Al mashriq - The Levant

First published, Beirut: Shuun Al-Awsat , No 58, 1996

Arne Oerum,

Palestinian self-rule, human rights and the role of third parties1

July 3, 1996

From my service for the UNRWA, in the Israeli Occupied West Bank, I recall an episode - an image that I have kept - from the time right before the Madrid Conference. I was on service in Nablus, Balata Refugee Camp, when a 12-year-old boy I knew from earlier came up to my UN car - he wanted to tell me something - he would like to know what I thought would come out of the peace talks in Madrid. Before I had figured out how to respond, this Abu Shebab started giving his own opinion. It was a vision of hope rather than revenge, not hopes of bringing to trial the ones responsible for him growing up in a refugee camp, to see his brother killed by Israeli undercover units - nor did he make any mention of any kind of justice in any connection that day. He was speaking about a certain decency, not for himself, nor yet for the other camp dwellers, but for the refugees of 1948, in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan - the least likely to get anything in Madrid, and who later would get nothing but a confirmation that their hopes were faint.

He was gazing at the hills in the distance, pointing at a cluster of modern red-tile-roofed houses on the eastern hills overlooking southern Nablus - the Israeli settlement of Elon Moreh, I think it is. "The Refugees of Rashedieh, Ein el-Helweh or Shatila are going to live there when there is peace," he proclaimed. "Don't you think?" How could I disagree?

"But they are not from here, they are from villages in the Galilee and from Jaffa, Haifa and Acca." My Palestinian assistant, a university graduate from Jerusalem, intervened as I kept silent. "Don't you think I know they are not from here," the 12 year old responded.

"Maybe they don't even want to live here in Nablus," he continued, "but you know, the Israelis will never allow them to return to "the 48." At least here they can live. I don't think it's just, but it's better."

"What is being planned for us now is not justice nor peace, but it is something, - a solution which will be imposed on us if we like it or not." This was the graduate speaking again. I could only hope he was wrong. We drove off from Balata across the city, as a radio message reported shooting incidents in Mukhaiem Ein Bet Ilma, "Camp No.One", North Nablus.

I wanted to tell this story from Nablus because it depicts a reality of the peace process which I think is entirely different from other similar experiences in our time - of peace processes, of overcoming apartheid or the legacy of dictatorships, or of the de-colonisation processes of the post-World War II era.

The contention of this author is that the completely asymmetric relationship between Israel and the PLO/PA has been allowed not only to determine the course of the negotiations, but has apparently predetermined the whole process to an extent that there is little room left for third parties roles and for confidence in the third parties currently involved. 2

Human rights - not condusive to peace?

In spite of the official croniqueurs describing an unprecedented daring diplomacy with an extremely fragile step-by-step negotiations process at its centre, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process appears to be "implemented" on the basis of a fait accompli. As was said, "a solution which will be imposed on us if we like it or not". Not only have the most difficult issues, such as the refugees, the final and the legal status of the Occupied Territories, the status of Jerusalem and the Israeli settlements, all been deferred to the final status negotiations, but issues which would be on top of the agenda in other similar processes are simply left out: A legal settlement, which has been and still is an issue in South America, South Africa and Eastern Europe, including previous Yugoslavia, is completely out of context in the Palestinian-Israeli case. A truth commission is not even on the agenda of the Palestinian opposition. In an interview where one of the Palestinian negotiators explained the logic of the talks in the secret channel, the History of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was apparently viewed as such a contentious issue that the negotiators had no choice but to "leave it behind", should the talks lead anywhere. Nearly all issues to be deferred to the final status negotiations are issues where the Palestinians literally will stand to loose terrain as they are not allowed to raise these issues, while the Israelis are changing the facts on the ground day by day in Jerusalem and on the West Bank. It is the history of the Palestinians which had to be "forgotten" and left behind for the sake of progress in negotiations.

Another issue which is not on the negotiations agenda but which both parties and some of the major donors may consider "contentious and not condusive to peace" is the human rights issue.

That issue has always been on the agenda of Palestinians under occupation, and western donors have supported Palestinian human rights organisations, particularly over the last decade. But with the coming of the self-rule authorities, with donor conferences emphasising the establishment of a strong security apparatus and other grand design projects in the self-rule areas, human rights is no longer a priority.

The number one priority for Israel, the Palestinian Administration and the main international sponsors and donor governments alike has been to build a Palestinian security apparatus which may fence off anything perceived of as a threat to the peace process. The negotiated agreement itself, with its detailed annexes gave provision for setting up a Palestinian police force so massive that it by far outnumbers the employees in the health and educational sectors. The size of such a security apparatus may have served to discourage opposition, also democratic opposition, and it has certainly frightened members of the human rights community.

But whatever is the size of the security forces, these can never guarantee security for Israel and peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestinians if minimum living condition requirements for the Palestinians living in Gaza are not met. In the peace process, a massive international aid package should provide the Palestinian community with the basis for economic and social development (another Marshall-plan). However, as the Israelis sealed off the Occupied Territories, well before the Declaration of Principles was signed, thus preventing normal human, and among these perhaps most importantly, economic activities, the massive international aid effort following the Declaration of Principles (DOP) and the Paris Protocol has largely failed its purpose: To sustain and strengthen a political process by creating economic growth. In a situation where Israel's closures of Gaza has produced a net loss for the Gazan economy which is higher than the overall international aid during the same protracted time intervals, and where unemployment has reached levels above 60 %, the international donors have had no choice but to fund short term emergency work programmes. To let a few thousand Gazans clean the streets instead of, as one of them said, building a road. 3

During the debate about "justice in transition" in the international human rights community, the slogan of "all the truth, and as much justice as possible" appeared.4 This still seems a lot to demand - but would it be too much to ask for some decency? It may be that such decency is not to be found behind all the 'peace talk' - the New World Order rhetoric and phraseology - a complete discourse with which we have become so familiar perhaps without understanding its contents.

"No alternative"

It is not the purpose of this article to present an analysis of the politics which made this process possible and perhaps inevitable, or of the political culture of the New World Order which provided the basis for the new discourse mentioned above. It may be timely though, to comment in a little more detail on this discourse as it has introduced, explained and served to give legitimacy to the implementation of the New World Order in the Middle East. The discourse has at the same time, thanks to largely uncritical news media, helped to marginalise all opposition and push it towards Islamic militancy as the only alternative.

Since before the news of the secret Oslo-channel broke, the parties to the Declaration of Principles and its sponsors and facilitators, have contributed to a phraseology which has established a dominant discourse which in its turn has largely ruled out and prohibited other and critical discourses. The 'peace talk' discourse has served not only to prepare the ground for and explain the logic of, but also to neutralise criticism of, the peace process. With its emphasis on the very fragile nature of the process, the carefully-built-up confidence inside a small group of individuals, the mutual respect, confidence and friendships established between the negotiators, the discourse has served to caution criticism. Critics have also felt marginalised by the constant reference to the "islamic fundamentalists as the only enemies of peace." One of the most frequently used phrases in this discourse is the ready response to any criticism of the peace process, a response which according to Professor Edward Said might have been a good rhetorical question, if it hadn't been asked too often: What is the alternative? 5

Such rhetoric has constituted the basic fundamentals of the "peace talk" discourse which real significance is that most criticism has come to be seen as illegitimate and ultimately destructive because it may serve the same purpose as a massacre or a suicide bus bomb - to derail the peace process. There are fears that any criticism, even if levelled in a human rights context and from a human rights point-of-view, may be conceived of as not-condusive-to-peace, and should therefore be avoided. The relative amnesia regarding human rights violations apparently affecting the international donor community may have been interpreted in the Palestinian self-rule Authority as a "green light" for circumvention of minimum standards, hence the human rights record of the PA and Arafats rough treatment of human rights activists recently.

To understand the conditions under which, and on what basis human rights, democracy, peaceful coexistence and reconciliation is expected to be developed under Palestinian self-rule, one has to examine the apparently predetermined political process but first of all the facts established on the ground. Such an objective may be beyond the scope of this article, but still it is possible to point out certain facts which underscores the asymmetric relationship of power and influence between the parties to the negotiations, and the resulting failure to provide for inter alia, a legal basis and a rule of law by which human rights may be safeguarded.

The asymmetry also applies to the unfailing backing of the Israeli approach by the most pro-Israeli US administration ever, and simultaneously the failing support to the Palestinian cause by either super-power, the European Community and even the United Nations. This is in short an answer to a question which is not asked too often: Why is there no alternative?

Another form of domination

In the context of the new world order, what is taking place between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza seems completely different from the South African experience of overcoming Apartheid and building democracy, or for that matter "Overcoming the Legacies of Dictatorships" 6 of Eastern Europe and South America. The process of redeployment of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), deployment of Palestinian Police Forces and the establishment of a Palestinian Authority of limited self-rule is also different from experiences of decolonisation. The beginning of the end of occupation has been mentioned not only by Palestinian officials, but for instance by Uri Savir from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Some of the "peace-talk" rhetoric also includes comparisons with presumably similar historical experiences and political leaders, such as the French decolonisation of Algeria, as Arafat has been rephrasing De Gaulles' "the peace of the brave", connoting experiences of struggle for freedom and liberation, but also perhaps unintentionally, the establishment of a one-party-state-apparatus by the FLN.

Unfortunately, facts on the ground will corroborate doubts about the announced de-colonisation and liberation. And the changing of facts on the ground, makes mockery of the official phraseology of the peace process which has deferred key issues of the status of the Occupied Territories to the final status negotiations and which has prohibited the Palestinians from raising these final status issues. An occupation power involved in peace talks, preparing for step by step de-colonisation would hardly construct hundreds of kilometres of new roads for exclusive settler use, binding settlements together. Graham Usher in Middle East International has noted that..."since Oslo, Israel has confiscated a further 40 000 acres of Palestinian land,.." 7 Usher has also explained that Israeli construction of settlements in Occupied Territories not only has continued in spite of the official settlement freeze, but "according to Israeli commentators" has accelerated to, "....three times the pace of settlement construction under the Shamir Government."8

From the outset the framework and the very basis of the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians was seriously challenged by critics. One of them, Professor Edward Said, wrote: "All secret deals between a very strong and a very weak partner necessarily involve concessions hidden in embarrassment by the latter." Though admitting that there are details to be negotiated, "imponderables to be made clear, and even some hopes either to be fulfilled or dashed.", Said wrote: "Still, the deal before us smacks of the PLO leadership's exhaustion and isolation, and of Israel's shrewdness".9

It is obvious that such a reaction to the DOP, the Oslo I and II is not unwarranted, and a question it provokes is whether reconciliation, peace and development of Palestinian independence and democracy is viable unless the negotiations framework of the peace process undergoes fundamental changes.

Another critic, advocate Raja Shehadeh who was the legal adviser to the Joint Jordanian-Palestinian team in the first phase of the Madrid-Washington rounds, elaborated further on this imbalance of power between the weak and the strong in the negotiations context: "Despite Israel's well known legalistic and Talmudic approach to negotiations, the Palestinian team negotiating in Oslo did not consult with any legal adviser. It appears that only at the end the text of the agreement was shown to an Egyptian, Taher Shash. No Palestinian jurist was ever present or consulted throughout the process."10

An appropriate question to ask when examining the peace process and its failure to adequately address the most basic legal issues is whether the Israelis allowed a Palestinian lawyer experienced in international law and with knowledge or experience of occupation in the PLO Oslo team? Notably Israel has always tried to impose on the Palestinians who may and may not represent them. Or were the PLO-leadership so concerned about showing both its willingness to negotiate and its "moderation" that a lawyer would only complicate matters?

The framework of negotiations has been challenged, and more so the results of the negotiations, and critics have pointed out that the legal framework for Palestinian self rule does not provide for the necessary Palestinian sovereignty, and suggested that the transition in point is merely a transition from one form of domination to another.

Control of Law and Economy

Under the interim agreement, or the so-called Oslo II, the legal and economic sectors are firmly under Israeli control as the Israeli authorities have acceded only limited authority within a number of civilian sectors, and on the internal security sector. Israel has kept control of all matters related to sovereignty and other matters as significant as budgets and school curricula may be, formally under PA, but due to be submitted to Joint Liaison Committees where the Israelis not only have the upper hand but the veto. As an illustration of the limitations to the authorities conceeded to the self-rule government Raja Shehadeh argued that further law amendments required to allow for the Oslo II Agreement would be negligible if necessary at all. The limited concessions to Palestinian self-rule were already provided for in the "Bill on Implementing the Agreement Concerning the Gaza Strip and Jericho Area (Amendment of Legislation) 1994," submitted to the Knesset July 25th 1994, in preparation for the so-called Early Empowerment Agreement.11

The major focus of the self-rule negotiations has consistently been Israeli security with Israeli economic considerations built in. This seems obvious for example from a critical reading of the Cairo (Gaza-Jericho) Agreement and analysis of the implementation of the Oslo (I) Agreement through the Cairo Agreement. 12 Such critical analysis exposes the continued Israeli control of all matters related to sovereignty (border control, immigration, water and land resources, electricity, import and export of goods and services, production licences etc.) in addition to, as we shall se below, sovereignty and the source of sovereignty itself. This control is critical for the economic sector in order not only to maintain the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT's) as one of the (second) most important Israeli consumer markets, or to enable access to other Arab markets, but in order to develop "a branch plant" economy by setting up in the self-rule areas industrial zones and agricultural plants of labour intensive, low wage produce where value added mainly will accrue in Israel. This is a development consistent with the policy outlined in the Israeli strategic economic analyses commissioned by the Defence Ministry in 1991. (The Sadan report) 13 A strong argument can be made that the Oslo-process in legal terms may serve as a blueprint for such a transformation. It is noteworthy that the approach of the World Bank and the major denominators of aid policies is consistent with the Sadan report's model for the development of Gaza. 14 Given the policy of physical separation between Israel and the Occupied Territories that has characterised Israeli politics since March - 93 when the Occupied territories were closed off from Jerusalem and Israel, it is likely that establishment of branch plants of Israeli industries and possibly of other industries may take place to an increasing degree. There are signs that Israeli industries will continue a policy of developing industrial parks inside the self-rule area. A policy which the World Bank and some of the major donors to the peace process seems to be following. Private foreign investors may also venture into this "Bantustan" version of Palestinian economy as prospectives of an independent Palestinian self-rule economy are glum.

An important indicator of the lacking confidence in the self-rule project by industrialists and investors is that even wealthy Palestinian businessmen abroad deem the self-rule areas as too risky. Ceremonies where peace accords were signed and peace makers rewarded, even a landslide presidential majority has not helped Arafat much. In the stock-marked there is not much confidence.

Investment and growth in the self-rule areas is also not facilitated by the unclearity in the legal status, and the actual application of law regulating economic life may further discourage investors.

Legal status

The overall legal status of the self-rule areas is in many respects unclear, and as far as the status of the International Humanitarian Law is concerned, some legal analysis have stated that the provisions in the Fourth Geneva Conventions may implicate that Israel will still be responsible for protection of civilians as "the implementation of interim agreements between the occupying power and elements or representatives of the occupied population do not automatically signal the end of occupation, and above all, that such arrangements cannot diminish the rights of protected persons under the Convention." 15

On the other hand some legal experts have emphasised that the provisions of the Geneva Conventions may not be applicable as the occupation authorities do not have "actual control", i.e. a military presence in all the Occupied Territories. 16

If the status of International Law and International Humanitarian Law in the self rule areas of the Occupied Territories is unclear, the Israeli position as outlined by the senior government legal adviser may give reasons for some further concern. What remains clear however, is Israeli policies on the matter of sovereignty over the self-rule areas. In an article in "Justice", a newsletter published by the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Joel Singer comments on the issue of self-rule and legal status. Singer, who is not only an experienced legislator of occupation law, but who was an adviser to the Camp David negotiations, and became the senior legal adviser for the Israeli team in Oslo, and has been a leading figure responsible of drafting and editing most of the DOP, the Cairo Agreement and the subsequent agreements, explains that under self-rule ....."These areas will continue to be subject to military government." Similarly, (Singer explains) "this fact suggests that the Palestinian Council will not be independent or sovereign in nature, but rather will be legally subordinate to the authority of the military government. In other words, operating within Israel, the military government will continue to be the source of authority for the Palestinian Council and powers and responsibilities exercised by it in the West Bank and Gaza Strip." 17 According to Singer, the DOP preferable to the Camp David draft for self-rule in which the question of "source of authority" was as he puts it, "left unclear."

As all matters related to sovereignty has been kept under Israeli authority, the Palestinians/PA are not licensed to start legal proceedings against Palestinians accused of having collaborated with the occupation authorities. Such legal settlements are pending the final status negotiations, according to the Cairo Agreement between Israel and the PLO. 18 This clause is not only politically embarrassing for Arafat and the PA, but it is worrying from the point of view of anybody concerned about the advancement of law enforcement, legal settlements, democracy and human rights. This section of the agreement risks incline the public or the PA to deal with the collaborators on an arbitrary basis and outside the frames of legality, a practise which apparently has been followed to some extent.

No rule by Law

The establishment of a PLO-administration propped up by the deployment of up to 30 000 security personnel recruited largely from PLO-forces, including a few thousand Intifada-activists, is not assuring. 19 The main task, and presumably the justification for the deployment of this enormous security force, has been as defined by PLO/PA and Israel jointly, to demonstrate the importance of stability (PA-control) in the self-rule areas and to prevent violence against Israelis, including settlers, a task which the combined Israeli army IDF and Police could never completely handle. The latter, is also a task which increasingly has embarrassed the PLO-leader as he is ultimately held responsible for the security of all Israelis in the area. Is the threat to the peace process from the opposition such that a security apparatus the size of what it took the Syrians to control Lebanon during the years of war is adequate? Wouldn't critics be rights in assuming that such an over-sized security force with no less than eight intelligence and internal security branches is an indication of which climate may be expected in the self-rule areas, as far as the advancement of peace, justice, democracy and human rights is concerned.

A legal system which is not only chaotic but which lacks a a constitution and legitimate legislature may cause misgivings about the future of Palestinian self-rule. It has given the PLO leader a free hand to develop a number of internal security and intelligence agencies, all outside the control of the head of the Police Force and the Ministry of Justice, and actually controlled by Arafat himself. The "Protocols Concerning Redeployment and Security Arrangements" under Oslo II already provided for the establishments of at least three secret services agencies inside the Palestinian Police Force. 20

Another issue which has given rise to further fears for the future of self-rule is the draft Basic Law. The law can easily be interpreted as an attempt by the PLO-leadership to find a constitutional cover and remain firmly in control of law enforcement, legislation and judiciary on the basis of having established the PLO as a "state within the state", effectively outside the Palestinian Authority. It is impossible to foresee how the elections in the self-rule areas will affect the constitutional and legal thinking of the PLO-leadership. In this respect it is too early to predict a dynamics by which the PLO-leadership will be challenged and influenced by democratic and pluralist thought among Palestinians in the Occupied Territories or outside.

Consequently there are fears that the elections may only serve to give a democratic blessing to Arafat's autocratic leadership, as intimidation, lack of alternatives, big denominator support for Arafat's line and unfair election laws (actually excluding other alternatives) may have secured Arafat a bigger majority than he needs.

The establishment and practices of the different branches of Mukhabarat, or the PA's intelligence and secret services has been an issue since before Arafat arrived in Gaza and is seen in many quarters, not surprisingly, as the first signs of the coming of yet another Arab dictatorship. This issue has understandably been dealt with mainly by the Israeli press, such as the Jerusalem Post and by the Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem notably in the report "Neither Law nor Justice", 21 The first major reports on the human rights situation following the establishment of the PA by Human Rights Watch (Middle East) 22 and Amnesty International which, as well as dealing with continuing Israeli human rights violations, also detail violations by the PA. Their reports in this regard are consistent with individual and independent Palestinian reports and the essence of the press reports. Palestinian human rights organisations and Palestinian individuals in the Occupied Territories have also been seen as cautious in their criticism of the PA. A well known Palestinian human rights activist told this author that Palestinian human rights organisations were able to publicise reports more critical of Israeli practices before, than of Palestinian practices after self-rule.

The practices of the Mukhabarat, for example the Preventive Security Services are characterised by rule without law, a practice condoned by Israeli Police and Israeli General Security Services, Shin Bet or Shabak, agencies with which the PSS clearly co-ordinate. The PSS has even "arrested" and abducted a number of Palestinians from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the West Bank, the PSS is operating networks of agents from Jenin to Hebron, from Jericho, spreading fear through arbitrary arrests, abductions, mistreatment and torture in prisons where the ICRC, lawyers and families at best have very limited access. There are indications that the PPS has also included in its network Palestinians who are still collaborating with the Israeli GSS. 23

In Gaza the situation is much the same as agents of Arafat's "Force 17", "Presidential Security" and "Fateh Hawks" demonstrate their superiority in what may seem as a rivalry between various branches of the police force: The special units appear in night-time operations in the same fashion as the Israeli undercover units, and their members guard important PA-structures like the Department of Justice and the Police's Headquarters.

There have been deaths under interrogation and during prison terms which have either not been investigated or where the results of the investigations are not known. The Palestinian-American Azzam Musleh who died in Jericho in October 1995 was the sixth Palestinian who is known to have died in the hands of the PA's security services.

Arafat's response to Israeli demands for more security precautions following suicide-attacks inside Israel is more arrests and summary sentences under military/special courts set up by Arafat. This is just about the only achievement for which many Israelis has been willing to credit the PA leader. Israeli pressures on Arafat to act against threats of terrorism as defined by Israel has caused further embarrassment for Palestinians - as has the extent to which Arafat has complied with Israeli demands: Arrest campaigns (again similar to previous Israeli practices) usually following political or factional lines. One human rights activist commented on what is seen as an Israeli security obsession from a Palestinian point of view - and why: "How can we provide security for the Israelis when there is not even some basic decency for the Palestinians?"


Who rules?

The issuance of PA travel documents is another example of the limitations to the authority that Israel has acceded to the PA. Having and exercising the authority to issue Palestinian Authority travel documents may have enhanced national sentiments in a nation-building process. However, it may also have served to underscore the overall Israeli control, and to further embarrass issuing authorities as it symbolises the implementation of more cumbersome security procedures through a double security apparatus, where Palestinians often find themselves caught in-between. In the end it is the Israelis who are controlling exit, entrance and residence in the self-rule areas. A travel document is worth nothing if Israel has not agreed to its issuance, and if the Israelis want to refuse a persons re-entrance to Gaza from abroad by e.g. quoting security reasons, they are sovereign, and are entitled to do so under the terms of the interim peace accord.

The question of the regulation of Palestinian residence rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is for sure an interesting one, as is the question of the freedom of movement granted to a handful of Palestinian residents. One name in the latter group got much attention. Amin al-Hindi, a PLO Intelligence Chief whom Arafat made PA Counterintelligence Chief, was not only granted residence, but received full VIP status and can travel anywhere in Israel. Actually al-Hindi is a favourite candidate of some of the top brass among the Israeli General Security Services, or Shin Bet, to succeed Jibril Rajub, another strongman responsible for the PSS structure in Jericho and for the West Bank network just described. It is noteworthy that Amin al-Hindi's name has been all over the Israeli press because the Israelis hold that he was a member of the Munich hit team in 1972. 24

Why couldn't the Israelis at least show the same kind of flexibility towards persons with a genuinely human and humanitarian vocation, such as Palestinian doctors from Gaza doing their training in a Jerusalem hospital, or Gazan students striving to get their much needed degrees at a West Bank university. Why are then these people constantly prevented from leaving Gaza for the West Bank? In addition to its effect on normal human contacts and activities, the severe restrictions on ´the freedomª of movement still in force on travel within the Occupied Territories and between Gaza and the West Bank and Jerusalem, probably also remains the most visible sign of continued occupation.


Monitoring a different peace

An element in the implementation of the peace accords on the ground appears to be a circumvention of internationally accepted principles and practices of peacekeeping and observers missions.

The negotiations results and agreements have put at risk the status of internationally accepted principles of impartiality and transparency of the operations of international peacekeeping and protection of civilians in conflict areas. These principles and acknowledged practices have been challenged due to the balance of power between the parties to the negotiations and the subsequent political constraints of the current peace process, as is evident in UN Security Council Resolution 904. The resolution apparently gave a UN blessing to the establishment of an observer mission outside the framework of the UN, and the implementation of the three-nation observer corps in Hebron 1994, the Temporary International Presence in the Hebron Area (TIPH).

The parties themselves drafted the mandate which clearly reflected the fact that the observer mission first and foremost was politically motivated and that the mission would have no obligations to report to an independent international body. The mandate was apparently a mandate to monitor a different kind of peace. This operation may have weakened the guiding principles and the instruments at hand for the enforcement of international law and protection of civilians, and has let Israel, which never acknowledged the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Territories, to direct and control much of the observer operation through Joint PA/Israeli Committees. In spite of the ill-fated TIPH mission to Hebron in 1994 the PA (and Israel) have asked for assistance for a new Hebron observers mission within the framework of Oslo II. 25

Modernising the UN

Another important element of the New World Order as implemented in the Middle East, is a development which puts at risk internationally accepted principles for conflict resolution, in particular the basis for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Rewriting history at the UN" is a phrase used by Donald Neff in Middle East International appropriately describing the process in point. 26

Under the most pro-Israeli US Administration, President Clinton's ambassador to the UN (1994) has stated that the US will vote against, or will pressure for revoking or rewriting all "contentious (UN General Assembly) resolutions that accentuated political differences without promoting solutions." It is not coincidental that these are all resolutions critical of Israel and supportive of the Palestinians. Furthermore these are resolutions through which the UN has confirmed that the international community will observe the principles of international law regarding the Question of Palestine. Ambassador Albright instituted this principle of supporting "to-day's realities" by aiming at "improving" or eliminating such key resolutions as the 1969 and 1970 resolutions affirming the inalienable rights, the equal rights, and the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people. 27

The resolutions which cover the key issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must, according to the US Administration, be revoked or rewritten not only because they are contentious in general, but because they include references to issues which are under negotiation by the parties to the peace negotiations over final status issues like the rights of the refugees, Israeli settlements, territorial sovereignty and the status of Jerusalem. The US voted for the first time against all these resolutions during 1993 and 1994.

Along with the Declaration of Principles and the subsequent Israeli-Palestinian agreements, the resolution "modernising" efforts at the UN, puts at risk and undermines international humanitarian law and may partly, in the Palestinian case, replace the internationally acknowledged principles and instruments at hand for protection of civilians under occupation and for conflict resolution.

Is it a coincident that the "contentious" UN-resolutions on the modernisation agenda are all pro-Palestinian resolutions which belong to the legacy of the Palestine Liberation Organisation?


The demise of UNRWA 28

In line with the rewriting of UN history and the history of Israel and Palestine, the US Administration has also put pressure on major donor countries to urge UNRWA to plan its own demise. It has already been decided by the UN Secretary General that UNRWA's Headquarters will be transferred to Gaza, where eventually, it will be taken over by the PA. This move not only represents a change of the focus of the UNRWA, with programmes always emphasising services for the Palestinian refugee communities in exile. It also points to the demise of UNRWA and the dissolution of the refugee problem. 29 Such a development is disastrous even for the Palestinians in Gaza, of which more than 60% are UNRWA-registered refugees. They now risk the deprivation of their hard earned status and rights as UN-registered refugees, but will remain stateless Palestinians, holders of Palestinian Authorities ID-cards, subjects of Israeli and Palestinian authorities, legally under Israeli sovereignty, foreigners in their own country.

The Peace Process since Madrid has also allowed the refugee issue, which was always at the centre of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to be dealt with on the side-track in one of the Multilateral Committees, the Refugee Working Group (RWG).

Since before the peace talks started in Madrid and Washington, the Palestinian refugee communities in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan have been allocated relatively less resources from UNRWA. Other international relief agencies/NGO's also shifted the emphasis of their programmes as the Intifada (as was said) had changed the focus of the Palestinian struggle from the outside to the inside, and since the Gulf War and the Madrid Conference this tendency seems strengthened. The decrease in international support for the Palestinians in exile, in spite of rising needs, also applies to the PLO which has cut most forms of aid to Lebanon.

Rosemary Sayegh has noted that UNRWA has been reducing its relative budget allocations for the Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria compared with the allocations for Gaza and the West Bank. This applies to the over-all budget, and the pattern is, according to Sayegh, even more transparent in UNRWA's special budgets, in the Extraordinary Measures for Lebanon and the Occupied Territories (EMLOT), the Expanded Programme of Assistance (EPA), and most notably in the Peace Implementation Programme (PIP). 30

In the event that UNRWA disappears, the refugee issue may be dealt with regionally and unilaterally by Israel, the PA and the host countries. But even with the current changing focus of UNRWA, and the new political and economic constraints on the agency, the Palestinian refugee communities, particularly in exile, may not much longer find the support they always counted on. If this were to happen, and if the rights of Palestinian refugees were to be ignored in a final settlement, the international community will have failed its obligations towards the Palestinian refugees and to come to their support through the UN.

Are there third parties?

During a recent visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories by this author, a well known Palestinian lawyer complained that there are no longer any third parties the Palestinians may rely on.

The notion of the role or responsibilities of a third party is closely linked to the idea of a framework of an international world order where conflict resolution is based on certain internationally acknowledged principles including the safeguarding of fundamental human rights through implementation of International Humanitarian Law. International human rights law also assigns specific roles to third parties. In this context third parties are obliged to ensure respect for these principles where other denominators, in support of either party in a conflict, may not adhere to the same principles.

The New World Order as implemented in the Middle East, with its centre in the Israeli-Palestinian context, may mark the end of an era where conflict resolution efforts were supposed to be governed by certain internationally acknowledged principles. A peace process has emerged, apparently predetermined and therefore inevitable. Consequently the process itself seems to be unchallenged. One may then assume that this particular process has constituted its own governing principles and replaced existing foundations for conflict resolutions. Did we, as it appears, reach a conflict resolution level where there are not any longer real conflicting parties, only partners, sponsors and facilitators?

A possible survival test for the notion of third parties may well be to determine to what extent either of the sponsors, facilitators or the denominators (those setting the rules of the peace process), or indeed any of the countries in the North traditionally conceived of as pro-Third-World-causes, are still in a position to adhere to principles recognised universally and inherent in International Humanitarian Law. The test is really if there are third parties ready to support the weaker party in the process to make up for some of the asymmetry which is built in. The ultimate question might just as well be if the Palestinian Authority/PLO-leadership are ready to ask for such third party support, or will have to respond as a young diplomat involved in the current peace process did - "No, no, that belongs to the old Palestine agenda!"


The Author is currently an advisor to Norwegian immigration authorities in Middle East refugee and asylum issues has also worked with humantitarian aid and human rights related issues in UNRWA, in Norwegian People's Aid and the Norwegian Refugee Council. He is a member of the Human Rights Commission under the Council of International and Ecumenical Relations, Church of Norway.

The article above is based on a lecture held in a human rights seminar Nov. 10th 1995 by the Norwegian branch of Amnesty International.

Among others the Palestinian Human Rights Commissioner Dr. Eyad Sarraj and Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Jan Egeland also delivered lectures during the seminar.



1 Based on a lecture held at Amnesty International, Oslo, 10th November 1995: (Article based on manuscript: "Legal basis for Human Rights under Palestinian self-rule - the role of third parties")

2 "The role of the International Community" and of third parties is situations of belligerent occupation is dealt with in detail in: A Nation Under Siege, Al Haq Ramallah 1990, pp 648-649.

3 Gaza and the West Bank was closed since March 1993 and permissions to leave the Occupied Territories, to work in Israel or reside in Jerusalem or the other side of the OPT's are required. In addition to this permanent closure of the OPT's, Gaza and the West Bank is repeatedly being sealed off completely for quoted security reasons, sometimes for protracted periods, hence news media references to closures and re-openings of borders.

4 Referred to by Stanley Cohen; "Justice in transition." Middle East Report May-August 1995

5 Edward. W. Said; The Politics of Dispossession. The Struggle for Palestinian self-determination 1969-1994, London 1994, p.415

6 The theme of an article in Foreign Affairs by Tina Rosenburg, May/June 1995 edition.

7 Graham Usher: Palestine in Crisis, The Struggle for Peace and Political Independence after Oslo. London 1995, p. 79.

8 Ibid.

9 Edward Said in The Guardian, 09.09.93

0 Middle East International 21.1.94

11 Raja Shehadeh in Middle East Reporter, summer 1995.

12 Raja Shehadeh in Journal of Palestine Studies No 4 1994: "Questions of Jurisdiction: A Legal Analysis of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement"; Emma Murphy and Raja Shehadeh in Middle East Report May-August 1995

13 The Sadan report; Ezra Sadan, "A policy for Immediate Economic-Industrial Development in the Gaza Strip" Ben Ezra Consultants, Ltd. August 1991 and "Durable Employment for the Refugee Populated Region of Gaza, and "The Best Way for Both Sides" Palestine-Israel Journal, 1994 quoted by Sara Roy in The Beirut Review No. 8 1994

14 See also Sara Roy's major study "The Gaza Strip - The Political Economy of De-Development," Institute for Palestine Studies, London 1995

15 Human Rights Watch Middle East, February 1995, p. 31

16 The views above are discussed in further detail in the presentations of Dr. Colm Campbell and Prof. Ruth Gavison & discussion, and working paper by Jonathan Kuttab, in "The International Enforcement of Human Rights in Periods of Transition: The case of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, CIHRE, Ramallah 1996 . Report of an international conference convened by Pax Christi International.

17 Joel Singer: "The Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements" in "Justice" - International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Tel Aviv, February 4th 1994

18 Article XX (4) in the Cairo Agreement reads: " The Palestinian side undertakes not to prosecute these Palestinians or to harm them in any way" (re.collaborators)

19 Article IV, 3 a in Protocol Concerning Redeployment and Security Arrangements (Oslo II)

20 Article IV 2a reads:"The Palestinian Police shall consist of one integral unit under the control of the Council. It shall be composed of six branches." (- of which Preventive Security, Presidential Security and 'Intelligence' are listed)

21 August 1995

22 Vol 7 No 2, February 1995

23 Op.cit. 12 "Neither Law nor Justice, Extra-judicial punishment, abduction, unlawful arrest, and torture of Palestinian residents of the West Bank by the Preventive Security Service", B'Tselem August 1995

24 Jerusalem Post Magazine 19.05.95; Jerusalem Post Weekly, Sept.23rd 1995.

25 Dr. Lynn Welchman: Consensual Intervention: A Case study on the TIPH, Al Haq & Centre for International Human Rights Enforcement (CIHRE), Ramallah 1996.

26 Donald Neff in Middle East International, 7. Oct 1994.

27 Ibid.

28 A phrase used by Graham Usher in Middle East International 6th January 1995 in an article analyzing the transformation of UNRWA.

29 Rosemary Sayegh's phrase in "Palestine: Diplomacies of Defeat", ed. Rema Hammami and Graham Usher, Vol 37, No 2 of the Journal Race & Class

30 R. Sayegh; Palestinians in Lebanon: Harsh Present, Uncertain Future - in Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. XXV/I - No 97, 1995