The Israeli occupation government practices the worst forms of organised terrorism against the Palestinian people, including theft, destruction, forgery, looting and seizing Palestinian rights. These practices are evidence of the atrocity of the organised terrorism led by the Israeli intelligence services known as the Shin Bet, Aman and Mossad, as this audacity has reached the level of stealing organs from the bodies of Palestinian martyrs that have been seized.
A number of Israeli doctors supervise the implementation of the most accurate and dangerous organised organ theft from the bodies of Palestinians without the consent or knowledge of their families. After it stole the Palestinian land and history, the occupation is stealing human organs in complex operations carried out by its gangs, thus violating all laws. This is considered a heinous crime and bitter reality by all standards.
After Arab and international journalists and institutions published reports on this and several human rights organisations called for the prosecution of the occupation for carrying out the most heinous thefts in modern history, seizing the bodies of Palestinian martyrs and stealing their organs to save the lives of Israelis. This is considered one of the ugliest crimes and organised terrorism brutally led by the Israeli security agencies’ gangs.
Swedish journalist Donald Bostrom published a report in August 2009 in Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper in which he revealed that the occupation government stole the organs of the martyr, Bilal Ghanem, 19, who died in 1992. According to the report, his body was handed over and it was clear that Bilal had been cut open from his neck to his abdomen and his organs had been stolen. The matter was very clear when he was being prepared for burial, which proves that the doctors from the forensic medicine institute took part of the body. Organs have been taken from bodies still held in the cemetery of numbers, where the occupation government keeps the bodies of Palestinian martyrs and still refuses to hand them over to their relatives.
The body of Bilal Ahmad Ghanem (19 years old). Ghanem was killed by Israeli soldiers, who also stole his organs
In a past investigation, Director of the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine, Yehuda Hiss, admitted stealing the organs of Palestinian martyrs while performing autopsies. The recorded confessions of Dr Hiss in 2000 addressed the way the forensic medicine institute was managed and how skin and corneas were stolen from the bodies that were sent to the institution illegally. Dr Hiss and the doctors working under him would steal corneas from the eyes of Palestinian martyrs. Palestinian families mentioned they would notice large incisions in the abdominal and chest of their relatives who were killed in Israeli attacks during the First Intifada that took place in 1987. The occupation army had seized their bodies before handing them over.
What we need is to open this file and consider it seriously in order to demand supervision over the occupation’s crimes and ending it by opening a major investigation. A team of international lawyers informed of these crimes must be formed and they must work to expose them on an international level in order to prosecute the occupation leaders. No matter how far the occupation government’s arrogance, practices and crimes against the Palestinian people go, we cannot allow them to avoid international prosecution. We must work to activate Arab and Palestinian efforts, as well as official and popular European efforts to hold the occupation leaders accountable for the war crimes they continue to commit against the Palestinian people.
The “usual suspects” are already being rounded up. U.S. citizens with Iranian names and backgrounds are being selected for special screening at the border. City police departments in New York and Los Angeles have vowed to be on alert for Iranian terrorists.
It’s been the same story for decades. Nearly anytime the United States has a military conflict with a country or group that is labeled Muslim, the civil and human rights of Muslims or people who “look Muslim,” whatever that means, are violated by both the U.S. government and some of its citizens.
Anti-Muslim war-making has made real democracy impossible.
I was nine when 52 white Americans were held hostage for more than a year at the U.S. embassy in Iran in 1979. As yellow ribbons went around the trees, and anger grew across the country, Iranians and brown people associated with Iranians were attacked, harassed, and questioned.
My Arab-American grandmother knew there might be trouble. At the least, she was concerned about reputational damage. I remember her telling strangers that Iranians were not Arabs, and so we had nothing to do with the hostage crisis.
I look back on that moment and realize that she was acting out of fear. And her fear was rational.
No matter how assimilated a Muslim or “Muslim-looking” person is—my grandmother was Christian—the federal government’s policies toward Muslims end up depriving U.S. citizens not only of their political rights but of their chance for social equality, too.
This practice has been rooted as much in repressing Islam among U.S.-born Black Muslims as it has been in restricting the rights of foreign-born Muslims and their families.
In the 1950s, Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam gave birth to some of the most potent dissent in America. Malcolm X’s charismatic critique of white supremacist Christianity, anti-Black racism, and U.S. military intervention abroad was a serious political challenge to the U.S. during the Cold War. The government repressed the group, and the civil rights of Nation of Islam members were violated by the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), federal prisons, and local police departments.
Though Muhammad Ali would be revered later as a principled opponent of the Vietnam War, it is hard to overestimate how much he was hated by Democrats and Republicans alike for refusing induction into the U.S. military in 1967.
That association of Muslims and Islam with “the enemy” was transformed after 1979 as so-called “Middle Eastern-looking” Muslims took center stage in the federal government’s policy-making and law enforcement.
During the 1991 Gulf War and especially after 9/11, the nation’s focus on war-making in Muslim-majority lands meant that, even as Black Americans remained the group whose civil rights were most violated, Muslims became a class of people whose basic Constitutional rights could be denied as a matter of law.
Long before President Trump implemented his legal ban on Muslim and other visitors, President Obama’s administration singled out Muslims for special treatment in domestic counter-intelligence, devoting extraordinary FBI resources to mass surveillance, undercover informants, and entrapment. The Democratic President profiled Muslims without any suspicion of guilt, used secret evidence to prosecute terrorists, and assassinated U.S. citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan in Yemen. Muslim youth became the targets of sophisticated sting operations that tried to entice them to wage a violent jihad on their fellow citizens even as right-wing neo-Nazi and other white supremacist groups grew stronger. 
And before President Obama, there was President Bush’s USA PATRIOT Act, extraordinary rendition, extra-legal detention at Guantanamo Bay, torture of both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens such as Brandon Mayfield, warrantless wiretaps, and a litany of human rights abuses perpetuated against Muslims both at home and abroad.
Since 9/11, the treatment of Muslims has exposed a rot at the core of American democracy, and that rot has been disturbingly bipartisan.
Too many Americans, conservative and liberal, are willing to make exceptions to the Bill of Rights when they believe their security is at risk. Too many are willing to prioritize the safety of some of us over the safety of all of us.
As the President wages war on yet more Muslims, it is important to remember that while Muslims will be its primary victims, this long war on Muslims damages what holds us together, our shared belief in human freedom and dignity for all.
There is no military logic in the world that could rationally justify the barring of medical access to an isolated community
By Ramzy Baroud
Harsh conditions of Israeli occupation create pressure on Palestinian communities to leave their lands. This is the ethnic cleansing that Israel uses to evacuate Palestine of its indigenous people.
A seemingly ordinary news story, published in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, on 7 January, shed light on a long-forgotten, yet crucial, subject: Israel’s so-called “firing zones” in the occupied West Bank.
“Israel has impounded the only vehicle available to a medical team that provides assistance to 1,500 Palestinians living inside an Israeli military firing zone in the West Bank,” according to Haaretz.
The Palestinian community that was denied its only access to medical services is Masafer Yatta, a tiny Palestinian village located in the South Hebron hills.
Masafer Yatta, which exists in complete and utter isolation from the rest of the occupied West Bank, is located in ‘Area C’, which constitutes the larger territorial chunk, about 60 per cent, of the West Bank. This means that the village, along with many Palestinian towns, villages and small, isolated communities, is under total Israeli military control.
Do not let the confusing logic of the Oslo Accords fool you; all Palestinians, in all parts of the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the besieged Gaza Strip, are under Israeli military control as well.
Unfortunately for Masafer Yatta, and those living in ‘Area C’, however, the degree of control is so suffocating that every aspect of Palestinian life – freedom of movement, education, access to clean water, and so on – is controlled by a complex system of Israeli military ordinances that have no regard whatsoever for the well-being of the beleaguered communities.
It is no surprise, then, that Masafer Yatta’s only vehicle, a desperate attempt at fashioning a mobile clinic, was confiscated in the past as well, and was only retrieved after the impoverished residents were forced to pay a fine to Israeli soldiers.
There is no military logic in the world that could rationally justify the barring of medical access to an isolated community, especially when an Occupying Power like Israel is legally obligated under the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure medical access to civilians living in an Occupied Territory.
It is only natural that Masafer Yatta, like all Palestinians in ‘Area C’ and the larger West Bank, feel neglected – and outright betrayed – by the international community as well as their own quisling leadership.
But there is more that makes Masafer Yatta even more unique, qualifying it for the unfortunate designation of being a Bantustan within a Bantustan, as it subsists in a far more complex system of control, compared to the one imposed on black South Africa during the Apartheid regime era.
Soon after Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, it devised a long-term stratagem aimed at the permanent control of the newly occupied territories. While it designated some areas for the future relocation of its own citizens – who now make up the extremist illegal Jewish settler population in the West Bank – it also set aside large swathes of the Occupied Territories as security and buffer zones.
What is far less known is that, throughout the 1970s, the Israeli military declared roughly 18% of the West Bank as “firing zones”.
These “firing zones” were supposedly meant as training grounds for the Israeli occupation army soldiers – although Palestinians trapped in these regions often report that little or no military training takes place within “firing zones”.
According to the Office for the UN Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Palestine, there are around 5,000 Palestinians, divided among 38 communities that still live, under most dire circumstances, within the so-called “firing zones”.
The 1967 occupation led to a massive wave of ethnic cleansing that saw the forced removal of approximately 300,000 Palestinians from the newly-conquered territory.
Many of the vulnerable communities that were ethnically cleansed included Palestinian Bedouins, who continue to pay the price for Israel’s colonial designs in the Jordan Valley, the South Hebron Hills and other parts of occupied Palestine.
This vulnerability is compounded by the fact that the Palestinian Authority (PA) acts with little regards to Palestinians living in ‘Area C’, who are left to withstand and resist Israeli pressures alone, often resorting to Israel’s own unfair judicial system, to win back some of their basic rights.
The Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 between the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli government, divided the West Bank into three regions: ‘Area A’, theoretically under autonomous Palestinian control and consisting of 17.7% of the overall size of the West Bank; ‘Area B’, 21%, and under shared Israeli-PA control and ‘Area C’, the remainder of the West Bank, and under total Israeli control.
This arrangement was meant to be temporary, set to conclude in 1999 once the “final status negotiations” were concluded and a comprehensive peace accord was signed. Instead, it became the status quo ante.
As unfortunate as the Palestinians living in ‘Area C’ are, those living in the “firing zone” within ‘Area C’ are enduring the most hardship. According to the United Nations, their hardship includes “the confiscation of property, settler violence, harassment by soldiers, access and movement restrictions and/or water scarcity.”
Expectedly, many illegal Jewish settlements sprang up in these “firing zones” over the years, a clear indication that these areas have no military purpose whatsoever, but were meant to provide an Israeli legal justification to confiscate nearly a fifth of the West Bank for future colonial expansion.
Throughout the years, Israel ethnically cleansed all remaining Palestinians in these “firing zones”, leaving behind merely 5,000, who are likely to suffer the same fate should the Israeli occupation continue on the same violent trajectory.
This makes the story of Masafer Yatta a microcosm of the tragic and larger story of all Palestinians. It is also a reflection of the sinister nature of Israeli colonialism and military occupation, where occupied Palestinians lose their land, their water, their freedom of movement and eventually, even the most basic medical care.
These harsh “conditions contribute to a coercive environment that creates pressure on Palestinian communities to leave these areas,” according to the United Nations. In other words, ethnic cleansing, which has been Israel’s strategic goal all along.
Israel’s main bone of contention with the International Criminal Court’s possible investigation into war crimes in occupied Palestine is about settlement expansion. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declaration in November 2019 which basically insisted that Israeli settlements are not illegal, affirmed US support for annexation of the occupied West Bank. That move was mentioned tentatively by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in June last year.
In a pre-recorded statement transmitted by video link during the Kohelet Forum in Jerusalem, Pompeo reiterated that the US shift in policy regarding Israel’s settlement enterprise is a means of “advancing the cause of peace between Israelis and the Palestinians.” His words were echoed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he vowed further expansion in defiance of the ICC’s designation of settlements as a war crime which, indeed, they are according to international law.
Likewise, Likud MK Nir Barakat revealed plans for two million settlers to occupy Palestinian territory within 50 years. “This is a commitment which requires that we lay the framework now to make that possible and this is an investment which will also benefit the Palestinian people,” Barakat claimed, while urging the US to reveal details of the so-called “Deal of the Century” without further delay.
Netanyahu is also using the US stance on settlement expansion as a countermeasure to the ICC’s plan to investigate Israel (and Palestinians, it must be said) for war crimes. Deeming the US support for settlements “an appropriate response”, Netanyahu is clearly aiming at politicising a possible investigation which still has to clear several bureaucratic hurdles. Furthermore, the ICC’s delays in arriving at a conclusion which stipulates that Israel has committed war crimes decreases in impact when juxtaposed against the US-Israeli strategy under the Trump administration to facilitate the colonisation plan often referred to as “Greater Israel”.
This strategy was explained by Friedman during the Kohelet Forum when he referred to having approached the three issues that Israel has been vying for politically: the status of Jerusalem, the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and the occupied West Bank. “We have approached them in ascending order of complexity,” Friedman clarified, once again highlighting the discrepancy between Israel’s planning on one hand, and the Palestinian Authority’s response on the other. The PA has fallen behind by following the international trend of isolating each Israeli gain as a separate violation.
With the plan determined by the US, Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett has little standing in his way to implement the annexation of more Palestinian land. “The State of Israel’s policy is that the land in Area C belongs to [Israel],” he stated at the Forum.
Settlement expansion is in itself part of the ongoing ethnic cleansing of a colonised population to accommodate the state narrative and its colonial settler population. The announcement of an additional 2,000 settler dwellings in the occupied West Bank must not only be seen as an affront to the ICC statement but also as a continuation of what Israel started prior to the international community’s designation of which settlements violate international law. Blaming America’s overt steps for the current belligerence barely scrapes the surface of what the UN started when it approved the Zionist colonial project in Palestine. More war crimes are on the way in Israel’s plan for the immediate future.
The TV series Fauda (Arabic for “chaos”) deals with the story of an Israeli undercover unit, the mistaravim, whose commandos carry out missions in the occupied Palestinian territories while disguised as Arabs.
Among the most successful Israeli drama series ever made, the show has garnered numerous awards, both at home and abroad. The show premiered in 2015 and Netflix acquired it the following year, after which Fauda became a wildly successful international hit.
Journalist Avi Issacharoff and actor Lior Raz created the series, based in part on their experiences in the Israeli army’s Duvdevan commando unit. Consultants for the show included Gonen Ben-Yitzhak, a former Israeli security coordinator and elite commando, and Aviram Elad, another Duvdevan graduate.
The first two seasons focused on the unit’s undercover operations in the occupied West Bank. The third season, which just started, deals with operations in Gaza. Before the current season began airing, producers launched an aggressive ad campaign that flooded Israel’s streets with huge billboards.
Every time I drive by one of these promo visuals or get stopped at a red light next to one, I cringe with shame.
The new season’s ads portray the steely-eyed, bruised and bloodied face of an actor alongside the message “Welcome to Gaza”, written in English but using Hebrew letters. I look at this and think of the incredible cynicism, the barefaced arrogance of this mockery.
Welcome to Gaza. Welcome to the ghetto whose exits Israel has locked down for more than a decade, punishing more than two million people with a slow death. This, apparently, is the new virtual playground to gratify Israeli viewers’ need for thrills, put into English to emphasise the American nature of this entertainment juggernaut.
A right-leaning Hebrew media site described the new season this way: “Fauda and its undercover mistaravim operatives commanded by Doron (Lior Raz) return for another tense and thrilling season. Their main mission this time is to damage the West Bank Hamas infrastructure operating from Gaza and take out the commander of the Hamas military wing there.”
Gaza: A myth for Israelis
Thrilling and suspenseful new challenges, and daring new missions. As in an elaborate computer game, the viewer can lean back and let himself be swept along with the drama, protected by the screen from the dramatic scenes unfolding in Gaza. The brutal situation of two million people under siege becomes merely a stage set for the storyline.
As such, the siege of Gaza itself becomes the best promo for the TV series. Thanks to another long year of closure, Gaza has become a kind of myth for Israelis: not wholly real, in the sense that real people live there, and yet simultaneously very scary and threatening.
The ignorance of ordinary Israelis that flourishes behind the dark screen Israel has imposed around the West Bank and Gaza, and the primeval fear it engenders, are major components in the secret to the success of this series.
Even more grotesque is how following tensely along with the stories of “our wonderful boys” in Gaza does not prevent most viewers of Fauda from claiming, in political arguments, “But we left Gaza! There’s no more occupation there!” In the meantime, they applaud every execution, detention or sophisticated ambush they see on their TV screens. We withdrew from Gaza, but what a great job we are doing there!
This alienation also encompasses a kind of exoticisation of Palestinians under occupation. For the vast majority of the Jewish Israeli audience, not only the action set in besieged Gaza, but also parts of the series set in the West Bank, describe places beyond the mountains of darkness. Nablus, Ramallah, Jenin – all have come to symbolise the realms of the netherworld that our boys bravely enter and leave, rather than vibrant cities a short drive from where we live.
I remember very well the first time I visited a friend in Jenin. At first, I was unable to comprehend the instructions he gave me. It did not sound logical that I should just get into my car and drive straight to him. I was astounded to discover how easy and short a drive it was.
Frightening and exotic
Fauda not only relies on this fear of Palestinian spaces, but amplifies it, legitimises it and normalises it. Palestinians are depicted as frightening and exotic creatures inhabiting places where only commandos dare to venture. Zionism has managed to transform Palestinians into exotic figures in their own homeland.
One key argument that emerges in many discussions of Fauda is that this series actually embodies a humane, even leftist, agenda, because it “portrays the complexity” and shows that the people on the other side are also human beings.
This point is worth pondering a moment, so that we can consider what it says about us, as Israelis, if after so many years of our violent rule over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians, we need to be reminded that they, too, are human beings. But the deeper moral failure in this argument is the symmetry it posits: see, there are people on both sides.
Given the underlying reality of Gaza, which years ago a UN report projected would be unfit for human habitation by the year 2020 – a forecast that has come true ahead of schedule – there is no symmetry.
On one side is the place whose existence for decades has been crushed by a regime of violence, poverty, destruction and death, wrought by one of the mightiest armies in the world; on the opposing side, that army maintains absolute control over the destiny of the other, with no intention of stopping.
Fauda was created by people who took an active role in this regime of control and abuse. This TV series is the fruit of that collaboration, and as such, it is by definition illegitimate.
It is immoral to turn the suffering of the victim into entertainment for the victimiser. It is immoral to succumb to an adrenaline addiction at the expense of those in the crosshairs of our weaponry. Gaza is not a stage set for a drama series; it is a real place with real people experiencing indescribable suffering that we Israelis impose on them every single day.
Yes, it is important to know what is going on in Gaza as it disintegrates under siege, but not via entertainment for the masses. We could, for instance, get to know the voices of young Gazans themselves via the important website “We Are Not Numbers”.
It’s easy to say “to hell with politics and morality”, or “there’s no choice but to go with the flow” – but there are always choices. We can, for instance, refuse to cooperate in turning victims into amusement for the occupiers or entertainment for the international community – the very same international community that has enabled the occupation to perpetuate these abuses for so many years.
The ethnic cleansing carried out by the Israeli occupation authorities in occupied Jerusalem continues and has affected all Palestinian institutions without exception. However, it focuses on the educational and cultural institutions and those with political activities, to remove the Palestinian presence and restrict it in the Holy City, the capital of the occupied Palestinian state.
Currently, the occupation campaign has taken the most dangerous turn to date, i.e. a comprehensive war on Palestinian educational institutions in occupied East Jerusalem and its suburbs, targeting UNRWA schools, Palestinian schools affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, and private schools. The ethnic cleansing began in the UNRWA schools to achieve two goals at the same time, first, to shut down the agency’s institutions, which is a joint American-Israeli goal that seeks to get rid of all f the UNRWA institutions that provide services to Palestinian refugees.
The purpose of this is to stop all services and end the UNRWA’s role. The closure of schools will be followed by stopping operations in the health and other humanitarian services institutions to liquidate the Palestinian refugee issue. This cannot be achieved until after the UNRWA is eliminated. The second goal, which is also dangerous, is to erase the Palestinian memory, along with the convictions, public information, and national archive, as well as the commitment to the cause, homeland, struggle and fight against the occupying enemy. This would be followed by planting misleading and false information contrary to facts and reality to change the authentic Israeli and Palestinian narratives. Palestinian students will be forced to study in Israeli schools and learn Israeli curriculums, which would force the Palestinians to forget their national history, their struggle, and their Palestinian identity through an attempt to erase the Palestinian memory and narrative.
The occupation authorities will prohibit the Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem and its suburbs to build public and private schools, giving the Palestinians two options. The first option is to leave Jerusalem and move to the occupied West Bank, and the second is to succumb to the Israeli desire and study in the occupation’s schools and adopt its curriculums. The Palestinians will have no other choice but to fight a large legal and political battle with the occupation to regain the right to teach and learn Palestinian curriculums and learn in Arabic.
As for the political targeting of Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, it aims to strip any Palestinian legitimacy in the Holy City. At the same time, it seeks to remove Al-Aqsa Mosque and Muslim and Christian holy sites of their religious legitimacy in an attempt to impose the fait accompli of a unified East and West Jerusalem as the capital of the entity occupying Palestine. This was recognised by the other side of the occupation, Donald Trump.
It is a comprehensive cleansing war waged by the Zionist occupation on Jerusalem and its suburbs, targeting the Palestinian presence in all aspects of life, to establish the Judaism of Jerusalem and to continue the Judaisation of all aspects of life.
The occupation authorities are seeking to create a Palestinian generation that could forget its Palestinian homeland, so they are now fighting a memory war with the Palestinian people, but they will surely be defeated.
TEHRAN, PALESTINOW.COM — As soon as the assassination of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani was confirmed by the Pentagon, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement was among those mourning him and blaming the US for causing chaos in the region through its violations against the “resistance axis” in the Middle East, as well as its “blind support” for the occupation state of Israel.
“We mourn the death of Soleimani and the other Iranian commanders killed in an air raid by the US,” said the movement. “On this sad occasion, Hamas condemns the US bullying that creates disputes and upheavals in the regions, just to serve the interests of the Israeli occupation.”
This triggered a wave of criticism on social media in the Arab world, especially in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Hamas was accused of siding with the Iranian regime, which was described as being “responsible for bloodshed in Iraq and Syria, as well as instability in Lebanon.”
One message from Saudi critics and circulated widely on WhatsApp said, “Hamas should have thrown itself into the arms of Saudi Arabia, the protector of the Sunni project in the region… Soleimani, who was Iran’s hand in Iraq and Syria, would not have liberated Palestine if he’d stayed alive.”
Why did Hamas take such a position? It is a Palestinian resistance movement which believes in ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a sovereign Palestinian state. As long as there is an Israeli occupation, it insists, there will be resistance. This is a legal right guaranteed by international laws and conventions, and recognised by the UN.
The movement also believes that the Palestinian cause should be the central issue of the Arab states and people. This is what all Arabs claim to believe. Almost everyone, though, now knows that this is not the case. Today, the main issue for the Arab states is the legitimisation of the occupation state of Israel by forging commercial, diplomatic and even social and cultural ties, the so-called “normalisation” of relations.
Authoritarian regimes in the Arab world are working to undermine the Palestinian resistance by targeting Hamas and other factions. Some of these regimes, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, are currently working overtly to achieve this goal.
The latter, for example, has enforced a strict Israeli-led siege against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since mid-2007. Egypt has imposed all kinds of hardships on the Palestinians who travel through the Rafah Crossing when it is open; it is basically the only gateway for people to enter and leave Gaza. The Egyptian government detains Palestinians, and blocks the flow of goods and free movement, even of people requiring essential medical treatment. Palestinians wishing to pass through Rafah frequently have to pay bribes to Egyptian officials, with the knowledge and consent of the state. Military and security checkpoints on the road to Cairo from the border add many hours — sometimes even days — to the time taken to make the journey.
In November 2018, I was not allowed to go through the Rafah Crossing after I refused to pay a bribe. The Egyptian security officer told me that I had to go home and when I asked him why, he said that I “should come back the next day.” I did not understand, but he made it clear that I needed to pay a bribe in US dollars. Palestinian travellers have to pay between $500 and $1,500, and sometimes even more, for permission to travel, no matter what the reason is for the journey.
Saudi Arabia and its supporters claim that it is the protector of the Sunni Muslims, including Hamas and the Palestinians. There is much to say about this, but I will focus on the detention of Palestinians in the country which is home to the two holiest places for Muslims: Makkah and Madinah.
When Saudi Arabia, Bahrain the UAE and Egypt announced their siege of Qatar in 2017, they said it was because the government in Doha hosts “terrorist organisations” such as Hamas and “terrorist leaders” such as Shaikh Yousef Al-Qaradawi. How can Hamas make overtures for help to a country which incites people against the movement and one of the most respected Sunni shaikhs in the world?
Last year, human rights groups revealed that more than 60 Palestinians are being held in Saudi Arabian prisons. Their families know nothing about their whereabouts or the conditions in which they are being held, although some are known to be denied medical treatment. Two of these detainees are the representative of Hamas in the Kingdom, Dr Mohammed Al-Khodari, who is a sick man over 80 years of age, and his son. How can anyone believe that Saudi Arabia is ready to support Hamas and the Palestinians while such inhumane treatment is being meted out by Saudi officials?
Hamas’s relationship with Iran is no secret; the movement has said on numerous occasions that it receives military and financial support from the Islamic Republic, which is a largely Shia state. The Palestinians know very well that Iran is antagonistic towards Sunni countries and is responsible, along with the US and other Western governments, and Russia, for the bloodshed in Iraq and Syria. Hamas also knows that Iran backs the Houthis in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Sunni Arab countries have been committing war crimes and helping to create the world’s “worst humanitarian crisis”.
In its statement about the killing of Soleimani, Hamas explained that the Iranian General “played a major and critical role in supporting the Palestinian resistance at all levels.” The movement is not at a stage where it can afford to reject any form of assistance from any country. This also applies to those with ties to Israel such as Qatar, which has hosted an Israeli trade office since 1995 but also sends humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
As far as Hamas is concerned, though, any and all assistance that it accepts must be unconditional. It is not prepared to bargain away its own or Palestinian principles. When the Syrian revolution broke out in 2011, for example, it was ready to sacrifice support from Damascus and Tehran when it refused to issue a single statement in support of the Assad regime, or at least condemn the popular revolution. It was thus forced to leave Syria, and Iran stopped its support for a while.
During the years of the Israeli siege, Hamas has cracked down on a Shia group in Gaza — Al-Sabereen – which was dedicated to spreading Shia beliefs among the Palestinian Muslims, who are 100 per cent Sunnis. Hamas did not consider Iranian support when it rejected requests to permit the leader of Al-Sabereen to have free movement, or when it refused to accept funding for a new school because it was offered on condition that it would be named after an Iranian leader.
At this stage, Hamas pays no attention to Sunni-Shia conflicts and does not want to be part of them as they take Saudi Arabia and other countries closer to Israel to the point of possibly forming alliances with the occupation state. Rather, the movement is paying attention to how to end the Israeli occupation, which remains the main cause of Palestinian suffering.
For those states and individuals who criticise Hamas for its ties with Iran, know that Hamas does not want arms or military training from you, but corporate and financial support. It also needs political and diplomatic cover for legitimate Palestinian resistance against the occupation and needs the Arab people and countries to push the Palestinian issue across the international arena. If Hamas is able to depend entirely on its immediate Arab neighbours for support, then it will have no need to seek help from Iran or anywhere else.
Demonstrators carry an image of Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by a US airstrike in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, during an anti-US rally to protest the killing at Palestine Square in the capital Tehran, Iran on January 4, 2020
By Ramzy Baroud / Romana Rubeo
By killing top Iranian military commander, Qasem Soleimani, American and Israeli leaders demonstrated the idiom ‘out of the frying pan into the fire.’
US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are both politically and legally embattled – the former has just been impeached and the latter is dogged by an Attorney General indictment and investigation into major corruption cases.
Despairing, out of options and united by a common cause, both leaders were on the lookout for a major disruption – that would situate them in a positive light within their countries’ respective media – and they found it.
Although there has been no official confirmation or denial of the Israeli role in the US operation, it is only logical to assume indirect or even direct Israeli involvement in the assassination.
Over the last few months, the possibility of a war against Iran has once more gained momentum, topping the agenda of Israel’s foreign policy makers. Politically beleaguered Netanyahu has repeatedly and tirelessly asked his friends in Washington to increase pressure on Teheran.
“Iran is increasing its aggression as we speak,” Netanyahu claimed on December 4, during a meeting with US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. “We are actively engaging in countering that aggression.”
One can only assume what “active engagement” from the overtly militant Israeli point of view can possibly mean in this context.
Moreover, the fingerprints of the Israeli intelligence, the Mossad, are unmistakably present in the assassination. It is plausible that the attack at Soleimani’s convoy near the Baghdad International airport was a joint CIA-Mossad operation.
It is well-known that Israel has more experience in targeted assassinations in the region than all Middle Eastern countries combined. It has killed hundreds of Palestinian and Arab activists this way. The assassination of Hezbollah’s top military leader – the movement’s second in command – Imad Mughniyah in February 2008, in Syria, was only one of numerous such killings.
It is no secret that Israel is itching for a war against Iran. Yet all of Tel Aviv’s efforts have failed to bring about US-led war similar to the Iraq invasion in 2003. The most that Netanyahu could achieve in terms of US support in that regard was a decision by the Trump administration to renege on the US commitment to the international community by withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Treaty in May 2018.
That coveted Israeli war seemed assured when Iran, after various provocations and the slapping by Washington of yet more sanctions, shot down a US unmanned aerial vehicle that, as Iran maintained, violated the country’s airspace, on June 20, 2019.
Even then, the US response fell short of achieving the all-out war that Netanyahu has been so frantically seeking.
But much has happened since then, including a repeat of Netanyahu’s failure to win a decisive election, thus securing another term in office, compounding the Israeli Prime Minister’s fully justified fear that he could eventually find himself behind bars for operating a massive racket of bribes and misuse of power.
Trump, too, has his own political woes, thus his own reasons to act erratically and irresponsibly. His official impeachment by the US House of Representatives on December 18 was the last of such bad news. He too needed to up the political ante.
If there is one thing that many Democratic and Republican lawmakers have in common is their desire for more Middle East military interventions and to maintain a stronger military presence in the oil and gas-rich region. This was reflected in the near-celebratory tone that US officials, generals, and media commentators have used following the assassination of the Iranian commander in Baghdad.
Israeli officials too were visibly excited. Immediately following the killing of General Soleimani, Israeli leaders and officials issued statements and tweets in support of the US action.
For his part, Netanyahu declared that “Israel has the right to defend itself. The US has the same right exactly.” “Soleimani,” he added, “is responsible for the deaths of innocent US citizens and many others. He was planning further attacks.”
The last statement in particular, “he was planning further attacks,” points to the obvious joint intelligence and information sharing between Washington and Tel Aviv.
Benny Gantz, mistakenly celebrated for being a “centrist”, was no less militant in his views. When it comes to matters of national security, “there is no coalition and opposition,” he stated.
“The killing of Soleimani is a message to all the head of global terror: on your own heads be it,” the Israeli general, responsible for the death of thousands of innocent Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere, also added.
Iran will certainly respond, not only against American targets but Israeli targets as well, for Teheran is convinced that Israel has played a major role in the operation. The pressing questions are more about the nature and the timing of the Iranian response: How far will Iran go to send even a stronger message back to Washington and Tel Aviv? and could Teheran communicate a decisive message without granting Netanyahu his wish of an all-out war between Iran and the United States?
Recent events in Iraq – the mass protests and attempt by unarmed protesters to storm the US embassy in Baghdad on December 31 – were, to some extent, a game changer. Initially, they were understood as an angry response to US airstrikes on an Iranian-backed militia group on Sunday, but the protests had unintended consequences as well, particularly dangerous from a US military and strategic perspective. For the first time since the phony US ‘withdrawal’ from Iraq under the previous administration of Barack Obama in 2012, a new collective understanding began maturing among ordinary Iraqis and their representatives that the US must leave the country for good.
Acting quickly, the US, with palpable Israeli giddiness, assassinated Soleimani to send a clear message to Iraq and Iran that demanding or expecting an American withdrawal is a red line that cannot be crossed – and to the whole Middle East that the evident US retreat from the region will not be duplicated in Iraq.
Soleimani’s assassination was followed by yet more US airstrikes on Iran’s allies in Iraq, as to also emphasise the level of US seriousness and willingness to seek violent confrontation as a matter of course.
While Iran is now weighing in its responses, it must also be aware of the geostrategic consequences of its decisions. An Iranian move against US-Israeli interests would have to be convincing from the point of view of Iran and its allies, yet, again, without engaging in an all-out war.
Either way, Iran’s next move will define the Iranian-US-Israeli relations in the region for years to come and will further intensify the ongoing regional and international “Great Game”, on full display throughout the Middle East.
Soleimani’s assassination could also be understood as a clear message to both Russia and China as well, that the US is prepared to set the whole region on fire, if necessary, in order to maintain its strategic presence and to serve its economic interests – which mostly lie in Iraqi and Arab oil and gas.
This comes at the heel of a joint Russian, Chinese and Iranian naval drill in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman, starting on December 27. The news of the military exercises must have been particularly alarming to the Pentagon, as Iran, which was meant to be isolated and browbeaten, is increasingly becoming a regional access point to the emergent and resurfacing Chinese and Russian military powers respectively.
Soleimani was an Iranian commander, but his massive network and military alliances in the region and beyond made his assassination a powerful message sent by Washington and Tel Aviv that they are ready and unafraid to up their game.
The ball is now in the court of Iran and its allies.
Judging by past experiences, it is likely that Washington will regret assassinating the Iranian general for many years to come.
EU flags are seen in Frankfurt, Germany on November 11, 2019
By Ramona Wadi
European Union (EU) funding for Palestinian human rights organisations is not without its caveats. In line with its purported state-building initiatives, the EU has long imposed restrictions upon Palestinian organisations and their endeavours, in return for financial aid, thus stifling an important part of grassroots mobilisation in terms of preserving Palestinian resistance and culture.
As EU constraints upon Palestinian organisations escalated to the point of interfering with Palestinian politics, the newly-launched Palestinian National Campaign to Reject Conditional Funding has called upon Palestinian and international organisations to take a clear stance against the EU’s purported ‘anti-terrorism clauses’.
In an open letter, the BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights described how, in order to access EU funding, Palestinian organisations are expected to act as informants against people involved in resistance. The EU requirement is yet another process facilitating the fragmentation of Palestinian society, at a time when the US is swiftly isolating Palestine, in terms of diplomacy and history.
BADIL’s letter states that due to Israeli campaigns against EU funding for Palestinian organisations: “Funding constraints from various donors have escalated, which include conditions that we have resisted such as preventing engagement in the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (BDS), the defence and promotion of the right of return, and programs and projects in areas such as the Gaza Strip or Palestine 1948 (Israel).”
Writing to EU foreign minister, Josep Borrell, Israel’s security minister, Gilad Erdan, urged a refusal of the Palestinian organisations’ demands, reiterating the EU insistence that the funds “go only to organisations with no such ties to terrorist groups,” with specific reference to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
However, the PFLP is not the only political entity targeted under the recent stipulations. Political organisations involved in resistance, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Brigades, are also mentioned. BADIL notes: “This escalation cannot be separated from all the policies and approaches aimed at obliterating Palestinian national rights.”
With such restrictions when it comes to the important link between Palestinian civil society and Palestinian resistance, the EU knows it is throwing a further hurdle when it comes to the recognition of the Palestinians’ legitimate struggle. The preconditions regarding financial aid to Palestinian organisations are widening the gap between the diplomatically-acceptable political institutions in Palestine, and the Palestinian factions whose commitment to furthering the struggle for liberation earned them the terror label. However, as BADIL stated in its letter, the Palestinian factions’ status is “not determined by a European document.” On the other hand, the Zionist colonisation of Palestine, which violates every aspect of human rights and political legitimacy, has been spared the terror label due to the international complicity in the process.
The EU might portray itself as an entity that promotes Palestinian rights, yet its role is more concerned with finding Palestinian entities willing to promote its diplomacy to the Palestinian people – to their detriment, of course. In light of all the restrictions Palestinians are facing, including further war crimes in the form of settlement expansion, the least the EU can do is to refrain from emulating US policies when it comes to Palestine, and their prospects for liberation and independence.
It was a very happy moment when the Palestinians knew that they would cast their votes in order to choose their representatives, after waiting a long time. They voted and unexpectedly, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, won the overwhelming majority of the parliament seats, but this was not a blessing for the Palestinians, because it did not bring them safety, nor security – the basics for a stable life.
Fatah, Israel and the international community did not recognise the results of the elections. Rejecting the results by Fatah, led to internal clashes with Hamas, resulting in the latter sweeping the former from Gaza, in order to end the security chaos which erupted to undermine Hamas’ victory. Israel used this a pretext to impose a strict air, sea and ground siege on Gaza, and gave the international community a pretext to ignore Gaza, and stop its support for its people.
Since then, Gaza has been moving from one crisis to another. Gazan residents felt the first major crisis when the Palestinian Authority (PA) ordered its public servants, including the security personnel, teachers, doctors and employees in different ministries, to stay home or lose their salaries. Therefore, Gazan students went to their schools where were no teachers and patients went to hospitals and clinics, to find no doctors.
Adding to this, Israel reduced fuel and electricity supplies, at certain point to zero, paralysing almost all forms of life. Over 300 patients passed away in hospitals because of the lack of electricity and medicine. The suffering of hundreds of dialysis, heart and cancer patients, in addition to newly born babies, increased due to the lack of proper medical equipment or spare parts for the already operating equipment.
Over 70 per cent of factories, according to the office of the Chamber of Commerce in Gaza, were stopped due to the lack or severe shortages of raw materials banned by Israel, under the pretext of dual use. Exports and imports were largely stopped, and at certain points were completely blocked. All these things, in addition to others, led to high rates of unemployment, 46.7 per cent, and consequently, high rates of poverty, 53 per cent.
The situation deteriorated due to the continuous tensions between Israel and Hamas, which is dedicated to fighting the Israeli occupation, leading to several deadly offensives, including three main ones – in 2008/9, 2012 and 2014. These three offensives alone resulted in the deaths of around 3,900 Gazan residents, wounded over 15,000, completely destroyed over 11,000 homes, partially damaged over 12,000 homes and hundreds of other facilities, including clinics, schools, mosques, water and sewage plants.
In 2012, the UN Country Team produced a report predicting, based on trends, that Gaza would become “unliveable” by 2020. This report was issued after two of the aforementioned Israeli offensives on Gaza and before the third one, which was the most destructive. Five years later, the same UN team announced: “Sadly, as we check-in on those same trends again in this 2017 report, the deterioration has accelerated.”
One of the most serious problems facing Gazan residents is the fast growth of population, compared to the insufficient area of land, along with the severe shortage of health and education services and the lack of basics for economic growth. Originally, the area of the Gaza Strip, which was defined with the Armistice Line, is about 560 square kilometres. However, in a secret deal reached in the early 1950s, between Israel and Egypt, which controlled Gaza between the 1948 and 1967 wars, Israel seized an extra 200 square kilometres. The two million inhabitants of Gaza make it one of the most densely populated areas on earth.
In order to meet the needs of the population growth, the report stated that Gaza, which had about 2,000 hospital beds in 2012, needed 800 more beds in 2020, in order to meet the population growth (two million) expected by the UN Country Team in 2012. Three years before 2020, the population became two million, while the hospital beds and other health facilities became more obsolete, impacting negatively on the health services.
Regarding the education system, however, few more schools have been built since the report was issued, but unfortunately, the number of teachers has declined because of the budget deficit which the Hamas government in Gaza has been suffering, due to the lack of funds compared to the need of teachers, in order to compensate those who were instructed by the PA to stay at home.
The difficult and uncertain political situation in the Gaza Strip, along with the almost permanent closure of the crossings, as well as the lack of prospective internal reconciliation, make economic growth impossible. In fact, the Israeli crossings had been reopened and there has been commercial movement between Gaza and West Bank, Israel and the world, but the average monthly number of truckloads of goods exiting or entering Gaza is still less than a third of what was prior to 2007.
If we want to see Gaza liveable in 2020, its residents “must be enabled to live dignified, healthy and productive lives in peace and security, both now and in the future.” This could be achieved if the internal reconciliation and general elections were done, the 13-year-old Israel siege was lifted and the international support and donation were resumed. However, these goals seem unachievable because of Israel’s unwillingness to do so.
The UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Michael Lynk, announced last year that Israel had prevented him from entering the territories, in order to stand closely on its obligation to preserve human rights for the Palestinians. Now, Israel claims that the ICC does not have jurisdictions over the occupied territories, enabling it to probe possible Israeli crimes. These factors prove that Israel is unwilling to stop its aggression against the Palestinians, including those in Gaza, at very least, lifting the siege and facilitating their livelihoods.
The strange thing is that Gazan residents, “who pose a threat to no-one,” according to the former UN coordinator for humanitarian aid and development activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Robert Piper, have been enduring all of these sufferings and “paying a high price for acts and failures of others.”