‘Optimism of the Will’: Palestinian Freedom is Possible Now

Israelis gather to stage a demonstration to protest against Israel's annexation plan for the illegal settlements in West Bank and Jordan Valley, in Tel Aviv, Israel on June 6, 2020 [Nir Keidar / Anadolu Agency]
Israelis gather to stage a demonstration to protest against Israel’s annexation plan for the illegal settlements in West Bank and Jordan Valley, in Tel Aviv, Israel on June 6, 2020

By Ramzy Baroud

In a recent TV discussion, a respected pro-Palestine journalist declared that if any positive change or transformation ever occurs in the tragic Palestinian saga, it would not happen now, but that it would take a whole new generation to bring about such a paradigm shift.

As innocuous as the declaration may have seemed, it troubled me greatly.

I have heard this line over and over again, often reiterated by well-intentioned intellectuals, whose experiences in researching and writing on the so-called ‘Palestinian-Israeli conflict’ may have driven some of them to pessimism, if not despair.

The ‘hopelessness discourse’ is, perhaps, understandable if one is to examine the off-putting, tangible reality on the ground: the ever-entrenched Israeli occupation, the planned annexation of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, the shameful Arab normalization with Israel, the deafening silence of the international community and the futility of the quisling Palestinian leadership.

Subscribing to this logic is not only self-defeating, but ahistorical as well. Throughout history, every great achievement that brought about freedom and a measure of justice to any nation was realized despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

Indeed, who would have thought that the Algerian people were capable of defeating French colonialism when their tools of liberation were so rudimentary as compared with the awesome powers of the French military and its allies?

Israel: ‘Our relations with Arab states do not depend on peace with Palestine’

The same notion applies to many other modern historic experiences, from Vietnam to South Africa and from India to Cuba.

Palestine is not the exception.

However, the ‘hopelessness discourse’ is not as innocent as it may seem. It is propelled by the persisting failure to appreciate the centrality of the Palestinian people – or any other people, for that matter – in their own history. Additionally, it assumes that the Palestinian people are, frankly, ineffectual.

Interestingly, when many nations were still grappling with the concept of national identity, the Palestinian people had already developed a refined sense of modern collective identity and national consciousness. General mass strikes and civil disobedience challenging British imperialism and Zionist settlements in Palestine began nearly a century ago, culminating in the six-month-long general strike of 1936.

Since then, popular resistance, which is linked to a defined sense of national identity, has been a staple in Palestinian history. It was a prominent feature of the First Intifada, the popular uprising of 1987.

The fact that the Palestinian homeland was lost, despite the heightened consciousness of the Palestinian masses at the time, is hardly indicative of the Palestinian people’s ability to affect political outcomes.

Time and again, Palestinians have rebelled and, with each rebellion, they forced all parties, including Israel and the United States, to reconsider and overhaul their strategies altogether.

A case in point was the First Intifada.

When, on December 8, 1987, thousands took to the streets of the Jabaliya Refugee Camp, the Gaza Strip’s most crowded and poorest camp, the timing and the location of their uprising was most fitting, rational and necessary. Earlier that day, an Israeli truck had run over a convoy of cars carrying Palestinian laborers, killing four young men. For Jabaliya, as with the rest of Palestine, it was the last straw.

Responding to the chants and pleas of the Jabaliya mourners, Gaza was, within days, the breeding ground for a real revolution that was self-propelled and unwavering. The chants of Palestinians in the Strip were answered in the West Bank, and echoed just as loudly in Palestinian towns, including those located in Israel.

The contagious energy was emblematic of children and young adults wanting to reclaim the identities of their ancestors, which had been horribly disfigured and divided among regions, countries and refugee camps.

The Intifada – literally meaning the “shake off” – sent a powerful message to Israel that the Palestinian people are alive, and are still capable of upsetting all of Israel’s colonial endeavors. The Intifada also confronted the failure of the Palestinian and Arab leaderships, as they persisted in their factional and self-seeking politics.

Fatah leader: Israel annexation plan a ‘declaration of war’

In fact, the Madrid Talks in 1991 between Palestinians and Israelis were meant as an Israeli- American political compromise, aimed at ending the Intifada in exchange for acknowledging the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a representative of the Palestinian people.

The Oslo Accords, signed by Yasser Arafat and Israel in 1993, squandered the gains of the Intifada and, ultimately, replaced the more democratically representative PLO with the corrupt Palestinian Authority.

But even then, the Palestinian people kept coming back, reclaiming, in their own way, their importance and centrality in the struggle. Gaza’s Great March of Return is but one of many such people-driven initiatives.

Palestine’s biggest challenge in the movement is not the failure of the people to register as a factor in the liberation of their own land, but their quisling leadership’s inability to appreciate the immense potential of harnessing the energies of Palestinians everywhere to stage a focused and strategic, anti-colonial, liberation campaign.

This lack of vision dates back to the late 1970s, when the Palestinian leadership labored to engage politically with Washington and other Western capitals, culminating in the pervading sense that, without US political validation, Palestinians would always remain marginal and irrelevant.

The Palestinian leadership’s calculations at the time proved disastrous. After decades of catering to Washington’s expectations and diktats, the Palestinian leadership, ultimately, returned empty-handed, as the current Donald Trump administration’s ‘Deal of the Century’ has finally proven.

I have recently spoken with two young Palestinian female activists: one is based in besieged Gaza and the other in the city of Seattle. Their forward-thinking discourse is, itself, a testament that the pessimism of some intellectuals does not define the thinking of this young Palestinian generation, and there would be no need to dismiss the collective efforts of this budding generation in anticipation of the rise of a ‘better’ one.

Malak Shalabi, a Seattle-based law student, does not convey a message of despair, but that of action. “It’s really important for every Palestinian and every human rights activist to champion the Palestinian cause regardless of where they are, and it is important especially now, ” she told me.

“There are currently waves of social movements here in the United States, around civil rights for Black people and other issues that are (becoming) pressing topics – equality and justice – in the mainstream. As Palestinians, it’s important that we (take the Palestinian cause) to the mainstream as well,” she added.

“There is a lot of work happening among Palestinian activists here in the United States, on the ground, at a social, economic, and political level, to make sure that the link between Black Lives Matter and Palestine happens,” she added.

On her part, Wafaa Aludaini in Gaza spoke about her organization’s – 16th October Group – relentless efforts to engage communities all over the world, to play their part in exposing Israeli war crimes in Gaza and ending the protracted siege on the impoverished Strip.

“Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists outside are important because they make our voices heard outside Palestine, as mainstream media does not report (the truth of) what is taking place here,” she told me.

For these efforts to succeed, “we all need to be united,” she asserted, referring to the Palestinian people at home and in the diaspora, and the entire pro-Palestinian solidarity movement everywhere, as well.

The words of Malak and Wafaa are validated by the growing solidarity with Palestine in the BLM movement, as well as with numerous other justice movements the world over.

Another Palestinian political prisoner dies in Israeli prison due to deliberate medical negligence

On June 28, the UK chapter of the BLM tweeted that it “proudly” stands in solidarity with Palestinians and rejects Israel’s plans to annex large areas of the West Bank.

BLM went further, criticizing British politics for being “gagged of the right to critique Zionism and Israel’s settler-colonial pursuits”.

Repeating the claim that a whole new generation needs to replace the current one for any change to occur in Palestine is an insult – although, at times, unintended – to generations of Palestinians, whose struggle and sacrifices are present in every aspect of Palestinian lives.

Simply because the odds stacked against Palestinian freedom seem too great at the moment, does not justify the discounting of an entire nation, which has lived through many wars, protracted sieges and untold hardship. Moreover, the next generation is but a mere evolution of the consciousness of the current one. They cannot be delinked or analyzed separately.

In his “Prison Notebooks”, anti-fascist intellectual, Antonio Gramsci, coined the term “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.”

While logical analysis of a situation may lead the intellect to despair, the potential for social and political revolutions and transformations must keep us all motivated to keep the struggle going, no matter the odds.

(Source / 12.07.2020)

Despite suffering, sons and daughters of martyrs and prisoners get high results at Palestine’s HSC

By Bahaa Shammala

The Palestinian Ministry of Education announced the results of the general certificate exam for high schools (HSC), known as Tawjhi, on Saturday morning, stating  that overall success rate was 71.32 percent. 

On cloud nine, the Palestinian students celebrate their success in the besieged Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank as fireworks rocked the Palestinian cities this morning. 

Palestinians consider the High school success a big occasion for their children and a day of celebration, especially in the besieged Gaza Strip because it gives hope to those who barely have any hope left amidst the long-standing siege.

Read More: Celebrations in Palestine as Higher Secondary Certificate results are announced

Palestinians celebrate this occasion in different ways like dancing dabka, setting off fireworks and distributing sweets to their neighbors and people in the street. 

Despite the hardships, they got the highest score

Read More: Despite mounting resistance, Netanyahu poised to annex West Bank settlements

Being orphaned by the occupation killing your father, or being the son of a prisoner in their prisons is one of the  biggest hardships that’s difficult to endure, especially when you are a child. 

In Palestine, sons of martyrs and prisoners achieved high results in the high school certificate.

Despite their parents absence , these children  struggled to manifest their legendary steadfastness, and a desire to make their dreams come true, in an effort to make their absent fathers proud of them.

We, the Palestinians people, are so proud of those students. They provide us with positive energy to complete our path to liberate our homeland through our learn, work and endeavor. 


In a heartbreaking scene, the daughter of the martyr Muhammad Abu Shammala who was killed by the Israeli occupation forces when she was 10 years old, hugged her father’s picture 

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The orphaned Palestinian Ruba, daughter of the martyr Muhammad, got a grade of 92% in her high school certificate. 

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Despite the pain she is suffering from for being away from her father, she was able to be distinguished at her high school. Here is Palestine, where its people are writing a story of bravery whatever the cost may be and despite the occupation and its brutality and crimes.

Tasnim Al-Qawasmi, the daughter of the Palestinian detainee Hossam A-Qawasmi, who is sentenced to life imprisonment, obtained a grade  of 96.6% in her high school certificate.

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Miles between her and her father who is detained in the Israeli jails and sentenced to 21 years, Aya Derar Abu Sisi got 98% at her high school certificate.

Despite pain and suffering, the Palestinians continue to dazzle the world through their struggle to live freely and to liberate their occupied homeland by advancing in their practical and educational lives.

(Source / 12.07.2020)

Psychological support is vital for Palestinians in Gaza, but the real problems are the occupation, blockade

The Palestine Trauma Centre in Gaza aim to empower children and their families to overcome their complex traumas [Palestine Trauma Centre]
The Palestine Trauma Centre in Gaza aim to empower children and their families to overcome their complex traumas

By Anjamun Rahman

People in Gaza suffer squashing psychological pressures due to severe financial deprivation, the continuous siege and over-crowded living conditions.

This is on top of having actually withstood 3 harsh wars over the previous years.Dr Mohamed Altawil, who established the Palestine Trauma Centre (PTC) in Gaza 13 years back, has actually studied the impacts of severe worry and stress and anxiety in the population.

He acknowledges the desperate requirement for more medical centers to handle physical injuries and conditions, but tensions the usually unrecognised significance of discovering more psychological health support systems in Gaza to alleviate the injury suffered within households.

Read More: Haneyya phones Mladenov, discusses with him vital issues

He makes use of his own experience as a kid in Gaza throughout the 1980 s and the subsequent pressures on his household today in order to trace the increasing misery and obstacles that individuals in Gaza deal with every day.

“I come from a poor family who still live as second and third generation refugees in the middle area of Gaza,” states Mohamed, who now lives in the UK. “As a child I was keenly aware of the need for freedom and justice in my country. With my brothers, I would run after armoured cars and soldiers, throwing stones and shouting. One day, I was shot and dragged to prison, all because I threw stones at soldiers.”

Read More: Palestine Bleeds: Execution of autistic man is not an exception but the norm

After leaving his household house in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp in Gaza, Mohamed established PTC Gaza in 2007, thought to be the very first centre of its kind in Palestine and in the Arabic- speaking world.

He specialises in psychological and cultural services for the ِArab and Muslim neighborhood in Britain and overseas, with a specific focus on injury, bereavement, anxiety and stress and anxiety.

“We provide psychological, social and specialised medical services for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who have suffered and continue to suffer from the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt. Our psychological work developed emergency response methods during the bombardments in 2008-9, 2012 and the invasion of 2014. These are now being adapted to deal with the threat of the COVID-19 virus.”

In the instant consequences of the 2014 war, WHO approximated that as much as 20 percent of the population of Gaza might have established psychological health conditions. According to UNICEF, more than 300,000 kids in Gaza needed some sort of psychosocial care.

Aid employees, consisting of authorities at the United Nations Palestinian refugee firm (UNRWA), caution of an extraordinary psychological health crisis unfurling throughout Gaza, intensified by a rise in violence over the in 2015 and financing cuts to vital support programs.

Furthermore, the 13- year Israeli blockade has actually seriously cut the lifestyle in Gaza, where youth joblessness now stands at 60 percent and poverty line increased from 30 to 50 percent.

The dispute in Palestine is something really unique from those happening in other nations in the area, as every kid in Gaza has actually matured seeing 3 Israeli offensives– 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014– that ravaged theStrip According to Mohamed, the moms and dads have actually been hardest struck.

“Even though it is the elderly, children or women who are mainly the focus of charities,” he states, “from my personal and professional experience, it’s the parents who are most vulnerable.”

“It is heartbreaking when, as a mother or father, you feel helpless after your child has been shot or injured and they’re bleeding to death while you can’t do anything.”
 

during a battle raid, you have no resources to safeguard the frightened kid who holds on to you. this extensive vulnerability can leave moms and dads susceptible to misery and unchecked anger.

“We believe the best therapy and treatment need to be made available to the people of Gaza who suffer not only from PTSD symptoms, but also from a form of ongoing trauma. We have found that psychosocial methods which incorporate cultural and historical elements of the Palestinian situation can aid resilience.”

As an outcome, he established Family and CommunityTherapy “One person suffering from PTSD in a family affects all the rest,” he states, “since household is the most reliable main system in the neighborhood. Intervention needs to take care of the household initially.

“We have psychiatrists, social employees, psychologists and nurses all of whom utilize a multi-sensory approach to handle injury. So it’s not simply all talk. Practical activities are vital throughout the interventions so they are physically empowered and durable adequate to seem like they can take care of themselves and in turn take care of their household.”


A series of research study studies that observed the impacts of war on Palestinian kids living in the Gaza Strip concluded that signs of anxiety, stress and anxiety and PTSD were popular among kids who had actually been exposed to significantly upsetting occasions, such as damage of their household home, seeing their household being killed, battles and the arrest of relative.

Attachment to parents and family members, which Mohamed explores in his research entitled ‘The Child, the Family and the Community: Overcoming Trauma in Gaza’, is a crucial factor in the way a child responds to a traumatic event in war or conflict.

Parents’ anticipation of the traumatic event, their reaction while it happens and the way they deal with it afterwards can increase or reduce the PTSD levels in children to a significant degree. “This is why a holistic understanding of Family Therapy can alleviate PTSD symptoms,” he explains.

However, it is an on-going struggle.

Mohamed says many sufferers avoid seeking help due to a failure to recognise mental illness or because there is a stigma associated with psychiatric treatment in a conservative society.

“Not everyone can be open about needing psychological help or psychotherapy,” Mohamed continues. “But the awareness has improved. Gradually, more Gazans are seeking treatment because we are careful about how we present the idea of therapy. We focus on somatic elements and use the term ‘support’.”

“Unfortunately,” he said, “such support can only help to a limited extent, since it’s not possible for psychiatrists to combat the root problem: the stifling Israeli occupation and blockade.”

As he reflects on his decades-long journey dealing with this collective depression, he says the main objective of the Palestine Trauma Centre is to change the what Gaza’s streets mean to its residents.

“The streets of Gaza trigger a mental impression of destruction with memories of the smell of blood, broken limbs lying about, rubble and chaos. We have street activities on a Friday which aim to transform that image into something positive.”

“Every Friday, a team of performance artists along with therapists known as the ‘Joy Team’ go into different refugee camps to entertain children and families and bring them onto the streets for games, street theatre, clowning and dance. It is a community-building initiative developed to counter trauma and has proved to be very popular.”

The results of the initiative were instantly noticeable with some parents playing with their children for the first time, he explains. “Parents end up enjoying themselves more than the kids because they say how they were not lucky enough to have anything like this in their childhood.”

(Source / 11.07.2020)

‘Palestine’ is not an anti-Semitic word

By Nadine Sayegh

The removal of model Bella Hadid’s post about her father’s Palestinian identity sheds light on a concerted effort to erase Palestinian voices online.

Tension between Palestinians and Israel have been on the rise and consistently rising since the ‘annexation’ date of July 1. Leading up to the expansion of Israeli occupation, numerous illegal activities took place inside the West Bank territories and in Israel against Palestinians. 

But in addition to on the ground policing, the Israeli government has invested heavily into winning public opinion and policing Palestinian public discourse. 

The most recent scandal involves Palestinian-Dutch supermodel Bella Hadid, daughter of Palestinian architect Mohammad Hadid, posting a blurred copy of her father’s US passport noting his birthplace, Palestine. 

Read More: Pro-Palestine group wins legal battle against MailOnline over false anti-Semitism claim

Instagram removed her post, citing it violated community standards. She replied to the platform through her story:

“What part of me being proud of my father’s birthplace of Palestine is ‘bullying, harassment, graphic, or sexual nudity’? Are we not allowed to be Palestinian on Instagram? This, to me, is bullying,” and that, “You can’t erase history by silencing people. It doesn’t work like that.”

Read More: Palestine Bleeds: Execution of autistic man is not an exception but the norm

She later encouraged her 31.5 million followers to share images of where their parents are from and to feel pride in their heritage.  

Instagram apparently responded citing images of official documents must be blurred out. They said, “To protect the privacy of our community, we don’t allow people to post personal information, such as passport numbers, on Instagram. In this case the passport number was blurred out, so this content shouldn’t have been removed. We’ve restored the content and apologized to Bella for the mistake.” 

This response is meek and quite clearly due to the social influence of the young model and her family. 

Other, less influential Palestinian voices, have been silenced by the same channels with no public nor private apology. In May, 52 Palestinian journalists had their accounts completely deleted by Facebook – these journalists predominantly covered the occupation forces and their illegal activities. The accounts were permanently deleted for ‘violating community standards’ but Facebook provided no further detail and informed them there was nothing the could do to ever retrieve their accounts. 

One said in a report: “I have three different Facebook pages: two official work accounts in Arabic and English, and one personal account. All of them were taken down.”

A reporter with the Al Haya Radio station in Nablus adds, after his account was also permanently deleted, “Anything I posted was at risk of being taken down. If I posted videos of settler attacks on farmers, or of clashes with Israeli soldiers, it would be taken down.” 

He also noted that a simple post citing a Palestinian had been killed by Israeli forces would be removed. Journalists added the live feature was not functional and purposefully disrupted and that, “we are certain that the deactivation of all of our accounts was made at the request of the Israeli government.” 

It would seem this silencing of Palestinian voices is only set to get worse. Facebook has installed what they are calling and ‘Oversight Board’ made of a multicultural group of 20 powerful and influential individuals to improve or oversee community standards as well as develop further guidelines on the type of content to remove.

A central member of this committee is Emi Palmor, former Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Justice (excuse the oxymoron), she under Ayelet Shaked, really took to censoring Palestinians online. 

During her time in government the Cyber Unit was founded and under her lead actively searched for, through support from Facebook, and silenced powerful Palestinian voices. 

A report states that under her lead, since 2016, “there has been an increase in the number of Israeli government requests for data, which now total over 700, 50 percent of which were submitted under ’emergency requests’ and were not related to legal processes. These are not isolated attempts to restrict Palestinian digital rights and freedom of expression online.”

Another layer working in tandem in this attempt to erase the Palestinian identity, the Zionist party has no issues inducing an intentional conflagration of terminologies. This began by claiming themselves as the sole people with Semitic origins, despite certain modern-day Arabs being of the (obsolete) same ethnic group, as well as the Arabic language, which is the most widely spoken modern day Semitic language today. 

More recently, by conflagrating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, a move that threatened to change freedom of speech in countries such as France. And now, it would appear, the next step on the agenda is to attempt to make Palestine a ‘bad’ word all together. 

It is clear that a multitude of powers are attempting and largely succeeding and stifling Palestinian voices but this has been true for a long time. However, until today, you see resistance for a free Palestine from communities all over the world. 

As many minority groups emerge and form solidarity movements, we also have ways to replicate our narratives of displacement. As the young model highlights, the Palestinian people, of all generations, cannot be and will not be erased – certainly not by a Silicon Valley social media app. 

(Source / 10.07.2020)

On Israel’s bizarre definitions: The West Bank is already annexed

The truth is that Israel rarely behaves as an ‘Occupying Power,’ but as a sovereign in a country where racial discrimination and apartheid are not only tolerated or acceptable but are, in fact, ‘legal’ as well

By Ramzy Baroud

Wednesday, July 1, was meant to be the day on which the Israeli government officially annexed 30% of the occupied Palestinian West Bank and the Jordan Valley. This date, however, came and went and annexation was never actualised.


“I don’t know if there will be a declaration of sovereignty today,” said Israeli Foreign Minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, with reference to the self-imposed deadline declared earlier by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. An alternative date was not immediately announced.

But does it really matter?

Whether Israel’s illegal appropriation of Palestinian land takes place with massive media fanfare and a declaration of sovereignty, or whether it happens incrementally over the course of the coming days, weeks, and months, Israel has, in reality, already annexed the West Bank – not just 30% of it but, in fact, the whole area.

It is critical that we understand such terms as ‘annexation’, ‘illegal’, ‘military occupation’, and so on, in their proper contexts.

For example, international law deems that all of Israel’s Jewish settlements, constructed anywhere on Palestinian land occupied during the 1967 war, are illegal.

Interestingly, Israel, too, uses the term ‘illegal’ with reference to settlements, but only to ‘outposts’ that have been erected in the occupied territories without the permission of the Israeli government.

In other words, while in the Israeli lexicon the vast majority of all settlement activities in occupied Palestine are ‘legal’, the rest can only be legalized through official channels. Indeed, many of today’s ‘legal’ 132 settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, housing over half a million Israeli Jewish settlers, began as ‘illegal outposts’.

Though this logic may satisfy the need of the Israeli government to ensure its relentless colonial project in Palestine follows a centralised blueprint, none of this matters in international law.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions states that “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive”, adding that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Israel has violated its commitment to international law as an ‘Occupying Power’ on numerous occasions, rendering its very ‘occupation’ of Palestine, itself, a violation of how military occupations are conducted – which are meant to be temporary, anyway.

Military occupation is different from annexation. The former is a temporary transition, at the end of which the ‘Occupying Power’ is expected, in fact, demanded, to relinquish its military hold on the occupied territory after a fixed length of time. Annexation, on the other hand, is a stark violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Regulations. It is tantamount to a war crime, for the occupier is strictly prohibited from proclaiming unilateral sovereignty over occupied land.

The international uproar generated by Netanyahu’s plan to annex a third of the West Bank is fully understandable. But the bigger issue at stake is that, in practice, Israel’s violations of the terms of occupation have granted it a de facto annexation of the whole of the West Bank.

So when the European Union, for example, demands that Israel abandons its annexation plans, it is merely asking Israel to re-embrace the status quo ante, that of de facto annexation. Both abhorring scenarios should be rejected.

Israel began utilizing the occupied territories as if they are contiguous and permanent parts of so-called Israel proper, immediately following the June 1967 war. Within a few years, it erected illegal settlements, now thriving cities, eventually moving hundreds of thousands of its own citizens to populate the newly acquired areas.

This exploitation became more sophisticated with time, as Palestinians were subjected to slow, but irreversible, ethnic cleansing. As Palestinian homes were destroyed, farms confiscated, and entire regions depopulated, Jewish settlers moved in to take their place. The post-1967 scenario was a repeat of the post-1948 history, which led to the establishment of the State of Israel on the ruins of historic Palestine.

Moshe Dayan, who served as Israel’s Defense Minister during the 1967 war, explained the Israeli logic best in a historical address at Israel’s Technion University in March 1969. “We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs, and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish state here,” he said.

“Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist; not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there, either … There is no one place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population,” he added.

The same colonial approach was applied to East Jerusalem and the West Bank after the war. While East Jerusalem was formally annexed in 1980, the West Bank was annexed in practice, but not through a clear legal Israeli proclamation. Why? In one word: demographics.

When Israel first occupied East Jerusalem, it went on a population transfer frenzy: moving its own population to the Palestinian city, strategically expanding the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem to include as many Jews and as few Palestinians as possible, slowly reducing the Palestinian population of Al Quds through numerous tactics, including the revocation of residency and outright ethnic cleansing.

And, thus, Jerusalem’s Palestinian population, which once constituted the absolute majority, has now been reduced to a dwindling minority.

The same process was initiated in parts of the West Bank, but due to the relatively large size of the area and population, it was not possible to follow a similar annexation stratagem without jeopardizing Israel’s drive to maintain Jewish majority.

Dividing the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C as a result of the disastrous Oslo accords, has given Israel a lifeline, for this allowed it to increase settlement activities in Area C – nearly 60% of the West Bank – without stressing too much about demographic imbalances. Area C, where the current annexation plan is set to take place, is ideal for Israeli colonialism, for it includes Palestine’s most arable, resource-rich, and sparsely populated lands.

It matters little whether the annexation will have a set date or will take place progressively through Israel’s declarations of sovereignty over smaller chunks of the West Bank in the future. The fact is, annexation is not a new Israeli political agenda dictated by political circumstances in Tel Aviv and Washington. Rather, annexation has been the ultimate Israeli colonial objective from the very onset.

Let us not get entangled in Israel’s bizarre definitions. The truth is that Israel rarely behaves as an ‘Occupying Power’, but as a sovereign in a country where racial discrimination and apartheid are not only tolerated or acceptable but are, in fact, ‘legal’ as well.

(Source / 07.07.2020)

Facebook has been bending to the will of Arab despots

Facebook screens content by Palestinians far more vigorously than posts by Israelis

For sariya al-bitar, an architect in Syria’s war-torn city of Idlib, the message was devastating. “Your account has been permanently disabled for not following our Facebook Community Standards,” read the note from the social-media giant. “Unfortunately, we won’t be able to reactivate it for any reason.” Fourteen years of family photos, reminiscences and his diary of Syria’s civil war—along with his list of 30,000 followers—were erased. Mr Bitar had tried to be careful. He had not called dead rebels shahids (martyrs) or posted gore. He suspects Facebook silenced him for commemorating a Syrian football star who, after months of protesting, picked up arms and was killed by the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

In a region ruled by despots, Facebook claims to give “free expression maximum possible range”. That has won it a vast following. The platform has more users in the Gulf states than anywhere else in the world, relative to the population. It is the main source of news for many Arabs. Some even credit it for the Arab spring protests of 2011. But since going public in 2012, Facebook has grown more mindful of the authoritarians who provide it with access, say critics, and less hospitable to activists. In recent months it has culled hundreds of users from Tunisia to Iran and deleted hundreds of thousands of posts. “Many people feel that Facebook is no longer a platform they can use to hold the powerful to account,” says Marwa Fatafta of Access Now, a pressure group. Add to that Facebook’s challenges in America, where it has lost a slew of advertisers over its failure to police hateful content

Size is part of the problem. Facebook has 2.7bn users, many of whom write in foreign languages. Their posts are vetted for hate speech and incitement. But the firm’s 15,000 content moderators struggle to cope. Most do not know Arabic and its dialects. So the firm relies on automated filters, which make mistakes. They screen flagged words, but cannot detect cultural nuance or satire. Facebook rarely explains why it deletes content. “Despite a huge number of users in the global south, they are largely excluded from the conversation,” says Wafa Ben-Hassine, a Tunisian-American human-rights lawyer.

Facebook is bound by American law, which counts some key players in the Middle East as terrorists. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hizbullah, Hamas and a raft of other armed Islamist groups are banned. Occasionally American media outlets give members of these groups airtime, but Facebook has a rigid interpretation of the law against aiding and abetting terrorists. More troubling is how it bans people sympathetic to these groups—or removes content that simply refers to them. Even Hizbullah’s opponents spell the militia’s name with a space between each letter to prevent Facebook deleting their posts.

Arab governments have passed laws against cybercrime and online terrorism to cow social-media firms and their users. Facebook “tries to comply” with local codes. It has opened an office in Dubai to liaise with officials in the region. “Digital platforms try as much as they can to collaborate with regulators to avoid the consequences of violating local regulations,” says a Gulf official. Dissidents concur.

Governments use more subtle forms of pressure, too. They have threatened to tax Facebook’s in-country earnings and lean on advertisers. Many also operate electronic armies to bombard Facebook with content, often complaining about opposition groups. A watchdog backed by Israel called Act.il claims to have 15,000 “online volunteers” from 73 countries keeping an eye on the platform. As a result, say critics, Facebook screens content by Palestinians far more vigorously than posts by Israelis.

In an effort to restore user confidence, the firm recently deleted hundreds of fake accounts promoted by Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt. In May it unveiled a new oversight board which will act as its “supreme court”. It will hear appeals and monitor government websites for incitement. “Official terrorist designations will not necessarily be binding on us, especially when they come from authoritarian governments that misuse terrorism to abuse opponents,” says Tawakkol Karman, a Yemeni journalist and Nobel laureate who is one of two board members from the Middle East. More such thinking is needed.

(Source / 05.07.2020)

Israel’s annexation plan plots a new course for the conflict

Palestinians in Gaza came together to demonstrate against Israel's planned annexation of the West Bank [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians in Gaza came together to demonstrate against Israel’s planned annexation of the West Bank 

By Hazem Ayyad

As expected, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postponed Israel’s annexation plan, for one day apparently, on the pretext of finishing his consultations with an American delegation. His decision was not made known for certain to his Foreign Minister, retired General Gabi Ashkenazi, who told Israel’s Army Radio: “It seems unlikely to me that this will happen today [1 July]. I reckon there will be nothing today, regarding [the extension of Israeli] sovereignty.”

Although Ashkenazi is a minister in a government led by Netanyahu, he spoke about the date of the planned annexation as a member of the Blue and White Party, a coalition partner led by another former general, Defence Minister Benny Gantz. While Ashkenazi did not provide a clear explanation for the postponement of the annexation, Gantz did not hesitate, starting with the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. He pointed out that 1 July was neither sacred nor set in stone as the official annexation date, because the unity government is divided with several heads.

The postponement was no great surprise or the product of a particular variable. It was imposed by the mounting pressure and concern within Israel and Washington, which pressed for the formation of the unity government. The US is also afraid of an outbreak of protests in the occupied Palestinian territories and, indeed, across the region, as a result of the Israeli annexation plan. The Trump administration’s concerns have grown with the spread of the coronavirus and the growing tension with Iran in light of the Caesar Act’s consequences for Syria. More important has been the international and especially European opposition to the Israeli move; UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres drew attention repeatedly to the illegality of the annexation and its threat to regional stability and, as the 1 July implementation date approached, a clearer international position became evident.

READ: British diplomacy defends Israel and legitimises annexation 

“An annexation decision could not be left without consequences,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the French Parliament. “We are examining different options at a national level and also in coordination with our main European partners.”

"I will not miss the opportunity to annex the West Bank"- Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]
“I will not miss the opportunity to annex the West Bank”- Cartoon

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed Israel’s leaders lovingly, as usual, but said: “I profoundly hope that annexation does not go ahead. If it does, the UK will not recognise any changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed between both parties.” Labour opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer expressed a firmer position, warning against the Israeli move and talking about possible sanctions.

These warnings set out new parameters; they are not what Netanyahu expected to hear, so he could isolate his country from Europe and simply use Israel’s military superiority to impose its will on the Palestinians, using the annexation and Israeli sovereignty to give himself a fig leaf of legitimacy to act as he sees fit. The step is reminiscent of major revolutions such as happened in Algeria when France failed to implement its promises made after the Second World War. Those promises were similar to the guarantees and promises made to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) following the signing of the Oslo Accords which have not been implemented.

The political and security tracks of Netanyahu’s annexation plan collided with many facts and realities in occupied Palestine, the region and the world, despite his efforts to bypass them by promoting normalisation with the Gulf states and suggesting partial or gradual annexation, culminating with his “discussions with the Americans” as an excuse to postpone the implementation date. None of his efforts have prevented escalations in the occupied Palestinian territories in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and they have not stopped the new path from taking shape.

READ: Pessimistic Israeli scenarios regarding the security situation with the Palestinians 

International reactions continued to snowball yesterday, as the postponement did not encourage any fundamental changes in them. Israel was met with a Palestinian counterstrategy based on escalation, confrontation and maximisation of the international and regional pressure. This could open the door to a new scenario that surpasses the miserable propositions of Netanyahu and some Zionist research centres which envisage getting annexation and normalisation implemented and out of the way before the US presidential election in November without major consequences in the region.

The Israeli annexation plan has charted a new path for the conflict and opened the door to new scenarios, security and political possibilities. The first could be the collapse of Israel’s unity government. If the annexation project can be thwarted, we could see more political, military and legal achievements in the face of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These could have repercussions beyond the US election and affect alliances and ongoing conflicts in the region.

(Source / 03.07.2020)

Why did I stop discussing with Zionists?

By Douaa Salim

At the beginning of my life, I used to hear directives to boycott the occupation at all levels, and specifically communications because of the absurd of the discussions between us.

It seems clearly today in our Palestinian reality, and as the Palestinian writer Martyr Ghassan Kanafani described it, as “a conversation between the sowrd and the neck.”

With the spread of social media, it became very easy for a Palestinian to meet his land robber, who has many ideas and already has the right to express them in all ways, with almost complete absence of the another viewpoint, that is, the Palestinian point of view.

Read More: The Nakba did not start or end in 1948

this is due to many reasons, including the Palestinian political situation in addition to the security risks that faced by the Palestinian when he dared to disclose his vision, whether in Palestine or in Europe, he can simply be judged without going back to the origin of the conflict.

After many discussions that I followed, I concluded that the discussion between supporters of Palestine and the Zionists is not useful for several reasons.

Read More: Hamas will spare no effort to stop annexation

Some of them is:

– An Zionist occupier is a person who is completely convinced of his being an occupier, he knows that he lives safely instead of others who have been killed or live today in a refugee camp without rights and maybe in a house that is not suitable for human life.

– Discussing the crimes of ethnic cleansing, which he believes in and is proud of in face of the Palestinians, and then denying it in face of foreigners, Whereas, according to the armed community which he lives in, betting on human feelings on this site is completely unsuccessful.

– Occupiers transfers the discussion dramatically into discussion of religions (as if they were trained in this) and attaching the occupation and crimes against the Palestinians in the Ottoman era (Although the initial migration to the land of Palestine was with Ottoman approval) to attract anti-Islam people and using them to help in justify the crimes of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians and displacement of millions of people. 

– This is fertile soil for attracting many Anti-Islam supporters by deliberately ignoring that the Palestinians are a multi-religious people and among them Jews as well.

– An occupier can simply deny the crimes that are documented by the UN or turn it into a natural fact.

An example of this is the Deir Yassin massacre, which the occupiers say they did because the people of Deir Yassin bombed a supply line!

Although Deir Yassin has signed a peace agreement for the residents inability to defend themselves before the massacre.

In another side, they could have deleted up the fact of this massacre completely if had it not been documented internationally.

Many other notes prove the ineffectiveness of the debates between the supporters of palestine and the occupiers, especially with the presence of the Israeli specialized electronic units in the pursuit and the intensification of propaganda, in compare with a clear weakness in the appearance of the opposite viewpoint, due to the Palestinian situation and the Zionist media intensity, and because of the Zionist pressure on  Social media platforms to delete the Palestinian content and the accounts of their owners, for example, the accounts of thousands of Palestinian users were deleted from the Facebook platform shortly before.


Does this mean that all discussions should stop?

If we look at the cultural backgrounds of the supporters of the occupation in Palestine (with the exception of those who support the apartheid regime), we will find that the majority have a Zionist ideological culture since childhood by the curricula of governments, that is, the fertile environment for spreading Zionist propaganda is the ignorance of people and their complete ignorance of the crimes of ethnic cleansing.

They thought that “Israel” is the most democratic country in the world while ”Israel” has a long racist separation wall and an inhuman blockade of Gaza and millions of refugees deprived of their human rights, this constitutes a deep gap in their knowledge.

Focusing on spreading information in the societies (taking Zionist propaganda in mind for its latest updates) is the least harmful method of direct discussion with the occupiers.

Thus, time and effort can be saved and harnessed in the right place to bridge the knowledge gap or at least display the non-Zionist view, so that people can freely choose their positions, whether they later turned to the occupation or Palestine, instead of wasting efforts with people who (maybe) were recruite in electronic units to collect information for later use.

(Source / 03.07.2020)

Remembering the handover of ‘one Palestine, complete’

On this day in 1920, the first High Commissioner for Palestine Herbert Samuel, was handed the administration of the country by the British government and signed a receipt saying “one Palestine, complete”

By Jehan Alfarra

On this day in 1920, the first High Commissioner for Palestine, 1st Viscount Samuel, Herbert Samuel, was handed the administration of the country by the British government and signed a receipt acknowledging that he had received “one Palestine, complete”. It was still another three years before the Mandate for Palestine granted to Britain by the League of Nations came into effect.

What: Receipt of “one Palestine, complete”

Where: Palestine

When: 30 June 1920

Who was Herbert Samuel?

The Liberal politician was the first nominally-practising Jew to serve as a cabinet minister and lead a major political party in Britain. Though not a member of the World Zionist Organisation himself, while Liberal Home Secretary in 1914 Samuel obtained the organisation’s latest publications. Not long after, he found himself campaigning for a Jewish national home in Palestine and “co-operating closely”’, as he wrote in his memoirs, with Zionist leaders to further their cause.

With the outbreak of World War One, Samuel’s involvement with Zionism grew exponentially. In 1915, he proposed the idea of establishing a British protectorate over Palestine after the war and argued for a homeland in the region for the Jews, who had waited for “over eighteen hundred years” to return [sic] to Palestine, a land to which their connection, he said, was “almost as ancient as history itself”. Palestine at the time formed part of the Ottoman Empire, with a majority Muslim indigenous population, having been under Muslim rule for centuries.

READ: Israel’s incitement against the Palestinian curriculum

“Let a Jewish centre be established in Palestine,” Samuel urged in a cabinet memorandum that he drafted. “Let it achieve, as it may well achieve, some measure of spiritual and intellectual greatness, and insensibly the character of the individual Jew, wherever he might be, would be raised. The sordid associations which have attached to the Jewish name would be, to some degree at least, sloughed off, and the value of the Jews as an element in the civilisation of the European peoples would be enhanced.”

Samuel’s ideas increased the British government’s pro-Zionist orientation and paved the way for the 1917 Balfour Declaration, in which the British Foreign Secretary declared the government’s support for the establishment of “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.

What happened?

The Ottomans entered World War One in November 1914 on the side of the Central Powers, and the Ottoman Empire was dissolved in 1921 after their defeat. A mandate for the administration of the territories of Palestine was assigned to Britain by the League of Nations and came into effect on 29 September 1923.

In a series of letters exchanged during the war — known as the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence — the British government agreed to recognise and honour Arab independence after the war if the Arabs rose up against the Ottoman Empire. After the war, however, Britain and France divided up and occupied former Ottoman territory as agreed under the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement and accepted the mandate system to govern Palestine. This was seen as a betrayal by the Arabs.

Embroidered panel displaying a receipt by the first High Commissioner to the Palestine Mandate acknowledging he had received ‘one Palestine, complete’. [Courtesy of the Palestinian History Tapestry]
Embroidered panel displaying a receipt by the first High Commissioner to the Palestine Mandate acknowledging he had received ‘one Palestine, complete’

What happened next?

Viscount Samuel was appointed as the first High Commissioner for Palestine by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. On 30 June 1920, he signed a receipt (complete with “E&OE” – Errors and Omissions Excepted) addressed to him by the head of the British military administration in Palestine, Major General Sir Louis Bols, acknowledging that he had received “one Palestine, complete”. The receipt marked the handover of the land of Palestine from military to civilian administration.

In the eyes of Palestine’s indigenous population who were seeking their own independence and right of self-determination, Britain had handed over the territory to settler-colonial Zionists backed by Samuel, who governed the land until 1925. The people of Palestine had not been consulted about any of this.

According to Samuel in a speech that he delivered in Jerusalem in June 1921, the words of the Balfour Declaration, “Mean that the Jews, a people who are scattered throughout the world, but whose hearts are always turned to Palestine, should be enabled to found here their home; and that some among them, within the limits which are fixed by the numbers and interests of the present population, should come to Palestine in order to help by their resources and efforts to develop the country to the advantage of all its inhabitants.”

READ: We will never give up our birthright, insist Palestinian refugees

Two months later, in a report reviewing his first year as High Commissioner, Samuel said that Zionists “sometimes forget or ignore the present inhabitants of Palestine… many of whom hold, and hold strongly, very different views.”

Britain’s policy of facilitating Jewish immigration to Palestine with the stated goal of establishing a Jewish national home, and the disregard for the indigenous population and their national aspirations, resulted in the Great Revolt of 1936, a nationalist uprising by the Palestinians against the British administration, and Jewish insurgency in Mandatory Palestine.

Britain decided to end its mandate in Palestine on 15 May 1948. David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organisation at the time and later the first Prime Minister of Israel, read the “Declaration of Independence” establishing the State of Israel one day before the mandate ended.

Zionist militias and terrorist gangs had already been committing atrocities against the people of Palestine and, indeed, the British authorities, leading to around 750,000 Palestinians being forced out of the nascent state. More than 400 Palestinian villages and towns were depopulated and destroyed; this figure now exceeds 530. This “ethnic cleansing” came to be known as the Palestinian Nakba, the Catastrophe. Despite its membership of the United Nations being conditional upon Israel allowing Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and claiming their property, the first government in Tel Aviv passed a series of laws banning them from doing so. In the three years from May 1948 to the end of 1951, some 700,000 Jews settled in the new state.

Israel continues to ignore the legitimate right of return as established by UN Resolution 194 in 1948 and reaffirmed every year since. It was also mentioned specifically as an “inalienable right” by UN Resolution 3236 in 1974.

Less than two decades after the Nakba, in 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the Six Day War and started constructing illegal settlements across the occupied Palestinian territories. Contrary to the Zionist narrative, Israel actually started hostilities by bombing and destroying the Egyptian Air Force on the ground.

Today, Israel continues to exercise military control over Palestinians in the occupied territories, and there are now an estimated 6.5 million refugees and their descendants.

100 years later

Marking 100 years since the handover of Palestine, the receipt signed by Herbert Samuel for “one Palestine, complete” has been included in a panel on the Palestinian History Tapestry, which tells the story of the indigenous people of Palestine through skilled, traditional Palestinian embroidery.

“The real lesson of the story of ‘one Palestine, complete’,” says Palestinian author and patron of the Tapestry project Dr Ghada Karmi, “is the light it throws on Zionism’s influence over the development of British policy, as early as 1920.”

Such influence continues to this day, arguably more than ever.

READ: The Nakba in its 72nd year

(Source / 30.06.2020)

What price will Israel pay for annexing the last of Palestine?

Only when Israel starts paying a real price, will it have second thoughts about its project to establish itself as the only state between the river and the sea

By David Hearst 

The systematic and collective appropriation of Palestinian land by the State of Israel is not an accident of British colonial history. Palestinians are not the Chagos Islanders of the Eastern Mediterranean, a people considered by the UK government to be too weak and scattered to bother about.

The dispossession of Palestinian land was a product of British foreign policy. Lord Balfour may not have intended a Jewish state when he issued his declaration in 1917 recognising the rights of Jews to set up a “homeland”, a deliberately ambiguous phrase. At that point, two percent of Palestine was owned by Jews.

In an exchange of letters with George Curzon, Balfour’s successor as foreign secretary, Balfour was unsupportive of the aspiration of the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann for a Jewish state.

Balfour wrote: “As far as I know, Weizmann has never put forward a claim for the Jewish government in Palestine. Such a claim is in my opinion certainly inadmissible, and personally I do not think we should go further than the original declaration which I made to Lord Rothschild.”

However a Jewish state is exactly what Balfour, a Conservative peer in a Liberal coalition government, created.

Significantly, the only Jewish member of that cabinet rejected Balfour’s plan, as antisemitic. Edwin Montagu wrote in a memorandum: “Zionism has always seemed to me to be a mischievous political creed, untenable by any patriotic citizen of the United Kingdom.”

Nor did the British Labour Party fare better in 1948 at the end of the British Mandate. A statement written by the Labour Party’s national executive committee (NEC) and adopted by the conference in 1944 read: “Palestine surely is a case, on human grounds and to promote a stable settlement, for transfer of population. Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out, as the Jews move in. Let them be compensated handsomely for their land and let their settlement elsewhere be carefully organized and generously financed.”

In 1945 Prime Minister Clement Attlee initially resisted US President Harry Truman’s demands for the mass migration of 100,000 Jews to Palestine, an issue which strained the transatlantic relationship and incurred sanctions in the form of delays of US loans for the post-World War II reconstruction.

Files released in 2006 showed that MI5 was warned in 1946 that members of the Stern Gang were being trained “to go to England to assassinate members of His Majesty’s Government, especially Mr [Ernest] Bevin [British foreign secretary]”.

A memo from the Officer Administering the Government of Palestine to the secretary of state for the colonies warned: “The Stern Group have decided to assassinate both the High Commissioner and the General Officer Commanding. In addition, a number of CID officers are to be assassinated as well as police officers and any high government officials who are thought to be anti-semitic.”

The last of historic Palestine
When in 1947, the UN proposed the partitioning of the territory, Jews were allocated 55 percent of the land, although at the time they owned just seven percent, according to the historian Avi Shlaim. After the 1948 war, the newly established State of Israel seized 78 percent of mandatory Palestine.

So today, when a further chunk of the last remaining 22 per cent of historic Palestine is about to be bitten off in plans to annex part or most of the West Bank, neither a Conservative British prime minister nor the leader of the Labour Party can claim to be disinterested observers.

The 73 years of conflict that followed the establishment of the Jewish state is their baggage, whether they like it or not.

In Boris Johnson’s biography of Churchill, the man he has tried so hard to emulate, Johnson described the Balfour Declaration as “bizarre”, “tragically incoherent” and “an exquisite piece of Foreign Office fudgerama”.

A rare example of sound judgment and historical accuracy from the pen of Johnson, Shlaim notes.

But in power, Johnson has stuck like superglue to the script: weasel words of condemnation, but business as usual. In his answer to a parliamentary question from the Tory backbencher Crispin Blunt, Johnson said: “Yes, I believe that what is proposed by Israel would amount to a breach of international law. We have strongly objected. We believe profoundly in a two-state solution and we will continue to make that case.”

Balfour’s heirs
The charade of British foreign policy to this conflict is not so much to advocate a solution it knows will never be achieved now. It is to play the part of a handwringing bystander in the full knowledge that Israel will continue to enjoy impunity for its actions.

The Foreign Office of today is an heir worthy of Balfour himself.

The new Labour leader Keir Starmer fares no better. He said: “I don’t agree with annexation and I don’t think it’s good for security in the region, and I think it’s very important that we say that.”

Starmer hedged on the issue of sanctions: “There needs to be a strong working relationship where we are able to exchange views frankly, as you would with an ally, and on some of these issues, a frank exchange is what we most need, I think.”

This is a dust-down of the formula that Tony Blair used during his time as prime minister: the British government has to be close to Israel to influence it. This is of course a fiction, no more cynically maintained than by Israel itself.

Since Starmer’s words, Lisa Nandy, his shadow foreign secretary, has suggested a ban on the import of goods from settlements in the West Bank. At the moment, the EU merely demands the correct labelling of this produce.

This is supposed to deter Israel. It will not.

Price of annexation
Britain now should do four things if and when Israel – or the US – announces annexation plans.

Firstly, it should declare the full recognition of the Palestinian state. Unlike the Labour Party in 1944, the Labour Party in 2018 decided to fully recognise the state of Palestine. Jeremy Corbyn has since expressed his concern that his successor as leader will abandon that position.

Another former Labour leader and member of Starmer’s shadow cabinet, Ed Miliband, led in 2014 a motion in parliament calling for recognition of the State of Palestine. It is now up to the leader to make good on that parliamentary motion.

This is as much a challenge for Starmer as it is for Johnson to make this official government policy.

Secondly, the British government should treat Israel as it does any other state that has annexed land in defiance of international law, like Vladimir Putin’s Russia did in the Crimea, and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq did with Kuwait. Both seizures of land were met with a response from the UK that held the state responsible, not shadowy and deniable groups of mercenaries. It produced sanctions that targeted the leaders of those states.

The same principle should apply to Israel. The only exceptionalism that Israel enjoys is one that allows it to do what it wants in the full knowledge that its leaders enjoy impunity for their actions wherever they are in the world.

Thirdly, Britain should stop all military trade deals with Israel.

And fourthly, Britain should downgrade its diplomatic relations with Israel and Israel’s nomination of its ambassador to replace Mark Regev should be rejected by the UK.

An appalling record
Even by the dubious standards set by previous holders of this office, this is an odious woman. Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s settlements minister, has an appalling record of racist and inflammatory behaviour.

Those words are not mine, but are that of an anti-occupation group Na’amod who put up a petition signed by 800 British Jews.

In 2015 Hotovely said: “This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologise for that”. In 2011 Hotovely told a meeting of the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women: “We must confront the fact that the country has not valued education, which is the only way to prevent Jewish women from forging life connections with non-Jews,” Hotovely said.

“The struggle against assimilation only reaches headlines through stories about Jewish women marrying Muslim men, but it is important to remember that the phenomenon is much wider – 92,000 mixed families live in the State of Israel. There is a need to create a curriculum for girls in high schools that deals with Jewish identity. The fact that girls reach a state of intermarriage testifies to the fact that the education system was absent,” she added.

The day after an annexation plan is announced, Israel officially becomes an apartheid state. Exactly the state that Hotovely, a religious nationalist, advocates. It should be treated in the same way as other states that practised and preached the systemic separation and subjugation of peoples and their ethnic cleansing.

The price of Israel’s impunity for its actions is paid almost daily in Palestinian blood: Iyad al-Halak, a 32-year-old autistic man shot down by police on suspicion he was carrying a weapon. He was unarmed.

Ahmed Erekat was shot dead while driving through a checkpoint. The police claim it was a suspected car ramming. His family claim he was about to pick up his mother and sister on the day of his sister’s wedding.

He was left at the side of the road to bleed to death.

Only when it starts paying a real price, will Israel have second thoughts about its project to establish itself as the only state between the river and the sea.

(Source / 30.06.2020)