have their land returned to them in accordance with Palestinian law.

What about the rest of the land?

Given that the land will revert to the public domain, projects for the public will be developed there. The Ministry of Planning is currently revising its regional plan for the evacuated areas and aims to build hospitals, schools and housing projects as well as tourist locations in the areas evacuated by Israel.

What will happen to the Gaza Strip following the evacuation?

The Palestinian Authority aims to revitalize the Palestinian economy of the Gaza Strip by encouraging investment and hence creating jobs. However, in order to revitalize the economy Israel’s cooperation (and international support) is necessary. While the colonization of the Gaza Strip will end, Israel’s occupation of it will not. Currently, Israel strictly controls all access in and out of the Occupied Gaza Strip, both for people and goods. If the current levels of absolute control continue, the Gaza Strip will be cut off from the Occupied West Bank and the rest of the world, thereby turning the Gaza Strip into a large prison. For the Gazan economy to improve and for the evacuation of the Gaza Strip to be a model of success, Israel will have to ensure that Palestinians and their goods are provided free movement and that the Palestinians are allowed to live without Israeli control over their lives and economy.

Don’t you feel sorry for the settlers?

Israeli citizens were given large incentives to move into Occupied Palestinian Territory, including large housing subsidies, lower income tax rates and subsidies for their factories located in Occupied Palestinian Territory. Israeli settlers are now also being compensated for evacuating from the Occupied Gaza Strip and are being resettled at Israel’s expense in Israel.

The settlers have been the cause of Israel’s ongoing military occupation of Palestinian Territory. Their presence has led to: (1) greater Israeli military presence in Occupied Palestinian Territory; (2) the confiscation of Palestinian land for the construction of Israeli-only colonies and roads, often in the name of "security"; (3) the destruction and demolition of Palestinian homes and historic locales and (4) led to a dual system of laws imposed in Occupied Palestinian Territory: Israeli settlers, who number 430,000, live under Israeli civilian law, granted superior rights to 3.5 million Palestinians who are subject to Israeli military law, thereby denied their freedom. Israelis are granted complete freedom of movement in Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel while Palestinians are relegated to Palestinian-only roads (that lead only to Palestinian areas), live behind hundreds of checkpoints and road barriers (situated in Occupied Palestinian Territory) and require Israeli permission to cross these checkpoints. Israeli settlers have been involved in a number of crimes against Palestinians and their property that have largely gone unprosecuted. Human rights organizations, including Israeli, have maintained reports on such incidents.

What can be done to revitalize the Gaza Strip?

Currently, Israel exercises complete control over the Palestinian economy by controlling the movement of Palestinians and their goods. In the Occupied West Bank, for example, Israel maintains hundreds of checkpoints and barriers designed to fragment Palestinian communities. Palestinian goods are subject to a "back-to-back" system of movement, wherein Palestinian goods are unloaded and reloaded onto different trucks several times before reaching their final destination. For example, goods originating from Hebron (in the Occupied West Bank) destined for Nablus (also in the Occupied West Bank) must be unloaded and reloaded an estimated seven times. Obviously this increases transportation costs and the time for which goods reach their destination.

Furthermore, Israel does not maintain systematized rules or procedures for the movement of Palestinian goods, thereby increasing risk and uncertainty among investors. In the Karni terminal (the sole terminal for the movement of Palestinian goods from the Occupied Gaza Strip), rules for the movement of goods are frequently changed by the Israelis. Today, a mere 50 trucks per day of Palestinian goods are allowed to leave the terminal, owing to the onerous and unpredictable searches. Israeli goods, which do not have to go through any security procedures are shipped in daily on more than 300 trucks. Accordingly, Israeli goods are often less expensive to Palestinians and Palestinian reliance upon such goods is increased.
Israel can easily improve the economy by simply removing its barriers and checkpoints and by allowing Palestinian goods to move based on international principles of "door-to-door" wherein Palestinian goods are freely allowed to move without onerous security searches that are not imposed on Israeli goods.
By creating certainty among investors, the economy of the Gaza Strip can be revitalized and improved. The World Bank is in agreement with this conclusion: "Palestinian economic recovery depends on a radical easing of internal closures throughout the West Bank [and Gaza] the opening of Palestinian external borders to commodity trade, and sustaining a reasonable flow of Palestinian labor into Israel." See Disengagement, The
Palestinian Economy and the Settlements", the World Bank, June 15, 2004.

Will Palestinians remain subject to the same movement restrictions?

Currently, Palestinians require Israeli permits to travel: (1) within the Occupied West Bank; (2) between the Occupied West Bank and the Occupied Gaza Strip and (3) to Israel. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip also require Israeli permission to cross international boundaries to visit other countries. Such permits are granted rarely (less than 30 percent of the Palestinian population receives such permits) and in the Occupied Gaza Strip, approximately 90 percent of the Palestinian population

Under the Oslo Agreements, Israel was supposed to have instituted a "safe passage" between the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to ensure freedom of movement for Palestinians within Occupied Palestinian Territory. Passage through the "safe passage" remained subject to strict Israeli control and in 2000 Israel closed the safe passage route thereby isolating the Occupied Gaza Strip from the rest of Occupied Palestinian Territory.

In order to ensure that Palestinians are not enclosed in a large prison, freedom of movement must be guaranteed. Yet, while Israel asserts that it wants to "disengage" from the Occupied Gaza Strip, it wants to retain control over Palestinians and their economy. Israel has yet to respond to whether freedom of movement for Palestinians will be guaranteed: whether Palestinians will be able to travel to the rest of Occupied Palestinian Territory and whether Palestinians will continue to require Israeli permission to leave the Gaza Strip and whether Palestinians will be able to freely travel throughout the Occupied West Bank.
While many discussions have taken place on the mode for transportation (sunken road, railroad, convoy), these discussions remain inconclusive.

With respect to the Rafah terminal (movement to Egypt), talks also remain inconclusive: While the Palestinians continue to insist on no Israeli presence in the Rafah terminal (and hence allow for the free movement of Palestinians), Israel has yet to agree. What will be the international legal status of the evacuated areas following the evacuation?

The Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank will remain occupied territory. Israel will still be subject to international obligations embodied in the Fourth Geneva Convention and in various human rights agreements.

For 38 years Israel has carried out two projects in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip: (1) colonization of the areas through the construction of Israeli-only housing and roads and (2) military occupation of the areas through the imposition of Israeli military law on the areas and its inhabitants. While the colonization process may cease in the Occupied Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, the military occupation will continue.

What will happen to the airport?

The Palestinian International Airport was opened in 1998 by Presidents Clinton and Arafat and serviced Palestinians seeking to fly in and out of the Occupied Gaza Strip. The airport operated under the strict control of Israel. In 2000, the Israeli Army closed the airport and several months later destroyed the runway and control tower, with estimated damages exceeding more than USD $8 million. It has remained closed.
Following Israel's evacuation, the Palestinian Authority seeks to open the airport, but, to date, discussions with Israel have been inconclusive.

Can’t the greenhouses based in the colonies be used as a means of job creation?

The greenhouses in the colonies produce "organic" food that is exported to European markets. The greenhouses are heavily subsidized by the Israeli government and water is shipped in from Israel owing to the polluted nature of the Gaza coastal aquifer. The greenhouses currently employ approximately 4,000 Palestinians. While, on face level, it may seem like a good idea for these greenhouses to be maintained, unless the free movement of the goods produced in these greenhouses can be guaranteed and unless the subsidies can be maintained, the greenhouses will be worthless.

What will happen to the Erez Industrial Estate?

The fate of the Erez Industrial Estate ("EIE") remains in the hands of Israel. Currently, goods produced in the EIE do not undergo any security or other searches before entering the Israeli markets. After the evacuation, the EIE will revert to the Palestinian public domain and, according to Israeli officials, goods produced there will be subject to Israeli searches as well as the existing "back-to-back" system for the movement of Palestinian goods. This will undoubtedly discourage investment and likely kill the prospects of the EIE (or any industrial area). If the Palestinian economy is to recover, Israel's control over the Palestinian economy will have to cease: the back-to-back system will have to be replaced immediately with the "door-to-door" system of movement that allows goods to reach their destination without the senseless unload/reload system employed by Israel.

But isn't the evacuation of colonies a good thing?

The evacuation and dismantlement of Israel's colonies is always welcomed (owing to the fact that these colonies are one of the reasons that the Palestinians are denied their freedom). However, there are two parts to Israel's plan: one entails the evacuation of colonies (but the maintenance of Israeli military control over the area) and the second entails the continued colonization of the West Bank. It is irresponsible to simply focus on one side of the equation while ignoring the other. So, while the Palestinians may be pleased that the colonization of the Gaza Strip is coming to an end, it is clear that the colonization of the West Bank will be intensified. It is also clear that the military occupation of both areas will remain. Therefore while there is much fanfare regarding Israel's evacuation, real applause should be withheld until Israel completely ends its military occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. Until that time, Israel should be punished for its ongoing violations of international law and human rights – not rewarded.
Written by Diana Buttu, Communications Director to the Palestinian Technical Team

[1] In an interview with Ha’aretz newspaper, Deputy PM Olmert describes his vision for “peace” with the Palestinians. David Landau, Maximum Jews; Minimum Palestinians, Ha’aretz GA Coverage, Online Edition 5 December 2003. http://www.haaretz.com/GA/pages/ShArtGA.jhtml?itemNo=360533

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