On the racial basis of Zionism

Independence Day 1953 Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion on the grandstand during the parade in Haifa. (Photo: Hans Pinn/GPO)
INDEPENDENCE DAY 1953 ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER DAVID BEN-GURION ON THE GRANDSTAND DURING THE PARADE IN HAIFA

By Sivan Tal

The Likud election campaign for the 23rd Knesset claimed that the Blue and White party aims to form a government supported by the Joint List, and this led Benny Gantz to declare that he “will set up a government with a Jewish majority” that will not depend on Arab parties. Yair Lapid continued in a similar vein, arguing that “we are just a few mandates away from forming a coalition of a Jewish majority.” The term “a Jewish majority” is used by those centrist politicians to refer to a coalition consisting solely of Jewish parties. Later, after being criticized by the entire political spectrum, they both regretted the use of the term “Jewish majority.” Lapid refined the claim by stating “We need a majority of Zionist parties that believe in a Jewish and democratic state,” meaning that “we are by no means racists, we are simply Zionists who believe the state must be Jewish (and of course – democratic).”

Why is the coupling of religion and nationality so important for Zionist Jews? Is Judaism a religion, or a race, or a people? Either way, once the state is by definition Jewish, any criticism of the Jewish state is viewed as criticism of Jews for being Jewish, and such critics are immediately called antisemitic. In this article, I characterize Judaism as it is perceived and shaped by the Zionist ideology, specify the differences between the concepts of Judaism and Zionism, and present the concepts of racism and antisemitism in light of these distinctions.

The Jewish communities in Israel and in the Diaspora are largely pro-Zionist. Almost all Israelis and the vast majority of world Jewry support the state of Israel and its definition as a Jewish state and a territorial-sovereign national home for Jews. Thanks to Israel’s intensive propaganda (“hasbara”), the identification of Jews with Zionism has led to the popular equation of the terms Judaism and Zionism. This is the basis for the claim that opposing Zionism stems from antisemitism. Furthermore, the Israeli “hasbara” attributes any criticism of Israel to antisemitism, with the aim of dismantling any such criticism. Because Zionism is seen as the “new Judaism,” opposition to it is labeled the “new antisemitism” – and a new expression was born…

The term “new antisemitism,” then, is a fiction that has nothing to do with antisemitism. Not only is criticism of Israel obviously not antisemitic, but also opposing Zionism and Israel in its definition as  a Jewish state does not necessarily stem from antisemitism, and is in itself definitely not antisemitic. Moreover, it is the Zionist movement itself that stems from the same racist elements as does political antisemitism. (By “political antisemitism,” I refer to state laws and policies and political movements driven by antisemitism. There is also a take on defining that term here.) I now examine the racist foundations underlying Zionism, and the links between them and political antisemitism, links that had already existed in the early days of the Zionist movement, and are still apparent today.

Outlining Jewish nationalism

“with blood and sweat 

will arise a race, 

proud, generous and fierce.”

That’s what the prominent revisionist Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky wrote in the anthem of the Betar youth movement in 1932. He did not mean race in the genetic sense as the Nazis laid down in their race laws three years later, but race in the sense of a people, a tribe. Over the years, Zionist ideologists have repeatedly hopped between the Jewish religion and Jewish nationality they constructed anew, and secular Judaism inherited from mother to son, linking things in a very complex way. It gets as absurd as claiming that service in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) is an expression of Judaism, as Benny Gantz argued in response to the claim that many immigrants from Russia are not Jews, linking army service to being Jewish, that is, belonging to the Jewish people.

Zionist ideology is racist because it defines Judaism as a race and maintains a regime that discriminates against non-Jews. According to the definition of Judaism by Zionists (the definition of the Jewish race, if you will), Jews are the ones who profess Judaism, as are their descendants. This means we have a mixture of religious-faith principles (and note you can also convert to Judaism) and genetic principles (as defined by the Nazis);  thus the descendants of the Jews are hereditary Jews, regardless of their faith or the observance of any Jewish commandments or customs.

These elements existed in Judaism long before Zionism. The Ashkenazi Jewish communities in Europe, where the Zionist movement was born, were very separatist, and it was in Europe where political antisemitism was born too. The Zionists – who were looking for a solution to the problem of rising antisemitism in Europe – believed that antisemitism was an inherent and permanent social factor because Jews were “racially” different. If we are different from the peoples among whom we live – argued the Zionists – we shall create “the Jewish people” with its own sovereignty and territory by establishing a Jewish state.

Max Nordau, one of the founders of Zionism, who himself married a Protestant woman, was, by his own definition, an assimilated Jew – who gave up following the Jewish commandments – a man of European culture. Nordau was more attracted to German culture than to Judaism: “By the age of fifteen, I had abandoned the Jewish way of life and the study of the Torah… Judaism remained nothing more than a memory for me, and I have always felt German, only German.” In the Second Zionist Congress in 1898, Nordau called for the return of the “lost muscular Judaism.” For him, the “diasporic Jew” should be revived as the “physical Jew,” thus dismantling the sense of humiliation of the Jews in Europe in response to European antisemitism. This idea was influenced by the racial theories that were popular in Europe at that time. In fact, Nordau embraced the antisemites’ hatred for the diasporic Jew” and as a solution to antisemitism advocated the improvement of the Jewish race by changing the Jewish way of life.

The main Zionist movement abandoned orthodox Judaism and replaced it with national Judaism. Religious-faith was abandoned as an ancient and non-contemporary tradition (except for the justification of the right to conquer the land) and religious values were replaced by new values of farming and fighting. The racial foundation was strengthened, and separatism became an ideology favoring the expulsion of the native Palestinians, violent fighting against the British colonialists, and even Jews who opposed to Zionist national Judaism. One of the most extreme expressions of murderous racist isolationism was the persecution of Jewish women who married British soldiers by the underground militias, including murder. One may call it “reverse antisemitism.” Paradoxically, the secular Zionist Jews are much more like Biblical Jews than orthodox diasporic Jews: The Biblical figures of Joshua and King David were role models for Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion and general Moshe Dayan, for example.

In this handout from the Israeli Governmental Press Office, Southern Command General Ariel Sharon chats with former Prime Minister David Ben Gurion during a bus tour of Israeli army installations January 27, 1971 near the Suez Canal in the Sinai Desert, Egypt. (Photo: GPO/ Getty Images)
IN THIS HANDOUT FROM THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENTAL PRESS OFFICE, SOUTHERN COMMAND GENERAL ARIEL SHARON CHATS WITH FORMER PRIME MINISTER DAVID BEN GURION DURING A BUS TOUR OF ISRAELI ARMY INSTALLATIONS JANUARY 27, 1971 NEAR THE SUEZ CANAL IN THE SINAI DESERT, EGYPT

The connection between antisemitism and support for Zionism

European antisemites sympathized and even cooperated with the Zionist movement. Ideologies and interests joined together when Nazi Germany cooperated with the Zionist leadership in transferring Jews from Germany to Palestine in the 1930s. Similarly, in 1885 an antisemitic German writer conceived the Madagascar Plan, aimed to transfer European Jews to Madagascar; the difference between it and Palestine is merely geographic. This program was adopted in the 20th century by antisemites in Britain, Poland and France and during World War II also by Nazi Germany, which almost implemented it. (Ironically and horrifyingly, it was the thwarting of the plan by the British that eventually led to the implementation of “the final solution.”) The conceptual basis of all these antisemitic plans is the same as that of Zionism – seeing the Jews as a distinct race, that should be kept separate as a people in its own territory. The fulfillment of the Zionist vision is largely the victory of the antisemites, as evidenced by what SS commander, Reinhard Heydrich, wrote in a statement in 1935:

“National Socialism has no intention of attacking the Jewish people in any way. On the contrary, the recognition of Jewry as a racial community based on blood, and not as a religious one, leads the German government to guarantee the racial separateness of this community without any limitations. The government finds itself in complete agreement with the great spiritual movement within Jewry itself, the so-called Zionism, with its recognition of the solidarity of Jewry throughout the world and the rejection of all assimilationist ideas. On this basis, Germany undertakes measures that will surely play a significant role in the future in the handling of the Jewish problem around the world.”

Arthur James Balfour is well known and celebrated in Israel for his Balfour Declaration of 1917, which he sent as Foreign Minister to Walter Rothschild, a leading figure in the British Jewish community. According to the declaration, “His Majesty’s government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” (Palestine was  still under Ottoman rule at the time…)  Balfour’s support of the Zionist movement stemmed from antisemitism. As prime minister, he supported the Aliens Act 1905 aimed at preventing Jews from Eastern Europe entering Britain. In his speech he warned MPs of “the undoubted evils that had fallen upon the country from an immigration which was largely Jewish.” (At that time the World Zionist Congress accused him of “open antisemitism.”) Establishing a national home for Jews in Palestine was for Balfour a solution to the problem of Jewish refugees in his country.

The connection between Zionism and antisemitism did not end with the establishment of the State of Israel. Even today, we see antisemitic elements supporting Israel. In recent years, we have witnessed the strengthening of Israel’s ties with countries such as the United States, Poland, Hungary, India and Brazil whose leaders are openly antisemitic. The Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is known for his affection for Hitler, is also an avid friend and supporter of Israel. Beatrix von Storch, leader of the far-right party Alternative for Germany, considered by many of its supporters to be the successor of the Nazis, said in an interview for the Jerusalem Post that “Israel could be a role model for Germany.” She added that “Israel makes efforts to preserve its unique culture and traditions. The same should be possible for Germany and any other nation.” She thus expressed the common ideals and aspirations of antisemitism and Zionism – that because Jews have their own culture and tradition, they should live in their own country, similar to what Germany should do. Israel officially disapproves of von Storch’s antisemitic party, but beneath the surface there is sympathy for its white supremacist ideology and Islamophobia, and sometimes it comes out.

In addition to separatism and to the interest of sending Jews from their lands of birth to Israel, Western antisemites have another motive for their support of Israel, which is hatred of Muslims. Xenophobia, once directed at Jews, is now directed at Muslim immigrant and refugee communities. In this sense, Muslims are the “new Jews” of Europe. (see also here.) In this context, Israel is viewed as the forefront of the war of civilizations – “the Western war against extremist Islam.” All this means that the same extremist right-wingers in Europe support Israelfight the pro-Palestinian BDS, and attack local Jews.

India has been ruled by the BJP party led by Narendra Modi since 2014. Modi was one of the prominent leaders of the RSS movement with whom the ruling party is identified, a Hindu nationalist movement founded in 1925 and known for its admiration for the Nazi movement and Mussolini’s fascism in Italy. The movement advocates treating the Muslim minority in India as the Nazis treated Jews in the 1930s, and Modi does implement a policy similar to the one implemented by the Nazis. In recent years, relations between India and Israel in general and between Modi and Netanyahu, in particular, have tightened. The worldview of the two leaders is remarkably similar, as is their attitude toward Muslims in their own countries. On his visit to India in 2018, Netanyahu said: “India and Israel are living proof not only that democracy works but they demonstrate something deeper – the intrinsic value of freedom which I believe is the intrinsic value of life. Citizens thrive ultimately it is the free citizens who thrive because they are free and when they are free.” In the same speech he referenced a 2008 attack in Mumbai where 101 were killed, staging, “Indians and Israelis know too well the pain of terrorist attacks. We remember the horrific savagery in Mumbai. We grit our teeth, we fight back, we never give in.”

Nationalism and racism in the land of Israel

 A study by Dr. Sachlav Stoler-Liss of Ben-Gurion University found that race theory was very strong and present in Jewish society in Palestine in the 1930s, and ideas very similar to Nazi methods of racial improvement were applied. “It is interesting to note that in Germany and in Israel, too, a connection has been made between eugenics, health and nationalism,” said Stoler-Liss. (It should be noted that Germany and Israel are not the only states where these racist theories took hold). Dr. Arthur Ruppin, head of the Israeli Ministry of the World Zionist Organization, wrote in his book “The Sociology of the Jews,” “In order to preserve the purity of our race, such Jews [with signs of degeneracy – S.T.] must refrain from having children.”

After the Nazi Holocaust, the reputation of race theory declined and many writings about it were shelved, but the ideology did not disappear. Dr. Yosef Meir, one of the prominent eugenicists during the British Mandate, offered to castrate the mentally ill, and in the early 1950s he published severe criticism of the 100-pound “natality prize,” which Ben-Gurion promised to every woman giving birth to 10 children (a sick idea in itself): “We have no interest in the 10th child or even in the seventh in poor families from the East … In today’s reality we should pray frequently for a second child in a family that is a part of the intelligentsia. The poor classes of the population must not be instructed to have many children, but should rather be restricted.” Here, white European racism towards Mizrahi Jews is evident, combined with the idea of racial improvement in the spirit of Nazi Germany’s Lebensborn.

Even today there are circles in Israeli society that adhere to the same ideology adopted by the Nazis in Germany. Rabbi Redler of the Bnei David pre-military preparatory school in Eli explained to his students that “in his ideology he [Hitler] is 100% right, except that he is on the wrong side.” This is not a one-off slip of the tongue, but is rather part of a series of recorded lectures by various teachers in the institute, expressed in the spirit of these ideas; these lectures were recorded and saved in the institute’s lecture archive available to the students. Even after a public mini-storm following the publication in the mainstream media, the same rabbis did not apologize but rather justified themselves, and continued as teachers and educators. The website of the Bnei David pre-military preparatory school (founded in 1988) states that it currently enrolls over 700 students and has about 3,500 graduates. Over 40 percent of the graduates are IDF officers, and the vast majority have served and serve in combat units and elite units. The preparatory school’s founder and head, Eli Sadan, won the Israel Prize in 2016 for his special contribution to state and society.

The Zionist ideology and Israel’s aggressive policy toward its opponents is strikingly similar to the extreme nationalist policies against Jewish people by generations of racist regimes. It’s a racist ideology according to which the strong rule and the weak are subservient to them and live only according to their arbitrariness. The same ideology that has afflicted Jewish minorities in Europe for generations and allowed the pogroms and murders of Jews characterize Israel as Benjamin Netanyahu put it: “In our region the weak do not survive, only the strong survive, and the strong is the one that thrives. With the strong one makes alliances, with the strong, and only with the strong, one makes peace. Even if it takes time, only with the strong, not the weak.” He tweeted a similar message after his speech at Shimon Peres’ funeral in 2018. Many Jews have been the victims of such attitudes in the past. This is arguably an example of the “battered child syndrome” – the one who suffers violence becomes violent and applies the violence he suffered to his own victims.

*****

Antisemitism is hatred of Jews and is an expression of racism. Ironically, it is precisely the Zionists who express racism typical of Jew-hating antisemites. The racism is the same racism and the hatred the same hatred – whether it is directed towards Jews (in the case of antisemites) or towards Arabs (in the case of the Zionists).

I do not claim that all Zionists are Arab haters. Most Zionists are not. Their racism is disguised (even in themselves). They are educated in the spirit of human love and philanthropy arising out of a sense of supremacy and of being “the chosen people.” They do not want to hurt Arabs, and resist such acts or harm or at least disapprove of it.

Harming Arabs is the work of the establishment through legislation, diplomacy and military force; but there is also a violent minority sanctioned by an inciting government that enjoys the violent minority’s contribution to the struggle against the indigenous population. Such violent acts enjoy the passive support of racist cultured Jews, whose understanding of reality is based on state propaganda that begins with the education system, continues with military service and ends with the mobilized media which reports Zionist views only. (In Israeli mainstream media, Palestinian violence and terror toward Jews are covered extensively while military and civilian violence toward Palestinians is mostly being ignored.)

The following words were said by Albert Einstein in a 1938 speech in New York:

“I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state. My awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain—especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish state.”

To put it simply, Einstein said: Let’s not be like them. No wonder that in 1952 he rejected David Ben-Gurion’s bid to make him president of the state whose narrow-minded nationalism he had warned against.  In recent years, the State of Israel has been waging war against its opponents and critics under the guise of “war on antisemitism” and it exploits the Holocaust memory to justify it. However, this propaganda exercise is hugely ironic. The Nazi Holocaust was the result of an extreme combination of racism and nationalism, which – we should recognize – formed the basis of the Zionist movement and are prevalent in Israeli society to this day. In its ideology, policies, and actions toward the indigenous Palestinian population, the state of Israel generates antisemitism more than it routs it, and endangers the Jews around the world more than it protects them. The fight against antisemitism must begin by campaigning against racism and nationalism. Only a thorough overhaul of the regime can transform Israel from an entity that generates antisemitism to one that fights antisemitism.

(Source / 29.05.2020)

Israeli plan to raze East Jerusalem homes may be first step towards mass demolitions across the West Bank

The Wadi al-Hummus area of Sur Bahir, East Jerusalem (Photo: Saleh Zghari)

The Wadi al-Hummus area of Sur Bahir, East Jerusalem 

In less than 24 hours, 42-year-old Ismail Obeidiya, his wife Nida, and their six kids, could be made homeless. It’s a terrifying reality that Obeidiya is struggling to grapple with, his unease and frustration more palpable with every word.

“We fought so long and so hard, for years, to try to save our home. But in the end, the Israeli courts, the ‘High Court of Justice’ as they say, could not offer us any justice,” Obeidiya told Mondoweiss from the front yard of his home.

The Obeidiyas’ home is one of 10 buildings slated for an unprecedented mass demolition by Israeli authorities in the occupied East Jerusalem town of Sur Bahir.

While Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem are commonplace, typically under the pretext that the homes were built without Israeli-issued permits, the homes in question stand on ‘Area A’ and ‘Area B’ land under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA), as designated by the Oslo Accords.

While most of Sur Bahir is located inside Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, the area that Obeidiya lives in, called Wadi al-Hummus, borders the Green Line and is technically a part of the West Bank; but when Israel began constructing the Separation Wall in the area in 2005, the barrier was routed around Sur Bahir so that Wadi al-Hummus was annexed into the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem side of the barrier.

Despite the fact that residents of the area duly obtained building permits from the PA, Israel has continued to move forward with orders to demolish the homes on the grounds that they violate a 2011 Israeli military order prohibiting construction within a 100-300-meter buffer zone of the separation wall.

“I chose this area to build my home because it’s Area A, we thought this would protect us,” Obeidiya told Mondoweiss. “Contrary to what they say — we are here legally. Their demolition orders are illegal.”

Last month the Israeli Supreme Court denied a 2017 petition filed by Obeidiya and his fellow residents to save their homes, ending a seven-year legal battle in Israeli courts.

One week later, the court issued a notice to residents saying that they had one month, until July 18th, to demolish their homes. If they did not do so, Israeli authorities would demolish the homes for them, and send the residents the bill for demolition fees.

Should Israel follow through with the demolitions, local and international officials fear it could pave the way for Israel to enforce widespread demolitions in PA-controlled border communities across the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“This will set a dangerous precedent for the Israeli occupation to take control of this area and others like it,” Hamada Hamada, 54, a local activist in Wadi al-Hummus told Mondoweiss, expressing fears that Israeli authorities will try to enforce similar measures across the occupied Palestinian territory.

“If these demolitions go through, all Palestinian towns on the border lines, close to settlements — basically anyone living on any land Israel wants, even if it’s controlled by the PA, they will be in danger and under threat.”

International attention

The case of Sur Bahir and the residents of Wadi al-Hummus has drawn widespread international attention in recent weeks, given the political gravity of the situation.

According to UN OCHA, if the demolitions are carried out, they would result in the displacement of three households, comprising 17 people, including nine children. Some 350 people whose homes are still under construction would also be affected.

“Additionally, residents fear a heightened risk of demolition of some 100 buildings that were built after the 2011 military order in the buffer zone in Sur Bahir,” UN OCHA reported.

Dozens of Palestinian, Israeli, and European officials descended upon Sur Bahir on Tuesday at the behest of residents and local activists in a last-ditch effort to save their homes.

Diplomats from some 20 countries toured Sur Bahir, visiting the 10 buildings — comprising 70 apartments — slated for demolition as per last month’s Supreme Court order. All but one of the buildings, some of which are still under construction and uninhabited, are located on the Jerusalem side of the wall.

One of the residents to speak to the officials was Obeidiya, who urged the international community to intervene on behalf of him and his neighbors, telling them that him and his family would be left on the streets if their home was demolished.

During the tour, the French consul general for Jerusalem, Pierre Cochard, told journalists “he did not think the security explanation provided by Israel was sufficient to move ahead with the move,” the Times of Israel reported.

“I think it’s important to underline that we cannot deny their right…they are here in Palestinian territory,” Cochard said.

One of the officials present was Israeli MK Ofer Kasif of the joint Israeli-Palestinian left-wing Hadash party. “I came here today to show my support and stand with all the Palestinian families whose homes are under attack and threat of demolition,” Kasif told Mondoweiss.

“The current Israeli government has opened a war against all the Palestinian people. Home demolitions are one part of all of the things they are doing. They have one goal, to kick all the Palestinians out of their homes,” Kasif said.

In a statement on Wednesday, several UN officials called on Israel to immediately halt its plans to demolish the structures in question, and to instead “implement fair planning policies that allow Palestinian residents of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the ability to meet their housing and development needs, in line with its obligations as an occupying power.”

The Palestinian Liberation Organization released a report on the situation in Sur Bahir, urging the international community to move beyond “mere condemnations,” and take direct action against the Israeli government for its policies against Palestinians in the occupied territory.

“Israeli breaches of international law and violations of Palestinian rights, necessitate urgent action by the international community,” the report said, adding that “without accountability, Israeli impunity will prevail.”

Dividing Sur Bahir

Crucial to understanding the current fight in Wadi al-Hummus, is to understand the geography of Sur Bahir, how its land has been divided over the years, and the effects it has had on the local community.

With an estimated population of 24,000 Palestinians, Sur Bahir is one of the largest Palestinian towns in East Jerusalem, situated around 4.6 kilometers southeast of the Old City.

While the total original land area of Sur Bahir is around 10,000 dunums (approx. 2,471 acres), much of the town’s land has been confiscated by Israel over the years for the use of settlement construction, settler bypass roads, and the separation wall.

Following the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967, Israel illegally annexed some 70,000 dunums of Palestinian land and extended the boundaries of the Jerusalem municipality to dozens of Palestinian towns along the border, including most of Sur Bahir’s land.

In 1995, under the Oslo Accords, the remaining eastern neighborhoods of Sur Bahir that were not officially under the Jerusalem municipality — Wadi al-Hummus, al-Muntar, and Deir al-Amoud —  were classified as PA-controlled land, split up into Areas A, B, and C.

When speaking to Mondoweiss Hamada broke down the 10,000 dunums of Sur Bahir land into the following categories:

  • An estimated 1,700 dunums have been confiscated for the construction of nearby Israeli settlements
    Some 4,800 dunums were classified as being under the control of the Jerusalem municipality.
  • Out of those 4,800 dunums, the municipality has allocated only 1,500 dunums for the construction of homes. The majority of Sur Bahir residents live in this area.
  • The remainder of the land in Sur Bahir, approximately 3,500 dunums, is PA-controlled land, where Wadi al-Hummus is located. Some 6,000 Palestinians live there.
  • For decades residents of Sur Bahir, like many other Palestinians living in communities bordering Jerusalem and the West Bank, were forced to navigate the complex network of zoning and housing laws.

Despite some residents technically living in Jerusalem, and others living in the West Bank, the community remained unified, with the majority of them holding permanent residency in Jerusalem.

When Israel began construction of the wall in 2004, the community was faced with another problem that threatened to complicate their lives even further.

“The original planned route of the wall was to cut directly through Sur Bahir, between the separating the Jerusalem municipality area from the West Bank area of the village,” Hamada told Mondoweiss. “But the people didn’t want this, so we protested and protested against the construction of the wall.”

It was only after then US National Security Advisor Condolezza Rice intervened, that Israel changed the route of the wall to be placed further north, effectively annexing the West Bank part of Sur Bahir onto the Israeli-controlled side of the barrier.

Even though the residents “won” their battle to have the route of the wall changed, Hamada says that its construction has still caused irreversible harm to the fabric of the community.

Living in limbo

After the construction of the wall, despite being physically separated from the West Bank and put on the Jerusalem side of the barrier, the areas of Wadi al-Hummus, al-Muntar, and Deir al-Amoud and their residents have not been incorporated within the municipal boundaries.

“It’s like we are living in limbo,” Hamada told Mondoweiss. “We are legally under the jurisdiction of the PA, but the Israeli government does not allow the Palestinian to excercise its authority beyond the wall.”

“We are living in Areas A, B, and C, and thus, everything from the permission to build, paving roads, electricity, water, etc. should all be under the responsibility of the PA,” he continued. “But the wall doesn’t allow the Palestinian government to fulfill any of their responsibilities to the people.”

While the Israeli government does not allow the PA to service these areas, the Jerusalem municipality also refuses to provide services because the areas are technically outside the boundaries of the municipality.

With no one one to protect them, residents of Wadi al-Hummus and the other PA-designated areas of Sur Bahir have been subject to widespread attacks from the Israeli government.

According to UN documentation, since 2009, “Israeli authorities have demolished, or forced owners to demolish, 69 structures in Sur Bahir, on the grounds of lack of building permits, of which 46 were inhabited or under-construction homes,” resulting in the displacement of  some 400 Palestinians.

With the issuance of the Israeli military order in 2011, hundreds more homes in Areas A, B, and C, despite already have building permits from the PA, were put under threat of demolition due to their proximity to the wall.

“The buffer zone includes more than 200 buildings, of which about 100 were built after the 2011 military order, according to local sources,” UN OCHA reported.

During their conversations with Mondoweiss, both Hamada and Obeidiya stressed the fact that the demolitions would not just cause families to lose their homes, but so much more than that.

“With these demolitions, people’s entire lives will be destroyed, all the money that they saved and spent on building their dream homes will be crushed,” Hamada said.

Obeidiya says he is more than 400,000 shekels (approx. $112,940) in debt between building costs, lawyer fees, and Israeli fines.

“We are absolutely devastated. I worked for years to build a home for me and my family, a future for me and my kids,” Obeidiya told Mondoweiss. “But the Israeli occupation has destroyed us, not just our homes. They are slowly killing us.”

(Source / 18.07.2019) 

A sister’s nightmare: My little brother was shot one night during Ramadan by occupying soldiers

Amina Salah and her younger brother Mahmoud (Photo courtesy of Amina Salah)

Amina Salah and her younger brother Mahmoud

By Amina Salah 

Amina Salah, 30, is a Palestinian woman from the occupied West Bank living in California. She was born and raised in the town of al-Khader, south of Bethlehem city, where she graduated from Bethlehem University with a degree in Social Work. In addition to practicing as a social worker in Palestine, Amina taught traditional ‘dabke’ dancing to local youth, and played for the Palestinian national volleyball team. She married her husband Laith and moved to the United States in September 2018.

I am Amina Salah, a Palestinian woman. I grew up with three sisters, two brothers, and too many relatives and friends to count — too many loved ones who I try not to count, so that I don’t fall apart when I realize how many I have lost.

I always dreamt of an outrageous, courageous, and ambitious life, with a future of achievements and success waiting for me. But when I grew up, I quickly realized that as a Palestinian, holding on to my dreams wouldn’t be so simple.

First, I let go of my dream to study abroad because of visa complications. Then I let go of my dream of studying journalism in Ramallah because of the checkpoints and difficult financial situation. With every passing year, I let go of a dream somewhere, either because of the political or economic situation, until one day, I just forgot what I had been dreaming.

Since then, I learned to dream of a normal, boring life. A life where I do not wake up every day to terrifying news. A life where I do not pick up the phone and: “Amina, Nabil was shot, Mo’taz is dead, Bashar, Muhannad, Mohammad, Issa, Ahed, Khaled, your brother Ahmad, are imprisoned.”

I started to dream of a life where invasions, bombarding, shooting, confiscating lands, destroying houses, checkpoints, walls, curfews, demonstrations, and funerals do not exist. I put all my focus on starting a new life somewhere else. And now here I am, writing this in sunny California. I left that life in Palestine, but unfortunately it would not ever leave me.

Though as Palestinians we all go through these hardships on a daily basis, none of us accepts the idea that one day, it could be one of your family members who will be harmed. We live every day with the hope that when the day ends, we will see all of our family members sitting around the table for dinner. I never imagined that one day I will be facing such a fate with my younger brother.

The phone rang, and this time, Mahmoud, my 14-year-old brother was the one who was shot and imprisoned. I could feel my heart beating out of my chest, a pressure in my head as if it as going to explode, my breathing was so fast and yet I could not feel any air going into my lungs. I was being choked by the news.

On the 21st of May at 9:30 pm, Mahmoud went out to hang around with his friends in our neighborhood. These late night hang outs are normal for children during Ramadan, after breaking their fasts. Three hundred meters away from our house in the al-Khader town, south of Bethlehem city, children gathered to play in a small field behind the houses. Beyond the field are a few hundred meters of empty agricultural land, and at the end of that land stands the Apartheid Wall.

There is a tower at the wall where Israeli soldiers stand, as part of their “duty to secure their nation from us,” Palestinians. Sometimes they get bored and they need some action. And that night, one of them fired one shot.

It echoed, everyone in the neighborhood hurried towards the sounds of screaming children. They started running back to our house to tell my family that Mahmoud was shot. With those three words, my entire family and all our neighbors rushed towards Mahmoud.

They shouted those three words and all of the family and neighbors around were running towards him. I swear I could hear the sound of their feet hitting the ground, the beating of everyone’s heart, especially my mother’s. I could see her wide-opened eyes and I could hear her prayers to Allah that she would reach her son and find him alive. Those three hundred meters seemed like three thousand miles.

When they finally reached him, the Israeli soldiers were surrounding him and shouting at his face, “why won’t you just die?!” Meanwhile, the Palestinian ambulance arrived, but the soldiers prevented them providing any medical help. Mahmoud was lying on the ground, shocked, confused and bleeding. Then the soldiers dragged him on the ground to the other side of the wall, ignoring all the screams of everyone and the pleas of the Palestinian medical team. He was left on the street to bleed for half an hour more, until the Israeli ambulance came and took him, with no further information for us.

My family hurried to call the Red Cross, to see if they could get any information about his condition. Waiting in silence and grief was the only choice for them. The next day, they received the news that he was in Israel’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and that his situation is critical. My family tried all the possible ways to enter Jerusalem, but they were  forbidden from visiting him.

On the 23th of May, our lawyer called and told my family that Mahmoud’s leg had been amputated. It was either his death or the loss of his leg. It was the most horrible and devastating news for all of us. We were not able to think anymore. For me, a million thoughts crossed my mind, starting with how will he continue his life with one leg? And will he ever accept this loss? My mind stopped at the horrific thought of, what will his reaction be when he wakes up alone, in a cold room, somewhere he does not feel safe, to find out that he has lost his leg?

Only the lawyer was there when he woke up. Mahmoud opened his eyes, confused and not fully aware of what was happening around him. In pain, but not recognizing the source, he moved his left hand, then the right one, in an attempt to check. He tried to move his right leg, and when his hand reached out his left leg, he finds that it does not exist anymore. Totally in shock, he screams, cries and calls for his mother over and over again. He screams as if he is in a nightmare, and repeats to himself that he has to wake up from this nightmare.

Ever since he woke up in the hospital, they tell us he has been having panic attacks. He is calm for several hours, and the next hours are full of screaming and crying for his leg, his mother, his father, his brother, his sisters and his home. He cries for his life back, and when he is desperate, he cries for just a phone call. But even these are not allowed. No one is allowed to visit or to call and speak to Mahmoud except the doctors and his lawyer. At the door stand two soldiers to guard him until he finishes the treatment and is taken to prison.

Two illegal trials at the Israeli military court were already held while he is in the hospital, and now he is waiting for the third one in order for Israel to press charges against him. I wonder what charges are going to be pressed against a child after he was shot while playing, left to bleed for more than half an hour and then lost his leg. To continue the brutality, he went through an interrogation while lying in pain in the hospital. There are other interrogations to come, and they will not even take into consideration his health condition, because clearly his psychological one is not that important to them.

In the meantime, he is physically and psychologically devastated. He has been through two surgeries and still in pain. He keeps asking for us, his family.

Mahmoud is a friendly child and a loved one among his family and friends. He has an independent character and feels a sense of responsibility towards his parents. He spends his summer vacations working in a car repair shop with a family friend. He never thought of spending the money on toys or trips. Instead, he offered it to his parents as a form of support.

He used to go with me to my volleyball trainings. He loved to train with us, sometimes playing around and teasing others, with the knowledge that I was always standing there to protect him, and no one could harm him.

We have a special and close relationship. In fact, we were planning that next summer he would visit me in California. I wanted him to see the other side of the world. A different life than the one we are used to. A one that may be hard but not that miserable. A one that may offer him opportunities and freedom. I promised him that he will be here with me and I will protect him and be there for him whenever he needs me. But time betrayed us, and fate betrayed him.

I am writing my brother’s story to show the world the brutality of the Israeli occupation. But my decision to shed light on Mahmoud’s story in the first place, is so that we can ask for support. This is an appeal for concrete action from human rights organizations, children’s rights organisations, human rights lawyers, politicians, and journalists. Anybody who can possibly help and use their voice to advocate for his freedom. To help him stand again and save his innocence as a child. If we can save Mahmoud we can prove that humanity is not just a word.

Please, make as much noise as possible, to get the help, care and support this child needs and deserves. Share and spread his story widely, on Facebook, on your timeline, in groups, sites, Twitter, wherever on social media, reach out to the media, to whoever you can, to make sure that the world, human right organizations, human right lawyers, politicians, everybody who can possibly help this child, know who Mahmoud is, what happened to him, and still is going on. Use the hashtag #free_Mahmoud_salah , for example in combination with #urgent and #StandUp4HumanRights.

Look at Mahmoud’s face in these pictures, and help to make sure that Mahmoud is soon back again with his family, in his home, where he belongs.

(Source / 11.06.2019) 

Report: leaked draft of Trump’s peace plan reveals creation of ‘New Palestine,’ promises to join Israel in next war in Gaza if Palestinians reject

President Donald Trump talks with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jared Kushner in Jerusalem, May 22, 2017.

President Donald Trump talks with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jared Kushner in Jerusalem, May 22, 2017  

A leaked document of “main points” from the Trump administration’s so-called “deal of the century” was published today by Yisrael Hayom, outlining a plan for a two-state solution that includes the creation of a demilitarized state of “New Palestine,” Israeli annexation of all settlements in the West Bank, a land deal with Egypt, and shared capitals in Jerusalem.

If either Israel or the Palestinians, including Hamas and the PLO, reject the deal, the document says the U.S. will impose steep penalties. The U.S. will cut off all aid to Israel and ensure “no country in the world transfers money” to the Palestinians, whose economy is reliant on foreign donors.

If the PLO accepts the plan and Hamas or Islamic Jihad in Gaza reject it, the document warns “the U.S. will back Israel to personally harm leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad” in a future escalation, and will hold Hamas’ leadership “responsible in another round of violence between Israel and Hamas.”

The plan goes on to caution, “It is inconceivable that a group of a few dozen will determine the lives of millions of people,” which echoes similar sentiments made by Kushner last week.

Yisrael Hayom reported the document was shared by officials in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, although the newspaper could not confirm the identify of the drafter or authenticate the details of the peace plan. It was published with the caveat “Here’s the message. You judge,” and a response from an unnamed senior White House official who is quoted as calling the report “speculative” and “inaccurate.”

Mondoweiss was not able to independently verify the accuracy of the document. Some of the line items in the agreement are consistent with previous reporting on unconfirmed line items of the deal.

While the plan includes a general framework for final status issues such as borders and Jerusalem, as Kushner said his deal would last week, it also is comprised of specific details for an economic relationship between the proposed Palestinian state and Israel. A toll road in the West Bank, and the Palestinians would pay Israel a sum for providing security.

The deal includes significant financial support from the U.S., Europe and the Gulf states to the new Palestinian state, to a tune of $30 billion over five years, with additional support for specific development projects from Australia, Canada, Japan and South Korea. Most of the funding will come from “oil producing countries,” described as “the main beneficiaries of this agreement.”

Creation of a “New Palestine”

The plan calls for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and cedes all territory held by Israeli settlements and settlement blocs to Israel. Likely, this would mean the plan would annex a majority of Area C of the West Bank, around 62 percent. The entirety of the Jordan Valley, about 30 percent of the West Bank, will be annexed to Israel. It is unclear if the Palestinians who reside there, around 65,000, will become citizens of the state of Israel. The plan further states the main highway in the Jordan Valley, Route 90, “will turn into a four-lane toll road.” It is unclear if Palestinians will have access to this road.

The Palestinian state will control two international borders with Jordan, likely turning over the Israeli controlled Allenby crossing between the West Bank and Jordan.

New Palestine will have a local police force who will be allowed to hold “light weapons.” The new Palestinian state will be prevented from forming a military. Israel will be responsible for security for a fee paid by the Palestinian government.

Jerusalem as a shared capital

Jerusalem will be a shared capital for both Israel and New Palestine. The deal underscores that Jerusalem “will not be divided.”

Today Jerusalem is home to some 350,000 Palestinian residents who are neither citizens of Israel or West Bank residents, and 550,000 Israelis, including around 200,000 settlers in East Jerusalem. Under the agreement all Israelis and Palestinians will be able to stay where they are living, but Israelis will no longer be able to purchase homes from Palestinians, potentially abruptly ending future expansion of East Jerusalem settlements. The deal would also bar Palestinians from buying homes from Israelis, which they are currently able to do.

The Palestinians in Jerusalem would become citizens of “New Palestine,” but receive the same services as Israeli residents of Jerusalem from the Jerusalem municipality, governed by Israel. The plans says the Palestinian Authority will be responsible for paying the municipality for services, with the exception of schools, which will be run by the Palestinian government.

Land lease from Egypt

While previous peace accords have agreed to principles of land swaps between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Trump deal reportedly calls on a lease of territory from Egypt for the creation of an airport and industrial zone.

“Egypt will lease new land to Palestine for the purpose of establishing an airport for the establishment of factories and commerce, and for agriculture, other than housing,” the plan said, “The size of the territories and the price will be determined between the parties through the mediation of the supporting countries.”

Under the deal Gaza would significantly open up to the outside world, albeit with the removal of Hamas’ military capabilities. Hamas would be required to turn over all weapons to Egypt.

Within one year New Palestine would hold elections where “every Palestinian citizen will be able to stand for election.”

The agreement notes “all the borders of the Strip will be open to the passage of goods and workers to Israel.” Gaza will be accessible to the West Bank through the creation of a land bridge.

The plan includes an additional Palestinian demands from past negotiations. Palestinian prisoners will be released over the course of three years. However, Palestinian refugees who today number some 7 million are excluded entirely from the document.

(Source / 12.05.2019) 

Gaza’s Great March of Return: a year in review

The Great March of Return in Gaza, August 10, 2018

The Great March of Return in Gaza, August 10, 2018

When the world watched thousands of Gazans take to the Israeli border last year in massive demonstrations, very few, including the march’s organizers, could have imagined that people would still be protesting one year later.

The demonstrations, thousands strong, became known as the Great March of Return.

Palestinians of all ages, genders, and backgrounds gathered from across Gaza on March 30, 2018, and peacefully marched to Israel’s security fence.

Their demands were simple: An end to the now 12-year siege on Gaza, and the ability for refugees, which make up more than 70% of Gaza’s population, be allowed to return to their homes.

What started off as non-violent demonstrations were quickly and violently suppressed by Israeli forces. As the months went on and protests continued, the death toll rose into the hundreds.

Now, one year and thousands of casualties later, Gazans are planning to return back to the borders in massive numbers on March 30th to mark the anniversary of the movement that has shaped their lives for the past year.

Hundreds dead, thousands injured

Over the course of one year, scores of Gazans, mostly young men, have been shot and killed, or severely injured, by Israeli snipers stationed along Gaza’s eastern border with Israel.

On the opening day of the protests last year, Israeli troops killed 14 Palestinians. A month and a half later, on May 14, the day the US opened its Embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli snipers gunned down dozens of protesters, killing 68.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reportedthat as of March 22, 2019, 195 Palestinians, including 41 children had been killed, while close to 29,000 people have been injured.

But the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza has placed the death toll as of March 29, 2019 much higher, at 266, including 50 children, three medics, and two journalists.

The ministry also reported the number of injuries to be upwards of 30,000. Among those hospitalized for serious injuries, the ministry said in a statement, were over 3,000 children.

They added that more than 6,000 protesters have been injured with live ammunition.

Doctors in Gaza have expressed concern that protesters have been targeted in the legs by Israeli live fire, noting Israel’s use of expanding or explosive bullets, that tear through soft tissue and make injuries extremely difficult to treat.

As a result, the ministry has reported 136 cases of amputations, including 122 in the lower limbs.

Israeli army accused of war crimes

Since the Great March of Return began, Israel’s approach to the demonstrations have been characterized by the disproportionate use of lethal force against largely unarmed protesters.

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) published a fiery report last month, condemning the actions of Israeli forces’ in suppressing the Great March of Return protests.

The commission accused Israeli soldiers of deliberately shooting civilians, killing and maiming protesters – including children, as well as journalists and medics.

“The demonstrations were civilian in nature, with clearly stated political aims,” the group said, rejecting Israeli claims that armed Palestinian groups were conducting “terror activities” during the protests.

While the COI acknowledged “acts of significant violence” from demonstrators, some of who threw stones and molotov cocktails at the border fence — which separated them and Israeli troops hundreds of meters behind it —  the panel made clear that such actions “did not amount to combat or military campaigns,” and did not warrant the amount of force deployed by Israeli forces.

Investigators also stated they have reason to believe that Israeli troops had killed and injured Palestinians “who were neither directly participating in hostilities, nor posing an imminent threat.”

“These serious human rights and humanitarian law violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity,” the COI said.

The Israeli response to criticisms of its forces’ actions in Gaza have largely centered around one main narrative: the Great March of Return protests are a front for Hamas “terrorists” attempting to “infiltrate” Israeli territory.

Most of those shot and killed, the Israelis maintain, have been “terrorists.”

But investigators have presented vastly different findings. The UN COI said that they estimated around 29 of those killed were “members of Palestinian organized armed groups.”

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that out of 254 identified slain protesters, only 90  were said to be “participating in hostilities,” which in most cases, was stone-throwing.

Stakes high as as elections draw closer

The anniversary of the Great March of Return is coming at a tense time in the Gaza Strip. The past week has seen an escalation between Hamas and Israeli air forces, following several incidents of rocket fire coming from Gaza into Israeli territory.

Israeli forces conducted scores of airstrikes across the besieged territory, targeting dozens of buildings allegedly belonging to the military wing of Hamas.

Ma’an News Agency reported that the airstrikes, however, completely destroyed 30 residential structures, and at least 500 others were partially damaged.

The latest reports from Israeli media on Friday evening said that Palestinian factions in Gaza had agreed to quell anniversary protests scheduled for Saturday in return for an easing of the siege.

Citing a senior member of one of the factions, Haaretz reported that Hamas would “prevent protesters from approaching the fence separating Israel from Gaza, while Israel responds with restraint and avoids hurting civilians.”

“The Egyptians have been working to convince Hamas leaders to ensure the protests don’t spiral out control by taking steps such as deploying security forces to oversee events and preventing protesters from approaching the fence,” Haaretz reported.

Should Hamas be successful in suppressing the protests, the alleged agreement would see a re-opening of border crossings between Gaza and Israel, an easing of import and export restrictions, an expansion of the Israel-designated fishing zone in Gaza, and the entry of millions of dollars of Qatari aid that the Israelis have been preventing for months.

Despite the alleged talks between Israel and Hamas, Israeli forces have deployed heavily to the borders with Gaza, with Haaretz reporting that the number of troops has been doubled, while some 200 snipers have been deployed.

With Israeli elections due for April 9th, and much of the campaign discourse centered on the which candidate can best “provide security for Israelis,” it would be in Netanyahu’s best interest to maintain quiet in Gaza and avoid an escalation in violence that could spiral out of his control.

(Source / 30.03.2019) 

In Gaza refugee camp, you would need a wizard’s wand to have a New Year’s celebration

Child in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in Gaza, Dec. 31, 2018   

“I have not worn lipstick  since my wedding ten years ago. So feeling happy in a Gaza refugee camp, you need a wizard’s wand to change this misery. What new year are you talking about bro?” said Samar Al-Atrash, 33, a mother of seven children living in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in Khan Younis, on December 31, 2018.

As she moves through a 130-square-foot space in a dark tent, among dozens of ragged clothes and dented cooking pots, Samar does not even have the capability to celebrate the new year. She and her husband Esmaeel, 33, moved to the camp after they lost their house in the 2014 war on Gaza.

Samar feels “little happiness.” She does not have a dressing table mirror to reflect her exhausted face and she is still unaware of President Trump’s last August announcement that his administration would no longer fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

I asked Samar how her family and she might celebrate the new year. “Once I might be able to save some flour and vegetable oil from UNRWA aids to bake a pound cake, then I would invite the neighbors,” she replied as she cooked sorrel outside the tent.

And speaking of the UNRWA cut, she says: “If that really happens, it means real death.”

The 69-year-old agency provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza. Most are descendants of people who were driven out of their homes or fled the fighting in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation.

A few yards behind Samar’s tent, Nesreen Zourob, 28, was preparing spaghetti for her six children. Her husband Mahroos is stuck in Morocco. He sold his donkey cart for 1200 US dollars, but his money ran out before he could complete his plan to immigrate to Belgium, according to his wife.

Both Nesreen and Samar’s families are originally from the village of al-Muharraqa, five kilometers east of the fence that separates Gaza and Israel.

Nesreen moved to the camp in 2008 when she lost the ability to pay rent on an apartment in the adjacent city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

“2017, 2018 or even tomorrow [2019] are just days eating more health from us,” she says. “Getting out of this damned camp or reuniting with Mahroos, then I can say we can celebrate. But it seems one day I might hear he drowned in the sea dreaming of a good life in Europe instead being a refugee forever.”

Gaza has always been poor, though conditions for the 2 million people who live in the crowded seaside territory have worsened as the numbers of unemployed laborers there reached 250,000 and poverty has reached 60 per cent of the population, according to local reports.

As for the upcoming general election in Israel in April, Nesreen says that it is merely “counting more wars and death to Gaza”. Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Liberman, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, and Ariel Sharon are all “dumps from the same mentality,” she says. “No one will give us roses, they just compete to kill.”

While Abdulazeez Abu Sitta, 29, unemployed, felt compelled to spend the new year with his friends in the camp. He said he has no coins for a taxi fare to join the celebrations of the 54th anniversary of the founding of Fatah in conjunction with the new year, when a torch was to be ignited in the center of Gaza city.

Abdulazeez think the entire world is moving towards war. “I think we will miss the stable situations after the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem. That was just what Israel needs to get the green light, to eliminate the Palestinian issue,” he said.

Jehad Abu Muhsen, a 49-year-old mother of two, had just ended her daily routine by carrying crushed stones on a horse-drawn cart to a nearby stone crushing workshop, for $1.50 US for each load.

“There is no beautiful or happy years here in the camp nor the whole Gaza,” Abu Muhsen told Mondoweiss. “This man [Trump] is going to spoil the world, while the biggest losers are us the Palestinians.”

The Abu Muhsen family once owned a palace in Jaffa, with 40 dunums of lemon and orange orchards.

“Today I have a 140-square-foot space tent surrounded by high walls of waste and car wrecks,” she said. “Don’t forget to visit us in 2020, son, you might find us vanished. Or at least bring some flour for pound cake for the next new year.”

(Source / 02.01.2018)

What Gaza Wants

By Haidar Eid

Palestinian protesters react to tear gas during clashes with Israeli forces during the Great March of Return in the southern Gaza Strip on May 15, 2018

Four years after the Israeli Occupation Forces perpetrated a massacre upon the population of Gaza, the third in 5 years, Apartheid Israel insists on committing more crimes by targeting civilians protesting peacefully every Friday demanding their internationally-sanctioned right of return to the towns and villages from which they were ethnically cleansed back in 1948. The latest round of Israeli war crimes has resulted in a new massacre ; since March 30th, when the first of a series of marches took place at the eastern fence of the Gaza Strip, more than 220 innocent civilians, including 34 children and 5 women, have been murdered brutally as they demonstrated non-violently.  More than 2000 have been injured, some very critically. (Statistics taken from Gaza Ministry if Health)

As we, Palestinians of Gaza, embark on our long walk to freedom, we have come to the conclusion that we can no longer rely on governments; instead, we request that the citizens of the world oppose these ongoing deadly crimes. The failure of the United Nations and its numerous organizations to condemn such crimes proves their complicity. We have also come to the conclusion that only civil society is able to mobilize to demand the implementation of international law and put an end to Israel’s unprecedented impunity. Our inspiration is the anti-apartheid movement. The intervention of civil society was effective in the late 1980s against the apartheid regime of White South Africa. Nelson Mandela, before his eminent death, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, amongst other anti-apartheid activists, did not not only describe Israel’s oppressive and violent control of Palestinians as Apartheid, they also joined this call for the world’s civil society to intervene again.

In fact, we expect people of conscience and civil society organizations to put pressure on their governments until Israel is forced to abide by international law and international humanitarian law. It did work last century; without the intervention of the international community which was effective against apartheid in South Africa, Israel will continue its war crimes and crimes against humanity.

We need to be more specific about our demands. We want civil society organizations worldwide to intensify the anti-Israel sanctions campaign to compel Israel to end to its aggression.

It has become crystal clear that the international conspiracy of silence towards the incremental genocide taking place against the 2 million civilians in Gaza indicates complicity in these war crimes.

It is high-time that the international community demand that the rogue State of Israel, a state that has violated every single international law one can think of, end its medieval siege of Gaza and compensate for the destruction of life and infrastructure that it has visited upon the Palestinian people. But this should also come within a package of demands to be made by all Palestine solidarity groups and all international civil society organizations that still believe in the rule of law and basic human rights:

  • An end to the siege that has been imposed on the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip since 2006 for voting against the fictional two-state solution and the Oslo Accords;
  • The protection of civilian lives and property, as stipulated in International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law such as The Fourth Geneva Convention;
  • That Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip be provided with material support to cope with the immense hardship that they are experiencing at the hands of Israeli Occupation Forces;
  • Immediate reparations and compensation for all destruction carried out by the IOF in the Gaza Strip;
  • Holding  Israeli generals  and leaders accountable for  war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the civilians of Gaza;

And

  • An end to occupation, Apartheid, and other war crimes committed by Israel.

Why is that too much to ask? Were the anti-apartheid and Civil Rights movements too demanding for calling for an end to all forms of racism, institutional and otherwise ? And was the international community wrong to heed their calls?

(Source / 10.11.2018)

Gaza’s iconic ‘liberty protester’ shot in the leg by Israeli forces

By Ahmad Kabariti

Aed Abu Amro, 20, is the owner of a small kiosk that sells cigarettes in the al-Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City’s south side. On October 22 he reached internet infamy after photographer for Anadolu Agency Mustafa Hassouna captured a shirtless Abu Amro gripping a Palestinian flag firmly in one hand and a slingshot in the other during a protest at the fence that divides the Gaza Strip and Israel. The picture has been shared more than 50,000 times.

When the image went viral it was compared to Eugène Delacroix’s famed painting “Liberty Leading the People” where lady liberty incarnate leads an armed crowd to oust King Charles X during the Second French Revolution while clutching what later became the flag of France.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Dylan Sebastian Evans@DylanSebEvans

Like Mustafa Hassona’s stunning photograph of twenty-year-old Aed Abu Amro, Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People depicts the fight for freedom as fiercely and unashamedly patriotic: ‘[A]lthough I may not have fought for my country, at least I shall have painted for her’.

View image on Twitter

Laleh Khalili@LalehKhalili

Holy shit what an image. “13th attempt to break the Gaza blockade by sea”. Photo by Mustafa Hassouna (Andalou Agency for Getty):

Yesterday Abu Amro was shot in his leg with a rubber bullet while the Israeli navy was cracking down on the marine protests in the northern city of Beit Lahia that borders Zikim beach in Israel south of Ashkelon. I saw paramedics carry him off of the sandy shoreline. Abu Amro was struck when Israeli forces opened fire on a rally of 15 Palestinian boats unmoored from Gaza City’s port and headed towards Israeli waters. The scene was frantic as the fire came amid a barrage of tear gas also fired on the flotilla.

The flotilla protests have coincided with the Great March of Return demonstrations, meaning weekly Palestinians are facing off with Israeli forces at both the land barrier and on the seafront.

Aed Abu Amro winds a slingshot and waves a Palestinian flag, Friday, October 26, 2018.

Aed Abu Amro waves a Palestinian flag at a protest in the Gaza Strip on Friday, October 26, 2018.

Friday October 26, 2018.

Friday October 26, 2018.

Friday October 26, 2018.

Aed Abu Amro displays his iconic photograph, Friday, October 26, 2018.

When I spoke to Abu Amro two weeks ago, he addressed the possibility of becoming injured. At that time, he said told me he “longed to taste the lovely pain of being shot by those Israeli snipers” because “we must struggle as long as injustice and humiliation are being practiced on Gaza people.”

Abu Amro said he has not missed any of the more than six months of protest that began in Gaza on March 30, 2018 and continue each Friday. Since the blockade over Gaza began 11 years ago, he has not been able to leave the enclave. He insisted, he will continue to protest at “whatever cost to him.”

Abu Amro was pleased that his image evoked a likeness to the French painting. That day he spent a total of three hours protesting, shirtless.

“It is really good to compare my shirtless image to this topless woman. I think she will inspire me,” Abu Amro said timidly while showing the French painting on his cell phone to his friends who circled around.

Delacroix painted the iconic image in 1830 commemorating those who took up arms and marched under the motto of liberty, equality and fraternity.

“I felt proud once I saw the image delivered into my Facebook inbox by a friend,” he said, “While going to protest, I am not interested in getting my photo taken by journalists, but that one has fueled me up to continue protesting.”

Aed Abu Amro, Friday October 26, 2018.

Friday October 26, 2018.

Friday October 26, 2018.

Describing the day the photograph was taken Abu Amro said he and some friends were monitoring the march from afar when plumes of thick smoke from tires burned by protesters and tear gas fired by the Israeli military created a thick cloud.

“This chaos warmed me up,” said Abu Amro who then rushed toward the fence separating Gaza from Israel. Some have suggested Abu Amro is motivated by despair and hopelessness, but he said that he does not feel that way.

“I have never miss a single lesson at my bodybuilding club and I am a Street Workout athlete,” he said, “My people, my friends and I love life more than the whole of people around the world.”

Hassouna, the photographer who snapped the photo told Mondoweiss Abu Amro looked like a “rebel for his people’s just cause.”

“Abu Amro and everyone from his generation do not have weapons, rather stones which have become an inherited element of Palestinian culture of resistance the occupation,” Hassouna told Mondoweiss, “I am very proud to convey this image to the whole world who supports Gaza, and to the lovers of humanity and freedom.”

Friday October 26, 2018.

Friday October 26, 2018.

Friday October 26, 2018.

Abu Amro comes from a humble background. He lives in a 970 square foot house with his family. It is uncomfortably overcrowded. Although the weekly protest location is only three miles away from his home, reaching it is not an easy task. Abu Amro earns about $2.70 a day from his cigarette counter. “Despite my hardships, I share half of what I bring with my family, and the other half pays for a taxi to get here,” he said of his commute to get to the demonstrations, which raises the question of why he does not take a bus, like thousands of other protesters? Abu Amro said the buses are paid for by political parties and he is an independent.

“So nobody can accuse me that I support any political faction, I come alone with my desire,” he said.

(Source / 07.11.2018)

Annexation is in the air

The Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territory Occupied Since 1967, Michael Lynk, speaks at UN Headquarters in New York City, October 26, 2017

A warning about imminent annexation of the West Bank was given on Tuesday by UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories S. Michael Lynk, on the eve of his delivery of his annual report to the General Assembly.

He was introduced by Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies Rashid Khalidi, with commentary by Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Diala Shamas. The talk was co-sponsored by the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University and the Department of Middle East, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University

Lynk, law professor at Western University, London, Ontario, distributed a draft of his report to the General Assembly, warning of the trends to annexation, to the audience for his talk at Columbia Law School, “Annexing the Future: Israel, Palestine and International Law.”

Much of the report itemizes the legal and political trends in Israel that point to formal annexation, including the Knesset’s March 2017 settlement Regularization Law and this year’s Nation-State Law, which in combination build a foundation for expanding sovereignty to the entire “Land of Israel.”

Israeli parties and politicians are expressing aspirations for annexation, and there is higher and higher public approval in the Israeli public.

The UN human rights monitor said that he has not been permitted to enter the Occupied Palestinian territory by Israel since his appointment in March 2016, and visits Amman, Jordan, to receive reports and confer with Israeli and Palestinian human rights activists and witnesses.

He said that  “annexation trends in the occupied territories, particularly with respect to the West Bank, are quickening, and annexation is in the air, and formal annexation may be occurring sooner than we are thinking.”

He gave the audience his five conclusions pointing to annexation, saying the Oslo process was based on the idea that Occupation and rule over Palestinians is “not sustainable” for Israel, as a self-evident truth. “However, [Prime Minister] Netanyahu has stated that he is only willing to concede a “Palestinian State-minus, with all of the settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley remaining Israeli possessions,”

I think here, as part of my closing remarks, might be a good time to revisit Oslo’s assumption about sustainability, which is premised on the supposedly irreducible fact that Israel has no demographic or political choice but to withdraw from all or most of the occupied territory and allow a sovereign Palestinian state to emerge if it is to retain its Jewish character and democratic values.

It’s my point that this working assumption about sustainability is being left behind by the galloping realities of the occupation, and I might cite just five examples for you:

First, I think this assumption fails to account for the creative thinking among the ascendant Israeli right — that it can comfortably live with the model of permanent rule over the Palestinians that would deny them citizenship and democratic rights.

Secondly, I say that overlooks the striking degree of control that Israel exercises over the Palestinians, as it confines them to smaller, denser, and more fragmented islands of land through a sophisticated security method of walls, checkpoints, control over the population registry, and overwhelming military superiority.

Third, I think this assumption overestimates the willingness of the Oslo sponsors — particularly Europe, which is Israel’s largest trading partner, and America, its military and diplomatic patron — to challenge Israel with any meaningful consequences should it retreat, as it has, from any lingering commitment to a genuine two-state solution.

Fourth, it disregards Oslo’s escape clauses that have allowed Israel to pocket the cost-free features of the occupation, the large amounts of European and international aid to fund the Palestinians, and the annual $3.8 billion dollar military package that the United States gives to Israel, while Israel continues to thicken its presence throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and continues the blockade of Gaza.

And finally, I think, this assumption begs the question of whether a genuine two-state solution was ever possible in the absence of the international community’s political will to enforce the clear obligations and prohibitions of international law that could have stemmed Israel’s revanchism over the last half century.

Lynk pointed to the reprieve of the village of Khan al-Ahmar as giving him hope, protected by the work of Jewish and Palestinian human rights activists and civil society organizations. “They are the bridge to each other. They all speak the language of human rights. They are fluent in it. And the work they do is highly professional, and to me they are the genesis of what a future society, either a genuine two-state solution or a one-state democratic solution, could wind up looking like in Israel and Palestine. They give me hope, or else I would have left the job some time ago, because it’s dreary and it’s soul-destroying to tell you all this depressing news without telling you there is some hope for some optimism, some rainbow beyond all this,” he said.

(Source / 26.10.2018)

Fragmented thoughts from the Eastern fence of the Gaza open-air prison

Palestinian protester hurls stones towards Israeli forces during clashes on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, in al-Bureij in the center of Gaza Strip on April 18, 2018

By Haidar Eid

I am writing this piece after returning from one of the marches today at the Eastern fence of the Gaza concentration camp where six young men have been brutally shot dead and more than 112 injured by Israeli snipers. Sources from the Palestinian Ministry of Health are telling me that the number is expected to rise.

Zionism originated as a racist colonial movement, with the agenda to ethnically cleanse the land of Palestine of its indigenous population, in order to set up an exclusively Jewish State at the expense of the Palestinian people. History has proven that if unchecked, this agenda also allows Zionism to pose a dangerous threat beyond Palestine’s borders to the rest of the Arab world. The Zionist terror against us includes the continuation of ethnic cleansing and racism in the land of Palestine, sentencing surviving Palestinians to a life in exile in different parts of the world.

Our present focus on a constructive program for Palestinian liberation is based first and foremost on our insistence on the right of return to our national homeland, primarily as a natural right, and secondly as a right enforced by international law.  For this reason, it is not surprising that Palestinian nationalism is being carried on the shoulders of the sons of the refugee camps, those who have taught themselves through their experience of the reality of being refugees, that they must insist upon recognising and rejecting this reality.  They are the sons and daughters of those who will return, not those who are refugees.

Therefore, it is not surprising that our fellow Palestinians who remained within the 1948 borders, have lifted up their banners to insist that they are there to stay, clinging to the right of return.  Nothing can obstruct this vision of a people determined on life, despite the short sightedness of the USA and complicit EU.

The demand for the right of return has been and will always be the focal point of Palestinian self-determination, with the wishes of the whole of the Palestinian people, having justice and democracy on their side in facing Zionism, as a purely exclusivist ideology. We must ask uncomfortable questions; how did things become so distorted, in this historical confrontation faced by the Palestinian people? In the South African context, the equation was clear. It is mind-boggling! In fact, it is so absurd that we continue to be burdened by this kind of questions about ourselves.

We see that the answer lies within the Palestinian concessions, which reached their culmination in the 1993 Oslo Accords. The Oslo Declaration showed the capitulation of the essence of freedom and self-determination for Palestinian liberation, and allowed the page of ‘terrorism’ to be attached in fabrication.  The negotiation for the right of return was merged into a discussion of the institutions of self-government, which would be called a ‘state’.  This complicity involved the deception of a ‘two state solution’ as a cover to settle the issue of Palestinian nationalism and the rights of the Palestinian people.

All this indicates that there is a need to absolutely refuse the fate drawn for us by the Israeli and American right-wing governments.  There is also an urgent need to work politically to offer an alternative to this reality, instead of searching for alternatives which not only have proved to be delusional, but threaten our very existence.

The final judgment is approaching. Either exist, or be wiped out from history.  Therefore, it is the moment of truth, either be steadfast during this certainly delusional settlement, the settlement of a state, a Bantustan, with partial authority over the Palestinian people, or the delusion of a settlement under Israeli citizenship, regardless of the right of return.  We, marchers at the Eastern fence of the Gaza Ghetto beg to differ! We want the full menu of rights, or nothing!

(Source / 13.10.2018)