Palestine Central Council meeting faces tough choices

A Palestinian man holds a bunch of keys during a protest against the US’ decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Tuesday north of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (AFP)
Updated 13 January 2018

Palestine Central Council meeting faces tough choices

AMMAN: Eighty members of the Palestine Central Council (PCC) will meet on Sunday in the temporary Palestinian political capital of Ramallah to review and recommend the direction of the Palestinian struggle.
The PCC, a medium body between the Palestine National Council (PNC, Palestine’s Parliament in exile) and the PLO Executive Committee, last met in March 2015.
Its meeting is taking place five weeks after the US president, according to his own words, “took Jerusalem off the negotiating table.” Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel and began steps to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Arab News sources have indicated that the PCC will take some tough decisions, including declaring Palestine a state under occupation, suing Israel in the International Criminal Court, suspending the recognition of Israel, escalating peaceful resistance and calling on Europe and other countries to recognize the state of Palestine (see recommendations to the PCC in separate story).
Anees Sweidan, director of external relations for the PLO, told Arab News that the PCC meeting will be facing some difficult choices. “Tough decisions are needed to be taken as a result of the US pronouncement on Jerusalem.” Sweidan also noted that a total review of the Oslo Accords is needed, especially concerning relations with Israel.
“It has become clear that what is needed is a total review of Oslo. There is no Israel partner for peace at the present time and we can’t keep hiding our heads in the sand. This means we need to revisit both security and economic agreements with Israel,” he said.
Najeeb Qaddoumi, a member of the PNC and PCC, told Arab News that the US could not continue to monopolize the peace process. “They have disqualified themselves as an honest broker when they sided with one part on the crucial issue of Jerusalem,” he said.
Qaddoumi believes that the time has come for genuine national unity. “We can’t really do any serious restructuring and reinvigoration of the PLO unless we are totally and honestly united.”
For PLO executive committee member Tayseer Khaled, the point of departure for the meeting on Sunday must be in honoring previous resolutions. In the 2015 meeting, Khaled told Arab News on Dec. 26: “It was decided to end our connection with the Oslo Accords and the security coordination with Israel but this has not happened.”
Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad, Fatah spokesman for international affairs, told Al-Monitor: “In the beginning of the PCC meeting, it is expected that members will discuss the matter of withdrawing recognition of Israel as a reaction to the US decision on Jerusalem.”
In 1993, the PLO and Israel agreed to mutual recognition. The move gave Israel legitimacy, but members of PLO factions remained in jail for membership of a “terrorist organization,” and in March this year Israel declared the Amman-based Palestinian National Fund, essentially the PLO’s treasury, a terrorist organization.
While suspending security coordination and the recognition of Israel might be among the toughest decisions that will be discussed in Ramallah, it is clear that some are worried about the potential Israeli reaction.
Nabil Amer, a respected Fatah leader, believes that such escalation is a mistake. Speaking to the Raya FM radio in Ramallah, Amer said that any escalation will be painful to the Palestinian people. “I don’t add my voice to the calls for escalation. Any such escalation will be costly. We have boycotted meetings with the US; that was a good decision and that is enough.”
Even the left-wing Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) was critical of the voices of escalation. Iyad Joudeh, writing in the DFLP’s flagship publication al-Houria on Jan. 3, rejected the idea of dissolving the Palestinian Authority.
“It is illogical to dissolve the Palestinian Authority because Israel has been doing its utmost to weaken the Palestinian Authority because it knows that the PA is the nucleus of the Palestinian state,” he said. “We should think logically and retain our national accomplishments.”
Palestinian leaders are caught in a bind. On the one hand they needs to show unity and resilience, yet at the same time they must be careful not to burn all their bridges.
Because the choices that the council members make are likely to have a major effect on the trajectory of the Palestinian struggle, it is likely that the most radical decisions will be postponed for the consideration of the highest PLO body, the Palestine National Council.

Jailed academic rejects offer to spy for Iran

Updated 21 January 2020

Jailed academic rejects offer to spy for Iran

LONDON: An academic currently imprisoned in Iran on charges of espionage has reportedly refused an offer to become a spy for Tehran in return for her freedom.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a UK-Australian dual national, made the revelation in a series of letters handed to The Times that were smuggled out of Evin prison, located in the north of the capital, where she is serving 10 years.

In the letters, addressed separately to a Mr. Vasiri, believed to be a deputy prosecutor in the Iranian judiciary, and a Mr. Ghaderi and Mr. Hosseini, who are thought to be officers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Moore-Gilbert stated in basic Farsi that she had “never been a spy, and I have no intention to work for a spying organization in any country.” 

She added: “Please accept this letter as an official and definitive rejection of your offer to me to work with the intelligence branch of the IRGC.”

Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Melbourne in Australia, was arrested in 2018 after attending a conference in Tehran. 

She was tried and convicted in secret, and her letters implied that she had been kept in solitary confinement in a wing of Evin prison under the IRGC’s control.

It is reportedly the same wing being used to detain UK-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, also incarcerated for espionage, and away from the all-female cellblock that Moore-Gilbert was meant to have been housed in.

The letters catalog a series of other mistreatments and inhumane conditions, suggesting she had been permitted no contact with her family, and that, having been denied access to vital medication, her health was deteriorating.

She also suggested that she had been subjected to sleep deprivation methods, with lights in her cell kept on 24 hours per day, and that she was often blindfolded when transported. 

“It is clear that IRGC Intelligence is playing an awful game with me. I am an innocent victim,” she wrote.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne met with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in India last week, where the case was discussed.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry later issued a statement claiming that the country would not “submit to political games and propaganda” over the issue.

This comes at a time when international pressure has ratcheted up on the regime in Tehran following the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane over the capital on Jan. 8. 

Mass demonstrations nationwide followed the news that the plane had been shot down by Iranian forces. 

Olympian defects to Germany

Meanwhile, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, Kimia Alizadeh, announced that she would not return to the country, citing her refusal to continue to be used as a “propaganda tool.”

She wrote of her decision on Instagram: “I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated. None of us matter for them, we are just tools.”

It was revealed on Jan. 20 that the taekwondo martial artist, who had been living and training in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, had elected to move to Hamburg in Germany, for whom she will now compete.

Alizadeh’s defection is just one in a series of high-profile acts of defiance by Iranians outraged by the actions of the regime.

At least two journalists working for Iranian state-owned TV channels are known to have resigned their positions in protest.

One, news anchor Gelare Jabbari, posted on Instagram: “It was very hard for me to believe that our people have been killed. Forgive me that I got to know this late. And forgive me for the 13 years I told you lies.”