Friday, July 25, 2008

Do Palestinians Deserve Statehood? Part II


By  Eli E. Hertz

2nd part of 4

Links and footnotes in part 4

Benchmarking EU’s attitudes towards ‘Honor Crimes’: Turkey vs. the Palestinian Authority

Attitudes towards ‘honor killings’ are illustrative of the gross disparity between the treatment of Turks and Palestinians by the EU.

Under directives from Europe, Turkish ‘honor killings’, where men kill women family members for real or imagined sexual indiscretions to‘save family honor’, have been made a felony carrying a mandatory life sentence.[1][17] This is instead of the lighter sentences for “extenuating circumstances” meted out by sympathetic Turkish and other judges common in the Middle East. Under the original Turkish Penal Code,[1][18] “severe provocation is cited as a mitigating circumstance” in cases of ‘honor crimes,’ with provisions for reducing punishment to one-eighth of the original sentence.   Human rights activists reported that this allowed Turkish courts to “reduce a life term to fifteen years,” adding that in practice due to the age of the perpetrator,[1][19] time off for good behavior and so forth, punishment is often whittled down to six years in jail.

In the summary of compliance with the Copenhagen Political Criteria, the EU’s 2004 Regular Report on Turkey concluded:[1][20]

“Significant progress had been achieved in aligning the overall framework for the exercise of fundamental freedoms with European standards.  The principle of equality of men and women has been strengthened and provisions allowing reduced sentences for so-called ‘honour killings’ have been removed.”

But for the EU, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. While the report recognized that “crimes against life that are motivated by ‘tradition and customs’ had been made much more severe,”[1][21]  and praised “…the Diyanet[1][22] instruct[ing] imams and preachers to speak out against ‘honour killings’ during the Friday prayers,” the Report asserts that this is not enough.[1][23]

“…the situation of women is still unsatisfactory:  discrimination and violence against women, including ‘honour killings’ remains a major problem.”

The Report states frankly that “sustained efforts will be required to ensure that women take an equal place in society.”

What about Palestinians?

As early as August 2002 the PHRMG published a special report[1][24] on “honor killings” among Palestinians, charging that there is a “wide scope of the phenomena in the Palestinian society” and warning that “the law is absent – or neglected in [honor crimes].”  The Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC) charged in an investigation of cover-ups of murders[1][25] that “as a whole, the judicial system conspires against victims.”[1][26]  Between 1996-1998 there were 234 cases of women having died, of which 177 files were closed with the cause of death having been ascribed to “fate.” Despite these two damning reports, as well as other similar accounts as recently as April 2004,[1][27] there is no mention of ‘honor killings’ or women’s rights in general in the EU’s discussion of reform in the PA. Nor are human rights violations by the Palestinian Authority against its own people discussed in the EU’s annual reports on human rights. Other countries are cited: Pakistan, for instance, is censured for ‘honour killings.’ The only behavior of the Palestinian Authority towards its own citizens that was raised was to “question the death penalty.” In sharp contrast, the report noted that the EU had introduced numerous condemnations of Israel in the UN Commission on Human Rights for violations of Palestinian human rights.[1][28] 

Even more ‘basic’ reforms such as establishing ‘rule of law’ in the machinery of Palestinian self-rule are subject to a ‘double standard’ between Turks and Palestinians when it comes to benchmarking compliance.

Benchmarking EU devotion to performance-based progress: Turkey vs. Palestinians

Like Turkey’s appeal for EU membership, realization of Palestinian aspirations was supposed to be performance-based.  The timetable embedded in the Oslo Accords for establishment of limited Palestinian self-determination – internal self-rule[1][29] -- was five years (envisioned to be consummated in 1999). The Oslo Process hinged on the Palestinian leadership abandoning armed struggle and negotiating an end to the conflict, and establishing the infrastructure for enlightened self-rule. This proviso was never met.  The latest scheme – the three-phase Road Map[1][30] adopted by the Quartet[1][31]  in May 2003 – speaks of full independence for Palestinians within three years (envisioned by 2005).  Stage II, which supported establishment of an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty within a 6 month period (!) hinged on compliance with Stage I, which demands “unconditional stoppage of violence” and steps towards comprehensive reform of the Palestinian Authority.

How has the EU benchmarked the reform progress among Palestinians?

In the four years since the outbreak of the second Intifada (October 2000), Palestinians have failed to comply with repeated pleas and pressure from the international community to stop the violence, beyond empty declarations of intent. This includes not only appeals from American and Arab leaders,[1][32]  but also the Europeans themselves. In early April 2003, while on a state visit to Israel, including a meeting with Arafat, German foreign minister Joschke Fischer said there were some 30 European diplomats who wished to meet with Arafat, including the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana, assuming they could cajole or pressure Arafat into reining in terrorist groups and reforming the Palestinian Authority.[1][33] The amount of ‘good behavior time’ (i.e. no terrorist attacks) required prior to resumption of negotiations was gradually lowered from six months to one week – but to no avail. Palestinians failed to honor these most basic commitments: (1) to abandon terrorism and their goal of destroying the State of Israel, both in word and deed and (2) to reform their regime along democratic lines, as a precondition for any sustainable and stable two-State solution.

How did the European Union judge the reforms demanded by the Quartet – of which the EU itself is a member, compared to demands made of Turkey by the EU?

EU-Style compliance through fabricated reforms by the Palestinian Authority

In contrast with strict standards for reform to which Turkey is subject, the EU simply pretends that reform is afoot among Palestinians.  Some of the claims are simply pathetic. Treatment of the respective judicial systems of Palestinians and Turks is a good example.

A May 2004 report on The EU’s relations with West Bank and Gaza Strip[1][34] published by the European Union concludes that “…in June 2002, the Palestinian Authority, in response to domestic and international pressure, adopted a wide-ranging program on reform.”  The EU report is full of praise for “important measures”, “significant progress” and “key reform” that only need “consolidation.”

The report cites “important measures … for legislation on the independence of the judiciary” … providing as substantiation the adoption and entrance into force of Basic Laws that like the promise to stop the violence, are empty words.  It lauds the launch of “modernization of the Palestinian judicial system” with EU funding, an ‘achievement’ that boils down to the EU “training judges and prosecutors” and funding “refurbishment of select courts” … as if the problem is chairs or computers. By contrast, Palestinian human rights activists put their lives in jeopardy to expose the true state of the judiciary (and other areas of ‘rule of law’).  A month prior to the EU report, PRMG published a 32-page publication that underscored[1][35] 

“…Although in August 2003, then PA Minister of Justice … came out in support of abolishing the state security courts and to transfer authority to the Attorney General, this step towards more accountability was never implemented” … [and] “… confusion of executive and judiciary” has led to “legal power [being] abused for personal or fractional interests.”  

Likewise, there is nary a word from the Europeans in their report about the corruption,  graft, kickbacks, and extortion cited to be a major blight in Palestinian self-rule by a large majority of Palestinians in opinion polls and in Palestinian human rights reports.[1][36]

Denial is sweeping, even systematic throughout the EU structure. The European Council of Ministers – the most senior and powerful body in the EU – issued a series of ‘conclusions’ that contrast sharply with the strict standards, tempo and provisos the EU demands of Turkey.

The Ministers’ 2002-2004 minutes[1][37] are peppered with praise and support for ‘cosmetic’ or totally non-existent reforms, while seizing the day to call for acceleration of the peace process towards establishment of a Palestinian state. For instance, the Council “noted the progress in the process for the appointment of a Palestinian Prime Minister and the formation of a Palestinian government” – without examining whether power was actually transferred to this new post (April 2002). It expressed support of “the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to make rapid progress on security” – without even one example of where this took place. In a similar vein it praised “the new will on the Palestinian side to promote reform” (June 2003); “continued support for Palestinian reforms and economy” (July 2003) and “called upon the Palestinian Authority to continue their reform programme” (September 2004) – without any substantiation for such ‘achievements’. There is absolutely no relationship between the ‘conclusions’ reached by 25 EU ministers and realities on the ground.

Irony of ironies, these rosy assessments are totally in conflict with the findings of the Independent Task Force on “Strengthening Palestinian Public Institutions” – a body commissioned by the European Commission itself in 1998!  Every year hence,[1][38] the Task Force has monitored reform progress in the PA and published its findings on implementation of the Task Force’s 1999 proposal for reforms.

The Task Force is chaired by a former prime minister of France Michel Rocard and authored by two renowned Palestinian scholars, Cambridge academic Dr. Yezid Sayigh and director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, Dr. Khalil Shikaki. The most recent report, Reforming the Palestinian Authority: An Update April 2004,[1][39] is scathing.  One by one, the compliance report ticks off attempts at reforms which “remain unimplemented,”  “difficult, if not impossible, to reform,” or “paralyzed” in process. The report concluded that “little was achieved” by the 6-month government led by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen) (March 2003-September 2003). At the time of publication (April 2004), the compliance report summed up the pathetic performance of Ahmed Qurei’s (Abu Ala) government (October 2003 – present), saying:

“The most significant process was the cabinet’s decision in February 2004, approved by the president, to cease paying the salaries of the National Security Forces (under the president’s control) in cash and instead to channel all salaries through bank transfers.” [emphasis, the author’s]

In short, Palestinian Authority most revolutionary change was a pay slip in lieu of a pay envelope for State-supported thugs whom the PHRMG have accused of using their authority and weapons for personal clan vendettas and extortion from businesspersons and other strong arm tactics that terrorize the local population. The report put particular emphasis on the total lack of an independent judiciary under then presiding prime minister Abu Ala, charging:

“The interference of the president [EH Yasser Arafat] in the affairs of the judiciary has increased considerably during this period…and the ability of courts to implement their decision, always limited, has diminished even further.”

In August 2004, one of the chief authors, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, told the Council for Foreign Relations in an interview that there still was no progress towards reforming the judiciary[1][40]

“Theoretically, we have an independent judiciary, but the reform process has not yet reached the judiciary. At the moment, the judiciary is in total disrepair, and it hasn't yet been able to function effectively.”

During the corresponding period, as noted above, the European Union’s benchmarking of Palestinian performance babbled on about steps towards ‘an independent judiciary’… One wonders what the Turks would think of this assessment of reform, but alas, the Task Force’s ‘unenthusiastic’ reports regarding “Reforming The Palestinian Authority” appear nowhere on the EU website ( It is only mentioned in passing with no information on its findings, and no hyperlink to copies of its reports archived elsewhere on the Internet, though all of its other documents are rich with links.     

At the same time that it was fabricating Palestinian reforms, hell-bent to establish a Palestinian state ASAP, the EU sought to reform the Road Map. In November 2004, the EU’s foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana penned a confidential seven-page ‘plan’ designed to “ensure a Palestinian state can be established” although no substantive reform had taken place. To overcome this ‘problem,’ Solana simply declared that the performance-based dimension of the peace process - including the reform process, was passé. According to the Voice of America, he called upon the EU’s partners in the Quartet – the United States, the United Nations and Russia to “accelerate the drive for Middle East peace” by abandoning “an incremental approach”[1][41] – shorthand for compliance-based progress founded on genuine reform and an end to terrorism.  The plan, presented to a meeting of EU foreign ministers in early November 2004, was reported to have gained the unanimous support of all the EU’s foreign ministers.[1][42]

Just as duplicitous, the same day (December 16/17, 2004) that the EU took the historic vote to begin decade-long negotiations with Turkey, it also issued a “Declaration on the Middle East Peace Process”[1][43] that called for “seiz[ing] this opportunity (E.H. upcoming Palestinian elections in mid-January 2005) to accelerate the implementation of the Roadmap and re-launch a meaningful political process,” with nary a word about the need for democratic reform, and an end to terrorism and State-sponsored incitement.

Such self-delusion or crass ‘posturing’ on the basis of real politik (in either case at someone else’s expense) is not limited to the fate of Israelis facing a rogue state next door. In the EU’s eagerness to exonerate the PA of any wrongdoing, it even extends it to turning a blind eye to the abuse of children.  

A May 15, 2002 ‘investigation’ by the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union[1][44] into charges that Palestinian children were being subjected to incitement is further evidence of the ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ mindset when it comes to Palestinians. The charge was examined from the narrow perspective of new schoolbooks that had been funded by the EU, enabling investigators to ignore encouragement of children to become martyrs in kindergarten pageants, elementary and middle school summer camps, and video clips for teens on PA-run television of martyrs who beckon viewers to join them in Heaven.  Likewise the EU fails to note the parallel drop in the age of eager ‘volunteers’ for suicide missions to pre-teens, and the rise in the number of teens actually losing their lives as shahids. 

The Turks, by contrast, were taken to task for far less serious sins, such as textbooks that contained gender bias and negative stereotypes of minorities.


 Eli E. Hertz

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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