Archive for July 10, 2014

The murder of three Israeli youth by unknown Palestinians and the less-publicized but equally tragic murder of three Palestinian youth by Israelis, along with Israeli bombing of urban areas in Gaza and the arrest and detention of hundreds of Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces, serves as a reminder that Israeli-Palestinian peace is still a long way off.

And the Obama administration deserves much of the blame for the failure of the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

It had originally been hoped that the United States would present a binding framework along the lines of what moderate Israeli and Palestinian political leaders had agreed to in unofficial talks in Geneva in 2003: Israel would recognize a Palestinian state based roughly on the pre-1967 borders with mutual territorial swaps, which would leave the Palestinians with 22 percent of historic Palestine and allow Israel to keep the remaining 78 percent; the Palestinian state would be demilitarized and all irregular militias disarmed; illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory near the Israeli border  — encompassing close to 80 percent of the settlers — would be incorporated into Israel while settlers in the more remote settlements would be required to return to Israel; there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel, but there would be international assistance in helping them resettle in the new Palestinian state; and some Israeli troops would remain along border crossings between the Palestinian state and its Arab neighbors, eventually to be replaced by international forces.

A section of the barrier -- erected by Israeli officials to prevent the passage of Palestinians -- with graffiti using President John F. Kennedy's famous quote when facing the Berlin Wall, "Ich bin ein Berliner." (Photo credit: Marc Venezia)

Image: A section of the barrier — erected by Israeli officials to prevent the passage of Palestinians — with graffiti using President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote when facing the Berlin Wall, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” (Photo credit: Marc Venezia)

The Palestinian government agreed to these terms. Israel rejected them. Rather than make public this framework, and thereby hope the Israeli public would pressure its right-wing government to compromise, the Obama administration instead insisted that “both sides” had shown a lack of will to compromise.

An interview with an anonymous U.S. official close to the peace talks in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s largest newspaper, confirmed numerous other reports that the Palestinian side made major concessions while the Israeli side essentially refused to make any, generally refusing to talk about any substantive issues.

A host of Democratic and Republican former officials — including a former national security adviser, secretary of defense, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, trade representative, and undersecretary of state for political affairs — went on record arguing that the Obama administration would have to challenge the Israeli government’s hard line towards the Palestinians in order for the peace process to be successful. Unfortunately, the White House apparently had no interest in doing so.

Instead, Washington has focused on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to give in to U.S. and Israeli demands that he recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.” While the Palestinian government, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the ruling Fatah party have all recognized the state of Israel for more than 20 years, the Obama administration has effectively moved the goalposts by declaring that recognizing the Israeli government, acknowledging its right to exist, and providing security guarantees is not enough, insisting that the Palestinians explicitly recognize the state of Israel’s ethno-religious identity as well.

No previous administration has put forward such a requirement. President Jimmy Carter never made such demands on Egypt, nor did President Bill Clinton require this of Jordan as a condition for their peace treaties with Israel.

Abbas has said that Israel can identify itself however it wants, but — given that 20 percent of the Israeli population is ethnically Palestinian Arab — it would be politically impossible to agree to something that would acknowledge second-class status for other Palestinians.

Never in history has any country been required to recognize the ethnic or religious identity of another state as a condition for peace. It appears, then, that the Obama administration’s demand may have been an effort to destroy any chance of a peace agreement and leave an opening to blame the Palestinians — despite their agreement to virtually every other issue — for the failure of the peace process.

The Obama administration had been strongly pressured by congressional supporters of the Israel’s right-wing government who supported a resolution calling on the President to push the Palestinians to recognize Israel explicitly “as a Jewish state.”

Meanwhile, a broad bipartisan effort is growing in the Congress to blame the failure of the peace talks exclusively on the Palestinians and to force the administration to cut all ties with the Palestine Authority.

Unless and until the Obama administration decides to end its unconditional backing for Israel’s right-wing government and instead support Israeli and Palestinian moderates, there will be no hope for peace.

 

Stephen Zunes, a Santa Cruz resident, writes for PeaceVoice, is a professor of Politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.

Source: Centre for research on Globalization

 

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As Israel carries out yet another attack on Gaza jewellers worldwide continue to conceal the fact that blood diamonds are supporting one of the most abhorrent and prolonged injustices against a defenceless indigenous people. Israel’s “prominent and central position” in the global diamond industry has ensured that diamonds which fund war crimes in Palestine evade regulation. Consumers have been kept in the dark and lied to about the extent of the blood diamond problem

Bob Bates, senior editor with JCK magazine, is a diamond industry insider who never tires of throwing dust in the eyes of his readers as he tries to convince them that the diamond market is no longer heavily contaminated with blood diamonds. His latest broadside is aimed at Jason Miklian, a researcher who caused considerable embarrassment for the industry when an article he wrote exposed some of the serious flaws in the Kimberley Process and spawned headlines declaring that 25% of all diamonds are blood diamonds.

Figure 1 – Diamond exports that generate revenue used to fund the Israeli military account for between one quarter and one third of Israel’s exports

In the patronising attack piece Bates claims Miklian discredited his original thesis when, in a later article, he used the term “up to 25%” rather than “about 25%” and that the diamonds he referred to were illicit diamonds and not blood diamonds. Bates’ arguments fall flat and are unconvincing but his effort exposes some contradictory positions of his own when it comes to blood diamonds.

According to Bates blood diamonds are “diamonds that are associated with violence, whoever the actor.” That simple definition is one I think most people would agree with. “Conflict diamonds”, the restrictive, sanitized term introduced by the diamond industry, are defined by the Kimberley Process (KP) as “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to fund violence aimed at undermining legitimate governments” (emphasis added).  When compared to “conflict diamonds” Bates’ blood diamond definition gives one some idea of the enormity of gaping hole in the Kimberley Process regulations which allows blood diamonds to freely enter the market.

Although rough diamonds associated with human rights violations by government forces are not “conflict diamonds” and, therefore, are not banned by the KP, they are blood diamonds.  Similarly, cut and polished diamonds that fund human rights violations are not “conflict diamonds” but they are blood diamonds.

By restricting the remit of the KP to “conflict diamonds” and keeping public attention focused on rebel violence associated with the mining sector, the multibillion dollar trade in cut and polished blood diamonds is allowed continue unseen and unchallenged.

In a previous article titled The Other Blood Diamonds, referring to human rights violations by government forces in Angola Bates wrote:

“There isn’t the same international consensus among governments about diamonds associated with human rights abuses as there is with conflict diamonds. But really it’s hard to see the difference, at least from a consumer point of view. If they knew what was happening in Angola, most consumers would consider those gems blood diamonds.”

Now, however, Bates has rounded on Maklian for regarding “diamonds whose proceeds are used to support governments that commit human rights abuses against their own populations” as blood diamonds.

Bates says it’s “quite a broad definition, of the type that NGOs involved in the issue have deliberately avoided, because of the political morass it would raise.” NGOs avoided using this definition not because such diamonds aren’t blood diamonds but because doing so would create political problems in the KP. The NGOs that remain within the KP have clearly prioritised avoiding political turmoil over exposing the extent to which the diamond market remains contaminated with blood diamonds that fund rogue regimes. NGOs, whose first priority should be protecting the victims of diamond funded violence, should be highlighting the fact that revenue from the diamond industry continues to fund human rights violations on a massive scale and that consumers are being conned – buying diamonds that are certified as conflict-free even though a high percentage of them are funding gross human rights violations by government forces.

Global Witness, the London-based NGO that was to the fore in exposing the blood diamond wars, had no qualms about exposing the KP charade and withdrew from the scheme in 2011 after it allowed suspected blood diamonds from Zimbabwe to be certified KP compliant and sold on the international market.

The few NGOs remaining within the KP tent continue to prop up the discredited system of self-regulation and are used by the diamond industry to provide a veneer of credibility and respectability to their phony scheme.

Citing spurious examples of diamonds from Russia, some African countries and the USA Bates tries to justify the exclusion of diamonds that fund government violence being labelled blood diamonds. One, very telling, example he failed to mention was diamonds from Israel – a serial human rights offender and major force in the global diamond industry which stands accused of war crimes by the UNHRC, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The fact that the Israeli diamond industry is estimated to generate about $1 billion/yr. in funding for the Israeli military should have meant diamonds from Israel were regarded as blood diamonds and banned years ago. The vested interests that set up and control the KP, including Israel, the EU and the US, ensure these blood diamonds avail of the KP’s protective shield and are stamped conflict-free in accordance with a bogus “System of Warranties” introduced by the World Diamond Council to create the illusion that the KP regulations extend to cut and polished diamonds.

Bates’ argument that diamonds from any country accused of human rights violations could be classed as blood diamonds is a fallacious one. Unless revenue from diamonds is a significant source of funding for, or the cause of, human rights violations, as is the case in Israel and parts of Zimbabwe, then it would be difficult to make a credible case for classifying diamonds as blood diamonds.

Figure 2. The tiny Gaza strip is home to 1.6 million people two thirds of them are refugees and their descendants forcibly expelled from their homes, farms and villages inside present-day Israel in order to allow Jewish immigrants seize their property and create an ethnically cleansed electorate for the establishment of a Jewish state.

The case for banning the trade in diamonds from Israel is unquestionable. Israel’s record of unregulated nuclear weapons proliferation, war crimes and crimes against humanity, the harrowing situation of the 1.6 million Palestinians crammed into and imprisoned in the besieged Gaza strip plus the millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants languishing in overcrowded refugee camps since 1948 and the suffering of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem subjugated and tormented by an apartheid regime which is funded to a very significant degree by revenue from the diamond industry are compelling reasons to label diamonds from Israel blood diamonds.

Bates’ statement about the situation in Angola is even more applicable to Israel’s human rights violations:

“But of course most consumers don’t know about this issue. There hasn’t been much publicity or a consumer campaign about it. Yet that doesn’t mean there won’t be. And it could be extremely damaging if there was. The industry has every motivation in the world, for both ethical and business reasons, to get ahead of this issue now, and pressure Angolan miners and the government to clean up their act, before it comes back to bite us.”

The diamond industry in Israel is the cornerstone of the economy that generates the revenue needed to sustain a belligerent apartheid regime which commits serious human rights violations on a daily basis and ignores all attempts by the international community to broker a just and lasting peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

The US market consumes 50% of the global diamond production and half of the diamonds sold there come from Israel.  Given this reality it is little wonder that when the Texas Jewellers Association recently announced plans for the first ever Israel – Texas diamond fair human rights activists who favour a single democratic state in Palestine/Israel started a petition calling on the TJA to end their collaboration with the Israeli diamond industry.  As Rob Bates’s said about diamonds from Angola:  if they knew what was happening in Palestine, most consumers would regard those gems blood diamonds.

 

Sean Clinton is a human rights activist from Ireland with a particular interest in Israel/Palestine and the role diamonds play in funding the Zionist project in Palestine. He has authored several articles about the double-standard in the diamond industry which facilitates the trade in cut and polished blood diamonds

Original Source; Centre for research on Globalization

 

FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of political, economic, scientific, and educational issues. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Please contact the Author of this site for any further information via the “Leave a reply” box below.