By Richard Silverstein

The headline leapt off the page of Makor Rishon, one of the right-wing Israeli dailies owned by Sheldon Adelson. Israel’s public security minister, Gilad Erdan, boasted: “Freedom of worship on the Temple Mount? It can happen in the next few years, a decade at most.”

He added: “Everyone must consider what he can do in the context of [Israeli] responsibility and authority to achieve sovereignty over our people’s holiest site, our holy Mount. This is what I myself do and promise to do even more in future.”

The explicit meaning of such statements is clear to all Israelis: Erdan plans to topple the decades-old compact between Israel and the Jordanian Jerusalem Awqaf, according to which the Awqaf exercised exclusive authority over Al-Aqsa Mosque, to offer the most extreme Israeli settlers, who seek to rebuild the Temple, total and free access to Al-Aqsa.

Full access
Given that it is the third holiest site in Islam, and that the Jordanian government is its guardian, offering full access to settlers will cause an immediate rupture within the Muslim world. It will threaten to resume the deadly riots which brought tens of thousands of Palestinians to Al-Aqsa when in July 2017 Israel installed intrusive surveillance equipment at the compound entrances.

Erdan is banking on Israel’s budding bromance with the Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia and its allies, to deflect any potential conflict with the Muslim world. Given how close these relations have become and the military-intelligence collaboration against their mutual enemy, Iran, today, the Saudis seem more than willing to abandon Palestinians.

And with such abandonment comes a retreat from previous Muslim commitments to defend Al-Aqsa against Israeli encroachment or desecration.

The Israeli government has made a cold, hard calculation that eventually it will get away with whatever it wishes at the holy site. Its alliance with Saudi Arabia will likely protect it from any charges of religious violations.

Palestinians will be outraged by the Israeli assaults on the sovereignty of the enclave but they will be left to their own devices – just as Israel wants it.

A ‘revolutionary change’
During his tenure as minister, the trespass – or as religious Jews would say, “pilgrimage” – of Israeli settlers on the holy site has increased nearly four-fold to reach 40,000 settlers annually (as of 2018), as Erdan boasted in the interview.

They make their visits during the three Jewish festivals when Jews made pilgrimages to the Temple. The unexpressed sentiment of these visits is to restore the Temple to its former glory, so they can make a pilgrimage to the holy site itself, and not its ruins.

Makor Rishon also lavished praise on Erdan for criminalising all the Muslim religious groups who acted as defenders of the holy site including the Mourabitat, Mourabitoun, and the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement.

According to the report, removing them from the scene has greatly facilitated the ability of Israeli worshippers to invade the sacred space. It also noted that it was Erdan who, for the first time ever, offered access to Israeli Jews to the Temple ruins on Tisha B’Av and Jerusalem Day.

The latter, in particular, is a day when settler hooligans parade through East Jerusalem neighbourhoods inciting violence and hate against the Palestinian residents.

The Jerusalem Day also falls during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which served as an even greater provocation. In the past, the “Temple Mount” had been off-limits to non-Muslims during the closing days of Ramadan.

Likud leadership battle
Erdan’s tenure as minister has encouraged radical Jewish extremists to expect that a “comprehensive revolutionary change” in status might be imminent. And he has not disappointed them.

He called the current situation “distorted” and promised radical change to correct so-called “discrimination” against Jews within the compound. The minister has gone a step further and promised action in the “near future”.

When asked by the reporter whether Jews would see “full freedom of worship”, Erdan replied: “I am certain of it, God willing. It cannot be otherwise. The direction in which things are moving is that we will regain an ever-greater level of sovereignty over the site. We will meet this objective when more and more Jews make pilgrimage there. ”

Then Erdan shockingly revealed his true intent to rebuild the Temple and restore it to its former glory at the expense of the Muslim holy places: “The fact that Jews can now pray on the Temple Mount does not mean that full redemption has arrived. Because this is dependent on powers beyond me, I cannot predict when this will happen. But it must be an objective realised in the coming years, a decade at most.”

Erdan’s interview comes at a crucial juncture for his ruling Likud Party. Its longtime leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, is struggling to retain his position as prime minister after two indecisive elections. He also faces three serious corruption indictments which could force his resignation. Erdan, who has political ambitions, sees an opening for a leadership bid if Netanyahu falls.

This interview was a carefully crafted message meant to cater to his right-wing settler base, who would be a major constituency in any Likud party primary for a new party leader.

Historical fallacy
Erdan sees the religious conflict as an extension – not the primary motivating factor – of the conflict. Von Clausewitz said “war is a continuation of politics by other means”. In Israel, religious conflict is the pursuit of political supremacy by other means.

Israelis who argue that the Israeli-Arab conflict is essentially based on religious hatred of Jews, or that it is a conflict for global dominance between a western religion, Judaism, and an eastern one, Islam, engage in a dangerous historical fallacy.

Religion serves as a fig leaf to conceal Israeli nationalist objectives for dominance over its neighbours. The real goals are political-military power, control of natural resources, and the land.

Most Israeli Jews, if they care at all, consider issues like rebuilding the Temple or gaining sovereignty over the site to be peripheral. But these Israelis have permitted the settlers to drive the national agenda in these matters.

Thus, the religious zealots have hijacked the political class and moulded it to their own religious-supremacist specifications. It is much easier to believe that God is on your side than to make difficult political compromises for the sake of peace and security.

Politics can offer a means for two opposing sides to negotiate and resolve differences via compromise. Religion, however, when it is distorted in this context, is a poison that can breed only war and hate.

(Source / 22.10.2019) 


Nablus (QNN)- Israeli authorities issued a new settlement plan, which implies confiscating nearly 700 Donums of the lands of Qaryout village in southern Nablus, according to the anti-settlement activist, Bashar Sadeq.

Sadeq stated that the Israeli authorities issued an aerial plan, which shows lands in B zone in the village being shrunk in favor of the illegal settlement of Ileh.

Sadeq said that the lands have been announced a restricted area, which Palestinians cannot enter unless they get permissions. Even farmers, whose farms are located in the confiscated area should get a permission to take care of their own trees.

The confiscated area has been recently a target of illegal settlers, who have routinely attacked farmers in the area and prevented them from harvesting olive.

(Source / 22.10.2019) 


[Illustrative] Israeli soldiers and settlers arrest a Palestinian teenager

Occupied West Bank (QNN)- Israeli occupation forces arrested four Palestinians, including a 14-years-old child during pre-dawn raids, which targeted houses of native Palestinians throughout occupied West Bank and Jerusalem last night.

Israeli forces arrested the child Mutasem Antouri (14 years old) near the northern military checkpoint in Qalqilya after raiding the city. They also fired tear gas at houses during the raid.

Israeli forces also rearrested Anas Malash after searching his house in western Bethlehem and arrested two worshipers from the Mercy prayer room at Al Aqsa mosque.(Source / 21.10.2019) 


Gaza (QNN)- Hamas official, Sami Abu Zohri, told Shehab News Agency that Palestinian prisoners in Saudi Arabia, who were arrested in a Saudi arrest campaign this year, are being subjected to torture and brutally interrogated.

“Unfortunately, the prisoners are brutally interrogated. Some of them are being subjected to different forms of torture. Interrogators from different nationalities interrogate them”, Abu Zohri said. “Such thing is not like Saudi Arabia”, he added.

“There are approximately 60 Palestinians in Saudi jails, some of them are Hamas supporters and others have been in the kingdom for over three decades and built it. Arresting them shocked them and us because it is unjustifiable and cannot be understood”.

Abu Zohri assured that Hamas made hard efforts reaching international bodies and Saudi officials but no positive results were yielded. He stated that the efforts are still in progress.

(Source / 21.10.2019) 


Occupied Palestine (QNN)- Several media and rights organizations and groups slammed a decisions by the Palestinian Authority’s Magistrate’s Court, ruling to block dozens of websites in Palestine.

At the request of the Attorney General, the Magistrate Court in Ramallah ruled to block 59 Palestinian and Arabic websites and pages under the pretext of harming the Palestinian Authority and threatening civil peace.

The decision, which was issued few days ago but was revealed on Monday, provoked rage among Palestinians and human rights groups, who stressed that it goes against the right to freedom of expression and the right of the press.

Skyline addresses the UN

Skyline for Human Rights said that it sent an urgent letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion, David Kaye, after the PA’s decision to block dozens of websites without a legal basis.

The organization also sent a copy of the court decision and urged the UN to intervene in order to stop the violations against the freedom of speech in Palestine.

Palestine Press Association: This is a massacre and a dark day

The Palestinian Press Association deemed the leaked decision a massacre against the freedom of speech and press in Palestine, and a dark day in the history of the Palestinian press.

The Association stressed that the court rule, which is based on a 2018 law on cyber crimes, confirmed that the Association’s fears of the law’s weaponization are justified. It also stated that weaponizing laws goes against the pledges of the Prime Minister regarding protecting the freedom of the press.

The association also urged the High Judaical Counsel to take action in order to reverse the court decision and stressed that it will take all legal measures to challenge the decision.

(Source / 21.10.2019) 


Nablus (QNN) – At least three Palestinian farmers sustained various injuries today as Jewish settlers attacked them while they were harvesting olive crops in the village of Burin, south of Nablus in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC).

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA said settlers from the illegal Gevat Ronin settlement outpost reportedly attacked the farmers and physically assaulted them, injuring three of them. The three were moved to a nearby hospital for treatment.

The settlers also stole the crops of olive that have been harvested by some of the farmers.

Shortly following the attack, villagers from Burin rushed to the scene of the attack to fend off the settlers, before one of them, armed with a rifle, opened gunfire towards the villagers. None was injured in the shooting.

This was the latest in a series of attacks by Israeli settlers against vulnerable Palestinian communities since the beginning of this year’s olive harvest, some of them resulted in the injury of civilians.

Settler violence is commonplace across the occupied West Bank, which mainly increases during the olive harvest season, and is rarely prosecuted by Israeli authorities as the Palestinian Authority has no jurisdiction over Israeli settlers.

(Source / 19.10.2019) 


Qalqilya (QNN)- Israeli authorities release Thursday Khaled Ghannam (12 years old), who was forcibly hidden on Wednesday in occupied Qalqilya.

Khaled’s family welcomed the child with a birthday party, as he was arrested one day before his 12th birthday.

Khaled’s brother, Na’il, previously told QNN that Israeli forces arrested his brother when he was near a zoo in the city. He was playing with his friends. Israeli forces arrested him claiming that he was throwing Molotov cocktails.

Na’il stressed that Israeli authorities refused to provide any information on his brother or the place where he is detained. They also prevented lawyers from reaching him. “We called all detention centers in the North of West Bank, however they all denied having him [Khaled] detained”, Na’il told QNN.

Na’il also said that it was the first time Khaled was arrested. “Khaled is a child, who doesn’t know anything but playing. We are very worried about him. We demand to have him freed and to get further information on the place where he is detained”.

Israeli authorities arrest 200 Palestinian children, who are under the age of 18, Israeli jails.

(Source / 19.10.2019) 


Occupied Tulkarem (QNN)- Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian young man at Jbara military checkpoint in southern Tulkarem on Friday night.

Media sources said that Israeli soldiers killed Ra’ad Bahri (25 years old) from the village of Kafr Zibad in the South and left him bleeding to death.

On the other side, Israeli media claimed the young man tried to attack and stab the armed soldiers, who were inside the checkpoint, before they murder him.

(Source / 19.10.2019) 


Ramallah (QNN)- Palestinian prisoner, Samah Jaradat, sent a letter to her family from the Damon Israeli jail, in which she has been held for a month so far.

Jaradat ended her letter writing: “To joy we belong and for the sake of joy we die”.

The letter read: “I’m sending this letter from the Damon jail, which is located on the Mount Carmel. I’m fine and everything is OK. I miss you very very much”.

“During the interrogation, you were always with me in every moment. I was strong because of your strength. So, always be strong. I love you very much and I hope you are fine”, she wrote.

Addressing her parents and siblings, she wrote: “Dear father, take care of your health, Dear mother, I hope you are fine. Your hair was perfect when I saw you. Samar, Samer, Salwa, Sami, and Salma, I love you very much”.

“Mom and Samar, please don’t think of the details. Everything is good. All I want is that you be fine and in peace. send my greetings to everyone and take care of Loza and Simsim”, she wrote.

Finally she wrote, “I’m sorry for the costs and difficulties, which you faced. I promise I’ll make it up for you”.

“To joy we belong and for the sake of joy we die.. hoping to see you soon”, she finally wrote.

Israeli authorities arrested Samah Jaradat, a student in Birzeit University, on September 9. Her brother Sami was summoned and her lawyer was prevented from visiting her during interrogation.

(Source / 17.10.2019) 


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen on stage during a town hall at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California September 27, 2015

By Hossam Shaker

When the Arab youth revolted in 2011 to demand freedom and democracy in their countries, Facebook was the social media platform of choice for crowd mobilisation, a proven experience in other contexts around the world. When Palestinian youth tried to take a chance and speak out against the Israeli occupation to mobilise the masses against it via the same platform, they faced hindrances from Facebook, which is the leading platform in Palestine. During the Arab Spring, this social networking platform banned prominent Palestinian pages, some of which had called for mass civilian rallies against the Israeli occupation, calling it the “third intifada”.

What appeared at the time as sporadic, became a growing occurrence, until Palestinians complained about Facebook management’s continued targeting of their accounts. Every morning, customary messages are sent announcing increasing numbers of well-known Palestinian organisations and figures, as well as ordinary citizens, having been banned from the most widely-used platform. There have been similar complaints from Arabs expressing solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

It is enough to use specific terms for Facebook to ban a post, or completely deactivate an account, and it often does not issue a clear justification to those affected. This makes them prone to making assumptions to explain the loose nature of the ban notice that appears. Many Palestinian accounts have suffered from this bitter experience over the years, as whenever a specific page succeeds in gaining followers, it receives a notice from Facebook deactivating the account and losing the followers it has gained with much effort. It is then forced to start from scratch with alternative accounts, only for this to occur again.

Palestinian content is suffering from an increased crackdown on Facebook, which developed algorithms that harasses this content, for example, by tracking vocabulary, images and videos shared about reality under the occupation. This is used as a pretext to deactivate Palestinian news pages, merely for mentioning the names of specific organisations or people. This targeting is escalated by the fact that the Palestinian accounts are facing monitoring from specialised Israeli circles that monitor their content, in order to incite against them and to report alleged abuses that result in their bans. The Israeli officials do not want Palestine to have a platform for influence on the social networking site. The banning measures have reached a climax, with the increased interaction on the social networking site marking special events and after the constant killings committed by the occupation forces. Accounts have been banned due to posting the names of Palestinian martyrs, for example, or under the justification of posting pictures and videos showing the bleak reality, which limits the presence of the Palestinian narrative and versions of events.

Given this suppressed situation, the Palestinians feel that the Facebook management count their every word and impose a ‘curfew’ on them, even in the virtual world. This is reminiscent of the extensive experience of the local Palestinian society with the Israeli occupation’s measures of banning them from leaving their homes, and restricting their movement to their neighbourhoods. This also includes Israel’s confrontation of protests with excessive oppression. Ultimately, the Palestinians are facing restrictions and persecution in their realities and in their virtual worlds, as they are suffering from demolition policies ordered by the occupation authorities. Palestinian social media activists witness the demolition of their virtual homes on the social networking site, that they have spent many years building, on the orders of the Facebook authorities that do not care about their objections.

As a result, it has become a popular tradition for Palestinians to express certain terms and vocabulary in convoluted ways, attempting to bypass the artificial intelligence algorithms that monitor them. This includes dividing some words, rewriting them by mixing Arabic and Latin letters, or by replacing some letters with symbols. This is a well-known method used on social media to censor profanities. The need to go to such exceptional lengths has created a deep sense amongst the Palestinians and those in solidarity with their cause, that Facebook is blatantly censoring them and forcing them to be vague, depriving them of their right of expression by imposing additional restrictions. The circle of those affected widens to include other social media sites, especially since the measures of a large platform clearly influence the behaviour and regulations of other social media sites.

The anger of Palestinian and Arab users was heightened after Facebook banned certain words, and began holding users accountable, retrospectively, for posts they made years ago. Many affected users expressed their disturbance of the ban, and many reports were issued condemning it. Meanwhile, many voices expressed feelings of frustration towards what they saw as authoritarian treatment towards them, by the companies controlling the social networking platforms, which made them feel helpless and at a loss for options to deal with them. On September 30 2019, Sada Social, a Palestinian youth initiative, wrote a strongly worded letter to Facebook, to complain about the harassment and crackdown that has increased towards Palestinian content. The letter was written after Facebook battled many words related to the Palestinian cause, and added them to the list of words banned on the blue website, thus subjecting hundreds of Palestinian accounts and pages to various sanctions by the platform’s administration. These sanctions reached the extent of deactivating accounts and pages over ten years-old. Sada Social also urged the Facebook policies department to adopt an objective view of the Palestinian cause, and to take into consideration the fact that the Palestinians have the right to use this platform to express their views and beliefs, like other users do around the world.

Palestinian disillusion with Facebook has increased to become a growing discontent with its tough measures, that worsens year after year, but the dilemma is that the affected masses are still at a loss as to how to deal with abuses attributed to social media administrations. Web platforms have no physical address in the real world, which stops them from expressing anger in the traditional manner and confronting its authoritarian behaviours that have not been discussed. As for abandoning the platform that they have increasingly complained is biased, does not seem a realistic option so far. Self-banning from the platform could be considered as giving in to the efforts to silence the Palestinian content. Despite this, the Palestinians are trying to raise the issue with successive campaigns in the blue world itself, against the targeting of their freedom of expressing their reality and cause. Meanwhile, several reports are being issued by human rights, civil society and specialised organisations, all warning against the censorship, ban, and restriction methods adopted by Facebook against the Palestinian content, which are growing year on year.

The growing impediments to this content are cause to assume that if this social platform existed in the last century, it would not have tolerated movements of liberation from colonialism, nor would it have eared the global anti-apartheid solidarity in South Africa. The platform may have imposed restrictions similar to those suffered by the Palestinian people under the pretext of “violating community standards.”

(Source / 17.10.2019)