The solution to Israel’s siege on Gaza is decolonisation

Hundreds of protesters gather in front of the Israeli Embassy in central London in solidarity with Palestinian people who are holding large "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" rallies across Gaza border, in London, United Kingdom on March 30, 2019 [Hasan Esen / Anadolu Agency]

Hundreds of protesters gather in front of the Israeli Embassy in central London in solidarity with Palestinian people who are holding large “Great March of Return” and “Palestinian Land Day” rallies across Gaza border, in London, United Kingdom on March 30, 2019

By Asa Winstanley 

Unemployment in the Gaza Strip now stands at more than 50 per cent. Enforced joblessness is “as high as 69 per cent in the under-26 age bracket,” according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

These shocking statistics tell you a lot about the truly desperate state of affairs in the coastal enclave. Israel, in alliance with the Egyptian military dictatorship, has kept Gaza under full military siege for 12 years.

Almost 2 million people, mostly refugees, are kept caged there. They are not allowed to return to the homes from which they were expelled by the Zionist militias and later by Israel between 1947 and 1949 – purely and simply because they are not Jewish.

Any attempt by Palestinians to escape these prison walls and return to their ancestral homes is met by Israeli snipers, who gun down even children.

Non-violent resistance or violent resistance, it does not matter – the summary death penalty enacted by the Israeli army is the same. What Israel wants is for Palestinians to disappear from the face of the earth.

READ: Data refutes claims Israel easing Gaza blockade

Reporting on the issue of Palestine, and advocating for the human rights of Palestinians, often feels like you are drowning in statistics, numbers and factoids. The rate of poverty in Gaza. The vast disparity between Palestinian casualties compared to the number of Israeli casualties during each “round of fighting”.

While it’s important to inform people of about such facts, this data often misses the point; numbers are frequently divorced from the simple reality of the injustices done to the Palestinians.

The cause of Palestine is not a humanitarian issue alone. It is not a “conflict” between two “sides” which needs to be “resolved” by a “settlement”. It’s a massive historical injustice, in which the UK government played a primary role, and which has never ended.

Gaza Siege is a Crime

The Zionist project which led to the foundation of Israel, is, and always has been, a settler-colonial project in the classically imperialist mode. It has many similarities with South Africa, Australia and the United States.

It is not some unique, eternal, intractable conflict between “two tribes”. Such mythologies are often based on particular religious interpretations of Biblical texts – but there is no historical substance to them.

The causes of the systemic injustices against the Palestinians are political, historic and ideological, and have their origins in the rooting of the Zionist movement within Palestine by the British Empire.

READ: British MPs condemn killing of Palestinian medics by Israel forces in Gaza

This is the legacy which makes the continuation of violence in all of historic Palestine inevitable until decolonisation is achieved. The violence of Israeli colonisation means Palestinians will continue to resist it, by any means necessary.

This explains the continued resistance of the Palestinians within the Gaza Strip to Israeli occupation and why they continue to use all methods to fight. Since March last year, the population has heroically engaged in unarmed resistance, week after week, protesting against their dispossession by Israel since 1948 – even though it often means their deaths.

The sheer violence and oppression of the Israeli siege on Gaza means that Palestinian fighters continue to respond with armed resistance measures, including rockets.

The poverty, desperation and unemployment in Gaza is not some inevitable situation somehow endemic to Palestinians, as racists would have it. The conditions there are deliberately manufactured by Israel, with the help of the Egyptian dictatorship.

Palestinians protest outside the UNSCO building in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on 23 April 2019 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

In a very calculated fashion, Gaza is purposely being kept forever on the brink of devastation and disaster. Medicines are in short supply. Cancer patients often cannot receive the treatments they so desperately need. Power cuts and electricity shortages are endemic. Emergency fuel supplies for hospitals are constantly threatened.

READ: Gaza health ministry warns of ‘unprecedented’ shortage of medicines, medical supplies

Israel keeps the Gaza Strip as its largest open air prison. It strictly controls the entrances and exits. Airspace and the coasts and seas are often limited, restricted or closed.

Collective punishment is forced upon the civilian population in revenge for armed resistance. Most recently, in June, Israel imposed a period of full maritime closure on Gaza, prohibiting fishermen from making a living entirely.

Even the unjust Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) 25 years ago permitted fishing access up to 20 nautical miles out from Gaza – but Israel has always violated this provision, having never allowed Palestinians beyond 15 nautical miles.

This is a violent, racist regime. If there is to be any hope of peace in historic Palestine, this regime must end. Decolonisation, equality and democracy are the logical solutions to Zionism.

READ: Israel’s Shin Bet refuses work permits for 5,000 Gazans

(Source / 20.07.2019) 

How Israeli media helped turn innocent Palestinian into child rapist

Mahmoud Katusa, who was falsely accused of raping a 7-year-old Jewish girl, fell victim to a press and a public atmosphere that views Palestinians as guilty until proven innocent.



By Uzi Benziman


In order to understand the false allegations against Mahmoud Katusa, a Palestinian man from the West Bank who was wrongfully accused of raping a 7-year-old Jewish girl, one should listen to what Dr Suzy Ben Baruch, the former head of the Israel Police Juvenile Department, told Army Radio last week.


Speaking on an evening show, Ben Baruch firmly stated that Katusa’s was “the perfect case.” The victim’s “early acquaintance with the rapist,” and that he was speedily identified were “sound evidence for filing an indictment. And that’s what we have in this case.”

Co-host Yaakov Berdugo tried to understand Ben Baruch’s diagnosis, repeatedly asking her about how she came to this particular conclusion. Ben Baruch responded resolutely: “If the prosecution had doubts about its ability to prove the accusation, it would not have filed an indictment.”

Army Radio was not the only outlet to host Ben Baruch and make room for her insights. That same night she was also interviewed by several other outlets, and in the following days, her opinion could be found everywhere in the media. The impression she left was incontrovertible: Katusa is the rapist, and the Military Advocate General and the police have solid evidence to prosecute him.

On Tuesday morning, shortly after the police and the MAG withdrew the indictment against Katusa, Ben Baruch’s conclusions now speak for themselves. The irony is clear as day, and perhaps it is symbolic that someone previously tasked with investigating cases of sexual abuse of minors failed so disgracefully.

Deep racism

The behaviour of the police and the MAG in this case not only reflects an inexcusable professional clumsiness; it mainly shows the kind of racist mindset that is poisoning Israeli society — including, woefully, the branch entrusted with enforcing the law.

The state authority whose role it is to protect the public from injustice, to implement the very principles of justice rather than divert or distort it, is infected by a disease that all state institutions must be safeguarded against.

The rape attributed to Katusa took place in an ultra-Orthodox settlement in the West Bank that has limited contact with state authorities, including the police. It is a place where the rabbi has far greater authority than the local police commander.

As expected, the news of the rape initially remained within the family, after which it spread to her school, and only later reached Israeli authorities. The police station located inside the settlement is influenced by the public mood, comporting itself to the expectations of its residents. That same goes for the school and its administration. They are part of the community and its lifestyle.

Prejudice

These circumstances, which exist in other communities across the country, meant there was a higher likelihood of failing to properly take care of the girl’s complaint. The settlement is also influenced by the hostile relations between the settlers and their Palestinian neighbours, as well as incitement, terrorism and “price tag” attacks.

The prejudices, anxieties and growing hatred that inform relations between Jews and Palestinians can be seen in the daily contact between the two — all the more so in cases of extreme violence.

All of this was evident in the way the rape case unfolded, yet these circumstances were not sufficiently considered at the right time by either the investigative authorities or the media, which influences said authorities.

The first lawyer who made the media rounds following the indictment was attorney Haim Bleicher of Honenu, a legal aid organisation with Kahanist leanings.

Honenu has previously offered its services to right-wing terrorists such as Ami Popper, the killers of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, and Yigal Amir, who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Bleicher represented the 7-year-old girl and her family.

On her radio show, journalist Ayala Hasson asked Bleicher whether he thinks the rape was a deliberate attack on Jewish Israelis, to which the attorney responded:

“When I heard about the incident I thought it was just another case of paedophilia. The moment I understood that the incident included additional adults who looked on and humiliated the girl, I understood that this case has no precedent. We’re not talking about everyone looking on as the act is carried out on an adult woman, but rather pure hatred.

“If they do not suffer from paedophilia, then the only reason they could be going along with the rapist is because she is Jewish and thus they can do anything they want to her. I do not know of a single human being who could look on in the face of such an incident without stopping it.”

Hasson asked Bleicher whether he or the girl’s family expects additional suspects to be arrested. “We expect all those who participated to be arrested, since in our view they are a ticking bomb,” Bleicher responded. “People who can stand there and go along with this kind of thing cannot be trusted… from the nature of the incident it is quite clear that this is not the only case. Their conduct was systematic and professional.”

False allegation

The interview with Hasson should give us pause. The defendant’s attorney was not invited to the interview (in fact, at the time Bleicher spoke on the radio, the defendant was not yet assigned an attorney, nor was his name known) while the family’s lawyer was.

Why does the family need an attorney? It is unclear. Yet Hasson jumped on the opportunity and gave platform to the kind of wholesale racism that seeks to paint all Palestinians as child predators waiting to pounce on young Jewish girls.

Hasson’s interview coloured the way most of Israel’s other media outlets covered the story, which portrayed Katusa as a cruel rapist. Only Channel 13 and the Israeli Public Broadcasting Company began raising questions about the validity of the police’s evidence and the professionalism of the investigators and prosecutors.

There is no need to go into great detail about the kind of racism we saw exuding from Israeli politicians — beginning with Prime Minister Netanyahu himself — as well as right-wing social media and the print media.

Put simply, it was a terrifying spectacle that saw countless Israelis get swept up in a prejudice that views Palestinians as devils lying in wait for any and every Israeli. Now that the indictment has been rescinded, these racists must consider the hatred that flows in their blood and dictates their thinking and their actions.

The dominant tone among the Jewish public in Israel toward Palestinians, and especially the attitude of its leaders (and, unfortunately, of its civil servants) is not unlike that of the white establishment toward African Americans in the United States. Over there, they cannot rid themselves of this curse, even years after they recognised its existence and pledged to uproot it. Here, they deny it even exists in the first place.

A week ago, “The Seventh Eye” recommended the media consider the possibility that the police version of the incident may not reflect reality. Today it should take a hard look in the mirror and not forget the obvious question: who is the actual rapist?

(Source / 01.07.2019) 

There is no parity between ethnic cleansing in Palestine and Jews’ exodus from Arab states

Palestinian woman holds a key, symbolising the right to her home from 1948, during the 68th anniversary of the 'Nakba' in Ramallah, West Bank

Palestinian woman holds a key, symbolising the right to her home from 1948, during the anniversary of the ‘Nakba’ in Ramallah, West Bank

By Nasim Ahmed

British Conservative MP Theresa Villiers blundered into a debate on Israel and Palestine last week. In doing so, the former Northern Ireland Secretary rehashed discredited myths the function of which has historically been to shield Israel from taking responsibility for the plight of Palestinian refugees. During deliberations in the House of Commons on “Jewish Refugees from the Middle East and North Africa”, Villiers spoke of the “untold story” of the “ethnic cleansing” of 856,000 Arab Jews from Arab countries.

According to the member of Conservative Friends of Israel, ignoring the plight of these Jewish refugees and concentrating only on the Palestinians “gives the international community a distorted view of the Middle East dispute.” Villiers added that, “A fair settlement needs to take into account the injustice suffered by Jewish refugees as well as the plight of the Palestinians.”

The MP for Chipping Barnet claimed that, “The historic UN Resolution 242 states that a comprehensive peace agreement should include ‘a just settlement of the refugee problem’; the language is inclusive of both Palestinian and Jewish refugees.”

Villiers-who often speaks in support of Israel and has even used a Commons debate about terrorism on the streets of London to appeal for “sympathy and solidarity” for the Zionist state- mimicked discredited claims made by Israeli officials since the 1950s to absolve the country from its obligations under international law to the 750,000 Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed in 1947-8.

As others have pointed out, “The analogy between Palestinian displacement and the Jewish ‘exodus’ from Arab countries is misleading.” The claims of the two communities are very different; the history and circumstance of their displacement bears no resemblance to each other, which makes any attempt to use the plight of one group to dismiss the other, as though it were a kind of population transfer reminiscent of countries split apart by civil war, totally fanciful.

Contrary to what Villiers suggested, there was no forced mass exodus of Jews from Arab countries, in the way that there was a deliberate, forced expulsion of Palestinians from their own land. If we look at Iraq, for example, Arab Jews left due to a combination of factors, of which a hostile environment following the creation of the State of Israel in Palestine was certainly one. Other push factors, according to Abbas Shiblak, author of The Lure of Zion: Case of the Iraqi Jews, include laws that were enacted to facilitate the Jewish exodus. One such law is 1/1950, known as the denaturalisation law, which empowered the Iraqi government to “divest any Iraqi who wished of his own free will and choice to leave Iraq for good, of his Iraqi nationality.” Shiblak points out that this law was welcomed by Israel, as well as Britain and the US, both of which were applying pressure on Iraq to agree to a population transfer deal involving 100,000 Iraqi Jews. It was indeed a driving factor in the flight of Iraqi Jews.

READ: The moral travesty of Israel demanding Arab and Iranian money for its own ‘Nakba’

Other factors, though mired in controversy, also played a part. The 1950s saw a number of Israeli false flag operations. One that grabbed global attention was the failed covert operation, known as the “Lavon Affair”. Egyptian Jews were recruited by Israeli military intelligence to plant bombs inside British and American civilian targets, including churches and libraries. The attacks were to be blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian communists in order to induce the British government to maintain its occupation army in the Suez Canal zone.

While that operation was not intended to create a hostile environment for Jews in Egypt with the hope of persuading them to go to Israel — that result was an arguably unintended consequence — similar plots in Iraq were designed with exactly that in mind. From 1950 through to 1951 Israeli spy agency Mossad orchestrated five bomb attacks on Jewish targets in an operation known as Ali Baba, to drum up fear amongst and hostility towards Iraqi Jews. As the mood darkened, more than 120,000 Jews — 95 per cent of the Jewish population in Iraq — left for Israel via an airlift known as Operation Ezra and Nehemiah.

In addition to the anti-Jewish feelings that took root in Arab cities following the creation of the State of Israel and prompted Jewish flight, there was also a powerful pull factor that had nothing to do with hostility in Arab countries. The very creation of Israel was based on the idea of “the ingathering of the exiles”, which assumed that the self-styled “Jewish State” would attract as a matter of course Jews from around the world to make “aliyah” and migrate there. This was not only intended to fulfil the secular dream of a Jewish “national home” (as the Balfour Declaration put it, not a “state”) but also to bring about what fundamentalist Evangelical Christians believe is a Biblical prerequisite for the long-awaited return of Jesus Christ, Armageddon and the end days; what they refer to as the “rapture”. If the whole purpose of the State of Israel was and remains to attract Jewish migration from across the world — Arab states included, presumably — then to claim that those who make the move are “refugees” is totally inaccurate and a false representation of reality.

In stark contrast, the ethnic cleansing (a term applied by Israeli historians) of three-quarters of the Palestinian population of historic Palestine, and the subsequent further expulsions of the native population that followed the June 1967 war, was premeditated in order to create a Jewish majority in the land. This is not only an indisputable historical fact, but is also reflected in various UN resolutions.

READ: Israel army’s killing of Palestinian child was ‘egregious’ shooting, received ‘official backing’ 

Israel’s membership of the UN was conditional upon the nascent Zionist state taking responsibility for the plight of Palestinian refugees and allowing them to return to their homes. It’s worth noting that Israel first applied to join the UN on 15 May, 1948, the day after it declared its independence; the application was rejected. A second application on 17 December the same year was also turned down on the grounds that the fighting was ongoing in Palestine and that Israel had failed to establish a demilitarised zone in the Negev Desert. It was only at its third attempt a year later that the international community allowed Israel to become a member of the organisation with the aforesaid condition.

UN General Assembly Resolution 273 of 11 May, 1949 admitted the state as a member, but required Israel to comply with Resolution 194 of 11 December, 1948 which “resolves that the [Palestinian] refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.” The Israeli government agreed to this condition. In pursuit of this goal, the UN ordered the creation of a commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation.

However, Israel has never shown any inclination to fulfil that condition of its UN membership, despite agreeing to do so. Palestinians who were expelled from their land, and their descendants, still live in refugee camps across the occupied Palestinian territories and neighbouring countries, with many others in the wider diaspora around the world.

The international community recognises no such moral and legal claims for Arab Jews who moved to Israel, though it should also be pointed out that many chose to settle elsewhere. Villiers cited UN Resolution 242 when she claimed that such an obligation does indeed exist. However, the strongest interpretation of this resolution given its context in being adopted by the Security Council in 1967 after Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza during a war that led to the displacement of a further 400,000 Palestinians, is that UN Resolution 242 refers only to Palestinian refugees. The resolution also required Israel to withdraw from the territories that it occupied during the war; it hasn’t done that yet, either.

One could of course make a case for Arab Jews to be compensated for the suffering that they endured and the property they left behind, but that should not in any way be at the expense of Palestinian refugees. Such a move would have no basis in international humanitarian law, and would thus be baseless. Human rights are not interchangeable: you cannot simply exchange the rights of one person with those of another as though it were some kind of commodity to be bartered. The rights and claims of Palestinian refugees on the state of Israel cannot be wiped away by rights that Jews may or may not have over Arab states. The simple truth is that there is not, and never has been, any parity between the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians since 1947, and the exodus of Jews from Arab states. As a lawyer, Theresa Villiers should know that but, as a strong supporter of the State of Israel, like many others she chooses to ignore it as she tries to deny Palestinians of their legitimate rights.

READ: Arms sold from UK to Israel during Gaza protests

(Source / 26.06.2019) 

Money can’t ‘fix’ Palestine’s occupied economy

Whatever the Bahrain workshop proposes is doomed to failure. Here is why

By Yara Hawari

An occupation stunts economic development by default and no proposed financial “fixes” would ever work until it is fully lifted.


This week the much-awaited Bahrain workshop is to take place in Manama, with various Arab and Western officials in attendance. The event is supposed to present the new economic plan for the occupied Palestinian territories, besieged Gaza and the wider region, which will allegedly get the Palestinian economy “going the right way“.

While we shouldn’t be surprised that a rich white man, such as President Donald Trump, wants to throw money at a problem to make it go away, it is quite disappointing to see that there are some who are buying into the narrative that a simple economic plan can be a solution to the decades-old “Palestinian issue”.

It should be obvious to all that an occupied economy cannot “go the right way” even if billions are poured into its sectors. An occupation stunts economic development by default and no proposed financial “fixes” would ever work until it is fully lifted.

An economy under occupation

The economy of historic Palestine, once a thriving region, sharply deteriorated after the foundation of the Israeli state in 1948 on the rubble of Palestinian villages and cities and skulls of Palestinian people. A series of “peace” agreements made in the early 1990s as part of the Oslo Accords brought Palestine under complete economic subjugation.

The 1994 Paris Protocol was particularly damaging. It imposed an unequal customs union, granting Israeli businesses direct access to the Palestinian market but restricting Palestinian goods’ entry into the Israeli one; it gave the Israeli state control over tax collection; and it further entrenched the use of the shekel in the occupied Palestinian territories, leaving the newly formed Palestinian Authority with no means to impose fiscal control or adopt macroeconomic policies.

This in effect means that today Israel has full direct and indirect control over the levers of the Palestinian economy. The military occupation complements it by allowing the Israeli state to exercise physical control over the Palestinians’ everyday economic activity and expand the colonisation of Palestinian land. What does this look like on the ground?

In Gaza, 35 percent of the farmland falls within the so-called “buffer zone” designated and enforced as such by the Israeli army. Farming this land leaves people at risk of coming under live fire. Other farmland in Gaza has been periodically aerially sprayed with herbicides by Israeli planes which resulted, on one occasion in January 2018, in losses worth $1.3m.

In the occupied West Bank, most of the natural resources and most fertile land fall in Area C (61 percent of the West Bank) which is under absolute Israeli control. This includes 95 percent of the Jordan Valley, which is heavily cultivated by illegal Israeli settlements. Indeed the loss of access to Area C is estimated to cost the Palestinian economy around $480m per year and is responsible for the unemployment of 110,000 Palestinians.

The Bantustanisation of the West Bank further stunts economic growth by restricting freedom of movement both people and goods. Israel is in complete control of most of Palestinian infrastructure and is able to restrict access to it, as it pleases. For years, it curbed the development of mobile services by imposing various restrictions on it, including a ban on the introduction of 3G technology. One report estimated that as a result, Palestinian mobile operators suffered losses of between $436m and $1.5bn in the period of 2013-2015.

Israel also restricts Palestinian access to various roads and passes in the West Bank on an everyday basis. A World Bank study estimated that in 2007, the Palestinian economy lost $229m or six percent of its GDP due to the negative effects of the numerous Israeli checkpoints dispersed across the occupied territories.

In Gaza, Israel has upped the ante and imposed a complete blockade, restricting the entry of almost all goods. This has devastated the agriculture and the manufacturing industries and resulted in theunemployment of 50 percent of the population. In addition, the Israeli army bombs regularly the strip completely destroying basic infrastructure, rending the area uninhabitable by 2020, according to the UN.

As a result of the combined effects of economic and military occupation, the Palestinian economy is severely underdeveloped, local production diminished, unemployment skyrocketing and traditional sectors reduced to shambles.

Given the domination and privileges of the Israeli economy over the Palestinian one, the Palestinian business can neither compete nor produce enough to meet local demand. Israeli businesses are making money not only by dominating the Palestinian market and exploiting their privileged position, but also by using Palestinian labour rendered extremely cheap by the lack of native economic opportunity.

As a result, many Palestinians find themselves in the unenviable position of being forced to buy goods produced by their occupier on land stolen from them with money earned in labour for occupying businesses and in currency imposed on them again by the same occupying forces.

Neoliberalism and depoliticisation

Apart from entrenching Israel’s dominance over the Palestinian economy, the Oslo Accords also produced a governing entity highly dependent on outside forces – the Palestinian Authority (PA). Under Western pressure, it has fully embraced neoliberalism and helped create an ever-increasing wealth gap within the Palestinian population, making life much harder for the Palestinian working class.

The PA’s restructuring in its 2007 “Palestine Reform and Development Plan”‘ is an example of this par excellence. It was developed with the help of the World Bank and British Department for International Development (DFID) among others and introduced various damaging policies, including massive reductions in public spending. In 2015, only 16 percent of the PA’s annual budget was spent on education, nine percent on health and one percent on agriculture, whereas 26 percent was dedicated to the security sector (which through its policy of coordination works with the Israeli occupation to suppress Palestinian resistance).

The restructuring also encouraged borrowing, increasing the indebtedness of the general population manifold. Currently, the private sector owes close to $2.8bn to banks, while private individuals have taken out loans worth some $3.2bn. Over the past 10 years, car loans have jumped sixfold from $40m in 2008 to $250m at the end of last year.

Thus, in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the PA, could easily be mistaken for a prosperous city with middle-class neighbourhoods full of plush villas and shiny BMW’s. But this is just a facade for the devasting effects of neoliberalism and occupation on the Palestinian people.

The indebtedness of Palestinians also allows for furthering social control and depoliticisation. Today, some 150,000 Palestinians are employed by the PA and some 100,000 others work in Israel, many of whom have taken out loans. They all face the threat of losing their employment (and potentially their home, car, etc) if they are seen to be involved in “undesirable” political activities. The Israelis regularly rescind work permits for entire extended families if a member is found to be engaged in anti-occupation activities.

The result of all of this is not only increasing poverty and hardship, but also growing individualisation which has contributed to fragmentation and political polarisation within Palestinian society.

It is within this context that the Bahrain workshop is to be held. Whatever the outcomes, they will not “fix” the Palestinian economy because they would not address the main problem: the Israeli occupation. The colonisation and oppression of Palestine cannot be remedied with a depoliticised economic solution.

To Palestinians, it is clear that the “economic peace” that is on offer is just another attempt to buy them off. Even the PA and prominent Palestinian businessmen have rejected it.

Yet the workshop is a symptom of a much larger global problem. Systems of racial domination and capital work together to oppress; it is in their interest to ensure that politics are kept separate from the economy.

In post-apartheid South Africa, liberation was not fully achieved because of the separation of politics from economics. While racial capitalism was an important part of the ideological discussions of the African National Congress, it restricted its own anti-apartheid agenda to the political and social spheres. It made significant concessions to the economic elites and embraced neoliberalism, which today is responsible for the gross inequality in South African society and the continuing suffering of the black urban working-class and rural populations.

To avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, it must be recognised that in Palestine, there can never be “economic peace” as long as Palestinians are being denied their rights. The world must join the Palestinians in rejecting Trump’s deal and the Bahrain Workshop and reiterating that the only solution to the Palestinian question is a political one – i.e. the complete lifting of the Israeli occupation and the dissolution of its apartheid regime. Anything short of that is doomed to failure.

(Source / 26.06.2019) 

Israeli security, peace cannot be built on injustice of Palestinians

Israel is a colonial power that is ethnically cleansing an entire indigenous population in order to legitimise and grow its colony

By Ramzy Baroud 

The occupation of Palestine is not a conflict. Israel is a colonial power that is ethnically cleansing an entire indigenous population in order to legitimise and grow its colony.


In 1948 my grandfather, along with 3000 other Badrasawis, was expelled by Israeli military forces from our ancestral village of Beit Daras in Palestine.

Like hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from over 500 other villages, my grandfather assumed he would be back home in a few weeks. “Why bother to haul the good blankets on the back of a donkey, exposing them to the dust of the journey, when we know that we will return to Beit Daras in a week or so?” he asked my bewildered grandmother, Zeinab.

Beit Daras was located 32 kilometres north-east of the Gaza Strip, perched between a large hill and a small river that seemed never to run dry. A massacre took place as people fled the village. Houses were blown up, and wells and granaries sabotaged.

A peaceful village, that had existed for millennia, was completely destroyed with the intention of erasing it from existence. In its place now stands the Israeli towns of Giv’ati, Azrikam, and Emunim. The life of those Israeli towns is based on the death of our village.

It is not a conflict

Seventy years later, we have still not returned. Not just the Badrasawis, but millions of Palestinians, who are scattered in refugee camps all across the Middle East and a growing diaspora globally. Our good blankets have been lost forever, replaced with endless exile and dispossession.

The occupation of Palestine is not a “conflict” – as the Israelis like to present it. Israel is a colonial power that is ethnically cleansing an entire indigenous population in order to legitimise and grow its colony.

And like all people, we Palestinians have the right to resist colonial domination and occupation. This is an inalienable right enshrined in international law.

It is this right that justified Africa’s anti-colonial struggles and wars of liberation in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the American Revolution and the Cuban Revolution. This right also legitimates Palestinian resistance – whether that resistance is through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, prosecution of Israeli war criminals at the International Criminal Court, or through armed struggle.

Mau Mau rebellion

Dedan Kimathi is celebrated as a hero to Kenyans because of his resistance to – not because of his subservience to – colonialism and occupation. The Mau Mau rebellion is a source of inspiration – not just for Kenyans – but for all of humanity.

Israel will claim its occupation of Palestine is self-defence; that its demolition of Palestinian homes, detention without trial policies, construction of illegal settlements, theft of Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement, are necessary for ‘security’.

Israeli security and peace cannot be built on injustice and occupation – at the expense of Palestinian security, justice, dignity and peace. The life of one group should not be based on the death of the other.

Israeli military strikes on Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip are always portrayed as a “response” to Palestinian fire. But Palestinian fire is never contextualised. It is never “in return” for the cruel, years-long Israeli siege that has systematically destroyed Gaza’s economy and subjected an entire generation of Palestinian children to malnutrition-related deficiencies.

It is never “in return” for decades of devastating military occupation of Palestinian land and life. Fire from Gaza is never “in return” for the continued dispossession of historic Palestine which made most of the population in Gaza refugees in the first place.

Incremental genocide

The Palestinian liberation struggle is simply dismissed as “terrorism”. The word “terrorism” is readily applied to Palestinian individuals or groups who use homemade bombs, but never to a nuclear-armed Israeli state that has used white phosphorous, DIME bombs, and other internationally-prohibited weapons against Palestinian civilians.

What is happening in occupied Palestine is incremental genocide – not self-defence. Israel is asking the Palestinian people to let their freedom die, so that the Israeli people can live.

Submit or fight. These were the two choices facing Kenyans during your anti-colonial struggle. Like you, we Palestinians have also chosen to fight for our dignity – for ourselves and our children. We will not let our dream of freedom die.

For me, Beit Daras is not just a piece of earth but a perpetual fight for justice that shall never cease, because the Badrasawis belong to Beit Daras and nowhere else.

Israel can no longer rationalise its oppression of Palestinians by blaming Palestinians who exercise their natural and internationally recognised right to resist occupation and colonialism.

We will continue to resist Israeli colonialism, armed with our rights and international law.

(Source / 26.06.2019) 

Deal of the Century or Eon of Disasters?

By Jamal Kanj*

June 24, 2019

The Trumpian hyperbole marketing brand had generated unrealistic expectations for the “Deal of the Century.” For over a year and a half, Jared Kushner promised but missed at least three dates to unveil the “secret” plan.

Assisted by two bono fide Zionists, Special Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt and US Ambassador David Friedman, Kushner’s lone political experience with Palestine/Israel is his family’s tax deductible contributions to building “Jewish only colonies.”  

Kushner’s predisposed conviction and his parochial bias were palpable in the June 2nd interview with Axios on HBO. In the interview, he opined that Palestinians were not “capable of governing” themselves or become free from Israeli occupation.

After more than a year of hyped promotion, Kushner’s Zionist team revealed a scaled down version of Trump’s “concrete plan.” Evident in the leaked conference agenda, the goal of Kushner’s gathering is not to offer economic support to Palestinians, but rather to provide a cover-up for opening the doors of Arab capitals to Israeli officials.

Israel gets the reward of the illusionary peace upfront while US tantalizes to Arabs a peace process that may never materialize. Deferring and circumventing political process is archetypical Israeli trademark strategy that seeks to harvest fruits before the tree blossoms. Hence, the fruits of the US proposed miniature workshop in Bahrain. 

In the Oslo Accord in 1993, the PLO agreed to recognize Israel, in advance, over 78% of historical Palestine. There was no reciprocal Israeli obligation toward the PLO on the remaining 22% (West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza). 

A quarter of a century later, peace did not blossom and the only implemented sections of the Oslo Accords were the PLO recognition of Israel. In addition, it relieved Israel of administering the life of five million Palestinians, security coordination and outsourcing―free of cost―the security services to the Palestinian Authority.

Meanwhile, Israel continued to violate and effectively buried the Oslo Accords under new expansive “Jewish only colonies” changing the demographics of the population in areas allotted for the future Palestinian state.

Ten years following the Accord, George W Bush proposed a Road Map for peace. To placate Israeli reservations, Bush rewarded Israel, in advance, with an official American letter agreeing to annex “Jewish only colonies” in the West Bank as part of any future peace agreement.

Israel crushed Bush’s Road Map under the bulldozers of yet more “Jewish only colonies.” The American letter remains the sole outcome of the Road Map. Greenblatt and Friedman are using Bush’s letter to advocate Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Kushner’s economic peace is an age old Israeli contrived gas bubble intends to skirt compliance with international law and UN resolutions. Shimon Peres floated the idea to equivocate Israel’s commitments under the Oslo Accords. Current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revived it in 2009 to sidestep the American (Bush and Obama) administration’s support for two-state solution.

Yet, for quarter of a century since the establishment of the Palestinian authority, Israel had systematically strangled the very economy it (and now Kushner) claims to champion.

Since 1993, the European Union invested billions of dollars in economic infrastructure, including an airport and seaport in Gaza. In 2002 after the failure of Camp David, Israel obliterated both facilities denying Palestinians access to trade and fishing.

To further stifle the economy, Israel erected walls separating farmers from their olive groves and farms, spiked the West Bank with intrusive military checkpoints encumbering the movement of goods, divided towns and cities and misappropriated tax money held on Palestinian imports.

Kushner and Israel’s invented economic peace is a political shenanigan to sedate the bird cage (walled) economy, or leverage it in the form of collective punishment to suppress resistance and subjugate Palestinians.

Like Oslo Accords, the Road Map, and now ahead of rolling the political plan for the “Deal of Century”, Trump conferred on Israel another advanced installment by recognizing Jerusalem as its capital, cut financial aid to Palestinians including UN organizations, and the annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights without any Israeli concession.

In addition to normalizing contacts between Arabs attending the Manama workshop and Israel (another advanced installment), Kushner’s plan would relegate the cost of the caged Palestinian economy to Arab countries, gifting Israel yet more freebies without negotiation. 

Kushner economic peace workshop is a false allure to salve Palestinian (and Arab) capitulation before rolling out the eon of all political disasters.

*Mr Kanj (www.jamalkanj.com) an author who had written weekly newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. His recent coauthored book “Bride of the Sea” was published in Germany and Poland. 

THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION IS DEAD. LET US TAKE THE OBVIOUS AND HUMANE PATH FORWARD

Mike Gravel Democratic presidential hopeful and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel speaks at the “Take Back America” political conference in Washington Mike Gravel, Washington, USA

By Mike Gravel

One of the most obvious absurdities in the world of foreign policy is seeing what is considered serious. The people who want to continue funding massacres, genocides, and authoritarian regimes abroad frame their ideas in the sober language of realism, and earn plaudits from pundits and think tanks; those who propose the moral and obviously necessary alternatives are dismissed as unserious, among the cruelest insults in the world of foreign policy. Thus I do not expect the policy I will propose for Israel and Palestine to be taken seriously by the foreign policy establishment, which is too busy honoring Henry Kissinger to care much. But I will be frank with what I view as true seriousness on this important issue.

The very basic threshold for seriousness with regards to Israel/Palestine policy is one that no major party backs: the two-state solution is dead, and we have killed it.

The signs of its expiration are all around us. More than half a million Israeli settlers live (illegally) in Palestinian territory, and it would be politically, and logistically, impossible for them to be removed peacefully. The increasingly entrenched Israeli hard right—led by toxic figures like Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett—openly advocates annexing “Area C,” which constitutes most of the West Bank. And the compromises that a two-state solution would require would not only be politically toxic for both Israeli and Palestinian leadership; they would also be disastrous in practice. It is not difficult to envision ethnic cleansing reminiscent of the massacres surrounding the partition of British India in 1947, as vast numbers of people scramble to cross arbitrary borders in short stretches of time.

With these deteriorating conditions constituting difficult obstacles, it stands to reason that if Bill Clinton and Barack Obama could not reach a working agreement, the particular charms of a Pete Buttigieg or Joe Biden won’t be able to, either. It is also apparent that a two-state solution would likely not be worth the bloodshed and chaos it would cause. So why keep up the charade? Most American diplomats will, in their more candid hours, admit that the two-state idea is long dead. Prudence dictates that America acknowledge that on the world stage and begin the search for other solutions.

The most obvious and humane path forward is the creation of a secular, democratic, binational state with equal rights for all. That is the model the U.S. government, with its partners in the region, should work toward and publicly highlight as the ideal outcome. This, like any real solution, would disappoint many, both those who want an official Palestinian national homeland and those who want an official Jewish homeland. But this is necessary. Both visions serve an abstract nationalism rather than the actual needs of Israelis and Palestinians living in the area, and a state along the lines of the idealized United States model, one with no prized ethnicity or religious character, is the solution all those seeking a humanitarian alternative should support. There would be no need for the byzantine arrangements (land swaps, dual city ownership, etc.) upon which most attempts to resolve the conflict have hinged: it would simply be the decision—an admittedly difficult one—to live together, Muslim, Jew, and Christian, in a peaceful, democratic, egalitarian society.

Of course, the sheer power of the Israel lobby in the United States is the main hurdle to such a radical departure from traditional blind support for Israel. Thus the Israel lobby should be restricted; it is time to free American policy from the shackles of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), ZOA (Zionist Organization of America), and other groups. AIPAC especially wields awe-inspiring power over Congress; the hysterical reaction to relatively mild criticism of the group by Rep. Ilhan Omar—criticism that stands out in large part because of the rarity of sitting federal officials criticizing that ship of fools—illustrates just how much influence it wields.

The first step should be mandating that AIPAC register as a foreign lobby under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). AIPAC manages to skirt American laws about foreign lobbying by claiming that it represents Americans who happen to support Israel. But the shockingly close ties between the governing Likud Party and AIPAC give a lie to this legal fiction; AIPAC will always stand closer to Israeli interests than American ones. (And no, despite Vice President Mike Pence’s claim that Israel’s “cause is our cause, her values are our values and her fight is our fight,” Israeli interests and American ones are not one and the same.) Such an arrangement would prevent AIPAC from influencing American elections, and would require it to report all of its contacts with Congress, along with details of its spending, to the Department of Justice.

Next, the U.S. should end military aid to Israel, citing the Israeli military’s complicity in crimes against the Palestinian people. It should call for a gradual demilitarization of Israel and Palestine, and should be clear with the Israeli government that the days of Israel-right-or-wrong are over. Future outrages by either side will receive an even-handed response without bias. Accordingly, it should demand that Israel bring itself into compliance with international law and end the harassment of dissidents like the liberal Zionist Peter Beinart or those who support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

And the U.S. should refuse to take unconstitutional steps to stifle BDS. Whatever one’s personal thoughts on BDS, an individual or group’s decision not to associate with another group or country is a legitimate exercise of the freedoms of speech and association guaranteed by the Constitution, and using the power of the government to influence those decisions is wrong. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker should be ashamed of themselves for supporting federal laws to restrict BDS. (It is perhaps no coincidence that Booker and the president of AIPAC “text message back and forth like teenagers,” by Booker’s own admission.)

What I’m calling for is, in fact, a moderate and sensible proposal; it is the current policy, of unbridled fondness for a government flirting openly with ethnic cleansing, that is radical and dangerous. The current policy is the exact one that George Washington warned against in his Farewell Address: “a passionate attachment of one nation for another,” the creation of “an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists.”

It’s time for a mature relationship with Israel, free of the cloying sentimentalities and tired banalities (“Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East”) that infest our political discourse surrounding it. America’s wanton indulgence of the whims of Benjamin Netanyahu and his fellow rightists will only redound to the harm of Israelis and Palestinians years down the line. It is too late to return to the fantasies of old, and high time to begin the projects of the new age. There are two possible futures for Israel and Palestine: one close to the vision of Isaiah—“nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”—and one reminiscent of the prophecy of the Sibyl of Virgil’s Aeneid: “wars, horrendous wars,” the Jordan “foaming with tides of blood.” It’s a simple choice. Let’s choose peace.

(Source / 23.06.2019) 

Israel deliberately wounding Palestinian civilians in Gaza

Palestinian medics carry away an injured protestor during a weekly "Great March of Return" demonstration near the Israel-Gaza border, on March 22, 2019 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

Palestinian medics carry away an injured protestor during the Great March of Return in Gaza on 22 March 2019

By Asa Winstanley 

new World Heath Organization report on Gaza this month made for shocking reading.

But as usual when it comes to our hopelessly Israel-sympathetic media, there was barely a whisper about it in the “mainstream” papers.

It states that in the course of the year following the start of the Great March of Return protests in March 2018, Israeli army thugs killed 277 Palestinians, including 52 children.

Most of these were murdered in cold blood during the unarmed, massive popular protests that took place along the boundary line between Gaza and Israel. Almost without fail, the protesters have returned every week, time and again since then, to protest against Israel and its crimes.

More than that, the protests are for the Return – the non-negotiable predicate of the Palestinian liberation struggle. And they are more than merely symbolic. They are marching for a real return to their homelands.

READ: Another Gaza medic has been killed on duty by Israel, but nobody expects justice to be served

The population of the Gaza Strip is overwhelmingly – 73 per cent – made up of refugees. That is, if you ask the young, unarmed refugee protestors risking their lives to return to their homes where they are from, they will not reply “from Gaza.”

They will tell you that they are from Jaffa, they are from al-Majdal, or they are from some other Palestinian population centre in what is now called Israel. They will tell you that, because it is their truth.

They are the refugees, and they do not and will not forget, generation after generation. And now, for the past year, they are marching as the start of their long return to Palestine.

They tell the objective historical truth: their parents and grandparents were expelled at the barrel of the gun and under the threat of the bomb, victims of what one future Israeli prime minister once called “cruel Zionism.”

The Nakba was the defining event in Palestinian history – although it has never really ended since 1948. The most infamous event of all, it involved the expulsion of around 800,000 Palestinians, the majority, from their homeland by force.

This was not some accident, or unintended consequence of war, as Zionist propaganda long held. It was a deliberate consequence of decades of Zionist agitation for the “transfer” of the indigenous population out of the country for the crime of not being Jewish.

From Theodor Herzl’s plan to “spirit the penniless population” over the border, until the current day Israeli government’s threats to annex the West Bank, Zionism has always entailed forced expulsions, war crimes, terrorism, racism and repression of the native Palestinian population.

READ: Gaza’s health ministry warns of ‘unprecedented’ deteriorated situation

And so we read in this new WHO report that there were nearly 7,000 gunshot wounds among Gaza’s population of two million during a single year.

As my colleague Maureen Murphy at The Electronic Intifada reported: “Many of those injured have extensive and in some cases irreversible damage to their bones, neurovascular structures and soft tissue.

Among them, hundreds face amputations if they cannot access specialized tertiary treatment for their catastrophic wounds.

Three health workers have been killed and more than 700 others injured.

Thousands of elective surgeries were postponed as a health system already in crisis took in wave after wave of emergency casualties.”

Such systemic violence and such a cruel policy of serious injury to unarmed protestors can only be deliberate. Again, it is a longstanding policy.

READ: 3 children a month in Gaza left disabled for life

Recall the infamous command of Israeli Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Yitzhak Rabin for his soldiers to “break the bones” of Palestinian children protesting against the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the first intifada – the popular uprising of the Palestinian people for freedom.

As well as being inherently racist, Zionism is inherently violent.

A Jewish settler-colony in a historic territory, Palestine, which is overwhelming non-Jewish can only ever be sustained by massive systemic, sustained violence.

That is the brutal reality behind the so-called “Jewish state.” A homogenous project like Zionism in a heterogeneous, multi-religious, multi-ethnic country like Palestine is as doomed to failure in the long term as the European Crusader kingdoms were.

(Source / 15.06.2019) 

Another Gaza medic has been killed on duty by Israel, but nobody expects justice to be served

Al-Judaily was the fifth paramedic to be killed by Israeli forces during the Great March of Return protests; more than 500 others have been wounded

Gaza medic killed by Israel, left bereaved wife, 4 children alone, in Gaza, on 12 June 2019 [Loai El-Agha.]
Gaza medic killed by Israel, left bereaved wife, 4 children alone, in Gaza, on 12 June 2019 [Loai El-Agha.]

By Motasem A Dalloul 

It was a difficult moment for the wife of Mohammad Al-Judaily when she heard that he had succumbed to his wounds. The paramedic was 37 years old when he was shot in the face by an Israeli sniper while providing first aid to participants in Gaza’s Great March of Return protests on 3 May.

“At first,” explained Muna, 31, “when we heard that he was shot at work, I thought he would come home at the same day because I was told he was hit by a rubber bullet. I was shocked when he died; I had a lot of hope that he would recover and come home.”

The mother of four spent a lot of time at her late husband’s bedside, dreaming that he would return and be able to play with their children. It was not to be.

Al-Judaily worked with the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC). On that fateful day at the beginning of May, he joined the emergency medical team which headed to Abu Safiyeh protest site east of the northern Gaza city of Jabalia.

“I asked him to stay at home and have a rest that Friday,” said Muna. “That was the first time I had asked that since the protests began last year, but he insisted on going to help the protesters. He stressed that everyone must be loyal to his work and colleagues.”

READ: Gaza’s health ministry warns of ‘unprecedented’ deteriorated situation 

When she was told that he had been shot by a rubber bullet, she rushed to the hospital. “The rubber is simply a cover for a steel bullet,” she pointed out, “so I found him seriously wounded in the face. Even so, I did not expect him to die.”

The PRC’s Dr Bashar Murad noted that Al-Judaily was wearing a clearly-identifiable paramedic’s uniform when he was shot. “He was rushed to Al-Shifa Hospital where doctors found fractures in his face, but their assessment was that his wounds were not life-threatening.” However, he started to haemorrhage for three days, so the medical team put him into intensive care and then transferred him to Al-Quds Hospital, which is a private healthcare facility run by the organisation and where, according to his widow, Al-Judaily started to feel better. “There was 24-hour care provided by the PRC doctors and Mohammad’s colleagues.”

On 3 June, his wife and children persuaded Al-Judaily to leave the hospital in order to spend the holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of holy month of Ramadhan, with them at home. “That was the worst decision he ever made,” she sobbed.

Doctors at Al-Quds Hospital and the Ministry of Health in Gaza had decided that he needed treatment unavailable in the enclave’s hospitals. “We applied for a transfer for him and the Ministry of Health in Ramallah agreed to pay for his treatment,” said Dr Murad. “However, the Israeli occupation authorities did not issue a travel permit. Two days before Eid, his wife insisted that he should spend the holiday at home. At first, the doctors refused, but after many requests by his wife, they agreed to discharge him at his own risk.”

Gaza medic killed by Israel, left bereaved wife, 4 children alone, in Gaza, on 12 June 2019 [Loai El-Agha.]
Gaza medic killed by Israel, left bereaved wife, 4 children alone, in Gaza, on 12 June 2019 [Loai El-Agha.]
Gaza medic killed by Israel, left bereaved wife, 4 children alone, in Gaza, on 12 June 2019 [Loai El-Agha.]

Mohammad’s eldest son, Adel, said that he and his siblings were happy that their father was with them for Eid. “At dawn the following day, though, he fell unconscious and had convulsions,” explained the 11-year-old boy. “My mother called the ambulance and the paramedics arrived within minutes, but his heart had stopped beating.”

Dr Murad said that the paramedics did CPR for half an hour before his heartbeat re-started, and then took him to the hospital. Later on the same day he was transferred to Al-Ahly Al-Araby Hospital in the West Bank city of Hebron, but it was too late.

READ: Israel bans Palestinians from fishing off Gaza coast 

The lack of oxygen to the brain during that crucial first thirty minutes of CPR was too much to bear, and his condition deteriorated. Nevertheless, Mohammad Al-Judaily was kept alive in the ICU at Al-Ahly Al-Araby until he passed away earlier this week. His body was taken back to Gaza, where tens of thousands attended his funeral.

Dr Murad has accused Israel of committing yet another war crime because it was very clear that Al-Judaily was a paramedic and he was very far from the soldier who shot him. The PRC, he said, has filed a complaint at the office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner.

However, nobody expects to see justice served for Muna and her four children, the youngest of whom is just seven months old. Al-Judaily was the fifth paramedic to be killed by Israeli forces during the Great March of Return protests; more than 500 others have been wounded. All were wearing clothing and insignia which identified them clearly as medical personnel, but Israel continues to be allowed to act with impunity, despite its deadly and disproportionate response to the legitimate protests.

(Source / 14.06.2019) 

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

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

Amina Salah and her younger brother Mahmoud

By Amina Salah 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Source / 11.06.2019)