Stories by Arsen Ostrovsky

Arsen Ostrovsky is an attorney specializing in litigation, international law and human rights in the Middle East.

Iran’s Nuke Double-Talk

June 11th, 2011 at 1:41 pm 21 Comments

In an exercise straight out of the political  theater of the absurd, Iran this Sunday will convene a two-day conference on “International Nuclear Disarmament.” According to Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mahdi Akhoundzadeh, the conference will discuss the “doctrines of nuclear powers”, “practical measures to have a world free of weapons of mass destruction” and review “regional as well as international disarmament commitments”. I wonder what’s next — maybe Syria can hold an international conference on Effective Crowd Dispersion Methods and Saudi Arabia could convene a conference on the Advancement of the Status of Women & Minorities?

G8 to Palestinians: Get Back to Talks

May 27th, 2011 at 5:00 pm 13 Comments

The G8 summit in France has just released a statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that “negotiations are the only way toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict.” This provides perhaps the first indication that key European countries may not succumb to the Palestinian demand for unilateral recognition of statehood at the United Nations this September.

The statement was part of the final Declaration, titled: “Renewed Commitment for Freedom and Democracy”.

The section relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (paragraph 67) reads as follows:

67. We are convinced that the historic changes throughout the region make the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through negotiations more important, not less. Aspirations of the peoples in the region need to be heeded including that of the Palestinians for a viable and sovereign State and that of Israelis for security and regional integration. The time to resume the Peace Process is now.

a. Negotiations are the only way toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict. The framework for these negotiations is well known. We urge both parties to return to substantive talks with a view to concluding a framework agreement on all final status issues. To that effect, we express our strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by President Obama on May 19, 2011.

b. We appreciate the efforts and the progress made by the Palestinian Authority and the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad as they are building a viable State as recently commended by the IMF, the World Bank and the ad hoc liaison Committee.

c. We look forward to the prospect of the second donors’ conference for Palestine in Paris, also in view of the resumption of negotiations.

d. We call on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to abide by existing co-operation agreements and to abstain from unilateral measures that could hamper progress and further reforms. We call for the easing of the situation in Gaza.

e. We demand the unconditional release of the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit without delay.

A few initial observations:

1)  An unequivocal statement that negotiations are the only way toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict, including the creation of a Palestinian state, is a welcome sign. It should also be a warning to the Palestinians to once and for all desist with their unilateralist path to the UN and return to the negotiating table with Israel forthwith.

2) Expressing strong support for President Obama’s peace plan – though far from ideal – is at least much better now that he had the chance to clarify some issues in his AIPAC address on May 22nd.

3) The G8’s failure to make express reference to the terrorist group Hamas or demand that they abide by the Quartet’s principles (recognize Israel, renounce violence and agree to respect previous treaties signed by the Palestinian Authority with Israel) – was a glaring omission. Though President Obama referred to Hamas in his speeches last week, the G8 ought to have still stressed this as part of the Declaration.

4) Demanding the unconditional and immediate release of the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (who will mark 5 years in captivity by Hamas next month) was also welcome and much needed.

Overall, this was a good declaration (not perfect, but good). Most importantly though, was the direct warning to the Palestinians to desist from unilateral measures at the UN and that negotiations with Israel is the only way this conflict can be resolved and they can achieve statehood.


Hamas: Recognize Israel? Never

May 11th, 2011 at 11:34 am 3 Comments

In an interview with Palestinian news agency Ma’an today, mind Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder and senior leader of Hamas, said that the terror group would accept a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.

Could it finally be? A breakthrough in the long-standing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians? After all those years of Hamas refusing to recognize Israel and doing everything in their power to try to eliminate the Jewish State?

But no need to rush. You can leave the cork in the champagne bottle. Hamas’s offer comes with one tiny little caveat (well there’s actually a few, not least the insistence on the so called Right of Return of 5 million Palestinian ‘refugees’ to Israel).

According to al-Zahar, — who only 6 months ago said: “there is no place for you [Israelis] among us, and you have no future among the nations of the world. You are headed to annihilation” — notwithstanding Hamas’s willingness to seemingly agree to the 1967 borders, they will never recognize Israel’s right to exist, because doing so would:

cancel the right of the next generations to liberate the lands“.

And who said Hamas was uncompromising?


Targeting Terrorists: OK for U.S. But Not Israel?

May 4th, 2011 at 11:20 am 18 Comments

As world leaders rightly applaud and congratulate the United States on the death of Osama Bin-Laden and the evil he represented, it is well worth remembering that these are the same leaders who also condemned Israel when it did the same to Hamas terror mastermind Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 2004.

Bin Laden, of course, needs no introduction.

But some background to Sheikh Yassin. Yassin was the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, a group sworn to Israel’s destruction and which is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, UK, Canada and many other countries.

Yassin was directly involved in planning, orchestrating and personally ordering countless terrorist bombings, rocket attacks and suicide operations by Hamas. These attacks resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent Israelis, in addition to many foreigners – including Americans and Europeans. As a percentage of its population, many more Israelis were killed at the hands of Yassin than those who tragically died on September 11.

Although Hamas and al-Qaeda may differ on points of theology and tactics, they have always been united for one particular purpose – their common hatred of Jews and Israel. Indeed, Hamas was even one of the sole groups to condemn the United States for the killing of Bin Laden, with Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh, calling him an “Arab holy warrior” and accusing the United States of pursuing a policy based on “oppression and the shedding of Arab and Muslim blood“.

Yassin was killed by an Israeli Air Force missile strike on his car on March 22nd, 2004, which also took out several other Hamas terrorists.

For all intents and purposes, Bin Laden and Yassin were one and the same person. They represented the same hatred, evil and abhorrence for human life. Their hands were bloodied with the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Yet, the reactions of world leaders to their deaths could not have been any different.

This is just a sample…


United Nations:

2011 – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon:

The death of Osama bin Laden is a watershed moment in our common global fight against terrorism.

2004 – UN Secretary General Kofi Annan:

I do condemn the targeted assassination of Sheikh Yassin and the others who died with him. Such actions are not only contrary to international law, but they do not do anything to help the search for a peaceful solution.


European Union:

2011 – EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton:

I would like to congratulate the US, pay tribute to its determination and efficiency in reducing the threat posed by terrorists and underline the close cooperation between the EU and US in the fight against terrorism.

2004 – EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana:

This type of action does not contribute at all to create the conditions of peace. This is very, very bad news for the peace process. The policy of the European Union has been consistently condemnation of extra-judicial killing.


Britain:

2011 – British PM David Cameron:

The news that Osama bin Laden is dead will bring great relief to people across the world. It is a great success that he has been found and will no longer be able to pursue his campaign of global terror.

2004 – British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw:

The British government has made it repeatedly clear that the so-called targeted assassinations of this kind are unlawful, unjustified and counterproductive.


France:

2011 – French President Nicolas Sarkozy congratulated President Obama on his “determination” to hunt down Osama bin Laden, saying:

The scourge of terrorism has suffered a historic defeat but it’s not the end of al-Qaeda.

2004 – French President Jacques Chirac:

We condemn the act conducted against Sheikh Yassin because it was against international law.


Palestinian Authority:

2011 – PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib:

Getting rid of bin Laden is good for the cause of peace worldwide.

2004 – Palestinian President Yasser Arafat declared three days of mourning and closed Palestinian schools, while Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei described it as a “dangerous, cowardly act”, calling it:

[O]ne of the biggest crimes that the Israeli government has committed.

Russia, Italy, Germany, Jordan, China, Turkey and just about every significant nation in the world has applauded the death of Bin Laden as a major victory in the global war on terror – but condemned Israel on the death of Sheikh Yassin.

I guess every nation has the right to target a terrorist mastermind responsible for some of the most unspeakable carnage against its citizens – of course, unless that nation is Israel. Double standards and hypocrisy anyone?


Abbas’ Hardline Gamble Backfires

April 26th, 2011 at 7:10 am 3 Comments

In a recent interview with Newsweek, buy cialis Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he was betrayed by President Obama and George Mitchell, illness whom he now blames for the lack of progress in achieving Palestinian statehood. In truth however, cure Abbas has no one to blame but himself.

In the 24 April interview with Dan Ephron, Abbas says:

It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze. I said OK, I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with a ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, jump.

Abbas also criticized Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, saying:

Every visit by Mitchell, we talked to him and gave him some ideas. At the end we discovered that he didn’t convey any of these ideas to the Israelis.

The White House has vehemently denied the criticism of Mitchell, with the National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor saying: “of course he carried both parties’ ideas to each other all the time”.

Obama’s support for a settlement freeze in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) – which was dutifully observed by the Israelis – may have been naive and unduly inflated the Palestinians’ expectations. However, Obama pushed for the freeze in the vain hope that the PA would return to the negotiating table. Instead, Abbas obstinately refused to negotiate with the Israelis until the 11th hour, and even then, with a set of new preconditions, knowing full well that Netanyahu would not extend the freeze.

Abbas would therefore have an excuse to walk out on the talks and manipulate the media and public opinion by depicting Netanyahu as intransigent and the settlements as the main impediment to peace – which he has done to perfection.

In a separate Q & A related to the interview, Ephron put to Abbas that it was a mistake for him not to begin direct talks with Israel after Netanyahu declared the freeze, even though it wasn’t 100% to their satisfaction (the freeze did not apply to Jerusalem).

Asked by Ephron: “Obama had used all this political capital to get the Israelis to agree to something. It wasn’t a full moratorium but it was something”, Abbas replied:

What is that something? If it was a reasonable thing, we would accept. But they didn’t bring anything reasonable.

The settlement freeze was not “something?” Was not “reasonable?” The settlement freeze was an unprecedented concession by the Israelis, in which Netanyahu risked all his political capital. Never before had there been such a freeze, yet negotiations continued.  And now the Palestinians were getting a freeze in return for what? Not even a single concession was required from them in return. Yet still, they refused to talk and now they have the hide to blame Israel and Obama for lack of progress.

Abbas, like his predecessor Arafat, made a bet that rejecting peace talks with Israel – which he purposely set up to fail from the beginning by waiting until the last second to enter into – would result in greater pressure against the Israelis to make further concessions later.

Instead, Abbas’ misconceived strategy has weakened an American president, pushed Israelis to the right and emboldened Hamas. Moreover, it has made peace with Israel and the Palestinian dream of a state more elusive today than ever before. Abbas has only himself to blame for this.


Al Jazeera Journalist Calls Out Network Bias

April 24th, 2011 at 2:00 pm 24 Comments

Al-Jazeera has long been suspected of lacking objectivity in its reporting of the Middle East. Now one of its most prominent journalists and director of their Beirut office, rx Ghassan Bin Jeddo, look has resigned because of this.

According to Lebanese newspaper, As-Safir, which first broke the story yesterday, Bin Jeddo resigned in protest against Al Jazeera’s coverage of the recent uprisings throughout the Arab world, saying:

Al Jazeera has abandoned professionalism and objectivity, turning from a media source into an operation room that incites and mobilizes.

Al-Safir added that:

Ghassan Ben Jeddo believes Al-Jazeera TV news channel no longer pursues… independent and unbiased policies, and quite conversely, is in pursuit of a certain type of [policy] regarding the brewing uprisings in the region.

As Al-Jazeera continues its rapid growth into a global media behemoth, buoyed by the Arab uprisings, hopefully Ben Jeddo’s resignation will draw greater scrutiny and examination of the station, which has until now escaped relative attention.


Why Don’t We Hear From Palestinians for Peace?

April 21st, 2011 at 2:16 pm 11 Comments

Dozens of Israel’s most honored intellectuals, treatment artists and public figures have signed a declaration endorsing a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders and asserting that only an end to Israel’s occupation “will liberate the two peoples and open the way to a lasting peace.”

The declaration will be read out in Tel Aviv today, from the exact spot where David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the birth of the modern Jewish state and declared its independence in May 1948.

Irrespective of one’s opinion with the content, or sentiment, of the declaration, I couldn’t help but wonder, how great it would be if somewhere in Ramallah or Gaza, there was likewise, dozens of Palestinian intellectuals, artists and public figures who signed a declaration with their views about peace and co-existence with Israel.

This led me to draft the following declaration, as a model for how it might – or should – read (…in an ideal world of course).

* * *

 

Palestinian Intellectuals Welcome and Endorse a Secure Jewish State of Israel Next to a Future State of Palestine

The land of Palestine is the birthplace of the Palestinian people, where our identity was formed.

The physical and spiritual connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel cannot be denied. It is your birthplace and where your identity was shaped.

63 years ago, the founding fathers of Israel stated in their Declaration of Independence that “we extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land.” We regret that those purporting to be our leaders in 1948, and through successive governments and leaders thereafter, did not accept your kind offer.

We hereby, once and for all, unequivocally and unconditionally, condemn the use of terrorism in our name by our fellow Palestinians – but not because it conflicts with our political interests, but because it is immoral, barbaric and criminal and because there is never a justification worthy enough to deliberately target and kill an innocent human being.

We consider that the incitement and hate of Israelis and Jews and the glorification of terror that permeates too many aspects of Palestinian society – is the main obstacle to peace between us and you. We therefore demand that our leaders not only condemn this culture of violence and hate, but take immediate and decisive steps to root out all those who preach such violence and hatred.

We regret that, in the past, when presented with the opportunity to have our own State and to live side-by-side in peace with you, our leaders have let us down, instead choosing to take us on a path of violence. We have seen Israel reach out to us time and time again, often at great cost to your own people – only for our leaders to turn their backs. This is inexcusable.

Realizing that the creation of a Palestinian State – living side by side with the Jewish State of Israel – will only come about as a result of direct and sincere negotiations between the two parties, we call on our leaders to show courage and leadership, to immediately commence negotiations with Israel on all issues of mutual importance and without any pre-conditions.

We ask for your permission to borrow the words of your former Prime Minister, Itzhak Rabin, and say to you what he said to us in 1993, during the signing of the Oslo Accords:

“We say to you today in a loud and a clear voice: Enough of blood and tears. Enough. We have no desire for revenge. We harbor no hatred towards you. We, like you, are people, people who want to build a home, to plant a tree, to love, to live side by side with you in dignity, in empathy, as human beings, as free men. We are today giving peace a chance, and saying again to you: Enough. Let us pray that a day will come when we all will say: Farewell to the arms.”

We, the undersigned citizens of a future state of Palestine, say loud and clear: the time for peace has come.


Arab League Wants Gaza No-Fly Zone

April 10th, 2011 at 11:15 am 12 Comments

According to reports coming out of the Middle East, the Arab League said it will request that the U.N. Security Council impose a no-fly zone over Gaza.

I wonder what led the Arab League to request such a drastic step.

Was it the 120 grad missiles, rockets and mortars fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad into southern Israel this weekend that forced some 750,000 Israelis to rush for the nearest bomb-shelter? Or was it the deliberate Palestinian missile strike on a school bus carrying Israeli children on Friday, critically injuring one child?

Maybe it was the bomb left at a Jerusalem bus station a few weeks ago that killed one person? Because it certainly wasn’t the Palestinian terrorist who brutally massacred 5 members of an Israeli family in their sleep last month, including 3 children, aged 11, 4 and a 3-month old baby.

Does the Arab League wish to convince the world that they side with Hamas and terror every time?


UN Turns a Blind Eye to Syria

March 26th, 2011 at 2:07 pm 30 Comments

As Syria verges on eruption, view with riots and widespread killings across the state, hospital the Syrian propaganda machine goes into full swing, ampoule with Muhsin Bilal, the Information Minister, declaring: “The situation is completely calm in all parts of the country“.

He sure has a twisted interpretation of the meaning of ‘calm’.

In sharp contrast, Amnesty International says that at least 55 people have been killed during a week of unrest, as Syrian security forces open fire on protesters, while simultaneously carrying out arbitrary arrests, torture and beatings.

Most NGOs, media outlets and eyewitness testimony corroborate this account.

In Deraa and Damascus, tens of thousands marched in funerals for some of the dead, chanting “Freedom.” And as this YouTube clip of protestors ripping apart a poster of President Bashar Assad shows, clearly the situation in Syria is anything but calm, with the first real challenge to the 40 year Assad family stranglehold over Syria.

At the same time as Syria slaughters pro-democracy protestors, last week saw continued violence and human rights abuses rage throughout the Middle East – from Libya to Bahrain, Jordan and Yemen, Gaza and elsewhere.

One would be forgiven for thinking that the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), that august body charged with strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the world, would have stood up when it counted most. Wrong.

Instead, the only Middle East country to be singled out by the UNHRC for special opprobrium last week was none other than its favorite punching bag – Israel, with 6 resolutions condemning Israeli settlement activity and supposed human rights violations. Never mind for a moment that the UNHRC chose to turn a blind eye to the horrendous massacre of an Israeli family in their sleep in Itamar or the Jerusalem bus bombing earlier this week or the 100 plus rockets which rained down on Israel from Palestinian terrorists in Gaza.

But then again, perhaps the UNHRC also thinks that the situation in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East is ‘completely calm.’


Is It Time for “Gaza Dictatorship Month”?

March 16th, 2011 at 12:23 pm 12 Comments

While thousands of students and academics around the world exercise their democratic right to protest in the name of Israel Apartheid Week (an annual Israel hate-fest on campus) their brethren at Gaza’s Al-Azhar’s University are being beaten up by Hamas for – wait for it – protesting. But of course, patient you’re unlikely to hear a word from the Israel bashers about this.

As reported by AFP, tadalafil on Wednesday, dozens of Hamas police and security forces entered the university (dressed in civilian clothes) and began attacking students heading out for a protest.

University sources say that at least 10 students were taken to hospital and around 20 were arrested by Hamas.

What were the students protesting, you may ask? The downfall of Hamas? No. God forbid closer relations with Israel? Certainly not. The students were calling for an end to the bitter enmity between Hamas (which controls Gaza) and Fatah (which controls the West Bank) and the creation of a Palestinian national unity government between the two.  If Hamas were a little less obsessed with destroying Israel and asserting their dominance over every aspect of Gazan life, they would actually have noticed that this protest was in their benefit.

The University protest follows earlier demonstrations on Tuesday, when thousands of Palestinians rallied in the streets of Gaza City and the West Bank, calling for an end to the division in their national movement and unity between Fatah and Hamas.

Perhaps during Israel Apartheid Week, when students and academics seek to single out and demonize Israel (where incidentally, campuses are filled with both Arab and Jewish students, seemingly doing much more protesting than studying), they spare a thought for their Palestinian colleagues in Gaza City, who do not have the same luxury under Hamas.