UN (July 24, 2018) The Group of 77 (G77) – the largest single coalition of developing countries at the UN – is to be chaired by Palestine, come January.

“It’s a historical first, both for Palestine and the G77,” an Asian diplomat told IPS, pointing out that Palestine will be politically empowered to collectively represent 134 UN member states, including China.

Created in June 1964, the 54-year-old group comprises over 80% of the world’s population and approximately two-thirds of UN membership.

Traditionally, the G77 speaks with a single voice before the 193-member General Assembly, the highest policy making body at the UN, and also at all UN committee meetings and at international conferences.

Under a system of geographical rotation, it was Asia’s turn to name a chairman for 2019. The Asian Group has unanimously endorsed Palestine, which will be formally elected chair at the annual G77 ministerial meeting, scheduled to take place in mid-September.

Palestine will take over from the current chair, Egypt, which is representing the African Group of countries.

The chairmanship is a tremendous political boost for Palestine at a time when it is being increasingly blacklisted by the Trump administration, which is kowtowing to the Israelis.

Although it is not a full-fledged UN member state, Palestine is recognised by 136 UN members, and since 2012, has the status of a “non-member observer state” – as is the Holy See (the Vatican).

Nadia Hijab, president, Al-Shabaka Board of Directors, told IPS: “At a time when Israel is moving on all fronts to wipe Palestine definitively off the map through relentless colonisation – and to muscle in on UN committees despite its flagrant violations of international law — it is a source of solace to see Palestine slated for a very visible role at the UN.”

However, comforting as this may be, she pointed out, it will take a lot more than this to make “Palestine” a reality on the ground.

Sadly, the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership has been unwilling or unable to end security coordination with Israel and to heal internal divisions. Instead, she said, it is cracking down on peaceful Palestinian protests.

”It is also reshaping the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which has always been recognised as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, in a way that excludes alternative and opposing views,” Hijab declared.

Martin Khor, advisor to the Malaysia-based Third World Network, told IPS: “I think it will be a historic and a significant development-first for the G77 countries to elect Palestine as its chair, and thereby affirm their confidence in its leadership.”

The election will also prove that the State of Palestine itself has decided it can mobilise its human and material resources to take on the complex task of coordinating the largest grouping in the UN system – even though it has to fight its own very challenging battles of survival and independence, said Khor, the former executive director of the Geneva-based South Centre.

“Both Palestine and the G77 deserve the support of people around the world to wish them success in voicing and defending the interests of developing countries in these very difficult times when international cooperation and multilateralism are coming under attack,” he said.

Last week, the Trump administration refused to grant visas to a six-member Palestinian delegation that was expected to participate at the UN’s High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development which took place July 16-18.

This was clearly in violation of the 1947 US-UN Headquarters Agreement which calls on the US, among other obligations, to facilitate delegates participating at UN meetings.

Asked about the visa refusal, UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters last week: “Well, certainly, we’re aware of this latest incident, but as far as I’m aware, there is a Host Country Committee that deals with disputes involving access to the UN and any problems dealing with the host country on that.”

”As of now, the Host Country Committee has not been approached or formally informed of this, so they haven’t acted on this. But it’s normally their role to deal with this situation. Of course, we would hope that all of those who are here to attend UN meetings would have the ability to do so,” he added.

Samir Sanbar, a former UN Assistant Secretary-General who headed the Department of Public Information (DPI), told IPS chairing the G77 will be an unprecedented role for Palestine. He said leading that large, varied yet collaborative group will require tactful handling by all sides at a time when the rightful Palestinian cause needs every support as the region — and a fragmented conflicted, almost leaderless world — is facing serious challenges.

“It is hoped that ambassador Riyad Mansour, permanent observer of the State of Palestine and an experienced diplomat with proven UN record, will be given the opportunity and required leeway to operate in an inclusive, patient and fruitful manner to enhance the role of the G77 while advancing the status of the Palestine,” said Sanbar, who served under five different UN secretaries-general.

At the UN, the Trump administration has been increasingly undermining the Palestinian cause – a cause long supported by an overwhelming majority of member states in the world body.

In May, the US relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem even though the UN has deemed it “occupied” declaring that the status of East Jerusalem should be subject to negotiations and that East Jerusalem will be the future capital of the State of Palestine.

Last month, the Trump administration also reduced its funding — from an estimated $360 million in 2017 to $60 million this year — to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), created in 1949 to provide assistance to over 5.5 million refugees resulting from the creation of Israel in 1948.

Last year when secretary-general Antonio Guterres proposed the appointment of former Palestinian authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as UN’s Special Representative in Libya, the proposal was shot down by US Ambassador Nikki Haley, purely because he was a Palestinian.

And speaking before the US House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, Haley went even further down the road when she indicated she would block any appointment of a Palestinian official to a senior role at the UN because Washington “does not recognise Palestine” as an independent state.

Suddenly, the Palestinians, for the first time, seem blacklisted – and declared political outcasts – in a world body where some of them held key posts in a bygone era.

Guterres, who apparently relented to US pressure by stepping back on Fayyad’s appointment plucked up courage to tell reporters: “I think it was a serious mistake. I think that Mr. Fayyad was the right person in the right place at the right time, and I think that those who will lose will be the Libyan people and the Libyan peace process.”

And, he rightly added: “”I believe that it is essential for everybody to understand that people serving the UN are serving in their personal capacities. They don’t represent a country or a government – they are citizens of the world representing the UN Charter and abiding by the UN Charter,” he said, pointedly directing his answer at Haley.

A former chair of the G77 chapter in Vienna told IPS although the Palestinian issue is fundamentally a political one, centred as well on the legitimacy and legality of Israeli occupation, it no longer remains in the political-legal realms exclusively.

He said there are a large number of issues of economic, social and cultural and environmental nature, including health, education, food, water, etc, which arises both directly from conditions of occupation, as well as laterally from other conditions such as denial of humanitarian access, and, very recently, the declaration of “Israel as a Jewish state”.

It is logical that advancing a struggle on these issues call for a broad forum of solidarity, and the G77 fits the bill, he noted.

In an oped piece marking the 50th anniversary of the G77, Mourad Ahmia, the G77 executive secretary said: “When it was established on June 15, 1964, the signing nations of the well-known “Joint Declaration of Seventy-Seven Countries” formed the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the UN to articulate and promote their collective interests and common development agenda.

Since the First Ministerial meeting of the G77 held in Algeria in October 1967, and the adoption of the “Charter of Algiers”, the Group of 77 laid down the institutional mechanisms and structures that have contributed to shaping the international development agenda and changing the landscape of the global South for the past five decades, he pointed out.

“Over the years, the Group has gained an increasing role in the determination and conduct of international relations through global negotiations on major North-South and development issues.”

The Group has a presence worldwide at UN centres in New York, Geneva, Nairobi, Paris, Rome, Vienna, and Washington D.C., and is actively involved in ongoing negotiations on a wide range of global issues including climate change, poverty eradication, migration, trade, and the law of the sea.

“Today, the G77 remains the only viable and operational mechanism in multilateral economic diplomacy within the UN system. The growing membership is proof of its enduring strength,” he declared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Conversation - (May 18, 2018) Outside observers tend to imagine the face of Gaza as resolutely male: the bearded Hamas “militant”, or the young man hurling stones across the border fence. But Palestinian women, both in Gaza and the West Bank, have a significant presence as activists, protesting against an unjust occupation, but also as the backbone of a fragmented and demoralised society.

Women have been active in the Palestinian struggle since its early days. In the 1920s, they protested side by side with men against British control of their country. They formed charitable organisations and expressed themselves politically.

After the state of Israel was created in 1948, the majority of Palestinians were forced to flee into exile, and here too women played a key role as protectors of their families, and repositories of the “national story”. It was vital that Palestinians, wherever they were in the world, did not forget what had happened and continued to insist on their right of return to their homeland. Women passed their memories of Palestine down to subsequent generations.

Participating in politics

In the 1960s, with the emergence of a Palestinian liberation movement, dedicated to regaining the lost homeland, some women turned to more militant activities. Leila Khalid, for example, hijacked several airliners on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and became a familiar face in the Western media.

Gradually, women also started to engage in formal politics, through membership of the main Palestinian political factions. Although Palestinians tend to be socially conservative and are anxious to shield women and girls from what might be considered “dishonourable” or nontraditional behaviour, many younger women found a new kind of freedom through education and political mobilisation.

A largely non-violent intifada (or “uprising”) began in 1987. Women, men and children combined efforts to resist the 20-year occupation of their land. They did so in innovative ways, for example by establishing alternative educational facilities for children after all the schools were closed, creating an alternative economy based on home produce, as well as engaging in large-scale protests.

There were also attempts at dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli women. For example, in July 2006, members of the International Women’s Commission for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace (IWC) convened an emergency meeting in Athens. They urged the international community to intervene. In their words:

Civilians, mainly women and children, are paying the price daily for this vicious cycle of retaliation and counter-retaliation. This is a time of great danger … If no action is taken today, tomorrow will be too late.

Although no resolution came out of this or similar calls, initiatives involving women from the two sides were judged to have been among the most promising.

Telling the world

Such activities ended in 2000, with the start of the second intifada. The resistance was no longer a shared endeavour involving all sectors of society – it was an armed confrontation. Women suffered greatly from rising levels of violence and decreasing security for civilians.

No one felt safe. Girls travelling from their homes to university were likely to experience harassment at Israeli army checkpoints and, as a result, many parents started to keep their daughters at home, and even to marry them off at the earliest possible opportunity; the age of marriage began to fall.

As the economic situation deteriorated, women had fewer opportunities for employment. Incidences of mental illness rose and women exhibited deep anxiety about the safety of their children.

Many Palestinians feel that they have no control over their own lives. Under a harsh Israeli regime, it has been very difficult to exercise agency and Palestinian political parties have seemed weak and ineffectual. The Islamist party Hamas seemed to offer a more assertive form of opposition, and many women were attracted by its grassroots organising and evident ability to confront the Israeli occupation. Some became militants.

While it may be tempting to argue that the participation of women in violence is a sign of a society that has lost its way, the reality is more complex. Many Palestinian women point out that their community is powerless; it has neither the political leadership nor the weapons to fight a conventional war. Instead, it relies on all its members to participate and “tell the world” what is happening to them.

By protesting at the Gaza-Israel border to mark the anniversary of al-nakbah (“the catastrophe”), Palestinians are reminding the world that they were dispossessed 70 years ago and this injustice has still not been remedied. Palestinian women, as much as men, have a vital stake in finding a solution to the conflict, that will provide safety and certainty for the next generation.

 

 

Jakartaglobe (June 29-2018) Indonesia will provide Palestine with $2 million in aid for capacity building programs as part of the country's longstanding commitment to support the Arab nation's struggle for independence.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi made the announcement during a ministerial meeting of the Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development (Ceapad) in Bangkok on Wednesday (27/06).

The capacity building program will cater to Palestinians' needs in agriculture, entrepreneurship, women's empowerment, education and communications and information technology.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this week's Ceapad meeting resulted in a three-year work plan, which will commence in 2019.

The meeting in Bangkok was attended by officials from 11 countries, including Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Jordan, and five international organizations, including the World Bank and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Established in 2013, the Ceapad is a Japan-initiated forum for Asian countries and international organizations to coordinate and discuss effective ways to provide assistance to Palestine.

"The three-year Ceapad program specifically includes the proposed capacity building program, which will be in accordance with the needs of Palestinians and the resources or capacity of participating Ceapad countries," the statement said.

The financial aid from Indonesia will either be channeled through the Ceapad program, or other relevant programs, it added.

Indonesia has organized 169 capacity building programs for Palestine, involving almost 2,000 Palestinians. The government said it is currently preparing the provision of medicines and water desalination in Gaza.

The Southeast Asian country also offered what Minister Retno called the "3+1 Formula" for Palestinian independence.

That approach includes capacity building for the Palestine government across various sectors, creating a conducive environment for economic development, and cooperation on capacity building efforts by Ceapad and other organizations.

In addition, Retno said the international community must make a political commitment. Countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel should not move their embassies to Jerusalem and must formally recognize Palestine as an independent state.

"An independent Palestine cannot be set up in a short time; it will take a while. Indonesia's commitment to Palestinian independence will never fade; it will only expand," Retno was quoted as saying.

She added that Indonesia will prioritize the Palestinian issue during its two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, which will begin in 2019.

During the Ceapad meeting, Retno also highlighted key issues hampering the Palestinian struggle for independence, including weakening commitments, a halt in the peace process and violence committed by Israeli forces.

She met with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Maliki on the sidelines of the meeting to discuss ways to move the Palestinian-Israeli peace process forward.

"Countries outside the region, especially Muslim-majority countries, must be included in the Palestine-Israeli peace process," Maliki said.

 

 

MEE (May 3, 2018) A Palestinian poet was convicted of "inciting violence" and "supporting a terrorist organisation" by an Israeli court on Thursday for content she posted on social media that prosecutors claimed urged violence against the occupation.

 

Nazareth magistrates' court found Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, guilty over a poem titled "Resist, My People, Resist Them" posted on Facebook and separate posts dealing with Palestinian resistance. 

 

Prosecutors argued that the poem incited violence, while Tatour also commented on a post featuring Islamic Jihad declaring its commitment to a new intifada, or "uprising" - meaning, according to the charges, that she supported "terrorism".

 

According to the Israeli indictment, Tatour also uploaded a video on her Facebook and YouTube accounts that shows footage of Palestinians throwing stones at the Israeli army troops, with her reading in the background of her "Resist, My People, Resist Them" poem.

 

The 36-year-old's lawyer Gaby Lasky argued the poem had been misinterpreted by Israeli translators, that the content was "artistic expression" rather than a call to violence, and that the Israeli charges ran counter to the freedom of expression of her client.

 

"The verdict violates the right of speech and freedom of expression. It is an infringement on cultural rights of the Palestinian minority inside Israel. It would lead to self-censorship and self-criminalisation of poetry."

 

Lasky said she would appeal against the verdict. A date for sentencing has not been set.

 

'The mask of Israeli justice'

 

Tatour said after the verdict that her trial "ripped off the masks" of Israeli democracy and justice. 

 

"The whole world will hear my story. The whole world will hear what Israel's democracy is. A democracy for Jews only. Only Arabs go to jail. The court said I am convicted of terrorism. If that's my terrorism, I give the world a terrorism of love."

 

More than 150 American literary figures have called for Israel to free Tatour, including nine Pulitzer Prize winners including Alice Walker, along with Claudia Rankine, Naomi Klein and Jacqueline Woodson.

 

Tatour was arrested on 11 October 2015, about a week after she published her poem.

 

In an interview before the verdict, Tatour told Middle East Eye she had already spent two and a half years flitting between custody and house arrest.

 

She said Israeli interrogators initially had little to question her about.

 

"First, they accused me of incitement based on a poster I posted in 2014, which contained the words "I'm the next martyr". The martyrs are the victims of the Israeli occupation, who are being shot by soldiers," Tatour said.

 

"The accusation was weak, so they dug into my Facebook and found the poem."

 

She said the second verse was misinterpreted.

 

"Here, they interpreted a line in the poem that says 'Resist, my people, resist them, Resist the settler’s robbery, And follow the caravan of martyrs' - as inciting people to be killed and be martyrs."

 

The poem tells a story of three Palestinians, "victims of the Israeli occupation", according to Tatour: Mohammed Abu Khdier, a teen who was kidnapped and burned to death by three Israeli settlers in Jerusalem in 2014; Hadeel al-Hashlamon, 18, who was shot by Israeli troops in Hebron city; and 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh who was burned alive in the fire with his parents in an arson attack by Israeli settlers in July 2015, in Duma, in the West Bank.

 

"Those are all martyrs. Although, it feels odd to call them like that in English or Hebrew because they are victims. But in Arabic, there is no separation between the meaning of martyr and victim when he or she is shot by Israeli soldiers," she said.

 

"Palestinians who were killed in the Israeli war over Gaza are called martyrs."

 

House arrest

 

Tatour was arrested for three months and was interrogated five times by Israeli officers. Each interrogation lasted five to six hours, she told the MEE.

 

In January 2016 Tatour was released, after being fitted with an ankle monitor, to a house arrest for six months at the home of her brother in Kiryat Ono neighbourhood in Tel Aviv.

 

"They considered me a danger for Israelis, but when they dictated the location of my house arrest, they could not find a place more Israeli than Tel Aviv to do that. I find this ironic," she said.

 

She added that the house arrest was a harsh experience.

 

Far from her family in Reineh village, she was not allowed to use a mobile phone or the internet or even to publish texts in the media. After four months of house arrest, she was allowed to leave the house for two hours on weekends, if accompanied by a relative.

 

"I had two choices, detention or house arrest. I was not allowed to publish any poetry or texts in the media according to the Israeli court," she said.

 

Tatour considers Fadwa Tuqan, a Palestinian poet, and Nazik al-Malaika, an Iraqi poet, as her role models and intellectual inspiration.

 

She has published one poetry collection in 2010 titled "The Final Invasion". Her second collection, "The Atlantic Canary Tales", was due to be published in December 2015, but her arrest prevented that.

 

In addition, Tatour has another book written about her detention waiting for publication.

 

"I wrote a lot while in prison. The Israeli prosecution tried to press that I provoked the publishing ban when my poem A Poet Behind Bars appeared in the International Translation Day in English on Pen International website.

 

"I wrote this poem before the ban, on 2 of November, the day I was indicted, in Jalameh prison," she said.

 

Her translated poems appeared recently in A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Anthology, a UK bilingual Arabic and English anthology published in 2017, that presents Palestinian poets. Its editor, sci-fi novelist and poet Naomi Foyle told MEE that "tens of thousands of recorded instances of Zionist hate speech go unnoticed by Israeli courts. In convicting Dareen Tatour of incitement, Israel confirms again its true nature: an apartheid prison state."

 

The last text Tatour wrote was titled "The Final Chapter", Tatour told MEE.

 

"It is a poem. I am asking whether I would face freedom or prison after the verdict. In the end, I conclude that whatever the decision will be, I will end up free."

 

 

 

 

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