Israel Resource Review 21st September, 2000


Asking President Clinton to recall US ambassador Martin Indyk
MK Dr. Uzi Landau

I wish to take the unusual step of asking the President of the United States, The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton, to recall the current US Ambassador to Israel, Mr. Martin Indyk.

That is because Mr. Indyk has taken the unusual step of interfering with the internal affairs of the state of Israel, while making statements that have been highly inappropriate.

In Mr. Indyk's recent prepared remarks that were delivered at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem on September 16, 2000, the US ambassador made the tendentious statement that "There is no solution but to share the holy city...and cannot be the exclusive preserve of one religion".

Commenting on Indyk's remarks, the Guardian correspondent described them as "sharp departure from Washington orthodoxy in recent years".

And where did Indyk get praise for such remarks?

For one, from a leading Washington-based Arab lobbyist, as quoted in by the Guardian, who declared that "we are pleased to hear in public what we have been hearing privately for many years from the US administration".

Indyk also stepped over a clear red line when he meddled in the sensitive internal religious affairs in Israel, by expressing support for the "secularist revolution" that Israeli Prime Minister has recently been floating in the Knesset, an idea which is now in the heart of Israel's INTERNAL public debate.

The US amabssador's intervention in such an internal matter led a leading liberal commentator for HaAretz, Akiva Eldar, to express his surprise that Indyk had interfered with what is clearly an internal Israeli matter, asking that one can "imagine what American citizens would say if the Israeli ambassador to Washington were to come to a local religious institution and say such things".

Just imagine the American outcry that would portend if Israeli officials were to express their feelings concerning American church-state controversies.

I believe that I speak for a consensus of public opinion in Israel when I take issue with such interference in the democratic process of the state of Israel.

Ambassador Indyk's remarks about Jerusalem remain an affront to Israel, particularly since he made them in the heart of the city that he aspires to divide.

It is likewise inexplicable that a foreign ambassador to Israel would choose to interject his private religious preferences into the debate over secular-religious tensions in Israel.

This is not the first time that US Ambassador Indyk has interfered in the internal affairs of our country: Last January, immediately following Indyk's return to Tel Aviv, the US embassy began to lobby Israeli Arab leaders regarding a possible referendum on the Golan Heights.

Mr. Indyk has neglected a vital role that he could have played to forward the peace process, since the US plays a formal, key role as the designated chair of the US-ISRAELI-PLO incitement monitoring committee that was set up by the US following the Wye Accords.

Mr. Indyk's predecessor, Mr. Ned Walker, made every effort to energize this committee. For whatever reason, the current US ambassador has for whatever reason seen to it that this vital organ of the peace process has stopped functioning.

As a result, the daily incitement to war in the official Palestinian media has gone unchecked, without any response whatsoever from the US ambassador.

The Palestinian Authority has issued new school books that relate to Israel as if it does not exist. "Palestine" covers all of Israel on the official Palestinian maps. The name of Israel is not even mentioned. Meanwhile, Israeli cities such as JAffa and Haifa are described as Palestinian cities.

This is Palestinian education that is designed to eternalize the confrontation, and to prepare the future generations of Palestinian children for conflicts in the future, not for peace or coexistence.

All this has gone unchecked, and, surprisingly, without any response from the US ambassador.

It was the task of the US embassy in Tel Aviv to monitor and respond to such incitement.

Yet the current US ambassador chose not to carry out this vital task ole.

As the former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee and the current chairman of the nonpartisan Knesset state control committes (the equivalent of the governmental affairs committees in western parliaments and the US Congress) I have been a consistent advocate of stronger ties between the US and Israel.

The time has come to repair the damage that has been done to this special relationship between our peoples by seeing to it our diplomats respect the internal affairs of our respective nations.

The writer is the Chairman, of the Knesset government control committee and the former chairman of the Kneset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee

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The "right of return": the PLO negotiating position that stalls the process
David Bedein

The most significant decision of the Sept. 13th PLO central committee was barely reported: The absolute and uncompromising Palestinian position that every refugee who left Palestine in 1948 should have the "inalienable right" to return to the 531 Arab villages that they left at the time.

(That would mean, for example, that the campus of Tel Aviv University, built on the razed Arab village of Sheikh Muawannis, would revert to the descendents of that Arab village)

In coordination with that PLO decision, Palestinian support groups around the world have designated Sept. 16th, 2000 as a day to support the Palestinian demand for the "right of return".

What a contrast that is to those days in September, 1993, exactly seven years ago, when a different decaration of principles for peace and recognotion was signed by Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister of Israel, and Yassir Arafat, the leader of the PLO, and witnessed by Jorgen Holst, the Foreign Minister of Norway, which established a self-ruling Palestinian Arab entity in the predominantly Arab populated areas of the west bank and Gaz, while leaving the more difficult issues such as the Arab refugees who have wallowed in United Nations refugee camps since 1948 to be resolved during seven years that were set aside for a dynamic and complex negotiating process.

Exactly seven years after the genesis of a middle east peace process of hope, the negotiations have ground to a halt over the issue of these Arab refugees.

Over the past two weeks, I had occasion to hear, and then see, the Palestinian Authority's pursuit of the issue of the "right of return" as their primary issue of concern in this, the final stages of the Oslo process.

On September 8, 2000 I attended a meeting at PLO's Orient House in Jerusalem, at which the strategy of the PA with regard to the right of return and the compensation claim were clarified. I met with Khalil Tafakji, the Director of the Arab Studies Society. Mr. Tafakji is director of a project to computerize the land records of Jerusalem and its environs, cross-referencing the property records with the ownership claims of the refugees. The project will be completed within three months. He apologized for meeting with me on a Friday, since this was his Sabbath. However, he explained, the computers have to function 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When the project is completed, the PA will have records that will show the present owner or user of each parcel in Jerusalem and the Arab owner of each parcel prior to 1948. Tafakji notes that this is the first step in preparing a legal claim for return of the properties or claims for damages for the value of the properties.

Tafakji noted that similar projects are being planned for other parts of Israel with regard to properties to which Arab refugees will make claims. It should be noted that the Arab refugees in the UNRWA camps dwell according to the precise neighborhoods and villages that they lived in 1948, while UNRWA workers, whose salaries are paid for by the UNRWA donor countries, encourage UNRWA residents to make claims for their properties from before 1948. Meanwhile, UNRWA now organizes daily bus trips, for UNRWA camp residents to see the homes and neighborhoods that they will soon be claiming for themselves, in places such as Canada Park, the Tel Aviv University campus, and Ben Gurion International Airport.

The theory of the PA is similar to that of the Jewish claims against Germany, Austria and countries to which Jewish assets were sold or transferred by the Germans and their allies. It is also similar to the claims against Switzerland and other countries that benefited from the deaths of Jewish property owners whose assets were confiscated after their deaths at the hands of the Nazis.

The implications of the PA strategy are clear. It is entirely possible that a court, such as the World Court in The Hague, will give these claims a sympathetic hearing and order properties returned to their pre-1948 owners. In the alternative, the Court could order that the previous owners be paid fair value for their property together with interest from the time the properties were seized. Israel will have to show that the properties were voluntarily abandoned, which may be an impossible task. The result could be hundreds of billions of Dollars in damages, or, even worse, an order to evict the present owners and return the property to the claimants. Given the respect that Israeli jurisprudence gives to international law, the possibility exists that Israeli courts would give full faith and credit to an order of the World Court.

The Palestinian Authority's determination to push the "right of return" issue was confirmed by Israel Member of Knesset, MK Dan Meridor, who serves as the security-sensitive chairman of Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee. Meridor, who served as the cabinet secretary when Prime Minister Menachem Begin negotiated the Camp David agreement with Egypt in 1978, also played a key role in Prime Minister Ehud Barak's delegation at the Camp David summit. Meridor participated in meetings on all core issues addressed at the summit, especially the subcommittee that dealt with the "Right of Return" and that of compensation demands for the returnees.

Meridor told me that that the consistent position of the PA throughout the summit, a position that has not changed as a result of the summit, remains that 3.6 million Palestinians have the absolute right to exercise their right to return to their homes and villages in Israel.

Meridor specifically mentioned that the PA asserts that these persons have the same rights as Holocaust survivors and the refugees who were displaced in Serbia and Kosovo¦ to be repatriated to their homes and to recover their property, even if we are relating to a period of fifty two years. The PA asserts that these refugees may, at their option, return to their homes, or receive compensation for the loss of their property and their suffering. As Meridor related it, the Israeli delegation at the Camp David had assumed that that the PA's position was an opening negotiation gambit, even though the PA has emphasized this position throughout the seven years of the Oslo process.

After 40 hours of negotiations, Meridor reported that the Israelis are convinced that the Palestinian position is no mere negotiation strategy.

On the issue of compensation, the PA demanded that Israel provide it with property records so that the present owners and uses of the property of the refugees could be determined. In this manner the PA intends to arrive at a valuation of its compensation claim against Israel in respect of the displaced property owners.. Meridor felt that the PA could be preparing for the filing of legal claims against Israel and the present owners or users of the property to which the refugees claim ownership.

It is important to note however, that as Israel negotiates the final status issues with the Palestinians, Israel must take note of the intentions and plans of the PA in the matter of Arab refugees. As the media focuses on the fight against terror, someone may wish to pay attention to the people with lethal computers as well.



During the 1948 war of Independence, when the new state of Israel was invaded by seven Arab armies, between 350,000 and 650,000 Arabs left their homes in Palestine, depending on which United Nations report you read, while an undetermined number of Jews fled from their homes in the Old City of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem suburbs of Neveh Yaakov, Atarot, and the Etzion Bloc.

The "Inalienable Right of Return" resolution #194 that was adopted by United Nations resolution #194 on December 11, 1948, during the height of that war of independence, legislated that all Jewish and Arab refugees from the 1948 war had possessed the absolute and "inalienable" right to return to the homes and villages that they left during the war. That resolution also determined that all of these refugees would be entitled to financial compensation.

To implement this resolution, the UN established UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, whose purpose was to confine Palestinian Arab refugees to "temporary" transit camps, under the premise and promise of the "right of return". Israel also established temporary refugee camps to receive the Jewish refugees from 1948, along with more than two million Jews who streamed to Israel in the first decade of the state's turbulent history. While no Jewish refugee camp still exists, the UN and the Arab nations have continued to confine what are now 3.6 million Palestinian Arab refugees in refugee camps, forbidding them to move out of the camps. Even the new Palestinian Authority, soon to be a Palestinian state, forbids the Palestinian Arab refugees from moving into permanent homes in the areas under PA control. Why? That would mean that this would violate their right to return to the 531 Arab villages that have been replaced by Israeli cities, collective farms and woodlands, all of which lie within Israel's pre-1967 cease fire lines.

The writer is the bureau chief of israel resource news agency

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Has the Israeli human rights community abandoned human rights in favor of political expediency?
David Bedein

A commitment to human rights and civil liberties includes an inherent even if unwritten oath to uphold the principles of human dignity, regardless of any political or ethnic considerations.

For example, in 1992, in the course of work as a journalist, I found that fifteen Arabs who worked in Kiryat Arba and lived with their families in the village of Bani Naim, had been served with arbitrary home-demolition orders. Our news agency printed the story, and also joined with a human rights group based in Efrat and Kiryat Arba to help these families bring a petition to the Israel High Court of Justice. The petition was successful. For those of us who became involved in this case, the point was not the political allegiance of those families or our views thereof. The point was that an injustice was being done to them, and it had to be corrected.

The themes of human rights, civil liberties and human dignity have been on prominent display in Israel-Arab relations, and earn banner coverage in the media.

Advocacy groups for the Palestinian-Arabs made very effective use of these themes in diverting public attention from Arab-PLO terrorism and belligerency as moral issues, to Palestinian Arab-rights as a moral issue. They thereby won wide support from a well-meaning if not always keenly perceptive public.

News coverage of these rights peaked during the first two years of the intifada, The PLO encouraged youngsters to get onto the front lines of riots, knowing full well that they would be most exposed there and presented by the news media as child victims. This was a propaganda device that brought the PLO great dividends in public relations.

The Palestinian Human Rights Information Center, based in Jerusalem and in Washington, coordinated a campaign that succeeded in igniting the passions of human rights groups throughout the world and, eventually, throughout Israel.

By 1990, at least sixteen internationally respected human rights organizations were monitoring the human rights policies of the government of Israel. All of them had Israeli members and Israeli counterparts. During the Gulf War in 1991, when the PLO sided with Iraq and its supporters cheered the Iraqi scud-missile attacks on Israel, these human rights groups clung to their support of the PLO cause.

In the United Nations-sponsored (UNRWA) camps for displaced Arabs, the relief workers gave moral and logistical support to the PLO campaign, while helping to propagate false rumors that the camps faced starvation at the time of the Gulf War.

In this period, espousal of the PLO cause might have wanted with its support and encouragement of Saddam Hussein's Iraq and its scud attacks.

Yet the human rights coalition, in Israel and abroad, remained fixed in its pro-PLO stance.

These organizations contributed mightily to shaping a public opinion that pushed Israel into recognizing and dealing with the PLO in the Oslo Accords of 1993.

In the spring of 1994, a self-governing Arab-Palestine entity was set up under the rule of Arafat. There was by then a long record of Arafat's autocratic methods and executions of opponents. Nevertheless, human rights groups hoped that the establishment of a Palestine National Authority with an intricate governmental structure, parliament and legislative council would provide a new era of human rights, civil liberties and human dignity for the Arab-Palestinians.

In August 1994, Arafat closed the Palestinian Human Rights Information Center and put its staff in prison. That was just the beginning of his ongoing campaign to ignore the complaints of human rights organizations, and indeed to crush the organizations entirely.

The writer brought this to the attention of the Israeli group Rabbis for Human rights, which then forwarded a letter of protest to Arafat. There was no reply. That did not inhibit the Rabbis for Human rights from making cordial visits to Arafat in Gaza and putting his grinning face on their brochures.

Arafat's suppression of human rights and civil liberties seems in keeping with Israeli government views at the time of Osclo Accords, On September 2, 1993, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot quoted then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin: This will be a process that will give the Palestinians an entity without Bagatz [right of appeal to the High Court of Justice] and without Bitzlem (a human rights organization that worked on behalf of Arab-Palestinian human rights).

Thus, a process that had been driven by human rights organizations on behalf of the Arab-Palestinians culminated in depriving those people even of the rights that had been accorded to under Israeli administration. Those organizations that had for years stood so loudly for Arab-Palestinian rights succeeded in placing them under a rule with no human rights or civil liberties.

The government of Israel government pays 62 percent of the budget of the Palestine Authority. Yet the Israeli human rights establishment refuses, as a matter of policy, to make aid to the Palestinian Authority contingent in any improvement in PA human rights policies.

Bassam Eid, an Arab who had been active in Bitzelem, found that his organization and the Israeli Left were less interested in human rights and more interested in the success Of the Oslo process .

Shortly after he left Bitzelem, on December 5, 1995, Eid stated: "I would sooner trust Rehavam Ze'evi [leader of the nationalist Moledet party] over Yossi Sarid [leader of the left-wing Meretz party] any day."

Israel Resource News Agency has therefore put some questions to the Association for Civil Rights In Israel (ACRI), an umbrella organization supported by the New Israel Fund in the United States: 1. Would ACRI support aid to an entity that denies human rights and civil liberties as a matter of policy? 2. Can ACRI be silent while a government of Israel proposes to strip human rights and civil liberties from Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and hand them over to the rule of Arafat and his security chief Jibril Rajoub? 3. How does ACRI respond to the June 2000 series in the newspaper HaAretz, that documented how Israeli police look on and watch while Rajoub's "police" abduct, interrogate, torture and even murder Israeli Arab citizens of Jerusalem.

The reply from ACRI came from its chairwoman Edna Margolit and its director Vered Livne: ACRI does not and will not interfere with political issues.

ACRI legal counsel Dan Yakir did say that ACRI did not approve of Israeli police subcontracting law enforcement to Rajoub to enforce the law. However, he would not put this in writing or recommend that ACRI issue any policy statement on the subject. He also said that he was not familiar with the reports in HaAretz. (Yet, ACRI retains media professionals who comb the press to monitor human rights abuses.)

Israel Resource News Agency placed the same questions to Rabbis for Human Rights. There has not been any response.

Amnesty International, that had long been very active on human rights for Arab-Palestinians when they were under Israeli administration, has recently issued a scathing report on the human rights abuses of the Palestine Authority. Neither ACRI nor the Rabbis for Human Rights has addressed itself to this report.

It would seem that the Israeli human rights establishment, including its rabbinc component, has adopted Rabin's view that an independent Palestinian entity must be set up and supported at any cost to its subjects in human rights and civil liberties.

Despite this indifference by their former Israeli champions, Arab-Palestinians have been developing an underground network on behalf of human rights and civil liberties, freedom of speech and press, due process of law, police reform and more. When Bassam Eid was interviewed in the television film Vanishing Peace (BBC/CBC, May 1999), he pointed out that the salaries of Arafat's PA security men are paid directly by the United States, Canada and the European Union, who do not make any respect for human rights a condition for their subsidies.

It would seem that Israel's human rights establishment, along with much of the international community, is willing to subject Palestinian Arabs to a regime that denies them any semblance of justice or liberty. If this facilitates their political goal of a PLO state, then so be it.

In what way the achievement of the political goal forwards their avowed cause of human rights has yet to be explained.

the write is the bureau chief of israel resource news agency



The first interview with Senator Lieberman in the Jewish media since his vice presidential nomination
Steve Rosenberg

In his first major interview with a Jewish newspaper since being nominated, Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Lieberman shared his opinions with the Jewish Advocate on the status of Jerusalem, American Jewry and Torah.

Lieberman was in Boston last week for two Democratic fundraising events.

The first event, a $10,000 per plate luncheon for 50 Jewish guests garnered nearly $500,000. The evening event, which featured a three-song musical appearance by James Taylor, was highlighted by an address from Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. The two events raised nearly $2.5 million for the Gore-Lieberman campaign.

Despite a hectic schedule that took him from Washington to New York to Boston in less than three hours, the Connecticut senator seemed invigorated by the news of the Democratic ticket’s ascent in the polls. Wearing a light pinstripe suit, a red tie and his graying blonde hair combed immaculately, Lieberman’s deep blue eyes expressed a joy he has repeatedly articulated since becoming the first Jew to be nominated for vice president by a national political party.

When asked if he had a message to convey to American Jewry, Lieberman talked about the opportunities America has granted not only to Jews but to members of all faiths. “America is not just a change of address, it’s a change. It’s a unique country in world history, because it’s premised on equal opportunity and tolerance. And I happen to have the good fortune of being a great beneficiary of that. So, I think what it says to everybody in this country is that you should feel free to be yourself in America, and know that in doing so, you enrich the country,” the vice presidential candidate said.

He encouraged Jews to give back to America by embracing public service and volunteer work and “to do good deeds; acts of charity.” American Jews, said Lieberman, should also feel “real gratitude to this country for the extraordinary freedom it provides to all citizens.”

Referring to Judaism as the “the foundation of my life,” the 58-year-old Orthodox Jew, spoke about the importance of action in his faith. “I’ve always felt that Judaism is a religion of action, not just study. It begins with faith, and then it goes to study, but then the test is: are you doing something to make the world better, Tikkun Olam,” the senator explained.

When asked if he could point to any specific passages or stories in the Torah that he draws strength or inspiration from, Lieberman pointed to the document as one complete work. “The Torah is so full of inspiration,” he declared. “It’s such a human and at the same time, so inspiring a document, that I’ve drawn strength and lessons from the whole of the experience. I don’t think of anything specifically.”

He also stressed that while the Torah is a major influence in his life it is not the only influence. “You know, people ask me sometimes the affect of my faith on public service, and I always say that my faith has informed my service just as so many of the other experiences in my life have — the lessons my parents taught me, the lessons I learned from studying history and reading biographies, and then the lessons you learn from your experience. But there’s no question that my religion is one of those sources,” he emphasized.

On the subject of dividing Jerusalem, Lieberman seemed to embrace the same politics Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. He favors a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, but did not directly object to the notion of Palestinians having a piece of Jerusalem. Said Lieberman, “It’s a matter of American policies adopted in a piece of legislation that I co-sponsored along with a broad group of senators from both parties, that we should recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that our embassy should be there. You know, I think in the specifics of this moment, which is a sensitive moment in which President Clinton is clearly trying to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East and one of the central questions is Jerusalem, I should leave it to the leadership of Israel and the Palestinians to continue to negotiate without my opining on it — because ultimately they’re the ones who have to live with it.

the writer is the editor of the "jewish advocate", the jewish newspaper that serves the Jewish communities of boston and of westen massachusetts

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