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February 8, 2019

Attention Heads of State: Requesting an update to the Balfour Declaration

2 November 2018

Your Excellencies,

On this anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Combatants for Peace, a movement of Israeli and Palestinian former combatants now advocating non-violent struggle against the occupation that resulted from the 1967 war and for an end to the conflict, turn to you out of deep concern for the current effects of that important Declaration. Contrary to the opinion of the Government of Israel, today’s occupation is not an internal Israeli matter.  The occupation affects the lives of millions of Palestinians who are under Israeli control. These people are excluded from the political process and decisions in Israel, and yet are subject to Israeli rule by the army of Israel. This situation, by its very nature, is anti-democratic and immoral. We, Israelis and Palestinians, consider it our patriotic duty to change the situation for the sake of both our peoples. It is out of this concern for the future of our respective societies that we approach you, together.

This week, 101 years ago, the British government published the “Balfour Declaration.” As is well known, the British government declared that it viewed “with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.” Yet, at the time, the Arabs, comprised some 90% of the population of Palestine but were not even mentioned by name. Nor were their national rights recognized in any of these decisions. Moreover, the major nations that emerged victorious from World War I affirmed the Declaration at the San Remo Conference and still more nations did so once again at the League of Nations. Thus, one cannot overestimate the standing and the impact of the Balfour Declaration regarding the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians these many years.

The national home for the Jewish people was indeed established, and the state of Israel took its place in the international family of nations.  However, the indigenous Palestinian people remained without a recognized national home of its own, and it continues to suffer from the act that provided freedom and self-determination for one people but not the other.  In addition, today, as a result of the occupation of remaining lands of the Palestine Mandate, Israel is engaged in violation of both the letter and the spirit of the original Declaration and its subsequent codification, that is, the commitment that the “civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities” would be respected.

Beyond the 1949 de facto borders Israel is systematically pushing the Palestinian residents of Area C into isolated enclaves or into areas under partial or full Palestinian control (A and B). In effect, these efforts are designed to undermine any possibility of the emergence of a sovereign Palestinian state, and they portend an Israeli move unofficially or officially to annex 60 per cent of the West Bank.  This policy not only violates Palestinian rights to freedom and livelihood, it also perpetuates the violence between the two sides, denying security to both peoples. Moreover, Area C includes the region of the Jordan Rift Valley, bordering on Jordan, so that its annexation would complete Israel’s territorial encirclement of the area of the West Bank. Thus, Israeli control would render the creation of a sovereign Palestinian State, the two state solution, impossible. In recent months, Israel has stepped up its actions in Area C, especially the Jordan Rift Valley, by means of harassment, intimidation and actual home demolition.

Our activists have witnessed this policy, and we have been involved in protests across the Palestinian territories in the south Hebron hills and in Khan al-Ahmar, as well as in the northern Jordan Valley. What is taking place today amounts to a collection of policies and actions that constitute gradual but ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Rift Valley and of area C altogether.  Attached is a list of some of the more recent worrisome Israeli measures underway and steps we think should be taken.

We turn to the international community, the nations of the world, in the spirit of the Balfour Declaration, to make every effort to put a stop to this and to seek every means to extend the promise of a national home to the Palestinian people, as it did for the Jewish people in the past. Indeed, a first important step in the direction would be the recognition of the State of Palestine by your respective govnemnts.

Sincerely,

Muhammad Oweida, Palestinian Coordinator
Tuly Amit Flint, Israeli Coordinator

Combatants for Peace

 

 

Appendix

 Signs of Ethnic Cleansing in the West Bank- Spotlight on the Jordan Rift Valley

The Jordan Rift Valley comprises a third of the West Bank, which makes the area the largest land reservoir in the West Bank. Moreover, it is a strategic area in that it borders in part on the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as well as Israel, thereby completing the territorial encirclement of the Palestinian areas.

Recently, Jewish settlement activity in the area has increased. Two years ago, two illegal outposts were established in the area and their infrastructure continues to develop. One was built adjacent to the settlement of Mehola and the second near the Um-Zuka military base. This summer an additional cattle compound was built for the outpost near the Um-Zuka military base, and in September settlers entered an abandoned military base. The settlement activity and Israeli policies, designed to push the local Palestinian residents out of area C, Palestinian shepherds in the area are under increasing pressure in the form of harassment by settlers and the Israeli military. Measures taken against them include home demolitions and prevention of land use either for grazing or agriculture. Their traditional way of life and livelihood are being thereby threatened. As a result of these measures, more and more families have been forced to abandon the area and move to villages in areas A and B.

On 1 November 2017 Israel issued an evacuation order for a community of 300 Palestinians living in the communities of Um-Jamal and En-al-Hilwe. Since that time, Combatants for Peace, together with other activists have been working within the framework of the “Jordan Valley Coalition to accompany shepherds going out for herding, in order to protect them from settler or military harassment. In addition, the Coalition assists the local community with legal work.

When examining the situation in the Jordan Valley, the following points should be considered:

  1. In an interim report by a committee of experts acting on behalf of the UN Security Council to examine the violations of international law in the Balkans in the 1990s, it was stated that “ethnic cleansing” involves: [1]

 

rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of given groups from the area.

 

In the final report of the committee, “ethnic cleansing” was defined as follows: [2]

a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic area.

 

  1. Nowadays, there is no international convention that defines a specific crime as “ethnic cleansing.” Therefore, the international community and international criminal courts rely on the recognized crime of forcible transfer of a population, which is defined as a war crime or a crime against humanity in the Rome Statute. For example, Article 7 (2) (d) of the Rome Statute[3] defines:

 

“Deportation or forcible transfer of population” means forced displacement of the persons concerned by expulsion or other coercive acts from the area in which they are lawfully present, without grounds permitted under international law.

 

  1. In the Jordan Valley region, coercive acts are performed in the following ways:

 

  1. Demolition of residential and agricultural structures, and the refusal to issue building permits for the Palestinian population.
  2. Issuing permanent eviction orders for Palestinian communities.
  3. Issuing temporary evacuation orders to Palestinian communities ostensibly for IDF training.
  4. Prohibition of connecting most of the Palestinian communities to water and electricity infrastructures, and the use of existing water sources (springs and water cisterns), as well as confiscation of water tankers purchased at high costs by the residents.
  5. Defining most of the area of the Jordan Valley as a firing zone, as nature reserves, as areas for residential and agricultural settlement, and as a zone for security needs, by means of permanent orders of closure that hold for the Palestinian population alone.
  6. Issuing of temporary closure orders, when Palestinian shepherds try to move of sheep and goats to places where there are no permanent closed area orders as stated in section C above.
  7. Confiscation of herds belonging to Palestinian communities, for example, when they are in the area of the temporary military orders.
  8. Night raids on the Palestinian communities with the aim of intimidating the residents from trying to reach the few grazing areas still available for them.
  9. Repeated deprivation of liberty by means of delays and arbitrary arrests of Palestinian shepherds, for the purpose of punishment, so that they would be afraid to reach the few remaining grazing areas.
  10. Reduction and limitation of grazing areas for Palestinian communities, thereby forcing them to purchase food for their herds at costs above their economic means.
  11. Allowing settlers and security forces of the settlements and outposts to enforce the military orders on the Palestinian population, a measure that is often abused and turning into violence against the Palestinian communities and their herds.
  12. Failure to enforce the law on settlers in residing in outposts and settlements, and disregarding complaints filed against them.
  13. Restrictions on freedom of movement from the Jordan Valley to the rest of the West Bank, and requiring residents to pass only through controlled and restricted crossing points. This increases the isolation of the Palestinian communities there, and increases the expense of transportation needed to receive essential services, including as medical services.
  14. Threats, harassment and deprivation of liberty of human rights activists in the Jordan Valley, in order to make it more difficult to provide assistance to Palestinian communities and to isolate them.

All mentioned issues are documented through the activity of the Jordan Valley Coalition and by other human rights and peace organizations. We can provide documentation for all violations listed above.

The efforts of our Coalition may have succeeded in delaying some of the Israeli actions, but we may not be able to so it in the future. Time is of the essence, especially for the Palestinians living and trying to eke out a living in the Jordan Rift Valley. Specifically, we urge the international community to undertake the following efforts:

  1. Demand that the Government of Israel remove the settler outposts in Mehola and Um-Zuka, including the settlers’ cattle compound in Um-Zuka area.
  2. Demand that the Government of Israel allow the local Palestinians to pursue their traditional farming and herding culture in the lands they, like their forefathers, have been living for generations.
  3. Demand that the Government of Israel provide compensation for the costs to the local Palestinians for alternative facilities, namely water tanks and food for the herds.

Thank you for your consideration.
Combatants for Peace

[1] https://undocs.org/S/25274

[2] https://undocs.org/S/1994/674

[3] http://www.hamoked.org.il/files/2010/3930.pdf

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