Ingrid Jaradat Gassner

“Yusif Sayigh: Arab Economist, Palestinian Patriot; a Fractured Life Story”
Edited by Rosemary Sayigh (2015)

Yusif Sayigh (1916 – 2014) is widely known as an expert on Arab economic development, as former Director of the Economic Research Institute and Chairman of the Economics Department at the American University of Beirut (AUB), and for his work with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) on strategic planning of resistance and economic development, including creation of PEDRA (Palestine Economic Development and Reconstruction Agency, later PECDAR). Compiled and edited by Rosemary Sayigh, anthropologist and Yusif’s partner in life for more than five decades, with the compassion for people and the ordinary that is characteristic of her oral history work,[1] the memoirs of YusifSayigh are, however, more than just another biography of a public figure.

International law is the reference for the work of the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem. However, the Coalition and its 25 members also work within the Israeli legal system on the basis of Israeli law, which is applied to East Jerusalem Palestinians as a result of the illegal annexation, because of the need to provide immediate and practical support to the people at risk of or affected by Israeli land confiscation, home demolitions, forced evictions, revocation of residency permits and forced separation of families.

Apartheid is a severe form of racial discrimination. Several international law instruments define apartheid in similar terms as inhumane acts committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression by one racial group over another racial group for the purpose/intent of maintaining domination. As the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will examine, in its third session in Capetown, South Africa, whether and how Israel’s regime over the Palestinian people constitutes apartheid, it is necessary, among others, to determine who are the ‘racial groups’, and if Palestinians constitute a distinct  ‘racial group’ for the purpose of the definition of apartheid.

This document is a short version of the testimony regarding “Palestinian identity and Palestinians as a distinct racial group”, which will be submitted to the renowned legal experts and ‘judges’ of the Russell Tribunal in order to facilitate a fair and scholarly determination of whether the elements of the crime of apartheid are found in this particular context.

The dust had not yet settled on the rubble in Lebanon when Ehud Olmert announced: “this is no time for convergence.” Shimon Peres said there would be no withdrawal from the “territories” in the next 10 years.(1) Tzipi Livni’s extensive brainstorming visit with Condoleezza Rice in Washington apparently served to coordinate policies of regime change in Iran and the occupied Palestinian territories. Both parties, however, remained silent on the question what would replace Israel’s “convergence” plan from here on out. Two months after Israel’s war against Lebanon, the incumbent Israeli government expands rightward to survive. Avigdor Lieberman’s racist and right-wing Israel Beteinu party are the new partners to the ruling coalition and will guarantee that “convergence” plans and the like will remain in the drawer.

 Today, it is almost as if there never had been such a plan. Forgotten are the days when Ariel Sharon succeeded to make his “painful concessions” and unilateral withdrawal, the only game in the global village of Middle East diplomacy. Nobody in Israel today appears interested in holding the Kadima party to account for abandoning the political project that had justified its creation.

Palestine at the 5th World Social Forum

Domestic and regional social fora established in many parts of the world could serve as an interesting model for a “Palestinian Social Forum”, i.e. a platform for launching long-overdue exchange and consultation about priorities and strategies of struggle among unions, political parties, movements and NGOs in Palestine and in exile.

Some 40 Israeli activists, most of them young people, followed the invitation of Zochrot for an in-depth study day dedicated to two aspects of the Palestinian refugee issue: international law and internally displaced Palestinians. Three guest-speakers speakers were invited: Ingrid Jaradat Gassner (BADIL) and Israeli attorney Michael Sfard as respondent, and Muhammad Kayal, on behalf of the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced in Israel.

For the time being, the fragile Mecca Agreement and the subsequent Palestinian national unity government have restored a sense of direction and hope to the Palestinian people. But will the agreements hold? Will they end isolation, bring back respect and restore the economic and political lifeline of the Palestinian people? What kind of new Palestinian Authority and PLO will emerge? Will the Palestinian people be re-instated as a political actor? All of these questions have yet to be answered, and the answers will determine the fate of Palestinian unity, struggle and leadership in the longer term. In the first months of 2007 a new chapter was added to the tragic annals of the Palestinian people: the international community accomplished in one year’s time what Israel, the major oppressor for almost 60 years, had failed to achieve. A people who had successfully remained steadfast and resisted Israel’s racist colonization, occupation and brutal military assaults for decades, was brought down in 2007 by an international sanctions regime which, for the first time in history, was imposed on an occupied people.

 Since 2001, the reality created “on the ground” in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) by the Oslo Accords has been erased de facto as a result of Israel’s re-invasion of the semi-autonomous Palestinian areas (“areas A and B”), destruction of Palestinian Authority infrastructure and the subsequent imposition of an ever tightening military regime employed for more colonization and annexation of Palestinian land.

Now, six years later, this “post-Oslo reality” appears to devour also the political system that has shaped the Palestinian struggle for decades. Shattered by the breakdown of the Hamas-Fatah led National Unity Government in June, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) and PLO are discredited, dis-functional and dis-empowered, and the political system of the Palestinian leadership elite appears beyond repair.

15 August 2007 marked the 60th anniversary of India's partition. However, little attention was paid by Palestinians this summer to the ways in which governments and people of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh tackled the legacy of "their" partition, a violent event whose repercussions are apparent 60 years on. Having shared similar struggles for decolonization and freedom from the same British imperial power, and traumatic and formative partition experiences, the peoples of pre-1947 India and Palestine have taken little notice of each other's apparently similar historical tragedies.

How the unresolved Palestinian refugee question stands for the failure of the international human rights and humanitarian regime

At the beginning of the 20th century, most Palestinians lived inside the borders of Palestine, which is now divided into Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Today, almost 75% of the Palestinian people are displaced, and Palestinian refugees present the world’s largest and longest-standing unresolved refugee case. Approximately half of the Palestinian people live in forced exile outside their homeland, while another 23% are displaced within the borders of former Palestine.1 Six decades after the first and most massive wave of forced displacement in 1948, Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP) still lack access to durable solutions and reparations, including return, restitution and compensation, in accordance with international law and UN resolutions. While more Palestinians are being displaced today, effective protection is still not available for them.