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)

‘Teargas became my daily meal’ — the endless harassment of a Jerusalem neighborhood makes life unacceptable

Human rights activist Abdulwahab Sabbah is director of the Dar Assadaqa community center in Abu Dis, part of London’s human rights and twinning organization, Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association

My friend Abdulwahab (Abed) Sabbah is the director of Dar Assadaqa, a community center in Abu Dis, East Jerusalem. He is the Palestinian half of London’s human rights organization CADFA, the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association. He sent me an account of an IDF attack on his family in their apartment in Abu Dis on September 4, and followups. 

What a day. We started early, at around 2:30 AM, when savage mercenaries from the Israel IDF invaded my father’s and my house. They started to knock hard on the main door, and when my father open the door, eight of them entered with their weapons into the house before I woke up and went down to see what was happening. By that time, five of them went up to my house [apartment], woke my family and pushed them downstairs to my father’s. All of us were held in one room; and the soldiers started to go into the rooms, one by one. They took our mobiles [cell phones] and IDs [and] birth certificates. My little daughters were sitting staring, not knowing what is happening. Who are these people with guns and masks wandering in our house, and shouting and pushing? My father was as usual the strongest and fought back.

First, they wanted to arrest my son Mohammed. They took him up stairs without allowing me to go with him, and when he was ready they asked about my youngest son Yassar, who was out helping to prepare our cousin’s wedding, which is today. By the end they gave me a military order: to come to the Israeli military camp in Abu Dis at 10 AM.

Four other young people, together with the wife of a “wanted man” (as they said), were arrested. And 10 houses at least were invaded at the same time in Abu Dis today.

None of my five kids were able to to go to school today. My poor mother and father did not manage to sleep worrying about my sons and me. As for me, I went to the military camp at ten, as they wanted. They take my ID and hold me until three thirty PM. No one spoke to me; just waiting. Then they gave me my ID and asked me to leave.

Abed Sabbah wrote to me again on September 10: 

Today the army came back to Abu Dis boys school. I was there also, and again more teargas. It became my daily meal. I am going back to what I used to do last year: to go early near the schools to try and save the school day and help kids reaching the school safely because the army returns early and makes a checkpoint next to the schools.

I asked him for his view of the reason for the IDF’s attacks. 

I don’t know if you can explain about the place, the East Jerusalem area, and its complete isolation by the wall, settlements, and checkpoints controlled by Israeli military camps, as it is all considered as areas B and C [of the occupied territories, in which Israel has complete control]. Among the past 30 years hundreds of young people, including children under the age of 16, were arrested by the Israeli army, and sent to prison for months if not years for joining demonstrations against the occupation or throwing stones.

These young people will be arrested from their schools or in the middle of the night from their house, and will be sent to Israeli settlements around the area for interrogation, where they will be tutored and made to signs on statements written in Hebrew language, which they can’t read. Then they use [the ‘confessions’] in the military courts, where the young ones will be given sentences, including making their family pay thousands of shekels to release their children. Our children are facing this situationfor years, together with having to be all the time targets for the Israeli soldiers, on the streets, and inside their schools. Many, including my own son, was shot by [rubber bullets]. When he was 13 one of the [bullets] hit him in his face.

In the night they came to the town, they entered 10 houses and arrested 5 people and one woman, and searched their house, destroyed their furnitures, and in the end they released the women and two men without any charges. Next morning we saw a film published by the Israeli army, talking about finding guns and weapons in Abu Dis — just to say to their people that they are doing their job.

For me, I [have often been] a prisoner. I was arrested by the Israeli army 7 times– which none of them I was charged. It was all administrative detention, which is imprisonment without a trial. The first time I was 16. So now my sons are facing the same punishment, maybe because I am working for a human rights organization calling for justice for Palestine. My sons and family are targeted. All I want is to protect my family and my people from this wild daily harassment which is getting harder and harder.

The life that we are living is not at all acceptable. Generation after generation have to face this terror and live in fear. It’s about time to break this inhuman situation and have free equal life for Palestinians.

I asked Abed about the risk that publishing this account might put his family at even higher risk. 

My family should be prepared for that. We are living inside it. Let the world know who are these people and stop finding excuses for their crimes.

(Source / 15.09.2018)

The families of Khan Al-Ahmar insist on their right to remain and defend their village

Israeli policemen scuffle with Palestinian demonstrators in the Bedouin village of al-Khan al-Ahmar east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank

One night towards the end of 1986, with the harsh December cold hovering over the hills of Jerusalem, my mother decided, after nine long months of suffering, to bring me into the world. I was a rascal, she later told me, the moment I plopped into the nurses’ waiting hands I began my battle with life. If I had known that earlier, I would have chosen to remain calm in my mother’s womb.

The village of Khan Al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, was the first land my feet touched. I spent my childhood chasing after my mother as she walked two kilometers to the nearby spring to collect water, or staying at my grandmother’s house watching her weave cloths and tent coverings from lamb’s wool and goatskin. Sometimes, I would stay at our neighbor’s house when there was no one home to watch me.

My father was busy tending the herd with my grandfather. We only had a few heads of sheep and goats to provide our daily sustenance; my grandfather lost his crops and half his riches in the war of 1948 when he was displaced from Beersheba in the south of Palestine. He wasn’t the only one who had to leave everything behind; all of my family shared the same fate. Some of them settled in Khan Al-Ahmar and others fled to Jordan and resided there. My grandmother’s eyes would silently convey the struggles they faced and their yearning for Beersheba. Injustice and tyranny became our inheritance, like a 2000-year-old Roman statue that must be preserved and held onto.

After my grandfather suffered through displacement and the pain of occupation he died, leaving us to continue the struggle. Many of the Jahalin tribe lived in Khan Al-Ahmar for many years and continue to live there today without the most basic needs; no electricity, no water, without education or healthcare or services, without anything. The best way to describe it, is that Khan Al-Ahmar passed through the twenty-first century as if it were the last century BC. Yet, it remained steadfast and strong in the face of the occupation and the flocks of settlers, and it will remain, refusing to give up or to succumb to another nakba.

When I turned six, I joined the rest of my young family members in line at the side of the main street connecting Jerusalem to Jericho. There, we waited for transportation in order to attend a school in Jericho, 30 kilometers from Khan Al-Ahmar. I clearly remember the trucks, laden with oranges, rumbling by at six in the morning on their way from Gaza to Jordan, always stopping to take a passenger or two. I also remember the daily newspaper car, heading towards Jericho each day. Those were difficult times; winter was a heavy burden on students, and the summer heat was also a lure to leave school and think about taking a job that would contribute to the household expenses. Most students didn’t even complete elementary school because of these difficulties.

In 2009, the citizens of Khan Al-Ahmar decided to build a school aided by Italian and local organizations. Modestly built, with classrooms formed by car tires and planks of wood, it was hoped that the school would provide a safe, accessible, educational environment.

But when the school opened its doors, no sooner had the 200 students settled at their desks than the desert foxes and highwaymen issued orders to have the school demolished. As if that wasn’t enough, they also issued orders to demolish residential buildings, herd shelters, and young couples’ homes. They even issued orders to demolish the mosque that had been simply built with wooden planks covered with goatskin to block the sun.

In the nine years from the day the school was built in Khan Al-Ahmar until today, the village lived through a many forms of economic, social, and psychological harassment. The army blocked any type of building materials from entering into Khan Al-Ahmar. They forbade entry to energy sources such as solar panels and electric generators, as well as medical equipment. In summary, anything that would improve Khan Al-Ahmar’s chance of survival was forbidden. But that wasn’t all. Large sections of Khan Al-Ahmar’s desert were closed off to prevent grazing, water wells were destroyed and the desert was declared a military zone. They barricaded animals, people and land and I did not realize that it was all due to building a small school. I imagine if anyone asked me the reason for this blockade and I answered that it was due to building a school, they would shake their heads at me and move onto another subject telling themselves that I was surely lying, because what power in the world would destroy a school? They would think that we must be a threat to Israel’s national security or plotting to build a nuclear reactor. When in reality, our dreams have fallen by the wayside, our hopes have been lost in the orange trucks and our talents have been smashed on the rocks of siege and the gates of oppression.

The thieving hunters’ eyes never stray from the prey, and yet we dream of finding justice one day.

However, despite nine years of legal battles to defend the right of our school’s existence, to protect our ancestors’ homes, our clansmen’s homes, the shelters of our herds and our goatskin-covered mosque. Despite our efforts to protect our children’s future, our Bedouin heritage and identity, the fabric of our society and our familial connections. In spite of our attempts to remain in the place where we were raised, among our childhood memories with ancestors and families. Despite all the resistance, all the patience and all the hard work, it was no use. In 2018, the judge’s gavel in the Israeli Supreme Court slammed down on the dreams of the rightful owners, shattering any trace of humanity, ruling in everything but justice. The Court issued a decision to demolish and vacate Khan Al-Ahmar, and I wondered to myself, “How can there be hope, for how can a grain of wheat complain about a chicken?” After the demolition order was issued, the occupation’s wolves hurried to carve roads between the houses and close all the pathways into the village. They announced that Khan Al-Ahmar was now a closed military area.

The very next day, bulldozers came into Khan Al-Ahmar to demolish the village and all that the citizens could do was to stand bare in the face of the criminal monsters and their heavy machinery. Youths, children and women were all attacked that day. Thirty people were injured and six arrested, including a 19-year-old girl who was assaulted by press cameras, her hijab ripped off, her dignity violated. After the battle, the criminal authorities ordered a curfew within the village and blocked anyone from entering or exiting, including the press corps and medical personnel. A suffocating siege ensued. After that cursed day and after another petition by the people of Khan Al-Ahmar to the ‘Chicken Supreme Court’, a temporary stay of demolition orders was granted – until the occupation could find another excuse to displace the residents. It is expected, that after many court sessions, after the people of Khan Al-Ahmar refuse all offers from the occupying forces, and insist on their right to remain and defend their village, the bulldozers will come to crush the lingering dream of survival, of preserving the heritage and the very fabric of their identity.

Translated by Lama Khouri

Editor’s Note: After a long and courageous struggle, the people of Khan Al-Ahmar lost their battle when the high court in Israel declared that the demolition can go ahead.

(Source / 08.09.2018)