Israeli soldiers attack Palestinian protesters in West Bank

Protesters take cover from smoke and flames as Israeli soldiers fire stun grenades and tear gas during clashes following a demonstration against Israeli settlements and the closing of al-Shuhada street on February 20, 2016 in the occupied West Bank city of al-Kalil (Hebron). (AFP photo)

Protesters take cover from smoke and flames as Israeli soldiers fire stun grenades and tear gas during clashes following a demonstration against Israeli settlements and the closing of al-Shuhada street on February 20, 2016 in the occupied West Bank city of al-Kalil (Hebron)

Israeli forces have violently suppressed a weekly peaceful protest by Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, leaving scores of people injured.

The Palestinian people staged a protest against illegal Israeli settlements in the town of Kafr Qaddum, west of Nablus city on Friday.

Dozens of Palestinians suffered suffocation as the Israeli soldiers suppressed the protest using tear gas.

Residents of Kafr Qaddum hold weekly protest rallies to express their anger at the illegal Israeli settlements as well as the construction of a separation wall that snakes across the occupied West Bank, isolating large swathes of Palestinian territories.

Over half a million Israelis live in more than 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East al-Quds.

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. However, Tel Aviv has defied calls to stop the settlement expansions in the occupied territories.

The occupied territories have also witnessed heightened tensions since August 2015, when Israel imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East al-Quds in an alleged bid to change the status quo of the holy Muslim site.

At least 213 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces in what is regarded as the third Palestinian Intifada (uprising) since the beginning of last October.

(Source / 17.06.2016)

Saudi repeats call for US strikes on Syrian government

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir

The Saudi foreign minister has repeated Riyadh’s call on the US to carry out airstrikes against the Syrian government, echoing a similar request by dozens of US diplomats who broke ranks with the White House to push for military action against Damascus.

During a press briefing at the Saudi Embassy in Washington on Friday, Adel al-Jubeir said the Arab monarchy has long been pushing for a US military campaign to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Saudi minister added that from the very start of the crisis in Syria, Riyadh has strongly favored “a more robust policy, including air strikes, safe zones, a no fly zone, a no drive zone.”

He went on to say that the kingdom had called for arming Syria’s so-called “moderate opposition” with ground-to-air missiles and reiterated an offer to deploy Saudi special forces as part of any US-led operation against the Damascus government, which has been making back-to-back gains against the Daesh Takfiri group.

Jubeir’s comments came after 51 US State Department officials signed an internal document, known as the “dissent channel cable”, this week, calling for targeted military strikes against the Syrian government.

“Failure to stem Assad’s flagrant abuses will only bolster the ideological appeal of groups such as Daesh, even as they endure tactical setbacks on the battlefield,” reads the cable, critical of US President Barak Obama’s policies towards the Syrian crisis.

The State Department has acknowledged the existence of the cable as confidential diplomatic communication, but did not comment on its contents.

Russia’s reaction

Meanwhile, Russia slammed the so-called internal document and warned that such attempts to oust Assad would not “contribute to a successful fight against terrorism.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov further said that “this could plunge the region into complete chaos.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov also censured the proposed attacks against Damascus, saying they would be “at odds with the UN resolutions.”

“We need to negotiate and reach a political resolution on the basis of international law, which was agreed upon at the UN Security Council,” Bogdanov added.

The United States and its allies formed a coalition that has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh terrorists inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from Damascus or a UN mandate. The coalition has repeatedly been accused of targeting and killing civilians. It has also been largely incapable of fulfilling its declared aim of destroying Daesh.

Daesh Takfiri terrorists, who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, are engaged in crimes against humanity in the areas under their control.

Syria has been grappling with a deadly conflict it blames on certain foreign states for over five years. UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has also displaced over half of the Arab country’s pre-war population of about 23 million. The militancy has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure.

(Source / 17.06.2016)

UNRWA report: Siege on Gaza illegal and violates humanitarian law

[File photo]

A report issued by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) confirmed the severe deterioration in various aspects of life in Gaza as a result of the continued Israeli siege imposed on the Strip over the last 10 year.

The report listed the negative impact of the siege on the health and education sectors, as well as the freedom of movement and travel, and the living conditions of Gazans. It also mentioned the sharp deterioration of the medical infrastructure needed to provide health care to Gazans.

Decline in health conditions

The report said: “Years of socioeconomic decline, conflict and closure have left the health sector across the Gaza Strip lacking in adequate physical infrastructure and sufficient medical training opportunities for health staff. “

“Facilities are overstretched, and service is frequently interrupted by power cuts. These challenges further threaten the health of the population, which is already at increasing risk.”

Gaza needs 800 additional hospital beds 1,000 additional doctors and 2,000 nurses by 2020 to maintain the current level of services, the report warned.

“The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted at the end of 2015 a rise in medical referrals out of Gaza, but a decline in the approval of exit permits.”

Travel restrictions

The report also stated that “Israel does not only impose restrictions on travelling abroad, but also for Palestinians travelling to and within the West Bank, heavily restricting people, and particularly youth, from pursuing education or trying to find work; families from visiting relatives; and sick patients from seeking medical treatment.”

“These restrictions have reduced access to livelihoods, essential services and housing; disrupted family life; and undermined the people’s hopes for a secure and prosperous future.”

It’s said that the Erez crossing located in the north of the Gaza Strip, is now the only crossing between Israel and Gaza that is available for the movement of people. Israeli policy technically allows for the movement of limited numbers of authorised travellers, including medical and humanitarian cases.

“Residents of the Gaza Strip are required to obtain individual exit permits to Israel. The permit is issued by military officials rather than the Ministry of Interior, and Israel’s policy is to not permit entry for residents of the Gaza Strip except in extreme and exceptional humanitarian cases,” added the report.

 Illegal siege

The UN report also noted that the recurrent conflict and the illegal blockade imposed by Israel on land, air and sea, entering its tenth year in June 2016, remains the principal cause of the socioeconomic and psychosocial crisis in Gaza.

“The restrictions on the movement of people and goods continue to collectively punish the civilian population, affecting every aspect of life in Gaza,” the report explained.

The siege is “undermining the local economy and threatening the enjoyment of most human rights, in clear violation of Israel’s legal obligations under international humanitarian law.”

(Source / 17.06.2016)

Palestinian girl kidnapped by Israeli soldiers near Aqsa Mosque

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– A Palestinian girl was kidnapped by the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) from Occupied Jerusalem city at noontime on Friday. A PIC journalist said the Israeli occupation soldiers arrested the girl at one of the gates of the holy al-Aqsa Mosque, shortly before they dragged her to an unidentified destination. Several Israeli army troops were seen deployed across Occupied Jerusalem and tight security measures have been imposed by the Israeli soldiers at and around the al-Aqsa Mosque—the third holiest site in Islam.

(Source / 17.06.2016)

CIA Chief: ‘War on Terror’ Has Created A Lot More Terrorists

John Brennan told the Senate Intelligence Committee “our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach.”
CIA Director John Brennan
CIA Director John Brennan

Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan said Thursday that, years into the United States’ fight against the Islamic State, the terrorist group’s reach and power have not been diminished and that it has even more fighters than al-Qaeda had at its height.

Speaking to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Brennan said, “Unfortunately, despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach. The resources needed for terrorism are very modest, and the group would have to suffer even heavier losses of territory, manpower, and money for its terrorist capacity to decline significantly.”

He also said the group is still “a formidable adversary,” adding, “The branch in Libya is probably the most developed and the most dangerous.”

He also projected that it “will intensify its global terror campaign to maintain its dominance of the global terrorism agenda.”

And, despite the apparent failure of the military strategy, Brennan said “a long and difficult fight” would continue against the group whose number of fighters now “far exceeds what al-Qaeda had at its height.”

His comments confirm warnings from many on the left that a military strategy to defeat ISIL, or ISIS, as it is also known, would only foment further acts of terrorism. Institute for Policy Studies fellow Phyllis Bennis, for example, warned in 2014, when President Barack Obama said he authorized new U.S. military airstrikes in Iraq to target ISIS, “it should be eminently clear that we cannot bomb Islamist extremists into submission or disappearance. Every bomb recruits more supporters.”

And Jeremy Scahill, co-founding editor of the The Intercept and author of the book Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, previously called Obama’s war on ISIS an “epic formula for blowback.”

(Source / 17.06.2016)

BDS movement in Morocco gets dozens of shop owners to boycott Israeli dates


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement in Morocco (BDS Maroc) announced that its campaign promoting the boycott of Israeli “Medjoul” dates had successfully led dozens of shops to begin refusing to sell dates from Israel.BDS Maroc started the boycott campaign last year, adopting several strategies to pressure retailers in the Darb Mila date markets to discontinue their relationship with Israeli date companies, while promoting the campaign among Morocco’s consumer base.The BDS movement issued certificates to shop owners who stopped selling Israeli dates. The certificates expressed appreciation for the shop owner’ s support of BDS and the Palestinian rights against the decades-long Israeli occupation.Majid Zaji, an activist with the group, said in a statement released by BDS Maroc: “These dates support the illegal Israeli settlement project that has been ongoing since the 1948 Nakba, as they plant dates on stolen Palestinian lands. How could we accept such a product on our tables? Especially during the holy month of Ramadan, knowing that the money we spend on these dates is supporting Israeli oppression of the beloved Palestinians.”“This is the first step towards the success of the campaign as we continue to cleanse Morocco of all Israeli dates that are raiding our markets,” another activist for BDS Maroc, Maryam Leasal, said.A coordinator for the BDS National Committee in the Arab World, Jouman Moussa, expressed his support for the recent success of BDS Maroc: “We salute our partners in Morocco who worked strategically to accomplish this achievement.”The Darb Mila market is the central market for the sale of dates in Morocco, located in Morocco’s largest city of Casablanca, with more than 60 shops dedicated to selling dates.BDS Maroc’s announcement comes on the heels of an anti-BDS Israeli mission held at the UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday, in which more than 1,500 participants addressed ways to combat the pro-Palestinian movement.The Israeli government has grown increasingly concerned about the growth of BDS, as the movement’s support base has expanded to include companies, universities and religious institutions around the world divesting from organizations complicit in Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights.The BDS movement was founded in July 2005 by a swath of Palestinian civil society as a peaceful movement to restore Palestinian rights in accordance with international law through strategies of boycotting Israeli products and cultural institutions, divesting from companies complicit in violations against Palestinians, and implementing state sanctions against the Israeli government.

(Source / 17.06.2016)

Clashes erupt between PA security forces and Islamic Jihad demonstrators in Jenin

PA veiligheidsdienst

JENIN (Ma’an) — Clashes erupted early Friday for a short duration between Palestinian security forces and several armed members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement in the northern occupied West Bank district of Jenin, Palestinian security sources told Ma’an.Palestinian security forces reportedly intervened to stop live firing as Islamic Jihad-affiliated demonstrators celebrated the release of Yahiya Bassam al-Saadi from Israeli prison, according to security sources.Sources added that the clashes erupted for a few minutes. No injuries with live fire were reported. However, four security officers were reportedly hit and injured with rocks.

The response of Palestinian security forces to the demonstration comes amidst accusations by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad that the Palestinian Authority (PA) carries out “politically-motivated” arrest campaigns against its operatives in the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad released a press statement  later on Friday condemning Palestinian security forces for “assaulting and shooting” the members of their organization.
Leader of the movement Khalid al-Batsh said in the statement that “we reject these reprehensible acts, which provoke our national and moral values.”
Al-Batsh questioned the interests of Palestinian security agencies in targeting and “insulting” an event attended by Palestinian families, while Palestinian leadership took part in Israel’s Herzliya Conference.
The conference, which describes itself as “Israel’s primary global policy annual gathering,” was reportedly attended by PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani as well as other Palestinian and Arab speakers. Palestinian leftist and writer Khaled Barakat slammed Majdalani’s participation in the “Zionist racist project” as part of a wider trend of “normalization” with Israeli authorities.
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee also reportedlycondemned Palestinian leadership following Majdalani’s attendance of the event as indicative of the PA’s ongoing security coordination with Israel at the expense of the rights of Palestinian civilians.
Palestinian factions in the past have accused the PA of a “revolving door policy” that funnels Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons as part of “escalating security collaboration” with the Israeli authorities.
(Source / 17.06.2016)

Israel to allocate $19 million for settlements construction

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Israeli cabinet will vote at its weekly session on Sunday to add another 74 million shekels ($19 million) to 340 million already earmarked for Israeli settlement in the West Bank, Haaretz Hebrew newspaper revealed. The Israeli cabinet will vote at its weekly Sunday session on a proposed addition of 74 million shekels ($19 million) to a budget of 340 million shekels for Jewish settlements, for a  “unique security situation they face on a daily basis.” The draft proposal says: “Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria live in a unique security situation on a daily basis due to their geographic location and fabric of life in the region”. “Since October there has been an escalation in the security situation in the West Bank. The security escalation has a lot of effects on various parts of life, including a psychological and social impact, and an economic effect on businesses which calls for special responses and services.” Haaretz reported two months ago that Netanyahu and former war minister Moshe Ya’alon had decided to advance the construction of hundreds of settlement homes. The plan was quietly frozen for about a year, but there has recently been a decision to advance new plans to the Civil Administration’s planning commission.

(Source / 17.06.2016)

BDS: Discussing Difficult Issues in a Fast-Growing Movement

By Omar Barghouti

Palestinian fishermen hold banners in a protest to demand the boycott of the Israeli agricultural products, during the 10th annual Israeli Apartheid Week, at the seaport of Gaza City on March 16, 2014. Photo by Ashraf Amra


Israel’s attacks on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and other human rights defenders living under occupation, such as Al Haq staff, have dominated the headlines in recent weeks, including the direct threats made by leading Israeli officials against BDS activists and in particular against the movement’s co-founder Omar Barghouti.

Beyond the headlines, the work goes on, as does continuous debate and discussion to further the movement amongst Palestinians at home and abroad as well as among global solidarity activists. There is much to discuss and some of the issues are difficult ones, including questions of framing. Al-Shabaka Executive Director Nadia Hijab discussed some of these issues in a wide-ranging conversation with Omar Barghouti.

Omar began by clarifying that all the views he expresses here are his and his alone; they do not necessarily reflect the views of the wider BDS movement or its Palestinian leadership, the BDS National Committee (BNC).

Omar, thanks for making the time at this especially difficult juncture (to put it mildly) for the movement and for you personally. The BDS movement’s goals – self-determination, freedom from occupation, equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the right of return – encompass Palestinian rights under international law. But we know that the BDS movement will not on its own achieve Palestinian rights. What other movements are needed and what mix of strategies is necessary? 

Boycotts have historically been one of the main popular resistance strategies available to Palestinians of all walks of life, and today, in the realm of international solidarity, BDS is the most important and strategic form of support to our struggle for self-determination. The BDS movement has never claimed that it is the only strategy to achieve full Palestinian rights under international law. Nor is it possible to expect it to deliver Palestinian rights by itself. Among other strategies are, for example, local popular resistance against the wall and colonies as well as legal strategies to hold Israel and its leaders accountable for the crimes they have committed against the Palestinian people.

In fact, one of the most significant strategies available to us that is hardly being pursued is diplomatic and political work with parliaments and governments across the world to isolate Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid and have sanctions imposed on it similar to those applied to apartheid South Africa. Taking this path is primarily blocked by a complicit Palestinian officialdom that lacks a democratic mandate, principles and vision.

“The BDS movement has never claimed that it is the only strategy to achieve full Palestinian rights…Nor is it possible to expect it to deliver Palestinian rights by itself.”

A very important component of Palestinian resistance to Israel’s regime are Palestinians in exile, who represent half the Palestinian people. We are not just talking about refugee communities, who are clearly the most important to consider, but also Palestinians, like those active in Adalah New York, Students for Justice in Palestine chapters, social movements in the UK or Chile, and their equivalent across the world of Palestinian communities in exile, who play a leading role in promoting Palestinian rights, including through BDS-related actions.

Palestinian citizens of Israel are also often forgotten when people talk about Palestinian resistance, despite their crucial role not only in steadfastness in the face of Israel’s regime of Zionist settler-colonialism but also their active popular, academic, cultural, legal and political resistance to the regime and its institutionalized and legalized racist structures and policies.

Some Palestinians in exile, however, claim they are unwilling to support BDS because “Palestinians don’t ‘do’ solidarity with our own people.”

But the traditional Palestinian political discourse of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s is largely gone. In South Africa, the national liberation movement remained active until the very last minute, but we have, unfortunately, lost much of what made up the Palestinian national liberation movement largely due to the Oslo agreements. The Palestinian leadership, with the explicit or implicit endorsement of most Palestinian political parties, has surrendered basic Palestinian rights and accepted dictates by the United States and European Union to adapt to most of Israel’s regime of colonial oppression.

The Palestinian people is now in a state of loss and disarray. There is no longer a Palestinian “national consensus,” if ever there was one. Even the Palestinian political parties, right and left, Islamist and secular, with almost no exception, talk of “independence” and not national liberation, often forgetting the refugees and always omitting Palestinian citizens of Israel from the very definition of the Palestinian people.

It is up to the entire Palestinian people to determine its future and the solution to this colonial conflict. In the meantime, every Palestinian individual, group or coalition must strive to weaken the Israeli regime of oppression, as a prerequisite to attain Palestinian rights under international law. We in the BDS movement have opted for developing one, time-honored form of Palestinian resistance and the most effective form of grassroots international solidarity with it, based on rights, not political solutions.

BDS of course recognizes that there are other strategies and approaches; we’re just saying that we chose to focus on the rights, not the solutions, because for any political solution – determined by the majority of Palestinians everywhere – to be just, comprehensive and sustainable it must accommodate our rights under international law. Moreover, to be effective you need to have something close to a Palestinian consensus, and to achieve that we had to stick to the most principled and strategic lowest common denominator, to the most significant and least controversial goals of the Palestinian people that hardly anyone can object to: Ending the 1967 occupation, ending the system of apartheid, and fulfilling the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and properties from which they were ethnically cleansed during and since the Nakba. And we adhere to these rights strictly.

This approach has brought us broad support amongst Palestinians. The BNC recently organized a relatively large rally in Ramallah in a show of popular Palestinian support for BDS. I personally do not see that kind of street mobilization as a decisive indicator of popular support, but my colleagues insisted we needed to do it in order to demonstrate to the world the popular appeal of BDS. There were over 2,000 people and many speakers from political parties and grassroots movements and unions, all of whom expressed strong support for BDS. One of the outcomes of that rally was to defuse the perception among some local circles that BDS was “elitist”.

There are those who don’t want to support the nonviolent BDS movement because it’s “below their political ceiling.” Being revolutionary, in my view, is not about raising “revolutionary” slogans that are not implementable and that therefore have little chance of contributing to processes aimed at ending the reality of oppression. What is truly revolutionary is raising a slogan that is principled and morally consistent and yet conducive to action on the ground that can lead to real change towards justice and emancipation. Otherwise you remain an armchair intellectual.

And yet the way the BDS movement is sometimes represented makes it sound as though it alone can actually achieve Palestinian rights. The frequent references to South Africa convey that impression, whether intended or not.

We Palestinians always compare our strategies and progress to South Africa and other movements for justice, self-determination and human rights – and we know that we’re missing key pillars that were critical to their success.

In South Africa, for example, the African National Congress-led struggle identified four strategic pillars for the struggle to end apartheid: Mass mobilizations, armed resistance, an underground political movement, and international solidarity (particularly in the form of boycotts and sanctions). There is no “copy-paste” strategy to achieve liberation and human rights – every colonial experience is different and has its unique particularities. We have been engaged in evolving our own Palestinian strategies that suit our environment of struggle for justice and dignity.

“Being revolutionary… is not about raising ‘revolutionary’ slogans … What is truly revolutionary is raising a slogan that is principled and morally consistent and yet conducive to action on the ground that can lead to real change towards justice”

In the case of the Palestinian struggle, the pillar of the underground movement is limited to Gaza, where it is isolated. International law upholds the right of any nation under a foreign occupation to resist it by all means, including armed resistance, so long as all forms of resistance themselves adhere to international law and human rights principles. Aside from that, as human rights advocates, we are obliged to consider the cost-benefit of this pillar at this stage and to measure the human price of any resistance.

As for mass mobilization, what we can do in the occupied Palestinian territory in terms of popular resistance, for example, against the Wall, is fairly limited. And it is not really a mass movement in the way that, for example, the recent teachers’ strike was popular, or the strikes against the Salam Fayyad government’s neo-liberalism or against the social security law were popular.

The whole question of the effectiveness of different forms of resistance is key and we in the BDS movement engage in the question of the effectiveness of our nonviolent, international law-abiding strategies at every stage.

Another concern is that some of the BDS movement’s discourse makes it sound as if Palestinians are on the point of achieving their rights. That comes out not only in the frequent references to the South Africa “moment”, but also in statements that say that a “tipping point” has been reached.

Yes, but when we speak of a tipping point, we mean a tipping point only in terms of the specific pillar of international isolation. The measure of effectiveness is whether you’re achieving your goals or not. BDS is one of the strategies of internal resistance and it is also the most important international strategy. We never claimed otherwise. Why, then, should BDS be held responsible, say, for the inability of the Palestinian people to achieve our goals of self-determination and national liberation? At least give us credit for being realistic.

There are many and growing critiques of the international law framework. Does that pose a problem for the BDS movement given it is grounded in international law?

To be effective in mobilizing international pressure by groups and individuals of conscience against Israel’s regime of oppression, as well as morally consistent, we must adopt human rights principles that are as universal as possible as well as a language that can touch people across the world and inspire them to action. That’s the language of international law.  We know the inherent flaws of international law as well as anyone. But we also know that it is either that or the law of the jungle, and the latter does not work for us, on principle and practically, given that we are by far the physically weaker party.

We don’t want symbolic rhetoric: We’re sick and tired of rhetorical support. We need effective, strategic action that has a chance to undermine the system of oppression in order to make it more realistic for the Palestinian people to realize our UN-stipulated rights. The minimal action people can take is to end their complicity. That’s a profound legal and moral obligation to end this injustice; it is not an act of charity.

“We Palestinians always compare our strategies and progress to South Africa and other movements for justice, self-determination and human rights – and we know that we’re missing key pillars that were critical to their success.”

What are the alternatives to international law? It’s true that the colonial empires wrote it. It’s true that it is not weighted in favor of the peoples of the world, but it is not a dogma or a static set of laws that are engraved in stone. There is a simplistic view of international law that doesn’t see it as something dynamic, as something where we, through our persistent and mass struggles, can affect the interpretation and the application. After all, we are not asking for the moon; we are simply working to consistently apply international law to Israel and to end its exceptional status as a state above the law. That is a simple yet far-reaching demand that requires years of strategic struggle.

There is lack of clarity around the normalization guidelines that is often a source of tension with activists – and especially among Palestinians who may engage in activities that are said to be “normalizing” and who don’t appreciate what seems like having their nationalism called into question.

The normalization guidelines are very clear. The reference document to that was adopted by consensus at the first national Palestinian BDS conference, held in November 2007. Normalization, in this context, is understood by Arabs, including Palestinians, to mean making something that is inherently abnormal, like a relationship of colonial oppression, appear deceptively normal. According to the BDS guidelines, there here are two main principles in order for a relationship between a Palestinian (or Arab) party and an Israeli party not to be considered normalization. The Israeli side must recognize the comprehensive Palestinian rights under international law, and the relationship itself should be one of co-resistance to oppression, not “co-existence” under oppression.

The whole point is that such relationships should not legitimize, fig-leaf or whitewash Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. To consider an example that may not be immediately obvious, say an organization in the United States is organizing a conference and has received sponsorship from Israel or an Israeli institution that is complicit in violations of Palestinian rights. And let’s say that the US organization is willing to have a panel that would include Palestinian speakers so as to provide space for a Palestinian voice. Participation under these circumstances would mean that we are effectively normalizing Israeli sponsorship – in other words normalizing the violations of our rights. This is too high a price to pay for our voices to be heard, as important as that is, given the mainstream media’s suppression of these voices. So we work closely with partners to apply pressure to rescind that Israeli sponsorship, and if that fails we call for a boycott.

But there are still gray areas, and it is in the gray areas where problems can arise – especially as some people take it on their shoulders to speak on behalf of the BDS movement and to lay down the law when in fact they have no authority to do so.

There are always gray areas. I would say 90% of the cases that we deal with are indeed gray. When we come across a gray area, we go back to the principle and try our best to measure profit vs. loss. BDS, after all, is not intended to be a dogma, but rather an effective strategy to contribute to our struggle for our rights.

Some Palestinians want to have their cake and eat it too. They allow themselves to engage in projects and activities that clearly conflict with the anti-normalization guidelines, adopted since 2007 by the broadest coalition of political parties, unions and networks in Palestinian society, yet they reject any characterization of those activities as normalization simply because they are “patriotic” and “no one should call that into question.” In the BDS movement, we do not call into question anyone’s patriotism and we never ever label anyone or resort to personal attacks; that would conflict with our principles as a movement. We also reject any suppression of freedom of speech and the simplistic and harmful dismissal of those engaged in normalization activists as “traitors.”

“We attack positions and statements but not individuals, and we don’t believe in blacklists or any form of McCarthyism. It negates our principles, it’s an abuse of power, and it’s counter-productive.”

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) simply mobilizes moral pressure to expose normalization activities in order to undermine normalization. It is vital to counter normalization activities because they constitute a key weapon that Israel has used against the movement and against the Palestinian struggle for rights in general.

And sometimes we do things that are seen as ahead of their time or use language that is not yet accepted. For example, when we first used apartheid as a key facet of Israel’s regime of oppression or insisted on the right of return in our international discourse, both were frowned upon not only in the mainstream but even in some Palestine solidarity circles in the west. Also, when the 2004 call by PACBI (the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) mentioned Zionism as a racist ideology that has been a pillar in Israel’s settler-colonial regime, this issue was hardly discussed in most Palestine solidarity circles in the west in the post-Oslo period.

It’s important not to conflate opposition to Zionism and to Israel’s regime of colonial oppression and apartheid as being an opposition to Jews: It is absolutely not. The BDS movement has consistently and categorically rejected all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The fact that 46% of non-Orthodox Jewish-American men under 40 support a full boycott of Israel to end its occupation and human rights violations, according to a 2014 poll, partly attests to the inclusive, anti-racist character of the movement.

Can you give an example of what you do when there is a gray area?

We never take decisions as individual members of the BNC or of its academic and cultural arm PACBI when there’s a gray area; we always go back to the group and decide collectively, based on the agreed upon principles, not the personal opinions and biases of each of us. We don’t give our advice or recommendation until we reach consensus. If we have a deadlock we say to the person seeking advice that we don’t have clear advice to give them. We pick our battles. We don’t chase everything, and we ignore so many targets based on cost-benefit calculations.

We don’t issue edicts; rather, we issue advice. We never say “thou shalt”.

“It is vital to counter normalization activities because they constitute a key weapon that Israel has used against the movement and against the Palestinian struggle for rights in general.”

And we never use ad hominem attacks – we have never done so since BDS was founded in 2005. We attack positions and statements but not individuals, and we don’t believe in blacklists or any form of McCarthyism. It negates our principles, it’s an abuse of power, and it’s counter-productive. Personally, I’ve never engaged with anyone who, for example, attacks us as “agents of imperialism” or similar ultra-left nonsense. We pick our battles, as I said earlier, and we keep our eyes on the real enemies.
When we engage to stop a normalization activity, our objective is always to first and foremost convince the person involved to stop normalizing. You can’t use ad hominem attacks and expect that person to side with you. And in fact many Palestinians who were engaged in normalization 10 years ago are now BDS supporters, and that’s partly because we avoid personal injury. It’s wrong on principle and it’s pragmatically wrong.

When someone has a question, we recommend seeking advice from PACBI or the BNC, or one of our partners in any given country and we seek to resolve it through interactive debate. We now have much better mechanisms to implement the guidelines.

There is a gray area that was cited to me as an example of something Palestinians don’t understand, and indeed find problematic – that of Arab passport holders entering Israel on a visa issued by an Israeli embassy being treated as normalization, as opposed to getting a permit issued by the Israelis at the request of the Palestinian Authority (PA). People don’t get the difference because Israel issues both.

That is a sticky point and a very difficult one. After extensive debates, community meetings and discussions with many Palestinian artists and cultural organizations, we concluded that when an Arab passport holder receives an Israeli visa he/she is normalizing Arab relations with the regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid by treating this regime as if it were normal. Whereas obtaining a permit from the Israeli occupation authorities through the PA is not, despite the problematic nature of the PA’s role, to put it mildly, because Palestinians under occupation are in a coercive relationship with Israel: Palestinians have no choice to receive family or friends from the Arab world without dealing with the Israeli authorities. But such dealings do not per se recognize Israel’s regime as normal.  Still, we recognize this as a difficult area, and we admit that it is not the most robust or irrefutable of our guidelines.

My question is this: Why don’t Palestinian BDS critics at home or in exile write to us if they seek clarification or want to share their criticisms in a constructive way that strengthens our collective movement? We get hundreds of emails daily from solidarity activists but very few from Palestinians. A few Palestinians attack BDS without bothering to first write to the BNC and express their critique in a way that can help make this already effective movement better and more able to handle the many challenges facing it. We are open to and we sincerely encourage discussion and debate among Palestinians in our diverse communities. I beg those with questions, criticisms, or comments to communicate with us – just write to or Despite the workload we, as volunteers, have to deal with, we do our utmost to respond to every email we receive, especially one coming from a Palestinian sister or brother.

(Source / 17.06.2016)

80 Civilians Killed by Russian Airstrikes on Aleppo despite 48-Hour Truce

The Syrian Coalition said that Russia has lost its credibility as a sponsor of negotiations. The Coalition said that Russia proves day after day it cannot claim to be a guarantor of the political process in Syria as it is directly complicit in the crimes and terrorism perpetrated against the Syrian people.

The Coalition stressed that the latest political developments and the situation on the ground clearly show that every time Russia declares a temporary truce in Syria, it is the first to violate it through airstrikes carried out by its forces or those of the Assad regime.

On Wednesday, Russia’s Defense Ministry declared a 48-hour truce in Aleppo set to begin on Thursday night with the aim of “reducing violence and stabilizing the situation” in the city.

Russian and Regime forces soon violated the truce. Activists said they recorded no fewer than 30 beaches during the first 24 hours. Over 85 civilians were killed in aerial and artillery bombardments by Russian and regime forces on the city of Aleppo and its surrounding towns and villages on Thursday.

Breaches of the 48-hour truce recorded included: 20 by Russian forces, 13 by regime forces, 2 by the PYD militia, and 1 by Iranian-backed foreign militias.

The attacks by the Russian, regime and PYD forces were concentrated on the Castello road, the last supply route into the liberated parts of the city of Aleppo. The road was hit with over 100 missiles. Three civilians, two women and a man, were killed. Many civilian vehicles were burned as a result of the shelling on the road.

Barrel bombs dropped by regime’s helicopters also hit Alsabireen mosque in Jisr Alhaj district, causing huge fire inside the mosque.

Russian jets bombed the towns of Anadan, Khan Touman, Alzorba, Qibtan Aljabal, Kafarnaha, and Babees in rural Aleppo with the internationally-banned phosphorous.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 17.06.2016)