Update on Israel-Palestine

February 18, 2017

The UN Security Council has been urged by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, to take decisive action now to end the country’s occupation of Palestinian territory. 

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Hagai El-Ad, executive director, told an informal council meeting Friday on “Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution” that Israel has controlled Palestinian lives in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem for the past 49 years “and counting”.

With the 50th anniversary of the occupation approaching next year, El-Ad said: “The rights of Palestinians must be realised, the occupation must end, the UN Security Council must act, and the time is now.” He stressed that the council “has more than just power: you have a moral responsibility and a real opportunity to act with a sense of urgency before we reach the symbolic date of June 2017 and the second half of that first century begins.”

btselemAmericans for Peace Now, a sister organisation of another Israeli rights group, Peace Now is also campaigning for an end to Israeli occupation. Lara Friedman, the group’s director of policy and government relations said that when Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation signed the Oslo peace accords 23 years ago, the settler population in the West Bank was 116,000, At the end of 2015, it was almost 390,000.

“I urge you here today to finally take action in the Security Council to send a clear message to Israel that the international community stands by the two-state solution and unambiguously rejects policies that undermine it – including Israeli settlement policies,” Ms Friedman said.

US deputy ambassador David Pressman told the meeting that “the United States remains firmly committed to advancing a two-state solution … [and] we are deeply concerned about continued settlement activity”. He recalled that last week the United States condemned new Israeli settlements and said that since 1 July more than 2,400 settlement units have been advanced in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This makes “a viable Palestinian state more remote”, he said: “In short, we need to start implementing the two-state solution on the ground right now”.

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Earlier this week, at a joint briefing with Netanyahu in Washington, US President Donald Trump asked the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off on building new Jewish settlements on land claimed by Palestinians..

Trump promised to strike a deal that would bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state… I can live with either one. The United States will encourage a peace and really a great peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, but they have to negotiate it themselves”.

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Paris Peace Conference 2017

January 20, 2017

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Vanderbilt Model UN website

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Gorbachev: political veterans, civil society, academics, all who are not indifferent – should urge our leaders to act

October 20, 2016

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MOSCOW, October 9. /TASS/. Mr Gorbachev opened by thanking the government of Iceland for invitation to participate in the conference marking the 30th anniversary of the Reykjavik summit of the leaders of the USSR and the United States.

He recalled that a few months before the first summit in Geneva, he and the US President made a statement: “Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought; our countries will not seek military superiority”. But that statement was not followed by decisive steps to stop the nuclear arms race.

Extracts (read the whole statement here):

The overall situation in our relations was also causing grave concern. Many thought that relations were sliding back into a Cold War. US Navy ships were entering our territorial waters; the United States had tested a new, highly powerful nuclear weapon. The tensions were aggravated by hostile rhetoric and “spy scandals.”

Meanwhile, the Chernobyl nuclear accident had been a vivid reminder to all of us of the nuclear danger that we faced. I have often said that it divided my life into two parts: before and after Chernobyl. The Soviet leadership unanimously agreed on the need to stop and reverse the nuclear arms race, to get the stalled nuclear disarmament talks off the ground.

We proposed a clear and coherent framework for an agreement: cutting in half all the components of the strategic triad, including a 50-percent reduction in heavy land-based missiles, which the United States viewed from the start as “the most destabilizing.” We were also ready to accept a zero option for intermediate and shorter-range missiles.

I appreciated the fact that President Reagan, during the course of our discussions, spoke out resolutely, and I believe sincerely, in favor of ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction, of all types of nuclear weapons. In this, we found common ground. Experts led by Akhromeyev and Nitze worked overnight and found many points of convergence based on our constructive position.

Nevertheless, we were not able to conclude an agreement. President Reagan wanted, not just to continue the SDI program, but to obtain our consent to the deployment of a global missile defense system. I could not agree to that.

The key message in my statement for the press was: “In spite of all the drama, Reykjavik is not a failure – it is a breakthrough. For the first time, we looked over the horizon.” This is the view I still hold today. It was the breakthrough at Reykjavik that set off the process of real reduction of nuclear weapons. The unprecedented agreements we reached with Presidents Reagan and Bush on strategic and medium-range nuclear arms and on tactical weapons have made it possible to reduce the stockpiles and eliminate thousands of nuclear warheads – more than 80 percent of Cold War arsenals, as Russia and the United States reported to the Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

In 2010, the Presidents of Russia and the United States concluded the New Start Treaty. Nevertheless, we have to recognize that the process of nuclear disarmament has slowed down.I am concerned and alarmed by the current situation. Right before our eyes, the window to a nuclear weapon-free world opened in Reykjavik is being shut and sealed.

New, more powerful types of nuclear weapons are being created.

Their qualitative characteristics are being ramped up. Missile defense systems are being deployed. Prompt non-nuclear strike systems are being developed, comparable in their deadly impact to the weapons of mass destruction. The military doctrines of nuclear powers have changed for the worse, expanding the limits of “acceptable” use of nuclear weapons. It is mostly due to this that the risk of nuclear proliferation has increased.

The problems and conflicts of the past two decades could have been settled by peaceful, political and diplomatic means. Instead, attempts are being made to resolve them by using force. This was the case in the former Yugoslavia, in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria.

I want to emphasize that this has not resulted in the resolution of these issues. It resulted in the erosion of international law, in undermining trust, in militarization of politics and thinking, and the cult of force.

In these circumstances, it is becoming increasingly difficult to speak of moving towards a nuclear-free world.  We must be honest and recognize it. Unless international affairs are put back on a normal track and international relations are demilitarized, the goal that we jointly set in Reykjavik will become more distant rather than closer.

I am deeply convinced that a nuclear weapon-free world is not a utopia, but an imperative necessity. We need to constantly remind world leaders of this goal and of their commitment.

As long as nuclear weapons exist, there is a danger that someday they will be used: as a result either of accident or technical failure, or of evil intent of man – an insane person or terrorist. We must therefore reaffirm the goal of prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons.

Politicians who think that problems or disputes can be resolved through the use of military force (even as a “last resort”) must be rejected by society; they must leave the stage

I believe that the question of prohibiting nuclear weapons should be submitted for consideration of the International Court of Justice.

None of the global problems faced by humanity can be solved by military means. Our common challenges – further reduction of nuclear weapons, non-proliferation¸ fighting terrorism, prevention of environmental catastrophe, overcoming poverty and backwardness – again need to be put on top of the agenda.

We need to resume dialogue. Essentially abandoning it in the last two years was the gravest mistake. It is high time to resume it across the entire agenda, without limiting it to the discussion of regional issues on which there are disagreements.

We need to understand once and for all: A safe and stable world cannot be built at the will or as a project of one country or group of countries. Either we build together a world for all, or mankind will face the prospect of new trials and tragedies.

This is what we – political veterans, civil society, academics, all who are not indifferent – should say to our leaders, urging them to act.

 

 

 


Iraq and Libya and semi-destruction of Syria — western foreign policy disasters

February 16, 2016

In 2002 a state visit: – welcomed by Queen Elizabeth and the Blairs:

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Truth in the words of a ‘prophet without honour’

“Whatever one thinks of Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy, might we agree that the destruction of two states — Iraq and Libya and semi-destruction of Syria — have been western foreign policy disasters?

“When you destroy a state the gates to every corner of hell are opened — no frontiers, no police, no law, no education, no infrastructure, no government, a Hobbesian war of all against all. After Iraq one might have thought western policymakers would have paused before turning Libya into a 1000km breach in the previously reasonably solid southern Mediterranean border through which refugees and Islamist jihadis now pour or export weapons and Islamist ideology”.

And now:

alleppo destruction

The Times reports that the five year conflict in Syria has claimed at least 250,000 lives.

Continued (minus anti-Russian bias):

“Of course we all celebrate an uprising against nasty authoritarians and there are no end of them to chose from in the Middle East, the Gulf, parts of Africa and further afield. It is so easy to start fuelling a conflict but so hard to say it is time to end it, hold our noses and let death and internal politics take the place of external intervention. Restoring state authority in Iraq, Libya and Syria should now be the supreme object of statecraft . . . “

Instead of the destroyed or semi-destroyed states and tsunamis of refugees that have been the main fruits of western policy this decade, we could build a stable Euro-Mediterranean region where investment can replace intervention on its southern and eastern littorals and return the EU to growth, prosperity and confidence.

Source: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d7db9bc6-d18b-11e5-92a1-c5e23ef99c77.html#ixzz40KQVHPTg

 

 


Corbyn: “Every war ends with a political agreement. Why not start with a political agreement and cut out the middle part?”

August 10, 2015

jeremy corbynRori Donaghy writes that when asked if there was ever a situation in which he would support military action, the 66-year-old (Jeremy Corbyn) argued that there are situations where an international peace-keeping force could be useful.

Extracts

“There is a role for peacekeeping forces under UN command,” he said. “They have to be properly managed and led. They have to have very clear terms of reference for what they are going to do.

“It’s got to be on the basis that there’s a wish to have a ceasefire in the first place. You cannot go in and bomb your way to peace – you go in on the basis of political negotiations.

“Every war ends with a political agreement. Why not start with a political agreement and cut out the middle part?”

See ‘UK would be safer if it stopped following US foreign policy . . . ‘: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/jeremy-corbyn-1991831019#sthash.ZEFI1r4L.dpuf


How can we learn from history to build a peaceful future?

July 15, 2015

PVDD 5The author of ‘Learning the Lessons of War’, published recently in the SGI Quarterly magazine, a Buddhist forum for peace, culture and education, Dr Peter van den Dungen, has been at the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, UK, since 1976. A peace historian, he is founder and general coordinator of the International Network of Museums for Peace. Some extracts follow but interested readers are urged to follow the link and read the article in full.

Hegel’s “We learn from history that we do not learn from history” is a well-known saying. Given the continuing prevalence of war, it can also be said that we certainly do not seem to learn from war, such a pervasive feature of history. However, Immanuel Kant, a great German philosopher and one of the most profound thinkers on war and peace, argued in the late 18th century that humankind learns from history and war, but only the hard way.

After the Napoleonic Wars (of which Kant witnessed the beginning), the main European powers instituted a “concert” system to prevent a similar violent disruption of the established international order.

A century later, the horrors of World War I resulted in the creation of the League of Nations, the first organization of its kind, which was meant to limit the recourse to war. It also established agencies and the Permanent Court of International Justice in order to address issues that otherwise might result in war.

These new institutions proved too weak to prevent another world conflagration, which occurred a mere two decades after the first one. During World War II, plans were laid for a successor world organization. The onset of the Cold War, the antagonism between the main powers since then and inherent weaknesses have made the United Nations a rather ineffective instrument for keeping the peace. At the same time, it cannot be denied that it pioneered new techniques (not even foreseen in the Charter) to limit or prevent war, such as UN peacekeeping operations.

The end of World War II also saw the beginnings of a process of economic and social cooperation that resulted in a new political entity, the European Union. The need for this, as the surest way to abolish war and poverty, was urged by the organized peace movement in the 19th century, and similar ideas had been put forward in peace plans formulated by visionaries in earlier centuries.

Airing books containing the names of atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Airing books containing the names of atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

World War II had other profound consequences, particularly for the two countries that were widely regarded as responsible for it–Germany and Japan. Apart from the terrible loss of civilian life and destruction of their cities, Germany was divided and Japan became the victim of the use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both countries adopted peace constitutions with self-denying ordinances regarding their military capabilities and intentions. But in other respects, Germany learned lessons and pursued policies with the aim of achieving peace and reconciliation with its erstwhile adversaries, which have largely been lacking in Japan. They involve elements of apology, compensation, repair and restitution–expressed in moral, material and symbolical terms. Without such a deliberate and sincere strategy on the part of Germany, the project of European unification (of which the country has been the main pillar, together with France) would have been impossible.

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If Japan has learned lessons from the atrocities and crimes committed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the same cannot be said of the world as a whole.

Arnold Toynbee writes (in his autobiography, Experiences) that he had been jolted out of the traditional accepting attitude to war by the slaughter of half of his friends in World War I. The same revulsion against war was widespread in its aftermath. He noted that such revulsion “ought [to] have been total and universal from the moment . . . the world entered the Atomic Age.” He found that the American people, victorious in two world wars, had succumbed instead to militarism. Toynbee wrote this during the Vietnam War. Since then, the trauma of that war has been overshadowed by the events of 9/11, and militarism has become even more pervasive in American society.

An appropriate, meaningful and fruitful remembrance would amount to the initiation of nothing less than a worldwide program of peace education as part of the development of a comprehensive culture of peace. That peace is possible–indeed, that it is imperative for human survival–should be taught and learned in schools and universities and through peace museums.

In the modern world, museums are preeminent institutions, widely regarded as guardians of high culture that fulfill a major role in public education. It is telling that, whereas war and military museums are widespread (with hundreds of such museums in the US and UK alone) and often well-funded, peace museums are hard to find, with the singular exception of Japan. Likewise, war monuments abound, whereas antiwar and peace monuments are far less numerous. History textbooks have traditionally been dominated by war and its pretended heroes, with opponents of war and advocates of peace at best relegated to footnotes. The “invisibility” of peace in education, institutions and public life generally is a great hindrance to learning about peace and working toward it. In particular, museums honoring peacemakers of the past and present would inspire and encourage visitors to believe in peace and recognize their role in helping bring it about.

In this way, perhaps, Hegel’s sombre maxim may yet prove to be wrong.


Israeli-Palestinian security: the surest guarantee

May 14, 2015

In June last year, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Pope Francis at the Vatican to pray for peace. Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayers were said in the Vatican gardens and an olive tree was planted.

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Reports in the New York Times and the Financial Times summarised:              

The Vatican said on Wednesday that it had concluded a treaty to recognize Palestinian statehood, before a visit by Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian president, to the Vatican on Saturday. It is concerned about the situation of Christians living in the region and Christian holy sites in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories,

There has been increasing international acceptance of Palestine as a state since the United Nations upgraded the Palestinian delegation’s status in 2012 to that of a non-member observer state, after a vote in the General Assembly.

Pope Francis has long expressed a wish for a Palestinian state and of late the Vatican Year Book has referred to the Palestinian envoy to the Holy See as representing the “State of Palestine”. The pope also used the words “state of Palestine” on the visit to the Holy Land in 2014, when he prayed at the Israeli wall, three storeys high, that runs through Bethlehem.

the wall

An Israeli diplomatic source is reported to have said: “We are disappointed by the use of the term ‘State of Palestine’. It does nothing to advance the cause of peace. In fact the opposite — it further distances the Palestinians from returning to negotiations.

Some 138 countries now recognise Palestine as a state, and governments in Britain, Ireland, France and Spain held ‘symbolic’ [non-binding] votes calling on their leaders to follow the example of Sweden. The European Parliament has voted to recognise the state of Palestine “in principle”, describing it as key to the advancement of peace talks in the region.

palestinian recognised mapSource: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/palestine-recognised-as-a-state-in-principle-by-european-parliament-in-symbolic-vote-9930981.html

This treaty is the latest sign of Pope Francis’ constructive foreign policy, following an earlier encyclical on climate change and human ecology and his recent meeting with Cuban president Raúl Castro; according to President Obama, this helped to broker the easing of diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington.

Not swords but ploughshares:

“Israel should have nothing to fear. The surest guarantee of its security is peaceful coexistence with a Palestinian state”: Philip Stephens, associate editor of the Financial Times (16.9.14).

As Girish Kotwal from Louisville, Kentucky commented [New York Times], we hope this will serve as “a catalyst for permanent peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and an end to all violence, rockets and bombardment. Shalom and Salaam”.

Sources include:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/14/world/middleeast/vatican-to-recognize-palestinian-state-in-new-treaty.html?emc=edit_na_20150513

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/156c5ed8-f994-11e4-ae65-00144feab7de.html#ixzz3a5byPJkM

http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=3791#.VVRPp_CGPh4