Israel Resource Review 18th April, 2003


Discrepancies Between the Arabic and English Versions of the Palestine State Constitution

The Palestinian State constitution has gone through at least three drafts in an effort led by legal experts in the European Union and the United States.

A comparision of the two versions appears to support the suggestion that the constitution was drafted in English,dated March 25th and then translated into Arabic, March 26th.

The Arabic version leaves out some sentences that appears in the English version and toward the end adds articles that don't appear in Arabic. Here are some key differences between the two versions.

Article 1 of the English version of the constitution reads as follows:

"The State of Palestine is a sovereign, independent republic. Its territory is an indivisible unit based upon its borders on the eve of June 4, 1967, without prejudice to the rights guaranteed by the international resolutions relative to Palestine. All residents of this territory shall be subject to Palestinian law exclusively."

In the Arabic version, there is no word that says "based." This implies that the 1967 lines do not comprise the final border. The wording in both versions are vague. The constitution could have simply read, "West Bank and Gaza Strip."

Article 7 of the English version of the constitution reads as follows:

"The principles of Islamic Sharia are a major source for legislation. Civil and religious matters of the followers of monotheistic religions shall be organized in accordance with their religious teachings and denominations within the framework of law, while preserving the unity and independence of the Palestinian people."

The Arabic version does not use the word "major." The Arabic version reads "Islamic Sharia principles are the chief sources of legislation." The English version intimates that there are other major sources for legislation. The Arabic version gives no such uggestion.

Article 67 of the English version reads as follows:

"The House of Representatives shall be composed of (150) individuals, representing the Palestinian people. They shall be elected according to the Constitution and election law. When running for candidacy to the House of Representatives, the provisions stated in this Constitution and the election law shall be observed. Candidates for the House of Representatives must be Palestinian.

In the Arabic version, the term "House of Representatives" does not exist. The translation is "council of deputies." The English term House of Representatives does not exist for any Arab state and appears aimed at American readers familiar with one of the two houses of Congress.

Article 124 of the English version reads as follows:

"The Speaker of the Council of Ministers, or the minister he appoints, shall negotiate international treaties, and inform the President of the State of the course of negotiations, which in turn have to be approved by the Council of Ministers and endorsed by the President."

The Arabic version does not mention a speaker of the council. Instead, it identifies this position as the "prime minister." More important, the Arabic version does not say that the president must "endorse" treaties. It said the president must certify or confirm treaties. The Arabic version appears to provide the president with greater authority than the English text.

The English version of the Palestine State Constitution appears at The Arabic version is available from Israel Resource News Agency by request.

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Official Palestinian State Constitution
Islam as State Religion, No Juridical Rights for Other Religions, Guarantee for the Right of Return
David Bedein

This week, a senior foreign diplomat provided Israel Resource News Agency with the finalized Arabic version of the Palestinian State Constitution which has been framed by the official constitutional committee of the Palestinian National Authority, which had been funded by the Ford Foundation in the framework of the long-awaited reform in the Palestinian Authority.

This constitution was finalized and dated on March 26, 2003.

Some salient points of the 43 page document of the Palestinian constitution include:

  • Islam is to be the official religion of the Palestinian state, with all aspects of Palestinian state law to be subservient to fundamental Islamic law, modeled on Saudi Arabia law. No other religion except for Islam is to have juridical status. All religious schools and religious institutions of " Christianity and other religions are under the supervision of the Islamic Law. The PLO concept of a "democratic secular state" appears nowhere in the document. Sources in the Vatican have expressed their deep concern about the prospect that Christian schools and Christian institutions that would be thrown under the jurisdiction and arbitrary control of a Moslem authority. Meanwhile, there is no system of human rights or civil liberties mentioned anywhere in the Palestinian State constitution.

  • The "right of return to homes from 1948" remains a fundamental right protected by the Palestinian state constitution, based on the PLO interpretation of UN General Assembly resolution #194. By "protecting" the right of return, the Palestinian state constitution essentially advocates the replacement of the state of Israel with millions of Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendents who have been wallowing in United Nations Arab refugee camps since 1949.

Official sources in the Palestinian Authority, the US government and the Israeli governments confirmed to Israel Resource News Agency that the White House, US Secretary of State and the Israel Office of the Prime Minister and the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs have received official copies of the Palestinian state constitution. However, the US and Israeli governments have not bothered to translate and share this sensitive document with either the US congress or with the Israeli Knesset.

Neither the US government nor the Israeli government are speaking about the document.

Perhaps both governments would prefer that the existence of this document not be known. Why? Because there is a vision of an opportunity, after the Iraqi war, to "make peace."

Any documentation of Palestinian intentions would destroy that vision.

This follows a pattern of the Oslo process. If the Arabic language documents of the nascent Palestinian Authority had been released early on, things could not have gotten as far as they did.

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Right Of Return Clause in Palestinian Constitution May Kill Talks
Stewart Ain
Staff Writer, The Jewish Week, NYC

In a move that could scuttle renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts now that the war in Iraq is over, the Palestinians have included in their new constitution their right to return to homes they fled in 1948. But the Israeli government insisted this week that the "road map" toward the creation of a Palestinian state be amended to preclude the right of return.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday that the road map would not be altered before its release despite the "preliminary comments" of Israelis. He was apparently referring to Dov Weisglass, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's bureau chief, who gave an upbeat assessment of his meetings Monday with top administration officials, including Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

In a statement Monday, Weisglass said he was "confident the U.S. will give serious consideration to our views as the process moves forward."

Weisglass reportedly sought changes in 15 separate categories of the peace plan, including one that calls for the Palestinians and Israelis to take simultaneous actions. Israel wants the process to be sequential, with the Palestinians first stopping all terror attacks before being required to impose a settlement freeze.

Several analysts said the U.S. is expected to insist that the right-of-return issue be shelved until the last step in the three-phase road map schedule that is to end in a Palestinian state with permanent borders in 2005.

"The American response would be, 'Trust us,' " said Eran Lerman, director of the Israel and Middle East office of the American Jewish Committee. "What it means is that they should go forward on [other issues] and the Israeli refusal to the right of return is going to be upheld. Most of us believe that implementation of phase three is not very high. The people here do not make very much of the road map."

Asked about the inclusion of the right of return in the constitution, Lerman said: "I don't think there is a Palestinian leader at the moment who is ready to give up a central item on the Palestinian agenda. The big question is if they would be willing to go into a process that does not guarantee what they will get."

Israelis agree that allowing the right of return would be suicidal for Israel, since it would soon give the Palestinians a majority, allowing them to undo the Jewish state democratically.

Allowing Israel and the Palestinians to start their talks over this fundamental issue will "result in a real donnybrook from day one," pointed out Stephen P. Cohen, a national scholar of the Israel Policy Forum. "If Israel wants to talk about the right of return at the beginning, the Palestinians will talk of an Israeli return to the 1967 borders."

But Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Sharon had set as a "precondition" for talks an end to the right-of-return issue.

"This is a non-starter," he said. "We knew they were going to try to put this in [to the Palestinian constitution]. Israel cannot go into negotiations under the threat that the right of return is on the table. It can't happen. This is a critical issue for Sharon; no government of Israel could accept it."

The road map will not be released, however, until the cabinet of the Palestinian's newly appointed prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, is confirmed by the Palestinian Legislative Council. Although Palestinian President Yasir Arafat does not have veto power over Abbas' cabinet appointments, his displeasure with the selection has delayed the formation of the cabinet - and Abbas serves at the pleasure of Arafat. Arafat is said to be upset that Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, wants to replace many members of the cabinet he assembled late last year. A two-week extension Abbas was granted to assemble his cabinet runs out next week.

"Arafat is trying to sabotage Abu Mazen," said David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Everything else is theoretical unless this issue is resolved."

Would Refugees Return?

There are an estimated 3 million Palestinian refugees living today in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Kalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research at Berzeit University, is now conducting the first definitive survey of the refugees to learn how many truly wish to return to their former homes in Israel.

Preliminary results, based on interviews with those in the West Bank and Jordan, have found that only a small number wish to return, according to Henry Siegman, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"If you ask a general question, 'Do you want to go back?' the answer is yes," Siegman said he was told. "But when you ask follow-up questions - such as would they go back if their home is no longer there - the percentage who still want to return is incredibly low."

Siegman said the results of the survey "will have important consequences in the Palestinian community. If only a small percentage are prepared to go back, why make a war over this? Why sacrifice the major issues like state building and the end of occupation and Palestinian suffering for the sake of a principle that only a tiny fraction of Palestinian refugees are prepared to exercise?"

But Nabil Shaath, chairman of the committee that wrote the Palestinian constitution, said that although he was aware of the survey, the issue is important enough to be included in the constitution.

"The refugee issue is a basic element of the Oslo agreement," he told The Jewish Week Tuesday. "The refugee issue is to be negotiated in the final status [talks], therefore you do not give up something that is supposed to be negotiated about. That's ridiculous. It's like saying beforehand that Israel must give up its right to security. The constitution says the right of refugees to return will be negotiated."

But David Bedein of the Israel Resource News Agency said he obtained a copy of the Palestinian constitution that was finalized March 26 and that it explicitly includes the "right of return to homes from 1948."

Shaath insisted, however, that the constitution says only that this is something Palestinians "will strive to assert through negotiation." He noted that in peace talks with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Israel was willing to accept that right and compensate Palestinians for the loss of their property. He said that there was also talk of allowing some Palestinians to return to Israel for the purpose of family reunification, although the number was never agreed upon.

"The decision to return to one's village that may not now exist in Israel is going to be very difficult for people," Shaath acknowledged, "but they need to feel that at least they have the option and that their right has not been trampled upon. How many people will exercise that right is very difficult to say; at this stage of the game it's not a very large number."

Shaath added that Abbas and Arafat were seeking to work out their differences and hoped to resolve them by the weekend.

Once Abbas' cabinet is confirmed, he is expected to be invited to the White House. And this week British Prime Minister Tony Blair invited Sharon to London. Observers said Blair realizes there will be no peace in the Middle East without Sharon's support, and that in recent days Blair has toned down his earlier strident calls for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Lerman said many Israelis see the road map as nothing more than a device to kick-start the peace process and that "from then on it will just roll over into practical solutions that are put together in bilateral negotiations."

Sharon made a move to do just that this week, telling the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot that he plans to meet with Abbas as soon as the new Palestinian cabinet is confirmed, that he will "not wait for any mediators." But he said chances for peace would be complicated if Abbas does not have broad authority and Arafat continues to be the one "pulling the strings." Sharon reiterated that he is prepared to make what he has called "painful decisions" in his quest for peace. And he said the defeat of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein had opened a new opportunity for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

"In my opinion, real peace, peace for generations, peace that does not give birth to suicide bombers and terrorist organizations, requires concessions," he told the paper. "It is likely that there will be settlements that we will have to dismantle."

But Siegman said it was far from certain that Abbas would be able to assemble a cabinet free from Arafat's interference. After having met with him at length two days before his appointment as prime minister, Siegman said he is convinced that Abbas will quit "if he doesn't get his way."

Sharon To U.S.: Pressure Syria

Sharon in an interview with the same paper this week called on the United States to pressure Syria into ousting Palestinian terrorist organizations from their headquarters in Damascus, and Hezbollah terrorists from their perch along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Calling Syrian President Bashar Assad a "dangerous" man whose "judgment is impaired," Sharon added: "He has a force that is under his thumb - Hezbollah - and that is dangerous."

He also expressed satisfaction with U.S. criticism of Syria for allegedly harboring Iraqi war criminals, funneling illegal weapons and fighters into Iraq during the war, and supporting terrorist organizations. The U.S. has demanded a list of the Iraqi war criminals in Syria, but stressed that there are no plans to attack Syria. Powell did say Monday, however, that the U.S. was examining "possible measures of a diplomatic, economic or other nature" against Syria. The next day, the U.S. announced that it had shut down a pipeline that reportedly carried as much as 200,000 barrels of Iraqi oil daily to Syria in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

Jewish groups in the U.S. are keeping a low profile on the issue, according to Shoshana Bryen, special projects director for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA).

"It's similar to the reaction before the Iraq war; no Jew wanted Saddam to stay in power, but there were fears that he would retaliate against Israel, and that Jews would be blamed for the war," she said. "It's much easier for Syria to attack Israel than it was for Iraq. And there's very little the United States can do to prevent it." n

This piece ran in the Jewish Week of April 18, 2003

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Palestinian Constitution Calls for Islamic State, Report Says
Julie Stahl
CNS Bureau Chief in Jerusalem

Jerusalem ( - The new Palestinian Constitution calls for a state under Islamic law and not a democratic state with human rights or civil liberties, according to a report in an Israeli newspaper.

The constitution is considered one among many reforms necessary for an overhaul of the Palestinian Authority, which could help to put the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on its feet in the Middle East.

The international community is awaiting the installation of newly appointed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abu Mazen's cabinet. Washington has pledged to publish the "road map" to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and establish a Palestinian state.

But the constitution as it stands now would cause problems for both Israel and the Palestinians, sources on both sides said.

The 43-page document is currently in Arabic only and has not been published yet. But a copy of it was obtained this week by the Israel Resource News Agency, said a report in the Hebrew paper Makor Rishon .

According to the report, the document was finalized and dated March 26, and was funded by the Ford Foundation in the framework of PA reforms.

Until now, only a three-page summary of the constitution has been published in English, which describes the document as an "important step towards a stable authority."

Among the provisions in the constitution are for Islam to be the state religion, with no juridical rights for other religions and it guarantees the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

"All aspects of Palestinian state law [are] to be subservient to fundamental Islamic law, modeled on Saudi Arabia law," writes David Bedein, bureau chief of the Israel Resource News Agency in a translation of the article.

Saudi Arabia has a poor human rights record on religious issues. Three years ago, the State Department's report on International Religious Freedom said, "Saudi Arabia is an Islamic monarchy without constitutional protection for freedom of religion, and such protection does not exist in practice."

Bedein added: "No other religion except for Islam is to have juridical status. All religious schools and religious institutions of Christianity and other religions are under the supervision of Islamic Law."

"The PLO concept of a 'democratic secular state' appears nowhere in the document," Bedein wrote.

"Sources in the Vatican have expressed their deep concern about the prospect that Christian schools and Christian institutions that would be thrown under the jurisdiction and arbitrary control of a Moslem authority.

"There is no system of human rights or civil liberties mentioned anywhere in the Palestinian state constitution," he said.

Another provision protected in the constitution is the "right of return to homes from 1948," i.e. the right of millions of Palestinians - refugees and their descendants - to return to within the 1948 borders of Israel.

According to Bedein, U.S. and Israeli governments both have copies of the document but have not translated it and shared it with either Congress or the Israeli Knesset.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman Ra'anan Gissin downplayed the significance of the document, calling it a "draft" only and saying that it was "not surprising."

"Their document is no different than the Iraqi Constitution, the Iranian Constitution, the Syrian Constitution - with the fulfillment of their goals and aspirations [being] the destruction or dismantling of the State of Israel," Gissin told .

He argued that it was not even necessary to read the document rather all that was needed was to listen to the PA television or radio in order to know what the provisions would be in their constitution.

Gissin said the constitution was not a significant problem at this stage because what it is a detail that will be worked out when Israel and the Palestinians are closer to approaching the fulfillment of President Bush's vision of two states living peacefully side-by-side.

Nevertheless, he added, Israel would never sign a treaty with a state that called for its demise.

"Don't have any illusion that Israel will sign a peace treaty . . . with an authority that [endorses a document that] calls for its destruction," Gissin said.

The Palestinians will have to give up the "right of return," Gissin added, because it is "tantamount to the destruction of the state of Israel."

Israelis across the political spectrum agree that the so-called "right of return" would quickly bring about the demise of the Jewish state demographically.

Palestinian analyst, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, who heads an independent civil reform movement in the PA, said the constitution is also problematic for the Palestinians but for different reasons.

"Islam is the main source of legislation [and] the official religion. I think it should be changed," Barghouti said. "The constitution needs work to be democratized."

"The mechanism for framing the constitution is not clear," he said.

According to Barghouti, there are members in the constitutional committee that have not even worked on it.

He added that there would be a presentation from the civil society to the government soon calling for a "complete re-evaluation of the constitution.""

This piece ran in the April 16th 2003 issue of the CNS news service at

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"Human Rights Groups Have Less Than Noble Agendas "
Anne Bayersky

Thousands of people flock to the annual six-week session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. In 2002, there were 3,700 participants--2,100 of whom were members of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Their sheer numbers invest the commission with an air of legitimacy and an aura of power. But "civil society," as they are all presumptuously called, doesn't speak with one voice.

Outside the elaborate Palais des Nations, demonstrations occur daily, contained in fixed places as far away as possible from the action. On the way to the meetings, the banners read such things as "Free Tibet."

Other members of civil society make it into the Palais itself. A set of formalities and a badge get you in the door. Tables and bulletin boards outside the meeting room have hundreds of pamphlets and notices. This year they include: "Zimbabwe: Human Rights and Human Rights Defenders at a Crossroads," and "Chechnya: A War Against Civilian Populations." The subject matter is considerably more varied than the content of the diplomats' speeches inside.

There are free books on issues such as "Claiming Our Rights: Surviving Pregnancy and Childbirth in Mali." A well-organized coalition, such as the Child Rights Caucus, has a schedule of briefings and panels arranged every day for five weeks. Then there are the individual pleas, like that of Abdel Malek, reported as being in arbitrary detention in Egypt since September 1997.

Even an NGO newspaper is put out by the South Asian Human Rights Documentation Center during the commission, with headlines such as "Country resolutions: Will CHR [the Commission] become a chamber of impunity?"

In addition to the frenzied activity outside the meeting, and another step up the civil-society totem pole, are the NGOs on the inside--NGOs accredited to the Economic and Social Council of the UN. These "ECOSOC accredited" NGOs may speak in the commission itself, 3-1/2 minutes on an agenda item, and have 2,000 of their words published as official UN documents. This week, 75 NGOs spoke on the agenda item concerning human rights abuses in specific countries the world over.

The orchestrated encounter between the state-run human rights operation and good-willed, earnest folks who care about human rights, however, is not quite what meets the eye.

While most appreciate that even the monitors of the masses, like police, accountants and lawyers, need to be monitored themselves, NGOs are the last bastion of self-appointed, untouchable authorities on human rights.

When the Amnesty International representative told a large gathering during a lunchtime recess: "to my knowledge, there has never been a Palestinian minor involved in a suicide bombing," she impressed a lot of listeners. This was notwithstanding the fact that there have been at least five well-documented cases of 16- and 17-year-old Palestinian suicide bombers in the last two years, and at least another five juveniles caught with suicidal explosives.

Before the war with Iraq even began, Human Rights Watch was anticipating human rights violations by American soldiers, and soliciting information from legal experts in order to "monitor the actions of occupying forces to ensure they . . . respect the rights of Iraqis." No talk of liberation here.

The International Human Rights Law Group based in Washington is a key player in seeking to promote the Durban Racism Conference and its outcome, at the UN Commission and elsewhere. Its executive director's response to California Democratic Rep. Tom Lantos' description of the anti-Semitism of the conference and its aftermath: "Jewish groups . . . cannot let their own agendas undermine the advances gained by so many other groups."

So who are these self-appointed moral guardians?

The UN has rules for granting ECOSOC accreditation to NGOs. One small problem: The UN committee applying the rules includes such states as China, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan and Sudan. Mysteriously, the committee turned down "Human Rights in China," and has had lengthy battles over applications from groups such as "Freedom House" and "Hadassa."

This might also explain the recent commission speech of accredited NGO "The International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD)," railing about "the anthrax letters that were mailed in the United States by a well-known American Zionist." EAFORD, with UN status since 1981, was established in Libya with the stated goal of promoting the idea that Zionism equals racism.

Human rights organizations, truly independent of governments, play a vital role in the protection of human rights. But figuring out who is independent, accurate and impartial is another question, generally left unasked and unanswered.

This piece ran on April 6th, 2003 in the Chicago Sun Times

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Home Grown Hamas in Florida
Mordecai Horowitz

Members of the Islamic terrorist group Hamas are shown kneeling shoulder-to-shoulder on top of American and Israeli flags, while proudly displaying a sign written in Arabic that honors an Iraqi suicide bomber who killed several U.S. soldiers.

It's a disturbing photograph that can be easily accessed on the Internet.

But what might be alarming to many in South County is that the picture,along with a number of opinionated articles,could easily be easily accessed from the Islamic Center of Boca Raton's Web site.

With three simple clicks of the mouse on the mosque's Web site,, anyone could view Friday's "photo of the day" on the Palestine News link, a feature that typically shows an image with subject matter similar to the one described above.

The Palestine News site,also known as "The Palestinian Information Center" contains anti-Israeli material and carries a link to the Hamas Web site

Horowitz is a former researcher with Israel Resource News Agency, now based in Boca Raton

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